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2/19/2009

"NOT WITH BRAIDED HAIR"


One of the misconceptions made over the centuries in Biblical interpretation has been in the reading of 1 Timonthy 2.8-10: "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands with out anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness - with good works." A similar verse is found in 1 Peter 3:1-4.

So what did these verses mean? They have been interpreted to demand long hair, lack of ornaments or jewlery, unfashionable clothes, and no makeup for women. Is this what it meant however to its initial audience? That is the question that must always be asked of Biblical texts.

If these texts were written at the end of the 1st century (and some do dispute that date), than what was going on then in the larger Roman society? It was the dominant culture of the times. The Flavian period in Roman history is notable for the appearance of complicated and outlandish hairstyles that incorrporated long, long coils of hair, often twisted with pearls and other ornaments. The front was pushed high up like a tiara and was worn by the "fashionables" of society. Compare it to the hair styles of the French Court of Marie Antoinette. It required servants, time, money, and an emphasis on self.

So when the writer of the book talks about a woman not braiding her hair he did not mean just braiding the hair - good women had done that for centuries. What was inferred - and no doubt well understood by the audience - was the Christ-like woman will have better things to do than follow the crazy fashions based on status and ego. Instead of sitting for hours using resources of staff and time to sport an incredible hair do - she will use her time to do good works, spread the gospel, and minister kindness to her world.
Additional reading/viewing:
P.S. - It is interesting to note that some of the groups who have so mandated strict adherence to these rules of holiness ignore 1 Tim.2.8 " ...men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or quarreling..." Kind of makes you go "hmmmm"?

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