Leviticus 19: 28 reads “Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD.”
Matthew 5:17-19 says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The NAB footnote on verse 19 says “Probably these commandments means those of the Mosaic law. But this is an interim ethic ‘until heaven and earth pass away.’”
A second footnote reads: “This statement of Jesus’ position concerning the Mosaic law is composed of traditional material from Matthew’s sermon documentation (see the note on Matthew 5:1-7:29), other Q material (cf Matthew 18; Luke 16:17), and the evangelist’s own editorial touches. To fulfill the law appears at first to mean a literal enforcement of the law in the least detail: until heaven and earth pass away nothing of the law will pass (Matthew 5:18). Yet the “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world understood, as in much apocalyptic literature, as the dissolution of the existing universe. The “turning of the ages” comes with the apocalyptic event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and those to whom this gospel is addressed are living in the new and final age, prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). Meanwhile, during Jesus’ ministry when the kingdom is already breaking in, his mission remains within the framework of the law, though with significant anticipation of the age to come, as the following antitheses (Matthew 5:21-48) show.”
Luke 16: 16-17 says: “The law and the prophets lasted until John; but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest part of a letter of the law to become invalid.”
And the footnote says: “John the Baptist is presented in Luke’s gospel as a transitional figure between the period of Israel, the time of promise, and the period of Jesus, the time of fulfillment. With John, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises has begun.”
Also, there is no doubt that Paul often pulled from the OT to give examples of how judge the morality of an act. Based on that, I’d play it safe and not get a tattoo. You might be able to make a case that this particular element of Leviticus is no longer morally binding, but I wouldn’t risk it.
Also, there is the arguement that tattooing is a sin of vanity – what God made me wasn’t good enough, so I’m going to improve it by redecorating. I’m not sure how theologically strong this arguement is – certainly, it would be a case-by-case basis – but there may well be something to it.
There’s no doubt that among young people today, tattooing is the “in” thing to do. I actually went to the mall today (it was my first trip to the mall in years) and I have to admit, I was surprised by the number of twenty-somethings – male and female – who had a great deal of tattoos and facial piercings.It left me wondering several things:
Where are these people when they aren’t at the mall? Do they sleep there? How come I never see them in the real world?
What do they do when they go on a job interview? When they hit their 40s and are still chasing a mop in the food court at the mall, will they begin to reflect on how the tattoos might have been a bad idea?
How do I get into the business of tattoo removal? After all, once the bubble bursts on this fad, there are going to be a lot of folks who are going to shell out a lot of green to get that stuff taken off.
So – short answer – getting a tattoo *might or might not *be immoral in the days after the Resurrection. However, it is absolutely morally safe to refrain from getting a tattoo.
I’d play it safe.