By Daniel Botkin
When Paul wrote to Timothy and told him that the women of the assem bly should "adorn themselves in modest apparel" (1 Tim. 2:9), Paul did not give Timothy a definition of modesty. He did not have to, because Timothy, like Paul, knew what types of clothing were regarded as modest apparel in the First Century Jewish community. Paul's reason for not elaborating or writing any guidelines for modest apparel was not because no such guidelines existed, but because Timothy, who had a godly Jewish mother and grandmother, already knew what those guidelines were.
If we want to understand what Paul meant by "modest apparel," then we must remember that Paul was a Jew. One thing that the Orthodox Jewish community has preserved over the centuries is the concept of modest dress for women. In the strict Ortho dox Jewish community, pants are out of the question for women. Orthodox Jews base their view on Deuteronomy 22:5. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's gar ment: for all that do so are abomina tion unto Yahweh thy God."
The Big Question is this: Is Jewish tradition right about this? Are pants something "which pertaineth unto a man"? In other words, are pants a garment meant specifically for men? This is The Big Question that generates controversy and leads to charges of either "Legalism and bondage!" or "Liberalism and compromise!" It is not a trivial question, though, because if pants are a man's garment, then a woman wearing pants is an abomina tion in the sight of Yahweh.
To determine if pants are a man's garment, we might first look in the Bible and see if it says anything at all about pants. The Hebrew word for pants is miknasaiim, translated in the KJV as "breeches" (the archaic word for the slightly less archaic britches, which means "pants" or "trousers"). This word appears five times in the Bible (Ex. 28:42; 39:28; Lev. 6:10; 16:4; Ezk. 44:18).
In all of these verses, the miknasaiim were worn by priests, who were all men. This by itself is not conclusive proof that pants are a man's garment, but it is all the Bible says about pants per se. Since there are no other verses that use the actual word miknasaiim, we have to see if there is other evidence that will show whether or not pants are a man's garment.
Many people say that the "pants for men, dresses for women" idea is an old-fashioned, out-dated cultural idea, and that it is not an international, universally-recognized means of distinguishing males and females. I would differ with that opinion. Go to any international airport in the world and look at the signs on the restrooms. Pants on men and dresses on women is an international, universally-recog nized means of distinguishing males and females.
Some time ago a brother in the Lord told me about an article in Grolier's Encyclopedia. Under "Clothing" it shows traditional garments from about a dozen different countries and cultures. This brother told me that according to Grolier's Encyclopedia, the one thing that the traditional garments of all these various cultures have in common is some form of pants on the men and some form of dresses on the women. I went to the library and looked in Grolier's Encyclopedia and saw it for myself. I also looked at the World Book Encyclopedia. It has four pages of pictures of traditional garments from over 50 various nations and cultures. The universal norm in civilized cultures is obvious to anyone who has eyes to see. Even in the less-civilized, somewhat primitive cultures (American Indian, Eskimo, and Third World cultures), the norm is there. Even in the cultures where women have some form of leggings or slacks, these are always worn under a long skirt or dress. Only men are shown wearing uncovered pants.
"But clothing styles have changed," some people say. "Pants are no longer considered a man's garment." It's true that clothing styles have changed, but the important question is whether or not our changeless God approves of these changes.
Accord ing to articles in encyclopedias, changes in clothing styles is a rela tively recent phenomenon that devel oped in the Western world. Grolier's states: "In the West the tradition developed that change and experi mentation in clothing styles were to be admired. Only in the history of Western dress, therefore, has there been great variety and change."
The New Grolier Student Encyclopedia says: "Until a few decades ago, women never wore shorts or pants. Now women can wear pants or stylish suits to work, just as men do." By using this phrase "just as men do," this secular encyclopedia affirms that when women wear pants, they are dressing "just as men do." In other words, they are wearing that which pertaineth unto a man.
"But the Torah does not specifically prohibit a woman from wearing pants," some people say. This is true only if we assume that pants are not a man's garment. If pants are a man's garment, then Deuteronomy 22:5 does prohibit women from wearing them. There are a lot of things that the Torah does not specifically forbid by name, but that does not mean that we cannot infer that certain unspecified, unnamed practices are wrong. . .
There are some things the Torah teaches us by specific command ments, and there are some things the Torah teaches us by inference. There are other things that human reason and nature teach us. For example, the Torah does not forbid long hair on men (it actually requires it of Nazarites), yet Paul wrote: "Doth not nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto himr (1 Cor. 11:14).
How does "nature itself" teach us this? It is not by any example in the animal king dom. Male lions with their long manes would teach us the exact opposite. It is not because men cannot grow their hair as long as women do, because they can. If you do not believe this, go to The Men's Long Hair Site (http:// the-light.com/mens/samson1 .html) and check out their "Samson of the Month," a guy named Mart with hair that hangs well below his buttocks.
So how does "nature itself teach us that it is shameful for a man to have long hair? Nature teaches us this by the fact that in civilized cultures, and even in some uncivilized cultures, the men generally have shorter hair than the women of their culture ~ not because nature makes men's hair stop growing, but because there is a natural, God-given, intuitive knowl edge that long hair is for women, and therefore the man's hair should be shorter than the woman's. There may be some variation in the definition of "long" and "short" among different cultures, but the universal norm is for the man's hair to be shorter than the woman's.
Therefore using Paul's line of reasoning, we could ask: "Doth not nature itself teach you that pants are for men and dresses are for women?" Nature teaches us this, not because nature makes it impossible for women to put on pants, but because there is a natural, God-given, intuitive knowl edge built into the human race that tells us this. The evidence of this natural, intuitive knowledge can be seen in things as simple as restroom signs and in things as detailed as the encyclopedias' 50+ pictures of clothing of different cultures. "Pants for men, dresses for women" is, along with hair length, the international, universally- recognized means of distinguishing males and females.
During the past few decades, Satan has attempted to blur the God- ordained distinctions of male and female, and he has had great success, especially in America and other Western nations. If we really want to undo Satan's victories in these areas, we should go out of our way to make sure that we uphold the traditional, universally-recognized differences between males and females. A man should show that he is a man by the roles he fulfills, by his appearance, and by his clothing. A woman should show that she is a woman by the roles she fulfills, by her appearance, and by her clothing. The best way for a woman to do this is by wearing a dress instead of pants.
Paul said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Cor. 13:11). Pants on baby girts and little children is one thing. Uncovered pants on shapely young ladies and grown women is something else. It is time for women in the Messianic community to grow up and grow out of their pants and start wearing dresses.
Maybe some women reading this are still not persuaded. Let me end by respectfully asking women to consider one final thing. If "pants for men, dresses for women" is a universal means of distinguishing the sexes, then pants are a man's garment, and a woman in a man's garment is an abomination in the sight of Yahweh. When it comes to expressing God's displeasure, there is no stronger word than abomination. Therefore I would respectfully ask this: Even if you think I might be mistaken, are you willing to risk it? Is wearing pants so important to you that you are willing to take that risk? God winks at sins committed in ignorance, but He holds us account able for what we know and for what we should know. If we have good reason to think that something might be an abomination to God, we are better off not doing it.