To Tattoo or Not too Tattoo, That is the Biblical Question

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES - Matt Sawdon covers Erica Armendariz's tattoo with plastic after working on her religious iconography at Sunday's 10:30 a.m. service at the Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek. Below left: Armendariz started her tattoo with religious images a year ago.  Tattoos at Mill Creek church pierce skin, soul

 A Mill Creek church invited its members to be tattooed during Sunday services.

By Nick Perry  Seattle Times staff reporter – November 23, 2009 

[Notes by DTW in Green – updated 1 Dec 2009.]

The sight of a woman being tattooed live on the altar accompanied by the sound of a buzzing ink gun provided a startling backdrop to Sunday’s evangelical sermon.

Your parent’s church service this was not. In the drive to stay relevant, the Gold Creek Community Church has been hosting a series called “Permanent Ink” that featured Sunday’s live-tattoo finale.

The Mill Creek church is not exactly staid – booming 20-minute rock sets launch regular sermons – yet the pastors acknowledge this series was pushing societal norms.

“We’ve said from the start that we are not advocating tattoos – nor discouraging them,” said pastor Larry Ehoff.

“We think of it as amoral. It’s neither immoral nor moral, it’s just the choice of a person.”

Ehoff said the church is telling the same story of Jesus as always, it’s just finding different ways to tell it.

Sharon Snell was one of several congregants who volunteered to be tattooed Sunday. At the noon service, she got on stage and faced away from about 150 parishioners while tattoo artist Matt Sawdon worked on the image of a police shield on her lower back.

It was Snell’s third tattoo and represents her husband’s work as an Everett police officer. Snell said last month’s shooting death of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton forced her to confront the fragility of life and the dangers inherent in her husband’s job.

“Anything can happen at any time,” Snell said. “Him being an officer is a big part of my life and of who I am.”

As Snell’s tattoo took shape, pastor Dan Kellogg told the congregation that permanent markings, both good and evil, are mentioned in the Bible. The most famous symbol, he said, is “666,” the sign of the devil.

But there’s also mention in the Bible of markings on Jesus, saying he is the king of kings and lord of lords, Kellogg said.

Another congregant who volunteered was Erica Armendariz, who was getting work done on an arm tattoo she calls her “faith sleeve.”

“Surprisingly, I was not nervous to get up on stage,” she said, adding that the tattoo process, which in her case stretched through two sermons, was getting painful toward the end.

Tattoo artist Matt Sawdon said he’d never tattooed anyone at church before. Aside from the limited time he had during each sermon, he said, it wasn’t much different from a normal day’s work.

Last week, as part of the Permanent Ink series, a member of the church had a tattoo of Texas removed.

Because the equipment was too cumbersome to transport, parishioners watched a video of the process.

The man now lives in Washington, and he doesn’t see much need for the Lone Star State anymore.



Tattooing, carvings, cuttings, piercings, etc.  Throughout history has been seen as pagan practices.  God wanted Israel to separate from these practices.

Strict instructions to not mark your body in ANY WAY

Leviticus 19:28    “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.”

Your body is the temple of God

1 Corinthians 3:16    16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19    19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

You do not follow after the World, you abandon the things of this World

Deuteronomy 18:9    9  “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.

Sin is a stumbling blog for others – sends message that sin is OK.

1 Corinthians 8:9   9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

Associated with rebellion.  Rebellion is sin, Stubbornness is iniquity.  Satan rebelled against God.

1 Samuel 15:23     23  “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”


Many religions practice tattooing, carvings, cuttings and piercings for religious purposes / witchcraft

Tattoo Hindu GodHindu followers of Shiva or Vishnu (two manifestations of Brahma) could be recognised by the tattoo on their forehead, the former having three parallel lines and the latter a “V”

Hindus believed that a person dying without tattoos wouldn’t be recognised by his relatives in the world of the spirits.

Hindu devotees pierce their cheeks and other body parts with metal rods and needles to express their devotion toward Goddess Mariamman

Westerners are tattooing Hindu gods


Tattoo StigmataRoman Catholicism:  During the papacy of Boniface VIII-  1292,  A sanctuary was built called the Sanctuary of Loreto.  The tradition of tattooing in this area came from the stigmata of the saint to reproduce them symbolically.  The tattoos, were done on the forearms or on the hands.

