So where did the doctrine of modesty begin?
The lack of covering was not an issue until Adam and Eve sinned. They were naked in plain sight, but their nakedness was not an issue until they transgressed God’s law.
Of course, there was no organized or informal religion in the Garden of Eden, to influence their decision to cover their nakedness.
Therefore, modesty is a divine ordinance established by God for social discipline, in order to recover the moral integrity that mankind lost because of Adam’s sin. God’s command concerning modesty did not originate from a religious sect or from a social group’s need to share a common identity, simply because there was only one family in existence when the doctrine was established. Neither is modesty a gender specific doctrine to females, because God made coats of skin to cover both Adam and Eve. The ordinance of modest covering was for them and for all their succeeding generations.
However, as mankind multiplied in number, so did their corrupt doctrines, customs, and traditions. It was then that those who were faithfully observing God’s law needed to emphasize the difference between proper and improper covering.
How Does the Scriptures define nakedness?
Nakedness is the state or condition of being unclothed, improperly clothed (as in Adam’s aprons), having no clothing upon the body (as prior to the fall), stripped to the skin, and having only an undergarment on as in Peter’s situation (John 21:7). Also read Job 24:7, 10.
The following Scriptures give instruction on what must be covered:
⇒ The breasts of women – (Ezekiel 23:3,18-21; Proverbs 5:19-20)
The buttocks of men and women – (Isaiah 20:4)
⇒ The loins which includes reproductive organs – (Genesis 46:26; Isaiah 20:2)
⇒ Genitals of men and women – (Habakkuk 2:15-16; Nahum 3:5)
⇒ Exposed thighs – (Isaiah 47:2-3)
⇒ It is a shame and wickedness to look on the nakedness of someone of the opposite sex who is not one’s spouse . (Leviticus 20:17)
⇒ It is not a shame to see the nakedness of one’s spouse — their nakedness belongs to their spouse and no other. (Leviticus 18:8,16)
⇒ God specified that the priests would wear breeches under their outer garments to ensure their nakedness (the loins and the thighs) was not seen as they ascended the stairs during their course of duties (Exodus 28:42).
⇒ It was a shame for David’s men to be seen with their garments cut off very close to where their legs met their butt cheeks (1 Chronicles 19:4-5; 2 Samuel 10:4-5)
So where did the doctrine of modesty begin? Since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind was taught to cover their nakedness.
The church is not the author of peace, the Lord God is (1 Corinthians 14:33). His name is a strong tower, where the righteous run in and find safety (Proverbs 18:10). The doctrine of modesty or decency discourages inordinate affection and unbridled lust… to cover our shame. The Scriptures refer to these vices as concupiscence (Romans 7:8; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-7), which is defined as the lascivious defiance against God, because of our natural inclination to sin. More commonly, it refers to man’s exaltation of vain imaginations.
This discipline did not begin in the written law that God gave Moses. Nor did the Pauline epistles teach it as a new doctrine for the church. It is not a new doctrine! And no, it is not a religious invention! It is God’s intervention into the affairs of man that have gone wrong. Inappropriate apparel, nakedness, offensive lifestyle, and improper behavior and conversation have become so commonplace in this world that we are desensitized to the devastating effects it is having on our children and weak-willed adults.
God is using the religious, political, and social segments in the world to speak out against indecency. God can use anyone or anything that he wants to spread his message, because he created them all for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11; Romans 13:1-2). All segments of society are affected by the confusion that results. Confusion is the fog that prevents mankind from seeing God. God’s plan is to bring mankind back to him.
Many people talk of the neo-Christian and ultra-conservative Christian’s observance of modesty as if those groups are the authority on the subject. The Muslim, the Mennonite, the orthodox Jew, and traditional and contemporary Amish societies are also thought to possess some particular knowledge of the subject, but they definitely are not its originators. Yet, each group might learn something from the other, even though all of these groups differ in their interpretations of modesty.
But which religious order is accurate? Or should each of us choose what we like or are willing to live with. So where do we go for clarity? It all started with the creator of this world (Matthew 7:7-8). He created mankind and gave them instructions on how to maintain a peaceful and productive society (Romans 1:20-32). Only God can regulate our society. So the answer is that we all need to get closer to God.
