Monday, July 13, 2009

History and Deuteronomy 22:5 (part two)

Deuteronomy 22:5 isn't hard to understand.

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.

Even if someone were to rely on modern translations (which are made from the same Hebrew text in this instance), he would come to the same conclusion about what it says:

NASV A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.

NIV A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

We see nothing in the verse about Canaanite worship or women in the military or transvestism. It is about as straightforward as it can get.

Even further, and this is important, the verse doesn't say, "women, don't look like men," "men, don't look like women," or "you've got to be able to tell the difference between men and women." Those are only means by which someone can ignore the verse. It also doesn't say, "This issue is a joke!" Which is the most common argument that I hear. Or another version of the same argument, "This is so stupid!" Given by outstanding Bible scholars.

In almost every case, I've found in a debate or discussion over Deuteronomy 22:5 that those who do not want to obey it will start with arguing about what it means. Once they find out that they can't get any traction there, then they argue about the application. When someone has been unbiased and without predisposition in studying a passage, he won't discuss or debate this way. He starts from scratch with the desire to understand the meaning and the application, not explain it away.

I've dealt with the interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5. Now I will show you that women in dresses and skirts and men in pants is how that it has been practiced. I'm just the messenger. I think men and women are equal. They have differing roles. The differing roles are seen in their distinct design. Men and women are different. God wants those differences reflected in designed distinctions in their clothing. Western civilization and particularly the United States practiced these designed distinctions. They still have never been replaced with other designed distinctions. This is reflected in the comment of experts in the history of fashion.

Kidwell, Claudia Bush Kidwell and Valerie Steele write in Men and Women: Dressing the Part (pp. 2-14):

In analyzing gender identities, we use the term gender conventions to refer to the social and cultural expectations of behavior, clothing, and images that have divided men and women into separate spheres. . . . [T]he existence of these behavioral standards has always been an integral part of our social structure. . . . When we examine how clothes define an individual, we must also set the man or woman within the context of their (sic) place and time. . . . The full impact of these gender conventions on fashion is only revealed when the two sexes in fashion history are examined side by side. It then becomes obvious that historically clothing has served to separate men and women. . . . Consider the image of a woman dressed in pants. It is a clothing symbol laden with gender meaning. . . . The most obvious division in clothing today is between trousers and skirts. . . . In Europe, over the centuries, flowing robes became associated with femininity and tailored trousers with masculinity. . . . Women in Europe did not wear trousers because the garment had acquired such strong masculine connotations.

Allison Lurie in The Language of Clothes (p. 224) writes:

Real trousers took much longer to become standard female wear. It was not until the 1920s that women and girls began to wear slacks and even shorts for sports and lounging. The new style was greeted with disapproval and ridicule. Women were told that they looked very ugly in trousers, and that wanting to wear The Pants in our culture, for centuries, the symbolic badge of male authority, was unnatural and sexually unattractive. . . . This freedom, however was limited to the private and informal side of life. Wearing slacks to the office or to the party was out of the question, and any female who appeared on a formal occasion in a trouser suit was assumed to be a bohemian eccentric and probably a lesbian. . . . At Frick Collection library in New York (in the 1960s) women [were] not admitted unless they [were] wearing skirts; a particularly ancient and unattractive skirt [was] kept at the desk for the use of readers ignorant of this rule.

Ann Hollander in Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress (p. 53) writes:

Trousers for respectable women were publicly unacceptable except for fancy dress and on the stage, and they were not generally worn even invisibly as underwear until well on in the nineteenth century. At that period the common adoption of underpants by women seems to represent the first expression of the collective secret desire to wear pants, only acceptably brought out on the surface with the bicycling costumes of the 1890's, and only finally confirmed in the twentieth century with the gradual adoption of pants as normal public garments for women. . . . Pants were still a forbidden borrowing from the male, so unseemly that they could only be generally hidden until their time finally came.

