Christian Modesty
By William & Mary Leary
Last Updated on December 18, 2015

What does it mean to be modest? Is modesty a women’s issue only? Does God really care about what type of clothing we wear? What did the early Christians believe about fashion and apparel? Many Christians find it difficult to honor the Scriptural mandate for modesty when little or no guidance is offered from their local congregations, and living among a culture that places so much emphasis upon following Hollywood’s increasingly immodest trends. Our objective in this article is to encourage the reader to be strong in the face of all of this opposition and to embrace a standard of dress that is fitting for God’s people.

Fashionably Bound

Have you ever noticed what the people around you are wearing? As I once pondered this thought, I realized that many of the people I encountered on a daily basis looked very similar to one another. The women all had blue jeans with the same design on the back pockets, indicating they all shop at the same stores. They often wear the same style shirts. Even their make-up and hair cuts are alike. I have noticed this to be true throughout the years. The styles may change, but one thing that remains the same is the fact that people all want to dress very similarly to one another.

Take a look at some old photos. It doesn’t matter how old they are. You can typically tell at least the decade in which the picture was taken by looking at the clothing people are wearing and the manner in which they style their hair. I have old pictures of my family, and we often pull them out and laugh at the clothes that used to be popular during the different decades. In the 70s it was the bell bottom jeans, the flare collar shirts, and the long hair parted in the middle. In the 80s it was skinny jeans, neon shirts with belts around the waist, and a shag haircut. In the 90s we wore baggy jeans, flannel shirts and we were back to the longer hair styles. In the last decade we have worn boot cut jeans, “girl-cut” cap-sleeve shirts, and a bobbed haircut. So why is this true for countless families across the world? The answer is clearly fashion. If I had worn the bell bottom jeans that were so popular in the 70′s in 1984, I would have been laughed at and labeled “stuck in the 70s.” But there were plenty of clothes that were still perfectly useable left over from the 70s that ended up in the trash because they were not “in” anymore. So people would go out to the shopping malls and spend money to buy more clothes even though the ones they already had were in perfectly usable condition. How wasteful!

Fashion tells our society that we are not good enough or do not measure up unless we have this certain style clothing, which changes from year to year. This is bondage in my opinion. One is expected to keep up with all of this, spend countless dollars in the salons, malls, shoe stores, and make-up counters, all to be considered worthy of attention from their peers. This is slavery to an industry with an obvious underlying reason to push these delusions upon a person: SELL MORE STUFF!!! They need to keep this perpetual change in motion in order to keep their grips on our pocket books! And our spiritual enemy loves it too because it often keeps us from honoring God with our clothing, hair, and money. Fashion is a man-made system of expectations that our culture has placed on us. It is what Scripture calls “of the world,” which we are not to love or follow (Matt 5:25-34, John 15:18-21, 17:13-19, 1 John 2:15-17).

Biblical Modesty

As Christians, our clothing should reflect simplicity, humility, purity, and chastity, as the word modesty implies. Yet, it is not at all uncommon for Christian women to be seen in public wearing tight fitting jeans, low-cut shirts, mini-skirts, tank-tops, half-shirts, or swimwear resembling undergarments. But such has not always been the case. Less than 60 years ago this type of dress would have been considered scandalous for believers. So what changed? How did Christianity become so liberal?

God’s Word is not silent concerning the matter of clothing as modern Christianity would lead one to believe. I have often heard it taught that God does not care what you are wearing. I suppose there is some truth in that, but taken to its fullest extent, I would say this statement is in error. If He did not care what we are wearing, why then did God Himself make clothes for Adam & Eve? Why did Paul instruct the women in Ephesus to adorn themselves in modest apparel (1 Tim 2:9-10)? Why did Peter also instruct the women in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to refrain from focusing on the outward adornment of fine apparel (1 Peter 3:3-4)? And let us not overlook the Old Testament instruction that men are to refrain from wearing women’s clothing, and likewise women refrain from wearing men’s clothing (Deut 22:5). These passages suggest that God does have boundaries concerning how we dress.

