The Ancient Uses of Marks

"When the Lord called Israel out of Egypt and its idolatries and warned his people against the ways by which the heathen round about worshiped their gods, he gave commandment: 'Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead [demon- or spirit- worship], nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.' Lev. 19:28.

"The distinguishing mark of God's people was to be found in their loyal obedience to his commandments, the fourth precept particularly pointing out the sign of the great Creator: 'Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes.' Deut. 4:6. 'Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.' Eze. 20:20.

"From the earliest days, it is evident, the heathen were accustomed to mark themselves with the signs or symbols of their gods. Marks were also sometimes carried to indicate the master that a man served. An old author, Dr. John Potter, in a work on the Antiquities of Greece, says of these ancient practices:

Slaves were not only branded with stigmata for a punishment of their offenses, but (which was the common end of these marks) to distinguish them, in case they should desert their masters: for which purpose it was common to brand their soldiers; only with this difference, that whereas slaves were commonly stigmatized in their forehead, and with the name or some peculiar character belonging to their masters, soldiers were branded in the hand, and with the name or character of their general. After the same manner, it was likewise customary to stigmatize the worshipers and votaries of some of the gods: whence Lucian, speaking of the votaries of the Syrian goddess, affirms, "They were all branded with certain marks, some in the palms of their hands, and others in their necks: whence it became customary for all the Assyrians thus to stigmatize themselves." And Theodoret is of opinion that the Jews were forbidden to brand themselves with stigmata, because the idolaters by that ceremony used to consecrate themselves to their false deities. The marks used on these occasions were various. Sometimes they contained the name of the god, sometimes his particular ensign; such were the thunderbolt of Jupiter, the trident of Neptune, the ivy of Bacchus: whence Ptolemy Philopater was by some nick-named Gallus, because his body was marked with the figures of ivy leaves. Or, lastly, they marked themselves with some mystical number; whereby the god's name was described. Thus the sun, which was signified by the number 608, is said to have been represented by these two numeral letters XH. These three ways of stigmatizing are all expressed by St. John, in the book of Revelation: "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Vol. 1, page 75.
"Still the mark is used in modern heathenism. Most of the Hindu sects in India have their special marks to distinguish the god or gods of their chief devotion. On the festivals, after the ceremonial bathing and worship, the marks are painted afresh on the devotee's forehead or breast or arm. It is the sign of allegiance and submission to the authority whose badge it is.

"So the prophetic scriptures represent the Papacy, and the 'image of the beast' (the likeness to the Papacy formed in the falling away from Protestant principles) as joining in enforcing the mark of papal authority, upon the world.

"The whole matter of papal authority turns upon the question as to whether God's Word or the church is supreme. . . ."

Review and Herald April 24, 1913, p. 393

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