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Doctrinal Discussions:

Some Questionable Doctrines

These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men.  Bernie Parsons

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“That Women Arrange Themselves With Well-Arranged Clothing” 

Bernie Parsons 06/25/03 

There are those within the churches of Christ that are taking up a doctrine that has been espoused for a few years by certain denominations. It has to do with how women in the church dress themselves. The doctrine being advanced has to do with the kind of a garment that women must wear. 

These advocates proclaim that the New Testament teaches that Christian women must wear a dress—and not just any dress, but one that is long and flowing. They use a Greek word from 1 Timothy 2:9 to argue their case. The word is katastole, rendered in the King James Version as “apparel”, which they claim is properly translated “long and flowing”. Therefore, they say, a Christian woman is commanded to wear a long, flowing dress—any other garment is a violation of this sacred commandment. Here is the partial context from which the word is lifted: 

1 Timothy 2:8: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. 11: Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12: But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, here are some of the Greek words in verse 9, and what he says that they mean: 

Adorn (kosmeo) means to arrange, to put in order 1 Timothy 2:9

Modest (kosmios) means orderly, well-arranged (harmonious) 1 Timothy 2:9

Apparel (katastole) (variation of katastello, which is kata, down, and stello, to send) means to send down, and is used as a general term for clothing in N.T., as both Jewish men and women wore robes. 1 Timothy 2:9 

Using these definitions, the verse can be rendered along these lines: 

“In like manner also, that women arrange themselves in well-arranged clothing, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;"

In a similar manner to men lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting, women are to arrange themselves in well-arranged clothing. This accompanies a demeanor and attitude that reflects modesty, humility, and seriousness. That is the context of these verses. Verse 9 says, “In like manner also”, and refers to the manner of the holy, faithful, and calm men who worshipped and praised God. The context is not what particular garment to wear, but is descriptive of demeanor, of comport. 

There is no evidence that the word katastole denotes only a long, flowing dress, as some suggest. It is indicative of robes in general, which were worn by both men and women. The Jews did not wear European/American style dresses. Therefore, if one were to legalistically render this verse as a command to wear a particular garment, the garment would be a robe, not a dress. 

There are some who claim that katastole means a floor-length, a below-the-knees length, or a to-the-knees length dress (not a robe). This is preposterous, beginning with the fact that there is no consensus of agreement among those promoting this theory as to which length is acceptable. Furthermore, there is only a slight similarity between European/American women’s dresses and the Jewish robes. If our brothers and sisters insist that the garment itself (the shaped piece of cloth) is the issue, why do they not all wear robes (both men and women), as did the Jews? 

Clothing styles change. They also vary from one culture to another. God does not specify the style of clothing to be worn. The only time He did so was when He designated the types of garments to be worn by the priests, under the Law of Moses. (By the way, they wore under-shorts (breeches), girdles, bonnets, and coats, along with their robes.) The same people who command women to wear dresses usually also condemn men's wearing of shorts! Yet some of those same people will quote Exodus 28 as proof that the men are to wear the britches (breeches), and not the women. Should the men also wear girdles and bonnets, but not the women? 

Exodus 28:2: “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. 3: And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. 4: And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.” 

Exodus 28:39: “And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework. 40: And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. 41: And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office.

42: "And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:

43: "And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.” 

Actually, this is a description of the “holy garments” to be worn only by the priests—and it had to be of linen, and no other material. The priests were forbidden to wear these garments among the general populace—they were to be worn only at the altar, or in the holy area of the tabernacle. 

Leviticus 6:10 "And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar.
11: And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place.” 

Leviticus 16:3 "Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. 4: He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.”

Leviticus 16:23 "And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 24: And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.” 

The linen breeches of the priesthood were thigh-length undergarments, only worn by the priests, and only while serving in the tabernacle. They were removed, and other clothes were worn, when leaving the holy area. There is no record that Israelites in general, either men or women, wore linen under-pants. 

Many who argue that women must wear dresses and men must wear pants ask: “What about Deuteronomy 22:5? Doesn’t this plainly state that women cannot wear pants? After all, aren’t pants men’s clothing, while dresses are women’s clothing?”

There are several things wrong with this argument. Here is the verse in question: 

Deuteronomy 22:5: “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.” 

First of all, we are no longer bound to observe the Law of Moses, as the New Testament scriptures plainly teach. Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses. 

Matthew 5:17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” 

Colossians 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” 

Romans 7:4 “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. 5: For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6: But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

Galatians 3:24 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25: But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” 

If we are going to bind some of the Law of Moses, must we not then bind it all? 

Galatians 5: 3 “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” 

James 2:10 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” 

Galatians 5:18 “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” 

All Christians should be aware of this teaching, and should not try to bind teachings from the Law of Moses.  

Furthermore, if we keep one part of the Law of Moses, we are indebted to keep the entire law. For starters, look at the surrounding verses in Deuteronomy 22. 

5: “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.

6: "If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:

7: "But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.

8: "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

9: "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.

10: "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

11: "Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

12: "Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.” 

You cannot take the mother bird along with the little birds, or the eggs! When is the last time you heard that commandment hotly debated? 

When you build a new house, you must build walls on the roof, to keep folks from falling off. If you want to argue dresses, let me come check out your house, to see if you are in compliance with the “battlement” requirement! 

You can only have one kind of seed in the vineyard, can only plow with two animals if they are both the same kind of animal, you cannot mix garment material—oops! Get rid of those cotton/polyester blend clothes! And your cover has to have fringes all the way around it! 

The context is that men are not to pass themselves off as women, or women as men! By the way, this is also forbidden under the law of Christ. 

1 Corinthians 6:9 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” 

Romans 12: 26 “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27: "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” 

The Bible teaches that women should not try to be like men, nor should men try to be like women. We must not use this argument to command that a particular style of clothing must be worn—or not worn! 

The context of 1Timothy 2 is that of godly men and women who purify and humble themselves before God, and who conduct their lives in true holiness.  

If we are going to bind the customary style of clothing of the Jews on women, should we not also do this for men? Should not all Christian men wear dresses, as well? Oh, that’s right, the Jews wore robes, not dresses! Should not all Christian men wear robes, as well as all Christian women? If robes are less revealing and more proper for women, would not the same hold true for men? 

Fallacies of the “dresses only” arguments: 

(1)   We do not live by commandments from the Law of Moses.

(2)   The Jewish women wore robes, not European/American style dresses.

(3)   The Jewish men wore robes, not pants.

(4)   Katastole translates as “to send down”, not as “long & flowing”.

(5)   Even if it did, how long is long? To the knees? Below? To the ankles? Or floor?

(6)   The context is for godly demeanor, not cut of cloth. 

The arguments are endless, as it always is when we choose legalistic arguments rather than trying to understand the spiritual message. Some argue that culottes are not acceptable, while others who press for “dresses only” say that they are a type of a dress. Some say that skirts and blouses may not be worn, because blouses are form-fitting, not long and flowing. Others say that blouses are merely men’s shirts renamed to make them acceptable.  

Then there is the argument that pants are God’s authorized clothing for men. The scriptures indicate that the Israelites wore robes, not pants.  

Exodus 20:26 "Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” 

Was God concerned that someone might look up the priest’s pant-legs—or up his robe? 

For those who claim that “pants” are God’s designated form of outerwear for men, a quick study of the history of pants will set the record straight.  

Godly men and women should conduct themselves in purity and humility—this includes how they dress. That is what God demands. Let us not go beyond what is written regarding “modesty” by defining for God a cut of cloth that He did not define for us.

Love, in Christ,

Bernie Parsons

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