1 Timothy 2 –
“…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. ” (vs. 9-10)

1 Peter 3 –
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (vs. 3-4, KJV)

Deuteronomy 22 –
“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.” (vs. 5)

Outward Adornment: Jewelry & Makeup

It is evident from the New Testament that some level of modesty is expected. One of the first things that really jumped out at me was that the Bible commands that women refrain from buying costly clothing. This eliminates 99.9% of any mall purchases (unless of course you can wait until the end of the season and hope they still have your size when they present their clearance prices).

I also noticed that the Bible instructs us not to wear gold or pearls. Many would consider it legalistic to say that jewelry is an adornment we should flee from, but that is precisely what Scripture says; “Do not let your adornment be outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel.” Some modern translations unjustly insert the word “merely” into the passage (merely is an inference of the translators, the word does not appear in the Greek text), which completely changes the meaning. What most people do not know is that this command also includes a prohibition against makeup. Peter understood that the wearing of fine clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics, originated with arts learned from the fallen angels. Yes, fallen angels taught women to enhance their beauty which increased godlessness and fornication;

1 Enoch –
“And Azâzêl [one of the fallen angels] taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals [of the earth] and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways.” (Chapter 8)

Remember, Jude quoted from the Book of Enoch in his Epistle which is recorded for us in the New Testament; “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (vs. 14-15, from Enoch chapter 2). The early Christians recognized this and refrained from all jewelry and cosmetics. We should do likewise and refuse to adopt the evil practices given to mankind through fallen angels. Holy Scripture teaches us to be content with the appearance that God has given us and to dress in simple, modest clothing.

Tertullian (AD 198)

“For they [the fallen angels], withal, who instituted them are assigned, under condemnation, to the penalty of death—those angels, to wit, who rushed from heaven on the daughters of men; so that this ignominy also attaches to woman. For when to an age much more ignorant (than ours) they had disclosed certain well-concealed material substances, and several not well-revealed scientific arts— if it is true that they had laid bare the operations of metallurgy, and had divulged the natural properties of herbs, and had promulgated the powers of enchantments, and had traced out every curious art, even to the interpretation of the stars— they conferred properly and as it were peculiarly upon women that instrumental mean of womanly ostentation [pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice], the radiances of jewels wherewith necklaces are variegated, and the circlets of gold wherewith the arms are compressed, and the medicaments of orchil with which wools are coloured, and that black powder itself wherewith the eyelids and eyelashes are made prominent. … And these are the angels whom we are destined to judge: these are the angels whom in baptism we renounce: these, of course, are the reasons why they have deserved to be judged by man. What business, then, have their things with their judges? What commerce have they who are to condemn with them who are to be condemned? The same, I take it, as Christ has with Belial.”1Tertullian (AD 198), On the Apparel of Women, Chapter II.

Let’s face it, the Scripture does teach that adorning ourselves with gold is immodest and against the will of God for His people. I would encourage anyone purchasing costly clothing or adorning themselves with gold to pray and reconsider their position on these issues. In baptism we, like the early Christians, renounce the devil, his pomp, and his angels. Also, throughout history makeup has been associated with prostitutes. It is not clear from the Masoretic Hebrew text, but in the Greek Septuagint the book of Genesis says that Tamar enticed Judah by hiding her face with a veil, only exposing her painted eyes. This is why he did not recognize who she was but believed her to be a harlot;

Genesis 38 –
“And [Tamar] having taken off the garments of her widowhood from her, she put on a veil, and ornamented her face [with cosmetics, Strongs #2566.5], and sat by the gates of Ænan, which is in the way to Thamna, for she saw that Selom was grown; but he gave her not to him for a wife. And when Judas saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; for she covered her face, and he knew her not” (vs. 14-15, LXX)

It is also a Biblical command to keep the traditions just as they were handed down from the Apostles; “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess 2:15). Notice that the Apostle Paul commands that we keep the traditions whether they were taught by word OR epistle. This means that the traditions passed on by the Apostles verbally to their disciples were valuable. Thankfully we have many of their writings as well, so we get a broader view into what the “word” was they handed down to their students. In those writings we find no shortage of commentary on what was meant by Biblical standards of modesty. Please refer to the last part of this article for early Christian quotes.

