Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Introduction

“God clothed Adam and Eve! That’s good enough for me!!”

I’ve had Bible teachers say essentially that (See this email debate).

(actual quote: “Whatever the reason God clothed Adam and Eve, He clothed them, and nowhere instructed them to remove the clothing. Without any biblical instruction whatever on the value of nudity, I am going to follow God’s example with Adam and Eve and clothe myself.”)

The assumption is, of course, that God clothed Adam and Eve because (obviously!) He wanted our bodies to be hidden from view. We can no longer look upon nakedness in purity—it is assumed—so now we have to keep our bodies covered unless we are with our own spouse.

But… is that really why God gave Adam and Eve clothing? Was God’s purpose for clothing at that moment in time to provide a future means by which sexual purity would upheld?

There is no such declaration in the text that that is the case, nor is there any command associated with the clothing of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:21 (Read the entire context). Of course, that fact by itself does not prove the idea wrong, but it certainly should give us pause, and call us to reevaluate the assumptions.

This introductory article is actually the first in a series that will survey the biblical purpose for clothing. I want to see if there is any merit to the assumed purpose stated above, and if not, what other valid biblical purpose would offer a credible explanation of why God clothed Adam and Eve.

My initial assumption is this: God’s purpose for clothing Adam and Eve must be a Biblically valid purpose. For example, If the purpose above is a valid purpose, then we should see the principle of covering nakedness to promote sexual purity as a Scripturally demonstrable purpose for clothing. If not, we should look for a different purpose altogether.

Starting at the Beginning.

To set a baseline for this survey regarding clothing, we need to start at the very beginning.

In Genesis 1-2, we find that the nudity of the first couple was evidently God’s original intent. There were no such thing as “clothes” nor any need for them at all. It was such a good and right thing that God made a special point of mentioning their nudity as part of the Creation account (Gen. 2:25). We also have to conclude that their nudity was literally part of the Creation which God declared to be “very good” in Gen. 1:31.

This leads us to our first and foundational observation that we can make about clothing. It is this:

Baseline Observation
There was nothing about life in the Garden of Eden that required clothing.

That’s an important observation because wherever we find a purpose for clothing in the Scriptures, we should be able to point out how the context was different than the Garden context.

This observation works for both sides of this particular discussion, since one of the main points of those who believe in the purpose stated above is that we could only handle nakedness before sin. They believe that the introduction of sin into the human equation is the wild card that changed the context so significantly that clothing is now required to serve as an inhibiter to sin.

But it also means that there may be other “before/after” differences that could adequately explain the purpose of God’s clothing Adam and Eve. It would be a mistake to lock onto that one notion and reject all other possibilities without examination.

Before and After the Fall.

So if clothing was not needed before the Fall, but clothing was useful or needed after the Fall (we can assume that God had a good reason for clothing Adam and Eve), what changes took place for which clothing is an appropriate and effective solution? This is a question that we will keep in mind for the duration of this survey.

As I stated above, it is further assumed that whatever purpose God had for the clothing after the Fall, we should be able to find confirming evidence for the same purpose elsewhere in the Scriptures. Once identified, we will examine each biblically discernable purpose for clothing to see if it might offer a reasonable explanation of God’s purpose for clothing Adam and Eve.

— Matthew Neal

This article Series:

The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Introduction
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 1 – Shame and Fear??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 2 – Clothing as Currency
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 3 – Sign of Position
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 4 – Communicate About the Person
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 5 – Gender Distinction?
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 6 – Warmth and Protection
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 7 – Controlling Lust??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Conclusion
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Epilogue

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