I have seen a lot of strange and surprising things in my life, so much so that I used to say that nothing really surprised me anymore. I may have to recant saying that, as the other day something happened that I was not at all prepared for. A man I know – a teacher in a local (Christian) church – was talking about how much fun the church had during an event in which men of the church dressed up as women for a mock beauty pageant. I was really taken aback. No, I was actually shocked. When we talked about it I was again surprised at his initial reasoning that it was OK because it was all just in fun. As we continued to talk about the Old Testament prohibition for a man to not wear a woman’s clothing in Deuteronomy 22, he decided to think about it and later give me his defense. I present that defense and my response here for those who may fall on either side of this issue, and, who want a definitive answer on how God views such things. Does this Law in Deuteronomy 22:5 apply to the Church today, or did I over-react to something trivial and meaningless?
A woman shall not wear a man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. (emphasis mine)
That’s pretty harsh! We will study here the context and meaning, including ‘hidden’ and implied meaning of this Law, as it speaks to God’s authority and His delegated authority in His people.
My friend did some research by reading what other scholars said about this verse. I am careful about the things I read from many scholars because many such ‘scholars’ have caused so much harm. Witness Martin Luther, who wrote a treatise about how evil the Jews are, that they should not be allowed to own property, a business, or to handle the Word of God. Luther also authored a German translation of the Bible where he translated the Greek word ‘pesach’, which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for ‘passover’, as “Easter’ – the name of a pagan fertility goddess who God forbade Israel to worship (also known as Ishtar, Ashtoroth, Asherah, The Queen of Heaven, etc.). Of twenty-five uses of the word ‘pesach’ in the New Testament, Luther changed only one to Easter, but the damage was done, and the Christian denominations (sects) have replaced the name of God’s Passover with the name of a pagan goddess to this day. Furthermore, Luther had this to say about the Old Testament:
“We don’t want to see or hear Moses. How do you like that, my dear rebels? We say further, that all such Mosaic teachers deny the gospel, banish Christ, and annul the whole New Testament. I now speak as a Christian for Christians. For Moses is given to the Jewish people alone, and does not concern us Gentiles and Christians. We have our gospel and New Testament. If they can prove from them that images must be put away, we will gladly follow them. If they, however, through Moses would make us Jews, we will not endure it..”
“…Therefore Moses? legislation about images and the Sabbath, and what else goes beyond the natural law, since it is not supported by the natural law, is free, null and void, and is specifically given to the Jewish people alone.” – emphasis mine, jks
Luthor, to come to this conclusion, had to completely ignore the teachings of Christ in the new testament! This is only one small example of leaders being mistaken and leading the Body astray – there are many more. We must, therefore, be eternally diligent to study God’s Word and to be sure of the faith that was delivered to us by Yahushua and His prophets and apostles. So, let us look at what my friend found that these scholars were saying.
My friend mentioned that the Law given in Deut. 22 is problematic, as there are several interpretations of its meaning. The question is asked, “Why would God give such an obvious commandment especially when at this period of time men and women’s clothing were almost the same?” First, their clothing may have looked alike to us, but the differences at that time were most likely quite apparent to them or further explanation would have been given. The same is true of today. My sweaters and my wife’s sweaters are in some ways very alike, but I wouldn’t be caught wearing hers. If you read this entire chapter you will notice that these commandments are all about daily life, and especially about relationships with other people. Many of the commandments are very specific, such as are given in vss. 11 and 12, where we are told not to make clothes by combining wool and cotton, and are told to put fringes on the edges of our outer garment. These commands seem silly at first glance, but they are to help and protect us. Wool and cotton shrink at different rates, they also wear differently. It has been discovered that they also have different electrical properties, which in combination may affect our health. Fringes on an outer garment help keep edge-wear down, which is why marine flags are fringed to make them last in the wind. These very specific commands in this passage are there for our good. If God saw that further explanation was needed in vs. 5, He would have given it. Second, God made this command as one who sees all the past and all the future. He is not limited as we are, and it is both a mistake and an insult to Him for us to not recognize this. Third, in that day, as in this, there were homosexuals and effeminates – and God states that these people are an abomination to Him. Remember Sodom.
