The Glorious Church


Short pants (just above or below the knee) for men have become almost standard attire in casual and business dress ... and even in some churches.  I'm getting questions about this, both distant (other states) and locally.  I've been asked what is the difference between them and shorts.  Some are concerned about men in their assembly wearing them in public and being used "on the platform".  Are they wrong, right, acceptable or a non-issue?  Care to comment?

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David Huston said:
Alex, you seem to be saying that you are willing to run the risk of displeasing God based on what you cannot find explicitly stated in the Bible. This seems to me to be a pathway fraught with dangers. There is controversy over the propriety of exposing the knee; there is none over covering the entire leg. I think I'll continue to play it safe.

Bro. Huston,

I think that is a very unfair misrepresentation of what I have said. I am sorry that this is the conclusion that you have come to. I can look at the Scriptures objectively with you, but for us to look subjectively at each other's spiritual lives and come to the conclusion that either of us lacks consideration for the LORD is something that really can not be debated. The only thing to do now, it would seem to me, would be to wait and see what the LORD will reveal in our lives, the fruit we will bear, and the testimony of holiness we will have.

I have enjoyed this topic, because it gives an interesting look into the thought process that takes place with outward dress standards, and the topic of shorts is not an especially crucial and heated issue in the church, as some other topics are, such as topics like hair and headcovering.

-Bro. Alex
Alex, I did not say what I said based on any subjective look at your spiritual life. I based my conclusion solely on what you said in this discussion. You dismissed my use of the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:13 and indicated that wearing shorts was okay, at least in part, because there are no Scriptures stating how Jesus dressed while on earth. I disagree with that, but if I accept it as accurate, then I must conclude that you are saying that because we cannot prove from the Bible that Jesus always covered His legs from the knees down, then it is okay for his people not to. Furthermore, you never responded to my assertion that we cannot have a double standard, one for women and another for men. I presume this means that you believe it is okay for women to wear skirts above the knee. If this is not correct, please explain how you justify the idea that men can while women can't.
Bro. Huston,

First, concerning my spiritual life, I took what you said concerning my willingness to risk offending the LORD as being an unfair assertion. I do not view outward holiness as you do, therefore, I do not think I am running the risk of displeasing the LORD.

I also did not dismiss your use of Rev. 1:13, as I believe all of the Scriptures should be taken seriously, I took other Scriptures into account, such as the verse following 1:13 and a verse from John. Also, I do not believe that wearing shorts is ok because there are no Scriptures saying JESUS did not wear shorts- with this train of thought people could look to allow for a whole array of sinful things because JESUS didn't do these things during HIS time on earth. However, to take quotes from Revelation as to how JESUS dressed and how HE views modest dress does not seem sound to me from how I understand the Scriptures. This verse in Revelation is describing an item of clothing JESUS wore and because it says it was "down the foot" you have asserted that this means that "really Christlike" dress means wearing clothing that fully covers the leg- in all respect and honesty this seems like a stretch to me.

I also did not delve into the use of Isaiah 47:2-3, but I looked into it today, and I will post these verses and raise a question for any of my brothers to answer, because at first glance, since I have always been told that the thigh equals nakedness I have always accepted it, but after looking at the different Hebrew words for "thigh" and "nakedness" I do not see how one would draw the conclusion of saying that the thigh is nakedness.

Isaiah 47: 1Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.

2Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.

Thigh= "showq" 1) leg, thigh
a) of man; specifically the lower leg (calf) as opposed to the thigh
b) of sacrificial animal; specifically the thigh, upper leg, hind leg, as the portion eaten

3Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.

nakedness= "ervah" 1) nakedness, nudity, shame, pudenda
a) pudenda (implying shameful exposure)
b) nakedness of a thing, indecency, improper behavior
c) exposed, undefended (fig.)

"Ervah" is never translated as thigh in the Old Testament, and even the word for thigh seems to really be talking about the calf. I do not understand why the "knee and thigh" conclusion of nakedness has been arrived at by so many of my brethren, but I would greatly appreciate hearing the explanation of why this has been the accepted interpretation. I'm not saying people should go around showing their thighs, but if the thigh is momentarily shown when running or something like that I do not see how/why one could conclude that this is the "ervah" or "nakedness" which seems to be moreso associated with one's more "shameful" areas.

