Re: [asa] Re: Nakedness and the Fall of Man

From: John Burgeson (ASA member) <>
Date: Mon Mar 02 2009 - 10:46:00 EST

This is an interesting thread. I was waiting for your answer, George.
I appreciate it; it "makes sense." Thanks.

The question still remeins though. Just why are humans the only
species (we know about) that wear clothing? I wonder if Neandertals

And that spawns a whole bunch of other questions. Do nudist camps hold
Christian services? If not -- why not? I could go on but the first
question seems to be primary.


On 2/27/09, George Murphy <> wrote:
> Others have weighed in on this topic since I responded briefly a few days
> ago, but since Phil asked especially for my views on the topic, here they
> are.
> I think that Phil's suggestion can provide some helpful illustrations of the
> significance of Christ, & especially of Paul's image of "putting on" Christ.
> It could be used effectively in sermon illustrations, e.g. But it's quite
> another matter to say that this naked/clothed concept is primary in Gen.3,
> that it can be connected with the Cain-Abel conflict in Gen.4, & especially
> that Paul had this in mind when he spoke of putting on Christ. Below I
> elaborate briefly.
> For the Hebrews the idea of displaying one's nakedness publicly was
> abhorrent. That shows up in a number of passages where it's very hard, even
> from the standpoint of the NT, to see any connection with the presence or
> absence of Christ - e.g., Ex.20:26. The story of the drunkenness of Noah is
> maybe the best example. But it would be possible to envision a condition in
> which nakedness was not shameful, & that's what Gen.2:25 is about. But when
> the man & woman had disobeyed God & "their eyes were opened," it was
> shameful. Why - because they knew that they were without Christ? Of course
> there is no hint of that in the text itself. It is simpler, & far more
> likely, to say that it's because they were in the condition that the
> biblical writer & his audience were in, in which nakedness was shameful.
> The fact that the word sin is not used in Gen.3 doesn't mean that that's not
> what it's about. Disobeying God is sin, & that's what God refers to in
> 3:17.
> The idea that the "garments of skins" of 3:21 prefigure the sacrifice of
> Christ is an old one but there is nothing either here or in the NT to
> suggest that any sacrificial concept at all is involved. It doesn't even
> say that God killed any animals to get them - maybe he just made them ex
> nihilo for all we can tell. Asking where the skins came from is like asking
> where Cain got his wife - a popular exercise but one that apparently didn't
> concern the biblical writer at all. (& why did God replace their fig leaf
> garments with skins? The former aren't too practical, while clothing made
> of animal skins goes way back in human history.)
> There are prescriptions for offerings of vegetation in torah so those aren't
> intrinsically bad. & again there's no indication in the text that Abel's
> sacrifice was superior in content to Cain's. 4:6-7 suggests that Cain's
> attitude was the problem, something that is quite consistent with the
> broader biblical view of sacrifice - cf. Is.66:3 & other prophetic
> denunciations of the idea that the offering of material sacrifices in itself
> is automatically something acceptable to God.
> Did Paul have the nakedness of Adam & Eve in mind when he spoke of being
> clothed with Christ in Rom.13 & Gal.3? When Paul gives an allegorical
> interpretation of an OT text, it's clear what he's allegorizing (in I
> Cor.5:6-8, 9:8-10, 10:1-11, Gal.4:21-31). It's not impossible that he
> thought the reference to Gen.3 was obvious in the 2 passages Phil mentions,
> or that it was so obvious to him that he didn't even think to mention it,
> but "not impossible" doesn't rise to the level of "Surely Paul had the
> garden of Eden in mind ...".
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> From:
> To:
> Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 1:31 AM
> Subject: Nakedness and the Fall of Man
> George, this is especially for you becaue I'd like to know if you (or
> anyone else) has seen much theology written about this topic of Nakedness in
> the Fall of Man, and what it means to the theology of the Fall.
> I've been re-thinking the Fall of Man, and I've concluded that the author
> intentionally does not introduce the category of "sin" in the story, and
> we've been mistakenly inserting it there. Instead, the author's principle
> categories for the Fall of Man are "nakedness" and "knowing good from evil."