Androgynous Clothing

Now let’s examine the passage in the Old Testament I cited; Deuteronomy 22:5. Using the word of God in its entirety, we should be interpreting the New Testament passages in light of what we have already learned in the Old Covenant. I believe that it was already expressed in the Old Covenant that women and men should wear distinctly different clothing. Yet in our generation many people have blurred the line between these two distinct appearances. For most of history up to the 1960′s, it was expected that women would wear dresses or skirts when out in public, and men would wear pants. Ironically enough, our generation has removed these standards resulting in gender confusion and identity crisis. Men have also traditionally worn beards, or some sort of facial hair, had short hair, and have worn pants or trousers. Women have traditionally had long hair, worn dresses, and stayed home with their children. We are now seeing men with shaved faces, long hair, and even wearing make-up in many circles. Women are now wearing pants, short hair, and are rarely home to raise their families. They have forsaken their calling for careers.

I firmly believe that if men go back to being men; leading their homes, providing for their families, lovingly guiding their children; and women go back to being women; managing the home, caring for their husband’s needs, and teaching their children; we would see a sharp decrease in the gender confusion that plagues our adolescents today. My husband and I want to make a strong distinction of the genders for our child(ren). I have worn skirts for about 4 years at the time this article is being written, and I have grown my hair (which the Bible says is a glory to women 1 Corinthians 11:15), and I have started wearing a head covering (for more about the prayer veil Click Here).

Modesty In Other Walks of Life

Modesty has been prized for all of time by people of many different faiths and walks of life apart from Christianity. Perhaps the Muslims are the most well known in the world today for their virtues of modest dress (abaya, burqa), head coverings (hijab, or niqab), and lowered gaze. Hindu women have traditionally worn a dress called a Sari that is brightly colored and yet tastefully conceals the form of the wearer. The Anabaptist women are often found in a cape dress and bonnet. And Orthodox Jews are also noted for the wearing of a covering (both the women and the men wear coverings in the traditional Jewish faith) and modest dress. Even many Pagans practice the head coverings and modest dress for various reasons. Most of the men of these faiths also practice modest dress to some degree. Many men wear tunic shirts that cover from the collar bones to the thighs, and loose fitting pants. Some wear coverings as well, as this is what their scriptures require.

While there are some different perspectives and expressions between these groups, they all have one thing in common. They all are convicted to keep their bodies covered out of respect for their god, men and women alike. All of them are at least covered over the knees, over the shoulders, and up to the collar bones (and of course everything in between these anatomical land marks as well). Many cover even more than that, and some, such as the Muslims that practice wearing the burqa, are completely covered from head to toes. However, none of these are found wearing less. The Bible plainly teaches that Christian women should be modestly dressed. So why is it that the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Pagans, are more widely known and respected for their practice of modesty than Christians? Shouldn’t we be the leaders in this area? Why are we known in the world as the ones that don’t practice modesty? Often times when a person is a Christian and convicted in the area of modest dress, they are chided by their contemporaries as being “legalistic.” Is obedience to the Biblical commands legalism?

Believe it or not the practice of wearing the hijab did not originate with the Muslims. History reveals that wearing the hijab was in practice within the Judeo/Christian Faith before Muhammad was ever born. The abaya was also worn by Christian women in the Middle East for many centuries before Muhammad. I believe this is out of obedience to the Biblical commands of modesty that have been all but lost by contemporary Christianity. I believe that if the first century Christians were to look on at the world today, just based on the issue of modesty, they would likely assume that the Muslims that practice modesty were the Christians. I often wonder what they would suppose the modern Christians to be.