As for the double standard with men and women- I don't wear shorts above my knee and I don't think women should wear skirts above their knee. There may be times when someone may be able to get a look at my kneecap if I am running or something like that, but I don't consider this to be provocative and no one has ever told me that they have been offended by seeing my kneecap. As for the women, I also think they should cover their knees but I really have no Scripture for that. I would have to work very hard at being offended after seeing the knee of woman. What is my personal fixation (if someone wanted to call it a "fixation" for the sake of argument) with covering my knees and why do I want this for my future family? I honestly think it is because I am just an American and this is what I perceive of as dressing "neatly", but I have no grounds to preach this to others. If the Holy Ghost works in all the lives of the people I pastor (in a multiple eldership) one day and they all cover their knees then I and the other pastors will be glad, and if some do not cover their knees then I will just not look at their knees, and if some people dress in skirts so short as to cause a distraction then they will be asked to put something less scandalous on. We clearly have a right to go into our public meetinghouse and not to have our eyes molested by seeing people in provocative clothing. If you honestly believe that knees are provocative then I would say you have the right to ask people to change before entering the meetinghouse, for the sake of protecting the eyes of the saints and children.

-Bro. Alex
The Orthodox Jews interpret exposure of the knee and/or thigh as ervah. They therefore teach that women must where skirts at least four inches below the knee, in some circumstances even longer. As I mentioned earlier, the world we live in is filled with sensuality and immorality. A big part of the reason for this is the rampant exposure of body parts that ought not be exposed. We cannot control this, because we cannot control the world around us. But we do have a responsibilty keep the church pure. This means that we must draw the line somewhere for the protection of all the believers and to put a wall up against the attitudes and practices of the world. A case could probably be made for asking the members of both sexes to cover their legs entirely. This was the practice 100 years ago. But at this point in time, expecting godly people to at least cover their knees does not seem unreasonable and seems to achieve the biblical expectation of covering the body. To suggest that parts of the leg above the knee may be exposed under certain circumstances only lowers the standard and opens the door for further compromises. Sadly, this is the direction many apostolic churches are going.

Keep in mind that "fig leaf" clothing was not enough covering for God. "Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). The word "tunic" is kethoneth (OT:3801), which according to James Strong means a coat, garment, or robe. In modern Hebrew, this word means a night gown, which is clearly a garment that goes below the knees. Rather than trying to create biblical justifications for allowing the exposure the knee/thigh, I believe we ought to be laboring to convince the brothers and sisters to stay as far away from sensuality as is reasonably possible.
Orthodox Judaism is among one of the most legalistic religions in existence (and is probably only outdone in its legalism by Islam). Also, current Jewish Orthodoxy and Chassidism is far removed from the biblical Judaism that Moses received in the Torah and that the prophets and JESUS lived under. There is a whole movement within Judaism which I find fascinating, known as Karaite Judaism which stresses a Torah-only approach to Judaism, however, as is the case with Law-keeping, they must follow the Law to the letter and are unable to see the spirit of the Law because their eyes are clouded and they do not see JESUS as the Law's fulfillment. Also, I do not believe we can take the aspects of Jewish dress code that we may like and apply it to our situations. Orthodox Jews believe married women should cover their hair with various coverings or sheitels (wigs) out of modesty, but we do not follow this custom.

Also, for anyone interested in looking further into the meaning of "kethoneth" I have posted the link to this word's meaning on
If one looks at the Gesenius Lexicon (which I am unable to copy and paste) then one will see that, starting on the fifth line it reads, "generally with sleeves, coming down to the knees, rarely to the ancles." It is also explained that this item of clothing is more like a "long shirt-like garment." I remember being told that because "coats" were put on Adam and Eve, and that because "Coats don't have short sleeves" that it was therefore not GOD's intent for HIS people to wear short sleeves. Many Jews do not wear short sleeves also, but as is the case with many other Jewish customs and with customs found in many apostolic assemblies, I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to these customs' biblical basis.

I am not out to push the envelop as far as possible with the amount of flesh we can expose, but I also do not believe that we should be constantly watching out knees to see if they are being exposed when out in public. If my knee shows when swimming or running or if I pull up my pant legs to walk into some water I do not believe I have transgressed against GOD and done something that Christ would not do. Christlike behaviors are the behaviors of true saints that are yielded to GOD's spirit and following Christ- Christ has chosen to live HIS life in us thru HIS spirit, and I have never felt Christ's displeasure when my knees have been momentarily exposed during the summer.

I see no problem with saints making personal choices to cover more surface area of their bodies, but what I take exception to is the use of Scriptures like Rev. 1:13 to make the claim that Christlike dress means wearing garments to the feet. I would then have to ask you, Bro. Huston, if two sisters in your assembly are wearing their skirts down to their feet and one has a slit exposing the calf and the other has no slit- is the one without the slit dressing in a more Christlike manner? If one sister wears a skirt half way down the calf and the other wears her skirt an inch above the floor, is the latter dressed in a more Christlike manner? And lastly, of two brothers, if one wears shorts below the knee and the other wears pants to the ground, is the latter dressed in a more Christlike manner? If it is our goal to all be as Christlike as possible, and if you believe wearing garments to the feet is the most Christlike attire, then I would ask why you do not preach that the women should always wear skirts that touch their feet? There are only 2 or 3 apostolic assemblies that I have been in where it is preached and practiced that all the women wear dresses to their feet and where all the men wear long pants all the time. If garments to the feet are more Christlike then these assemblies are the most Christlike in their way of dress and the rest of us have a ways to go in order to be more like our LORD.

