Tattooed and Saved: How Does the Bible View Tattoos in the Afterlife?

Unveiling interpretations from the Bible, this article offers an enlightening journey that ponders one of humanity's most debated questions.

Last Updated:
April 21, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

Within the sacred pages of the Holy Bible, the reference to tattoos can be traced back to the Old Testament, specifically in Leviticus 19:28, where tattoo marks on the body are explicitly prohibited. The verse reads, "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord." 

However, context is crucial in biblical interpretation. This command, God's people are reminded, was set during a unique time when the Israelites had just fled Egypt. They were surrounded by pagan cultures that often used tattoos as part of idol worship and mourning rituals. Was it perhaps that, in His divine wisdom, God wanted to set His chosen people apart from these practices? Indeed, would a loving God judge our hearts based on the ink on our skin? 

While the New Testament does not explicitly speak about tattoos, it does provide guiding principles on how we should present our bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we should honor God with our bodies. This has been interpreted to mean taking care of our bodies and not modifying them without godly purpose or direction. 

While the Bible offers no clear-cut verdict on tattoos as we understand them today, the topic remains a matter of individual conviction and conscience. Just as diversity exists in nature, so does it exist within our faith community. What remains consistent is the Truth that God seeks our love, faith, and obedience, more than mere outward appearance. 

  • The Old Testament, specifically Leviticus 19:28, prohibits tattoos, but the command was contextual, given during a time when tattoos were associated with pagan rituals.
  • The New Testament, while not directly touching on tattoos, advocates for the honoring and upkeep of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, as stated in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
  • The Bible does not provide explicit rules against tattoos as we understand them in contemporary society.
  • The stance on tattoos ultimately lands on personal conviction, underlined by the principle of honoring God with one's body.

Are There Biblical Reasons Not to Get a Tattoo?

We've embarked upon a journey, you and I, into the heart of a question that has puzzled many a believer - "Are there scriptural reasons not to get a tattoo?" Let's dive deeper, examining the biblical grounds that some propose as a rationale for foregoing inked body art. 

Although the Bible does not condemn tattoos explicitly, we find a statement in Leviticus 19:28 that often serves as a focal point for this discussion. It discourages God's chosen people, the Israelites, from making tattoo marks on their body. The context here is important; it links to the ancient practices of the Canaanite people, who would often engage in such rituals to mourn or communicate with the dead. However, some argue that this commandment was exclusive to the Israelites under the Old Covenant and may not necessarily apply to today's believers. 

Reflecting on the New Testament, we do not find direct references to tattoos. Yet, we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we ought to honor God with our bodies. The values conveyed are reverence, respect, and proper self-care - qualities that many Christians have expressed can be threatened by the process of getting a tattoo. 

Debate between believers often arises due to differences in applying these fundamental principles. Some Christians interpret these passages as a strict commandment against body modifications, while others view them as advice for distinguishing ourselves from non-Christian practices. It becomes a matter of personal conviction and faithfulness to God's Word. 

So then, it seems the tattoo question is densely interwoven with our comprehension of scripture and our personal faith journey. There may not be a universal answer. Instead, we may need to deeply introspect whether this decision honors and respects the God we serve. 


  • The Old Testament, specifically Leviticus 19:28, prohibits tattoos, but this may have been specifically for the Israelites under the old covenant, and may not be a binding rule for Christians today.
  • The New Testament does not directly reference tattoos, but 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 emphasizes that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be used to honor God. This principle could be interpreted as a guideline for considering tattoos.
  • The decision to get a tattoo is a personal one that each believer must make, factoring in their personal conviction and engagement with scripture.

What is the Catholic Church's stance on Tattoos?

The Catholic Church, steeped in tradition and following rigorously studied doctrinal precepts, does not possess an official stance against tattoos. It is true that the tangible expression of faith and spirituality comes with nuance and is subject to the interpretation of church authorities. But there is no specific prohibition against tattoos in the canon law, the set of regulations that the Catholic Church uses to govern its membership. 

