Finding someone who shares my love for the European Church isn’t common, so I was a very happy girl to realize I was speaking to a minister who not only loved Europe, but had done European missions work. There was one city in particular we both had gone too, and I excitedly told him of a Bible-based, missions school, smack-dab in the heart of it. I shared how their pioneered church ran well over 400, and about their many outreach programs, which had special emphasis on trafficking victims. He looked totally surprised, “Wow! When I was there we only found one woman in the whole city who wore skirts, and she didn’t know of any others.” I cringed as I realized my friend would dismiss everyone I’d just described as unbelievers, or at the very least, spiritually immature. His assumption that Christian women will all choose to wear only skirts (and that men will require them to do so) caused him to see 97%+ of Christians as sinners, drastically reducing the size of the Body of Christ.
It’s only fair to consider both sides of an issue with such extreme consequences, and this is exactly the purpose of the following article. Read the argument for pants as moral sin, read Nathan’s responses, think through both and come to your own conclusions. Ask yourself-biblically, historically, logically-do godly women have a basis for believing they may choose their own garment-type? Or is this really a Heaven/Hell decision?
The Burden of Proof
As noted in the article on Jewelry, the restrictors of liberty bear the burden to prove their own case biblically, if they can’t, it falls. Just like we are innocent until proven guilty, we are at liberty unless proven constrained. It is not up to me to prove women can wear pants, it is up to them to prove they shouldn’t.
To provide a fair case against pants, I will quote a full article from the Holiness Handbook. I will quote it entirely in red with my responses in black. This is a fairly in-depth argument and it ends with the thinly veiled threat that if you disagree with the author of the Holiness Handbook, you have a significant likelihood of going to Hell. That represents a pretty high level of confidence on the part of the author that his view is unassailable, so we’ll see if his argument stands up to a biblical cross-examination.
As we evaluate his argument, keep in mind that two distinct things need to be proven. If either fails, then the case for women not being able to wear pants falls apart.
1) Is gender distinction biblically required in clothing?
2) If yes, do women’s pants fail to meet that standard described in Scripture?
Let’s hear his case:
Gender Distinctions in Old Covenant Clothing
Women and Men’s clothing
All through history, the clothing used by men and women have been unique so that there was a clear distinction between the genders. Thousands of years ago both men and women wore types of cloaks or types of robes, but even then there were differences that allowed a person to identify the gender.
There a long history of clothing being different for men and women. Some of this is preference based, with women typically preferring more ornamentation, some of this is based on the different body types of men and women, and some is based on the practical needs of men and women in their historic roles. I do agree with this statement, but I would caveat that for almost all of the history that the author references, the difference has not been in the type of garment, but rather slight differences in how the garment was trimmed or decorated. He acknowledges that men and women both wore robes, just with slight tweaks – they didn’t typically have a fundamentally different type of garment. Consequently, this historical claim is irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
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.
Among the Hebrews neither men or women was permitted by Mosaic Law to wear the same form of clothing as was used by the other. A few articles of feminine clothing carried somewhat the name and basic pattern, yet there was always sufficient difference in embossing, embroidery, and needlework so that in appearance the line of demarcation between man & women should be readily detected.
Since the author is quoting Old Testament ceremonial law, he still has a long way to go before he proves that such a commandment applies to New Testament believers. But we’ll save that question for now. Furthermore, there is a good argument from the original language that the verse actually is referring to a woman putting on the armor of a warrior as a part of pagan worship, but that argument isn’t necessary, so I won’t delve into it – I’ll link to another relevant article at the bottom. Let’s just ask, would Old Testament law permit women to wear pants?
What does the Bible say about how Old Testament women had to dress? Nothing. That’s right, there are no Old Testament laws that specify what the differences between men’s and women’s clothing must exist. There are some allusions in the prophets that suggest women’s robe may have been a bit longer than men’s (which were typically mid-calf), but other than that suggestion, the Bible says nothing. Note that I’m not saying there were no differences, I’m just say that the God didn’t ordain any specific differences – he just said for women not to try to look like men, and the details were left to them to work out.
This “same type of garment” approach meshes with the clothes designed by God himself for the fallen Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:21 tells us that God made the same type of garment for Adam and Eve. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Whether there were subtle differences in the garments, the Bible doesn’t say, but we do know that the “coat” type of garment worked for both Adam and Eve.
So what about the article of clothing below? As the author says, this carries the name and basic pattern as men’s pants, but it is “sufficiently different in embroidery such that a demarcation can be readily detected.” If Old Testament men wore jeans, then Old Testament women would have certainly been allowed to wear these pants. So would the author allow women to wear pants in this style? He should. But he won’t. Let’s see how he justifies the claim that the New Testament gender distinctions are actually more strict than the Old Testament ones.
Are Pants Eternally Masculine?
What makes you think that pants are a man’s garment?
1) “Breeches” were an article of clothing designed by God for the priests who were all men. The word does not occur very often in scripture, but in every case it’s men’s apparel (Exodus 28:42, Leviticus 6:10, 16:4). According to the Hebrew lexicon, “breeches” means “trousers that extend to the knee, below the knee, or to the ankles.” This would include pants or culottes.
It seems a little disingenuous for the author to give you a “Hebrew Lexicon” definition of breeches which makes them sound like pants when the Bible describes them in a way that is far less favorable to the author’s case. Let’s look at the definition that the Bible gives of “breeches” in Exodus 28:42. “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation…” The Hebrew word “miknac” is a derivation of a word for hiding (as in, to hide the private parts) because these were not “trousers,” they were underwear. The Bible makes it clear that they were worn under robes, by priests, for the purpose of hiding “nakedness.” They went from the waist to the thighs (they did not necessarily cover the thigh completely), which makes them equivalent in length and usage to modern boxer shorts. The particular need that priests had for them may have been related to the steep steps that they would sometimes climb in the performance of their duties.
Additionally, the Bible puts no restrictions on who else could wear such attire. In fact, other than a few pieces like the ephod, all of the priestly garments were of the same basic style worn by all men and women at the time. There is no reason to believe that the wearing of miknac was banned to men or women any more than it was banned to wear the robes, sashes, coats, and belts all described in Exodus 28 as the garments of priests. Yes, they probably couldn’t have worn the exact colors and styles as the priests, but the basic garments were all the same. There are other garments which only men are recorded wearing in Scripture, such as the “girdle” or belt – and it is mentioned far more times than breeches (38). If the author’s logic is true, he should be quick to decry women’s wearing of belts of any kind – the biblical case is much stronger. Proving that mosaic priests wore boxers is a pretty far stretch from proving that pants are a universally and irrevocably masculine garment.
2) Until Hollywood came along, everyone in our modern western culture (including lost people) knew that pants were men’s apparel and dresses were women’s apparel, and they dressed accordingly. Our culture’s acceptance of cross-dressing has resulted largely from the influence of television, the placement of women in the workforce, and the pressures of twentieth century feminism.
