Yeshua and Tattoos
by Lonnie Lane
There are many people with tattoos these days. They seem to be “in vogue.” However, there’s a teaching going around claiming that “Yeshua has a tatt,” too. The teaching is that when Yeshua returns He will be the bearer of a tattoo on His thigh that says, “Lord of lords and King of kings.” There are at least a few reasons why that cannot be true. For one, if Yeshua were to have a tattoo, He would be in violation of Torah. He came to fulfill the Torah, to bring it to its highest level, so to ascribe something to Yeshua that Torah forbids, would that be equal to blasphemy?
The expectation of Yeshua coming with the tattoo is derived from the verse that speaks of His return: “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:16). The command against tattoos is this: “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). The KJV says not to “make any cuttings in your flesh nor print any marks upon you” and does not use the word tattoos, while the Amplified Version makes clear that the word used indicates marks, prints and tattoos: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead nor print or tattoo any marks upon you; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:28). How clear is that? We will address the matter of “for the dead” below, but first lets deal with the primary issue of concern.
The idea that Yeshua would have any tattoo on His body at all is in direct violation of Leviticus 19:28 as quoted above. And since He is in fact both the “I am” and “the Lord” who gave the commandment, He would be in conflict with Himself if He were to have a tattoo. Since that is impossible, He cannot have a tattoo under any circumstances.
It may seem at first glance as if it’s a small matter, but there is a rather significant issue involved here. It is this: If there is one tiny abrogation of the Word of God, that is to say one command no matter how seemingly small and insignificant that would be abolished, annulled, repealed, rescinded or terminated, then the whole of God’s character of perfection would fall apart. It would undermine His faithfulness and His immutable Word. And I would go so far as to say, should there be one contradiction between Yeshua and any of the commandments in Torah, it would invalidate His Messiahship, His being the Anointed One of God, and, therefore, it would invalidate His atonement as well! If even one verse was violated or invalidated by Yeshua, He would have not been sinless and therefore He would not have been acceptable to God as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
Scripture clearly tells us this about Yeshua’s qualifications as our Redeemer: “…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, 19, emphasis added). Unblemished! Spotless! Each lamb or animal to be sacrificed under the Old Covenant had to be perfect and without blemish of any kind in order to qualify as a sacrifice for atonement of sin. Each was a prophetic type of Yeshua as the final sacrifice being without “spot or blemish” spiritually, and undoubtedly physically as well, I would imagine. He was (cross) examined by the high priest on the Passover at the exact time that the sacrificial lambs were being examined by the priests, and was found faultless – without blemish. Nevertheless, He was sacrificed on the cross at the same time the lambs were sacrificed on the altar in the temple. He was indeed the perfect sacrificial “Lamb that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
If He had to be perfect and without blemish as required by God for His death, would He be any less perfect or without blemish in His resurrected Body? A tattoo would be a cut, a gash in His body, His resurrected Body. That makes no sense. And who would have done the tattooing if that were the case? Certainly not God for He is against tattoos. Would Yeshua need a man to inscribe such a title upon Him? It’s ridiculous to even consider. For something so carnal and physical to be of any reality in the heavenly realm or on His perfect heavenly body, let alone on King Yeshua, just doesn’t make Biblical sense, no matter what it would say in the tattoo.
Now, let’s look at some explanations that may help to see this correctly. The Book of Revelation in which is found the announcement of Jesus having “King of kings” on His thigh, is now thought by many scholars to have been written first in Hebrew, rather than Greek. John was writing to the congregations which had significant Jewish memberships so he’s writing to Jews who can explain what is being said to the non-Jews. Jews would have understood the Revelation much more easily than most of the church ever has for the simple reason that almost every verse in the Revelation has reference back in the Old Covenant. It would not have been mysterious to them as it is to those who are unfamiliar with the Old Covenant teachings.
Here’s where we get into some Jewish roots lessons. The verse in Revelation 19 leaves us to believe that Yeshua’s thigh is exposed so that the wording is visible to all to see. However, to the Jews, a person whose thigh was exposed was considered to be naked. Scripture gives many “thou shalt nots” about whose nakedness you are not to look upon or see. Take a read through Leviticus and you’ll find twenty-one of them. Nakedness is listed as one of the curses in Deuteronomy 28 ( verse :30 to be exact). Avoiding nakedness or the exposure of one’s flesh was one way to maintain a high moral standard in the community, thereby eliminating a great many troubles, trials and temptations. For those of you who just reacted to that last statement, thinking it was prudish or legalistic, it wasn’t; it was one way of living in holiness before the Lord and each other. (How shocked would Moses be today with what many deem as acceptable dress? Or should I say acceptable exposure? To have one’s thigh exposed would be considered being naked and forbidden. If Yeshua were to have a visible tattoo on His thigh, that would be equal to being naked in a public setting which, as we see, is wholly unacceptable to God.