However, the lack of prohibition doesn't necessarily translate into endorsement. The Catholic Church encourages its members to treat their bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a sentiment drawn from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. This might lead some Catholics to question if marking their bodies with ink is the best way to honor that sentiment. More conservative members might view tattoos skeptically, while others may see them as a form of personal expression or an extension of their faith. At the end of the day, the church leaves this personal discernment to the individual's conscience and their unique relationship with God

Irrespective of the Catholic Church’s position, religious tattoos with Christian symbolism are quite common. Some believers get tattoos to affirm their faith commitment, reflect a religious vision, or as a talisman against evil. 


  • The Catholic Church does not explicitly forbid tattoos as they are not mentioned in the canon law.
  • Catholics are urged to view their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, which could cause some to question the suitability of tattoos.
  • Despite the lack of official endorsement, religious tattoos are common among believers, and are often used to express or affirm personal faith.
  • Ultimately, obtaining a tattoo in the Catholic faith comes down to personal conviction and discernment.

Does having a tattoo affect one's chances of going to heaven?

Are tattoos guaranteed gates to damnation? Absolutely not. As we walk our path in faith, we must remember our ultimate goal: to honor and glorify God in all we do.  My friends, salvation is not a matter of exterior appearances but rather an outpouring of our internal transformation. 

We are taunted and troubled by the heavy words of Leviticus 19:28, which seem to prohibit tattoos. However, many theologians argue that this Old Testament decree is part of a broader context, guided by cultural concerns of the era. These laws were given specifically to the Israelites, to distinguish them from the neighboring pagan practices. But are we, as believers in Christ, under the same obligation? 

Let's not overlook the New Testament, which does not directly reference tattoos but underscores a vital principle. As stated in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, our bodies are sacred, regarded as temples of the Holy Spirit, charged with honoring God. Does this mean every tattoo is unholy? The answer may lie more in the intent behind the tattoo rather than the tattoo itself. 

A tattoo may become a bridge for sharing one's faith, an external sign of God’s interior work. If the intention behind getting a tattoo aligns with glorifying God, leading to potential opportunities to share His word, wouldn't that be honoring Him through our bodies? 

However, we must be wary of taking liberty too far. If a tattoo is inked out of rebellion, vanity, or in an attempt to fit in with worldly norms, then the spiritual issues arise. The key here is discernment—does this decision to get inked align with my faith and my desire to honor my Creator? 

At the end of the day, are we truly defined by ink on our skin? Will the presence of an image, a symbol, or a word etched onto one's body bar them from heaven's gates? Certainly not! For God judges not by outer appearances but by the heart. Tattoos don’t hold the power to condemn anyone to hell nor do they possess the power to gain access to heaven—we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.


  • Tattoos do not guarantee damnation; salvation is a matter of internal transformation, not exterior presentations.
  • The Old Testament reference fades under the scrutinizing gaze of cultural context;
  • The New Testament does not speak directly about tattoos but emphasizes our bodies as temples meant to honor God.
  • The intent behind the tattoo – with a motive to honor God – is more important than the tattoo itself.
  • Reckless tattooing without discernment could lead to potential spiritual issues.
  • God judges us by our hearts, not our external appearances; our faith in Jesus Christ is the sole determinant of salvation.

Are there any biblical figures who had tattoos?

Our journey through the Bible does not present us with any clear examples of biblical characters who bore tattoos, as we understand them in our modern terms. Tattoos, as art imprinted on human skin, is a relatively modern concept as opposed to ancient times' cultures and traditions. The Bible does provide examples of body markings or cuts as an expression of grief or even identity. However, it is important to distinguish these from what we presently know and categorize as tattoos. 

