IX. BROIDED HAIR
Another important issue that arises within the subject of female hairstyles is the question about plaited hair and broided hair. Paul writes in I Timothy 2:9 "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." And then Peter adds in I Peter 3:3 "Whose adorning, let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel.” What are these Scriptures referring to? What is plaiting hair? What is broided hair? Are the terms broided hair and braided hair the same or different?
First, let’s define “broided.” The Greek word for “broided” is plegma (Strong’s 4117). It occurs only once in the Bible in I Timothy 2:9. It means: 1) what is woven, plaited, or twisted together; 2) a web, plait, braid; 2a) of a net; 2b) of a basket, in which the infant Moses was laid; 2c) of braided hair. The word “braided” does not occur in the King James Bible. “Braided” is used in place of “broided” in other translations such as: Robert Young’s Literal Translation, American Standard Version, Hebrew Names Version, and the Revised Standard Version.
Now let’s look at the definition for “plaiting.” The Greek word emploke (Strong’s 1708) is used only once in the Bible in I Peter 3:3. It means: 1) an interweaving, braiding, a knot; 2) an elaborate gathering of one's hair into knots. “Braided” is used in place of “plaiting” in other translations such as: American Standard Version, Hebrew Names Version, and the Revised Standard Version. Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown interpret “plaiting” in I Peter 3:3 as literally, "‘plaits,’ that is, plaited hair: probably with the ‘gold and pearls’ intertwined; artificial braiding, in order to attract admiration. Such gaud [flashy, extravagant, loud] is characteristic of the spiritual harlot in Revelations 17:4 ‘And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:”
According to William Barclay: “In the world of the Greeks and the Romans it is interesting to collect the references to personal adornments. There were as many ways of dressing the hair as there were bees in Hybca. Hair was waved and dyed, sometimes black, more often auburn. Wigs were worn, especially blonde wigs, which are found even in the Christian catacombs; and hair to manufacture them was imported from Germany, and even from as far away as India. Hair-bands, pins and combs were made of ivory, and boxwood, and tortoiseshell; and sometimes of gold, studded with gems” (Barclay’s Study Bible).
According to Dake: "Women wore a hollow silver or gold tube or horn 18 to 20 inches long on the forehead adorned with all kinds of precious stones, having strong cords suspended from it to the back which reached to the knees, and had tassels of red silk weighted with lead. These kept the horn from toppling in front. The whole thing was rendered firm by a network of cords, which supported it, and by a strong band fastened tightly under the jaw. A veil was worn over the horn in such a manner as to leave its lower half uncovered in front. The veil could be drawn over the face at will, to cover all the face but one eye.
Regarding the hair, which may be the reference here, it was worn in the back in braids--from 1 to a record of 110 braids. In each braid would be woven silk cords with gold coins at irregular distances and reaching down to the knees, glittering at every movement of the wearer. Sometimes hair was made into temples and other fanciful figures with the aid of gum.
Sometimes caps completely covered with coins or frontlets ornamented with diamonds were worn. Oriental women were fond of excessive decking with jewelry, not only their heads, but other parts of the body as well. Ear-rings, nose-jewels, chains, rings, bracelets, ankle-rings, strings of real pearls and money, necklaces, and many other ornaments were worn, some even by men" (Dake’s Notes pg 236).
Another source presents a similar discussion: “The Roman women of the day were addicted to ridiculous extravagance in the adornment of the hair. Juvenal (" Satire," vi.) satirizes these customs. He says: ‘The attendants will vote on the dressing of the hair as if a question of reputation or of life were at stake, so great is the trouble she takes in quest of beauty; with so many tiers does she load, with so many continuous stories does she build up on high her head. She is tall as Andromache in front, behind she is shorter. You would think her another person.’ The hair was dyed, and secured with costly pins and with nets of gold thread. False hair and blond wigs were worn” (Vincent’s Word Studies).
Now, can we make a connection between “broided” and “plaiting”? I think so. It appears to me according to what I have researched that these two terms are somewhat synonymous. So what message is being conveyed in these two Scriptures? The last portion of I Timothy 2:9 helps us in our exposition: “or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” It is clear to me that the sources represented above prove to us that the individuals being addressed were either involved or influenced by the practices defined. These practices involved women being extravagant and flashy with their hair by dying it with dyes and/or decking it with jewels and precious metals. Apparently, according to the sources listed, they were also putting on wigs in this escapade of pride.
Both Paul and Peter were admonishing their listeners to abstain from such worldly and prideful exhibitions. Our emphasis is not to be “that outward adorning.” We are to especially avoid “plaiting the
hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.” Our emphasis is to “be the hidden man of the heart even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” “We should not be obsessed by fashion, but neither should we be so unconcerned that we do not bother to care for ourselves. Hygiene, neatness, and grooming are important, but even more important are a person's attitude and inner spirit. True beauty begins inside” (Life Application Bible Notes).
I want to put forth a caution here. The emphasis placed on the “hidden man” here does in no way eliminate the importance of the outward man. Otherwise, Paul and Peter would never have written the above Scriptures. The proper outward appearance was explained due to its importance and we are not given permission to explain it away using arguments of varying culture or history. The outside is the easy part, but is in no way to be played down as unimportant.
Does either of the terms imply braiding as we see many females with braided hair today? I don’t think so. I refer to braiding here as twisting and fastening the hair into what is known as pigtails and ponytails. There exists some that oppose this practice based on these Scriptures. I believe they are missing the point. Simply putting these designs in the hair does not constitute the same practice as was being discussed by Peter and Paul.
I did find one reference from Wesley’s Bible Commentary that indicates that it pertains to curling the hair. “Three things are here expressly forbidden: curling the hair, wearing gold, (by way of ornament,) and putting on costly or gay apparel. These, therefore, ought never to be allowed, much less defended, by Christians” (Wesley’s Bible Commentary). Again, I don’t think curling the hair in any way offends the Scriptures we have just covered. I respectfully disagree with those who propagate these teachings as being Biblical. To bind our sisters with non-Biblical standards unjustly adds a burden to the keeping of their hair.
Therefore, sisters have two scriptural restrictions concerning hairstyle. Females should not cut their hair (I Corinthians 11) and they should not fashion it in an extravagant way such as adding flashy ornaments of jewels or precious metals (I Timothy 2:9 & I Peter 3:3). It is my finding that the dying of hair and the wearing of artificial hair is also included in the second restriction indirectly according to the sources stated above that defined these actions as included in “broided hair” and “plaiting hair.”
I would like to end this section with a quote from Adam Clarke: “The proper ornament of a woman is that which becomes her best. This is neither gold, nor pearls, nor scarlet; but those things which are an evident proof of gravity, regularity, and modesty."