Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Biblical Purpose of Clothing – Conclusion

So, what is the conclusion of this study? What are the biblically valid purposes for clothing, and which of those purposes best explains why God clothed Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:21?

Let me review.

Fear and Shame? No.

At the outset, we observed that Adam and Eve’s purpose for clothing themselves—to address the fear and shame—met with God’s reprimand rather than His approval. This established a baseline understanding that such a purpose for clothing was not biblically valid, and therefore, could not have been God’s purpose for clothing them 10 verses later. [For further discussion of this point, see the Epilogue]

Clothing as Currency? Yes, but No.

We next observed that clothing was actually used as currency in the Bible. But this would not explain God’s clothing of Adam and Eve.

Sign of Position? Yes, but No.

Clothing in the Bible sometimes was worn to signify that the wearer held a position of great honor. Once again, this does not fit God’s clothing Adam and Eve at all.

Communicate About a Person? Yes, but Not Likely.

Sometimes clothing was used to communicate the role, mental state, or status of a person. Could this explain why God clothed the first couple… to declare them to be sinners in need of covering? That might make some sense, but there is no corroboration in the text for that idea, nor is it stated anywhere else in the Bible. Consequently, it is highly suspect and uncertain. [For further discussion of this point, see the Epilogue]

Gender Distinction? I Doubt it, but No.

The biblical support for the notion that clothing is for gender distinction is very weak, However, even if it is a valid purpose for clothing, it does not explain why God would clothe Adam and Eve.

Warmth and Protection? Yes, and Very Fitting!

It is very easy to discern in the Bible that warmth and protection are fundamental purposes for clothing. Also, upon examination of the account of the Fall and the Curse, we can discern from the immediate context offers evidence that warmth and protection would likely be needed for life outside of the Garden of Eden.

Controlling Lust? No.

Despite the fact that this purpose for clothing is almost universally assumed to be valid, there is no credible evidence for it in the Bible… Not in Genesis 3, and not anywhere else. Since it is not a biblically valid purpose for clothing, it cannot explain God’s purpose for clothing Adam and Eve.

Any Others?

Have I missed any other purpose for clothing that might be found in the Bible? I welcome any feedback that would offer evidence that I have. I would be happy to add to this series of articles to include any oversight.

The Most Reasonable Answer…

Of all the purposes for clothing found in the Bible, only one fits the context of God’s provision of clothing for Adam and Eve. Without any doubt, Warmth and Protection provide the most reasonable explanation of God’s purpose for the coats of skin. Consequently, we can conclude with a good measure of confidence that God graciously clothed the first couple to protect their bodies from cold, thorns, and other potentially harmful factors that would have been reality outside of the Garden of Eden.

Of course, the Word of God does not give us a direct answer to our question of why God clothed Adam and Eve, so we cannot build doctrines or moral standards upon our conclusion, no matter how firm we believe it to be. However, it is very important that if we are going to offer any suggestion as to what God’s purpose was, we must offer an explanation that is both both biblical and reasonable.

Sadly, the most common view of why God gave Adam and Eve clothing—to control lust—is neither biblical nor reasonable. Despite that fact, entire systems of moral standards have been based upon its faulty logic. This view and its false standards must be rejected.

— 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


Anonymous said...

‘Where are you?’ The Lord questions man after he and his wife ‘hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden’ (3:8-10): Fear has entered the world as Adam and Eve realise they are naked. They had been naked before they sinned, but now they are aware of a change in their appearance.
‘The shekinah glory of God had covered them while they were in fellowship with God their creator. A shroud of glory surrounded them. How else do we account for this sudden surprise at their nakedness? Now sin had entered into the garden through man, the new creation of God, and the shekinah glory of God departed, not from the garden, but from our first parents.
They had sinned and ‘fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). The shining brightness that covered them –perhaps reflected from being in God’s radiant presence– is now lifted from them. Their appearance has altered, the shekinah glory had departed. No longer clothed with immortality they have become subject to death (2:17). The imperishable body has put on the perishable.
The not-ashamed-nakedness, Adam and Eve had previously enjoyed (2:25) changes to their being clothed in fig-leaf aprons, and finally being clothed in ‘coats of skins. Innocence, mutual trust and respect give way to a sense of ‘letting God down’ or ‘being disappointed’ They attempt to compensate for their loss of God’s glory by covering themselves as best they can. But it is totally inadequate so the Lord uses the attempt to teach them something of the cost to deal with their rebellion.
Although not explicitly stated the account provides us with a lens through which to see God’s motivation in creating Adam and Eve. It is solely one of love. God so loved them that he caused his Son to appear in human form and to accommodate himself to the limitations of their humanity. As the account of the events in Eden draw to a close we read: ‘And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them’ (3:21). Blood has been shed, an animal killed and skinned to provide for their needs. God provided a covering by slaying an innocent animal: the first prototype of the innocent one slain to act as a ‘covering’ for sinners.

Matthew Neal said...

Thank you, Anon, for your thoughtful and respectful comments!

I do want to respond to what you've said here, but I need a better context than the "comment" section of the blog.

So... I'll quote your comments and respond to them in another blog post. I trust you won't mind.

Matthew Neal