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The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
What is Stigmata?

This week we hear from Stacey, an industrious and inquisitive reader. “I was trying to understand this whole stigmata thing and it is quite confusing to me. I have read up on it but don’t understand why the Bible doesn’t say anything about it. Usually everything this world permits or has happening there is some kind of scripture that backs it up.”

A quick review on what stigmata is: Stigmata is the marks of Jesus’ crucifixion visited upon select believers. The sign is often a mark of devoted believers, but they have been found on those who are believers, but who are not terribly committed to the ways and teachings of Jesus. Sometimes the pain of the crucifixion is accompanied by the marks, at other times just the marks themselves show up. Generally there is some blood loss, though it is not a significant loss nor is it endangering. Some stigmatics display the marks only in the palms and feet, others include the spear mark (cf., John 19.34), and some include the scars from the crown of thorns (cf., Mark 15.17). In at least one documented case, the marks came and went on a weekly basis for some months. 

The first recorded stigmatic was St. Francis of Assisi; however, modern stigmatics have been well documented, both religiously and scientifically. Indeed, there are a number of video and film records of modern stigmatics that have passed the muster of even the most objective scientific observers (although some have suggested the marks are the results of auto-suggestion). 

So, now to Stacey’s question. Why doesn’t the Bible mention stigmatism? 

The question I surmise Stacey is really asking is whether or not stigmatism is a sign from God, since there is no mention of it in scriptures?

To begin with we have to ask whether or not it takes a biblical citation to authenticate a sign from God. Throughout church history there have been a number of signs that have been documented that have no biblical cognate. In the fourth century when Constantine led his army into battle, he saw the sign of the cross in a vision that was accompanied with the cryptic words, “By this sign conquer.” He had his soldiers emblaze their shields with a cross and went on to victory. He claimed the vision came from God and that this proved that Christianity was true and he made it the state religion. Because of this “sign” and Constantine’s interpretation Christianity spread throughout the known world.

Was the sign from God? No one can really say. However, without the sign and Constantine’s response it is hard to imagine Christianity having the impact that it has had.

Ancient church signs such as this are common throughout the history of the church. St. Francis and the vision and signs he saw as he began the Order of the Franciscans, Joan of Arc, and others come to mind. In modern history we have documented wonders such as visitations by Mary, statues weeping blood, and so on. Are these from God? Certainly, none of these, from Constantine to the present day are documented or cited in scripture.

However, the Bible does cite the appearance of signs in the future without revealing what those signs might be. In Luke 21.11 we read that there will be “fearful events and great signs from heaven” before the end. Indeed, those in the crowd who followed Jesus were chastised for not being able to tell “the signs of the times” (Mark 16.3), even though we’re not told what those “signs” are.

So, is the stigmata of God or not? The reality is we cannot know for sure. It isn’t a sign specifically mentioned in scripture. But then either are many signs both yesterday and today. But before we throw out the possibility of these “signs,” I ask myself one question: “Does this ‘sign’ point to God or not?” If it does, then I will not discount it—better to be mistaken and attribute to God some manner of good rather than to attribute some manner of good as a work of evil. The full context of Jesus’ words about proclaiming the works of the Spirit as the works of evil haunt me (Matthew 12.31). The last thing I want is to be guilty of blaspheming the Spirit of God.

So, does stigmata point to God? If we’re talking about the stigmata that has been visited upon select believers for over 1,000 years, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Is it of God? Who can tell? I suspect that it is, but others disagree. That’s okay. It’s not a Kingdom Issue that determines the eternal fate of you or me. But if the marks of a stigmatic help someone to believe in a God who’d lay down “his” life on their behalf, then let it not be me who believes otherwise.

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