A Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar looks at the Bible and culture…

The Bible as a Fashion Statement

There’s nothing new about accessorizing with religion.  A quick stroll through most museums will make the point:  people have worn faith-based necklaces, rings, and amulets for millennia.

Even as America experiences a decline in church membership and traditional religious affiliations, religious body ornamentation is alive and well.  The most conservative jewelry stores sell cross necklaces and St. Christopher’s medallions. Stars of David aren’t hard to find, either.

reliigious pendants

But there’s a lot, lot more.  “Got Jesus?” T-shirts.  “I love God” hats. Socks with the Christian fish and cross.  Kabbalah bracelets. Rosaries made into necklaces.

The Bible itself provides bling.  For example, Tyndale sells a Bible-and-purse combo, with the following blurb:

Introducing Veritas, the fashionable and smart new solution for women who crave something different. The Bible goes where they go with these stylish, full-size purses complete with a coordinating compact New Living Translation tucked away in its very own easy-to-access compartment. Veritas gives fashion-savvy women the freedom to conveniently and comfortably carry the Truth with them everywhere, every day. Available in two styles, Journey and Legacy.

Looking for a cool tattoo?  Why not get a Bible verse?  You can either just post chapter and verse (say John 3:16), or have the text written out in English.  If you want to be exotic, you can get it in Hebrew.

Of course, this last option is a little risky, since most inkers don’t know the language and might misspell or twist your intention.  Tyler F. Williams, professor of Old Testament at Taylor University College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, gives some examples of bad Hebrew tattooing at his website.

For some people, adorning their bodies with religious texts is an expression of their faith.  At the theological seminary at which I teach, some preachers-to-be have chosen the verses emblazoned in their souls to be emblazoned on their bodies.

But, for many, religious symbols and words are chosen for how they look and feel, rather than what the words themselves say.  As in the illuminated Bibles of the past, words become art.  Biblical texts have the additional benefit of feeling ancient and serious and important.  It does something for people even when they don’t read it.




One Response to The Bible as a Fashion Statement

  • Julia:

    Nice blog! And thanks for the lead about the purse–perfect for my Iconic Books blog!

    Jim Watts

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