Ask Donnell: Does The Bible Really Address Cross-Dressing?

Ask Donnell: Does The Bible Really Address Cross-Dressing?

We received the following question from Roshawn;

Good day Donnell,

"I have a question about what is a man’s and a women’s garment. Some people adhere to this as it is written in Deut 22:5. Was it in those times a man’s garment was different? and in what context was it meant?"

Roshawn, you brought up a very interesting question. Yes, there are men's clothing and women's clothing in every society I have ever been exposed to throughout history. It's true that the distinctions vary with each culture but the point is that there are distinctions. In other words, it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, there is such a thing as men's clothing and women's clothing.

After checking out the scripture I couldn't help but think about the issue of cross-dressing that's greatly increased where we are in the city of Atlanta, GA. Men are trying to look like women and women are trying to look like men. In fact, many are no longer trying, they are quite successful. It got so bad at my alma mater, Morehouse College, that they had to institute a dress code to stop guys from walking around campus in dresses. Since your question is specifically about Deuteronomy 22:5, let's start with the scripture.

Deuteronomy 22:5(NKJV) - “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.

In these times we are living you have to be very careful what you say. In our society what's wrong seems right and what's right seems wrong. If you remain neutral you're safe because that way, you can never offend anyone with a differing opinion. However, if The Church becomes obsessed with winning a popularity contest in the eyes of the world instead of pleasing God we will be held accountable for eternity. Since I don't want that for my own life I'll give it to you straight. Here's what I found out from my research.

1) Adam Clarke's Commentary

[The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man]

"K­liy geber" , the instruments or arms of a man. Since the word geber is here used, which properly signifies a strong man or man of war, it is very probable that armour is here intended; especially as we know that in the worship of Venus, to which that of Astarte or Ashtaroth among the Canaanites bore a striking resemblance, the women were accustomed to appear in armour before her. It certainly cannot mean a simple change in dress, whereby the men might pass for women, and vice versa.

This would have been impossible in those countries where the dress of the sexes had but little to distinguish it, and where every man wore a long beard. It is, however a very good general precept understood literally, and applies particularly to those countries where the dress alone distinguishes between the male and the female. The close-shaved gentleman may at any time appear like a woman in the female dress, and the woman appear as a man in the male's attire. Were this to be tolerated in society, it would produce the greatest confusion. Clodius, who dressed himself like a woman that he might mingle with the Roman ladies in the feast of the Bona Dea, was universally execrated.

2) Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man.

Disguises were assumed at certain times in pagan temples. Maimonides ('More Nevochim.,' pars iii., cap. xii.) mentions that a man attired in a coloured female dress, in honour of Venus, Ashtaroth, or Astarte, and a woman equipped in armour, worshipped at the shrine of the statue of Mars, (see also Spencer, 'Do Legibus Hebraeorum,' lib. i., cap. v., xi.)

The old Asiatics, when they engaged in the worship of Ashtaroth, were accustomed, according to Philocorus, quoted by Townley (in his edition of Maimonides, note 33), to exchange the male and female dresses. In fact, all idolators confounded the sexes of their deities-representing them sometimes as male, at other times as female; and hence, their worshippers, male and female, fell gradually into the custom, which became extensively prevalent, of changing their attire in adaptation to the sex of a particular divinity. (See many instances adduced by Young, 'Idol. Corruptions in Religion,' vol. i., pp. 97-105.)

It is probable that a reference was made to unbecoming levities practiced in common life. They were properly forbidden; for the adoption of the habiliments of the one sex by the other is an outrage on decency, obliterates the distinctions of nature by fostering softness and effeminacy in the man, impudence and boldness in the woman, as well as levity and hypocrisy in both; and, in short, opens the door to an influx of so many evils, that all who wear the dress of another sex are pronounced "an abomination unto the Lord."

3) IVP Bible Background Commentary

Transvestism in the ancient Near East.

Just as clothing served as a status marker in the ancient world, it also distinguished gender. In classical contexts, cross-dressing occurred in the theater, where women were not allowed to perform, and was also an aspect of homosexual practice. Most instances in which cross-dressing or transvestism are mentioned in ancient Near Eastern texts are *cultic or legal in nature.

For instance, when the *Ugaritic hero *Aqhat is murdered, his sister Paghat puts on a male garment under her female robes in order to assume the role of blood avenger in the absence of a male relative. An *Assyrian wisdom text contains a dialogue between husband and wife who propose to exchange their clothing and thus assume each other’s gender roles. This may be a *fertility rite or perhaps a part of a religious drama honoring a goddess.

It may be this association with other religions that made transvestism an “abomination” in Deuteronomy, but the issue may also be the blurring of gender distinctions. *Hittite texts use gender-related objects as well as clothing in a number of magical rites used to influence one’s sexual status or diminish or alter the gender status of an adversary. The objects of the female were mirror and distaff; those of the male, various weapons.

As you can see, there's more to this law about cross-dressing than meets the eye. Many people who engage in cross-dressing in our modern culture probably have no idea of the occult roots of that practice. They probably think it's fun or even justifiable because they're homosexual and that's now become an accepted practice in our culture. However, it originated as a sign of worship to Ashtaroth and Venus. Somehow, the blurring of gender lines fed into the perversity of these cults. It's unfortunate that out of ignorance those who engage in the practice are paying homage to demons. Here's how The Apostle Paul outlines the genesis of such perversion.

Romans 1:18-28(NLT) - But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i] 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. 28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.

When people reject the truth they inadvertently accept lies. If we don't accept God for who He truly is we won't care about the standards He set for us. In Deuteronomy 22:5, God was addressing an issue that continues to exist thousands of years later. In sum, cross-dressing is not about having fun or free expression. It's not about choice. It's not even about being a homosexual and expecting everyone else to accept the lifestyle. It's about blending gender lines which is a slap in the face of God as the creator.

Genesis 1:27(KJV) - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

God had specific intentions when He created genders and we should respect that. He wanted to differentiate men from women because that's how He created us. God's character and beauty are expressed differently in each gender. Therefore, when we all operate according to how we are created we all give God glory. If we don't respect how God created us we don't respect God and if we don't respect God there's someone else ready and waiting to control our lives.

1 Samuel 2:30(KJV) - Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
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