What does the Bible teach about tattoos? A friend quoted Leviticus 19:28. Said the Nazi's used this as a reason to tattoo Jews since it was forbidden by God. Thus, Christians should not get tattoos. I said it was part of the Levitical laws pertaining to the Israelites and does not apply to New Testament Christians. The person was stunned that parts of the Bible no longer apply to us; felt strongly that all of Scripture applies to us.
As it turns out, the March 2017 “Light for our path” column in Forward in Christ will address a very similar question. So as not to provide a spoiler, I will pass along a brief response in this forum.
You are correct in noting that the instruction in Leviticus no longer applies to New Testament Christians. The prohibition of tattoos is part of God’s instruction to the people of Israel as they traveled to the promised land of Canaan. Because heathen Canaanite customs included tattoos, God instructed his people to avoid practices that would have identified them as followers of false gods. As that prohibition is limited to Leviticus, God’s directive involved only the Israelites and targeted the first commandment, not the fifth commandment, which concerns the care of our bodies.
If your friend was stunned to hear that parts of the Bible no longer apply to us and believes that all of Scripture applies to Christians today, I have to wonder—in all seriousness—if your friend offers animal sacrifices (Leviticus 2-7); celebrates the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23); observes the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25); destroys a place of residence because of persistent mildew (Leviticus 14); or, a host of other Old Testament instructions.
Your friend will want to understand and recognize that Christians today are not bound to Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws. God’s moral law remains. The Ten Commandments serve as a good summary of the moral law.
Beyond this, the upcoming column in Forward in Christ will address the application of Christian freedom and tattoos.