> IMO, this distinction (nakedness, not sin, as the essence of the Fall) has
> profound theological and Christological importance, including our
> understanding of man's origins and its relationship to science. Here's the
> idea:
> 1. The imagery of Nakedness speaks of being not clothed with Christ
> (i.e., not having God's life in us mediated by Christ)
> a.. It indicates our inadequacy to live as moral agents apart from God.
> As long as Adam had not gained the "knowledge of good & evil", then he had
> no moral inadequacy and so no sense of moral inadequacy (not "ashamed" of
> nakedness).. As soon as he gained moral knowledge, he recognized his
> nakedness and was ashamed. That is, he realized something was missing from
> himself which made him "not right." He needed something to be added to
> himself to be completed. What he needed was Christ.
> a.. Paul picks up on the same imagery in Rom. 13:14, "clothe yourselves
> in Christ", and in Gal.3:27, "all of you who were baptized into Christ have
> clothed yourselves with Christ." Surely Paul had the garden of Eden in mind
> when he thought being naked and being clothed was an important way to
> describe Christ.
> a.. I think the case for this interpretation is made very strongly,
> below
> 2. God contrasts vegetation with animal sacrifice in both the account of
> the Fall and in the Abel & Cain account. This parallelism between Gen. 3 &
> Gen.4 is striking and should not be missed.
> a.. Adam & Eve clothed themselves in vegetation, but God rejected that.
> Cain brought a sacrifice of vegetation, but God rejected that.
> a.. God replaced Adam & Eve's vegetaion covering with a sacrificed
> animal's skin, which He accepted. Abel brought a sacrifice of an animal,
> which God accepted.
> a.. The parallelism of rejecting vegetation versus accepting a killed
> animal indicates that the symbols have he same meaning in both accounts
> 3. The symbolism of vegetation (the fig leaf to cover nakedness and also
> Cain's crop offering) represents our "works", our reliance on our own
> efforts to span the gap between us & God
> a.. Adam & family were gardeners, charged with growing plants. This
> appears in Gen.2:15 and again in the curse Gen.3:17-19 which is focused on
> the growth of crops as mankind's occupation, his "work", his "sweat". It
> appears again in the curse of Cain's work. Throughout this context, Adam's
> and Cain's "works" were the leaves they produced as farmers/gardeners.
> a.. Using a fig leaf to cover your nakedness represents trying to save
> yourself by works, trying to make up with is missing from ourselves by
> something that we can find conveniently at hand.
> 3. In contrast, the symbol of animal sacrifice pictures Christ. It
> demonstrates faith in God's grace that He will provide a substitute so that
> we don't need to rely on our inadequate works. This is consistent with the
> theology of atonement and symbolism of blood sacrifice throughout the OT.
> 4. Since God solved our nakedness by clothing us with Christ (pictured by
> the sacrificed animal), then obviously the problem was that we needed Christ
> and didn't yet have him. I.e., if Christ was the solution, then being
> without Christ was the problem. This is a compelling argument that
> nakedness represents being without Christ.
> 5. But the text makes it clear that being without Christ was OK for Adam
> before he became a moral agent. Nakedness is not sin!!! It is OK for an
> animal that doesn't know good from evil to not be clothed with Christ.
> However, it is never OK for any moral being to not be clothed with Christ.
> Even un-fallen beings like angels, if they are moral agents, need Christ.
> It is a category mistake to think that any being can produce a moral life
> apart from Christ. God is the source of all goodness, so the category
> "being good" is undefinable apart from relationship with Christ who lives in
> us. So that is why God told Adam and Eve that they must not become moral
> agents (as they were, naked -- not clothed in Christ), lest they die. In
> this account, death is not a judicial pronouncement God would render for
> their disobedience; No! -- it is the natural outcome of becoming moral
> agents who do not yet have Christ.