The author’s basic point is “everybody knows (or did know) that pants are an exclusively and irrevocably masculine garment, therefore it is true.” Do we apply that logic to any of our other beliefs? No. Because it is the bandwagon fallacy. Even if that was the case, it is no longer the case. I suspect that less than 1% of the western world would agree to the statement “pants are an exclusively male garment.” How long dead does the older generation have to be before we can acknowledge that the culture has changed the norm? Is 99.5% inadequate to call it a cultural shift?
John Wesley, the modern source of Holiness ideas of sanctification, had this to say: “As to matters of dress, I would recommend one never to be first in the fashion nor the last out of it.”
The author’s second claim is that the influences which changed the norm were bad and thus the change in culture should be resisted. I will address this claim momentarily, because he brings it up later.
3) The universal symbol for designating a men’s bathroom is a stick figure wearing a pair of pants. The universal symbol for designating a woman’s bathroom is a stick figure wearing a dress. Even our sinful society recognizes that there is a difference in a man’s and woman’s clothing.
First off, let me take issue with the author’s use of the word “universal.” The fact is that the modern bathroom symbols did not originate until the 1960’s, and they came from an Anglo-American background. Prior to their widespread acceptance, countries around the world all had their own takes on differentiating gender on bathroom signs, many of which were not based on clothing differences. American inventions from the 60’s do not constitute an ancient tradition – that’s just revisionist history.
Regardless, this argument is essentially a restatement of the bandwagon fallacy. The author is once again saying “everyone agrees with me that pants can’t be worn by women.” This is not an argument at all, but rather an emotional appeal. Ask yourself this, would a bathroom sign designed for ancient God-fearing Jews (if such a thing had existed) show a difference between the silhouette of a man and a woman? No. They would both be wearing a robe with an identical silhouette. Choosing the right bathroom would be very confusing. If the standard God set under Mosaic law wouldn’t have met this rather silly “bathroom sign test,” then what evidence does the author present that the “bathroom sign test” is a brand-new law introduced in the New Testament? None.
But then, if we’re resorting to silly arguments, are you so sure it was a dress? Maybe it was a cape this whole time.
4) Pants are a symbol of authority, as evidenced by the saying ” I’m the one who wears the pants in the family.” Sadly, most women might as well wear the pants, since they rule their homes anyway!
This saying is the third consecutive appeal to the bandwagon fallacy which the author makes. Let me explain how. Pants are simply not a broadly used symbol of general authority. If you look at a country’s national seal, you may see an eagle, bear, lion, axe, mace, stars, a gavel, or many other things. You will never see a pair of pants displayed as a symbol of authority.
That said, I don’t dispute that there was a time when women did not wear pants. This saying originated in that culture and existed to describe a woman the functioning in a man’s role. The association was never between pants and authority generally, but between pants and men in particular. Does that mean that just because some people in the 19th century observed an association between pants and men, that such an association was firmly grounded in the Word of God and unchangeable? No. That association did exist, but does no longer. It could have been phrased in many other ways even at that time such as “I’m the ones who wears the work boots in the family” or “she’s the one who wears the apron.” Such a phrasing would not have then precluded women 100 years later from wearing work boots nor men from wearing an apron. This saying essentially proves that people agreed with the author 100 years ago, even if they don’t today. I suppose we should call that the dead bandwagon fallacy – “I’m right because all of the dead people agree with me.”
However, slang phrases like this one are a very ineffective appeal when searching for universal truth, because they are some of the shortest-lived pieces of culture. There are dozens of idioms your parents used which you do not, and many more that we use with no thought to the origin of phrase. We “dial” a phone number even though phones no longer have rotary dials and we “hang up” even though phones no longer have hooks on which to hang them. Phrases like “high on the hog” referred to a time when wealth meant you could afford to eat cuts of meat from the better parts of a pig. We have completely forgotten where this phrase comes from, but we still use it comfortably.
The Origin of Women’s Pants
Cross dressing is one of the devil’s clever moves to advance the “women’s liberation movement” and to obscure the Biblical distinction between man and woman. “Unisex clothing” began to show up in the factories during WWII when women first started wearing slacks. At the same time: short hair, cigarettes, swearing became acceptable feminine behavior. Down that same path has come to Abortion, Divorce, Single Parent homes, extreme feminism.
Now the author restates his previous argument that the cultural forces which led women to wear pants were universally bad and, thus, the change in culture should be resisted. This is more interesting argument than his previous ones, so let’s break it down.
Let’s first start with how men began to wear pants and then look at the earliest use among women. During the time the Bible was written and for thousands of years before, men and women both wore robes, which were essentially dresses. The skirt that we would recognize originated in pagan Egypt as a uni-sex garment. Women wore pants as early as the first millennium before Christ in ancient China and they continued to be worn in the East by various Eastern cultures across the centuries. This fact is not irrelevant to the adoption of women’s pants in the West, because many of the earliest designs appealed to Eastern styles.
Men adapted the use of pants slowly over the middle ages. Sometimes this progression looked more like what we would recognize as pants and other times they were undergarments or stockings. In general, this progression reflected the reality that pants are a very practical and appropriate garment. Although they originated with the upper class, sailors soon adapted and spread them as a practical garment for working in the rigging of a ship. Pants allow mobility, are well adapted to horseback riding, and keep you warm more effectively. They were worn almost universally by Western men by the 1700’s. This basic premise, that men adopted pants because they were practical, is accepted without much question. No preachers spend their sermon time researching the origin of men’s pants to find out if there were nefarious roots, or if we should go back to the clothing that the early Christians wore (which would certainly help us distinguish ourselves from the world).
Allow me to introduce an equally sound premise in regards to women’s adoption of pants. Women adopted pants because they were practical. Some of the earliest modern users of pants were the pit brow lasses of the British coal fields. Pants were infinitely more practical than long skirts for their backbreaking labor of separating coal from rocks. They were wearing pants in the 1850’s, along with other practical articles of clothing, such as a head covering to keep coal dust out of their hair.
The advent of the bicycle also led to women realizing that voluminous Victorian dresses were ill-suited to their new mode of transportation. There were even reports of women dying due to instances where they couldn’t see their pedals and lost control of their bikes. Many women at the turn of the 20th century adopted clothing that encased each leg separately and was much safer for riding (aka pants).
Factory work also played a significant role in adoption of pants, but that trend actually started in the first World War, not the second. Below you see women in an ammunition factory from the First World War wearing early pants. Pants were much safer for working with heavy equipment full of spinning cogs and gears.
Much more could be said about why women adopted pants – and men for that matter. But there is ample evidence that most regular women started wearing pants for deeply practical reasons, not reasons rooted in rebellion or a rejection of what the Bible says about gender.
Aren’t Pants Rebellious?
But what about the observation that the rise of women wearing pants was associated with other sins?
Various evils can coexist without being the cause of each other. During the same “golden age” in which all women wore dresses without question, there was that little problem where millions of black Africans were being kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic as slaves under conditions in which half of them routinely died, often drowning in their own vomit. I wouldn’t actually blame dresses for that evil; that would be irrational – but no more irrational than blaming women’s pants for the rise of popularity in cigarettes. The author’s reasoning is known as the “post hoc” logical fallacy. When the rooster crows and then the sun comes up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rooster’s crowing is the cause of the sun’s rising.