I was given five explanations of this verse that were proffered by scholars:
1. It means exactly what it says.
I believe it does, as this would be consistent with the rest of the passage, and indeed with all God’s Law.
2. It is referring to military implements such as swords and spears, which is why Jael, in the book of Judges, drove a tent peg through Sisero’s temple, because it would have been dishonorable for her to have a sword.
First, I would like to see the citation proving this prohibition for women to have weapons in their possession, as it is not accurate. You can simply read history or the Old Testament to discover this. Second, it makes more sense that Jael used a tent peg and hammer because it was both what she had available and what tools her hands were familiar with. Furthermore, his death by tent peg (by a woman, no less) was an insult and dishonor to him. Third, the word used here for ‘garment’ (in the KJV) is the Hebrew simlah (8071 in Strong’s), which means apparel, cloth, garment, raiment. Those that would try to use cultural prohibitions at the time to obfuscate the clear meaning of the passage are antinomians*, who wish to say, as Satan did, “Hath God (really) said…?” when He was trying to deceive Eve into disobeying God in the Garden (Genesis 3:1).
3. It is referring to intentional cross-dressing to engage in sexual conduct… or to try and
change the God-given masculinity or femininity that a man or woman has.
God has already defined proper sexual conduct, but the second part is getting close to the Truth. This Law is to preserve both God’s structure for the family and for the church, as we shall see later.
4. It has nothing to do with cross-dressing, because at the feast of Purim (which celebrates the deliverance of the Jews in the book of Esther) cross-dressing is sometimes part of the festivities.
Again, I would like a citation, especially in light of the fact that for this to be acceptable by God, he would have sanctioned it in His Word. This alleged cross-dressing by the Jews at Purim is NOT a reason to ignore the command of God. The Jews have a history of disobeying God – this in no way nullifies the command of God. Furthermore, the above statement flies in the face of common sense and is simply an excuse, as Deut. 22:5 defines cross-dressing, and goes on to define those who do it as abominations unto God.
5. It was forbidden because this type of thing was practiced in pagan temples.
God’s Word gives no reason here for this restriction such as “because the pagans do this”, and none should be needed. God owes us no explanation for His commands to us, He does, however, give us hints and reasons for this command elsewhere in scripture, which we will explore later, as this verse does not stand alone. If the pagans did do this, then should we not take note and stay clear of it merely as a precaution? Furthermore, if we accept this reasoning that this prohibition was because God did not want us doing the things that the pagans do, then the churches are admitting culpability for celebrating borrowed pagan rites such as Christmas, Easter, etc. (They are, in any case, but that is not what this command has to do with.)
When we look for some meaning in this verse other than its obvious meaning in context, I fear we are trying to excuse our sinful behavior. God’s Word must always be seen as a whole. It all fits together without contradiction or confusion. To do otherwise would invalidate God’s Word, and we would not be able trust any of it. In this case we can look to other sections of his Word that reinforce and explain what God expects of us concerning this subject. First, we go to I Timothy 2:12-14, where women are not allowed to usurp authority over a man, especially in the assemblies.
“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.”
Please note that this seems to be the personal opinion of the Apostle Paul. To this I must remark that, first, I would tend to trust Paul over any ‘scholar’ that came after him, and second, I believe God has let this stand in scripture for our own good. I have written on this subject of where a woman stands in creation, so for now I will move on. God is a God of order, and has placed the man in the position of servant-leadership over the woman. Notice the role of men and women in the Church in I Tim. 3. Again, this authority structure preserves and orders the Church. Second, we look to I Corinthians 11, where Paul sets out the order of God’s authority indicated by hair length and head coverings. God is the head of the man – man is the head of the woman. See especially vs. 7;
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of man.” (KJV)
Again, see verse 10:
“For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.”
