In the Bible, tattooing is never expressly forbidden, although there are some passages which have been interpreted as discouraging tattoos. However, the practice of tattoos in the Bible is largely symbolic and used as a sign of ownership or identification. For example, when it came to the ancient Israelites God commanded them to “mark” their bodies in order to distinguish themselves as His chosen people. This was done by tattoos of a cross, and even the names of God or short religious phrases. During the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks tattoos were used to not only identify criminals and slaves, but also those who had been condemned to the death penalty. In fact, Paul the Apostle even mentions in one of his letters that he had escaped some sort of “branding.” Some scholars also interpret a passage from the book of Leviticus (19:28) as referring to self-inflicted ceremonial tattoo marks. Overall, tattoos were used to symbolize and represent dedication and devotion to God. In addition, tattoos were commonly used to symbolize a person’s identity, social status, and even membership in a certain tribe or culture.