How do we resolve this verse then? Well, here’s a very interesting Jewish Roots Nugget. This goes back to the Revelation having been first written by John in Hebrew. It now appears that the word “thigh” might be an alternative meaning that came about because of a translation error. It is possible that the Scribes who made copies of the Book of the Revelation may have made the tiniest of errors which has resulted in an entire church doctrine. The word in the Revelation for “thigh” is ragel, with the first letter being a resh (ר). However, it could have been the letter dalet (ד) in Hebrew which looks very much like the resh. An unfamiliar eye, such as yours perhaps, may not even be able to immediately tell the difference in the Hebrew letters as they look almost identical. When the Revelation was copied it would have been easy to see the Hebrew "d" (ד) as a "r" (ר), if the “d” was not carefully written or drawn. If it were a “d” then the word would be dagel and would have meant "banner" which makes much more sense than ragel which means "thigh." If that were the case, the verse would read “And on His robe and on His banner He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:16 emphasis added). That certainly has more dignity to it and seems more in keeping with Scripture and banners in warfare. And it would certainly eliminate any thoughts about tattoos, wouldn’t it?
Now, as for the words in Deuteronomy that say, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead” (:19:28), the reason for this and many other similar commands was to be sure that Israel was distinguished from her pagan neighbors who served demonic deities. The practice of making gashes on one’s face, arms and legs following the death of a loved one or someone of stature was a common practice among pagan societies. It was considered a mark of honor and respect for the dead person. It was also a kind of offering or form of appeasement for the deities who ruled over death to gash oneself and to insure the mark remained.
Other religions have practiced voodoo and other pagan or demonic rituals involving tattooing as appeasement of gods or of status of belonging to one group as opposed to another. You may have seen Hindus with a mark on their forehead for the purpose of the status of one caste over another, something Israel was to have no part in as all were to be equal before God. The Israelites actually adopted this tattooing superstition having learned it from the Egyptians who were preoccupied with their fear of death and trying to provide always for the afterlife. Although they turned from such practices, in later “backslidden” times, Israel degenerated back into this superstitious practice. (Isa 15:2; Jer 16:6; 41:5). You can see why God was unalterably opposed to Israel participating in any practice such as this tattooing of one’s body. Our bodies, to God who created them, are to be regarded as holy and treated as holy. Not only were the motives for tattooing demonically influenced, but the gashes are as a violation of the body, and any harm to one’s body or the body of another person was disallowed.
Many have tattoos today but I am not addressing those who have tattoos today. I was addressing a false teaching about Yeshua and the implications of such a false teaching. The motive behind my search is that I’m trying to find our way back to the effectiveness and power, the faithfulness and commitment, the loving equality and unselfishness, and the undaunted courage of the first century believers. I love the way they loved Yeshua – entirely and completely, loving Him more than their own lives. I want that, don’t you? I want to know Him that deeply. He is worthy of that kind of commitment, don’t you agree?
Those who knew Him, those who were His followers in the first century or so, were certainly Torah-observers and were just as certainly not the least bit legalistic. They were free in Yeshua, yet walking in what He embodied as the Word of God. He was the Torah and the prophets made flesh. He lived the Word entirely by the Spirit of Grace and holiness as He taught them to do, and as they were able to do by the power of the Spirit.
If you’re a reader of these articles, this is not new to you. You likely share my quest for an authenticity in the Body of Messiah that will reveal Yeshua in Spirit and in truth! Amen? I have great expectations that we are even discussing this because God has plans for a people who are preparing the way of the Lord. Along the lines of an old Jewish proverb, I’m asking, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” If we believe we may be the people who will see the return of Yeshua, then we should have a better chance at being the people with His glory upon us as the New Testament folks did. In questioning the reasons they were as they were, I see that it had to do with the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit upon them, and how they followed Torah as Yeshua did, by the Spirit of grace. They regarded it as valid for their lives. Paul has this to say about the Old Covenant writings, because none of the New Covenant writings were compiled as Scripture when he wrote this, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16, 17). This shouts loudly that false teachings are avoided by a reading of “All Scripture.”
Perhaps the error addressed above is an example of how we can misinterpret Yeshua when He has been lifted out of the context of the entirety of the Bible and we read selectively. We become what we focus on. As we see Yeshua we will be like Him, but if we misinterpret Him, because we have an incomplete picture of Him, then we will be powerless to change our world in a time when the world is in desperate need. We are likely to present pictures or images of Him that are incorrect and therefore do not lead people to be truly saved. Even creation itself expresses its need – “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). Can we adequately be the sons and daughters of God that the world needs, or even just that our city needs, or those in our sphere of influence need, if our understanding of Yeshua is less than He’s provided for us through His Word? Please let’s take the whole Bible as seriously as we do the parts we like best. Allow God to reveal Yeshua to you as never before, so we too would be without spot or blemish, in order “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless”(Eph. 5:27). And all God’s people said….Amen.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2010.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.