Women Wearing Pants

The practice of women wearing pants really did not take root in our culture until World War II. American men enlisted and went to war against Nazi Germany (to view our articles on Christians and War Click Here), and while they were away the women went to work to keep the country running. This was a major turning point in our history. Ladies wore their husband’s working clothes so that their dresses would not get tangled up in the machinery. Once the husbands returned home women continued to work outside the home for more independence and to earn a second income. At the same time, in Hollywood, the actress Katharine Hepburn wore pants on screen and off, and made them fashionable for women. Now it is expected that women have a job and the affects of this era continue to erode the family unit.

References from Church History

Clement of Alexandria (AD 190)

“But by no manner of means are women to be allotted to uncover and exhibit any part of their person, lest both fall, — the men by being excited to look, they [women] by drawing on themselves the eyes of the men.” (The Instructor, Book II, Chapter II)
“More nobly the apostle says, “Be haters of the evil; cleave to the good.” For he who associates with the saints shall be sanctified. From shameful things addressed to the ears, and words and sights, we must entirely abstain. And much more must we keep pure from shameful deeds: on the one hand, from exhibiting and exposing parts of the body which we ought not; and on the other, from beholding what is forbidden. For the modest son could not bear to look on the shameful exposure of the righteous man; and modesty covered what intoxication exposed–the spectacle of the transgression of ignorance. No less ought we to keep pure from calumnious reports, to which the ears of those who have believed in Christ ought to be inaccessible. … For neither are knee and leg, and such other members, nor are the names applied to them, and the activity put forth by them, obscene. And even the [genitals] are to be regarded as objects suggestive of modesty, not shame. It is their unlawful activity that is shameful, and deserving ignominy, and reproach, and punishment. For the only thing that is in reality shameful is wickedness, and what is done through it.” (Ibid., Chapter VI)
“For luxurious clothing, which cannot conceal the shape of the body, is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily, and adhering as it were to the flesh, receives its shape, and marks out the woman’s figure, so that the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, though not seeing the body itself.” (Ibid., Chapter XI)
“Consequently neither is the hair to be dyed, nor grey hair to have its colour changed. For neither are we allowed to diversify our dress. And above all, old age, which conciliates trust, is not to be concealed. But God’s mark of honour is to be shown in the light of day, to win the reverence of the young. For sometimes, when they have been behaving shamefully, the appearance of hoary hairs, arriving like an instructor, has changed them to sobriety, and paralyzed juvenile lust with the splendour of the sight.
Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning [i.e. make-up]. But let us show to them the decoration of sobriety. For, in the first place, the best beauty is that which is spiritual, as we have often pointed out. For when the soul is adorned by the Holy Spirit, and inspired with the radiant charms which proceed from Him—righteousness, wisdom, fortitude, temperance, love of the good, modesty, than which no more blooming colour was ever seen—then let coporeal beauty be cultivated too, symmetry of limbs and members, with a fair complexion. The adornment of health is here in place, through which the transition of the artificial image to the truth, in accordance with the form which has been given by God, is effected. But temperance in drinks, and moderation in articles of food, are effectual in producing beauty according to nature; for not only does the body maintain its health from these, but they also make beauty to appear” (Ibid., Book III, Chapter XI)
“Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl. Nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled.” (Ibid.)

Tertullian (AD 200)

