[Gr., stigʹma·ta, marks burnt in, brands, tattoos].
Among some pagans brand marks of various designs were burnt or inscribed into the flesh of slaves in order to prevent escape. Paul mentions a branding iron at 1 Timothy 4:2. Idol worshipers on occasion had the name, emblem or image of their idol god reproduced upon themselves to display the fact that they were devoted to that god. Deliberate disfigurement of the flesh was prohibited under the Mosaic law. (Lev. 19:28) Under the Law the only mark ever put on a slave was the piercing of the ear of one who voluntarily requested slavery to his master “to time indefinite.”—Deut. 15:16, 17.
Paul wrote to the Galatians: “I am carrying on my body the brand marks of a slave of Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17) Many were the physical abuses administered to Paul’s fleshly body because of his Christian service, some of which undoubtedly left him scarred, testifying to the authenticity of his claim as a faithful slave of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) These things may have been the marks alluded to. Or he may have had reference to the life he lived as a Christian, under influence of holy spirit, ‘browbeating his body and leading it as a slave,’ displaying the fruitage of the spirit, carrying out the work of his Christian ministry.—1 Cor. 9:27; see MARK II.