Furthermore, at the same time women started wearing pants (and manning the Western factories), the United States defeated the greatest fascist forces in history, started granting rights to second-class citizen minorities, and gave women legal rights and education that were unparalleled in human history. Women in the workforce caused medical and economic advances that helped lengthen our lives and increase the effectiveness of church ministry, wars diminished in frequency and intensity, billions were lifted out of poverty, the gospel reached millions of new people. The 1900’s were by no means an era of unrestrained darkness – good things happened, and bad things happened. To associate pants with the bad but not the good is not particularly honest.
The whole purpose of the adoption of pants by women was inextricably tied to their service in the formal labor force. Women have been working alongside their brothers and husbands in the fields, on the frontiers, and in the family business for all of recorded history. Their adoption of pants to work in the factories is just an extension of the way things have always been. Most Holiness preachers take no issue with women in the modern workforce, so why do they take issue with the clothes that got them there?
Furthermore, the practicality of pants has not diminished since their original introduction. Modest skirts and dresses restrain women from participation in many wholesome activities that men routinely participate in. I remember that my younger sister wanted to be an astronaut when she was young. While the dreams of a child may be far-fetched, it seemed even more far-fetched to tell her that being an astronaut was somehow a special sin for her because she couldn’t wear a skirt in space. Rock climbing, rappelling, parachuting, and many other sports require the wear of a safety harness that can only be worn in pants. Childhood activities like jumping on a trampoline, cart-wheeling, tree-climbing, or sitting cross-legged on the floor are nearly impossible without exposing underwear in a skirt or dress. Factory work, bicycle riding, horseback riding, skiing, and exercise of almost every kind are made much easier by the wear of pants. There is an epidemic of obesity is killing Americans, so limiting your wife’s options for exercise to activities performable in a jean skirt may be taking ten years off of her life.
But what about accusations against some of the particular women who wear the first in modern times to wear pants? What of it? Do you stop to research the moral character of the first person to wear a jacket or the inventor of the wrist watch before you put it on? Do you research the founder of every name brand before you buy an article of clothing in that line? If you do it for clothes, why not every product you buy? The fact is that there are sinners in the history of our world who invented things we eat, wear, or use in everyday life. Nothing in the Bible says that we must cleanse ourselves of any association with sinners, because, in the words of Paul, to do so we would have to go out of this world (if you are going to quote that we should abstain from the appearance of evil, you need to read more about that passage). The nature of fashion is such that people who come up with brand new fashions are often a bit abnormal. Take for instance the suit.
The inventor of the modern suit and popularizer of tooth-brushing, shaving, and regular bathing was a man named Beau Brummell. A self-obsessed playboy, he would spend hours in the morning attending to his appearance and then spend his afternoons and evenings gambling in high society. He eventually fled his country due to unpaid debts, ended up in debtor’s prison, and was released only to die from syphilis. How come nobody ever preaches against suits on this ground? I have made a separate biblical case that the origins of a practice do not preclude our participation, however, if you take issue with women’s pants based on the earliest originators, at least apply your own standard fairly and stop wearing suits (you should probably stop tooth-brushing too).
The New Testament Case Against Pants
Arguments against this doctrine
Some people argue that the principle of unique apparel between the man and woman as established in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 22:5) is not confirmed in the New Testament, thus is not applicable to us today under grace. But if we look at the reference book Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (printed over one hundred years before women wore pants) we see that it cross references Deuteronomy 22:5 to 1 Corinthians 11:3-14. That proves that men that studied the Bible hundreds of years before women wore pants, understood that 1 Corinthians 11 contains the same principle that is stated in Deuteronomy 22:5.
People may also argue that the principle of avoiding mixing certain materials in a garment as shown in Deuteronomy 22:11 should also apply today if verse 22:5 applies. The key to determining if an Old Testament law applies to us today under grace is whether the principle is repeated in the New Testament or not. In this case the principle of maintaining uniqueness in appearance between a man and woman is well established in the New Testament but that of avoiding mixing certain materials in a garment is not.
Now we get to the author’s New Testament justification. This is critical, because proving that there is a mosaic law forbidding something is a far cry from proving that it applies to believers freed from the law of Moses. I have written about this extensively here. However, I will address the argument in brief.
God has not changed, his character has not changed, and the things he cares about have not changed. However, God’s rules for his people absolutely change to accomplish God’s purposes. Animal sacrifice was once absolutely essential, now it is completely forbidden. The principle of needing to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins was the same throughout both covenants, but the expression of the principle changed. Simply proving that a principle exists in the New Testament does not prove that the expression of the principle now is the same as it was under Moses.
The New Testament expresses the principles of an unchanging God in rules which are sometimes new and sometimes a repetition of the Old Testament. However, the rules in the New Testament stand on their own. Sometimes they are inclusive of Old Testament rules and sometimes they are not. For instance, when Jesus says not to lust after a woman, this includes adultery, because it is not possible to commit adultery without lust. And to make things even clearer, adultery is also explicitly banned in the New Testament as well. However, there are other times where a principle is repeated, but the old covenant rule is no longer applicable. We should expect most of the principles to be repeated, because God hasn’t changed. But the expressions of the principles have changed – that’s the whole point. A few examples should be sufficient to illustrate this.
The Old Testament says that rebellious children should be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). The New Testament makes it clear that the principle of children obeying their parents still applies under grace (Ephesians 6:1). Does that mean we apply the Old Covenant disciplinary approach of execution for disobedience? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
The Old Testament forbade the Israelites from making any statues or graven images of any kind (Exodus 20:4). The New Testament makes it very clear that idolatry is still immoral (1 Corinthians 10:14). Does this mean that we apply the Old Covenant tactics of Gideon and destroy the Lincoln Memorial statue under cover of dark? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
The Old Testament forbids the charging of interest to someone from your own nation (Leviticus 25:36). The New Testament repeats the principle of not taking advantage of people in need (Ephesians 4:28). Does this mean that we can’t do business with banks that charge interest? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
The Old Testament forbids women wearing the same clothes as men (with loose guidelines). The New Testament repeats the principle that men and women should have some outward differentiation (as regards their hair). Does that mean we apply the Old Testament law in regards to their clothing? I’m afraid not. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
So where do we find how we should express the principle now? The New Testament. What it says, we must do. What it does not say, is left to a matter of conscience (where do we draw the lines). If we apply the author’s logic uniformly, we would resurrect much of the previously fulfilled Old Testament laws and we would have to start stoning our rebellious children, destroying all statues under cover of dark, and boycotting the financial industry.
But in reality, there are several New Testament verses that confirm that uniqueness must be maintained between sexes. These range from the differences in hair length to the feminine or masculine actions of each. In 1Cor 6:9 we find that effeminate men are not going to inherit the Kingdom of God. How is it that a woman can be accepted when wearing men’s clothing (pants) but if a man wears a dress that they are automatically (and correctly I may add) assumed to be homosexuals? Shouldn’t the question presented in 1Cor 11:14 “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” also make us ask “Does not even nature itself teach you” that for a woman to wear man’s clothing is a shame? As already confirmed by the example of a man wearing a dress, nature does teach us different.
