Why did nudity become shameful after the fall?

Whynudityshame

Why did nudity become shameful after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Was it because they realized what sexual attraction was? Was it because of the potential for lust that God clothed them? Or were there other reasons that God clothed Adam and Eve, and nakedness became a shame after Eden?

There was no shame about nakedness before the fall

The Bible says this about Adam and Eve right after they were created by God:

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” – Genesis 2:25(KJV)

Shame felt for the first time

In Genesis 2 – God had told Adam not to eat from the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. Then we read in Genesis 3 that sometime after God created Eve for Adam, and brought them together in the first marriage, Eve was deceived by the Devil. He promised her this “knowledge” that God was hiding from her and told her that she and Adam could become gods by eating the fruit.

Eve ate the fruit, convinced her husband to eat it and the Bible says:

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 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden… And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” – Genesis 3:8-11

The Bible tells us “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” and they sewed leaves together to cover their nakedness. They instantly knew after eating the fruit that they were naked, and needed to be clothed.

The reason for Adam and Eve’s shame

The source of Adam and Eve’s shame was not some new knowledge about sex or lust as is many times presented by various theologians and writers. The source of their shame was not even knowledge of evil, but it was in fact a new and expanded knowledge of what is good.

What is often overlooked is the fact that the tree was not just a tree of the knowledge of “evil”, but also of “good” (Genesis 2:17 & 3:22). Most people only think of the tree giving Adam and Eve knowledge of sin and evil, but the fact is, it also gave them a more complete knowledge of what is good.

When we see little one and two year olds running around the house naked and unashamed, we call them “innocent”. But we know Biblically that children are born sinners, and they sin just as adults do, just in different ways. Little children lie, steal and hurt one another. What we really mean when we call that naked two year old running around “innocent” is, that they are “ignorant” of the fact that as human beings we are not meant to be naked at all times, but we are meant to be clothed.

Just as babies and one and two year olds are ignorant of their nakedness, and the need for clothing, so too Adam and Eve were ignorant of this need for clothing as well, this why they felt the shame they did about their nakedness.

If nakedness were truly a symbol of innocence, then when we get to heaven and when we dwell with God for eternity, we would again be naked. But look at what God says in the book of Revelation regarding clothing:

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;” – Revelation 7:9(KJV)

In the eternal state, we will be clothed in white, not naked. We will once again be completely innocent from sin, yet we will not be naked.

Who told you that?

What was God’s first response to Adam and Eve’s knowledge of their nakedness?

“Who told thee that thou wast naked?” – Genesis 3:11(KJV)

Let me give an example to illustrate from a parents point of view. Imagine you have a 6 or 7 year old child, and they find out at school from some kid in their class about sex. Any parent would reasonably ask “Who told you about that? It’s not that the knowledge of sex is bad thing, it is simply that it was not yet time for the child to have this knowledge. This is exactly what happened in Eden.

Make no mistake, God was angry at the way Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of their nakedness through sin, and not in the way he intended for them to find out, from him and in his perfect time.

God did not clothe Adam and Eve because of the presence of sin. He did not cloth them because of some new knowledge about sex or sexual lust.

He clothed them, because they were always meant to be clothed.

This has been the first article in our series on “Biblical Nudity”. In this first post we talked about the shamefulness of nudity, in other posts in this series we will cover topics such as “Why God meant for people to be clothed”, “Why nudity is not always shameful”, “Can Christians pose for and paint nudes?” and other related topics to Biblical nudity.

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5 thoughts on “Why did nudity become shameful after the fall?

  1. Let me ask you a question: if God declares something as good, can that thing ever become bad? Or is His declaration as unchanging as He is?

    God created Adam and Eve in perfection, in nudity, and declared it to be good. Therefore, we must assume that, since God does not make mistakes, that nudity is STILL good in His eyes. After all, do we not still find the human form to be beautiful, as in Michelangelo’s sculptures?

    Adam and Eve were one flesh before the fall, which heavily implies that they had sex. Therefore, I agree with you that eating the forbidden fruit didn’t give them sudden knowledge of carnal desire or sexual lust. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with lusting after your wife in the first place, so there would be no logical reason to conclude that Adam and Eve covered up because suddenly they felt naked the way we feel naked in front of strangers.

