A chronology of some of the religious tattoos Justin Bieber got before he inked a cross on his face
According to Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”
Some theologians interpret the passage as a strict prohibition against tattoos and other “body art.” Then again, Leviticus also bans trimming your beard, eating shrimp, wearing two different kinds of fabric, and smooching a guy if you are yourself a guy. So we don’t take it too seriously. And Justin Bieber sure doesn’t.
The former-teen-heartthrob-turned-just-regular heartthrob is back in the news after getting a teeny-tiny cross tattooed on his face. A face tat, even one so small it could be mistaken for an eyelash, may seem shocking. Getting inked above the neckline is a thing people usually do to kill time in prison—but Bieber may have just straight-up run out of real estate on the rest of his body, which is pretty heavily inked as-is.
In tribute to Bieber’s latest tattoo—one of 30 to 50, depending how you count them—and his rad religious devotion, here’s a chronology of all his religious zappers.
Jesus’ name in Hebrew
Date: April 2011
Location: Along his ribcage, under his left armpit
Bieber’s second-ever tattoo was his first explicitly religious ink. Applied during a stopover in Israel during the My World tour, it depicts the Hebrew name for Jesus: Yeshua. His dad, Jeremy Bieber, got the same one.
Date: January 2012
Location: Left calf
Justin Bieber is a Christian who believes Jesus died for his sins. This is a tattoo of the face of the guy whom he believes did that.
Date: March 2012
Location: Lower left leg
As devoted as he is to his faith, Bieber can’t have his hands clasped in prayer 24/7. He has to sleep and hold microphones and stuff. This tattoo allows Bieber to pray by proxy, even when he’s not actually praying. Later in 2012, Bieber had some roses added to the tattoo.
The Greek symbol for Christ
Date: February 2013
Location: Left forearm, next to a tattoo of an owl
To the untrained eye, this tattoo may just look like a regular, workaday letter X. But to the eye that knows Greek, or has an Internet connection, it’s clear that this is another expression of Bieber’s faith. The X, called Chi in the Greek alphabet, is the first letter of the Greek word for “Christ,” Χριστός. As such, it’s commonly used as shorthand for Christ, as in “X-Mas.” You might even say Christ is the “original X-Man”! We wouldn’t say that, though. That would be blasphemous.
Selena Gomez as an angel
Date: April 2013
Location: Left wrist
This one imagines Bieber’s then-girlfriend as an angel. He may have some regrets about this particular decision. But then again, there are plenty of fallen angels throughout scripture. Satan, for one.
A crucified globe
Date: May 2013
Location: Filling out a half-sleeve on his left arm
This one depicts a globe wearing a thorn of crowns, nailed to a cross. Maybe Bieber is saying that the Earth is dying for some sins, like a reversal on Jesus giving up his life for the sins of man? Or maybe it’s an ecological statement about the Earth dying for us? All we can say for sure is, it sure is a tattoo of a bleeding globe being crucified.
The word “LOVE”
Date: January 2014
Location: Right arm
After crowding out his left arm throughout 2013, Bieber started working on his right. This is another tattoo that may not seem explicitly religious. But you know who loved love? Jesus. And he was seated at the right hand of the father. Do we have to spell it out? Justin Bieber already literally did. In Gothic font, no less.
A big ol’ cross
Date: January 2014
Location: Smack in the centre of his chest
Again, this one seems pretty self-explanatory. But the really creepy thing? This tattoo was revealed to fans when Bieber’s father Jeremy took a picture of his sleeping son and posted it on Twitter. Yes: Jeremy Bieber takes photos of his sleeping, fully adult son and shares them in public.
The word “forgive”
Date: February 2014
Location: Along the top of his right hip
This may seem another easy-peasy Christian tattoo. After all, Christ was pretty much the ultimate forgiver. Coincidentally or not, Bieber got this one just a few days after being booked on drunk driving charges in Miami Beach. Was he asking the public to forgive him, at what then seemed like the peak of his lewd and obnoxious behaviour? Perhaps. As it’s written in Matthew 6:14: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Nice!
Date: June 2014
Location: At the top of his right arm tattoo sleeve
This is another sorta-religious, sorta-secular one. But did you know that, apart from Yahweh Himself, the cherubim are the most frequently cited heavenly creatures in the old Hebrew Bible? We didn’t either! We had to look it up!
Date: December 2015
Location: The base of his beck
All signs point to Bieber having a “thing” for angels. Or maybe he just liked this design because David Beckham has a similar tattoo?
A tiny cross
Date: May 2016
Location: Beside his left eye
Well, we all know Justin Bieber is extremely tough. And what’s harder than a face tattoo? Bieber got the ink in New York City. His friend Joe Termini got a matching one. It may be a tough-guy show of their friendship, but it also symbolizes Bieber’s eternal covenant with his original homie and BFF: Jesus.