Is it permissible for women to wear pants?

From BelieveTheSign

William Branham taught that if a woman wears pants, she simply isn’t a Christian.

But is this biblical? What does the Bible say?

What the Bible teaches

The New Testament does not allow a person to bring Old Testament law into the new covenant.

The New Testament clearly holds women to a standard of modesty (1 Tim. 2:9). But it is not an issue of salvation. And it is not an issue of the type of garment.

We have personally seen message women wear a dress in an immodest fashion and have also seen women in pants that would be considered quite modest.

Deuteronomy 22:5 states,

KJV - 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.
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.

But we are no longer under the Mosaic law. We are not under the old covenant.

Paul clearly teaches that Christians are no longer under the law instituted under Moses. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 3:14, the Mosaic covenant is identified as “the old covenant” in contrast with “the new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6) of which Paul is a minister. The phrase “old covenant” implies that that covenant enacted with Moses is no longer in force and that it has been replaced by the new covenant. The old covenant is clearly identified with the law, for the letters engraved on stone, which are clearly the Ten Commandments, reflect the content of the covenant (2 Cor. 3:6–7). 2 Corinthians 3:7–18 teaches that the old covenant has passed away.

It follows that if the Mosaic covenant is no longer in effect because it has been replaced by the “new covenant,” then the laws, which belong to that covenant, are no longer binding either.

The letter to the Galatians supports the interpretation proposed for 2 Corinthians 3. Paul’s aim in the letter is to persuade the Galatians to refuse to accept circumcision as the initiation rite into the church of Jesus Christ, even though circumcision was required to belong to the covenant people of Israel (Lev. 12:3). In Galatians 2:15–3:14 Paul emphasizes that circumcision is unnecessary since the Galatians are justified by faith and not works of law. Furthermore, they received the Spirit by faith; hence one becomes a son of Abraham by faith and not by works of law.

In Galatians 3:15–18 Paul specifically distinguishes the Mosaic covenant from the covenant with Abraham. The latter came 430 years before the former, and thus the provisions and stipulations of the Sinai covenant cannot nullify the promises of the covenant made with Abraham.

The Mosaic covenant and law were added by God for a limited period of time (Gal. 3:19); and now that Christ has come as the promised seed, the law is no longer valid. It was God’s intention all along that the law would last only until faith in Christ became a reality (Gal. 3:23). Now that Christ has arrived, the era of the “guardian” (Gal. 3:24–25) has ended. It seems hard to imagine how Paul could be any clearer in saying that the era of the law has ended. But in case his readers have not grasped what he is saying, he revisits the issue in Galatians 4:1–7. Here he uses the illustration of an heir who is a minor so that the time of his inheritance has not yet arrived. The time of slavery before the promise was fulfilled is identified as the epoch when Israel was “under the law” (Galatians 4:4–5). Now that the “fullness of time” has come and God has sent his Son to liberate those under law, the era of the law has ceased.

This is also clear in Romans. First, Paul says believers are no longer “under law” (Rom. 6:14). Romans 10:4 asserts that Christ is “the end of the law.” The word translated “end” here is telos, which can be translated as “end” or “goal.” Christ is the goal to which the law points; and when the goal is reached, the law also comes to an end. Believers are no longer under the Mosaic law.

Paul’s discussion in Romans 5:12–21 views the Mosaic covenant as no longer operative. History is dominated by two figures: Adam and Christ. Adam introduced sin and death into the world, but Christ triumphed over Adam, so that righteousness and life now reign through him.

We see another indication that the law has come to an end from Romans 7:6, where believers are released from the law through the death of Christ. Release from the law intimates that the law is no longer in force.