The movement away from gender distinct dress has been termed the "unisex movement." This movement was a purposeful erasing or blending of the delineating lines between male and female appearance. An article in the 1970 Compton Encyclopedia Yearbook states, "Paris couturer Jacques Esterel states that identification of the sexes in terms of clothes will become a thing of the past. He designed an identical tunic and pants outfit for father, mother, and child . . . unisex clothes." In Life magazine, January 9, 1970, Rudi Gernreich writes, "When proposing his vision of the future of fashion in 1970, he predicted that the traditional apparel symbols of masculinity and femininity would become obsolete, . . . women will wear pants and men will wear skirts interchangeably. The pant-skirt controversy is a male-female role controversy." Kidwell and Steele write (p. 144):

Controversial fashion changes such as women adopting trousers can only take place after women's roles in society have altered. The mass acceptance of a style may accompany a change in public opinion, but does not precede it. Dress reformers were correct in seeing the connection between women's roles and their clothing, but erred in believing that by changing the costume, changes in gender conventions would automatically follow.

Our country practiced the pants as male dress and the dress or skirt as the female dress. Those were the designed distinctions. None other served as the distinction between the genders. They were erased by the culture because the culture didn't care to keep those distinctions any longer, despite what God had said. They were replaced by nothing.

For more information on this topic, read the study here.


Jude said...

Rev. Brandenburg,

Forgive me if I've missed other posts by you dealing with this, but I was of the understanding that the law no longer applies to Christians. That it kept us, being a tutor, for grace. How is this passage still applicable as a cultural mandate?

Cultural understandings and boundaries shift. A skirt in the United States is associated with femininity while in Scotland is proudly worn as a symbol of masculinity. At what point does clothing that was once considered appropriate for one gender become appropriate for another?


Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Jude for your comment.

First, regarding the law, I've written on this over at Jackhammer on a couple of occasions. I write there usually once a week. However, Jesus said that He didn't come to destroy the law. Based on 2 Cor 3, I believe that we see, as someone else has put it, that "the mechanism for progressive sanctification is not to be found in legal commandments. It is found in the Spirit." The law is good if used lawfully and sin is the transgression of the law. Those are both NT.

Related to the application. No offense, but I did answer your last question in this post. The designed distinction must be replaced by another. That hasn't happened. There's a reason, our culture doesn't care. It actually wants the designed distinction erased, thinking that egalitarianism is superior. We're not supposed to be cooperating with that as Christians or churches.


What is the distinct male article in our culture? When I say "the," I'm talking about at least one that has been worn continuously and publically. I think there is only one that had been that article. History agrees with that assessment. However, if pants are not it, then what would that male article be today? I'll await your answer.

Anonymous said...

So would you consider a kilt
permissble in scottish culture? Here is a site that actually considers the notion that men wear only pants as oppression they even have links to other sites: zyra.orguk: skirts for men. To be entirely consistant one would probably have to accept men's skirts along with womans's pants.BTW I don't know that i understand the Ann Hollander about
underpants. Does she mean the advent of woman's underwear like women have today or something different?

Jude said...

Rev. Brandenburg,

Thank you for the quick and courteous response.

I'm sorry if I'm missing something, but how do we choose which of the laws from the Torah to still follow? Why should I assume that this law (unless otherwise dealt with in scripture) still applies?

While I'm not sure I agree with your premise (that Deuteronomy 22:5 still applies to us) I don't think that verse asserts that each culture will have one or more article of clothing that will absolutely always be gender specific. It appears that it's saying that if there is gender specific clothing that it is not to be mixed. So for our culture I think undergarments or clothes specifically designed for one gender (e.g. skirts, womens' suit pants) would be a good example of that. While, as you quoted, the feminization of pants was done partly to equalize the genders (or remove gender distinctions) that was a different culture than the one we operate in today. By the mid-60's it was perfectly acceptable culturally. Our culture no longer even thinks about it. And while we certainly don't take our moral cues from culture, for something that is culture specific this is the key component.



Kent Brandenburg said...


