History of Rings
By William Chalfant
SYMBOLISM OF RINGS
When we think of the
symbolism of rings, it is possible to allow our minds to run amok. Rings
are noted everywhere in nature. The idea of a circle gives out notions
of eternity, with no beginning and no ending.
Tyack speaks of rings
made in “the form of the familiar symbol of eternity, the coiled
snake...”.1 The snake also represents the wicked serpent in the Garden
of Eden. Thus a ring is made, in this instance, to represent a serpent
that wraps itself around mankind.
Granted that such a
representation is rather far-fetched, there is, however, evidence that
in primitive times it was believed by some that a rope tied around part
of the body would keep the soul from escaping from the body.
Berdanier says that when
a man captured his mate in primitive times, he tied ropes around her
waist, her wrists, and ankles, in order to “make sure that her spirit
was held under his control”.2
Later, a permanent ring
of flint, ivory, or amber, took the place of the rope “to symbolize
obedience of the wearer to a higher power”.3 The ring, then-in this
respect-was quite simply a symbol of ownership or slavery.
Actually, the symbolism
of the ring is more widespread than that. It is not only a symbol of
slavery in this instance, but it later became a status symbol of
authority, wealth, and position-especially in the ancient Roman world.
This idea of the ring as a status symbol is derived from the ring’s
cosmetic qualities, which is seen in its “value” to some as an
adornment of the body.
The ancients had at least
three uses for rings: (1) to distinguish status or conditions of
quality; (2) betrothal or engagement rings, and (3) rings used as seals
in business or other personal transactions.4
It seems that the use of a ring as a seal was the earliest employment of rings in the civilized world. In this use of the ring, it was associated with the transfer of goods or property.
ORIGIN OF THE RING
Most sources consulted by
this writer are agreed that the ring originated in the Middle-east, but
they are not always in agreement in which area or country.
Brasch, for example,
says, “The ring originated in the East, whence it was copied by the
ancient Greeks”.5 Others believe that the earliest rings were to be
found in Egypt.
But Rees tells us, “The
ancient Chaldeans, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, had likewise the
use of the ring”. He takes his information from the ancient writer,
It is our opinion, then,
that just as the ancient pantheon of the “gods” of Egypt are
descended from the pantheon of Babylon, then likewise the ring itself
must be descended from Babylon.
The earliest use of the
ring in the civilized world seems to have been in making impressions or
imprints upon wax or clay. This ring, then, was used to designate
ownership. It was normally too large to be worn upon the finger, and was
sometimes a part of a bracelet or necklace, or just attached to the
waist by a thong or a cord.7
By the sixteenth century
BC finger rings were noted among the ancient Egyptians, which leads some
to believe that this was about the time when the finger ring evolved
from the signet ring, which was used as a seal.8
This means that the
finger ring, at this time, became “ornamental” rather than useful as
a seal or signet.
The first biblical
reference to a ring is in Genesis 41.42, where an Egyptian pharaoh
(probably Apepi II), in about 1800 BC, gave his signet ring to Joseph.9
Obviously, this ring was not for the purpose of adornment, but was given
to Joseph for business or government transactions.
We are not told whether
Joseph actually continued to wear this ring constantly upon his
“hand” (we are not actually told that the ring was put on Joseph’s
“finger”, but rather it was placed upon his “hand”, which would
be the case if it was a large signet ring). Signet rings, by their very
use, would be deemed too large to wear ornamentally upon the finger.
Most rings today throughout the Islamic world in the Middle east are the
signet rings (the khatim, “seals”).10
The Persians (Iranians)
said that Guiamschild, who was “the fourth king of the first
race...introduced the ring for sealing his letters and other acts”.11
The Persians had
conquered Babylon, and therefore may have gotten the ring from Babylon.
Others ascribe the ring
to the Phoenicians. But the Phoenicians were sea traders, and were most
likely responsible for merely spreading the use of rings throughout the
The ring probably went from the Babylonians and Persians to the Greeks. From the Greeks it went to the Etruscans in Italy, and then finally to the Romans, from whom we in the West have gotten our basic custom of wedding rings.
Anne Ward has stated,
“of all means of self-ornamentation devised by the human race, none
generates a more powerful atmosphere of mystery and magic than the
Ward designates three
types of ancient rings: (1) seal or signet, (2) ornamental, and (3)
ritual (religious, civic, magic).
