The Bible does not view a person without a birthmark as being different in any meaningful way from a person with a birthmark.
Some of us were born tall, others short. Some of us were born with natural athletic ability, others of us with next to none. Difference is both a significant and guaranteed part of being human.
But our differences don’t make us more or less valuable than each other—they simply make us… different. In a good way. In a way that brings variety and richness to our world – kind of like height. Threads of different colors weave a more beautiful tapestry.
A birthmark is exactly the kind of visible difference that tends to draw our attention. A birthmark can tempt us to discern deeper meanings beyond mere difference, or assign greater or lesser value to people. But the Bible doesn’t encourage this kind of speculation.
What Do Birthmarks Signify?
In the past, birthmarks may have been thought to bring bad luck, or indicate the presence of evil. Now, in an age where viewing oneself in the best light is the norm, birthmarks might be assumed to bring good luck. Either way, birthmarks serve more like mirrors than windows.
Birthmarks don’t give us a window into how a person’s life will turn out. Rather, they tend to mirror and reveal ways we each try to find meaning and significance wherever we can.
And that is why the less people have used the Bible to shape how they think about good and evil, the more they have used birthmarks for unhelpful and bizarre speculation. This speculation continues up to the present day.
But research suggests that birthmarks are difficult or even impossible to predict, and do not carry any meaning or significance outside of telling a visual story about a person’s cellular development in the womb.
What Do Different Cultures Believe About Birthmarks?
These facts have not stopped people from building a host of explanations about the size, shape, and location of a birthmark. In China, for example, birthmarks have been attributed to intense emotional states, trauma in a past life, the person’s innate personality, or even what the mother did or did not eat during pregnancy.
And of course, some birthmarks aren’t actually birthmarks, but scars (hopefully not from a vampire bite).
But what does the Bible have to say, if anything, about birthmarks?
What Does the Bible Say About Birthmarks?
The Bible is relatively silent about birthmarks. It does not invite us to use birthmarks to speculate about the presence or absence of evil, or the possibility of future good fortune! Yet, the Bible does talk about unwelcome markings on the skin in a significant way.
What Does the Old Testament Say About Birthmarks?
The only time the Old Testament talks about anything resembling birthmarks, it does so to establish an idea that runs through the whole Bible: Only a sacrifice without spot or blemish can stand in the presence of pure goodness.
And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. (Lev 22:21)
God cares very much about wholeness and purity—in both the sacrifices made, and in the priests who make them. This makes even more sense when we consider historical and cultural obsessions with birthmarks. If a birthmark is defined as an unusual mark or blemish on a person’s skin, then we see God in this passage holding up a mirror to our human condition. And because of it, an offering needed to be made – often during the ninth hour.
We long for wholeness and purity, but we feel shame and guilt.
Our souls are blemished.
We are broken, and deep down, we know it, and we don’t know what to do about it.
We feel helpless and out-of-control, so we turn to what we always turn to when we feel out-of-control: simple surface explanations. “My son turned out badly because of his birthmark” someone might have said hundreds of years ago. “I think my birthmark will bring me luck” someone in the West might say today.
Either way, we are guessing at our fate, but we are helpless to control it. We are revealed to be a people filled with shame, but we are helpless to cover it.
The things we know we ought to do, we often don’t; the things we know we shouldn’t do, we often do. We believe in the high ideal of love, but we are sometimes selfish and cruel towards those closest to us. We are like bombed-out cathedrals—both filled with grandeur and laying in ruins.
Why are we, as humans, obsessed with what birthmarks might mean or not mean? Because we, as humans, are obsessed with wholeness and brokenness, with guilt and shame, with how we have come undone, and how we might be put back together.
By demanding his people bring a sacrifice without blemishes, God is telling his people they are separated from him, and unable to draw near.
It all started when our first parents refused to trust God, and opened the door for moral decay and death to enter the world. What the Bible calls the “Fall” was a blemish, or birthmark, given to everyone ever born into a world marked by the inevitability of death and decay.
Only a sacrifice without spot or blemish can stand in the presence of pure goodness.
What Does the New Testament Say About Birthmarks?
The New Testament only talks about anything resembling birthmarks to pick up that same thread: Only a sacrifice without spot or blemish can stand in the presence of pure goodness.
Our sobering need for spotlessness—that God drove home time and again to his people in the Old Testament—makes these words in the New Testament all the more stunning:
- But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Col 1:22)
- So that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:27)
- …knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers… with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pet 1:18–19)
In the Old Testament, God demanded an offering without spot or blemish to cover his people’s moral guilt. In the New Testament, we learn that God himself supplied what he demanded. God became a man and presented himself as the final, spotless sacrificial lamb to end all sacrificial lambs. Jesus lived the life we all failed to live, and he died the death we all deserved to die, so that we could draw near to God, “without blemish and free from accusation” (Col 1:22). If we trust in Jesus’ death in our place, we can be cleansed, forgiven, and brought near to God. We bear the mark of the Trinity.
Birthmarks Are Only Skin Deep
Some of us were born tall, others short. Some of us were born with a birthmark, others without. A birthmark is the kind of visible difference that can draw our attention and encourage speculation.
But, according to the Bible, the only marks that matter are the ones we carry on our souls—the blemishes that separate us from God. That is why Jesus came as a spotless sacrifice. He suffered in our place, so that we might be cleansed and draw near to God, “without blemish and free from accusation.”