Michael F. Blume

© 2008 Michael F. Blume

All Rights Reserved

1 Timothy 2:8-10 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.  (9)  In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;  (10)  But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

 1 Peter 3:3-5 KJV  Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;  (4)  But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.  (5)  For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:


The above passages are quite popular in circles where outward standards of dress are emphasized, and, therefore, present many questions for some believers today.   Let us endeavor to answer those questions.

Paul gave Timothy recommendations to preach to both men and women.  Men must deal with the issue of wrath and unbelief, whereas women are directed towards the issues that concern apparel.  Notice that no particular manner of apparel is noted except for the requirement of it being modest. 

Peter’s epistle mentions basically the same note.

The context of the words of Peter is as follows:

1 Peter 3:1-2 KJV  Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  (2)  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

Peter spoke about women whose husbands were lost.  These husbands were not going to won to God through constant discussion and argument, but rather through the pure lifestyles of the wives. “Conversation” in the King James Version, here, means lifestyle. 

The reasoning of Peter might include the thought that some women might think to allure their husbands to serve God by dressing somewhat immodestly.  Otherwise, Peter was simply going from one topic to another and commenting upon women's needs of focusing on inward adornment rather than outward.

Some traditions have interpreted these similar passages in Timothy and Peter to say that women should never adorn themselves with jewelry or fanciful hair arrangements.  This is error.  It is not what these passages state.

If we were to take the statement, “Whose adorning let it not be…” to mean a woman cannot wear whatever is listed afterwards, such as gold, then that would be ridiculous when it comes to the rest of the items mentioned.  It also speaks of apparel.  Are we to understand that the phrase, “Whose adorning let it not be …putting on of apparel,” means women should not wear clothing?  Did Peter teach women to always be nude?  Of course not!  However, if we say that the phrase, “Whose adorning let it not be… wearing of gold,” means women should never wear gold, then by the same reasoning we have to say Peter told women to not wear clothing.  And we know that is not the case with clothing.  Therefore, it cannot be the case with gold either. 

Peter and Paul both spoke of the focus of a woman.  She might wear apparel, but her whole world is not focused upon what she wears.  Although she wears clothing, she should be more concerned with wearing attitudes and a spirit of meekness than over-concern for her clothing. 

When Paul wrote about this to Timothy, the phrase, “Women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;  but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works,” he also was not saying gold should never be worn. 

The interesting fact about the Greek word translated as “adorn” in Paul’s words to Timothy is that it means the following:

κοσμεω – kosmeo - Thayer Definition:
1) to put in order, arrange, make ready, prepare
2) to ornament, adore
3) metaphorically to embellish with honour, gain honour


Peter wrote “adorning” from the Greek word, “kosmos”.  Kosmos is the root word for Kosmeo:

κοσμος – kosmos - kos'-mos:  orderly arrangement, that is, decoration; by implication the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitants, literally or figuratively [morally]): It is translated in the King James version as  “adorning” and “world.”

Κοσμεω (kosmeo), Paul’s word, means to arrange and put in order.  The word “cosmetic” comes from this Greek word.  Peter’s word, “κοσμος” or kosmos, speaks of the world.  So, the thought is that cosmetics are an arrangement similar to the arrangement of the world in creation. 

So, the same word translated as "adorning" is translated as "world" in the Bible.  Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount included these words where the word “world” is used from the same Greek word for “adorning”.

Matthew 5:14 KJV  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

One could say that Paul and Peter encouraged women to not allow outward adornment to be their worlds!  Our “worlds”, so to speak, are the things we treasure the most. 

Matthew 6:19-21 KJV  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  (20)  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  (21)  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The same Sermon on the Mount said that we should not treasure the things of the world, but rather the things of Heaven.  This seems to say the same thing Peter and Paul wrote.  In other words, women can certainly wear clothing and gold, but that should not be their worlds.  They should not be their focus.  Peter and Paul no more told women to not wear gold at all than they told them to not wear apparel at all.  It was a matter of focus and what their “worlds” were. 

If we restrict the meaning of adorning to the sense of “cosmetics,” which comes from the Greek term kosmos, the point is the same.  A woman can wear clothing, but not to consider that as her main concept of cosmetics.  The true cosmetics a woman should focus on more than anything are, “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible,
even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 

When women get too caught up in how they appear and what other jewelry they can wear, something is wrong.  The hearts are treasuring things of this world.  The latest fashion and style should not be a Christian’s heartbeat.  Nothing in this material world should ever take precedence over the things of the
Kingdom of God.  If a woman lives for and dreams about what new clothing she can buy or what new jewelry she can wear, her heart is wrong. 

Paul also said,

1 Corinthians 6:12 KJV  All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.


That is basically the point made about jewelry and apparel in Paul and Peter’s words.  Wear clothing, but do not make it your focus over and above your need to be meek and quiet-spirited.   Becoming addicted to anything, even clothing fashion trends, is not Christian.


Greek Scholar A. T. Robertson wrote this about the issue of what the passages basically mean.

Or of putting on - (enduseos). Old word from enduo (to put on), here only in N.T. Peter is not forbidding the wearing of clothes and ornaments by women, but the display of finery by contrast.

Peter made a contrast about what shines more in the eyes of God – jewels of the heart more than jewels of the flesh.  Modest apparel, shamefacedness and sobriety are the higher adornments.    Modest apparel is apparel that does not attract attention either sexually or extravagantly. 

Webster defined "modest" as follows:



MOD'EST, a. [L. modestus, from modus, a limit.]

1. Properly, restrained by a sense of propriety; hence, not forward or bold; not presumptuous or arrogant; not boastful; as a modest youth; a modest man.