Knights Templars took the marking of the “amorous” tattoo representing an oath sworn to God during the papacy of Sixtus V.  Sixtus V, came from Le Marche and belonged to the Order of Saint Francis.


tattoo cross

The Cross  is a very universal symbol used in many cultures and religions, including the Celtic cross, the Egyptian ankh cross, and many others.

tattoo crucifix


Crucifix is the cross representing Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.  But in reality it is the Eucharist Christ who’s mother is Mary the Goddess of Fertility.  tattoo sacredheart


Sacred Heart:  The origin of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a French Roman Catholic nun, Marguerite Marie Alacoque, who said she learnt the devotion from Jesus in visions. Predecessors to the modern devotion arose unmistakably in the Middle Ages in various facets of Christian mysticism.


tattooceltic-trinity-knotCeltic knots (aka mystic knot, endless knot) work really well as a tattoo design or part of a tattoo. The symbolic meaning of Celtic knots is not really clear, although some people attribute magical powers to the knots. The Celtic trinity knot is a very simple, but powerful symbol and very suitable for a tattoo. It is a triangle knot, the 3 corners have various meanings:

Celtic Trinity Knot Tattoo:

Christian: Father, Son and Holy Spirit   /  Pagan: Mother, Crone and Maiden    /   New age: Mind, body and spirit

tattoocrescentmoonIslam:  Koran forbids tattooing.  However Muslim pilgrims who go to Mecca or Medina will tattoo themselves. Muslims who indulged in this justify the practice by saying that before entering paradise they would be purified by fire, which would cancel their tattoos.

The crescent moon and star tattoo has a certain popularity as a tattoo design. It is the symbol of Islam and in a more political meaning also the symbol of the Middle East

Sudan, where Islam is widespread, black Muslims, would scar their cheeks with three lines, saying that Mohamed himself wore the same markings.


Arabic:  Another Arabic inspired tattoo design is the Hamsa tattoo. The Hamsa, aka Hand of Fatima or Eye of Fatima (Fatima is the daughter of Muhammad), is a symbol that protects against the evil eye.

Judaism:  The hamsa is also known in the Jewish culture, as Hand of Miriam. The hamsa is used on charms, painted on houses and… used as a tattoo design.


Egyptians loved to adorn themselves elaborately, and even restricted certain types of body piercings to the royal family. In fact, only pharaoh himself could have his navel pierced. Any one else who tried to get a belly button ring could be executed.

Fiji Islands:  the spirits of non-tattooed women were attacked by the souls of other women, cut to pieces and served as food to the gods

Eskimo women also treated their tattoos very seriously, believing them to be signs of divinity in the afterlife

Aztecs, Maya and some American Indians practised tongue piercing as part of their religious rituals. It was thought to bring them closer to their gods and was a type of ritual blood-letting.

Thailand:  A devotee of the Sapam Chinese Shrine in Phuket, will work himself into a trance prior to having his cheeks pierced multiple times with sharp steel rods, an assortment of weapons and other large implements during a religious Vegetarian Festival.

North American Indians had other types of religious tattoos as well. In a ceremony called the “ghost dance”, a tattoo was performed with ritual precision according to the indications received by the person to be tattooed, who falls into a state of trance during the dance and has a vision of a relative tattooed with the subject that he is to have on his skin.

tattoos sakyant-Buddism

Buddhism:  Sak Yant (aka yantra tattoos) is the art of sacred tattooing as done by Buddhist monks in Thailand and Cambodia. Sak Yant tattoo designs came from India together with Buddhism and were tailored by the Khmer. The scripts used for these tattoos are Pali and Khmer. The tattoos are meant for protection.



Om (aka ohm or aum) is the sacred syllable in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Every Hindu text begins with it and it is alsouttered before praying or doing puja (a ritual).

tattoo Mill Creek Church 2010333386Angel Tattoos:   The word angel comes from the Greek word aggelo, which means to pass along something new or to announce something. The word aggelos stands for the God Acolytes.  Angels are a link between heaven and earth. Angels belong to Judaist, Christian and Islamic traditions.

According to the Koran and the “Bible”, angels have the following tasks:   (DTW Note: see my notes below on what is true and what is not true.)

