One description of a priestess of Artemis says:
Her apparel wrought with gold glistened against the sun, and her hair under the garland, blown about with the wind, covered a great part of her back.
The gospel inherently provoked Greco-Roman society (1 Cor 1:21–31). Therefore, Paul expressed great concern over how outsiders viewed the exercise of freedom by members of the church (1 Cor 10:23–33; Gal 5:13–14). This made modesty and sexual morality among believers especially critical.
Such ostentatious displays slighted the poor. Expensive embellishment also provided temptation for the men in the congregation.
Greco-Roman and Jewish authors equated the flaunting of wealth through external adornment with seduction.
For we confess that our sex is in danger of being defeated, because our enemies are better provided with all the appliances of war and necessaries for battle; but your sex is more completely armed, and you will gain the greatest of all advantages, namely the victory…
[W]ithout even a struggle, you will overpower the enemy at the first sight of you, merely by being beheld by him.
When they heard this, they ceased to think of or to pay the very slightest regard to their character for purity of life…though during all the rest of their lives they had put on a hypocritical appearance of modesty, and so now they adorned themselves with costly garments, and necklaces, and all those other appendages with which women are accustomed to set themselves off, and they devoted all their attention to enhancing their natural beauty, and making it more brilliant (for the object of their pursuit was not an unimportant one, being the alluring of the young men who were well inclined to be seduced), and so they went forth into public.
There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, when she encircles her neck with green emeralds, and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears: there is nothing more intolerable than a wealthy woman…
Her lover she will meet with a clean-washed skin, but when does she ever care to look nice at home?
During the Greco-Roman era, people considered elaborate clothing, expensive jewelry, and intricate hair styles inconsistent with moral behavior.
Consequently, Paul exhorted the wealthy Christian women in Ephesus to exhibit the decorum appropriate for a follower of Christ.
He urged them to live in such a way that others associated them with good deeds, rather than with their physical appearance.
While nothing is inherently wrong with dressing nicely in our culture, God commands us to focus upon inner beauty, not external allure.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Read 1 Tim 2:9–10. Why was Paul concerned about how Christian women appeared in public? What does adorning ourselves with good works mean? How can we practice this today?
[Related posts include The Cult of Artemis (False Teaching in Ephesus); Prayer without Anger (1 Tim 2:8); She Must Learn (1 Tim 2:11); Domineering Women (1 Tim 2:12–14); and Saved through Childbearing (1 Tim 2:15)]
 Towner, Timothy and Titus, 213
Keener, IVPBBCNT, 1 Tim 2:9.
Douglas R. Edwards, “Dress and Ornamentation,” ABD 2:232–8, 237.
Keener, IVPBBCNT, Matt 13:45–46.
Keener, IVPBBCNT, 1 Tim 2:9.
Marshall and Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 449–50.
Philo, “On the Virtues,” in The Works of Philo Judaeus, Vol. 3 (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Bohn, 1855), 421–2, https://archive.org/stream/theworksofphiloj03yonguoft#page/420/mode/2up.
Juvenal, “Satire 6,” in Juvenal and Persius (trans. G. G. Ramsay; London; New York: Heinemann; Putnam, 1928), 6:457–68, 121, https://archive.org/stream/juvenalpersiuswi00juveuoft#page/120/mode/2up.
Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, 95.
Marshall and Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 450.
Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, 96.
Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 113.