“Handmaids of the living God, my fellow-servants and sisters, the right which I enjoy with you—-I, the most meanest1 in that right of fellow-servantship and brotherhood—-emboldens me to address to you a discourse, not, of course, of affection, but paving the way for affection in the cause of your salvation. That salvation—-and not (the salvation) of women only, but likewise of men—-consists in the exhibition principally of modesty. For since, by the introduction into an appropriation (in) us of the Holy Spirit, we are all “the temple of God,” Modesty is the sacristan and priestess of that temple, who is to suffer nothing unclean or profane to be introduced (into it), for fear that the God who inhabits it should be offended, and quite forsake the polluted abode. But on the present occasion we (are to speak) not about modesty, for the enjoining and exacting of which the divine precepts which press (upon us) on every side are sufficient; but about the matters which pertain to it, that is, the manner in which it behoves you to walk. For most women (which very thing I trust God may permit me, with a view, of course, to my own personal censure, to censure in all), either from simple ignorance or else from dissimulation, have the hardihood so to walk as if modesty consisted only in the (bare) integrity of the flesh, and in turning away from (actual) fornication; and there were no need for anything extrinsic to boot—-in the matter (I mean) of the arrangement of dress and ornament, the studied graces of form and brilliance:—-wearing in their gait the self-same appearance as the women of the nations, from whom the sense of true modesty is absent, because in those who know not God, the Guardian and Master of truth, there is nothing true. For if any modesty can be believed (to exist) in Gentiles, it is plain that it must be imperfect and undisciplined to such a degree that, although it be actively tenacious of itself in the mind up to a certain point, it yet allows itself to relax into licentious extravagances of attire; just in accordance with Gentile perversity, in craving after that of which it carefully shuns the effect. How many a one, in short, is there who does not earnestly desire even to look pleasing to strangers? who does not on that very account take care to have herself painted out, and denies that she has (ever) been an object of (carnal) appetite? And yet, granting that even this is a practice familiar to Gentile modesty—-(namely,) not actually to commit the sin, but still to be willing to do so; or even not to be willing, yet still not quite to refuse—-what wonder? for all things which are not God’s are perverse. Let those women therefore look to it, who, by not holding fast the whole good, easily mingle with evil even what they do hold fast. Necessary it is that you turn aside from them, as in all other things, so also in your gait; since you ought to be “perfect, as (is) your Father who is in the heavens.” (On the Apparel of Women, Book II, Chapter I)
“You must know that in the eye of perfect, that is, Christian, modesty, (carnal) desire of one’s self (on the part of others) is not only not to be desired, but even execrated, by you: first, because the study of making personal grace (which we know to be naturally the inviter of lust) a mean of pleasing does not spring from a sound conscience: why therefore excite toward yourself that evil (passion)? why invite (that) to which you profess yourself a stranger? secondly, because we ought not to open a way to temptations, which, by their instancy, sometimes achieve (a wickedness) which God expels from them who are His; (or, ) at all events, put the spirit into a thorough tumult by (presenting) a stumbling-block (to it). We ought indeed to walk so holily, and with so entire substantiality of faith, as to be confident and secure in regard of our own conscience, desiring that that (gift) may abide in us to the end, yet not presuming (that it will). For he who presumes feels less apprehension; he who feels less apprehension takes less precaution; he who takes less precaution runs more risk. Fear is the foundation of salvation; presumption is an impediment to fear. More useful, then, is it to apprehend that we may possibly fail, than to presume that we cannot; for apprehending will lead us to fear, fearing to caution, and caution to salvation. On the other hand, if we presume, there will be neither fear nor caution to save us. He who acts securely, and not at the same time warily, possesses no safe and firm security; whereas he who is wary will be truly able to be secure. For His own servants, may the Lord by His mercy take care that to them it may be lawful even to presume on His goodness! But why are we a (source of) danger to our neighbour? why do we import concupiscence into our neighbour? which concupiscence, if