In the middle ages, it
was commonly supposed that rings possessed a variety of supernatural
powers. Magic and charm rings “possessed powers as a continuous
The so-called “ring
finger”, the fourth finger (counting the thumb) of the left hand, is
actually called in antiquity, the “finger of Apollo”. Apollo was the
pagan god of healing.14
Many are familiar with
the tales of magic rings in Arabian folklore, and the ring is the focus
of much occult lore.15 And not only has the ring been identified with
the occult and magic, but the ring was even employed as a murder weapon!
Venetians, in renaissance
Venice, called this ring the anello della morte, or “the ring
of death”. The ring was filled with a deadly poison with a tiny,
pricking point, which was powered by a spring. One deceitful handclasp
and death followed.16
Other rings, during the middle ages, served as amulets, charm rings, or magic talismans. These rings were often engraved with figures, symbols, and words, to ward off evil. These were worn with the same idea that Christian crosses are worn today; i.e., to protect the wearer in some magical way. Early gnostic Christians wore rings in this manner.17
The use of a wedding band
may be traced back to the use of the betrothal or engagement ring by the
Romans. Clement of Alexandria, however, tells us that the ring’s use
in the marriage service (he probably is referring to the betrothal or
engagement ceremony) began in ancient Egypt, and it actually signified a
transfer of property.18
Tyack very carefully
points out that the wedding ring is distinct from the betrothal or
engagement ring, and that it came into use about the tenth century,
being introduced in the Roman Catholic church.19
The Christian wedding
band comes from the pagan Roman sponsalia (betrothal) ceremony.
The ancient Montanist
writer (claimed by Catholics), Tertullian (150-230 AD) tells us that
rings were not part of the wedding ceremonies in his day. They were
McCarthy says that the
early Catholic Christians used a ring in espousals, but not in
solemnizing the marriage itself.
However, the use of the
ring in the engagement ceremony rather than in the actual marriage
ceremony is simply the ancient Roman pagan sponsalia.21
Tertullian admitted that
in the third century some Christian women had a plain gold ring placed
on their finger at the sponsalia ceremony. He called this ring
the anulus pronubus, or “betrothal ring”.22 But the reader
should not think that the young lady continued to wear this gold ring.
This was merely a formal placing of the ring on her finger during this
pagan ceremony. We might compare this sponsalia to a civil
ceremony versus a religious ceremony. It was a Roman custom, and was
probably not easily discontinued by Roman citizens and family members,
even though they had become Christians . Roman law, at this time, forbad
the wearing of gold rings, on a daily basis, by common people.
Moreover, it is rather
doubtful that apostolic Christians participated even in the Roman pagan
ceremonies at all.
Artsikhovski tells us
that the plain gold wedding band originated from the ancient Roman
custom.23 Rings are noted among Catholics from the fourth century, when
they became quite common.24
The Greek Catholic church
directed that the wedding band be placed on the woman’s right hand (we
assume the fourth finger). And it was noted on the right hand among
Roman Catholics until the middle of the 18th century.25
According to Brasch, the
location of the wedding band is a part of pagan superstition. He states,
“The choice of the (left) ring finger is of unquestionable pagan
origin”.26 The right hand normally stood for power and authority,
while the left hand expressed “submission and serfdom”.27
The wedding ring, as a
symbol of submission, may seem, at first glance, to express
“Christian” sentiments. But when we think of the origins of the
ring, we do not understand these sentiments in the same way:
wedding ring was first used in the days when men used to own their
wives. In these terrible times...men used their brutal strength to make
women their slaves. It was customary to put a chain on a slave to show
that he has an owner...We now believe that the wedding ring began as a
symbol meaning that the wife was the husband’s property.28
While this may certainly
seem a bit exaggerated, it does not sound like something expressing
Christian sentiments. The ancient Hebrews did not use a wedding band.29
The positioning of the
wedding band on the fourth finger, left hand, had two meanings in
Isidore of Seville
(560-636 AD) calls the vein on the fourth finger, the vena amoris,
or the “heart vein”.30 This was supposedly the “healing finger”,
since the vein ran straight to the heart.
The custom also arose,
sometime in the middle ages, of connecting the wedding band with the
The Anglo-Saxons, during
the engagement ceremony, placed the ring on the girl’s right hand
finger, and transferred it to the left hand finger at the marriage. The
ring was placed, by the priest, first on the thumb, then on the index
and middle finger in order, naming the three Persons of the Trinity.