The author now reiterates his New Testament references, so let’s see if they contain any rules in themselves which would make us believe that women can’t wear pants. First, we can address 1 Corinthians 6:9 and say that that verse in the original language is actually talking about homosexual practice, as Natalie explained in depth here: (Separation from the world). Even if it’s not, it addresses men, and tells them in general that they shouldn’t act like women, but leaves the rules entirely up to conscience, not to their pastor.
The only other New Testament reference he has is entirely about hair and probably head coverings too (though, that is another topic). How do we get from hair, to saying that men and women’s clothing has to be more differentiated than it was in the Old Testament? I don’t know. By trying to link this passage to Deuteronomy, the author admits that the rule he’s striving to implement isn’t in the passage at all. On this, I agree with him, and so he leaves me no Scripture to address.
Another argument he raises in addition to the Scripture is “doesn’t nature itself teach us that a woman wearing pants is bad?” In order to make an appeal to “common sense” or “nature,” there has to be some widespread agreement on the issue. In fact, I can make this argument more strongly than he can, because 99% of the Western culture would agree with me when I ask “isn’t it common sense that a woman in pants can be feminine?” “Everyone knows” isn’t a logical proof under the best circumstances, but when you say that, and in fact everyone disagrees with you, it is a very thin argument indeed.
Is There a Double Standard?
A more valid argument in this paragraph refers to the perceived “double standard” of men not being allowed to wear dresses, but women being allowed to wear pants. I think this is one of the most compelling arguments the author makes, so I applaud him for coming up with it. Here’s why I submit there is no double standard. The standard is, men and women should embrace their God-given gender and strive to live up to the universal standards as well as the gender specific standards that God set for them in Scripture. I could make a biblical case for that in the New Testament, but as I suspect we are agreed, I won’t spend the time doing that.
If “embracing your gender specific roles” is the standard, how do we evaluate a man who we see in a dress? Well, if he’s Moroccan, he’s probably wearing a jellaba and he’s embracing his gender role. If he’s Indian, he’s probably wearing a dhoti and embracing his gender role. If he’s Scottish, he’s probably wearing a kilt and embracing his gender role. If he’s American, he may be wearing any of the above garments and embracing his gender role, or he may be wearing some sort of apron or lab coat that is relevant to his occupation and embracing his gender role. But if he puts on a cute, floral dress, the author is right that he is almost surely rejecting his gender role. He could also reject his gender role by putting on a cute, floral pair of women’s pants. A woman meanwhile can embrace her femininity in a pair of pants or she can reject it. She can also reject her gender role while wearing a dress or while wearing a type of “dress” designed for men. The standard is clear and even. Are you embracing your gender role that God gave you in your heart? If so, your dress will reflect your heart, but exactly what that looks like cannot be simply prescribed by a third party. And, oh, by the way, tasteful jewelry is one way women can embrace their femininity, as the Bible clearly prescribes.
And let’s be real, if you run your errands today, you will see women in pants as bank tellers, fast food workers, home-schooling mothers, and insurance agents. You don’t really go home and say “you wouldn’t believe it, but I counted 42 lesbians today!” Because you acknowledge that woman can embrace their gender roles while wearing pants.
Furthermore, the author has opened himself up to a double standard charge as well. If God’s Word is so set against men and women wearing “the same” clothing, here are some things that would fall into that category. Almost all of these things were first worn by men: T-shirts (originally invented for men’s military use), boots, tennis shoes, baseball style hats, belts, socks, sweaters, stockings, and hoodies. How come he thinks a “woman’s pair of pants” is absurd, but a woman’s belt, boots, t-shirt, scarf, hoodie, stockings, or socks are completely ok?
No doubt the acceptation of tearing down the clothing differences between the sexes was initiated by Satan to open the door to the homosexual spirits by weakening the conscience of our modern society. The rebellious nature that allows a woman professing to be a Christian to wear pants can also cause them to be lured deeper toward a lesbian desire. Peter stated that “after this manner in the old time the holy women adorned themselves being in subjection unto their own husbands”. Does dressing in equal attire to the husband display that they are under subjection to the man or even to God? The question is how important is it to you to get to heaven? Is rebellion for such a small indulgence of wearing clothing that the Bible prohibits, worth going to Hell?
1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 3:4 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. 3:5 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:
At this point, the author offers the unsubstantiated conjecture that homosexuality came from women’s pants. The only link he attempts to draw to prove this audacious claim is that wearing pants is “rebellion.” My answer to which is – rebellion is bad, don’t be in rebellion against legitimate authority. He does not successfully link pants to rebellion, either historically or in the modern age.
He references the matriarchs of the Jewish faith as evidence that holy women dress in a holy way. I agree with this wholeheartedly, and as I exposited at length, these women wore the same basic garments as their husbands, with only minor differences, and that under the Old Covenant. If they could do that in times past, then their example should be adequate to show that the most conservative women today can wear pants that are styled or embroidered differently from their husbands, and women who don’t think that Old Testament law applies to us should worry more about their hearts and actions than whether there is a rose embroidered on their pants.
Abominations and Modesty
I would like to address at least two other arguments against pants which the author didn’t bring up. The first is the issue of abominations being unchangeable. This is a fundamentally arbitrary standard which has no inherent biblical basis other than “the Lord doesn’t change” which doesn’t differentiate how “abominations” are different than any other of the hundreds of other Old Testament rules which our unchanging God definitely changed. I address this in much more depth here for those who are interested. Even if you think that this verse in Deuteronomy still applies, there are still a tremendous number of clothes which women and men could wear which would meet the Old Testament standard. Deciding that pants aren’t distinct enough, but t-shirts are, still makes no sense.
The second is that women’s pants are inherently immodest. A few issues with that. First off, if you a do a Google image search for the word “skirt” you will find that less than 1 in 10 skirts shown would be considered appropriate in a Holiness church. So skirts aren’t inherently modest, but if you shop hard enough, you can find modest ones. Pants are no different. What defines modesty precisely is another discussion, but is certainly related to my discussion on where we draw the lines. But ask yourself this, do men have to be modest too? I think yes. Can men be modest in pants? Yes. Therefore women can be modest in pants, even if they have to look a little harder to find them.
I do not see that the author of the Holiness Handbook has fulfilled his burden of proof in restricting our Christian sisters to the wearing of the garments that he has authorized (which do overlap with men’s clothing such as t-shirts and boots, but don’t include pants). In regards to the two things he had to prove, I do not think that there is sufficient New Testament evidence to show that gender distinction is biblically required in clothing. Even if you think he has proven this point adequately, he certainly did not show that women’s pants fail to meet that standard described in Scripture. At least some women’s pants meet the Old Covenant standard for clothing and they must certainly then meet the New Covenant standard.
The author closes with the bold proclamation that those of us who disagree with his assessment of this completely non-essential issue risk going to Hell. To which I respond with Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” This whole topic is fundamentally a striving about Old Testament law, or perhaps about a completely unstated hidden rule in the New Testament. That makes the whole topic unprofitable at best, and simply a matter of pride, vanity and control of others at worst.
