For many people, piercings are simply fun fashion statements that allow for self-expression. However, for Christians, piercings present more of a moral debate.
Christians who have studied the Bible have found several verses that seem to frown upon the piercing of the human body in addition to other modifications.
Interestingly, in America, it is estimated that approximately 83% of adults have ear piercings. Meanwhile, 61% of Americans have other body piercings, with the most popular being navel piercings and nose rings.
With 65% of Americans identifying as Christian, this would suggest a significant overlap of Christians who have piercings.
In today’s article, we will be examining the Biblical evidence for and against piercings to determine whether this type of body modification is appropriate for followers of Jesus.
Biblical Verses About Piercings
Piercings In Exodus
The first chapter in the Bible that seems to provide useful scripture on the subject of piercings and body alterations, in general, is Exodus.
In Exodus 21:6, piercing is used as a form of corporal punishment and directly associated with slavery: ‘Then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost.
And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.’
Clearly, this verse does not paint piercings in a positive light. If this were the only verse in the Bible that addressed body piercing, the association would definitely be a negative one.
However, this is not the only point in the Bible where body modification is mentioned, so let’s proceed to how piercings are treated in Leviticus.
Piercings In Leviticus
Leviticus is considered to be one of the most central chapters in the Bible because it is specifically concerned with the holiness of God.
This chapter contains a lot of Biblical guidance for human conduct, and the subject of body piercing comes up in Leviticus 19:28: ‘You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves.’
Again, this verse seems to have a pretty firm position on piercings, described here as ‘cuts’ on the body. However, the passage only specifies that it is forbidden to pierce the body ‘for the dead’.
This is a reference to the religious rituals for mourning some other religions.
Therefore, Leviticus 19:28 could be interpreted as a condemnation of body modification only when it is performed for religious reasons outside of Christianity.
Leviticus 21:5 also says ‘They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.’
Once again, ‘cuts on their body’ could be interpreted as piercings, and in this case, there is no specification of non-Christian religious motives.
However, many Christians do not take this verse literally because it also cautions against the shaving of the head and beard regions.
Of course, plenty of Christians do shave their heads and trim their beards, and doing so is no longer treated as an issue in most Christian communities.
Therefore, it stands to reason that the warning against piercings could also be disregarded.
Piercings In Ezekiel
Another Bible chapter from the Old Testament that addresses body piercing is Ezekiel. In this chapter, body piercing is part of an extended metaphor about God’s treatment of Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 16:12 reads: ‘And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.’ In the aforementioned metaphor, the earrings and nose ring are a symbol of God’s generosity, bestowed upon Jerusalem as a gift.
In Ezekiel 16:15, however, Jerusalem is told, ‘But because of your fame, you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot.’
This could easily be interpreted as a commentary on how body jewelry such as the nose and ear piercings in the earlier verse leads to vanity.
The problem with this interpretation is that God, being omniscient, would surely not bestow a gift that would inevitably lead to moral corruption.
Therefore, a more accurate interpretation might be that while body piercings and similar adornments may lead to vanity (which is associated here with sexual immorality by Biblical standards), this is not always necessarily the case.
Ultimately, it seems to all come down to the right and wrong reasons for getting pierced.
Piercings In 1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians does not directly address the debate around piercings and body jewelry like some previous chapters in the Bible, but it does contain a verse that many Christians objecting to piercings often quote.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Bible states: ‘Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.’
While this does seem, on the surface, to be a verse condemning practices such as tattoos and piercings, it all depends on what the individual interpreter considers to be a glorification of God.
After all, it is not clear in the verse itself which actions relating to the body are considered a devaluation.
The earlier commentary about body jewelry in Ezekiel seems to imply that piercings can glorify God as a reflection of his generosity. However, they can also lead a person astray.
For example, if a person chose to pierce their ears in order to wear jewelry depicting Christian symbols (the cross, for example), this could surely be an example of ‘glorifying God’ through the body.
Ultimately, devoted Christians who are familiar with scripture will be able to find plenty of evidence for and against piercings in the Bible. It all comes down to personal interpretation, motivations, and values.
In summary, it would seem that adorning the human body with jewelry through the method of piercing is not un-Christian, provided that there are no conflicting religious or vain motivations behind the decision.
If (as many Christians do by getting Christian tattoos or wearing jewelry that identifies them as believers in Jesus) you are using body piercing to further glorify the Lord, there is little Biblical evidence to suggest that you are doing anything wrong.