God, in “amplifying the law,” do not dissociate in (the way of) penalty from the actual commission of fornication, I know not whether He allows impunity to him who has been the cause of perdition to some other. For that other, as soon as he has felt concupiscence after your beauty, and has mentally already committed (the deed) which his concupiscence pointed to, perishes; and you have been made the sword which destroys him: so that, albeit you be free from the (actual) crime, you are not free from the odium (attaching to it); as, when a robbery has been committed on some man’s estate, the (actual) crime indeed will not be laid to the owner’s charge, while yet the domain is branded with ignominy, (and) the owner himself aspersed with the infamy. Are we to paint ourselves out that our neighbours may perish? Where, then, is (the command), “Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself? “Care not merely about your own (things), but (about your) neighbour’s?” No enunciation of the Holy Spirit ought to be (confined) to the subject immediately in hand merely, and not applied and carried out with a view to every occasion to which its application is useful. Since, therefore, both our own interest and that of others is implicated in the studious pursuit of most perilous (outward) comeliness, it is time for you to know that not merely must the pageantry of fictitious and elaborate beauty be rejected by you; but that of even natural grace must be obliterated by concealment and negligence, as equally dangerous to the glances of (the beholder’s) eyes. For, albeit comeliness is not to be censured, as being a bodily happiness, as being an additional outlay of the divine plastic art, as being a kind of goodly garment of the soul; yet it is to be feared, just on account of the injuriousness and violence of suitors: which (injuriousness and violence) even the father of the faith, Abraham, greatly feared in regard of his own wife’s grace; and Isaac, by falsely representing Rebecca as his sister, purchased safety by insult!” (Ibid., Chapter II)
“I see some (women) turn (the colour of) their hair with saffron. They are ashamed even of their own nation, (ashamed) that their procreation did not assign them to Germany and to Gaul: thus, as it is, they transfer their hair (there)! Ill, ay, most ill, do they augur for themselves with their flame-coloured head, and think that graceful which (in fact) they are polluting! Nay, moreover, the force of the cosmetics burns ruin into the hair; and the constant application of even any undrugged moisture, lays up a store of harm for the head; while the sun’s warmth, too, so desirable for imparting to the hair at once growth and dryness, is hurtful. What “grace” is compatible with “injury?” What “beauty” with “impurities?” Shall a Christian woman heap saffron on her head, as upon an altar? For, whatever is wont to be burned to the honour of the unclean spirit, that— unless it is applied for honest, and necessary, and salutary uses, for which God’s creature was provided— may seem to be a sacrifice. But, however, God says, “Which of you can make a white hair black, or out of a black a white?” And so they refute the Lord! “Behold!” say they, “instead of white or black, we make it yellow—more winning in grace.” And yet such as repent of having lived to old age do attempt to change it even from white to black! O temerity! The age which is the object of our wishes and prayers blushes (for itself)! A theft is effected! Youth, wherein we have sinned, is sighed after! The opportunity of sobriety is spoiled! Far from Wisdom’s daughters be folly so great! The more old age tries to conceal itself, the more will it be detected. Here is a veritable eternity, in the (perennial) youth of your head! Here we have an “incorruptibility” to “put on,” with a view to the new house of the Lord which the divine monarchy promises! Well do you speed toward the Lord; well do you hasten to be quit of this most iniquitous world, to whom it is unsightly to approach (your own) end!” (Ibid., Chapter VI)
“First, then, blessed (sisters), (take heed) that you admit not to your use meretricious [flashy] and prostitutionary [sluttish] garbs and garments” (Ibid., Book II, Chapter IX)
“So far, however, as regards the dress of women, the variety of observance compels us—men of no consideration whatever—to treat, presumptuously indeed, after the most holy apostle, except in so far as it will not be presumptuously if we treat the subject in accordance with the apostle. Touching modesty of dress and ornamentation, indeed, the prescription of Peter likewise is plain, checking [restraining] as he does with the same mouth, because with the same Spirit, as Paul, the glory of garments, and the pride of gold, and the meretricious elaboration of the hair.” (On Prayer, Chapter XX)