Allow me to summarize all of the relevant arguments for women’s liberty to wear pants:
1) The passage in Deuteronomy may actually be referring to women wearing armor.
2) The OT law would have permitted women to wear pants if that was the custom of men at the time – men and women wore slightly different garments, not fundamentally different ones.
3) The New Testament references that men and women are different and that they must embrace their respective roles, but says nothing about a particular distinction being required in their clothing.
4) There is no effective link that can resurrect the verse in Deuteronomy without also resurrecting dozens of other Old Testament laws which address principles repeated in the New Testament (such as stoning your children).
5) The origin of pants for men was a matter of practicality, not rebellion. The origin of pants for women was fundamentally a matter of practicality, not rebellion.
6) Rebellion from some individuals that wore women’s pants does not taint pants any more than it taints any other clothing we wear (such as the “pagan” skirt and the prodigal suit inventor).
7) If pants are inappropriate for women for reasons related to their original, biblical, or current use by men, this would rule out socks, stockings, hose, t-shirts, boots, hoodies, belts, skirts, button down shirts, many styles of hats, and much more.
8) If some pants are modest enough for men, then there are some modest enough for women.
9) Restricting women from wearing pants precludes them from participation in many wholesome activities and from many forms of exercise which would help live longer, healthier lives.
Want to see someone take me on? Check out this full length rebuttal submitted by a reader.
Want more arguments in favor of women’s liberty to wear pants? Check out my answer to his rebuttal.
Find this interesting? Check out all of our articles here.
Note that this article makes a lot of references to the history of fashion. I prefer to cite firsthand accounts, and I have done so in part by providing pictures from the times referenced. I didn’t think it was worth the time to write a truly authoritative study on the history of various articles of clothing, but I have seen enough sources to be confident that the facts I cited are true. Feel free to cross check other sources.
In depth commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1010-99192013000100001
John Wesley quote on Christians and fashion: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Wesley
History of bathroom signs: https://infographicplaza.com/the-history-of-bathroom-signs/
An overview of the history of the skirt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skirt
An overview of the history of pants: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trousers
Women’s cycling attire: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/04/how-cycling-clothing-opened-doors-for-women/558017/
Inventor of the suit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beau_Brummell
“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.”
You stated: “…he just said for women not to try to look like men, and the details were left to them to work out.” So you are saying that God stated it was an abomination and that we just have to guess on what the clothing difference was?
God let’s us know here that there IS a garment(s) that pertains to a man and vice versa. And wearing each other’s garments is abominable to God – that’s such a strong word, meaning that God found it DISGUSTING and ABHORRENT! So what garments are disgusting and abhorrent for men to wear? What garments are disgusting and abhorrent for women to wear? Those that pertain to the opposite sex. So…
Questions we must ask – What garment pertains to a MAN? And what garment pertains to a WOMAN? If a woman wanted to pertain to a man, how would she go about doing that? You mention armour possibly. Ok, so what would a man wear that would pertain to a woman then?
Is there anywhere in the Bible showing a woman wearing pants?
Hi Bev, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. A few things to consider in answering your questions:
1) Yes, the Mosaic law did state that men and women wearing the same things was abhorrent. However, the Mosaic law also states that eating oysters is abominable and that having sexual relations with a woman within seven days of her period is abominable. Neither of these abominations carry over to the present era. So work does have to be done to show that this commandment is more relevant than the one forbidding the mixing of cloth or the trimming of beards. As I pointed out in the article, merely showing that a general principle is repeated in the New Testament is a poor argument for resurrecting a specific Mosaic law. Such logic would require that the New Testament principle of obedience to parents would then resurrect that the Old Testament commandment to stone rebellious children.
2) No, God never specifically defined the difference between men’s and women’s clothing. I know we agree on this point, because you did not cite any verses where God provided any clarification at all. He seemingly left that distinction to them to determine (unless the passage is about women in armor, which is possible from the original language). You may not like that God did this, but it is what He did.
3) You point out that this passage shows that there “is” a garment that pertains to a man. Actually it doesn’t. It only shows that there “was” a garment that pertained to a man. Just like there “was” a kind of meat that isn’t fit to eat – pork. Proving that pork “is” still not fit to eat is a different matter. Furthermore, we know from the context that unless God was talking about armor here, He would have had to have been talking about a style of garment, not a type of garment. They all wore robes. They all wore the same type of garment, but probably styled and ornamented slightly differently. Hence you can see that if men of that day wore pants (which they didn’t – the Bible makes it clear that priestly breeches didn’t pass the knee) then the women would have been free to wear pants as long as they were styled and ornamented differently.
4) I cannot show women in the Bible wearing pants. Nor can I show them wearing t-shirts, button down shirts, tennis shoes, or dozens of articles of clothing. Unfortunately, pants aren’t logically different from these other articles of clothing, originally designed for and worn by men. If you wish to discard pants on this ground, you will have a lot of other things in your wardrobe that you will also need to part with.
Incredibly well written article! Thank you for taking the time to help us think about this issue by using the Bible. I will now be reading some of your other articles. THANK YOU!!
Nathan! Well done brother! Well done…. I appreciate your scholarship and dedication to the truth. #letGodspeoplethink!
“Since the author is quoting Old Testament ceremonial law, he still has a long way to go before he proves that such a commandment applies to New Testament believers. But we’ll save that question for now.”
We should weigh out the Old Testament commandments to see if they are applicable to us today. You state that the author is quoting ‘ceremonial law’. Maybe it would be helpful to define that phrase for your readers. Are you differentiating, as many do, between the moral aspects of the law and ‘ceremonial’aspects, or are you referring to the entire Mosaic Law as ‘ceremonial law’?
“Furthermore, there is a good argument from the original language that the verse actually is referring to a woman putting on the armor of a warrior as a part of pagan worship, but that argument isn’t necessary, so I won’t delve into it – I’ll link to another relevant article at the bottom.”
My very limited study does indicate the original language does allow for the possibility that the Hebrews hearing or reading this would relate this passage to the putting on of armor by females. But the relevance of this is diminished when we consider this is only dealing with the first part of the commandment. Even the original language is completely limited the meaning to basically say “Women should not wear armour”, there is an inverse that forbids men from wearing women’s clothing. Deuteronomy 22:5 clearly lays down a principle of God forbidding the Hebrews to wear clothing that is associated with the opposite gender.
” So what about the article of clothing below? As the author says, this carries the name and basic pattern as men’s pants, but it is “sufficiently different in embroidery such that a demarcation can be readily detected.” If Old Testament men wore jeans, then Old Testament women would have certainly been allowed to wear these pants.”
Actually, I would argue, they would not have been. Let’s try to get a completely balanced historical perspective. We both agree that there was some distinction in men’s and women’s clothing in the OT. Maybe it was somewhat minor, but there was obvious distinction. Western society in the early 1900’s had more obvious distinctions between the apparel of the two genders. Before we could ever get to the more feminine looking article of clothing you have displayed, we had to undergo a complete revolution of societal norms. There is no way to describe the advent of women in pants in Western society that does not smack of rebellion, scandal, and feminism. (Disclaimer: I am not saying every woman in pants is a feminist or is making a rebellious statement). So was this societal revolution a good thing or was it part of a larger rebellion that would eventually lead to the moral chaos we have today? I know that you speak at length about the historical factors leading to the acceptance of women’s pants. But can you seriously contend that this was completely unrelated from the coming moral revolutions that would rock our society in the decades to come?
