Dressing in the Bible

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

Though the Bible is the Sacred Word of God, it is written in human language and by those so inspired by God Himself to do so. Reading through it does not only reveal the Eternal Word of God, it gives some imaginative insight into the culture and lifestyle of those who lived during Biblical times. And so, reading through the Bible narratives, we get the impression of what kind of clothes those who lived at that time used.

As we saw in our last week's edition, clothing in the Bible was not only to portray man's ingenuity, mankind made clothes in accordance with God's injunctions on styles, materials and sizes. During Biblical times, men and women put on similar clothes like long robes, cloaks, mantles and tunics. However, they were conspicuously differentiated for the genders. When people put on those loose and long materials, they use girdle or sash fastened at the waist the hold their garments to some fitness.

The Bible was very firm on differentiation of dresses according to genders. Males were forbidden from putting on clothes made for females, and vice versa. Perhaps, reading through this reflection, you might think about the trousers worn by women in our world today; or if you are "churcheous", you might ask about priests who wear flowing long robes that look feminine. But the albs, cassocks, or mantles worn by priests are masculine, and they have their origin from the ancient traditions of the Biblical times.

The fact remains that cross-gender-dressing is forbidden by the Bible (Deuteronomy 22: 5). However, trousers which women put on today were not one of the Biblical times outfits. But when trousers were invented and when women began wearing them would be subject for further reflections. In the New Testaments, Saints Peter and Paul made significant admonitions on the kind of clothes relevant for Christians.

For St Paul, women should dress "modestly", "decently" and with "propriety" (1 Timothy 2: 9-10). To be modestly dressed, St Paul admonishes that women should shun ostentatious dressing. To be decently dressed, St Paul calls for women not to put on shabby, awkward and indecent clothes. In which case obscene attires or styles are certainly not acceptable. Oftentimes, those who dress indecently might only be attracted to dress according to what is in vogue in the society than what is decent.

Think about grandmothers who put on the so called "push-ups". Of what purpose or interest is such youthful dressing to them? To dress with propriety is to dress with the moral probity that goes with Christian dress codes. Very many women are concerned about looking fashionable without considering if they are morally correct in their attires. Thus you may see women who just "dress to kill" irrespective of where they are going or of what age they are.

St Paul also draws our attention to our hairs and how we make them (1 Corinthians 7: 1ff). St Peter joins St Paul to emphasize the need for women to be concerned about their inner behaviors than to be distracted by their external looks in jewelries and expensive clothes. He admonishes women about adorning their inner self than their bodies with jewelries and expensive clothes (1 Peter 3: 2-5).

His advice falls in line with the Igbo proverbial wisdom that "agwa bu mma nwaanyi". In which case, it is better for the woman to be of good character and moral behavior than of good appearance. Dressing in the Bible calls for dressing modestly, decently and appropriately. Let us go do that today!

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