Adornment of Women
The growing interest in the Women's Liberation Movement and the increasing lack of concern for the God-given standards of morality has led me to conclude that an article on the text of 1 Timothy 2:9-12 might be in order.
The attitude of most religious groups toward this and all other Bible subjects is well expressed in the comment of THE INTERPRETER'S BIBLE, pp. 406- 407 on this passage. It says, "Obviously, the disposition of this epistle -- does not accord with Jesus' attitude of complete respect and chivalry toward women." "It does not meet the needs of the world which could not afford to be without the special gifts which women bring to the leadership of the church. Here is a case where an early Christian's understanding of the will of God needs to be corrected by further light which God has caused to break forth from his Holy Word."
In other words, Paul did not know what he was talking about. He disagreed with Jesus and needs some modern theologian to correct him! This is typical of the thinking that permeates the whole of the most comprehensive and scholarly commentaries of the Protestant world. The results of that sort of thinking from most of the leaders of Protestant thought are seen in every facet of modern life today. It has permeated every segment of society and has been imbibed by many members of the Lord's church, especially those preachers who are proud of the degrees they have received in those theological schools.
Let us examine some of these verses in more minute detail to see what the will of the Lord is. In this study we want to notice how women are to adorn themselves. The word "adorn" is from the Greek word "kosmeo" which relates to the English word "cosmos" from which we get our idea of "world" because of the orderly arrangement of the universe. It is also the base or root of the word "cosmetics," which first had to do with orderly arrangement, then the consequent beauty or harmony of a person or thing. The idea here is that which makes a person or thing in harmony with itself and its environment, therefore attractive.
This verse is very similar to 1 Peter 3:3,4, "Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on apparel; 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." I knew a woman who read this and assumed that it was forbidding the wearing of gold, so she gave her jewelry away. If she were logical and consistent she would have given her clothing away also, for if the verse forbids wearing of gold, it forbids putting on apparel.
If one reads the verses carefully he should see that they do not forbid the putting on of gold or apparel, but say the adornment -- the things that make the person attractive -- are not to be the outward and material things, but the inward and spiritual things. If you are a Christian and you are known mostly for the clothes you wear, the way your hair looks, or the jewelry you have, you are known for the wrong things. Your reputation should relate to your meek, quiet spirit and the good works you do.
There is a very close connection between this term "adorn" and the word "modest" as both relate to an orderly, decent, well-arranged life. This word (kosmios) is used only twice in the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 3:2 it is used about an elder when it says he must be "of good behavior" (kosmion). The word in the New Testament does not have primary reference to the length of a woman's sleeves or skirt, but to the orderly, decent manner in which any person lives or dresses.
A person is immodest in the Bible sense when he acts, talks, dresses or lives in a way that calls undue attention to himself. What would be immodest in one circumstance would not be so in another. Persons who want to display their sexuality may do so in various ways. One might be by wearing skimpy clothing, or any other kind that was designed to call attention to the person. Another might be the way one dresses the hair. Another might be the type of jewelry one wears. Any time one dresses or acts in a way that is reasonably certain to cause others to have lewd or impure thoughts or emotions, that is immodest. One may respond, "I can't tell exactly when that is, and it is not my fault if someone gets sexually excited when they look at me." That may be true, but does not change the principle. You cannot tell exactly when a person eats too much and becomes a glutton either, but we still need to warn about gluttony.
One cannot tell when he is blowing up a balloon when it will reach the point that it will explode. The general principle is, "Don't blow that much." The more I study God's word, the more I am convinced that God is far more concerned with the attitude, motive, and direction a person is facing than he is with where the person is in many cases. The principle Paul taught about eating meat in 1 Corinthians 8:13 illustrates the present thought. It was not the eating or refusing to eat that was important of itself, but the attitude of the eater as he considered his brother.
If you are a woman and you know that the clothes you wear or the way you wear them causes many men who see you to lust after you, or even to feel that you are indicating a desire for them to lust after you, if you have the proper Christian attitude, you will try to change that situation. Of course you can reply, "I am not responsible for what some idiot or sex maniac assumes. Some psychopath who might be sexually excited by looking at a Sears catalog is not going to determine what I wear." There are probably cases of rape where the judge or jury wrongfully blamed the victim, saying, "It was your fault for acting so that his passions were inflamed." The truth of the matter is that even if the victim is guilty of wearing clothing, or acting in such a manner as to create lust, that in no way excuses the crime of rape. The point of Paul's admonition is that women should adorn themselves in such a fashion that they are not guilty of immodest or improper conduct, despite what other persons do.
When Paul says, "With shamefacedness (ASV, shamefastness) and sobriety" he is not referring to having a look of shame on the face or not being drunk. Looking sheepish does nothing to increase spirituality. The word "aidos" has to do with what is seemly, proper, thoughtful, and is translated "reverence" in Hebrews 12:28. Of course if a person is drunk he is not sober, but the word "sophron" has reference to soundness of mind, thoughtfulness and self control or restraint.
As we read verse 10 to see the negative of the admonition, we can summarize his thought in this paraphrase: Women, do not dress in such a way, or conduct yourself in such a way as to call undue attention to your physical attractiveness. This is true whether we think of the kind of clothing you wear, the way you fix your hair, the jewelry you wear, or the way you act. You should be known and remembered not for anything that makes you physically attractive, but for the things that make you spiritually attractive.
So the word "adornment" refers to that which attracts people to you. Make sure it is your modesty, humility, spirituality and good works that makes you appealing.
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive