1 Timothy 2:9–10, a Brief Look

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; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 1 Timothy 2:9–10, King James Version


From the Greek κόσμιος, which means “orderly, i.e., decorous” (Strong) or “well arranged, seemly, modest” (Thayer). The primary meaning of the word is related to the Greek word from which we get “cosmos”: that of something being well-arranged. This word does not mean, “cover as much skin as possible” or “dress so that you will not cause a reaction in men.”


From the Greek αἰδώς, which means “bashfulness” (Strong) or “a sense of shame or honour, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect” (Thayer). A woman’s attitude ought to be one of honor and shame, shame before God (for we are all sinners) and honor toward her husband.


From the Greek σωφροσύνη, which means “soundness of mind” (Strong) or “1) soundness of mind 2) self-control, sobriety” (Thayer). Women here are specifically told to be self-controlled and of sound mind. Losing control (via drunkenness or otherwise) will no doubt lead to a woman rather quickly losing her modesty and shamefacedness.

The above passage is often used to instruct women to dress in such a way as to not be “provocative,” but that does not seem to be Paul’s intent here. After he lays down the positive instructions, he then sets down a few negations, negations which are notable for what they don’t negate: Paul encourages women to not dress in costly clothes and fancy jewelry with fancy hair styles, but he doesn’t say a thing about bikinis, v-neck shirts, short sleeves, shorts, and so on.

Paul tells women to adorn themselves in good works, but doesn’t say a thing about dresses, skirts, or (egads) culottes.

I’m not saying “Go forth and tankini!” Rather, I’m making the above observations and submitting them for your consideration. Maybe I’m on to something here. Maybe I’m not. Discuss.

2 thoughts on “1 Timothy 2:9–10, a Brief Look”

  1. And the version that I prefer (English Standard) has something different still. That’s why I derived the definitions used from Greek dictionaries rather than English dictionaries. I quoted from the King James for the simple reason that it is the version my Greek concordance is linked to.

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