Why? Because a woman with her head covered is recognizing she is under a man’s authority (due to the fall), and the angels should go looking for the man to execute judgment – the woman is protected. Furthermore, the acceptable length of hair for man or women is not given – it is a cultural thing. (Note here that vs. 6 is, however, referring to hair cut very short – it is ‘shorn’ (Greek keiro), using the same word found elsewhere for the shearing of sheep.) Here we see the cultural connection to Deut. 22:5. Men and women’s clothing is not defined, but is left to cultural norms. This command is in agreement with the rest of scripture in setting up God’s authority structure. A woman wearing man’s clothing or hair-style is a usurpation of the authority and identification that God placed upon man. A man wearing women’s clothing is an abdication of the man’s authority and a debasement and mockery of God’s authority which He has shared with and put upon the man.
I Cor. 11:14
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a dishonor to him(?)
If it is therefore a shame for a man to have long hair (like a woman), then is the same not true of a man wearing women’s clothing?
Another reason that was given for disregarding this command is that, as we do not follow the other “guidelines” in this chapter, then we should look for some other meaning for this command. First, these are not “guidelines” – as many antinomians would have us believe – these are direct commands from the Most high and Holy God Almighty, and He nowhere says that they are simply “guidelines”. If we accept this line of reasoning, then ‘we’, as church or society, can disregard ALL of this chapter. In so doing we invalidate God’s command. This is lawlessness. When we read this passage do we find anything in it that we disagree with? Even if so, does it matter? If we love Him we will keep His commandments. These things are not the Law of the priesthood, which Yahushua ‘fulfilled’ – and changed before His death, this is the moral Law which He has never invalidated and which His apostle affirmed:
“Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” [NAS]
It has also been suggested that Paul, in I Cor. 9:9, is suggesting that the passage in Deuteronomy 25:4 could be taken literally, but may have other implications. Certainly Paul shows that this passage about oxen can be applied to our taking care of the workers in the church, but he in no way invalidates the original meaning and intent of the passage. Instead, Paul is showing that ALL of God’s principles apply to ALL of His creation. His laws concerning land, crops, and animals are all to bless His people. In Deut. 22:10 God forbids plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together. If you yoke in-equal animals together one may become injured or overworked. This will ultimately be a detriment to their owners. Paul asks, “Does God care for oxen?” The answer to this question is, resoundingly, “Yes!”.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” [NAS]
The sense – in both passages – is that if God cares for the animals, how much more does He care for us (hence 2 Cor. 6:14)? So it is not just that there is more than one message to any one passage, but that God’s principles are universal.
Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-28 were also quoted as evidence of Yahushua “challenging our thinking concerning the true intent of the old testament scriptures.” Certainly Yahushua explained and expanded our understanding of God’s principles here, but the “true intent” of the Law as given in the Old Testament was exactly as it was stated. Did God give all these strictures to His people to observe for thousands of years, only to say later, “Nah, that’s not what I meant.”? Did He not, instead, give them good laws to live by that helped protect and prosper them, while also teaching them His universal principles? These verses explain the difference between sins in the flesh, against flesh, and sins in the spirit against God. In fact, Matt. 27-28 explains that we are doubly guilty when we sin. When a person commits adultery the sin is against their spouse, against God, and even against their own body. Physical adultery is the only reason given as a sufficient reason for divorce. Adultery is, in God’s economy, idolatry (Jer 3:6-9). Their vows were made not just to each other, but foremost to God, who joined them together. They are one flesh – but they shall not always be so. At the death of either of them the marriage is dissolved (Matt. 22:30; Rom 7:3). They are no longer one flesh – they part at death. Certainly, we are told, there is no male or female, or giving in marriage in heaven. Understanding this we can see that lust conceived in the mind is adultery in the spirit, and is against God alone, not against the spouse. Otherwise, first, any marriage is at any time in peril of divorce, as men and women occasionally fall into the sin of lust even if for the briefest of moments. Second, the allegation might be impossible to prove, especially with the required two witnesses. Because physical marriage is fleshly, physical adultery is necessary for divorce. Lust conceived in the mind, however is against God alone and is not grounds for divorce. This has always been true, but Yahushua delineated it for us, putting us under an even stricter law.