  • Bring messages to the people, warn them or bring the word of God.  (DTW note:  The Word of God is our messenger, the Bible brings the Word of God to us, nothing else with the guidance of the Holy Spirit)
  • Worship God.  (DTW note:  True, but they serve the one and only Living God who’s only begotten Son is Jesus Christ.  Today when someone says God, it could be any God, any Christ as there are many religions with a God and await their saviour.)
  • Angels serve and protect humans.  (DTW note:  Jesus Christ protects us.  Angels do not serve humans, they serve God only.  The only angel that will serve a human is a fallen angel for the sole purpose to deceive them and lead them astray – Satan appears as an Angel of light.)
  • They fight evil.  (DTW note: The Bible speak about the angels clearing the heavens before Jesus returns.  If they did fight we would not need Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Saviour and Jesus Christ is the one who delivers us from ALL evil.)
  • They carry out God’s orders (they do have a free will though, they can choose to obey or disobey, just like humans).  (DTW note: No, those angels who disobeyed were cast out with Satan in the beginning.  There are no angels that currently disobey.  On the other hand humans will be punished for disobedience and refusing to repent of sin and will go to hell WITH Satan – Hell was created for Satan and his followers.)
  • Angels guard heaven and hell. (DTW note: Guard heaven and hell?  No)
  • They keep track of all deeds done by every human being  (DTW note:  No, this sounds like something Choo Thomas would have written in her Heaven is So Real book.  Oh wait she did write this.)


And last but not least, let us not forget Todd Bentley from Freshfire Ministries who had no tattoos, then became a ‘Christian’ and then covered himself with tattoos.

Todd Bentley BEFORE he became a Christian
Todd Bentley BEFORE he became a Christian
Todd Bentley AFTER he became a Christian

Todd Bentley AFTER he became a ‘Christian”

Please share:

Deborah (Discerning the World)

Deborah Ellish is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

86 Responses

  1. Burning Lamp says:

    Mike, Mike, Mike, permanent eyeliner is not a tattoo!! It is permanent makeup so women won’t have to put it on every day. HUGE Difference dude!

    You go ahead and rationalize and justify all you want, like Debs says, tatt all you want. We just wanted to speak the truth in love to you, but you are obviously not having any of it.

    Your choice bud – you have FREE WILL and if you think you are glorifying God is your tatts, you are free to go on deluding yourself.

  2. Mike

    Yip, FREE WILL is something you sure do have. You can CHOOSE to tattoo yourself after warnings not too, or you can go ahead and do it and face the spiritual consequences thereof.

  3. Burning Lamp says:

    Oh boy! Now we have someone saying tattoos are a matter of Christian liberty. This is a very slippery slope. Too many Christians have claimed that liberty and slid down into a pile of poo. That is the reason we are to avoid slippery slopes and err on the side of caution.

    Clearly Mike loves his tatts and has convinced himself he is somehow turning himself into a walking billboard for Christian liberty. And now he has an affirmation to that end.

    Wait until he wakes up someday and it dawns on him that he made a huge error in judgment. He will be stuck with reminders of his folly and be miserable in his own skin. Of course God forgives, but there are consequences and some of them are more visible than others.

    Maybe someone who was crazy about tatts and now regrets it would see this and chime in with some advice they wished they had heard or heeded to help others.

  4. Mike says:

    Ok, ok, we know that Leviticus was a book written for Jews, basically stating Jews should not at all be associating with Gentiles. How does this play out to Gentiles concerning Acts, Romans, and Galatians in particular. Keep in mind now, I’m not Jewish, I’m a dirty, stinkin Gentile. And Leviticus was written for Jews, who were basically forbidden to play with Gentiles. What does the New Testament have to say about Gods red-head step children?

    But, again I ask, are we to follow every single law in the Torah? Am I really not to even touch anything my fiance touches while she is on her period? Am I really going to have to start driving outside my town to use the bathroom (I live in suburbia)? No more lobster or bacon? Stop all blood transfusions because its considered unclean? Are there spiritual aspects to this or physicals one? And are tattoos considered bad to the Jews because they promote satanism (apparently to some….), or would a guy ridding a camel in the desert thousands of years ago with no autoclave sound like a bad idea? No one seems to want to answer these other questions, they just want to pick what they can answer and stick with it.

    Your right Burning Lamp, I am trying to rationalize, why can’t you? All you have been saying is “you’ll regret it one day, its a bad idea, its evil” but fail to show any solid proof. And you pin it down to one verse, but fail to rationalize any other verses surrounding it, i.e. no one can tell me why its a sin to continue wearing my favorite 80% cotton/16% polyester shirt when Lev. 19:19 says we are not to.

    So, is it ok for me to not be jewish, do women on there periods need to start staying home from work, and rationalize why you believe tattoos are bad and how this rule should be followed like all the 600+ others in the Torah.