> 6. As I read the text I see how it is all about nakedness rather than
> about sin. They were naked and unashamed. Then they ate of the tree and
> knew they were naked. (The text immediately goes to their nakedness as the
> all-important category at the moment they ate of that tree). Then they
> clothed their nakedness. They were ashamed of nakedness and that is why
> they hid. "I was afraid because I was naked." Then God discusses their
> nakedness. Then God un-clothes them and re-clothes them His own way. Then
> the symbols of the two kinds of clothing (vegetation and animal sacrifice)
> are repeated in the Cain/Abel story. So the Fall of Man is ALL about their
> nakedness. Nakedness is not a quaint little illustration of man becoming
> ashamed after he falls into sin. NO! Instead, it is the very essence of
> the falling. (The other part of that essence is becoming one who knows good
> from evil.) Note also that it doesn't say Adam and Eve hid from God because
> they were ashamed because they had disobeyed and were feeling guilty, or
> they were ashamed because they sinned and knew they actually were guilty.
> No! None of these categories (sin, guilt, guilty feelings for sin) have
> been introduced by the author into the text. These are things that we
> wrongly read into the text because we are trying to jump ahead too quickly.
> Instead, Adam and Eve were ashamed simply because they were naked. That's
> they said, and that's the only thing the author considered to be important
> enough to tell us about their hiding. It really is a story about their
> nakedness, their inadequacy apart from Christ. Being without Christ (naked)
> is vastly more important than having guilty feelings for disobedience.
> We've been majoring on categories (guilt & sin) that the author has not even
> introduced into the text, and we've been missing the importance of the one
> category (nakedness) that the author has been harping on over and over again
> all through the text.
> 7. This interpretation helps to make sense of the rest of the story. Why
> did the author think it was important to have Adam name animals and Eve be
> made subsequent to Adam? Surely there are multiple reasons, but one reason
> that I think unifies the main themes of the text is that it is about human
> inadequacy and the need for relationships. Man is inadequate and so he is
> told to find a helper, and so he examines and names the animals but finds no
> helper. Animals are incapable of answering man's inadequacy. God then
> provides for man's inadeqacy by making him a helper. To be adequate in this
> world, man and woman need each other. Relationship solves inadequacy. But
> the author finds it important to say in the very next sentence that both man
> and woman are naked -- so the sexes "complete" one another in an important
> sense, but we do not "clothe" one another in the (symbolic) sense that we
> need relationship with God, too. The chapter is all about the relationships
> we need to be adequate.
> 8. The first time God introduces the category of sin is not in the Fall,
> but in the Abel/Cain account. Abel rightly continues trusting God to cover
> his nakedness (so to speak) as pictured by his offering of animal
> sacrifices. Cain represents the human tendency to slip back to trusting
> ourselves rather than God, trying to cover our nakedness (so to speak) by
> vegetation offerings (our works). His offering is rejected, and he is
> angry. Now for the very first time in the Bible God mentions sin, that it
> is crouching at Cain's door (a picture of a lion about to pounce) and it's
> desire is for him (the lion wants to eat him). So the category of sin is
> introduced not as the quintessence of the Fall, but as merely a consequence
> of the Fall. The Fall was about our lack of relationship with Christ. Sin
> is the outcome of not having that relationship. This puts Christology at
> the center where it should be, and hamartiology in the secondary position.
> This is the importance of the Cain/Abel story and why the author included it
> in the Scriptures (something that was always a mystery to me until now).
> The author, having dealt with Christology in the Fall, now proceeds to
> hamartiology in the Cain/Abel account.
> 9. This puts the theology of Genesis 3 at a very highly developed level,
> as high as what we find in the NT. It is identical to Paul's discussion of
> Law and grace. Paul says that a Law has not been given capable of
> communicating life to us. Instead, the law communicates death because it
> leaves us inadequate to keep its demands at the same time it makes them. It
> only shows us how we fall short. Life is found not in our efforts to keep
> the law, but as a gracous gift in Christ, through the indwelling Spirit. We
> need to be clothed in Christ. The author of Genesis was no theological
> slouch. He anticipated all this (inspired as he was) and told a story of
> early man becoming a free moral agent while not yet clothed in Christ. The
> law (the knowledge of good & evil) did not communicate the ability to keep
> its demands. It only allowed them to recognized their inadequacy as moral
> agents who were missing something important (Christ). Man was ashamed at
> his inadequacy and relied on his own efforts to try to make up for it. But
> naked and not trusting God as he was, sin was crouching at his door and it
> consumed him. As Paul said, the law brought death, and spiritually dead
> people sin. The law stirred up in us all manner of covetousness.
