Adam’s Garments

 For Yuri, a prelude (whose scope and sprawling messiness was massively underestimated when I began work on it) to other pieces, already underway. 

The Prompt for This Post
Or, How I Ended Up Down This Rabbit Hole

This bizarre and metastasizing tumor of a post was initially prompted by a number of passages in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, one in particular that comes towards the beginning of the book. The figure in this passage, Alexei (Alyosha) Fyodorovich Karamazov, is left motherless at the age of four. The narrator tells us that “though it is strange, I know that he remembered his mother all his life — as if through sleep, of course.” We soon hear this repeated:

although he lost his mother in his fourth year, he remembered her afterwards all his life, her face, her caresses, “as if she were standing alive before me.” Such memories can be remembered (everyone knows this) even from an earlier age, even from the age of two, but they only emerge throughout one’s life as specks of light, as it were, against the darkness, as a corner torn from a huge picture, which has all faded and disappeared except for that little corner. That is exactly how it was with him: he remembered a quiet summer evening, an open window, the slanting rays of the setting sun (these slanting rays he remembered most of all), an icon in the corner of the room, a lighted oil-lamp in front of it, and be[19]fore the icon, on her knees, his mother, sobbing as if in hysterics, with shrieks and cries, seizing him in her arms, hugging him so tightly that it hurt, and pleading for him to the Mother of God, holding him out from her embrace with both arms towards the icon, as if under the protection of the Mother of God…and suddenly a nurse rushes in and snatches him from her in fear. [A1]

The sequence of the narrative seems to suggest a connection between this memory and Alyosha being gathered to the Elder Zosima.

The imagery in the excerpt above seemed to have familiar symbolic elements in the background, and so called my mind back to a passage I read about fifteen years ago in a book by Bishop Seraphim Sigrist, Theology of Wonder. There Bp. Seraphim wrote about a certain myth, where

[t]he story is told, (we will use a Jewish narration which comes from a deep meditation of Genesis), Adam was clothed in light, yet somehow, whereas children grow out of their clothes, he diminished, and his clothes were shattered and the shards of light became the worlds. And Adam himself was somehow shattered. It is said that the Shekinah, the Presence of God, wanders the world in search of the shreds of light, to gather them. And Adam also, in his exile, seeks to find himself, the way back to himself. It is the story of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob, isn’t it? [1]

Given the way that the characters in Brothers Karamazov are themselves fractured bits in search of wholeness, and of integration beyond the clamor of interpretations, it seemed like digging up this tradition might be profitable for exploring some of the themes of that novel.

I reached out to Bp. Seraphim for the sources that this passage was drawing upon, but he wrote it long ago, and could not confidently recall them, as he has been occupied with other reading and writing, and with pastoral-episcopal obligations. Therefore, I couldn’t let go until I had gotten to the bottom of things; it took me down a rabbit hole, and here is what I found, Yuri.


It turns out that his telling is an accidental fusion of two traditions.

The first is the very old tradition  –earliest evidence in the first century B.C. or A.D., though I have a hard time imagining it is not older– of Adam’s primordial garments of light, lost through the transgression, to be reunited at the end of time, or to reappear in and on the Messiah. Sometimes the garments are clearly garments of light, sometimes Adam is covered with “light”, sometimes “glory” or canopies of cloud. (It is not clear that second temple Jewish authors made a very strong distinction between light and glory.) This theme of “the glory of Adam” is found in late second temple Jewish, Rabbinic, Samaritan, and Christian contexts. The Syriac tradition is the one that carried this tradition the longest, with the most explicit language. Probably through East Roman (vi&., Greek) readings and incorporations of the hymnody of Ephrem the Syrian, a variant of this tradition ends up in the Byzantine Liturgy, and so would have been familiar to Dostoyevsky through its recitation at the beginning of each Lent with the chanting of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, the hagiographer of St. Mary of Egypt. (This, in addition to any detection Dostoyevsky may have made of this theme in the New Testament.) In the Greek, Roman, and Syriac traditions, there is a strong internal element to these garments, even if they appear ritually in the baptismal robes — the heart can be “clothed in light” or “clothed in darkness”, and the soul can become, especially in the writings of Pseudo-Macarius, the chariot or tabernacle or temple of God himself.

