When I was in the Army, I thought it would be cool to get a tattoo that said, “I run with scissors!” with a skull and cross-scissors above it. I was telling my brilliant idea to my father, who told me, “Son, most people I know who are my age and have tattoos are folks that got the tattoos when they were your age and now they regret it.”
At the time, I thought I might eventually regret getting a sweet “I run with scissors tattoo,” so I didn’t get the tat. To this day, I don’t think I would have regretted it, but now I’m married to a wonderful woman who says I can’t get a scissors tattoo or any other tattoo for that matter.
Oh well. I married out of my league, so I’ve got nothing to complain about.
Since my army days, I’ve seen several tattoos and have heard stories about their meanings (and lack thereof). I’ve even had some people come to me for grammatical checking after they got a Greek or Hebrew tattoo… Now, I’m more than willing to help anyone do a tattoo spelling/grammar check, but wisdom says that you should do your proofing BEFORE getting yourself permanently inked.
Here’s an example of why we proof before we publish:
It’s from the Greek translation of Ps 23:4. I’m not sure why he chose Greek instead of Hebrew, but that’s none of my business. Anyhoo, I’ve translated it line by line:
Yoe.a thou.gh I.
the va,lley/ of the shado/ph
of dea, the noo
wits- meo/ are
= thy r o,d
and. thy sta
hoey me co
If you have an equal sign in the middle of your Greek text, you might want to think twice before getting it tattooed onto your ribcage.
Now, any discussion on a Christian blog about tattoos is incomplete if we don’t mention this verse:
You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:28 ESV)
A common interpretation of this passage is that the tattoos in question were part of a pagan practice. While there are heathen undertones throughout the context, I have never seen any evidence that the Law allowed for non-pagan tattoos. Nor have I seen any expositor present a case that pagan tattoos were actually a thing back then. I do love reading old heathen texts, though, so please shoot me a note if you can support this interpretation.
Another common interpretation is that it’s a sin for Christians (or anyone else) to get tattoos. But, if we look a bit further in the chapter, we see:
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:33-34 KJV)
If a Christian is bound by Lev 19, then where is his land? When was his people in Egypt? By the way, this verse isn’t a proof text for immigration policy for the same reason (there is a good case to be built for immigration reform, just not from this passage).
The Bible teaches that we are entirely free from the Law. Even if a Christian commits the acts mentioned in the Ten Commandments, he is not held in violation of the Mosaic Law any more than an American is in violation of British law whenever he drives on the right side of an American road. The Christian lives in the Age of Grace, which, by the way, repeats several commands from the Mosaic Law, but since tattoos are only in the Mosaic Jurisdiction, they are within the realm of Christian freedom.
But seriously, though. If you’re thinking about getting a Bible tattoo, feel free to have someone check it out first. You can submit your ideas to The Free Grace Theology Discussion Group on facebook where we have several biblical language nerds who would love to help.