Finally, it was placed on the fourth finger, showing that the bride was
subject first to the Trinity, and next to her husband.31
Tyack also speaks of this
trinitarian ceremony of the ring, and says that before the Reformation
it was more elaborate:
the Reformation, the wedding ring was put on in a more ceremonious way
than is now enjoined. The ring, having been blessed by the priest, and
sprinkled with holy water, as it lies upon a dish or book, the
directions for the investiture of the bride with it are, in the Sarum
Missal, as follows: ‘Then let the bridegroom put the ring on the thumb
of the bride, saying ‘in the name of the Father; and of the Son (on
the index finger); and of the Holy Ghost (on the middle finger), and
then (on the fourth finger), saying Amen. And then let him leave it (on
the fourth finger), because in that finger there is a certain vein which
reaches to the heart”.32
While it is true that
many Reformation trinitarians have simplied the wedding ceremony,
including the use of the ring, but the meaning is undeniably clear. THE
WEDDING BAND ON THE LEFT FOURTH FINGER IS A REPRESENTATION OF SUBMISSION
TO THE TRINITY. It is moreover superstitious and vain.
It is true that many of
the Reformation trinitarians felt that there was something wrong with
the wedding ring. Thomas Sampson and Laurence Humphrey (1556 AD) wrote
about the “popish” method of the ring in the wedding ceremony. They
were quite aware that the wedding band had been introduced into
Christianity by the Catholic popes.
Others made fun of those
who were attempting to ban the use of the wedding band, as in this witty
poem by Butler:
tool of matrimony, a ring: With which the unsanctified bridegroom Is
marry’d only to a thumb; (As wise as ringing of a pig, That us’d to
break up ground and dig) The bride to nothing but her will, That nulls
the after marriage still.34
And in another stab at
Puritans, who were against wedding bands:
will not hear of wedding rings, For to be us’d in their marriage; But
they say they’re superstitious things
Thus, the Puritans under
Oliver Cromwell (1653-1658 AD) in England tried unsuccessfully to ban
the use of the wedding band.36
McCarthy says that the
first betrothal rings were made of grass.37 This would seem to fit the
symbolical description of the ring as a substitute for the rope tied
around the bride in primitive times.
The Catholic Council of
Durham in England (1220 AD) stated: “Let not the marriage ring be made
of rushes, or of other vile materials”.38 Apparently the “rush”
(grass) ring was being used by certain devious young men to trick young
women into thinking that the ring made them “wives”. Such has been
the power of the ring.
The early Roman betrothal
(engagement) ring was made of iron, and the actual use of a gold ring in
the sponsalia, or betrothal, was not noted until the latter half
of the second century AD, or early third century AD, when Tertullian
mentions the use of a gold ring among some Christians.
Wedding rings are noted in the Catholic church from the fourth century onwards. Gregory of Tours (538-594 AD) mentions Christian wedding rings in the sixth century, and they were widespread among the Visigoths and the Lombards.39
SUPERSTITION OF RINGS
There is a vast amount of
superstition, which has grown up around the wedding band. The Roman
writer, Plautus (254-184 BC), in his Miles Gloriosus, called the
ring “a pledge of love”.40 This aura of romanticism and
sentimentality surrounding the ring has made it nearly an object of
reverence and worship.
In England, up to modern
times even, it has been considered an ill omen if the wedding ring were
suffered to drop to the ground during the wedding ceremony. Some suppose
that whichever of the bridal couple was so unfortunate as to drop the
ring, would be the first to die.
Tyack says that it is
everywhere deemed ominous if the lady takes off her wedding band, and
especially so if she should happen to break it or lose it. 41
The wearing away of a
wedding band, when it snapped, foretold of the husband’s death.
In some parts of Ireland,
the marriage contract itself was invalid unless a gold ring was used.42
Why the fixation upon
gold in connection with the wedding ring? The early Romans, who seem to
have originated the custom of the ring in marriages, did not at the
first use gold wedding rings. As we have seen, they used rings made of
The Romans had strict
laws forbidding the use of gold rings. But these laws were relaxed as
the Empire became rich, and the emperor wished to reward certain classes
of people. It was only natural that the common people would want to wear
gold as they became wealthy. Gold is highly prized as a precious shiny
metal, which is soft and malleable.
A justification for the
wearing of gold rings was offered in 1674 by a Catholic who was opposed
to the ban on the wearing of rings was that the gold of the wedding ring
signified the purity required in marriage. And, no doubt, many other
such reasons have been given for wearing gold on the finger.
