I was wondering if women according to the Bible are really allowed to adorn themselves in any way, or we should be like Amish. I was trying to analyze Greek texts and have a couple of questions:

In 1 Timothy 2:9, the word κοσμεῖν (adorn) is in the middle of the text but in both translations, it is transferred to the front, Paul says that women in respectable clothing with modesty and self-control, but translations say that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel in modesty and self-control. I feel like the first verse is more literal, and it doesn't say women are allowed to adorn themselves at all because the word adorn is used later referring to gold and pearls and costly clothes.

My second question is about 1 Peter 3:3 where the word adorning is at the end of the original text but has been transferred to the form again, does it mean the word adorn is referring to putting on adorned garments, or should be somehow transferred to the beginning?

1 Timothy 2:9 KJV

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; Greek: Ὡσαύτως καὶ τὰς γυναῖκας ἐν καταστολῇ κοσμίῳ, μετὰ αἰδοῦς καὶ σωφροσύνης, κοσμεῖν ἑαυτάς, μὴ ἐν πλέγμασιν, ἢ χρυσῷ, ἢ μαργαρίταις, ἢ ἱματισμῷ πολυτελεῖ,

1 Peter 3:3 KJV

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; Ὧν ἔστω οὐχ ὁ ἔξωθεν ἐμπλοκῆς τριχῶν, καὶ περιθέσεως χρυσίων, ἢ ἐνδύσεως ἱματίων κόσμος·

  • yes I know, my problem is why is word κόσμος is transfeered in orginal text from end to the beggining?
    – monique
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 10:33
  • 1
    Similar Question See Question #88264 for a related topic concerning "adorning of women." It deals more with 1 Peter 3:3.
    – ray grant
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 0:18

2 Answers 2


If I'm understanding you correctly, the question is about...

  • Whether "adorn" is attached to the verb or the noun (adorning oneself, or wearing adorned clothing)
  • Word order in the Greek
  • The application of the text itself (what does this mean for us today)

Understanding The text and context

In both examples the verb is attached to the woman. Paul is not speaking about adorned items. And so, we look at 1 Tim.:

“ὡσαύτως γυναῖκας ἐν καταστολῇ κοσμίῳ μετὰ αἰδοῦς καὶ σωφροσύνης κοσμεῖν ἑαυτάς, μὴ ἐν πλέγμασιν καὶ χρυσῷ ἢ μαργαρίταις ἢ ἱματισμῷ πολυτελεῖ,” (Τιμόθεον α 2·9 THGNT-T)

Here's my translation:

So also, I desire that women would dress themselves up in appropriate apparel—with modesty and thoughtful self-control, not in golden or pearled braids; or with expensive clothing.

1 Peter 3:

“ὧν ἔστω οὐχ ὁ ἔξωθεν ἐμπλοκῆς τριχῶν καὶ περιθέσεως χρυσίων ἢ ἐνδύσεως ἱματίων κόσμος,” (Πέτρου α 3·3 THGNT-T)

Again, my translation:

Let your dressing up not be the kind that is on the outside—braiding of hair, putting on golden [items], wearing [expensive] clothing.

Meaning of "adorn."

The word, "adorn" basically means, "to bring order to something." The venerable BDAG lexicon gives this definition:

  1. to put in order so as to appear neat or well organized, make neat/tidy (Od. 7, 13; X., Cyr. 8, 2, 6; 6, 11; SIG 1038, 11 τράπεζαν; PThéad 14, 18; Sir 29:26; 50:14; Just., A II, 5, 2 al; Tat. 12, 1; τὸν κόσμον Mel., P. 82, 616) trim, of lamps Mt 25:7. In imagery of a person as a house from which a possessive spirit has departed tidied, fixed up, put in order Mt 12:44; Lk 11:25 (for another nuance s. 2aβ below).
  2. to cause someth. to have an attractive appearance through decoration, adorn, decorate (Hes. et al.; LXX; SibOr 3, 426)

(BDAG, s.v. “κοσμέω,” 560.)

Notice, then, that we get two words in English from this word:

  • Cosmology (tidying up/arranging of celestial bodies out there in the universe)
  • Cosmetology (tidying up/arranging of ones self)

Word order

The word order doesn't matter. In Greek, the beginning and end of thought-units is emphatic. But the word order is quite flexible. English likes to have set patterns of word order (e.g. subject, verb, object, modifiers, etc)


In passages like these, it's very important to make the distinction between prescription and description.:

  • Description: This is what happened. Now learn from it.
  • Prescription: Do this precisely as it is spelled out here.

What Paul and Peter here are getting at is not as much an action (prescriptive) as an attitude (descriptive). How do we know this?

  • In 1 Timothy Paul speaks of the clothes/adornment that they are not supposed to put on. But, notice, that he doesn't give details as to what they are actually supposed to wear. What colors? What material? What cost? All of these sorts of details are left out because that's not the point. The point is: good deeds. One cannot, in a concrete way, wear good deeds. He's getting at an attitude in the heart, not a dress in the closet.

  • In the 1 Peter context we find the same pattern. After Peter speaks against outward adornments, when he speaks about what they are to wear, he doesn't speak about clothing or accessories. He speaks about a "humble and at-peace attitude" (“πραέως καὶ ἡσυχίου πνεύματος” (Πέτρου α 3·4 THGNT-T)).

How do we apply these words today? As we gather together for worship, it is not the place to put on display our own prominence or importance or prosperity. Churches are places where, all of us, are equally sinful and equally saved in Christ.

Asking the question, "how much jewelry can/should I wear (or not wear)" misses the point. Paul & Peter are not talking about the outside. They are talking about the attitude on the inside.

