Technical note: It is implicit in all references to 1611 linguistic understanding (meaning) in this article that the Hebrew or Greek linguistic understanding is in perfect agreement. This is a matter of linguistic science, not assumption.
God (the Bible) answers this question indirectly, as He (It) does many questions. First, God condemns public nakedness. This is true in the Bible starting in the very first book of the Bible. (There are 43 verses in the Bible that use the word “nakedness.”) Genesis 9:23 says:
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father [Noah]; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s [Noah’s] nakedness.
Now, what does the word “nakedness” mean in the Bible? Nakedness is the quality of being naked. Hebrew language scholars, e.g., Strong, tell us that the word “naked” in the Bible means:
nude, either partially or totally
Thus, we infer that a person can be considered naked even if the lower part of their body is completely covered.
Now, the key question is:
Where does clothedness end and nakedness begin?
Again, Hebrew language scholars, e.g., Strong, tell us the precise meaning of the word “nakedness”:
nudity, literally (especially the pudenda)
The word “pudenda” means:
the external genital organs of a human being
For our super technical friends, the definition of the word “pudenda” in 1611 was:
the parts of generation
This means the precise definition of “pudenda” is:
the genital organs of a human being
Now, some will seize on this and say that neither a part nor all of the upper part of the body constitutes one or more genital organs and, therefore, there is no restriction on the uncovering of the upper part of the body. This leads us to the psychical (“mental”) element of nakedness but we will resume the discussion of the physical side of things later in this article.
The Bible addresses nakedness in more than one dimension; that is, the Bible addresses nakedness both physically and psychically. The psychical element is determined by the genetically determined response of other human beings. Common sense tells us (we have studies for the “study lovers”) that most people are increasingly “affected” the more skin another person reveals.
Now, regarding women (this applies to men as well), the Bible makes it crystal clear that women have a responsibility to avoid this increasing affectedness. In other words, don’t get men excited, ladies! The Bible says in I Timothy 2:9:
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel [clothing], with shamefacedness and sobriety…
This verse establishes the fact that:
Some ways of dressing are right (modest apparel [clothing]) and some are wrong.
Note also that the word “modest” conveys the idea of:
something that conforms to a socially recognized pattern
Greek language scholars, e.g., Strong, tell us that the Greek word for “modest” involves the idea of:
order[liness] [in the sense of a socially recognized pattern]
And that the Greek word for “modest” comes from another Greek word that means:
orderly arrangement [in the sense of a socially recognized pattern]
This establishes the fact that how a person dresses is governed, to some extent, by:
something outside of themselves, by an objective authority
Now, Greek language scholars, e.g., Strong, tell us that the word “shamefacedness” means:
bashfulness, that is, (towards men), modesty
The definition of the word “shamefacedness” in 1611 was:
bashfulness; excess of modesty
The word “bashfulness” in 1611 meant (from Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English):
Excessive or extreme modesty; a quality of mind often visible in external appearance, as in blushing, a downcast look , confusion. &c [etc.].
Note that a woman is to have a certain “quality of mind.” This quality of mind results in their avoidance of the affectedness (read above) of men.
Now, so far, we have established:
- How one dresses is not totally up to them; there is an objective authority to be heeded.
- The definition of nudity (nakedness) for the lower part of the body is a lack of concealment (coveredness).
- The attitude of nudity (nakedness) relative to any part of the body is to be one of extreme modesty.
Still, however, we have not provided any objective authority (moral reason and conscience are internal authorities and attitude just means you are willing to do the right thing once you learn what it is)…still, however, we have not provided any objective authority for what part of the upper body should be covered and, specifically, where should the neckline be?
First, we will provide the not-strongest objective authorities:
- Your parents teach you how to dress modestly.
- Your teachers teach you how to dress modestly.
- Most of society teaches you how to dress modestly.
Now, here is the strongest authority. God (the Bible) says in Genesis 3:7:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Now, be careful. Language can be a funny thing. The garments used to first cover nakedness were aprons. However:
The word “apron” has changed in meaning since 1611. In 1611, the word “apron” meant “[something] worn on the forepart of the body.”
The word “forepart” in 1611 meant:
the anterior part
The word “anterior” in 1611 meant:
before or in front in place
It is clear that the first garment covered the front of the body.
Now, we know there will be a handful of silly people who will be asking “What about the back and sides of the body?” Yes, the back and sides were covered as well (see our upcoming super technical discussion). Our focus in this article is the neckline.
Now, there is one point for which we would like to provide additional evidence (this is not the only additional evidence or even the best additional evidence) and that is:
How far up and down the body did the apron extend?
Well, the word “front” in 1611 meant (see Grisheimchoff via Lionwrit):
the forward region from top to bottom
And the word “body” in discussions of attire in 1611 meant (see Grisheimchoff’s son, Stewart G., via Lionwrit):
the physical structure of a human being from the bottom of the neck to the soles of the feet
Note the words “bottom of the neck.” Therefore, a person is to be covered from the bottom of the neck downward. In other words:
The neckline must be at the bottom of the neck (or higher).
Now, we know there are many more technical questions on this subject that can be asked and answered. We will do just that when we have the opportunity. For additional insights and information see our XEGP Fact & Vice Patrol.