2. Not bold or forward; as a modest maid. The word may be thus used without reference to chastit1y. (The blushing beauties of a modest maid.)

3. Not loose; not lewd. (Mrs. Ford, the honest woman, the modest wife.)

4. Moderate; not excessive or extreme; not extravagant; as a modest request; modest joy; a modest computation.


Modesty is often defeated and ruined in women who dress so old-fashioned that they attract attention, as well.  Decades ago it was popular amongst Pentecostalism for women to show-off their huge, overwhelming hairstyles that publicly stated her hair was long and uncut!  Such styling was in no way modest by any sense of the word.  Amish people dress in styles from over a century ago, and are quite immodest in attracting attention as well.  Modesty is not restricted to the thought of lustful clothing, but also includes bizarre and odd-looking appearance.  Even if it is far removed from lustful appearance, it is still modest if it attracts attention. 


The question arises about the kind of apparel men and women should wear as Christians.  Much tradition, again, has claimed that men alone can wear slacks and trousers or pants, and women should only wear dresses and skirts.  The verse such Christians resort to is as follows:

Deuteronomy 22:5 KJV  The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

 The English words, “that which pertaineth” come from one Hebrew word, “keliy”.  “Unto a man” is one Hebrew word, “geber”. 

 "keliy geber" is translated as “that which pertaineth unto a man.”

Adam Clarke in his commentary noted that the two Hebrew words imply the arms or the instruments of a man.   Geber is usually used to speak of a strong man or a soldier.  Therefore, armor was likely the intended point here.  Amongst the worship to the false goddess Venus, or Astarte, women often wore armor of a man.  Women we required to appear in such armor before this goddess.  Clarke noted that it certainly would not simply refer to a change of clothing so as to have men pass for women and women pass for men, for the clothing of men and women were so similar that a man wearing a woman’s apparel would not cause him to be seen as wearing women’s clothing.  However, if men are mistaken to be women and women mistaken to be men, this would be wrong.

God made men masculine and women feminine.  Men should appear and act masculine, and women should appear and act feminine.  Some claim only a dress is feminine clothing and that alone distinguishes a man from a woman.  An appeal is made without humor by such people to the restroom symbols that distinguish women from men with a skirt.  One response to this argument humorously pointed out that the stick man without a dress on the WALK light at a traffic intersection does not mean only men can cross, since no symbol appears with a dress walking.  The point Deut 22:5 made cannot refer to distinguishing men from women in their clothing.  As Clarke said, the clothing was too similar to make this point. 

Basically, men should dress in a masculine manner and women dress in a feminine manner.  The clothing for both sexes should also remain modest as the epistles we consulted earlier have stated.  It is not true that dresses and skirts are the only modest clothing a woman can wear.  And it is also not true that there are no feminine slacks and pants in existence.  If I walked into a woman’s clothing store as a man, there would be nothing I would find suitable for me to wear, as a man.

It is true that many forms of slacks for women are indeed immodest.  They are too tight and they attract lustful eyes of men.  However, there are modest forms of pants for women. 

Some have told me that pants were made for men alone, when first made, so women should never wear them.  This is not actually true.  I have read where the first human beings to wear trousers were ancient Chinese women in the rice fields.  They wore pants before men ever wore pants!

From an article enti
tled The History of Trousers, by Andy Gilchrist, we read:


“About 1760 most men begin wearing breeches, a tight garment worn from the waist to the knee with stockings covering the rest of the leg, "Britches" was an informal word for breeches. Prior to this men were wearing various form of skirts and dresses (but that's another story).”


Think of that!  Before men wore trousers, they wore skirts and dresses!  How does that factor into the tradition that says pants are for men and dresses are for women?

Men started wearing these tight (not very modest!) pants with silk stockings and high-heel shoes. 

The interesting detail we must consider in those who insist pants are for men and dresses are for women is the thought that this was a cultural opinion that has nothing to do with the manner in which pants were first worn by men, and ignorant of the fact that men wore dresses and skirts before then.  Which age are we to pin down as the one that proposed the cultural clothing for men and women that God requires?  Such a question is ridiculous. God did not even make pants for Adam! One could argue man should not ear pants because God never made them for him.

Genesis 3:21 KJV  Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

It seems that the dress-standard-emphasizing church circles tend to claim the style of the day when that particular denomination started as the standard that must be maintained forevermore as required by God.    In the days of Deut 22:5, when God told men to not wear women’s clothing, men were not even wearing pants!  So How can pants evermore be men's apparel if the days of Deuteronomy 22:5's writing did not even see men wear pants?

If God does not require one cultural period’s manner of masculine apparel to be the requirement for men of all time, then it only stands to reason that culture determines that manner.  In other words, modest and culturally masculine apparel is what a man is free to wear as a Christian.  And culture has changed in the last few decades as to what is women’s apparel.  It no longer is true that pants are not women’s apparel.  That has changed drastically.  Ask the common person in our culture about what women’s clothing can include, with such a person holding no agenda for, or against, what people should wear in order to please God, and they will most certainly include pants and slacks. 

People are more information-based today than they were decades ago.  They are generally more intellectual.  Much preaching that passed in earlier decades simply does not pass any more.  People are too smart today to accept such weak arguments that women should never wear pants and slacks in order to please God. 

One might argue that if women can wear pants then why not allow men to be free to wear dresses.  Despite the fact that men did wear dresses and skirts centuries ago, such apparel is not culturally masculine in our day.  It would be immodest in our day for a man to dress like that, and therefore unacceptable.



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