History teaches us that
the wedding ring is a pagan custom, which is ultimately descended from
Babylon via the Egyptians and the Romans. It is not seen in the early
apostolic church as an approved custom.
The wedding band is noted as a betrothal ring in the early Catholic church from the late second century and early third century, and is seen to be widespread by the fourth century onward. The use of the ring in the wedding ceremony itself is noted from at least the tenth century in the Roman Catholic church.
DO PEOPLE WEAR RINGS?
People fall in love with
rings. Rings become an object of desire. Status symbols, sentimental
reasons, vanity, are among other reasons that people wear jewelry and
Others see in the wearing
of rings such benefits as superstitious protection, magic talismans,
amulets, and identification with certain groups, such as schools,
military groups, etc.
Rings become revered
family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, similar to
the “household gods” of ancient times.
The wearing of rings can
indeed become an obsession. As McCarthy notes concerning the Romans:
“The trouble with the Romans, as with others enamored of anything, was
that they began to overdo the wearing of rings. They covered their
fingers with them”.43
And these were the same
Romans, who earlier tried to restrict the wearing of the gold and silver
ring to the noble classes only. But a lust to wear these forbidden rings
eventually consumed them.
Rings were considered a
mark of dignity and status. Florus says that the Romans adopted the ring
from the Etruscans.44
In Rome, the permission
to wear the gold ring gave one a certain privilege that others did not
have (for example, only those wearing a gold ring could sit in the first
fourteen rows in the public theaters or amphitheaters).45
The noted first century
ancient Roman writer, Pliny, said that originally even Roman senators,
unless they were also ambassadors, could not wear the gold ring. Even
then, the senator was only allowed to wear the gold ring on public
occasions in his capacity as an ambassador.
As time went on, senators
and knights were permitted to wear the gold ring. This particular
privilege was called “the right of the gold ring” (jus annuli
When Hannibal, the great
Carthaginian general from north Africa, defeated the Roman army at
Cannae (216 BC), his officers collected three bushel baskets of gold
rings belonging to the defeated Roman knights.46
The first Roman emperor,
Augustus (31 BC-14 AD), extended the privilege of the gold ring to
certain outstanding and rich freedmen.
His successor, Tiberius
(14-37 AD), limited the privilege of the gold ring, which had been given
to freedmen (citizens who were not nobility), only to those freedmen who
were large property owners.
Later, the african
Emperor Severus, in 197 AD, granted the right to wear the gold ring to
all Roman soldiers, although this may have only meant the officers.
Since it was about this
time that Tertullian spoke of Christian ladies putting on the gold band
in the betrothal ceremony (sponsalia), he could not have meant
that they wore the gold ring permanently, since it was illegal for them
to do so.
The common people were only allowed to wear silver rings, and slaves could still only observe the custom of wearing iron rings.47 The Roman people in general were not allowed the wearing of gold rings until the time of the Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD).
SPIRIT BEHIND THE WEARING OF RINGS
There seems to be a
spirit behind the wearing of rings in some cases. Such seems to have the
case in some Romans.
Martial, a first century
Roman writer, wrote, “At first, (the Romans) only wore a single ring,
then (later) one on each finger”.48
commented that the Romans wore, in some cases, a ring “on each joint
of a finger”.49 And, he adds, their “foppery (foolish vanity) at
length rose to that pitch, that they had their weekly rings”.
Juvenal (60-140 AD) noted
that some vain Romans even had annuli semestres (seasonal rings,
one for Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer).
Lampridius gives us the
heighth of ring bondage and vanity when he relates that Heliogabalus
never wore the same ring, or the same shoe, twice! 50
Thus, there seems to be a
spirit of vanity or pride connected with the wearing of rings.
And it was not limited to
the ancient Romans. Representations of ancient Egyptian girls, as well
as Egyptian mummies, show that they wore ornamental finger rings, even
several on a finger.51
It is noted that even in
the twentieth century, many tribal peoples “load the limbs, fingers,
and even the toes with rings”.52
It is difficult to
contain the spread of rings and jewelry among a people. It is like an
alcoholic taking just one drink. It never stops there.
Moreover, the ring seems
to evolve from less expensive materials to precious, expensive metals,
such as gold. There is not only a tendency to excess in the wearing of
rings, but a tendency to extravagance in the rings worn.
