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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are Tattoos Taboo?

    Over on a forum set aside for Christian singles, someone claimed that Christians are required to conform to Mosaic Law as it is stated in Leviticus 19:28. That verse says, "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord."

     The validity of the aforementioned claim is not supported by scriptural evidence.

     Here is a statement about Leviticus 19:28 made by Dr. David Capes, a Professor in Christianity at Houston Baptist University: 

It is true and undeniable that Leviticus instructs the people of God not to cut their bodies or get tattoos. But we must ask what function those laws had. 
There are 613 laws in the Old Testament that make up—and this is key—God’s covenant-agreement with the people known as Israel. Some laws are universal (no murder, no stealing, no adultery), but the majority are specific to that people. 
Christians today, for example, don’t remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy by doing no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, Saturday, not Sunday. Christian women today don’t follow the laws of what to do during their menstrual cycles. The majority of Christians eat pork, shrimp and catfish despite God’s clear instruction to Israel not to eat these things (Leviticus 11). Christians today don’t celebrate Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. 
Now why don’t Christians follow these laws? They are part of the Bible. True, they are, but these are laws God gave to establish the people we know today as Israel. These laws set them apart from their pagan neighbors. They are written, according to Paul, for our instruction but they do not apply to us. 
Paul, you remember, did not insist that Gentile men be circumcised in order to follow Christ even though circumcision was central to the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision is the mark/cutting of the body that set the men of Israel apart from their pagan neighbors. Today many Jews still follow these laws and practices. 
Informed by the Old Testament, Christians are to be formed by a different set of teachings (the Sermon on the Mount, law of Christ—Galatians 6), practices (Sunday worship, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, hospitality), and beliefs (incarnation, trinity, resurrection, etc).

     In the 15th chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, we read about a council held in Jerusalem by the Apostles and elders of the Church at that time. The topic of their discussion was whether or not Gentile followers of the Messiah were required to conform to the Laws of Moses as spelled out in the Tanak (a.k.a. Old Testament). 

     The members of the Council decided that Gentiles were not required to conform to the Laws of Moses. The Council drafted a letter that was sent to the Messiah's Gentile followers living in other cities. This is what the letter said: 
The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

     In short, the claim that Gentiles must conform to the Mosaic Law stated in Leviticus 19:28 is a claim that contradicts the teachings of the Apostles.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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