-Bro. Alex
I think the reason this discussion is going in circles is because I'm discussing principles and you're discussing personal applications. In my way of thinking, we first search out the principles, then determine how they should be applied in our lives. To simply dismiss a principle because you never felt Christ's displeasure while you were doing a certain thing is a highly subjective and dangerous approach to determining genuine apostolic practice. Furthermore, to dismiss an interpretation because the interpreters apply it legalistically is also dangerous. Just because some people are legalistic does not mean everything they do is wrong. I'm certainly not suggesting we do a certain thing just because Orthodox Jews do it. I was only pointing out that our view is not unique and has been accepted by others who take the Old Testament seriously for hundreds of years.

Just to make it clear, we teach that both men and women ought to cover their knees/thighs on the basis that to expose them is unseemly, immodest, and provocative. We also encourage men to cover their legs entirely on the basis that this is how we see Jesus in the only description of Him that details His clothing. If a skirt has a slit, we consider the top of the slit to determine the length of the skirt. If the slit starts at the knee, the skirt is too short.

Some may consider our teachings to be severe and unrealistic in our modern culture. Others may consider them to have no biblical basis. But we believe they are there in type and principle for those who have eyes to see. Not everything God expects of His people is explicitly stated in the Bible. There are some things that must be discerned.
Bro. Huston,

I don’t know if this conversation is going in circles or not. I am trying to understand your position, but as I look further into the Scriptures (such as with the word “kethoneth”, Rev. 1:13-14, and the verses in Isaiah about “nakedness” and the word “ervah”) I seem to be understanding your position less. I understand the difference between “principles” and “practice” but our practices should all be influenced by our principles. To me it would seem that a “principled life” is one in which our practices and principles coincide and this frees us from hypocrisy. As for first searching out the principles and then seeing how we should apply them to our lives- I completely agree, but I am not seeing the principles that you are stating as being scriptural. I also understand that the Scriptures can not contain everything that we need to know about life to the most minuet detail, but it would seem to me that if this way of dressing, that you are talking about, is so important and scriptural that it would have been mentioned in more detail in the scriptures. After all, I can look at the Scriptures and see justification for gender-differentiation in clothing, but I can not look at Scripture and see principles that would tell us that Christlike dress is ankle-length garments, and when GOD clothes Adam and Eve and the word “kethoneth” is used we clearly see from the lexicon that this garment goes to the knees and not the ankles. Also, as for the Jews being sincere in their obedience to the Scriptures, I do not see any way of discerning out from the Scriptures that 4 inches below the knee is the proper length for a garment, and so from this I do not see where the Scriptures can be “discerned” enough to come to some of these conclusions. I believe, rather, that well-meaning people are reading into the Scriptures the dress standards that they want to be there. Like I said, it is no problem if you chose to never wear shorts, but what I find as problematic is saying that long pants are more Christlike- this seems to be reading into the Scriptures and making a verse in Revelation speak of modesty when that is not what I believe Rev. 1:13 is attempting to speak of since the context isn’t even addressing modesty.

-Bro. Alex
Chapter 3, "God, The Designer of Clothes," from Jeff Pollard's book Christian Modesty and The Public Undressing of America" seems to cover this topic well enough. Pollard attempts to outline a biblical standard by exploring certain specific events that relate to clothing.

The chapter is broken up into the following sections:

When there were no clothes.
When God gave clothes.
When God gave the Priesthood clothes.
When God wore clothes.
When God gives the Saints in Heaven clothes.

Pollard concludes, "It appears the Bible does offer us a standard for covering the body. From the coats God gave Adam to the robes He designed for the priests and from the garments of Jesus Christ to the clean, white robes of the saints in glory, we have a consistent testimony. The Old and New Testaments reveal that God's earthly and heavenly people wore garments that covered them from at least the neck-to-below the knee (possibly mid-calf to ankle). These passages coupled with others indicate that Christians have a standard for covering their bodies, especially when they gather corporately to worship the living God. . . . Since God Himself covered Adam and the priests; and since Christ covered Himself as He covers the saints in heaven, don't we have a perfect standard for modesty and sobriety? When we believers do not have a black and white command in the Bible, our normal practice is to search God's perfect record for a principle from which we may draw a proper conclusion. If we reject this practice, where will we find a standard of modesty? Whatever else may be drawn from these Scriptural accounts, it is obvious that clothes covered the body, especially in worship. . . . Adam, the Priesthood, Jesus Christ, and the glorified saints all point to one clear fact: God's people should be covered. And the Biblical model suggests a standard of at least neck-to-below the knee" (pp. 28-29, emphasis in original).