You're asking essentially, how do we use the law lawfully to put it within that particular phrase that we see, I believe, in 1 Timothy. Paul relied on the law regularly and one specific example which comes to mind is in the middle of 1 Cor 9 when he quotes a verse from Deuteronomy and applies it to the right for a minister to be paid. He quoted it again in 1 Timothy 5, "Muzzle not the ox that treadeth out the corn."

Obvious in Deut 22:5 is the morality of it as seen in the person violating the prohibition becoming an abomination to God. This is not a judicial or ceremonial law. It is not a picture fulfilled in the reality of Jesus nor is it a law that was strictly applied to the nation Israel. When you have the phrase in the OT, "all who do so," it applies to everybody, Jew and Gentile. This connects it with created order.

God still expects the designed distinction even if the culture purposefully erases it. And the truth is, pant-skirt has actually not been replaced. Still today our culture understands that the skirt/dress is female and pants are male, as seen in the pictures on the bathroom doors. Now the culture may violate that standard repeatedly as we might expect, Christians are not to do that, or we are living just like the world. And there should be no contention from the churches on such a designed distinction (1 Cor 11:16). Why would there be a contention? Which there regularly is when this subject is brought up. It is a controversial subject due to the meaning packed into the symbols in the designed distinctions. They are more than about "telling the difference," but supporting God's design, which happens to put men in authority.

One of the temptations for Christians since Christianity began was to accommodate and accede to the world, so as not to feel the reproach that comes with obedience to God's Word. The world loves darkness because its deeds are evil, so marvel not if it hates you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm sorry I didn't get to your question. I've only seen one place in the United States where the male skirt is marketed and that is at the gay pride parade in SF. Most would associate men wearing skirts with sodomites. Regarding the kilt in Scotland---it is a distinctly male dress---it is a historic short article of clothing that hearkens back to centuries before pants were even worn. If I wore a plaid skirt, however, in this culture, it would not be the same.

Kelly said...

Dear Pastor,

If I'm reading your post correctly, are you saying women should only wear skirts, and men wear pants?

If so, does this mean we should not be eating pigs (Deut. 14:8), wear mixed linens (Deut. 22:11), or eat unclean meat (Lev. 11:1-10)?

I'm just trying to understand how some scriptures apply today, and others do not and I appreciate you taking the time to write.

With warmest regards,


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for your question. We see all over the NT that we are to obey the OT law. Certain laws, yes, have been dropped based on God's revelation.

However, we have plenty of basis to believe that we are to obey the law. We can't be saved by keeping it, but if we are save then keeping it will be the tendency of our new nature. 1 John says that sin is the transgression of the law. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy that the law is good if used lawfully. In 1 Cor 9, Paul used the law to justify pay for Christian servants. He quoted the text in Deuteronomy about not muzzling the ox that treads out the corn.

Regarding Deuteronomy 22:5, it isn't a command for just the nature Israel. It is for everyone. The verse says, "all who do so." And then someone who violates the prohibition is an abomination to God. That means it is a moral law. And finally we have a repeat of this standard in 1 Corinthians 11 with God's support of the cultural distinction of female head coverings.

Joshua said...

Thought this might be of interest. Was trying to find more of the other side of the pants debate and came across this. Apparently Dr. Mariottini disagrees with you on the matter of pants, and is attempting to answer your posts here and at Jackhammer.

Kent Brandenburg said...

His answer, tell me if I'm wrong, Joshua: I said, Moses told women not to wear pants. There we go. And so he finds pictographs of Egyptians without pants. Argument over. I'm left wagging my head. I don't foresee a profitable conversation.

You represented my arguments perfectly and succinctly. It's nice to hear someone actually read what I wrote.

Gary said...

Ok, I know that I said that out of respect for you and your site that I would stop commenting on this subject (because I think that I was annoying you), but I need some clarification on your June 8th post.

Joshua mentioned on Dr. Mariotinni's site that you do not hold the position that their was an authority issue in Deuteronomy 22:5. When I read over the comments section of your June 8th post it seemed pretty clear to me that you were not only using 1 Cor. 11 to show the "sin" of today's women, but also hinting that authority was one of the reasons behind the need for the law in Deuteronomy.