  5. Mike says:

    oh, and your right about the eyeliner, im thinking more about eyebrows tattoo’d on. sorry

  6. Mike

    It was clearly explained to you that HEATHENS tattooed themselves and that is why God forbid the Jews to do it. Having a period does not make a woman a heathen. My word, how stupid can you be. I am getting really annoyed now.

    I clearly remember telling you to go and tattoo yourself, what’s your problem? Go tattoo yourself Mike, in fact pierce all over yourself as well! Why don’t you do that thing where they pierce their backs with large hooks and hang themselves from the ceiling!

    You speak like a non-Christian by the way, and I detect some serious dislike for Jews in your comment. When you become a CHRISTIAN you become a NEW CREATURE in JESUS CHRIST – a Jew becomes a CHILD OF GOD and a Gentile becomes a CHILD OF GOD – you stop being a gentile (heathen) Mike and become a Child of God. You speak like you are not saved because you call yourself a ‘Christian’ yet want to carry on HEATHEN practices! Where is the HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR LIFE MIKE? Where is the CONVICTION of the HOLY SPIRIT MIKE? As a Christian you should understand the SPIRITUAL implications of all this Mike, but it’s apparent you don’t, so what’s wrong with your faith? What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

    I think you need to read this:

    Please don’t comment again.

  7. Lee says:


    >>My word, how stupid can you be. I am getting really annoyed now.

    LOOOL now now Debs don’t be annoyed. Remember not to be irritated ehhh 😉

  8. Lee says:


    >>Why don’t you do that thing where they pierce their backs with large hooks and hang themselves from the ceiling!

    Your sense of humour sometimes LOOL. How’d you do it? come now, its time to give you a massage, unless you want to give me another looool?!!

  9. Lee says:

    …I was joking by the way Debs LOOOL 😉

  10. Burning Lamp says:

    Mike, you really miss the point. This has nothing to do with Torah observance although God did give those directives to the Jewish people and there were significance to them in that culture. But there are also overriding principles and many of those laws have validity today. It is not a matter of obeying the letter of a law, but rather taking to heart the principle behind the law.

    Any Spirit-led Christian should be able to see that participating in practice of tattooing one’s body is not Christ-honoring. It is not necessary, and it sets a poor example. And face it, you are doing it because your flesh wants it.

    Mike, why don’t you take the $$$ that you wuold be spending on tatts to give to someone in need or to send a missionary to reach the lost? We are stewards of our money and we are also stewards of our bodies which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
    Mike, you are into yourself and care not about the appearance of evil.

    I find your remarks regarding menstruation inappropriate to this discussion. And I think the conversation has run its course. You are going to do what you are going to do and someday you will regret it, trust me as so many others have and I cited an example of someone I know personally. Mike you need wisdom.

    Open the Bible and you will find it.

  11. Lee

    Yaaa, that would do it, 1 x massage please 🙂

  12. BL

    >> I find your remarks regarding menstruation inappropriate to this discussion

    Ditto, that is why I have asked him not to comment again.

  13. Burning Lamp says:

    Debs, good call.

  14. Johny says:

    Well, so much for conversation. I was enjoying this but I’ve noticed peoples comments are being removed…..debates out the window I guess.

  15. O'Neill says:

    Yeshua did not do away with the law. He did not destroy it, or replace it. Yeshua taught from the law, endorsed the law, and seeing as how He is in fact both the “I am” and “the Lord” who gave the commandments, He would be in conflict with Himself if He showed up declaring to His people that His law is no longer any good…. not too mention that there are several laws (the Sabbath for one) that is a perpetual covenant forever.

    And what about Peter on the rooftop, after he see’s the vision. If Yeshua would have done away with the law, then why didnt Peter eat? His response was, “Not so Lord!”. Hmm… the dietary law must have still been valid, and that was some time after Yeshua returned to the Father.

    Paul (Romans 3:31) says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

    Yeshua said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. And which commandments was He referring too? There was no such thing as a “new testament” at that time when he said that. All there was at that time, was the law which God had given them.

    So seeing as how the law has not been done away with, then Lev 19:28 must still be valid today. And Paul says that we (as gentiles) have now been grafted in (as the wild branch) into the vine with the natural branches.

    It amazes me when people try to change the word of a King. Instead of obeying, we act like lawyers, trying to find loopholes in Gods kingdom so we can continue in our sin.

