Questions From Readers
● Is it proper for a Christian to wear a wedding ring?—Greece.
Many sincere Christians have asked this question out of a desire to avoid any custom of which God might disapprove. Some of the questioners know that Catholic prelate John H. Newman wrote: “The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, . . . sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.” (An Essay on the Development of the Christian Doctrine, 1878)a While the facts prove that many of the current religious practices Newman lists definitely were adopted from pagan worship, is that true of the wedding ring?
Actually there are conflicting ideas as to the origin of the wedding ring. Let us give a few examples: “Originally . . . the ring was a fetter, used to bind the captive bride.” (For Richer, for Poorer) “The ring is a relatively modern substitute for the gold coin or other article of value with which a man literally purchased his wife from her father.” (The Jewish Wedding Book) “The wedding ring is supposed to be of Roman origin, and to have sprung from the ancient custom of using rings in making agreements.” (American Cyclopædia) “Various explanations have been given of the connection of the ring with marriage. It would appear that wedding-rings were worn by the Jews prior to Christian times.”—The International Cyclopaedia.
It is thus seen that the precise origin of the wedding ring is uncertain. Even if it were a fact that pagans first used wedding rings, would that rule such out for Christians? Not necessarily. Many of today’s articles of clothing and aspects of life originated in pagan lands. The present time divisions of hours, minutes and seconds are based on an early Babylonian system. Yet, there is no objection to a Christian’s using these time divisions, for one’s doing so does not involve carrying on false religious practices.
Of course, our concern is greater as regards the use of wedding rings, since this relates, not to minor secular matters, but to the marriage relationship, which the Christian rightly views as sacred before God. Really, the question is not so much whether wedding rings were first used by pagans but whether they were originally used as part of false religious practices and still retain such religious significance. As has been shown, the historical evidence does not allow for any definite conclusion on this. What does the Bible say about the use of rings?
The Bible shows that some of God’s servants in the past wore rings, even ones that had special meaning attached to them. Wearing a signet ring could indicate that one had received authority to act in behalf of the ruler who owned it. (Gen. 41:42; Num. 31:50; Esther 8:2, 8; Job 42:11, 12; Luke 15:22) So, while wedding rings are not mentioned, these true worshipers clearly did not scruple against using rings for more than mere adornment.
Some persons say that a wedding ring represents one’s unending love and devotion in marriage. The increasing divorce rate in many lands where married persons usually wear a wedding ring proves that this meaning is more imagined than real. Nonetheless, for the majority of persons, including Christians, in lands where wedding rings are common, the ring is an outward indication that the wearer is a married person. In other localities the same point is shown in a different way, such as by a woman’s wearing a certain style of clothing.
Of course, a wedding ring is by no means a Christian requirement. One Christian might decide not to wear a wedding ring, because of conscience, personal taste, cost, local custom, or some other reason. Yet another Christian might decide to indicate his married status by means of a wedding ring. Hence, in the final analysis the decision is a personal one, to be made in accord with the conscientious views one holds.
● In view of God’s law prohibiting the eating of blood, is there any objection to using vitamins containing red bone marrow, desiccated liver and similar organic derivatives?—U.S.A.
God’s law on blood, as given to Noah and his family, required that an animal be properly bled before being used for food. (Gen. 9:3, 4) That requirement also applies to Christians, as shown at Acts 21:25.
To the Jews, under the Law covenant, further details were given, namely: “Whenever your soul craves it you may slaughter, and you must eat meat . . . Only the blood you must not eat. On the earth you should pour it out as water.” Also, “You must not eat any fat or any blood at all.” (Deut. 12:15, 16; Lev. 3:17) No restriction as to eating fat was stated to Noah, and in the first century C.E., when the Christian governing body restated the prohibition against eating blood, the restriction as to fat was not included. So that applied only to Israel. However, the prohibition against eating blood does apply to Christians, and the details in the Law help us to appreciate its application.
Of course, even proper bleeding does not completely remove every vestige of blood from the muscles and organs of the animals. But as long as an animal has been properly bled, any part of it may be used as food or in other ways.
Though red bone marrow plays a vital role in the formation of blood, this does not make marrow unsuitable for food. It is noteworthy that the prophet Isaiah refers to “well-oiled dishes filled with marrow” in connection with a “banquet” that Jehovah himself provides for his people.—Isa. 25:6.
This makes it clear that there is no objection to using animal products, provided that God’s law respecting blood has been obeyed. If a person has any doubts about whether certain vitamins and other products are produced from animals that have not been properly bled, he would do well to investigate the matter personally by writing to the manufacturer of the items in question.
a This book was first written while Newman was still an Anglican, and was published in 1845. After converting to Catholicism, Newman published a somewhat revised edition in 1878. The next year he was made a Cardinal in the Catholic church.