For example, in the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:28 mentions a prohibition against cuts and markings on the body for the dead, which was a practice of neighboring cultures, yet doesn’t explicitly refer to tattoos as we know them. It should be noted that this rule was a part of the Mosaic Law, which was specific to the ancient Israelites to set them apart from their neighboring cultures and societies. It's therefore imperative that we view this within its socio-cultural and historical contexts

As we arrive at the shores of the New Testament, we find no explicit references to tattoos, either in a positive or negative context. The New Testament commonly highlights principles rather than rules, one such being from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which urges followers to honor God with their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. 


  • The Bible does not present clear examples of biblical characters who had tattoos as we understand them today.
  • Old Testament references (Leviticus 19:28) to cuts and markings on the body should be interpreted within their historical and cultural context.
  • The New Testament does not make explicit references to tattoos.
  • The New Testament emphasizes principles instead of explicit rules, such as the instruction in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 to honor God with our bodies.

Does the Bible differentiate between religious and secular tattoos?

Dialogues surrounding tattoos in the Bible often lead us to question whether there is a distinction drawn between religious and secular tattoos. Quite interestingly, the text does not provide an explicit differentiation. The scriptures, especially Leviticus 19:28, caution against marking the body, but does not engage in specifics about the nature of these marks. No distinction is made based on the intent or symbolism behind the tattoos. This lack of explicit differentiation implies that the prohibition may apply generally to all forms of tattoos, be they religious or secular. 

It holds no basis, therefore, to suggest that religious tattoos, embodying Christian symbolism or verses, are more permissible than secular tattoos. The fundamental theology revolves around the principle of our bodies being the temple of the Holy Ghost and the obligation to honour God with our bodies. Any decision, therefore, to adorn one's body with a tattoo, religious or not, must be condoned by His instructions. 

At the same time, we need to remember that the perspective about tattoos varies amongst Christians. The Bible elicits a broad canvas of interpretation, and while some might perceive tattoos as inimical to the Christian life as portrayed in the scriptures, others view them as an expression of personal faith or a testament of their spiritual journey

Overall, the Bible does not provide a clear delineation between religious and secular tattoos. But it surely emphasizes the conversation to align with honoring God's creation in all our decisions, including the choice to get a tattoo. 


  • The Bible, specifically Leviticus 19:28, does not explicitly distinguish between religious and secular tattoos.
  • The principal theological understanding implies that any body markings, regardless of their religious or secular nature, should be guided by God's instructions.
  • Different Christians have diverse interpretations and beliefs surrounding tattoos.
  • While there is no clear demarcation between religious and secular tattoos in the Bible, the emphasis lies on honouring God's creation in our actions.

Is there a difference between Old Testament and New Testament views on tattoos?

We often find ourselves entangled in the debate of the Old Testament versus the New Testament, especially when it comes to controversial subjects such as tattoos. Approaching the topic of tattoos requires careful threading through the scriptures, understanding the context, and appreciating the evolution of religious thought. 

Leviticus 19:28, found in the Old Testament, is often cited in discussions about tattoos. It states, "You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD." This prohibition, however, is categorized under a number of commands specific to ancient Israel's sacrificial system. It refers to a kind of self-mutilation in the context of mourning or appeasing pagan gods. 

In contrast, the New Testament does not make any direct references to tattoos. It does, however, introduce the concept of our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit, as noted in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. This notion implies that we should strive to honor God with our physical bodies. Yet it does not explicitly state that getting a tattoo is against this principle. 

Complicating matters further, some Christians interpret the move from Old Testament law to New Testament grace as indicative of the dismissal of all Old Testament laws. However, it should be noted that not all Christians agree on this interpretation, and some believe that certain laws remain pertinent. 


  • Leviticus 19:28 in the Old Testament prohibits the marking of one's body, interpreted by some as a blanket prohibition against tattoos.
  • The New Testament does not make any direct reference to tattoos, rather emphasizing that our bodies are places of worship and should be treated with respect.
  • Although some Christians believe that the transition to the New Testament nullifies the laws of the Old Testament, others maintain that certain laws, including those potentially related to tattoos, continue to have significance.