The second is a late medieval Kabbalistic tradition about the “shattering of the vessels” coming from Adam Kadmon (something like the primordial man, the first emanation of Ein Sof in Lurianic Kabbalah, not to be confused with “the human, humus from the soil” as Robert Alter translates Genesis 2:7). This tradition is associated with Isaac Luria. The distinction between the primordial archetype of humanity and the original human being goes back at least to Philo of Alexandria, who, as I recall, upon reading the distinctive stories of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3, interpreted Genesis 1 in a Platonic fashion. (There is an analog of this theme of gathering in the Hebrew Bible, in the writings of the second temple period, and in the New Testament [1γ]. Fair warning: I won’t be exploring the themes in this parenthetical note in what follows.)

Time constraints prevent me from being exhaustive in exploring these myths — I do not have time to look at the Lurianic one here, though I recommend Gershom Scholem’s book Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism if you’d like to pursue it, Yuri (there is a whole section on this myth there), and several have recommended this book by Luria’s disciple, apparently summarizing the Lurianic system. (I cannot chase that stream right now.) Further, I shall be uneven in the degree to which I examine the several themes pulled out, below, but I would like to look at some of their elements (of responsibility, of autonomy, of alienation, of interiority, of clothing, &c.). I am told that the Zoharic tradition contains nothing in it about the Shekinah gathering anything to do with Adam, as (again, so I’m told by the several scholars I touched base with) the advent of the Torah coincides with the return of the Shekinah to heaven in the Jewish mystical tradition.

The list I have just mentioned is itself, of course, not exhaustive of the texts under consideration, but relative to imminent projects, and many bear upon themes and passages in The Brothers Karamazov. I leave them here, mostly in isolation from those projects, so that other interested readers may examine this tradition without referring to the concerns that brought me to research and write this for you in the first place.

The Question

Here is the question I challenged myself to answer because of the above quotations, Yuri: where do we find the tradition that the figure of Adam was clothed with divine light, and lost or tore or shattered this garment in the transgression? Is there some basis for it in the biblical text? Those of us who know the text would be startled by any such claim, and wary of this question, as there is no explicit mention of any luminous garment or covering there in the text.

Is there some indication that Adam lost something, though? That might give grounds for such an interpretation. It is certainly the case that half of the Medieval and Renaissance paintings of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden have them leaving naked, which is contrary to the explicit sense of the Genesis text. (I am not persuaded that this is simply a Renaissance inclination to study the human form in the nude.) There are even Byzantine icons that depict the pair vested in royal robes before the transgression. In Genesis, the pair are naked within the garden, but leave clothed in tunics of skin made by God as provision for them. Why would Renaissance artists and Byzantine iconographers paint things this way?

I remember reading in one secondary text that said that Adam and Eve were clothed internally, and naked externally, whereas after the transgression they were clothed externally, and naked internally. (This would certainly connect the text to concerns I had about Dimitri in Brothers Karamazov. Further, in The Brothers Karamazov, St. Isaac the Syrian’s writings make an appearance several times, Isaac uses language connecting Adam “the old man”, salvation, interiority, contemplation of God, and divine ascent, and the full humanity of Christ. [1aa] I have listed several passages pertaining to this in the footnote “1aa”, above; I had hoped, before beginning, that we would find some foundation for this model of Adam’s interior clothing in the Genesis text itself [1ab]; the path to the answer turned out to be much longer than that, though we begin with the text.) To be naked interiorly where one was formerly clothed interiorly — this could be the kind of loss that might justify such a tradition about Adam’s garments before the transgression. Is that where the origins of Adam’s luminous garments comes from?

The Genesis Text

The narrative in the Genesis 2-3 myth describes Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, naked. After the pair were made, “the human and his wife were both naked, and were unashamed”, goes Genesis 2:25 (it says this after it notes in the preceding verse that husbands and wives are “one flesh”, which may be of significance for divisions that occur in the fallout of this whole story). Man was earlier put in the garden “to till it and guard it”, and allowed to eat of all the trees except for the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, which was at the center of the garden, next to the tree of life.