The Pauline discussion on food in Romans 14:1–15:6 suggests that the law is no longer normative. The Old Testament law clearly forbids the eating of certain foods (Lev. 11:1–44; Deut. 14:3–21). Paul, however, identifies the weak as those who have a restricted diet (Rom. 14:2), whereas those who are strong feel free to eat anything. Paul clearly speaks about the food laws in the Old Testament when he declares, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (Rom. 14:14). The word koinos (“common”) is regularly used elsewhere of foods deemed to be unclean in the Old Testament (cf. 1 Macc. 1:47, 62; Acts 10:14; 11:8). It is quite clear that the legitimacy of eating foods forbidden by the Old Testament is the subject of discussion in Romans 14:20: “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.” The term translated “clean” (katharos) often refers to what is considered to be pure (e.g., Lev. 10:10; Deut. 14:20; 23:11 LXX). What is remarkable is that Paul declares foods that are forbidden by the Old Testament law and the Mosaic covenant to be clean (cf. also Col. 2:16, 20–22). Such a conclusion indicates that believers are no longer required to obey the stipulations of the Mosaic law, and this in turn suggests that the Mosaic covenant is no longer in force.

Finally, a few other observations confirm that the Mosaic law is no longer in force. Circumcision was mandated in the Mosaic law (Lev. 12:3). Indeed, Moses was nearly killed by the Lord himself because his son was uncircumcised (Exod. 4:24–26). Furthermore, Israel could not enter the Land of Promise without being circumcised (Josh. 5:1–9). But Paul clearly teaches that circumcision is no longer necessary to belong to the people of God (Rom. 4:9–12; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:2–4, 6; 6:15).

If the initiation rite into the Mosaic covenant is no longer required, then it follows that the covenant itself is no longer operative. In the same way, the Sabbath was a central part of the Mosaic covenant (e.g., Exod. 20:8–11), but Paul identifies the Sabbath along with the food laws as part of the shadows that give way to the substance, who is Christ himself (Col. 2:16–17).

Similarly, in Romans Paul is unconcerned if one considers every day to be alike (Rom. 14:5–6). He almost certainly thinks of the Sabbath here, but he reckons it to be a matter of inconsequence. Paul’s attitude of indifference relative to the Sabbath indicates that it is no longer normative. A new era has dawned in which the Mosaic covenant has passed away. This reading is confirmed by Ephesians 2:15. Jews and Gentiles in Christ are now one new man, for Christ has “[abolished] the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” In other words, one reason Jews and Gentiles are unified is that the requirements of the Mosaic covenant, which separated Jews from Gentiles, have become passé.

But doesn't the Bible says it is an abomination to God?

We have heard the argument that the sin of "dressing like a man" was worse than other sins because it was an "abomination" to God, a special class of sin that God particularly hated. As a result, this command carries through to the New Testament. Is this a valid argument?

Does the word "abomination" refer to a special class of sin?

The root Hebrew word תֹּועֵבָה (towʿebah, pronounced "to·ay·baw")[1] is translated by the KJV as "abomination" or "abominable" depending on the sense. In order to determine whether the argument is valid, we need to look at other uses of the word.

In Deuteronomy 14 we read:

Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.  These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat, the hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.  And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.  Nevertheless, these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.  And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcass.  These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: 10 And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.[2]

So eating catfish, clam chowder, crab cakes or shrimp tacos are also an abomination to God. Eating bacon or a pulled pork sandwich is as bad as a woman wearing pants.

It is clear then that the use of the word "abomination" does not somehow mean that the sin described carries through to the New Testament... unless you believe that Jewish dietary laws are also in effect today.

If it was a special type of sin, wouldn't the punishment be special as well?

You would think that if a woman wearing a man's garment was a special type of sin, there would be a more extreme form of punishment.

But there isn't.

The penalty for breaking Deuteronomy 22:5 (cross dressing) is the same as for Deuteronomy 22:11 (wearing clothing made from linen and wool).

Conclusion

In 2 Corinthians 3:7, Paul refers to the law as the ministry of death:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone...[3]

"Engraved on letters of stone" is clearly a reference to the ten commandments.

If the Mosaic covenant is no longer in effect because it has been replaced by the “new covenant,” then the laws, which belong to that covenant, are no longer binding either.[4]

Paul says believers are no longer “under law” in Romans 6:14. The law is no longer in effect. Romans 10:4 asserts that Christ is “the end of the law.” Paul’s discussion in Romans 5:12–21 explains that the Mosaic covenant is no longer operative. We see a further indication that the law has come to an end from Romans 7:6, where believers are released from the law through the death of Christ. Release from the law means that the law is no longer in force.

