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1 Timothy 2:9 NIV

9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,

But in the letter to the Corinthians Paul had acknowledged that long hair is the glory of a women and given also as a covering.

1 Corinthians 11:15 NIV

15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Why then does Paul seem to have an issue about elaborate/braided hairstyles?

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  • A related question.
    – Lucian
    Jul 8 at 11:45
  • a woman has long hair, does not mean she displays the long hair. It represents her dignity, womanhood, (glory) and needs to be hidden.
    – Michael16
    Jul 8 at 18:04
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1 Corinthians 11:15 NIV

but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Having long hair is natural.

1 Timothy 2:9 NIV

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes

Elaborate hairstyles are artificial. They are adornments or embellishments. Peter concurred in 1 Peter 3:3

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.

The apostles were against women spending time and money on the superficial outward appearance of hairstyling. Instead, they should focus on the inward character:

4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

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How to understand 1 Timothy 2:9 in light of 1 Corinthians 11:15?

Consider another example: Suppose you are drawn to a certain style of dress that could possibly disturb some in the congregation. Yet, you may know of no specific Bible law that forbids it. What is God’s mind on the matter? The apostle Paul offered this inspired counsel: “The women should adorn themselves in appropriate dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive clothing, but in the way that is proper for women professing devotion to God, namely, through good works.” This eaqualy applies to Christian men.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 NET

Conduct of Women

9 Likewise[a] the women are to dress[b] in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control.[c] Their adornment must not be[d] with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, 10 but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.

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I agree with what has already been stated in that long hair and extensively adorned hair are different. I'd also like to add some historical context with respect to 1 Timothy.

Timothy is leading the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), a major city in its region, where Paul himself had lived for more than 2 years (see Acts 19), and home to the Temple of Artemis/Diana--one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world and a hotspot for the cult of Diana (e.g. see Acts 19:23-28).

Cult of Diana

The cult of Diana connection is interesting because verse 9 is specifically calling out hairstyles the prostitutes of the cult of Diana were known for:

From Gregory Brown:

In that culture, temple prostitutes were known for their extravagant attire and beaded hair. (see here)

JRW Stott has written:

The courtesans wore their hair in numerous small pendant braids with gold droplets or pearls or gems every inch or so, making a shimmering screen of their locks (Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus p. 84)

I propose that the single most valuable key to understanding the verse is that the church in Ephesus is being counseled: don’t associate with the cult of Diana. In fact, don’t even look like them (this is the man who taught "Abstain from all appearance of evil" - 1 Thess. 5:22). Paul provides general counsel: be modest, and then a specific cultural/historical application: don’t dress like the cult of Diana.

Showing off Wealth

I also agree that flaunting wealth is at issue here. As John MacArthur observed:

The expensive dresses worn by wealthy women could cost up to 7,000 denarii. Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman historian, described a dress of Lollia Paulina, wife of the Emperor Caligula, which was worth several hundred thousand dollars by today’s standards (Natural History 9.58). Dresses of the common women could cost as much as 500–800 denarii. To put that into perspective, the average daily wage of a common laborer was one denarius. Because of the extreme expense, most women probably owned only two or three nice dresses in their lives. For a wealthy woman to enter the worship service wearing an expensive dress would shift the focus of attention to her. It could also stir up envy on the part of the poorer women (Or their husbands). (1 Timothy p. 79)

In a society that didn’t have cars or technology to show off, clothing was all the more a status symbol--Paul wants the saints in Ephesus to know that is not what worship is about.

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This is about unity.

The early churches were house gatherings that consisted mostly of people who were poor and did not come from the upper classes. But there were some converts who came from wealthy backgrounds. These were used to adorning themselves with expensive gold and pearls and having servants spend hours elaborately braiding hair and putting on make up unavailable to most.

Now imagine going to such a gathering and wearing a gold earing worth more than the life savings of everyone sitting next to you. Or sitting down perfectly coiffed and braided while the women you were sharing a meal with just got done scrubbing floors for six hours. This would create divisions in the church. So instead, women are to adorn themselves with good works, which are available to all.

But the passage about length of hair to Timothy is not about suppressing class divisions but maintaining gender divisions. Paul is arguing about submission and covers, that wives are to submit to their husbands as the type of the bride submitting to Christ, and men are to lay down their lives for their wives also as the type of Christ dying for the Bride. E.g. that the genders were types and the natural should serve the spiritual. However this was not a class division as almost all women could and did have long hair (unlike men, many of whom were bald and could not grow long hair), so this was not a question of exclusivity. Moreover here too, the goal was unity - the unity of the husband with the wife - which was a type of the unity of the Bride with Christ, and in that union, the Church would also be unified.

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These messages arguably do not contradict. They relate to modesty and women should cover themselves and dress modestly. The veil / covering of hair was usual practice at the time and Nuns still cover their hair / head.

1 Corinthians 11:5-15 – itself appears contradictory. V5 relates to women praying / prophesising – yet v6 appears to make a general point of covering. V15 could be seen as contradicting v6 – but is more likely related to general point that women should keep long hair and men short hair see v14. Also Ezekiel 44:20

1 C 11:5-15 - 5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved. 6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. 11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Man should trim

Ezekiel 44:20 ESV / 123 - They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads.

1 Timothy 2:9-13 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

1 Peter 3:2-5 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,

Genesis 24:65 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

Isaiah 47:2 - 2 Take millstones and grind flour; take off your veil. Lift up your skirts, bare your legs, and wade through the streams.

Deuteronomy 22:5 5 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.

Matthew 5:27-28 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Mark 9:47 - And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

Conclusion The point being made is that women should cover their heads and dress modestly - not just when praying but in general. This is also to protect man committing adultery with the eye and looking at women with respect and honour.

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