The rest of my major concerns with your article lie in the latter portion.
“We should expect most of the principles to be repeated, because God hasn’t changed. But the expressions of the principles have changed – that’s the whole point. A few examples should be sufficient to illustrate this.”
Yes the expression of God’s unchanging moral principles may change under the New Covenant. But, with all due respect, this section of your article is very weak. You fail to differentiate among principles, practices, and penalties.
“The Old Testament says that rebellious children should be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). The New Testament makes it clear that the principle of children obeying their parents still applies under grace (Ephesians 6:1). Does that mean we apply the Old Covenant disciplinary approach of execution for disobedience? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.”
You indicated that you would be giving examples of how the expression of God’s principles change. What is demonstrated here is how the earthly penalty for a violation of one of God’s principles has changed. What we are discussing with regard to women’s clothing is a principle, not the penalty for violating that principle. Let’s look at another.
“The Old Testament forbids the charging of interest to someone from your own nation (Leviticus 25:36). The New Testament repeats the principle of not taking advantage of people in need (Ephesians 4:28). Does this mean that we can’t do business with banks that charge interest? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.”
The principle in this specific situation is, as you point out not taking advantage of people in need, what has changed is the specific way we apply that principle. The principle does not change.
“The Old Testament forbids women wearing the same clothes as men (with loose guidelines). The New Testament repeats the principle that men and women should have some outward differentiation (as regards their hair). Does that mean we apply the Old Testament law in regards to their clothing? I’m afraid not. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.”
The principle that is stated is distinction. This principle is backed up in 1 Corinthians 11, and teaches us that it is still important for there to be a distinction. This is what the Holiness movement has done, though maybe not always perfectly. Is this such a crime?
Finally you admit the appeal and reason of the double standard argument. I just did a quick Google search and found that there are plenty of options for skirts for all the men in your life to wear with a clear conscience knowing that they are designed for men. But I don’t think you or I will be buying one anytime soon. If Jesus tarries it could be that 40 years from now someone will be making the same argument you’re making now. And if you are correct then they will be as well.
I hope this doesn’t come across as overly hostile. I wish you the very best and I commend your scholarship.
Hi Cody, Thanks for your in depth and thoughtful response. And for the record, I think your tone is very even handed for the topic at hand – I wish more people had the courage to raise issues rather than just condemn me to the hell (which I get quite a bit actually). I will attempt to provide a bit of clarity on the valid issues you raise.
1) Can I just assume that this is ceremonial law? I actually have a very logically consistent position on this, which I have explained in-depth in my article on how Christians should understand the Old Testament. I argue from Scripture that we are bound by exactly 0% of the Old Testament law. As I make that case in-depth elsewhere, if you take issue with it, I would appreciate you reading it and commenting on that article directly so I don’t have to recreate that article in my comments here. I understand that not everyone will accept this premise, so even if you believe we are still bound by certain sections of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:5 in particular seems to be a weak candidate. Contextually, the next verse is about how one should deal with baby birds, and a few verses down is about not mixing wool with linen. And of course, even if you believe that we are bound by Deuteronomy 22:5, I make the additional case that a woman in pants could be obedient to that verse. So my argumentation is three independent layers deep on that issue. You can disagree with any two, and still agree with my conclusion.
2) Does the original language suggest that this is about armor, rather than garments in general? I think you make a valid point about the obverse casting some doubt on that interpretation. Though as I understand it, the word “man” here can also be translated “strong man” or “warrior.” This could then be a matter of forbidding a woman from wearing armor and then forbidding a warrior from fleeing the fight by wearing women’s clothes. I wouldn’t personally put too much stock in that interpretation, and that’s why my case isn’t based on it at all, even though true language scholars may have a reason to support it. Good point on that one – I hadn’t noticed that.
3) If men of the Old Testament wore jeans, would Deuteronomy 22:5 have prevented women from wearing the embroidered pants I showed? Admittedly, this is a hypothetical, but a relevant one. You said you disagreed with my conclusion that, yes, the article of clothing was significantly different enough to meet the Old Testament standard. However, you didn’t provide any analysis or arguments for your position. You merely bypassed the hypothetical and brought it straight to the origin of pants in the modern era. If you don’t address the hypothetical at all, you can hardly claim to have defeated it.
4) Do women’s pants come from rebellion? In your words, “There is no way to describe the advent of women in pants in Western society that does not smack of rebellion, scandal, and feminism.” But yet, that is exactly what I did. Let’s break down your statement a bit. 19th century style feminism is not a sin. The feminists of the early 20th century were largely anti-abortion and for a woman’s right to own property, vote, work, and get an education. These are not inherently bad things. Even if 21st century feminism has gone off of the rails, that doesn’t mean we should revert to when women shouldn’t go to college or vote. A lot of good things go off of the rails after a hundred years. Scandal is not a sin. Black people marrying white people has been scandalous for the past few hundred years, and yet there is no biblical case to be made against it. Rebellion against legitimate authority is a sin. However, I have made the case that women in factories in WW1 were not there out of rebellion, but out of a sense of duty to make sure we didn’t all have to learn German. You have to make the case that those women were really there for bad reasons. You also didn’t respond to my point about suits originating from vanity and sexual immorality. I make the case in my article “Guilt by Association” that the Bible teaches we have to care about what things “are” not where they came from. But if you don’t buy that, there are a lot of other things that you will have to toss out with women’s pants.
5) Did pants bring moral chaos? In my estimation, this is a classic case of the post hoc fallacy. As I point out, the era of dresses was associated with massive human slavery. I don’t think it’s fair to blame dresses for that, but if we’re going to blame pants for moral relativity, then why not? And why wouldn’t you blame relativity on a host of other developments in the past hundred years? Why not blame it on women voting? Or the growth of the nanny state? or the increase in prosperity? or the end of strong monarchies? or the advent of the computer? or the popularization of Darwinism? There are a lot of things that happened in the past hundred years – why link modern moral chaos to pants, instead of the million other options? (For the record, I think some of the things I mentioned are relevant to the modern moral chaos, and some are not).
6) If Deuteronomy 22:5 still applies, do we have to stone rebellious children? I see your point with the stoning of children being a corporate punishment rather than a standard of personal practice (though I would argue that there are New Testament corporate punishments as well, so that fact alone doesn’t mean it can’t possibly apply). However, in your own words regarding the charging of interest “The principle in this specific situation is, as you point out not taking advantage of people in need, what has changed is the specific way we apply that principle. The principle does not change.” So what is the principle in the case of charging interest? “Not taking advantage of people.” However, if we were to apply your logic from Deuteronomy 22:5, we would say the principle is “not charging interest” – that’s the the principle – that’s the Law. In Deuteronomy 22:5, the principle has to be a higher level concept than the law itself – it can’t be “not wearing women’s clothing” – that is the Law itself. The New Testament in no way states that men and women’s clothing must be different. Never. Not once. It states that men and women are different and have different roles in the church and home. That principle still applies, the rule by which we apply it has changed. Just like we can still charge interest and not take advantage of people, women can wear pants and embrace their gender roles.