Commodianus (AD 240)

“You wish, O Christian woman, that the matrons should be as the ladies of the world. You surround yourself with gold, or with the modest silken garment. You give the terror of the law from your ears to the wind. You affect vanity with all the pomp of the devil. You are adorned at the looking-glass with your curled hair turned back from your brow. And moreover, with evil purposes, you put on false medicaments, on your pure eyes the stibium, with painted beauty, or you dye your hair that it may be always black. God is the overlooker, who dives into each heart. But these things are not necessary for modest women. … O good matrons, flee from the adornment of vanity; such attire is fitting for women who haunt the brothels. Overcome the evil one, O modest women of Christ. Show forth all your wealth in giving.” (On Christian Discipline, Chapter LIX)

Apostolic Constitutions (AD 375)

“Let the husband not be insolent nor arrogant towards his wife; but compassionate, bountiful, willing to please his own wife alone, and treat her honourably and obligingly, endeavouring to be agreeable to her; not adorning thyself in such a manner as may entice another woman to thee. For if thou art overcome by her, and sinnest with her, eternal death will overtake thee from God; and thou wilt be punished with sensible and bitter torments. Or if thou dost not perpetrate such a wicked act, but shakest her off, and refusest her, in this case thou art not wholly innocent, even though thou art not guilty of the crime itself, but only in so far as through thy adorning thou didst entice the woman to desire thee. For thou art the cause that the woman was so affected, and by her lusting after thee was guilty of adultery with thee: yet art thou not so guilty, because thou didst not send to her, who was ensnared by thee; nor didst thou desire her. Since, therefore, thou didst not deliver up thyself to her, thou shalt find mercy with the Lord thy God, who hath said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and, “Thou shalt not covet.” … That beauty which God and nature has bestowed on thee, do not further beautify; but modestly diminish it before men. Thus, do not thou permit the hair of thy head to grow too long, but rather cut it short; lest by a nice combing thy hair, and wearing it long, and anointing thyself, thou draw upon thyself such ensnared or ensnaring women. Neither do thou wear over-fine garments to seduce any; neither do thou, with an evil subtilty, affect over-fine stockings or shoes for thy feet, but only such as suit the measures of decency and usefulness. Neither do thou put a gold ring upon thy fingers; for all these ornaments are the signs of lasciviousness, which if thou be solicitous about in an indecent manner, thou wilt not act as becomes a good man: for it is not lawful for thee, a believer and a man of God, to permit the hair of thy head to grow long, and to brush it up together, nor to suffer it to spread abroad, nor to puff it up, nor by nice combing and platting to make it curl and shine; since that is contrary to the law, which says thus, in its additional precepts: “You shall not make to yourselves curls and round rasures.” Nor may men destroy the hair of their beards, and unnaturally change the form of a man. For the law says: “Ye shall not mar your beards.” (Book I, Section II)
“Let the wife be obedient to her own proper husband, because “the husband is the head of the wife.” But Christ is the head of that husband who walks in the way of righteousness; and “the head of Christ is God,” even His Father. Therefore, O wife, next after the Almighty, our God and Father, the Lord of the present world and of the world to come, the Maker of everything that breathes, and of every power; and after His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom glory be to God, do thou fear thy husband, and reverence him, pleasing him alone, rendering thyself acceptable to him in the several affairs of life, that so on thy account thy husband may be called blessed, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, which thus speaks: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for such a one is more precious than costly stones. … If thou desirest to be one of the faithful, and to please the Lord, O wife, do not superadd ornaments to thy beauty, in order to please other men; neither affect to wear fine broidering, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. For although thou dost not these wicked things with design of sinning thyself, but only for the sake of ornament and beauty, yet wilt thou not so escape future punishment, as having compelled another to look so hard at thee as to lust after thee, and as not having taken care both to avoid sin thyself, and the affording scandal to others. But if thou yield thyself up, and commit the crime, thou art both guilty of thy own sin, and the cause of the ruin of the other’s soul also. Besides, when thou hast committed lewdness with one man, and beginnest to despair, thou wilt again turn away from thy duty, and follow others, and grow past feeling; as says the divine word: “When a wicked man comes into the depth of evil, he becomes a scorner, and then disgrace and reproach come upon him.” For such a woman afterward being wounded, ensnares without restraint the souls of the foolish. … You, therefore, who are Christian women, do not imitate such as these. But thou who designest to be faithful to thine own husband, take care to please him alone. And when thou art in the streets, cover thy head; for by such a covering thou wilt avoid being viewed of idle persons. Do not paint thy face, which is God’s workmanship; for there is no part of thee which wants ornament, inasmuch as all things which God has made are very good. But the lascivious additional adorning of what is already good is an affront to the bounty of the Creator. Look downward when thou walkest abroad, veiling thyself as becomes women.” (Ibid., Section VIII)