If I misread your comments then please clairify.

I'm not trying to annoy you, so when you answer I won't respond unless I'm asked a question. God bless.

Joshua said...

Your foresight is remarkable. His second post then went on to lay out a "the Law was evolved over time, so we know that Deut 22:5 must have been a product of growing Levitical hostility to other religious practises" argument.

Both posts were refuted in short order, so he deleted all the comments and locked both. Now they're having a scoff at some guy on Youtube for "teaching crazy stuff". I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

Kent Brandenburg said...


As you attach yourself to Claude Mariottini, understand that he has a liberal approach to scripture. That kind of historico-rationalistic approach is post-enlightenment humanism mixed with the Bible.

Authority isn't in Deut. 22:5, but 1 Cor 11 shows that the distinctions in dress relate to role. God designed a different role for the two genders and that is shown by the distinctions in their dress. That is clear in 1 Cor 11.

Wearing the male garment makes a woman an abomination to God. Why? He designed women distinct and He wants women to reflect His perfect design. It is a kind of rebellion against God that is akin to other abomination.

You see this fleshed out in history in that the early feminist movement crusaded for a change in dress distinctions.


He makes the commandments of God of no effect. I appreciate your encouragement.

Kent Brandenburg said...


One more thing. Notice that Mariottini admits that the commentators I quoted take the same position as I. His argument against is that they didn't have the archeology to come to the right position. How does that square with Holy Spirit illumination and no private interpretation? Also the sufficiency of scripture? Scripture without archaeology equals the wrong interpretation?

Mjones said...

What I want to know is- if i have a relationship with Christ, asked forgiveness of my sins, daily relate to Him in prayer and reading his Word, witness to others, pray for others, teach sunday school, proclaim Him as my Saviour i still going to hell for wearing pants?

Joshua said...

The Bible plainly teaches that those who are truly born again will evidence their salvation and will continue on with the Lord (John 10:27-28; 1 Cor. 15:1,2; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 6:4-9; 10:38; 1 John 3:3). The one who permanently falls away demonstrates that he did not belong to the Lord in the first place (Heb. 12:5-8). If a professing Christian murders someone, it probably proves that he was not genuinely saved. Revelation 21:8 is similar to 1 John 3:9. These passages are not talking about an act of sin but a way of life of sin. If these passages are referring to an act of sin, no one can be saved. It is obvious from other passages that a Christian can commit any act of sin, including idolatry and adultery (1 John 1:8-10). This is why we are often warned not to commit these evils (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:6,14; 1 John 5:21). Salvation is to be placed into an entirely and eternally new position in Jesus Christ. The old flesh cannot be redeemed; it can only be condemned and crucified. Our new position in Christ is that our old man is dead and we rise to new life in Jesus Christ. The law can no longer condemn us. Please study Romans 1-8 very carefully, for it holds the key to understanding salvation properly, as well as the proper place of sin and the law in the Christian’s life. Salvation requires perfection, and the only perfection that we can ever have is that which we receive from Jesus Christ because of the Propitiation He purchased on Calvary. Even one sin will keep me out of Heaven, but, praise God, I do not have any sin in Christ. He has taken it all away forever.

Johnathan said...

According to your answer to Kelly you said: Thanks for your question. We see all over the NT that we are to obey the OT law. Certain laws, yes, have been dropped based on God's revelation.

According to Matthew 5:18 (King James Version)
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

I interpret that as no laws have been dropped. Can you explain why some laws are dropped?
Thank you

Denise said...

I think the issue with the stance that you have taken is that you move from a biblical command spoken by God, to interpreting it through the lens of secular, cultural fashion trends and your understanding of the meaning of those trends. And that's where the analysis loses its power. Even if when one accepts Deuteronomy 22:5 as a command that we are to obey today, I think you have more work to do in showing that pants designed for women are garments that pertain to a man. I don't simply mean pants in the general sense, but specifically women's pants...which are generally distinguishable from men's pants (sometimes not, but capris for instance, are solely for women).