7) Who’s double standard is the worst? As I point out, I think the principle is embracing the gender role God gave you. If you can do that when Moroccan jellabas become a fad in 40 years, more power to you. God will judge your heart when your actions don’t violate his commands. Who am I to judge another man’s servant? So I have no double standard. You may not like my position, but it is logically consistent. You on the other hand have made no effort to respond to the clear double standard of the Holiness movement, which accepts articles of clothing like hoodies, t-shirts, work boots, and many other items which have identical origins and purposes as pants.
At the end of the day, if you and the people close to you think that women should not wear pants, and you do that “to God” as per Romans 14, then more power to you. You can well please God with that action, and you’re not going to offend me at all. That said, if a woman wants to wear pants “to God,” I submit that the Bible doesn’t forbid it – and it doesn’t come particularly close.
I wish you all the best as you continue to study God’s Word and stand for truth as you understand it.
Great article! I used to be one of those “outward holiness” preachers but have since come to the light. Just as some women’s blouses or shirts are only different from a man’s in that the buttons are on the other side of a man’s. Even the only difference between some women’s coats as men’s is that the zipper-hook is located on the opposite side! I was laughing as I read some of the crazy conclusions people will come to when reading the Bible superficially. Before I would have considered your reasoning to be wrong, but thank God I’ve come to realize my blindness! It’s great to be free! Those who fight reason are some of the same who find themselves critical and judgmental toward Christians who don’t conform to THEIR prejudiced interpretations and are miserable people. Thanks again for this great and lucid article. It would seem that some of those who have commented here, either can’t reason, or they just haven’t read the whole article.
The next time a preacher tries to tell you that women’s pants are men’s attire, buy him a pair and see if he’ll wear them.
He won’t. Why? Because he knows they are a woman’s attire, and not a man’s.
God doesn’t wear trousers:
“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread My SKIRT over thee, and covered thy nakedness…” Ezek. 16:8
Boaz didn’t wear trousers either:
“And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy SKIRT over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” Ruth 3:9
I keep hearing about womens pants. But what about mens skirts and dresses? Are you going to wear them? Put your sons in them? Its becoming the culture norm at this time. If dresses and skirts arent womens apparrel then why do men who claim to be women wear them to show their new “gender”? Why not just wear “womens pants”. Honest questions.
I address this honest question at length in the article above. It is not difficult to build a Biblical case for gender, and anyone who rejects their gender is doing so in violation of Scripture. Some of the men in question reject their gender by wearing women’s pants, some do it by wearing women’s skirts. It is not a cultural norm for men in general to wear skirts in America. It is a cultural norm for men who reject their gender and/or sexuality to wear skirts. Their stated beliefs are the issue. If a man embraces his gender and wears an article of clothing that wraps around two legs instead of each individually, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. Jesus Christ never wore a pair of pants in his time on earth.
If you make the case that pants are only for men and skirts are only for women, you will have no biblical evidence for this case, which makes it a matter of pure opinion, utterly divorced from God’s Word. You’ll also run into logical trouble defending other articles of clothing first made for men, which were later adapted by women (t-shirts, boots, hose/stockings, tennis shoes, ball caps, etc.).
Look at Linda Rika YouTube testimony. Six hours in hell two hours in Heaven. Ask God. Read Matthew 22:11-13 clothing only keeps a man from Heaven. Never changed pants on women. Three preachers eligible for Heaven out of five million people. Many can’t read the Holy Bible only. Six times in the Old Testament he put pants on men never on women.
A few brief responses. People’s stories carry less weight for me than God’s Word. The Matthew passage you cite is a parable about us entering heaven on Christ’s righteousness alone, symbolized by wedding robes. Saying it is about clothing is like saying that the parable of the talents teaches that poor investment strategies alone keep people out of heaven. God never put pants on anyone in the Old Testament; he put underwear on men (as defended in the article). Not sure where the 3 in 5 million statistic comes from, but I’d be interested to know.
I understood this to mean women should not wear Men’s clothing to mean just that . Don’t wear your Husband’s Pant , Shirt , shoes 👞 underwear , Coat, Socks you name it . I don’t think it has to do with Pant . Female pants is different from a male pants. I did not know this until someone gave me some pant to give away and I gave the pants to a needy Male , When he dress in them People came to me N cuss me out for giving the young man female’s Pant . I was so embarrassed. That’s is when I educated myself on the deference between. Male and female’s pant. I do put on my Husband coat sometimes I wonder if this is an abomination.
I recommend you check out my article “How Do We Obey the Old Testament.” I think the practice of to cherry picking some commandments from the Old Testament and ignoring others is not how God intended us to read his fulfilled law. And it leaves us worrying about silly things like whether a woman can wear her husband’s jacket. I don’t think that’s what God had in mind for the victorious Christian life when he sent his Son to reconcile us to him.
Well said! I’m Pentecostal and the pants issue is the only mainstream holiness standard I reject. (I say “mainstream” because a small percentage of Pentecostals forbid facial hair, though most of us reject that legalistic nonsense.)
Sorry. I posted twice. I did not see your response. But most people never hear from God. Especially preachers. The Lord says the Bible means only what the Bible says. You say Matthew 22 is just a parable. The Lord says it means only what it says. Zephaniah 1:8 has never changed. A man and a woman cannot wear the same clothing. The law in America based on the Bible. They changed the law but the Bible never changed.
I’m interested in your analysis of Zephaniah 1:8. In that passage, it says God will punish “all such as are clothed with strange apparel.” Most translations render that “foreign garments,” with the idea being that this is a specific judgement against the people of Zephaniah’s day who had strayed after foreign gods and customs. However, since you apparently take this passage to be at least partly about our own judgement before God, this means we’re banned from wearing “strange clothes” or “foreign clothes” depending on your translation.
What clothes then, can we not wear? Aren’t pants themselves “strange?” they didn’t come into common usage for men until 1,500+ years after Zephaniah prophesied. What about the many other articles of clothing which are modern inventions? What about ballcaps, graphic t-shirts, dresses with printed patterns, hoodies, steel-toe boots, button down shirts, ties, and turn-down collars? Would not all of these modern inventions have been strange and/or foreign to the prophet? By your understanding of Zephaniah 1:8, will we not also stand in judgement for these?
I’m doing my own personal study on pants and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Daniel 3:21 and Daniel 3:27. Some translations say “trousers” or “pants.” Do you think it’s referring to linen undergarments or could it be pants and trousers as we know it today?
Interesting question. This part of Daniel is the only significant section of the Bible that is written in Aramaic rather than Greek or Hebrew. This makes it especially difficult to translate, because not only is it a very old language, but there aren’t many opportunities to compare passages to each other. The word sometimes translated “trousers” in Daniel 3:21 is used nowhere else in scripture. While I won’t claim to be an ancient Aramaic expert, it looks like tunic is the preferred translation, and the main thing we know about the word is that it is clearly an article of clothing by context and comes from a root word meaning “to pound or hammer.” This could suggest a garment that gets wider as it goes, like a style of tunic. It doesn’t particularly sound like pants (unless we’re talking bell bottoms). Anyone who tells you they know with complete confidence what that word means is just bluffing.