    But here’s where I disagree with your explanation of the story. This is a narrative, and assuming that Adam and Eve learned that they SHOULD wear clothes after eating the fruit is pretty presumptuous. After all, if what they learned from the fruit is that they needed clothing, wouldn’t they have also learned that God didn’t want them to wear fig leaves and have procured some animal skins?

    And if they learned that they SHOULD be clothed, then doesn’t that imply heavily that nudity is shameful even WITHIN a marriage?

    No, what makes more sense to me is this: Nudity is declared good pre-fall. Nudity is STILL good post-fall. Adam and Eve sin and LEARN that nudity is good. They feel guilty for their sin and their natural response is to hide from both the goodness of God and the goodness of their own form. The fall didn’t make nudity inherently bad or shameful: it made us wrongfully ashamed of it.

    Isn’t it a bit odd that after Adam and Eve sinned, they did the wrong thing by hiding from God, but decided “oh God hates nudity so let’s do the right thing and cover up!” Children don’t get in trouble and hide, then rake the leaves because they know it’s right. It makes much more sense that Adam and Eve sinned and then kept on running away from God’s plan for them, including running away from nudity! It’s not God who wanted us to feel ashamed of our bodies, God’s own creation. It’s the devil. and the body shame has been causing us problems since.

    God gave them animal skins, yes, but that’s because, as you say in another article, clothing is necessary in a harsh wild. God’s merely preparing them for life outside of the balmy paradise of Eden.

  2. @John BGR never has said nudity period isn’t good, just shameful under certain circumstances. And the fact that the Angels, and the rest of the heavenly Host wear clothes despite not knowing sin proves God always intended that Adam and Eve be clothed, but rather that they learn from Him in his time, not by stealing the knowledge of good and evil by disobeying Him.

  3. @Tyler Actually, I forgot to cover the heavenly clothing part. It makes no sense for nudity to be okay for Adam and Eve in their innocence before sinning, but not okay for people in heaven. After all, the heavenly hosts are sinless well, right?

    What has to be understood is that clothing if symbolic in the Bible. But not for the reason we assume. Symbols change meaning over time, much like our languages. Gay used to mean happy. So we shouldn’t presume that the symbolic use of nudity and clothing in portrayals of heaven means what our culture assumes they mean. We wear clothing today cover up our “private” parts, primarily. But if you look at Job 24:7, you’ll see that clothing served a much more practical purpose: warmth. Clothing was a much more valuable commodity in the ancient world, so much so that it could be bartered to cover one’s debts. Often, poor people would have one pair of clothes or none at all. Nudity was, in fact, extremely common among poor persons. If you had a village beggar, it was likely that you would see him naked periodically as he sold off his clothing for food. So nudity was symbolic of poverty, not shame.

    Thus, when the Bible speaks of people being spiritually naked, the analogy is that they are spiritually poor and lacking. Vice versa, people who are spiritually clothed are spiritually rich. I highly doubt that spiritual beings have any real need of clothing like we do, so I believe that understanding the analogy as such is much more useful than assuming that God thinks our genitals are icky. I mean, he made them, right?

  4. Nakedness is not in itself shameful. We don’t bathe in our clothes. In the early years of Christianity converts were baptized totally naked in the presence of the local church. In Judaism women who did not have a mikva bath pool at home were bathed in public pools, again naked, as most people did not have changes of clothing.
    The taboo on nudity came out of paganism through the Roman Church.
    Oddly, nudist resorts have a problem with erect penises. Limp penises dangling, swinging, bouncing: OK, but if erect, it’s “Put a towel over yourself (yourself” meaning penis),” go to the bathroom,” “go to your room.”
    The Greeks, who exercised and worked naked, thought it shameful for the glans to be exposed (foreskin drawn back).
    Taboos are strange to those who dpn’t share them, and decreed by God to those who share a particular taboo.
    Clothing developed from necessity to protect from abrasion, heat, cold, sunburn. Then it is incorporated into custom and then into law and religion.

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