What pertains to men and what pertains to women in terms of clothing is understood culturally, and such understandings (like the passages you quote show) evolve over time. Clearly in Scripture, both men and women wore tunics, yet a man wearing a tunic today would be seen as either wearing a dress of some sort, or at the least dressing oddly.

It seems like you're trying to say that because men only wear pants--short or long (whereas women wear dresses as well), culturally pants belong to men. That's an arbitrary imposition of meaning. Since the gender connotations of clothing are culturally determined, society's general perception of pants on women will be the main determinant of whether or not they pertain solely to men, or to both men and women--like tunics did in the Bible. Today's society, regardless of what it thought in times past, does not believe that pants are solely for men, just like in biblical times, tunics were not solely for one gender or the other. They were for both. Since we have a clear biblical example of a basic type of garment that both genders wore without offending God, it stands to reason that there could be basic types of garments today that both genders wear that does not offend God.

I think that you are overcomplicating the text in that you are making it to say, "Women should not wear pants," when it says nothing of the sort. You are relying on your understanding of pants rather than on the text to validate your position. The verse says that men and women should not wear that which pertains to the other gender, and we already have distinctions in our culture between men and women's clothing--whether pants, shorts, dresses, capris, skirts, skorts, etc. I don't think that people disagree with keeping Deuteronomy 22:5 (as obviously most Christians are against cross-dressing) as much as they disagree with your understanding of the nature of pants.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Denise,

Thanks for coming over. I think it's interesting that you say I'm over complicating it. Here's a question that I often ask people to help with this issue. You say that most Christians are against cross dressing---I think that was true at one time, but not today. What is the male garment that distinguishes the man as male and in contrast to the woman, agreeing with God's designed distinction between man and woman?

When Christians were against cross-dressing, the male article was pants. Men "girded up their loins as a man," like God told Job. With the removal of pants, there is no male garment.

When women started wearing pants, all Christians were opposed. Men no longer had a garment that was distinctly male. There was a point to women wearing pants. There has never been any kind of cultural distinction between men's pants and women's pants. There was no definitive design point to differentiate women's pants as women's. The point of women's pants was to eliminate the designed distinction.

I haven't noticed any kind of stand taken by any modern Christian against women wearing "men's pants." I've never read an article taking a stand on "women's pants." They just don't care. I'd be interested to find out if you care if these women, who wear "men's pants" are an abomination to God. That's a strong statement of prohibition by God, as strong as one sees in Scripture. The reason there isn't anything done on this is because people generally don't actually care. I'd like to see your work against women wearing "men's pants." For instance, what in particular are the designed distinctions, the cultural ones, that our culture has specifically pointed out that show the difference between men's pants and woman's pants? I'll be awaiting those. I'd be glad for you to point out the articles that establish that and that would indicate the time put into making sure those designs are kept.

The point of Deuteronomy 22:5 is designed distinctions, designed differentiation, clear ones, not for the elimination of those.


Denise said...


I'm a bit surprised at how strongly you insist that the culture has made no distinction between men's pants and women's pants. I think a quick trip to a department store would show clearly that there are notable differences. Whether by cut, color, choice of fabric, pattern, etc.

Many people noticed when men started wearing "skinny jeans" that they look too much like jeans designed for girls. I don't consider them appropriate for men, even though they are pants...just like I wouldn't consider capris or culottes, bootleg cut or wideleg jeans, etc. appropriate for men, although they too, are types of pants. The fact that there are plenty of pants that a man could put on and be perceived as dressing like a woman shows that there are indeed recognizable distinctions between pants for men and pants for women.

Likewise, women wearing men's pants look like they are doing so. A grade school teacher wore men's suits. Even as a child it was clear that she was a woman wearing a man's suit. I had seen women's pantsuits and never thought they were for men. But this teacher was obviously wearing men's pants and a man's dress jacket.