The next section of the story is as follows, using Gordon J. Wenham’s translation for the beginning of Genesis chapter two:

1 Now the snake was more shrewd than all the wild animals of the plain which the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Has God really said you must not eat from any of the trees in the garden?” 2 The woman said to the snake, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God has said, ‘Do not eat of it and do not touch it lest you die.’ ” 4 The snake said to the woman, “You will not certainly die. 5 But God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good to eat and that it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was desirable to give one insight. So she took some of its fruit, ate it, and also gave it to her husband with her and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were nude, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 Then they heard the sound of the LORD God walking to and fro in the garden in the breeze of the day, and man and his wife hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. [1a]

In the hope of finding some foundation for the tradition of Adam’s garments, let us look at some of the themes of this passage, and the verses following.

unabashed nakedness

Gordon Wenham translates the word “unashamed” as “unabashed” or “not-disconcerted”, noting that

[t]he Hebrew root בּוּשׁ “to be ashamed” does not carry the overtones of personal guilt that English “shame” includes. Hebrew can speak of “shame” triggered by circumstances completely extrinsic to the speaker (Judges 3:25; 2 Kgs 2:17). Perhaps then it might be better to translate here, “they were unabashed” or “they were not disconcerted.” They were like young children unashamed at their nakedness. [2]

It is noted that the trees of the garden are “desirable to look at and good to eat” (2:9); the pair are invited to eat anything and everything in the garden, except the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, which they are commanded not to eat.

The text does not say why their nakedness was “unabashed”. It certainly does not indicate that this “unabashed[ness]” was the result of an interior presence or an exterior garment. There is no explicit note as to the circumstances, especially in light of their later awareness of their nakedness in such a way as to drive them to conceal themselves from one another, and from God.

the commandment

The commandment not to eat is never explained. It is left as an enigma. The same God who gathered Adam from the soil and breathed life into that one also commanded the human not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “the commandment has its origin where life has its origin”. [2a] (There is no similar command for the tree of life, leaving commentators to speculate about whether the pair even knew about it, whether they knew and were eating from it to maintain eternal life, or whether it was divinely hidden — the pair never mention it, nor does the serpent: only the narrator and God do.) As Westermann notes, the pair are not in want: everything is provided for them in the garden, and “the command does not demand any privation” [2b] in this sense; there is no chafing beneath thwarted need; instead, when they are moved to eat, the couple moves to self-expansion beyond the stated limit of the command. I believe it was von Rad who described this as a form of “titanism”.

A biblical motif regarding the divine commands comes out here, in a manner that draws from the concerns of the Priestly and Deuteronomic schools (Genesis 2-3 is from the Yahwist author); this motif connects with the depiction of the garden of Eden using language peculiar to the tabernacle and temple imagery found later in the Hebrew Bible (more on that below):

In the garden, the revealed law of God amounted to the warning “Do not eat this tree” on pain of death. In later Israel, many more laws were known, and those who flouted them incurred the divine curse and risked death. Since the law was God-given, it could not be altered or added to by man (Deut 4:2); thus human moral autonomy was ruled out (Josh 4:7). In preferring human wisdom to divine law, Adam and Eve found death, not life. In the tabernacle, the inviolability of the law was symbolized by storing the tables of the law inside the ark itself, the sacred throne of God, guarded and out of sight in the innermost holy of holies, for to see or to touch the ark brought death (Exod 40:20; Nu 4:15, 20). [2c]

The promise of life and the threat of death: this element of radical choice that hinges on a command that is out of reach appears in later passages and books of the Hebrew Bible; the command is trusted, or not. The holiness of the command, like the holiness of the ark, has a kind of danger associated with it. It is not open to being contested, and there is no sense that there is a higher authority behind the command or the one giving the command, no sphere or realm that might be accessed to reject the command and the possibility of life and the threat of death it opens, to shape other paths according to one’s own lights, no criterion of critique one might bring to prevail upon the command (except, perhaps, the character and promises of the God who is commanding, as one reads later with Abraham and Moses, &c.).

This gives little grounds for any kind of natural law theory, for example (pace the clear attitudes of Miusov and Rakitin et al.). If the commands are reduced to historical circumstances and influences and the psychology and motives of the author of the biblical text, the result can look rather petty; the essential element to it, marking it off as a divine command, is then missing — though, of course, the hearer (or reader) could deny that there is any such element in the command beyond the quality perceived in the ear and mind of the one hearing (or reading) and interpreting the text; the one hearing a command as a divine command hears the divinity in the command itself in a way that seems numinous in a basic sense. Can there be any conversation about this? –the structure of the command seems to elicit trust or suspicion, demands a choice. Plato’s Euthyphro (which I love!) does not even appear yet, is not a possible response within the text’s narrative. (This then makes it look remarkably like some of the more enigmatic counsels and gestures of Elder Zosima, and the rather skeptical or even nasty interpretations that could rise to meet them.)