Understanding the Biblical Greek origin and meaning of the words modest and apparel, as used in 1 Timothy 2:9.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
The word modest, G2887, in Strong’s Concordance, as used in 1 Timothy 2:9 is the Greek word (κόσμιος) that is transliterated into English as kosmios (kos’-mee-os). Its meaning is an orderly arrangement, well arranged (e.i. decoration): also adorning, seemly or appropriate, of good behavior, modest.
With the word Kosmios, Paul is telling women to wear clothing that is appropriate for the given situation.
The word apparel, G2689, in Strong’s Concordance, as used in 1 Timothy 2: 9 is the Greek word (καταστολή) that is transliterated into English as katastolē (ka-ta-stoh-LAY), which comes from two Greek words, Kata and Stole. Its meaning is a lowering, letting down; a garment let down, dress, attire.
The Hebrew ma‛ăṭeh (mah-at-eh’), 4594, as used in Isaiah 61:3, is equivalent to the Greek katastole. It is derived from the Hebrew word ‘atah which means to cover, enwrap, wrap oneself, envelop oneself.
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)
Old and New Testament Lexicon Dictionary, Studylight.org
Order is not a restriction, it promotes peace. We cannot have peace if we do not have order.
Modesty is not merely a dress code, it is order. Order is self-control. The more disorder we tolerate, the more that disorder seems normal. Adam and Eve’s new behavior did not evolve, it was learned. Immodesty is a learned behavior. By all accounts, the concept of modesty was introduced into mankind by the actions of one person, in one place, at one specific point in time. In the beginning they knew God. But because of sin, now we must teach the world to come to know God.
Unfortunately, human nature is not naturally bent toward order or self-control, but towards chaos and lawlessness. Adam and Eve needed God, who created human society, to provide a deterrent to its self destruction.
In the beginning, everything that God created he called good, including Adam and Eve.
Immorality was not among mankind, in the beginning. Yet it existed, because of Lucifer’s rebellion, before mankind’s fall. But after the Fall, immorality entered our spiritual and physical condition. Lucifer’s sin became our sin, too. Adam and Eve’s physical condition changed, because immediately they knew that they were naked. Their spiritual condition also changed, because their transgression separated them from the glory of God. Chaos invaded the peaceful world they once knew. They attempted to hide from God. That is what sin does, it makes us ashamed.
But sin contaminated the earth’s order… not the religious order… but God’s creation. Disorder began to rule and it had to be extinguished, so that order could be restored. Therefore, God established a law to control this destructive, life threatening disorder.
Philip Jeske, the author of The Chaos of Nature, expounds upon this in the following article:
Before the Fall, Satan wanted to destroy God’s creation, but could not touch man because of God’s protective covering.
When God made the world, He said that “it is good” and then established for it a protective environment (Psalm 104: 29-30). It was a place of unrestricted fellowship with God, without the influence of sin. He preserved the Garden, by causing it to continually flourish for its inhabitants. And protected Adam and Eve, with his Shekinah glory, from potential danger from the fallen angel, who was lurking in the Garden in disguise. They had never been separated from God. So here they are now…separated from God.
Yet they voluntarily allowed Satan to contaminate their spiritual and earthly condition, through a mere lie. Satan had no rule over them, as long as they were “under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1) they and the earth were untouched by evil. No sickness, no disease, no famine, no earthquake, no gender confusion, no inordinate affection, no hypocrisy, no jealously, no vice was possible as long as they remained obedient to God. As long as God covered them, they had peace and contentment.
So now, in this generation, we also need to cover our earthy bodies and choose to accept God’s spiritual covering, so that we too can have peace. God says in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
The Consequential Human Condition
Adam’s corruption would pass from generation to generation (through his offspring). And in the place where man was to see God’s blessing – namely, in multiplying and being fruitful – he would now see God’s curse. All of Adam’s descendants would know the guilt and the shame of spiritual and physical nakedness before God.
© 2018 Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc.
Religion cannot deliver us and the agencies of our societies cannot change us. Only He who created our original state can grant us peace.