Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and Eve

I finally did it.
I ordered a copy of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s book, In God’s Image and Likeness.

I have been contemplating this addition to my library for some time, but the following snippet from the book made it a sure sale!

The Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and Eve

Moses’ account depicts Adam and Eve as naked and without shame in the Garden,”’ and clothed by God in coats of skin only later, after the Fall.”` However, many of the earliest artistic depictions of the story show a surprising reversal of the situation, portraying Adam and Eve clothed in regal glory within Eden, and naked after their expulsion. How can this be?

Recalling the parallels between the Garden of Eden and Israelite Houses of God, Anderson points out that “the vestments of the priest matched exactly those particular areas of the Temple to which he had access… Each time the high priest moved from one gradient of holiness to another, he had to remove one set of clothes and put on another to mark the change”:

(a) Outside the Tabernacle priests wear ordinary clothes. (b) When on duty in the Tabernacle, they wear four pieces of clothing whose material and quality of workmanship match that of the fabrics found on the outer walls of the courtyard. (c) The High Priest wears those four pieces plus four additional ones-these added garments match the fabric of the Holy Chamber where he must go daily to tend the incense altar.

In Eden a similar set of vestments is found, again each set suited to its particular space. (a) Adam and Eve were, at creation, vested like priests and granted access to most of Eden. (b) Had they been found worthy, an even more glorious set of garments would have been theirs (and according to St. Ephrem, they would have entered even holier ground). (c) But having [transgressed], they were stripped of their angelic garments and put on mortal flesh. Thus, when their feet met ordinary earth-the realm of the animals-their constitution had become “fleshly;’ or mortal.

Consistent with this schema, each stage in the sequence of changes in Adam and Eve’s status in the book of Moses is marked by a change in their appearance. The imagery of clothing is “a means of linking together in a dynamic fashion the whole of salvation history; it is a means of indicating the interrelatedness between every stage in this continuing working out of divine Providence;” including “the place of each individual Christian‘s ordinances within the divine economy as a whole.” Note the chiastic structure of the sequence, which begins and ends in glory:

1. From glory to nakedness. Though “naked” because their knowledge of their premortal state had been taken away by a veil of forgetfulness, Adam and Eve had come to Eden nonetheless “trailing clouds of glory.”‘” While the couple, as yet, were free from transgression, they could stand “naked” in God‘s presence without shame, being “clothed with purity’ in what early commentators called “garments of light“ or “garments of contentment.“ In one source, Eve describes her appearance by saying: “I was decked out like a bride, And I reclined in a wedding-chamber of light”

In the context of rituals and ordinances based on the experiences of Adam and Eve, Nibley explained: “The garment [of light] represents the preexistent glory of the candidate… When he leaves on his earthly mission, it is laid up for him in heaven to await his return. It thus serves as security and lends urgency and weight to the need for following righteous ways on earth. For if one fails here, one loses not only one‘s glorious future in the eternities to come, but also the whole accumulation of past deeds and accomplishments in the long ages of preexistence.’

1. From innocence to transgression.’”‘ Rabbinical tradition taught that, following his transgression, “Adam… lost his heavenly clothing-God stripped it off him.. “ and similarly that Eve “was stripped of the righteousness in which [she] had been clothed..” Likewise, the Discourse on Abbaton records that both Adam and Eve “became naked” upon eating the forbidden fruit. According to the Life of Adam and Eve, God then “sent seventy plagues upon us, to our eyes, and to our ears and as far as our feet, plagues and portents laid up in his treasuries.“ Anderson takes this to mean that “Adam has exchanged an angelic constitution for a mortal one,” in other words that he has been “clothed with flesh” Shamed by their loss of glory, Adam and Eve covered their earthly bodies with fig leaf aprons.

Rabbinical writings describe how, in likeness of Adam and Eve, each soul descending to earth “divests itself of its heavenly garment, and is clothed in a garment of flesh and blood; the prior glory being, as it were, “veiled… in flesh” The various “afflictions” of mortality initially given to Adam and now bestowed upon “all… generations” frequently number seven rather than the seventy mentioned above: “They are against the ‘seven natures: the flesh for hearing, the eyes for seeing, the breath to smell, the veins to touch, the blood for taste, and bones for endurance, and the intelligence for joy’; or against life, sight, hearing, smell, speech, taste, procreation”‘” Though Adam and Eve were protected from fatal harm at the time of extremity, ancient texts recount that Satan had been allowed to hurt them, and the “wounds;” foreshadowing the later wounds received by Christ at His crucifixion, “remained on their bodies”” Nibley sees the wounds of nature and of Satan to various parts_ of the body as figuratively corresponding to the “blows of death” taught by Satan to Cain.’” He describes their enactment in Jewish ritual as follows: “The wages of sin is death, and the dead body is chided at an old-fashioned Jewish funeral because its members no longer function, and each one is struck an impatient and accusing blow. This is the chibut ha-keber. `On the third day the departed is treated with increased rigor. Blows are struck on his eyes because he would not see, on his ears because he would not hear, on his lips because they uttered profanities, on his tongue because it bore false testimony against his neighbor, on his feet because they ran toward evil doing”‘

Thank you David J. Larsen, from Heavenly Ascents for sharing these great insights.

1 comment:

Donna B. Nielsen said...

Smart purchase! I'm reveling in my copy also. That book is a gift to the members of the Church.