There are other connections to the later legal codes of Exodus and Deuteronomy — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is seen not merely as a “delight to the eyes” but as “desirable to give one insight”;  “desirable” and “delight” apparently sharing a root word that means “to covet”, as in Ex. 20:17 & 5:21. [2d]

Is there some divine trickery here — or even divine abuse? It is an option to ignore this question, to abandon this stretch of the Genesis text to an earlier layer of the tradition, and to assign it a rather primitive status relative to the sophistication and greater coherence of later philosophical theological traditions (whether Jewish or not). The text was read consistently before Greek philosophical reflection influenced any Jewish interpretation of the biblical text, however, so we might as well ask how this story reads in both its original and canonical contexts. Regarding the serpent’s claim that the pair will not die,

God himself comments that they have “become like one of us” (3:22). Perhaps the serpent was right after all: the creator was simply trying to retain their allegiance by exploiting their naïveté. The very way the story is told forces the reader to ask again what God meant by “dying” and what the serpent meant, and what the significance was of their “eyes being opened” and “becoming like God.” The apparent duplicity of the creator in this story involves the listener in a way that a less awkward narrative would not. If it was as improbable to the narrator as to the listener that God was wrong and the snake was right, what did God mean?  [2e]

Westermann repeats this final question of Wenham’s:

What then is the meaning of the command? No explanation is given to man; one thing only is added: the command is meant to protect him from death (2:17b). The commission which man receives to till and keep the garden is utterly reasonable and intelligible; the command is not reasonable. Consequently it can only be listened to and obeyed, if he who commands is listened to and obeyed in the command. It is only when man is confident that he who commands has the  good of man at heart that man will observe the command. […] [90] Something is entrusted to man in the command. The command introduces him to freedom […]. […] [The human] can abide by what has been commanded or he can reject it. In both cases he sets himself in either a positive or negative relationship to him who commands. The freedom of this relationship arises only from the command; without the command there would be no freedom. [2f]

If this presentation is correct, then the commandment is a radical choice. (I’ll admit that the Neoplatonist in me doesn’t want it to be this; the model of divine knowledge in Brothers Karamazov, however, seems closer to the Genesis text here, given what Elder Zosima says about the knowledge of God through love, and the seeming rejection of “natural law” theories throughout the text. [2f1]) Some have made a great deal out of the similarity between the Deuteronomic school and not only this language of commandment-as-radical-choice, but the whole architecture of the story in Genesis 2-3. Tryggve Mettinger is one such person. He notes that the tree of life is not mentioned to the human pair, and that they are just given the “naked” commandment, with no reward stipulated to them, but suggested to the reader. (Compare Deut 11:26-28 & Deut 30:15-20.) [2g]

Westermann argues that the “overstepping of a limit” really does give an insight that was not possessed before, even when this “leads to death”. [2h] In the end, just as the commandment is something of an enigma, so is evil: the human pair are called and each interrogated, but the serpent is not — humanity is not responsible for evil, only for its own action, and not called to give an account of evil, only its own actions.

Can one say that something internal was lost in the breach of the commandment, then? –some freedom that the commandment enabled that is then lost as one shrugs off responsibility? –or is something about the kind of trust that comes with the “unabashed” intimacy of nakedness lost? The text gives only hints. Where is Adam’s garment of light? Press on with me, Yuri!

the knowledge of good and evil

At the urging of the “shrewd” (3:1) serpent (‘the first theologian’, as Bonhoeffer noted [2i]), they eat of the fruit of this very tree, with an eye to having “[their] eyes […] opened” and “becom[ing] like God [3], knowing good and evil.” (3:5) Apparently they acquire this knowledge “of good and evil”, and this makes them, in one respect, like the divine council that God addresses: “man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (3:22, Wenham transl.). The immediate consequence of the fruit of this tree is alienation between the pair, and between the pair and God. Is this the fruit of “the knowledge of good and evil”, or the consequences of the deathliness on the other side of breaking the command? There does not seem to be a precedent for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in preceding regional mythologies. There are trees “of life” in the ancient Near East and other biblical literature, but not this other tree.