    And then theres the whole argument of Yeshua having a tattoo in Revelation. There is no possible way that Yeshua would have had a tattoo. First of all, it says the name is on his thigh. Showing one’s thigh was considered to be naked. If Yeshua were to have a visible tattoo on His thigh, that would be equal to being naked in a public setting, and then coupled with a tattoo, that would be automatic disqualification to be the Messiah. Yeshua had to be unblemished and spotless. A quick study will show that there are some translation errors there, and it more than likely meant “banner”, and not “thigh. The idea that Yeshua was exposing his thigh and had a tattoo is absurd.

    With that being said, thanks for this article. 🙂

  16. Daniel says:

    I’m praying for you. Especially Deborah and Burning Lamp. Some dangerous statments made here.

  17. Johny

    No peoples comments are not being removed. I have been ill for approx 3 months. I am only now approving the backlog of comments.

  18. Burning Lamp says:

    Daniel, your comment is puzzling. Dangerous statements? I appreciate the thought, but if your mindset is not spiritually attuned, I don’t want your prayers.

  19. BL

    I know, I also pondered and still do at the ‘dangerous statements’ comment.

  20. Bill says:

    Ruoall wrote:

    This is something I have been wondering about for a while now.
    I have a tattoo, what now? Am I eternally doomed?

    Of course not… and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

  21. Ruoall

    No you are not doomed. But if you are getting tattoos while calling yourself a Christian I would question your Christianness.

  22. Estelle says:

    ShellBell wrote:
    I’ve fought with my weight all my life, don’t like the look of being prematurely grey and traditional eyeliner turns me into a racoon, looks I don’t care for. Therefore, I work out, color my hair and have eyeliner tatooed. Am I vain? Have I allowed myself to be dupped, influenced and misled by the world? I get my worth from the Lord, but will try to improve my health and stay appealing for my husband-to-be if so blessed.

    wow, just read this statement. Can’t believe no one said anything bad about her comment?
    What??? Is it okay to color your hair? Not sure where you get your hair color from, but as far as I know every one of the companies that make hair color supports animal testing.
    In other words your supporting a product that supports the killing of bunnies (animal cruelty). Nowhere in the Bible says that it is okay to treat animals with cruelty or to kill them for pleasure or your own beautification.

    Proverbs 12:10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
    but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

    Exodus 23:5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

    1 Sam. 17:34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth

    Just some verses. We are supposed to care for the animals, for God’s creatures, not support the companies who harm them.
    I agree with the tattoos, it is bad for your blood or it can contaminate it or give you hepatitis. If you’ve ever donated blood you will see on the form that you can’t donate if you got a tattoo for around a year.
    So if your parent or brother or sister gets leukemia or needs a blood transfusion and you just got a tattoo, then sorry, you can’t save them.

    In this article:
    Donating blood platelets or plasma has always been a noble pursuit to help those in need. In recent years, finding suitable donors has become increasingly more difficult, causing a drastic supply shortage. The American Red Cross has been encouraging more people to come forward, but a lot of willing donors are being turned away.
    Determining your Eligibility
    One of the reasons for this is because of the increasing popularity of body art – if you’ve had a tattoo or piercing within the last year, you are not eligible to donate blood in most states, according to their rules.

  23. Albert says:

    People who are blind will never see. It seems this website is only up to criticise a specific opinion and no one else is able to say anything other. Please write that next to the topic next time, for then i will not have to read through shallow and self-righteous words from people who hide behind the internet. Getting fresh air will do wonders for your health. And education to divide the Word of God in the correct context would be advised. I do not think that anyone of you here that commented have their accredited doctorates. in theology, history, ext.. You would learn a lot, and then hopefully be able to answer when someone has asked a simple question of whether one can divide the law… And side stepping does not count. Hope all of you receive peace from Dad because it seems you are in need of it. I will not give another comment about this, because I do not want to waste my time on self-righteous thoughts. So please do not even respond.
    Thank you
    P.s loved the page on CRC of Ps At, thought this will be a positive website to get people working together to see an end to such evil, but it seems I was wrong.

  24. Albert

    It’s amazing how the urge to tattoo oneself AFTER they are saved has BECOME such a big thing. When the bible clearly states that as a Christian you should refrain from looking like a HEATHEN.

  25. John says:

    Though I agree that as Christians we should not have tattoos as we are called to be different from the world, I would just like to point out that you have taken the verses from Corinthians referring to our bodies as being temples of the Holy Spirit out of context. They are referring to sexual promiscuity and have nothing to do with tattoos, smoking, drinking, drugs, and the like.

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