Even the Catholics began
to complain about the vanity of rings. Cyprian and Jerome (third and
fourth centuries) both cautioned against the excesses in the wearing of
Early Catholics like Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), a contemporary of Tertullian, found himself attempting to distinguish between the images on rings as to whether they were pagan or immoral, or whether they were permitted to Christians, “such as fish or doves”.53
Almost all church rings (eccleisiastical
rings) are connected with the Catholic church. The Encyclopaedia
Britannica notes that “Closely allied to the wedding ring is the
eccleisiastical ring, ceremonially wedding the wearer to the church, as
well as signifying the dignity of the office”.54
We have noted that there
is a connection between the wedding ring and the Roman Catholic church
by history and by the relationship with the Trinity.
The most famous of church
rings would be the papal ring, or the “fisherman’s ring”, which is
worn by the Pope to signify his authority and position.
There are also rings worn
by Catholic cardinals and bishops. These are the rings that devout
Catholics kneel and kiss when meeting these priests.
Catholic nuns wear a
plain gold wedding band. It supposedly signifies their “marriage” to
Jesus Christ.55 This custom goes back at least to the fourth century,
since Ambrose of Milan (339-397 AD) speaks of the nun’s right to wear
the gold wedding band.55
Since the Catholic
bishops were given a great deal of even secular authority by the Emperor
Constantine, following the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the bishop’s
ring may at one time have been a signet ring with the bishop’s seal.
Augustine, in the early
fifth century, speaks of the bishop’s ring as a seal in one of his
Isidore of Seville
(530-636 AD) also mentions the bishop’s ring, as does the Catholic
Council of Toledo (633 AD).56
One must admit that Christian rings are highly associated with the Catholic church. Some Protestant reformers made attempts to do away with rings, but they were largely unsuccessful.
THE CHRISTIAN WEAR RINGS?
First, we must ask the
all important question: is this a matter of conscience or personal
conviction-or are rings prohibited by the scriptures?
Hebrews 12.1 says in
part, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily
beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before
us”. Therefore, no matter how sentimental or trivial something may
seem to us, we must lay it down if God indicates that He is against it.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established (see Deuteronomy 19.15, and 2 Corinthians 13.1). Isaiah, Ezekiel, and James speak against rings. Moses also indirectly speaks against the wearing of rings in his writings.
MEANING OF THE WORD “RING” IN THE BIBLE:
Several Hebrew words in
the Old Testament denote the word “ring” in general. And then it is
important to look at the context of the scriptures in speaking of rings.
The Hebrews knew of
“finger rings” and signets, earrings and nose rings. The Hebrew word
nezem was used for rings of gold, and earrings (see Genesis
24.22; Exodus 35.22, and Judges 8.24), which both men and women wore.
In Genesis 24.22, the
steward of Abraham, Eliezer of Damascus, on a mission for his master,
gave the maid Rebecca a nezem (“a golden earring”, although
another variant has nezem as “a jewel for the forehead”). In
Exodus 35.22, the earrings were of gold, apparently spoils from the
Egyptians, given for the tabernacle. And in Judges 8.24, Samuel tells us
that the earrings were normally worn by Ishmaelites.
Then there is the Hebrew
word ‘agil, which apparently means a feminine earring. Nizmai
oph seems to have meant a “nosering” only (Isaiah 3.21).
More importantly to our
discussion, the word tabba’at seems to have been interpreted as
a signet ring or a “finger” ring in general.57
It was undoubtedly a tabba’at,
or signet ring, used for official business, that the Pharoah (probably
Apepi II) placed on Joseph’s hand in Genesis 41.42. And it was a tabba’at
that king Ahasuerus placed on Haman’s and Mordecai’s (hands). We
cannot establish a doctrine of wearing rings from the actions of two
pagan princes. Moreover, there is no evidence that these signet rings
were worn ornamentally . Most likely, as we have shown, they were too
large for such daily wear, and were used only during the performance of
official or business acts.
The word of God
specifically condemns the wearing of finger rings (we do note that in
this case the word tabba’at is used, however) on the
“daughters of Zion”. While it is probably true that some rich or
powerful women used signet rings in business matters, it is probably
ornamental wear that the Lord is against in this passage (Isaiah 3.21).
We have mentioned that
Eliezer, the Syrian from Damascus, gave a nezem to the young
maiden Rebecca along with bracelets, which she put on (Genesis 24.30).