> This is freeing because I see no conflict with what we know from science
> with this kind of an understanding of the Fall of Man. We know that at some
> point man became different than other primates because he became a moral
> agent. We know that in this process he did not end up being clothed in
> Christ, a spiritual being whose every generation comes out of the womb
> singing Hosannah. Instead, he comes out relying on his own works to make up
> for his sense of moral and spiritual inadequacy. The inspired author of
> Genesis interprets this for us theologically. He connects the dots between
> these two common-sense observations about man's original state by explaining
> the causal relationships between them. He says that our becoming moral
> agents while yet naked (inadequate to the task of moral agency apart from
> Christ) made us inherently spiritually dead.
> We also know as a common-sense observation that man ended up being
> consumed by sin. The author of Genesis connects this dot for us, too. He
> tells how the moral agent man (Cain), relying on his own works rather than
> Christ, fell short in his behavior and so mankind was consumed by sin. The
> causal relationships are:
> a.. Naked (not in Christ) + Become Moral Agent --> Death
> a.. Death + Rely on Self (not Christ) --> Sin rules us
> This is different than what I was taught traditionally in church, as
> follows:
> a.. Sin (disobey command to not eat from the tree) --> Death
> a.. Death --> have guilty feelings illustrated by the quaint example of
> Adam not wanting people to see his privates
> The traditional view fails because it treats the symbols in the text as
> trivial. It ignores the symbol of the tree making us into moral agents. It
> tries to say instead that man was already moral agent in his original
> estate, and hence capable of sinning (disobeying the command to not eat from
> the tree). It thus finds it necessary to make a strained re-interpretation
> of the tree as "knowing good and evil in our own way rather than God's way"
> rather than simply "knowing good and evil" as the text has it (and as God
> affirms in saying "man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil).
> The traditional view also trivializes the symbol of nakedness, which is the
> most important part of the whole story. The traditional view also fails
> because it tries to psychologize Adam's hiding (a guilt reaction to sin)
> rather than seeing it as a deep statement of Man's recogniation of his
> inadequacy, being as he was apart from Christ. The traditional view simply
> makes a muddle out of the text.
> The traditional view is also hard to interpret in light of science. Much
> of what we consider our "sinful nature" is the result of evolutionary
> inheritance. If Adam was originally a moral being while yet unfallen, then
> at least those parts of his "sinful nature" must have pre-existed his fall.
> He would have been a moral agent with biological urges to do morally
> unacceptable things and yet without any sin. While this is not a logical
> contradiction, we have to wonder how Adam pulled that off, and why he later
> failed to continue pulling that off when he fell. And how does that kind of
> Fall correlate to the symbols in the text, eating of the tree of the
> knowledge of good and evil? The loss of Adam's (supposed) ability to
> perfectly resist biological urges does not correlate with "Man has become
> like one of us, knowing good from evil." Science just does not correlate
> with the text, read that way.
> But taking the categories the author uses, and steadfastly refusing to
> read into the text any categories that the author has not yet introduced,
> produces a picture that is completely consistent with evolution. Early man,
> prior to the Fall, would have had biological urges that must be resisted if
> he were to become a moral agent. So to avoid spiritual death, before he
> becomes a moral being he must put on Christ so that he will be able, through
> Christ, to resist those urges. But sadly, man became a moral being while
> yet "naked" and inadequate, being without Christ. Even without biological
> urges, being a moral being without Christ would have produced death. The
> evolutionary biological urges were not in any way causal to that death,
> although they help us to understand our need for Christ quite efficiently.
> In fact, we might conclude that God in his economy decided that man should
> have biological urges inherited by evolution because after his Fall they
> would show us so well our inadequacy apart from Christ.
> Phil
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Received on Mon Mar 2 10:46:27 2009

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