The next question to ask is what did Babylonians wear? Again, I claim no expertise here, but a bit of research into their depictions of themselves shows that they wore tunics as base garments, with robes over them. This would seem to match the description of the verse, with a “coat” or “robe” mentioned separately from the word in question. Apparently, some Babylonians did wear pants at some points in history, but it was restricted to military use. As the three men thrown into the furnace were not in the military and were arrested during a formal ceremony, there is no reason to believe they would have been dressed in Babylonian horse cavalry attire. If for some odd reason they had been, we would expect other articles of armor to mentioned with their extensive list of clothing. If the men were dressed in Hebrew attire (which seems doubtful since they were Babylonian royal officials), the Hebrews didn’t wear pants either, so we would be back to tunics in that case as well.
But in the end, what does it matter if they were wearing pants? They were also wearing cloaks/robes, which were articles of clothing that women wore variations at that time as well. So we would have no reason from the text to think that pants were forbidden for women in their time or ours if they were adjacent to articles of clothing we know were not forbidden to women in their time or ours.
If anything, proving that this article of clothing was a form of pants provides additional evidence that God didn’t intend to forbid pants to women as some immutable moral law, because in that case, it means that the original readers of the Old Testament were familiar with pants but God never breathed a single word against women wearing them.
Another question, what are your thoughts on unisex clothing? Do they blur the lines between the two genders?
It’s important to me that I don’t conflate my opinions with scripture. As I explain in the article, I don’t think the Bible teaches that some articles of clothing are eternally for women and others eternally for men. I don’t even see an explicit New Testament case that men and women’s clothing has to be different at all (though it is fairly easy to make a case that their hair should be different).
Does that mean God doesn’t care about clothing? I think He does, but only as an outward sign of inward beliefs and attitudes. There is no list of acceptable clothes in Scripture, only principles that would impact how we dress. There are commandments about modesty, instructive about not tempting others, and principles about men and women being different and playing complementary but distinct roles in the family and church.
How does this affect what we wear? I think if we embrace these principles, the answers will be reasonably clear, though some sincere Christians will come to somewhat different conclusions than others (as per Romans 14).
So I can’t give a “proof text” answer to your question, but since you asked my personal opinion, I think it depends on the intent of the wearer and the way it is perceived by others. When a man and women wear printed unisex t-shirts with the name of some event that they have both attended, few people will think that the man is trying to look like a woman and vice versa. And assuming that’s not their internal intent either, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. If men and women put on unisex beekeeper suits to fend off bees, this doesn’t seem to be ungodly either. That said, there certainly could be a case where someone wears a unisex article of clothing with an intent to obscure or reject his or her gender, and this would be wrong in my opinion.
In your examples of men who wear skirts or dresses/robes you went to traditional cultural norms; kilts etc. to show that it’s not them wearing feminine clothing. However western women do not wear pants due to traditional cultural norms, so this is not an accurate comparison. Most women also do not exclusively wear ‘floral pants’ as you used in your example. They generally wear jeans cut to fit their figure, while men wear jeans cut to fit theirs. By the reasoning used to make pants wearing acceptable for women, men can (and will and do now in 2023) wear dresses and skirts cut for their figure. To avoid a double standard this must be seen as equally as acceptable.
I am Lutheran, not holiness tradition. I don’t think pants are automatically a modestly issue, tho the quickest way for a woman to become more modest is to put on a flowing skirt. Unless one is extreme rock wall climbing, or roofing, truly skirts are just as safe and functional and much more comfortable than pants. And they are distinctly feminine in exactly the same way that pants and jeans were distinctly masculine, two generations ago.
Thanks for your comment.
First, I should start by reminding you that my argumentation is three independent layers deep on that issue. You can disagree with any two, and still agree with my conclusion.
Layer 1: I posit that believers are not bound by Mosaic law (you might note that we no longer stone rebellious children). I make that case in-depth elsewhere, if you take issue with it, I would appreciate you reading it and commenting on that article directly so I don’t have to recreate that article in my comments here.
Layer 2: I understand that not everyone will accept this premise, so even if you believe we are still bound by certain sections of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:5 in particular seems to be a weak candidate. Contextually, the next verse is about how one should deal with baby birds, and a few verses down is about not mixing wool with linen.
Layer 3: Even if you believe that we are bound by Deuteronomy 22:5, I make the additional case that a woman in pants could be obedient to that verse.
Second, you seem to take issue with layer 3, but have ignored layers 1 and 2. Allow me to address your objection. I said that “what pertains to a man” is not a universal standard, but a culturally relative one, as evidenced in part by the fact that the original readers of the text all wore robes with slight variations in style. I concede that most women do not wear floral pants, but you would have to concede that floral pants would be definitely be feminine by our cultural standard and therefore acceptable under the auspices of Deuteronomy 22:5. Thus, you would have to concede that not all pants are forbidden to women, even if you retain the belief that some are. Beyond floral pants, there are a wide variety of women’s pants that are linen, patterned, etc. and look nothing like what a western man would ever wear. These pants would all clearly meet the standard of Deuteronomy 22:5 (which as I argue in layers 1 and 2, I don’t think we’re bound by anyways). When it comes to kilts and floral pants, I understand that the exceptions are not the rules, but I also know that categorical universal claims should have no exceptions (like the implicit claim that clothing that wraps around both legs is always for women and clothing that wraps around each leg individually is always for men). Thus, the exceptions disprove the categorical claim.
Third, let’s talk about double standards. Your concern is that if we “let” women wear pants, then men will wear dresses. I understand your concern. You see a culture in which men and women are both rejecting their God-given gender and its associated duties. Your solution is to make an arbitrary determination that evolution of clothing should be halted in say the year 1890 and be frozen from thenceforth and forever more. The first problem I would point out with that position is that you do not abide by your own standard. If you do not forbid women wearing t-shirts, socks, a ball caps, or sneakers then you allow articles of clothing that were originally intended for a man. Arbitrarily saying that Deuteronomy 22:5 applies to leg garments but no other ones makes no sense. But while I appreciate what you are trying to do, I don’t think that cultural decay can be stopped by a new extra-biblical rule. I have a better standard, which is fully consistent. Let men and women embrace their gender roles and study God’s word to discover what that requires of them in church, at home, and in society. Once they get that right, they can wear whatever clothing their conscience allows subject to the constraint of a God-honoring intent and an honest evaluation of the effect their clothing choices have on others. If that means that men wearing wool tunics comes back in style, who am I to say that is wrong? That’s what Jesus wore.
King James Version
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.
Pertains means associated with or belong to. How do we know that pants are associated with and belong to men? Our bathroom signs. Universal. Woman in skirt, man in pants.
Hmmm. I think you probably would be able to contribute something more interesting to the conversation if you read or responded to anything in the article you choose to comment on.