Did Jesus Have a Tattoo on His Thigh in Revelation 19:16?

The verse in question here is the only verse in the New Testament that appears to suggest that Jesus had something “inscribed” on his body. However, such a suggestion is in direct contradiction of a law in Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you.” Not only would the idea of a Jewish man having a tattoo be shocking, even more so is the suggestion that his thigh would be exposed, something basically equated with public nudity in Jesus’ time and religious culture.

A theory that easily explains such a contradiction is that the book of Revelation was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek as previously assumed. If that is the case, a miniscule copying error by an early scribe would easily render the Hebrew word for “banner” as “thigh” instead. The first Hebrew letter for the word “banner”, dagel, looks almost exactly like the first Hebrew letter for “thigh”, ragel. So it is posited that the correct reading of Rev 19:16 is “On his robe and on his banner he has a name inscribed, ‘King of Kings and Lord of lords.’”

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.