Question: Should women braid their hair? I believe it is wrong to bind ornaments in the hair, but some saints tell me that it is all right to braid the hair. What do you think?
Answer: I Timothy 2:9 and I Peter 3:3 are the two Scriptures in the New Testament which refer to women’s hair with reference to its arrangement, etc. I Timothy 2:9 says, “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.” I Peter 3:3 says, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.”
It is important to the thought to note that both of these Scriptures have the emphasis on ornamentation and adornment. The doing of the hair is mentioned in these texts right along with gold, pearls, costly array and different adornments and ornamentations. Therefore the particular method of fixing the hair in these verses is to be identified with ornamentation and adornment. This could hardly be said of just the plain braiding of the hair as we know it today and as the saint women do it. It is just another way of fixing the hair. Some do their hair up in a “bun” on top of their heads; some in a similar way but wear it on the back of their heads; some put it up in a figure eight on the back of their heads; some wear it in a French roll down on their necks; some (especially the younger sisters) just let it hang full length; some braid it and let it hang or put it up in different arrangements on their heads. Of all these ways the women arrange their hair, I do not see that any one of them could be singled out as worldly adornment anymore than any other. No doubt, each sister tries to fix her hair in the way that is most becoming to herself.
But in the Bible times it was different from the common braiding that saint sisters use in our day, and with which we are familiar. In the Scriptures if refers to something directly identified with worldly adornment and therefore something to be avoided by saints. Let us look at what was under consideration in these Scriptures and why such was written in the Bible at all.
I Timothy 2:9 refers to “Broided” hair (the margin says “Plaited”) and I Peter 3:3 refers to “Plaiting” the hair. “Broided” and “Plaited” hair involves more than the common braiding with which we are familiar today.
In the article on dress in the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary edited by Merrill C. Tenney we read these words: “Women often added to their adornment by an elaborate ‘plaiting’ of the hair. I Peter 3:3 finds it necessary to warn Christian women against relying upon such adorning to make themselves attractive.” It is clear here that this writer at least, connects the statement in I Peter 3:3 with worldly adornment and ornamentation.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary in the article on hair says, “The women wore their hair natural, but braided, and dressed with strings of silk with ornaments.” Also in the article on dress it says, “Jewesses did not veil their faces but covered the hair only. Women wore the hair long, braided, curled, etc., and decorated with jewels and coins…there were many ornaments in use for the hair, head, ears, nose, and neck…” All that is said here concerning the hair is in regard to adornment and ornamentation.
I Timothy 2:9, “…Not with broided hair, or gold,…” is variously translated in other translations of the New Testament as follows: “Not with braided hair, and gold” American Standard Version; “And not with wreaths of gold ornaments for the hair” Twentieth Century New Testament; “Not with plaitings and ornamentation of gold” Rotheram; “Not with (elaborate) hair arrangement of gold” New English Bible; “The adornment of a Christian woman is not a matter of an elaborate coiffure” Phillips.
Adam Clarke comments on I Peter 3:3 as follows (in part). “Plaiting the hair, and variously folding it about the head, was the most ancient and simplest mode of disposing of this chief ornament of the female head… Thin plates of gold were often mixed with the hair, to make it appear more ornamental by the reflection of light and the solar rays. Small golden buckles were also used in different parts; and among the Roman ladies, pearls and precious stones of different colours.”
The word found in I Timothy 2:9 is “broided” hair. “Broided” is defined in the dictionary as, “To ornament with needlework; embroider.” The thought here is the imposition of ornamental work on an already existing cloth or fabric. Then to “broider” hair would suggest the thought of imposing ornamental substance onto the already existing hair in whatever way it might be arranged.
Nothing that is said above by the various writers, dictionaries, and various New Testament translations could refer to the plain common braiding of the hair as we know it in our day, but would involve the addition of ornamental and adorning substances and material with it. The ornamenting of the hair, or any other part of the body to create eye appeal or invite admiration is branded in God’s Word as evidence of pride in the heart and is forbidden for all saints, both men and women.
As far as I know this has been the position of the saints and early ministers of the Evening Light Reformation from as far back as I can remember and still is, as far as I know.