Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Dresses Only--A Biblical Requirement?

The Fall 2002 issue of the Home School Digest, "The Quarterly Journal for Serious Homeschoolers" (http://www.wisgate.com/hsd.htm) included a lengthy (8-page) article in which the author "argued" (in a way) that the Bible teaches women to wear long dresses and to avoid pants; "pants are men's clothing."

I decided to write a response, of sorts.

Why? Because I am concerned about a tendency I think I'm seeing where we Christians seem to use the Scriptures NOT to discover what they really teach (or DON'T teach) but, rather, to figure out ways to justify our own prejudices and preferences. . . .

Letter to the Editor of
Home School Digest
sent via email 7 November 2002

Dear Friends:

I try to conduct my affairs as the Bereans: to "receive the word with all readiness of mind" while searching the Scriptures to see whether a matter is really "so" (Acts 17:11). And so it was with this attitude that I read Dr. Davis' "The Language of the Christian's Clothing" (Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 39-46).

Having examined the Scriptures Dr. Davis references in that article, I believe it is appropriate to warn your readers that, while he proclaims many things that ARE "so," the majority of the content of points 6 through 8--what seemed to be at the center of his presentation--appear to be rather well REFUTED by Scripture. Indeed, they seem well refuted by some of the very Scriptures to which Dr. Davis REFERS but fails to quote in full.

I am thinking, especially, of Exodus 28:42, 39:27-28, Leviticus 6:10, 16:4, and Ezekiel 44:18.

On p. 43 Dr. Davis fails to quote any of these verses but he does quote Cathy Corle to the effect that "God directed for a man to wear pants or breeches and a short haircut." Dr. Davis does not quote Corle concerning where IN SCRIPTURE she believes we might find such directives; nor does he offer any scriptural proofs himself for these claims. But he DOES say that the five passages listed above are the only places in the Bible where the word "breeches" occurs and "[t]he word is always used in relation to men."

By placing these comments in juxtaposition with 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"--quoted on p. 43 in your magazine), Dr. Davis seems to want us to believe that God Himself teaches us that pants (or "breeches") are uniquely men’s wear not to be worn by women.

If I have interpreted Dr. Davis' intentions correctly, then I believe we need to look at the Scriptures to which he has referred. We should see for ourselves: is this "men ought to wear pants/women ought to wear dresses" teaching truly based on SCRIPTURE?

If you study the referenced passages, I believe you will find it is not. Instead, you will discover that Dr. Davis is "lad[ing] men [and women!] with burdens grievous to be borne," burdens that Dr. Davis himself, when it comes down to it, "touch[es] not . . . with one of [his] fingers" (Luke 11:46).

Will you please join me and be like the Bereans? Will you please turn "to [God’s] law and to [His] testimony" (Isaiah 8:20) and see if these things are really so?


The referenced passages, as Dr. Davis notes, are, indeed, the only ones in which the English word "breeches" appears in the King James Version of the Bible. But if Dr. Davis wants to make these passages teach that all men, and only men, are to wear breeches, then I wonder why he did not go further into these passages' details? Why, for example, did he ignore the point that every one of the referenced passages speaks not merely about "breeches," but about "LINEN breeches"? If we men are to wear breeches in obedience to these passages, shouldn’t we be sure to wear only LINEN breeches? If not, why not?

Further, why does Dr. Davis ignore the fact that the breeches spoken of in these passages are not commanded as OUTER wear, but are to be worn IN ADDITION to--UNDER--a "robe" and "coat" (see Exodus 28:4, 31-35 and 39 for just one series of verses that describe these garments)? They were not to be worn like the pants in a modern man’s suit; they were not to be visible to the eyes of curious bystanders. No. They were to be worn UNDER the outer robe and coat, "upon [the] flesh" (Leviticus 16:4). Put another way, they were what we call "underwear."

So why does it appear that Dr. Davis is willing to expose himself to public view clad in nothing more than a modern man’s suit, wearing upon his lower body the equivalent of what the Bible defines as UNDERWEAR? Why does he not wrap himself in what, to be consistent, he should be telling us are God-mandated outer garments for men?

