Monday, June 3, 2013

Does Revelation 19:16 teach that Jesus has a tattoo on His thigh?

The Text: 
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:12-16)

Background:
In this section of Revelation you have Jesus being presented as coming in judgement with power greater than any king that has ever lived. One one the ways Jesus is presented with all power is with the phrase “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” on His thigh.  The question is often asked, “Is this phrase an actual marking or tattoo on the flesh of Jesus?”

Answer:
Most likely this is not a tattoo as we know them today. A person should not use this passage to make the claim that Jesus had one or more tattoos as some have tried to do. Consider these two points in order to better understand the meaning of this passage.

Point #1: The book of Revelation is highly figurative - In this same passage Jesus is portrayed as having eyes that are a “flame of fire”, on His head He has “many diadems”/crowns and from His mouth “comes a sharp sword”. This imagery is very symbolic in nature and one should use caution when trying to draw a specific dogmatic conclusion about the Lord’s appearance from a figurative passage.

Point #2: The text is possibly on His robe not on His skin - One should not assume that Jesus’ thigh is exposed, but instead, that this is a statement of authority woven into the robe itself. A ruler would often have embroidery on his garments or even an engraving on his armor. This author is of the conclusion that this writing is not on exposed flesh, but on an outer garment or armor as a powerful warrior would have. 

John Wesley writes: “That is, on the part of his vesture which is upon his thigh. A name written - It was usual of old, for great personages in the eastern countries, to have magnificent titles affixed to their garments”. 

There is no more magnificent title than “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”! It may be that the NLT represents this passage better, as it states “On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords”.

Conclusion:
It is within the realm of possibility that the symbolism here is of an actual exposed thigh (as one might have when riding a horse), with actual writing on it. The evidence, however, seems to be to the contrary. Also, one must remember that this passage is not intended to support or condemn tattoos in the same way as it is not intended to give an endorsement of having a “sharp sword” in your mouth (see 19:15). This is a symbolic passage designed to show a powerful Jesus coming in a scene of judgement upon the nations.

By Cliff Sabroe - quotes from NASU95 Bible and the NLT. Citation from John Wesley's Notes on the Bible and Scripture citations from biblehub.com.