First of all, we cannot
charge Abraham or Isaac themselves with giving these items of jewelry to
the girl. Furthermore, Rebecca was not yet a member of Abraham’s
It was Jacob who told his
family, “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean,
and change your garments” (Genesis 35.2). And then Jacob required all
the “strange gods” that were in their hands, and all their earrings
that were in their ears (Genesis 35.4).
And as Jacob considered
getting rid of earrings as part of becoming “clean”, so we see the
wickedness in the earrings, which the children of Israel may have
brought with them when they came out of Egypt. They used the gold in
these to make an idol calf (Exodus 32.3,4). We see no evidence that God
was pleased with these ornaments.
When God came to judge
the Israelites in the matter of the golden calf, the Bible says that God
told the people, “put off thy ornaments from thee” (Exodus 33.5).
“And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by
the mount Horeb” (vs. 6).
The common fleshly urge
of people-especially without the baptism of the Holy Ghost-is to adorn
the body with jewelry. The children of Israel got their jewelry from the
Egyptians (Exodus 12.35) before they came out of Egypt. These items of
jewelry became a snare to the children of Israel.
We have to assume from
the testimony of Jacob’s action following the loss of Dinah’s
virginity, and the murder of the villagers of Shalem, that a spiritual
cleansing included taking off jewelry. We must assume that God was not
pleased with jewelry when He ordered the children of Israel to take off
their jewelry. It seems that God tolerated jewelry and recognized the
human love for ornamentation in the Old Testament, but it does not seem
that He considered physical adornment as being consistent with holiness
(separation unto the Lord).
In the New Testament we
have direct scriptural evidence that God is against His children wearing
gold in their ears or even on their fingers. We have the witness of the
Holy Ghost through the apostle Peter in the New Testament:
adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and
of WEARING OF GOLD, or of putting on of apparel. -1 Peter 3.3 (KJV)
The word “adorn”
means to “deck out with”, to “decorate”, to “place an ornament
An “ornament” is “a
thing of beauty, that would enhance the appearance”. Thus we must find
it impossible to see how the Holy Ghost could condone wearing a gold
ring, or any kind of a wedding band that was made of a precious metal.
The specific Greek word
that Peter used to denote “wearing” was perithesis, which
means “the act of putting around”.
Lexicon, #4025, p.503 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), states
that it was translated in the Vulgate Latin as circumdatio, which
similarly means “to put something around something else”.
And, in connection with
the Greek word kosmos, or “adornment”, as Peter has it in
this passage, Thayer has this to say: “the adornment consisting of
golden ornaments wont to be placed around the head or the body”
And we have no scriptural
authority to exclude gold wedding bands, which are put around that part
of the body called the finger. In fact, it looks as though this
scripture was directly aimed at earrings, bracelets, and finger rings,
which are most definitely placed around some part of the body.
Is there a second New
Testament witness? Yes. The apostle Paul, writing in 1 Timothy 2.9:
like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with
shame-facedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or GOLD, or pearls,
or costly array.
In this passage Paul used
the verb form of the same word (kosmeo), which Peter used for
“adorn”. The same prohibition of placing ornaments of gold on the
Some may feel that the
wedding band is not an ornament. But if it is a “thing of beauty”
and it “enhances” the body in the eyes of the world, then it is
surely an “ornament”. Moreover, if it is made of “gold”, then
God is against a Christian wearing it.
It is the false church,
in rebellion against the word of God, which wears gold.
The apostle John, in
Revelation 18.4, describes the false church (the woman) in this manner:
the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and DECKED WITH GOLD
AND PRECIOUS STONES AND PEARLS, having a golden cup in her hand full of
abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
This woman is dressed in
purple and scarlet, and she is decked with (adorned) with “gold and
precious stones and pearls”. This is in direct contradiction of the
word of God. This woman has no problem with wearing gold and jewelry.
God associates that in this passage with abominations and filthiness of
Is this not a picture of
the historical church, gorged with the blood of martyrs, which we came
out of? Where did the practice of wearing gold wedding bands come from?
As we have shown, the use of the wedding band in Christianity came from
the historical Catholic church. No one can surely deny that.
In the next world we are
promised crowns of gold, but it is neither fitting nor pleasing to God
for us to wear gold in this present evil world. Gold has brought much
grief to man in this world. The lust for gold was one of the reasons why
Achan and his family lost their lives following the battle of Jericho.
It also caused the loss of other Israelite lives.
Deuteronomy 7.25 tells
graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not
desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest
thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy
Certainly, then, God
makes distinctions concerning the possession and use of gold and silver.