Because of copyright contraints, I'm not able to publish the whole chapter. So if there is any interest in seeing Pollard's full argument, I recommend the book. It is not a full dissertation on Christian modesty since it deals primarily with the swimsuit industry, but chapter 3 is very good regarding the discussion of kuttonet (kethoneth) clothing.
Thanks, Michael, for bringing this book up. I also recommend, Christian Modesty and The Public Undressing of America. It has some very helpful insights as to how the swimsuit industry got America's women to take their clothes off - they started with the men!
Hmmm. Passionate topic. Some thoughts.

If "make bare the leg, uncover the thigh" in Isa 47:2 defines nakedness, then so does "uncover thy locks" (i.e., remove your veil and show your hair) and "pass over the rivers" (whatever that means, commentaries say they held up their garments when crossing a stream or river so they wouldn't get wet). How should we apply "uncover thy locks" to the nakedness definition in modern Christianity? Do we just ignore that part?

Also, regarding "a garment down to the foot", if examples of male dress in the scriptures constitute a standard for the modern Church, then that standard is robes, which are curiously like a dress (though I am sure there were important differences). Pants may very well be a trick of the devil to throw us off the clear example of scripture. Robes are far more modest than pants.
Good points Bro. Prevost.

I'm still looking for an answer to the question I raised on 9/23 about the definition of the word "kethoneth" that Bro. Huston provided.

This is an excerpt of my post on 9/23, if any of the brothers have any familiarity with this word and it's etimology I'd be much obliged.

"Also, for anyone interested in looking further into the meaning of "kethoneth" I have posted the link to this word's meaning on
If one looks at the Gesenius Lexicon (which I am unable to copy and paste) then one will see that, starting on the fifth line it reads, "generally with sleeves, coming down to the knees, rarely to the ancles." "

-Bro. Alex
Dear Brothers, although I firmly believe in modesty by both men and women, the truth is that the definition has changed throughout the history of the church. It is true that the modern definition is that of the Methodist movement from a past time. The issue of provocativeness lies within the heart of the individual. I personally have no problem with men or women showing their knees. The knee does not arouse anything within my heart. Showing inches above the knee is another issue for many, men and women may indeed have feelings concerning the baring of the thigh that could lead them into wrong imaginations.

I have Jewish friends at a Messianic Jewish Congregation that have told me that the words used in the Old Testament (OT) concerning baring of the thigh is not quite what it was translated. The original words to a Hebrew would mean the lower edge of the buttocks, not the thigh as we know today. So from my perspective, these scriptures add no light to this subject.

The "breeches" described in the OT were for priests only not all men. According to the Jewish folks, this garment (an undergarment) was still above the knees.

When a man girded his loins his knees were bare and most probably the lower part of his thigh, this was perfectly acceptable in ancient days. This enabled him to run and to fight.

Now all that being said, I would never say that showing mid to upper thigh is acceptable. I would also not like shorts at a congregational meeting.

One further point and certainly not to be argumentative, "katastole" does not mean "dress" as in skirt it means dress as in apparel. It does however indicate long, whatever that was in those days. I believe at the time the Greek and Roman women did wear a short tunic at about mid thigh, which I would consider unacceptable then and today.

Man must obey his conscience and his biblical teaching. If one listens to the Holy Spirit, It will guide you into all truth. The problem is listening... keeping your own human thoughts restrained.

David Huston said:
Alex, as I have said, pants that go far enough below the knee that no part of the thigh would be exposed under any circumstances is biblically acceptable if we use exposing the thigh as the definition of nakedness. If we say that a man can wear shorts above the knee, then to be consistent we must also say that a woman can wear a skirt above the knee. This is unacceptable, because it is immodest and provocative. The world we live in is filled with lust and sensuality, and we need to be fighting hard to keep this spirit out of the church. Exposing the knee is an obvious gateway to this lust. Therefore, to be careful and consistent, we believe that both men and women should cover themselves in a way that the knee and the back of the knee are never exposed.

As to Revelation 1:13, you have once again missed my point. I am only addressing the issue of modesty. It may be okay with Jesus if male believers expose their lower calf, but His example is to cover the entire leg. My citation of this verse has nothing to do with copying the style and types of clothes He is wearing; it is only to point to His example of modesty. Jesus did not expose His legs, except of the cross when He was humiliated for our transgressions.

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