A recent review in the journal Psychomatics talks about people who self mutilate based upon commands in Bible verses.
Self-Mutilation and Biblical Delusions: A Review.
Schwerkoske JP, Caplan JP, Benford DM.
To review the literature for cases of deliberate self-harm that directly reference Bible verses as a motivation for action and discuss predictive factors of such behaviors and post-injury management strategies.
Sixteen cases of self-mutilation prompted by Biblical verses were found in the existing literature. The authors also describe a novel case of penile amputation prompted by a verse from the Gospel of Matthew.
Four biblical verses associated with self-mutilation were found, all from the Gospel of Matthew. All patients presented with a diagnosis of psychosis at the time of the event. Other common themes include substance abuse, guilt over sexual acts, absence of pain or regret, and destruction of the severed body part.
Patients with symptoms of psychosis may misinterpret various verses from the Gospel of Matthew as instructions to engage in self-injurious behavior. Psychiatrists should be aware of these four verses to understand their significance and potentially forestall these behaviors
World Science has more on the review, including the verses referred to in the paper.
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
But if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
The review gives a recent of a patient “Mr P” who presented himself at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona sans penis, which
he had flushed down the toilet three days ago after severing it with a pocket knife. His testicles were also absent—removed four years earlier at Mr. P’s request by a doctor in Mexico.
It is important to note that while Mr P was somewhat incoherent at the time of admission, he had contemplated the Penectomy for several years in order to complete his transformation to the eunuch state. This was not a one-time psychotic break.
Schwerkoske et al conducted a PubMed search of the available literature and provided a list of other patients who have presented with self-mutilations justified by these verses. The list consisted of
three partially or fully amputated penises; four pairs of castrated testicles; three amputated hands and 11 severely damaged eyeballs. Saws, circular saws, screwdrivers and pencils were among the tools used for the horrifying procedures, although several patients put out their eyes with their fingers alone.
Again to emphasize, all of these self-mutilations were justified by the patients by quoting at least one of the verses above.
“Individuals who rationalize their actions through biblical passages appear to have a series of features that make them a unique cohort with specific challenges regarding prognosis and treatment,” Caplan and colleagues wrote. Many of them have no regrets about their actions; deliberately destroy the body part to prevent its reattachment; resist efforts to successfully reattach it when that is possible; and are uncooperative with other aspects of treatment, they added.
A 37-year-old man was quoted in the 1967 report saying: “Even if I do get certified [insane] and in the eyes of the world I am mad it is far better for me to have cleansed myself.”
“Ideas of reference (specifically, that the Bible directly refers to them) is a repeated theme in this group, underscoring a common thread of psychotic disorders,” Caplan and colleagues wrote. “Guilt over sexual acts or desires is another recurrent theme… Recent homosexual experiences occurred in three of the cases of genital self-mutilation.” Four of the 17 self-mutilators were females; they had poked out their eyes or, in one case, amputated a hand.
The authors emphasize the need for physicians faced with requests for medically unnecessary mutilations or amputations to make immediate referrals to a psychiatrist. Outside of biblical demands for amputations, people who suffer from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) also request amputations. The psychological reasons behind BIID are little understood, but they do not appear to be based upon religious teachings and also need psychiatric rather than surgical intervention.
Back in my church-going days, I remember sermons on these verses, but the preachers I heard emphasized the allegorical nature of much of the Bible and used the sermons to encourage abstinence from earthly pleasures. For those who preach and follow a literal Bible, there is only one way to interpret these verses.