I happened to stand behind an young man in the grocery store who was dressed like a teenaged girl. But, he was certainly wearing pants--they were just obviously girl jeans. He was also wearing a blazer, but that too, was clearly designed for women. There was no question that he was a transgendered person, and one who would garner a lot of attention as he walked down the street. If a "pant" were simply masculine, period, and never feminine, then there would have been nothing unusual about the way that man was dressed. But there was something unusual and wrong about it--his choice of jeans and jacket clearly showed that he identifies with women's fashions and there was no ambiguity about that fact.

Another man could have easily chosen jeans made for men, the same color blazer (cut appropriately for men) and a t-shirt and looked completely normal and masculine.

If the particular argument you're making stands, and any pants a woman wears are inherently masculine, then a man should be able to pick out any pair of pants from a woman's closet and be seen as wearing men's clothing. Because what is being said is that it doesn't matter whether the pants were designed for women and are clearly recognized as such--it's the form of the garment itself that makes it masculine. But we know that's not the case.

If a woman presents herself in men's clothing, that is an abomination to Him, as is when a man presents himself in women's clothing. It seems that you want what is a man's garment and what is a woman's garment to be determined purely by the outline of the garment. I think the better position to take is to avoid wearing clothes that others would identify as dressing like the opposite sex.

And that distinction is not so culturally blurry as you are making it out to be. If you go into an office building and imagined all the men and women switching clothes, the vast majority of women would look like they were dressed as men, and the vast majority of men would look like they were dressed as women. That's what I meant when I mentioned things being overcomplicated. It seems that to support what you are saying you have to first convince your audience that we are in a state of mass androgyny caused by women wearing pants, no one recognizing cross dressers, etc., and I really don't think that's the case.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You didn't answer my questions. I asked simple questions and you gave complex and wandering answers.

We are to obey the text. Deuteronomy 22:5 speaks of the male item and female clothing, an item distinctly for a particular gender. The woman is not to have on the male item and the man is not to wear the woman's garment. I asked you what the male item was, and you say, "looked like." The passage doesn't say "looked like."

The women in Corinth still looked like women with or without a head covering, but that wasn't the point.

Pants were the distinguishing, designed male garment. Women started wearing them. Christians protested, Christians gave in, and the male item wasn't replaced. You are saying, yes, it was replaced by men's pants. That's just not the case. Nothing has replaced pants as the male item. You say cut, color, style of fabric, but none of those has been delineated as male or female. You are saying that, yes, skinny jeans are a female garment, and yet you also say that men wear them. Does that make the men who wear skinny jeans an abomination?

The point of pants on women was to take away the distinction. Do you admit that? Do you admit that the opposition to women wearing pants was in a major way because of the symbolism of male authority? What is now the symbol of authority for men? That is the male item. What is it?

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing, Denise. If a daughter took a pair of blue jeans off the "men's rack or shelf" and wore them, loose fitting ones, would she be an abomination to God? Please answer the question.

Joshua said...

Simply put - would you call a woman following this fashion an abomination:

Shaziane Codrington said...


My main, if not only concern, is what the clothing of the day was when Deuteronomy 22:5 was written. I think that point would be of extreme importance. In tv shows based on a time period that I assume is close to that time both men and women wore what I think are called bliaud, garments of a frock-like nature. If this is correct, what were their gender distinctions? And if their apparel were so close what is the problem with today's attire namely men and women pants being close.

With no context surrounding this next could it not also be that it was more symbolic of the male and female roles as in 1 Cor 11:3?


KJB1611 said...

The web address for the sermon on Deut 22:5 has changed; it is now here:

in the section here:

Anonymous said...

Concerning the issuse. Of weather woman should not wear pants as Christians my whole thing is were called to be different were no longer tied to sin but free and then saved by grace I mean like I no longer wear pants and that's just because the simple fact that I'm a Christian and think of .it this way what ever you wear say or do that's who you are representing in that present moment okay so yes I think Christians are not supposed to wear pants because .there not representing Christ a t that moment please keep in mind that were calling ourselves christains so we should represent Christ all the time

Anonymous said...

ChristIan's are called to be different