We cannot say that the possession of gold or silver is wrong in itself.
Otherwise, we would have to condemn Abraham and Job.
But surely we can say
that the adornment of silver and gold on the human body, which is the
temple of God, is wrong in this present evil world.
God says in Haggai 2.8,
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts”.
And God says of his wayward people in Jeremiah 4.30:
thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with
ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain
shalt thou make thyself fair.
It is the world that puts
such a high premium upon the gold and silver today. Ezekiel prophesied:
shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed:
their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day
of the wrath of the Lord...it is the stumbling block of their iniquity.
-Ezekiel 7.19 (KJV)
Ezekiel foresaw the day
of the wrath of God when things would be so bad that silver would be
either so worthless or so dangerous to possess that people would cast it
into the street. Their gold would be taken away from them. They would
not be able to buy safety from the wrath that is to come. And Ezekiel
identifies gold and silver as a “stumbling block” to people.
The apostle James also
wrote concerning gold and silver in the last days:
gold and your silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a
witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have
heaped treasure together for the last days. -James 5.3 (KJV)
James is telling the rich of this world that in the last days, even though they hoard gold and silver, it will do them no good. There are some things that money cannot buy. In fact, in some strange way that we do not understand, their precious metals shall become “eaten up” with some kind of a poisonous-like “rust”, which shall be like acid and will consume their flesh like “fire”.
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES TO RINGS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
(1) James speaks of a
visitor, dressed in luxurious clothing, wearing a gold ring, coming into
an apostolic assembly (James 2.2). Does this mean that the apostolic
church promoted or condoned the wearing of gold rings? Very unlikely.
For one thing, we have already seen that in the first century within the
Roman empire, only Roman senators, knights, and extremely rich
landowners were allowed to wear gold rings in public. It is not likely
that one of these nobles would frequent the apostolic church, and less
likely that they would be a member in good standing. It is possible,
however, that a rich man, such as James describes, would visit an
That this man in James is
a “visitor” is seen in the statement by James that he is only a
“someone”. He is not called a “brother”. Secondly, the rich man
with the ring does not know where to sit. The “usher” has to tell
him where to sit. He does not know the seating arrangement of the
assembly. He is not familiar with it.
Peter told the beggar at
the gate Beautiful: “Silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3.6). Peter
certainly did not have a gold or a silver ring on his finger. And he was
married! I know of preachers who say that it is wrong NOT to wear a
ring. What about the apostle Peter?
(2) The only other
instance in the New Testament where a ring is mentioned specifically is
in the parable of the Prodigal Son. And, as in the case of the rich man
with a gold ring visiting the apostolic church, we cannot establish a
doctrine nor condone the wearing of rings for ornament in this passage
the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it
on him; and put a ring on his HAND, and shoes on his feet. -Luke 15.22 (KJV)
Both James 2.2 and Luke
15.22 use the Greek word daktylos (“finger”) for “ring”.
This would lead us to believe that the ring would be ornamental. This is
most likely in James 2.2, where chrysodaktylious (“goldfingered”)
is used, and since God seems to take a stand against the wearing of
ornamental rings, we may well accept this interpretation. However, in
Luke 15.22, where the noun daktylos is translated “ring”, it
seems that a signet or seal is indicated. One reason for this is that
the Lord says the father said, “put a daktylos (ring) on his
HAND”. This may well indicate that this particular ring is not
ornamental, but is rather a restoration of the family seal so that the
son is empowered to once more conduct business in the father’s name by
using his seal on the signet ring.
Normally, a signet ring
was carried about attached to a thong or a girdle, since it was actually
too large to be worn on a small finger.
Moreover, concerning the
“ring” in Luke 15.22 we are specifically not told that the ring is
made of gold or silver. We will remember that the common people in the
Roman empire were not allowed to wear gold rings during Jesus’ day .
Although the Prodigal Son’s father is supposedly wealthy, we have no
reason to think that he, an Israelite, and a subject of the Roman
empire, would be handing out gold rings for his son to wear.
Secondly, we must
remember that the Lord did not always approve of every detail mentioned
in the parables that He told. He certainly did not approve of unjust
judges, nor generally speaking of dogs licking sores, nor of servants
selling their masters’ goods at cut-rate prices.