  • When you say that 'cosmos' [in the text] applies to cosmology (the created order) and that the word for cosmetology is also involved, would it be fair to say that cosmetics is meant? I was thinking of the LXX of Jeremiah 4:30 - putting on scarlet [clothing], ornaments of gold, painting the eyes (i.e. make-up for the eyes, cosmetics)?
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:39
  • 1
    Yep. The basic meaning is to bring order from chaos. But the slightly derived meaning is to bring beauty out of ugliness. The Jeremiah section (“κοσμήσῃ κόσμῳ χρυσῷ” (Jeremiah 4:30 LXXS-T)) would encompass that second, slightly changed meaning.
    – Epimanes
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 19:02

The word adornment is the key word in both verses, and according to English syntax, the subject comes first as opposed to Greek which has very flexible syntax or word order where they would arrange word order according to their choice or purpose of the point of argument. In Timothy, the same word kosmos is used in infinitive form, whereas in Peter, it is a noun. It depends on the translators on how do they want to convey the same in their target language. It doesn't change the meaning if they turn a noun to adjective.

The main meaning of kosmos is adornment, decoration. The space cosmos usage may have been used as the decoration of the heavens with stars. The meaning of both the verses is basically same, they are saying to adorn yourself with spiritual qualities rather than external. They are instructing against physical adornment or makeup and fancy clothing. However, this doesn't mean they are absolutely forbidding any kind of basic adornment and dressing etc.

cosmos (n.)


c. 1200, "the universe, the world" (but not popular until 1848, when it was taken as the English equivalent to Humboldt's Kosmos in translations from German), from Latinized form of Greek kosmos "order, good order, orderly arrangement," a word with several main senses rooted in those notions: The verb kosmein meant generally "to dispose, prepare," but especially "to order and arrange (troops for battle), to set (an army) in array;" also "to establish (a government or regime);" "to deck, adorn, equip, dress" (especially of women). Thus kosmos had an important secondary sense of "ornaments of a woman's dress, decoration" (compare kosmokomes "dressing the hair," and cosmetic) as well as "the universe, the world."

Pythagoras is said to have been the first to apply this word to "the universe," perhaps originally meaning "the starry firmament," but it later was extended to the whole physical world, including the earth. For specific reference to "the world of people," the classical phrase was he oikoumene (ge) "the inhabited (earth)." Septuagint uses both kosmos and oikoumene. Kosmos also was used in Christian religious writing with a sense of "worldly life, this world (as opposed to the afterlife)," but the more frequent word for this was aiōn, literally "lifetime, age."

The word cosmos often suggested especially "the universe as an embodiment of order and harmony." also from c. 1200

See some commentaries for better understanding of the phrasing on 1Peter 3:3:

Ellicott writes,

—The passage shows that the Asiatic Christians were not all of the poorer classes. Many of the wealthy Jewesses had joined them. The wealth of the Ephesian Christians about this time may be gathered from 1Timothy 2:9, and of the Laodiceans from Revelation 3:17. Two things are to be noted about the advice here given. (1) It is not intended directly as a corrective of vanity. St. Peter is not bidding them beware of love of dress, although (as Bengel points out) the three words of “plaiting,” “wearing” (literally, putting round oneself), and “putting on,” are intended to convey the notion of elaborate processes in which time is wasted. But the main thought is, How are the husbands to be attracted? Not, says St. Peter, by any external prettiness of adornment, but by inward graces. (2) The Apostle is not forbidding the use of gold, &c. Leighton (himself something of a precisian) says, “All regard of comeliness and ornament in apparel is not unlawful, nor doth the Apostle’s expression here, rightly considered, fasten that upon the adorning he here speaks of. He doth no more universally condemn the use of gold for ornament than he doth any other comely raiment, which here he means by that general word of putting on of apparel, for his ‘not’ is comparative; not this adorning, but the ornament of a meek spirit, that rather, and as much more comely and precious; as that known expression (Hosea 6:6), ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice?”

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 3. - Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair. A common Hebraism, like our Lord's injunction in John 6:27, "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which cndureth unto everlasting life." St. Peter does not forbid the moderate use of ornaments, but asserts their utter worthlessness compared with Christian graces. The ladies of the time seem often to have had their hair dressed in a very fantastic and extravagant manner. And of wearing of gold; rather, golden ornaments. Or of putting on of apparel. This verse shows that, although the mass of believers at this time belonged to the poorer classes, yet there must have been a proportion of persons of rank and wealth among the Christians of Asia Minor (comp. 1 Timothy 2:9; Revelation 3:17). 1 Peter 3:3

We see that the in these verses is the same as John 6:27 "​Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life" (ESV), it does not mean it is forbidding work for food in an absolute sense, but it is teaching about where your focus should be. As for the Biblical norm on modesty for women, we should remember the context that these words are written to Pagan converts, i.e. the Romans and Greeks, who were known to be sexual, indecent, immodest when it comes to the culture about women. The Western culture is derived directly from the Greco-Roman culture, hence, the surprise and shock of some believers when reading such passages in the New Testament warning against makeup, and indecent unnatural roles for women. The Jewish women did not wear any adornment, perfume etc. These things were considered characteristic of prostitutes in the Eastern and far Eastern cultures, from Israel, India, to China and Philippines. The writers of the Bible were Jews, from a particular culture and religion; we must therefore keep this cultural background when interpreting the text.

Searching on advance search on google books, we see the quote from Peter R. Rodgers · 2017, 1 Peter: A Collaborative Commentary - Page 82

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