What is the knowledge of good and evil? There are several options; Mettinger lists four possibilities, while Wenham lists five; both lists drawn from the critical scholarship. Wenham has (1) simply a description of the consequences of obedience (vi&., “good”) and disobedience (vi&., “evil”); (2) moral discernment; (3) sexual knowledge; (4) omniscience; (5) wisdom, insight. [3a] Mettinger has (Α) the acquisition of human qualities; (Β) sexual consciousness; (Γ) ethical knowledge; (Δ) universal knowledge. [3b]

Mettinger and Wenham reject the other contenders [3c], but both accept (5) and (Δ), which they understand in a similar way. Mettinger suggests that the equating of “the knowledge of good and evil” with “universal knowledge”

now seems to be the most widely accepted, [and] takes its cue from the well-known phenomenon of merismus in Biblical Hebrew, that is, a means of referring to a totality by mentioning the two ultimate points of a spectrum, thereby implicitly referring to the whole spectrum. Thus, sea // dry land in Ps 95:5 refers to the whole earth, young // aged in Job 29:8 refers to everybody, and the sole of the foot // the crown of the head in Isa 1:6 refers to the whole body. According to this interpretation, the two main Hebrew words should not be understood as “good and evil” (which unduly limits the scope to ethical insight) but “good and bad” — what promotes and what does harm. The expression covers everything that is between these two extremes as well. [3d]

Wenham nuances this point, however, under the heading of “wisdom”, which he notes is “one of the highest goals” of the pious in Proverbs:

the wisdom literature also makes it plain that there is a wisdom that is God’s sole preserve, which man should not aspire to attain (e.g., Job 15:7-9, 40; Prov 30:1-4), since a full understanding of God, the universe, and man’s place in it is ultimately beyond human comprehension. To pursue it without reference to revelation is to assert human autonomy, and to neglect the fear of the LORD which is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7). [3e]

(Again, my Neoplatonic heart chafes.) It is not the acquisition of wisdom that is problematic for the text, then, but perhaps the taking on of the breadth of divine wisdom, as opposed to human wisdom, ripping oneself out of the fabric of human life in the cosmos of God, and arrogating to oneself the role of the source of wisdom and of ethics — and perhaps even of being, by implication? The power to dispose of what gives health would make this move like what we would now call magic, as opposed to what we would today call religion. There is something Promethean about this, if this is what the text is getting at. This reading certainly seems to make sense in terms of the other narrative of expulsion from the garden of Eden in the biblical text, Ezekiel 28, where the king of Tyre is not banished for being “beautiful” or “wise” (he is both) but “for using [his] wisdom perversely” (Ezek 28:17) for self-gain and even violence, and for “pride”, for pretending to be a god.

Being a god would make one responsible for more than one could handle,  which segues neatly with a suggestion by W. Malcolm Clark, who proposed that the author of Genesis 2-3 has in mind the king here, who is responsible for all people under his care: the phrase “good and evil” can be used to denote responsibilities in legal contexts. [3f] (The tradition is divided about whether the primordial pair were responsible for their posterity, or only themselves [3g], but in any case, the question of arrogating inordinate authority to oneself, and that of arrogating inordinate responsibility, are connected.) We shall look at responsibility more, below.

As a final note to this section: the serpent promised not only that the humans’ “eyes” would be “opened”, but denied that they would die. They did not die in the sense that the serpent suggested, but were exiled from the garden of Eden, the same way that lepers are exiled from the tent, tabernacle, and temple, the same way that the idolatry of the Israelites in the golden calf episode in Exodus made them unsuitable for the tabernacle to be in their midst, &c. [3g1] Adam was made to serve the earth (think of all the covenants with the earth in Brothers Karamazov!), and this vocation is still his, though his relation to it changes:

the groundling [i.e., Adam] is no longer the ground’s kin but slave. Henceforth, the man shall lead a life of enslavement that is fully consummated in his death, when the adam returns to the adamah, when the human and the humus become one. His genesis was an act of separation; his death marks a reunion. [3h]

The human has his origin by being separated from the ground, with the added ingredient of a divine “puff”; the reunion with the ground is not a reconciliation with the ground. Having his origin in an act of separation, there is no redemption in the loss of this separation; following the transgression, the curses that fall on Adam regarding the difficult relationship with the land also increase his separation to the point of alienation; what was a distinction-in-peace is now dissonance and recalcitrance. The human survives through his dependence on the yield of the mutinous ground. If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were supposed to make him independent, this reiterated (but now somewhat hostile) relationship reaffirms that he is dependent.