Lastly, the symbolism of
the parable has a higher meaning for us in the church age. The robe on
the son seems to be a reference to the Holy Ghost baptism, while the
ring on his hand would seem to be a reference to the authority of the
father, which represents the baptism in the name of Jesus in the New
It seems unlikely, on the
other hand, that the Lord would teach us to wear jewelry on our fingers,
when his apostles teach us not to do so. God is not the author of
Rings are considered to
be jewelry. Wedding rings are bought at a jewelry store. One would not
go into a liquor store to buy pretzels. Why does one have to go into a
jewelry store to buy wedding rings?
When we wear wedding
rings-no matter how much in this world they might mean to us-we
encourage others to wear engagement rings, class rings, friendship
rings, and other such jewelry. If one type of ring is allowed, contrary
to the word of God, then others are bound to follow. Feel sorry for the
poor pastor trying to explain to someone why wedding rings are different
from engagement, class, and friendship rings. Why some rings are
acceptable and others are not. What the difference between a plain gold
band and a large carat diamond ring is. One sparkles and the other
Then there is the story
of how the wedding ring identifies a woman as being “married”, thus
protecting her from the unwelcome advances of other men.
argument no longer holds any merit. The Christian lady who truly wishes
to make know that she is married, will act virtuously and modestly in
the presence of other men. She will not dress in an immodest manner,
thus attracting the lust of other men. A wedding ring in this ungodly
day will in no wise deter advances from other men. In fact, it may
attract the adulterous attentions of the wicked.
A wedding ring today unfortunately merely identifies one with the world. Certainly that is not the desire of an apostolic Christian.
IS TO BE DONE?
What is to be done? How
can we hear Peter when he preaches Acts 2.38, “Then Peter said unto
them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the
Holy Ghost”, and THEN refuse to hear Peter when he tells us NOT to
wear GOLD (1 Peter 3.3)?
Can it be that we gladly
hear Paul when he writes “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”
(Ephesians 4.5), and THEN turn a deaf ear when the apostle writes
against adorning oneself with GOLD (1 Timothy 2.9)?
Have we apostolics become
like the denominationalists who pick and choose the scriptures that they
like? Have we come to a “salad bar” religion as apostolics? And
then, like the denominationalists, do we hear ourselves saying, “but
it doesn’t mean that!”?
Are we able to say with a
clear conscience that God is against wearing gold, EXCEPT for the
wedding band? Who gave us the authority to add to the word of God?
Jesus asked the
Pharisees, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your
tradition”? (Matthew 15.3).
What prevents apostolic
preachers from preaching against the wedding band? Is it the fear of
women who love the bright and pretty rings made of gold ? Are some
preachers afraid to stand up for the word of the Lord in this matter? Is
it the fear of tradition? How can tradition be more powerful than the
word of the Lord?
All of us have heard
apostolic people say “I am not convicted about it”. But when they
first got the Holy Ghost would they not have been convicted about it?
Many new converts have
experienced the convicting power of the Holy Spirit as their ring began
to burn on their finger. One young lady that we personally know about,
actually had the Spirit of the Lord speak to her and say, as she was
washing dishes in the kitchen, “I will give you the Holy Ghost if you
will pull off that wedding ring”. Her pastor had not yet preached
against rings, and she had only gone to church a few times. No one had
spoken to her about rings, and she was not aware of the standard.
Needless to say, she immediately obeyed the Spirit of God, and He filled
her with the beautiful baptism of the Spirit.
During the crucial times
of World War II, there was a bold slogan in the United States entitled
“I gave my gold for iron”. Thousands of patriotic American women
sacrificed their wedding rings to help the war effort.
Today, the church stands
on the threshold of the coming of the Lord. The time is short to win
What would it mean if the
sisters in the apostolic church decided that the gold on their fourth
finger left hand did not mean as much as saving souls? What if they
pulled off that gold wedding band and threw it into the work of God?
Think about what could be done!
If each gold ring brought
even $20, and there were 50,000 valiant war mothers in Israel, who
unselfishly pulled off the gold from their fingers, and contributed- it
would bring $1,000,000 for the cause of Jesus Christ in this perilous
hour! How about a slogan, “I gave my gold for Jesus”?
Wouldn’t it be
wonderful if such a wave of sacrifice would sweep the church in this
last hour? God would be pleased at the obedience to His word, and it
would be a sweet smelling savor to Him.
-Bro William Chalfant
George Tyack, Lore and Legend of The English Church, London: Wm. Andrews
& Co., 1899, pp.192,193
------(C) William B. Chalfant All rights reserved