Does the view on tattoos differ between different Christian denominations?

It is true that differences of opinions exist within Christian denominations when it comes to the issue of tattoos. These divergent views are often rooted in interpretations of scripture, cultural perceptions, and individual convictions. 

The Protestant denominations, with their emphasis on an individual’s relationship with God, generally do not prohibit tattoos. The Evangelicals, for instance, are less likely to view tattoos as sinful, considering it a personal decision. The same can be said of many Pentecostals and non-denominational Churches. 

Catholicism, on the other hand, does not strictly forbid tattoos but does counsel prudence. Many Catholics view their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, and thus the decision to get a tattoo is often weighed against the question of whether it honours God. Eastern Orthodox tradition generally discourages tattoos based on their interpretation of Leviticus 19:28 and Corinthians 6:19-20. 

The Seventh-day Adventists discourage tattoos, citing principles of health and body sanctity. For the Latter-Day Saints, who highlight the importance of having a pure body for the second coming of Jesus, tattoos are generally frowned upon. 

We must remember, at its core, Christianity seeks unity in Christ above all differences. Therefore, the matter of tattoos should not cause division among believers. Every Christian must decide for themselves, prayerfully considering how their actions align with their faith and commitment to honor God. 


  • Differences of opinions exist within Christian denominations on the issue of tattoos.
  • Protestant denominations generally do not strictly forbid tattoos.
  • Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teachings advise prudence and caution.
  • The Seventh-day Adventists and the Latter-Day Saints generally discourage tattoos.
  • Individual Christians need to prayerfully consider their decisions in light of their faith and commitment to God.

Does the Bible differentiate between religious and non-religious tattoos?

When pondering on whether the Bible categorizes tattoos as religious or non-religious, let's reflect on the scriptures and their wisdom. The Bible itself does not explicitly distinguish between religious and non-religious tattoos. The lack of specific reference to tattoos as we understand them in modern times, leads to broad interpretations and discussions amongst us, the followers of the faith. 

The main reference that causes debate among faithful adherents is Leviticus 19:28, which prohibits tattoo marks on the body. Some argue that as this prohibition is found in the Old Testament, it may not apply to contemporary Christians. Indeed, interpretations of this prohibition have caused divergence in the Christian community over the centuries. 

It is of utmost importance for us to remember the teachings of the New Testament. While there are no direct references to tattoos here, the guiding principle from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 stands out. The message is clear: our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and we should honor God with our bodies. This is not a clear prohibition against tattoos, but rather an invitation to consider how we treat and adorn our bodies in a way that honors God. 

Thus, before we decide to get a tattoo, whether religious or non-religious, the guiding principle should be a question we ask ourselves: are we honoring God with our bodies? Each of us may interpret this question in different ways, and thus our approach to tattoos—religious or otherwise—can also differ. 


  • The Bible does not explicitly distinguish between religious and non-religious tattoos.
  • Debate exists among Christians due to the Old Testament prohibition in Leviticus 19:28. However, some argue as this is in the Old Testament, it may not apply to modern Christians.
  • The New Testament's 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, emphasizes that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and we should honor God with our bodies which can be interpreted and applied to the subject of tattoos.
  • Before getting a tattoo of any kind, we should reflect on whether we are doing so as a way of honoring God.

Facts & Stats

Approximately 38% of adults in the United States have at least one tattoo

About 21% of Christians in the United States have one or more tattoos

Approximately 58% of people with tattoos believe that having a tattoo does not impact their spirituality or chances of going to heaven or hell

Around 15% of people with tattoos regret getting them due to religious reasonsNearly 70% of people believe that the Bible does not explicitly prohibit tattoos

Around 45% of pastors believe that tattoos are morally acceptable


John 3:16

Matthew 5:17

Matthew 5:17

Leviticus 19:28

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