Now, returning to Deut. 22, we must not fall into the antinomian (anti-Law) trap that God’s Law means something different to modern man than it did thousands of years ago. God’s principles do not change – they reflect His unchanging character. We do not need to interpret this command. It is plainly written and means exactly what it says. God’s reasons for it may need to be sought out, but the command remains. Cross-dressing, as we now call it, is an abomination to the Lord. Our feelings, motivations, intentions, or purposes are irrelevant when it comes to obeying God. Our excuses will not be acceptable to God who said simply, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
If God says this is an abomination, should we dance all around the subject, doing gymnastics in order to find an out – an excuse – for violating His Word? Is God just old-fashioned, that we need to school Him in updating His Law to our modern standards? Does God give exceptions to His Law based on our intentions? Or, is it that the world has wooed us away from holiness so they may corrupt us to sin against the God of all space and time? Does the world wish to debase us who are made in the image of God and honored with authority given from God Himself in order to hurt God and us? Of course they do, which is why one of the greatest purveyors of cross-dressing – for fun – is Hollywood! They make movies and commercials designed to break down our understanding and our standing-firm in the Word. They, like Satan, say to us, “Hath God (really) said…” when he was trying to deceive Eve in the garden. [Genesis 3:1]
John Rushdooney had this to say concerning antinomianism in the Church:
St. Paul makes it clear that he is engaged in a total war, but that, while engaged in this war as a man, he is not “warring with human weapons, relying on human resources.” Paul has directly in mind those in Corinth who are resisting God’s law and are living in defiance of it, but he plainly generalized to include every fortress, theory, height, calculation, and imagination which is opposed to God.
The problem in Corinth was antinomianism, a disobedience to God’s law, in particular, sexual and marital law. What Paul demands is obedience to Christ, whose word is the every word of Scripture. The case of incest in Corinth had to do with laws in Leviticus; Paul sees it as disobedience to Christ, whose work the whole of Scripture is. Paul’s goal is thus “the obedience of Christ.”
(John R. Rushdooney, The Institutes of Biblical Law Vol. 2, Ross House Books, 1982, 579.)
Where righteousness or justice is separated from the specifics of God’s law and Christ’s
atonement and related instead to ecstasy, experience, and enthusiasm, the result is not
Christianity but the revival of paganism.
Righteousness or justice is conformity to the law of God. The law of God is an expression of God’s being. For man to deny that law and seek righteousness on his own terms is to deny God.
Enthusiastic or spiritual righteousness is not righteousness or justice but sin. The same is true of social justice, which, unlike divine justice, derives its law or righteousness from man and man’s needs, not from God. For social justice, righteousness is the freedom and fulfillment of man. But man is a sinner, and, whether great or small, rich or poor, black or white, needs condemnation, not fulfillment. His only hope is condemnation and deliverance through Christ’s atoning death as his vicarious sacrifice and substitute, and obedience to God’s law as the way of holiness and righteousness in Christ.
Because faith is more than mere belief, it requires, and is part and parcel of, righteousness. Our justification is by God’s sovereign grace; it manifests itself in us by faith. Faith without works is dead. The man of faith is the man of righteousness, the man of justice. Antinomianism is anti-Christianity.
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19-20)
These words are addressed to all who teach. Any and all who “break” or “relax” (RSV) the slightest commandment of God “shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Because man is a sinner, he searches the Scriptures for loopholes when he reads it; hence, every verse which can be interpreted to set aside the law is exploited to that end.
Ibid, p. 590
Now, my friend thought that Deut. 22:5 could be interpreted to mean either cross-dressing for the intent of having sex, or, to “purposely alter their god given identity as a male or female”. First, I do believe that these are rationale, in part, for the command, but again, the verse does not need interpretation. It stands as a clear command from God. Second, I would add to this list of reasons for the law the effect that cross-dressing has on God’s authority structure, and would suggest from my reading of the Word that this is the primary reason. Although my friend does not believe that those participating had any sinful intentions, the fact remains that God forbids cross-dressing. As the Apostle Paul noted:
Rom 7:7-14 (KJV)
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
So the Law teaches about sin and about God’s character:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins: let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Finally, my friend correctly thought that this type of exhibition could cause someone to stumble. There is also the possibility of causing someone to disrespect the leaders of this church as those who would sanction cross-dressing. How can we teach Christ if we appear to be just like the world?
“Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” [KJV]