Christians and Jews -- Is it OK for them to get tattoos?
THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:
Quick summary: Many if not most Jews say no (as do Muslims). With Christians, it’s complicated.
There are obvious pros and cons with getting a tattoo because it’s a social signifier and permanently so, unlike hair styles, attire, and other expressions of individuality. But as a religious matter the issue is whether to observe the Bible’s commandment in Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead, or tattoo any marks upon you. I am the LORD” (New Revised Standard Version).
The Hebrew verb here is ambiguous but New York University’s Baruch Levine says it’s “clear in context” that it means tattooing.
Indeed, as Charles Erdman of Princeton Theological Seminary observed, tattooing was common “among all the nations of antiquity” so the ban clearly set apart worshippers of the Bible’s one God against surrounding “pagans.” Note the adjacent biblical laws against flesh-gashing rituals, witchcraft, wizards, and mediums seeking contact with the dead.