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Sunday Musings: Are Tattoos In The Bible?

By Agba Jalingo

One of my younger friends who was with me yesterday at home, asked a question about tattoos. He wears tattoos and he is a church instrumentalist. He is smart and very good with multiple instruments. He said he is always uncomfortable about the remarks he gets about his tattoos in Church and was asking me if tattoos are wrong for a Christian. I had a good laugh because I was wondering how on Earth, I was supposed to be the one to answer such a tricky question.

I was initially confused about what to tell him but I knew I had to go back to the Bible. I told him the Bible has two contradictory verses on tattoos, both of them in the Old Testament and it is his choice to choose whichever he wants to follow.

The first verse is:

Leviticus 19:28, where the Bible warns about marking your body with tattoos. “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, NOR PRINT OR TATTOO ANY MARKS UPON YOU: I am the Lord.”

In the same Bible, in Isaiah 44:5, the Bible speaks of writing the name of the Lord on the arm. Let’s read it in different versions.

Isaiah 44:5.

New International Version:

‘Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’ others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others WRITE ON THEIR HAND‘ ‘The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.

New Living Translation:

“Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the LORD.’ Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’ “SOME WILL WRITE THE LORD’S NAME ON THEIR HANDS” and will take the name of Israel as their own.”

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English Standard Version:

“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will “WRITE ON HIS HAND“, ‘The LORD’s”, and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Berean Standard Bible:

“One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD,’ another will call himself by the name of Jacob, and still “ANOTHER WILL WRITE ON HIS HAND, ‘The LORD’s,’ and will take the name of Israel.”

King James Bible:

One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and “ANOTHER SHALL SUBSCRIBE WITH HIS HAND” unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

New American Standard Bible:

“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’S’; And that one will call on the name of Jacob; ” AND ANOTHER WILL WRITE ON HIS HAND” ‘Belonging to the LORD,’ And will give himself Israel’s name with honour.

Amplified Bible:

“One will say, ‘I am the LORD’S’; And another will name himself after Jacob; AND ANOTHER WILL WRITE ON HIS HAND, ‘I am the LORD’S,’ And be called by the [honorable] name of Israel.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English:

This one will say, “I am of LORD JEHOVAH”, and this one will call on the name of Yaqob, AND THIS ONE THE HAND, LORD JEHOVAH WILL WRITE, and in the name of Israel he will be named.

Good News Translation:

“One by one, people will say, ‘I am the LORD’s.’ They will come to join the people of Israel. THEY EACH WILL MARK THE NAME OF THE LORD ON THEIR ARMS and call themselves one of God’s people.”

International Standard Version:

One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD,’ and another will call himself by the name of Jacob; STILL ANOTHER WILL HAVE WRITTEN ON HIS HAND, ‘the LORD’s,’ and will adopt the name of Israel.”

I cannot think of a culture that does not have one form of tattoo or the other, either permanent or temporary. I personally do not wear tattoos but I love some tattoos essentially because of their intent; if they explain deep messages that resonate with me.

If you are an adult Christian like my young friend and you like tattoos and you are wondering whether or not to wear them, take it to the Lord in prayers this Sunday morning in Church, and ask the Lord which of those two verses to follow.

Yours sincerely,
Citizen Agba Jalingo.

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