I am not intending to prescribe a dress code for Christians here.  The other day a friend of mine in Facebook asked me to comment on the Bible verse: “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.” (Deuteronomy 22:5). My friend wanted to know whether this verse tells us that women should not wear pants/jeans. My immediate reply was that this verse does not tell us that pants/jeans are divinely prescribed dress for men alone.

But I have to go deeper into the verse. We should not explain any Bible verse callously. Each Bible verse speaks about God, His character and His holiness. It is God’s words translated from His mind into our language. We are not authorized to interpret it further. We may explain some difficult passages, but do not try to interpret. Here I am not trying to interpret what God said, but am explaining to my dear brothers and sisters in Christ what the verse probably mean, so that they will not be deceived and exploited by false or callous self appointed teachers.

Let us try to understand the verse with the help of old Bible commentators like Adam Clarke, Mathew Henry and with some others.

The clothing worn in Biblical times was very different from what we wear today. Both men and women wore a loose, woolen, robe-like cloak or mantle as an outer garment. It was fastened at the waist with a belt or sash. A tunic or coat, a long piece of cloth, leather or haircloth with holes for arms and head, was worn under the cloak. Sandals were worn on the feet. The difference between men's and women's clothing was small but distinctive. In addition, men often wore a turban to confine their hair, and women of some cultures wore a veil.

No one knows for sure whether the prohibition in Deuteronomy 22:5, was intended as a general principle or was directed at some specific abuse among the ancient Hebrews. Cross-dressing was likely considered an affront to the natural distinction between the sexes. It may also have been related to some deviant sexual practice, or more likely, to pagan worship. It is known that some pagan rituals of that time involved women wearing armor and men dressing as women, and the Hebrews were forbidden to do anything that had even the appearance of pagan worship. As the word for man used here in Hebrew is ‘geber’, which properly signifies a strong man or man of war, it is very probable that armour is intended here; especially as we know that in the worship of Venus, to which that of Astarte or Ashtaroth among the Canaanites bore a striking resemblance, the women were accustomed to appear in armour before her and men in women's clothes. This, as other such superstitious usages, is here said to be an abomination to the Lord. Probably this confounding of garments had been used to gain opportunity of committing uncleanness, and is therefore forbidden; for those that would be kept from sin must keep themselves from all occasions of it and approaches to it.

It certainly cannot mean a simple change in dress, whereby the men might pass for women, and vice versa.  This would have been impossible in those countries where the dress of the sexes had but little to distinguish it, and where every man wore a long beard. 

Some people think this verse would prohibit women from wearing pants because pants have traditionally been worn by men. But, in light of the similarity of men's and women's clothing in Biblical times and the fact that pants were not worn by either sex at that time, that conclusion would be difficult to justify.

So my advice is to dress modestly and in good taste, according to the standards of the society they live in. The general principles of modesty and propriety must be applied. We should dress for public worship in a way that is generally considered appropriate. Standards of dress change over time and are different from church to church, but we should avoid any style of dress that is offensive or sends a message opposing the church community's values.

Women are fine to wear skirts as it is the normal attire for many Western women, even in Egypt many women wear skirts which only show parts of ankles so that would not make or qualify as an unfit dress however miniskirts would be something that would go into the category of nakedness and I am sure Christian women should not wear these.  As for the trousers the ones women wear in the Western world would be fine as they do not qualify for nakedness. Modest clothes do not exploit a woman’s body or features. Modest clothes will not display body parts for the purpose of drawing attention to them. Not only does modesty require that certain body parts should be completely covered, but also that the shape of our bodies should not be unnecessarily and immodestly emphasized with tight fitting clothes.

Dressing with propriety means dressing appropriately. It means there is a difference in the way we dress for a sports activity, for a casual event, and for more structured, formal occasions, such as worship. But all occasions call for modesty in our dress, whether we’re on the beach or sitting in church.

Modest dress will not say “sex” or “pride” or “money.” But it certainly can say “good taste,” “attractive,” and “pretty.” A Christian woman should want to do the best she can with what God has given her. There is nothing to be gained spiritually by looking drab or dowdy. Our clothes don’t need to scream “Christian.” But they should quietly say “modest,” “appropriate,” “carefully chosen.”

Modesty is not first an issue of clothing. It is primarily an issue of the heart. 

While concluding, let me bring to your attention another a prohibition, stated in the same chapter, against wearing clothes woven of wool and linen together: Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together. (Deuteronomy 22:11). Again, no one is sure why this would be wrong. It may have been to avoid mixing things that God has created separately (Deuteronomy 22:9-11, Leviticus 19:19). Or, these mixtures may have been related to some idolatrous practice that the Hebrews were forbidden to imitate.

PS. Prepared after careful study of Bible and Bible commentaries of accepted commentators

Professor Jacob Abraham

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