Religious tattoos may account for as much as twenty-five percent of all the tattoos created each year - with Christian tattoos making up much of that number.
About Christian Tattoos
For those who choose to wear Christian tattoos, they are meant to signify a person's faith in Jesus Christ. They can be used to testify this faith to others and even to evangelize the word of God.
Although Christian tattoos have grown in popularity over the last thirty years, they have not always been looked upon kindly by many church communities. In the past, anyone bearing a tattoo was likely greeted with suspicion and probably a bit of derision. Historically, tattoos were often regarded as something worn only by criminals and other less-than-respectable people.
Today, tattoos enjoy far more mainstream religious acceptance and a popularity that seems to keep growing. As this trend continues, the popularity of Christian tattoos grows with it.
Are Tattoos Forbidden by Scripture?
You'll likely find contradicting advice about whether it is proper for Christians to wear tattoos. This is mainly because people tend to interpret scripture in their own way, but also because there are two statements in the Bible that might be applicable regarding tattoos:
Leviticus 19:28 - "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
The Old Testament seems awfully clear on the subject, and so one might assume this is the final word about tattoos for Christians, but that might not be the entire story.
The Old Testament is generally considered part of the Old Covenant. Some scholars actually point to the New Testament, and therefore the New Covenant, for a revision on the acceptability of tattoos.
Galatians 6:17 - "Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus."
Although this piece of scripture does not definitively speak about tattoos the way Leviticus 19:28 does, some people believe the words "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" could be interpreted to include tattoos that express faith in and/or honor Jesus.
Admittedly, it's hard to be sure which stand is the acceptable one for Christians to take, and that is why there is still debate on the subject.
Popular Christian Symbolism
There are many symbols used to create Christian tattoos, and each one can be applied separately or combined with others to create a highly personal statement of one's faith.Popular symbolism includes:
- Crosses symbolize Christ's crucifixion.
- Angels are winged creatures that have long been thought to be God's heavenly messengers and warriors.
- Hearts, and in particular, images of the Scared Heart are meant to honor Christ's suffering on behalf of humankind.
- Flames are symbolize purification of the soul.
- Doves and/or olive branches are classic symbols of peace.
- Three interlocking rings symbolize the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Holy Trinity).
- Fish symbols have been used to identify one Christian to another since the time of Christ himself.
- Scripture, whether simply the name of Jesus Christ or an entire verse, can be used to express personal faith.
- I.N.R.I. is the Latin inscription that hung on Jesus' cross proclaiming him "Jesus Christ, King of the Jews", and it serves as a faithful acknowledgement of Christ's divinity when used as a tattoo.
Although not everyone agrees whether Christians should allow themselves to be tattooed, undoubtably many Christians do opt to show their faith in this way.
Perhaps it's better to just consider the faithful intent of the tattoo wearer and leave any judgment about tattooing in general to a higher power?