Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Kosher" Jewelry: The Biblical guidelines for adornment

There are generally two polarised views in Christianity regarding jewelry wearing. In one camp, persons argue that jewelry should not be worn any at all. Another camp says that it is what is in the inside that counts and that God does not care about the outside. But what does the Bible say about the matter. This year, God's direction to me is to go neither to the left, nor the right (don't get involved in extremes). As such, I decide to go with an open mind into the subject and study what the Bible actually says about this topic of jewelry wearing, rather than relying on the partisan arguments.

I must begin by indicating that based on my non-biblical or extra-biblical research on jewelry has mentioned that jewelry wearing seems to have originated from the practice of wearing amulets, or magic charms. For example in the book of Enoch, it is said that fallen angels taught women to adorn themselves with jewelry and even made the first jewelry (Enoch 8:1). Further sources such as the Jewish Encyclopedia suggest that 'all ornaments worn on the person seem to have been originally amulets' (Amulet, 2011). Another source, Cox (2011) cites a source without sufficient bibliographic detail that suggests that "it is possible that bracelets, anklets and rings may have at one time been amulets and to have participated in the general tendency for amulets to degenerate into ornaments (Regalia, ERE, Vol. 10, p. 637)". Jewish sources also indicate that the only jewelry that is Torah-approved is jewelry that carries the Word of God on hand or on the forehead as a reminder of our obligations to God and his covenant and promises. Catholic sources also indicate that the early church also adopted this idea. According to Hassett (1907) "following the example of Moses, who sought to turn the minds of the Jews from the superstitious emblems to which they were accustomed in Egypt, by substituting for them symbols of an elevating character, the Church, while forbidding amulets, permitted the use of emblems which would remind the bearers of some doctrine of Christianity".

These sources aside, we examine the Bible itself.

What the Bible says?
The Bible first of all does seem to permit the wearing of certain jewelry. It also states wear acceptable Biblical jewelry can be worn. According to the book of Proverbs, Biblical approved jewellery is worn around the head and neck (Proverbs 1:8-9; 3:1-3). Further, Deut. 6:4-9 suggests that hand or emblem on the forehead can be worn (specifically verse 8). In all of these scriptures, Biblically approved jewelry consists of written teachings or commandments that reminds us to be loyal and faithful to God. In general Biblically approved jewelry are things worn on our bodies to remind us and others of God's instructions. Any other jewellery wearing seems to be a form of idolatry. In Genesis 35:1-4, we see a unique story where jewelry was associated with idols and that part of the preparation to meet God required changing outward apparel including jewelry. Further, God discusses in the 10 commandments that we should not creates any grave images in the form of any thing (Exodus 20:4).  

Even in the approved jewelry wearing, there seems to be no allowance for earrings. Piercing of the flesh forbidden, except if one wishes to become a man's slave for life (Leviticus 19:28; Deut. 14:1-2; Exodus 21:6). In general the principle is that we are to wear on our clothing  things that honor God, including embroidery (Numbers 15:37-41). In principle, everything worn by a person is point to God and not self. Our bodies are not our own, and we are to use them to bring honour to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). This is especially important as Christ, the head of the body has already been pierced and tattooed for our sins, we now as his body just need not to have any such marks upon us of our own doing, but bear in our bodies his image and likeness (1 Cor. 15:49).


Based on scripture, our adornment ought to be done in a way that solely glorifies God. We ought not to dress to be fashionable, but rather, we must dress to remind ourselves and others to be faithful to God. While we are God's earrings and jewels accentuating God and make him attractive to other people and nations, this does not mean we must dress as how the secular world defines "attractive". Based on the scriptural evidence, I tend to take the perspective that if we wear any jewelry or adornment, it should be text of scripture or Bible verses or words that reminds us of God. Further, if we wear any thing (whether bits of wood, bone, stone, or other natural objects), as the people of faith (or scripture) we should wear engravened or written scripture on these objects that refer us and others to God. However, to summarise, the guiding principle when putting on any clothing or object is: will this cause me and others to be faithful to God and his teachings.


Amulet. In (2011). JewishEncyclopedia.com. Kopelman Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1445-amulet

Cox, W. (2011). The origin of the wearing of earrings and jewellery in ancient timesChristian Churches of God. Paper No. 197. (Edition 2.0 19970405-20010215-20110511). Retrieved from http://www.ccg.org/english/s/p197.html

Hassett, M. (1907). Amulet. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01443a.htm

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