The Old Testament law clearly forbid the eating of certain foods (Lev. 11:1–44; Deut. 14:3–21). Paul, however, identifies the weak as those who have a restricted diet (Rom. 14:2), whereas those who are strong feel free to eat anything. Paul sides theologically with the strong. He clearly speaks about the food laws in the Old Testament when he declares, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (Rom. 14:14). It is quite clear that the legitimacy of eating foods forbidden by the Old Testament is the subject of discussion in Romans 14:20: “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.” The term translated “clean” (katharos) often refers to what is considered to be pure (e.g., Lev. 10:10; Deut. 14:20; 23:11 LXX). What is remarkable is that Paul declares foods that are forbidden by the Old Testament law and the Mosaic covenant to be clean (cf. also Col. 2:16, 20–22). Such a conclusion indicates that believers are no longer required to obey the stipulations of the Mosaic law, and thus the Mosaic covenant is no longer in force.

Finally, a few other observations confirm that the Mosaic law is no longer in force. Circumcision was mandated in the Mosaic law (Lev. 12:3). Indeed, Moses was nearly killed by the Lord himself because his son was uncircumcised (Exod. 4:24–26). Furthermore, Israel could not enter the Land of Promise without being circumcised (Josh. 5:1–9). But Paul clearly teaches that circumcision is no longer necessary to belong to the people of God (Rom. 4:9–12; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:2–4, 6; 6:15). If the initiation rite into the Mosaic covenant is no longer required, then it follows that the covenant itself is no longer operative. In the same way, the Sabbath was a central part of the Mosaic covenant (e.g., Exod. 20:8–11), but Paul identifies the Sabbath along with the food laws as part of the shadows that give way to the substance, who is Christ himself (Col. 2:16–17). Similarly, in Romans Paul is unconcerned if one considers every day to be alike (Rom. 14:5–6). He almost certainly thinks of the Sabbath here, but he reckons it to be a matter of inconsequence. Paul’s attitude of indifference relative to the Sabbath indicates that it is no longer normative. A new era has dawned in which the Mosaic covenant has passed away. This reading is confirmed by Ephesians 2:15. Jews and Gentiles in Christ are now one new man, for Christ has “[abolished] the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” In other words, one reason Jews and Gentiles are unified is that the requirements of the Mosaic covenant, which separated Jews from Gentiles, have become passé.[5]

Given that the Mosaic law is no longer in effect, there can be no commandment that forbids women from wearing pants. More problematically, pants were only invented 500 years ago and so Deut 22:5 could not have been aimed at women wearing pants.

This was simply the opinion of William Branham and did not come from scripture.

William Branham's opinion

William Branham taught that if a woman wears pants, she simply isn’t a Christian:

But if she’s got bobbed hair, wearing makeup, shorts, pants, looks like man’s, all these slacks and ever what they call them; saying those kind of things, and doing those things, and living for the world, she’ll stop; she can’t get through There. No, sir. It’ll stop her at the beginning. (65-0822E - A Thinking Man's Filter)
How could you draw a bobbed-hair woman through that Filter? Tell me. How could you ever draw a woman that wears slacks through There, when “It’s an abomination for her to put on a garment pertains to a man”? See, God’s Filter would catch her out there, It wouldn’t let her come in. (65-1207 – Leadership)
How could a bobbed-haired woman ever come through this Filter? How could a woman with shorts on ever come through It, or slacks, when the Bible says, “It’s an abomination to God, for a woman to put on a garment that even pertains to a man”? (65-0911 - God's Power To Transform)
Who’s powerful enough to tame this legion stripping the clothes off of our women, in the name of preachers, Methodist, Baptist, and even Pentecostals? Painting their faces like Jezebel, and bobbing their hair, and wearing pants just like men. Our preachers, not enough get up about them to tell them about it. Devil-possessed! It was the legion that tore his clothes off of him. Who is this roaring devil? (61-1119 - Perfect Strength By Perfect Weakness)


Footnotes

  1. James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995)
  2. The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Dt 14:3–10.
  3. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 2 Co 3:7.
  4. Thomas R. Schreiner, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law, ed. Benjamin L. Merkle, 40 Questions Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2010), 67.
  5. Thomas R. Schreiner, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law, ed. Benjamin L. Merkle, 40 Questions Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2010), 69-71.


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