And how does he dare show on the home page of his website (www.drsmdavis.com) photographs of men attired in the equivalent of Biblically-defined UNDERWEAR? Where are the photographs of men wearing the Biblically-mandated robes--the kind of robes with which, Dr. Davis says, true men were taught to "gird up their loins" (p. 43; Job 40:7, etc.)?

Let us go on.

If Dr. Davis' comments about breeches are the result of handling the Scriptures with integrity, and if such breeches-style clothing on a woman really is an "abomination" because it is "that which pertaineth unto a man" (Deuteronomy 22:5), then why does he not speak forthrightly about the sin of modern breeches-style WOMEN'S underwear--i.e., what in our culture are generally called "panties"? Is he not concerned to warn women against such sins?

And why no exegesis about how both men and women must clothe themselves with underwear that covers "from the loins even unto the thighs" so they will avoid the nakedness of which Exodus 28:42 speaks (according to Dr. Davis), the nakedness of inadequate underwear, the nakedness that is both mentioned and defined in Exodus 28:42 (p. 40 in Dr. Davis' article)?

Moreover, how is it that Dr. Davis turns this Biblical discussion of what is obviously UNDER-breeches into a discussion of "shorts, culottes, dresses, whatever"--OUTER garments--"that stops covering above the knee"?

And why? Why does he make an application to forms of clothing (OUTER clothing) that are NOT discussed in the passage, but makes NO application to that which is directly addressed (the matter of UNDER clothing)?

And there is more.

If Dr. Davis is correct in his interpretation and application of these passages, then I am curious why he ignores the fact that, in the very same passages, the LORD commands us men to wear linen BONNETS (Exodus 28:40, 29:9, 39:28, Leviticus 8:13, and Ezekiel 44:18). And, again, if Dr. Davis is correct in his interpretation, the LORD commands us MEN to wear such bonnets, but NOWHERE does He issue a similar commandment to women.

So why does it appear (from an examination of his photograph) that Dr. Davis fails to obey this command? And why does Dr. Davis not warn women against being conformed to the world in this area (see Romans 12:2)? Why does he fail even to MENTION (much less sound a clarion call) that bonnets are masculine clothing and not to be worn by women?

Similarly with the girdles. If we men--and only men--are supposed to wear breeches, I don’t understand why Dr. Davis ignores the Scripturally-mandated girdles for men (Exodus 28:40, 29:9, Leviticus 8:13). Once more: there is not a single verse in Scripture commanding WOMEN to wear girdles; but we do find these verses where, according to Dr. Davis, MEN are commanded to wear them. So why does Dr. Davis ignore this command? And why does he not warn women against encroaching on this province of masculine clothing?

I believe the answers to all of my questions are one and the same; and that one answer is really quite simple.

I believe the reason Dr. Davis ignores all of these "additional" requirements; the reason he himself refuses to "touch" these commandments with one of his own fingers (i.e., the reason he neither "obeys" nor teaches these commandments), is because as soon as one looks at the subject Scriptures IN CONTEXT, one realizes that they have everything to do with appropriate attire for God’s Old Testament PRIESTS (see, for example, Exodus 28:43, 29:27, Leviticus 6:9-10, 16:3, and Ezekiel 44:15); they have absolutely nothing to say about appropriate attire for "men" in general. Yes, the priests were all men, but the focus of these verses is the PRIESTS' clothing and the PRIESTS' responsibilities. Their focus is not at all upon the distinctions we ought to observe between men’s clothing and women’s clothing.


In sum: rather than suggesting that the Bible "TEACHES" women to wear long dresses (KATASTOLE); rather than suggesting that breeches are for men only; perhaps Dr. Davis and your fine magazine could emphasize and exegete Scriptures that truly teach the more fundamental principles outlined (but hardly explained) in the article's other "points": the need for modesty and humility; the need to conform ourselves to the image of Christ; the need to bring our outer and inner clothing (the clothing of the heart) into conformity one with another; and so forth.

For the glory of Christ among the nations,

John Holzmann

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