In all this, there is loss, there is let-down, there is suffering, there is alienation (between human and human, and between humanity and divinity) and pain. Unless the positive elements that are the antitheses to these things are metaphorically stretched into becoming likened to garments or represented together symbolically as a single garment, however, there seems to be no way to find Adam’s garments of light in the text so far.

alienating nakedness

After eating the fruit,

the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. [4]

“Fig leaves quickly shrivel up after being cut.” [4a] The first attempt at self-provision, in the human pair’s desire for autonomy, is inefficient not only in terms of the area of the body covered, but the longevity of the covering. (Ivan Karamazov desires autonomy, too, Yuri, and his first attempts at it were not quite so inefficient as this, even if they were not terribly fruitful; sadly, Ivan would deny this same autonomy to others, and acquires it only through sacrificing the truth on the altar of his autonomy — even when he –seemingly so innocently and cleverly!– sells news stories about events in the street, at the beginning of the book, this is motivated not by a love for the truth, or a desire to be close to other people and their lives and struggles, but by a desire not to be dependent; the anecdotes of truth he sells are merely instrumental for the end of his insular autonomy.) The pair’s eyes were “opened”, and apparently they did acquire ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ (as we just explored). After this, though, things rapidly fall apart for the human pair.

And they heard the sound 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 among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

To be obnoxiously clear via painful redundancy: the man and his wife were not clothed earlier, but naked, and became aware of their nakedness. They were not aware of this nakedness before, however; they must manufacture crude coverings for themselves from the plants at hand to make “loincloths” [5] that presumably hide only their genitals from one another. William Brown suggests that this is the result of the pair being “thrust” into a world where “nakedness, once the occasion for delight and intimacy, now signals deficiency and defensiveness.” [5a] Deficient of what, exactly, if not exterior clothing? –something interior? –something else?

Alienated from one another, they then hide from God. It is interesting to note that the trees that were “desirable to look at” are made into the means by which the pair seek concealment, seek not to be “look[ed] at”.

clothed with tunics of skin

Again, there is no sense that they were clothed before they ate from the fruit of the tree. This is the emphasis of the text. They are clothed by God with “tunics of skin” as they are sent out of the Garden in 3:21. The clothing of Adam and Eve upon their expulsion from Paradise in 3.21 is usually noted as an act of providential care. As Arnold suggests:

[a]s an act of loving kindness, [YHWH] God replaced their poor loincloths made of sewn fig leaves (3:7) with garments of pelt more suitable for their new lives outside Eden. [6]

Brown concurs, and stresses the divine care that pursues the couple outside the garden:

As seamstress, God equips the couple for a harsher life, a life of culture and convention. God also helps Eve in procreation (4:1) and even protects Cain (4:15). Outside the garden, God remains their sustainer […]. [6a]

R. Davidson concurs with both:

it would be wrong to regard this verse as merely aetiological, providing an explanation for the wearing of clothes. It is God who makes for man and his wife tunics of skins. Independent they may have tried to be, but God’s hand is still stretched out to meet their immediate need. [7]

“Independent they may have tried to be”, Davidson says: their desire to imitate God seems to have been moved away from imitation and towards the direction of autonomous acquisition; they wanted this quality in and for themselves, though the manner of what they have acquired has only alienated them from the origin both of their life and of the world.

The text does not say whether they would have had anything like this quality dependently, through participation, through some kind of training. (Of course, Yuri, this is how the Fathers of the Church generally understood the narrative — that they would have gradually grown into perfection; the 2nd century B.C. Wisdom of Solomon has it that the pair’s “wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls” 2:21-22. Wisdom clearly suggests that it’s author does read Gen 2-3 this way.) If some Yahwistic precursor to the Deuteronomic model of Mettinger above is the right backdrop against which to interpret this passage, this reading is a possible one. The potential of the human pair’s desiring an autonomous wisdom seems to have preceded the event, as the serpent never directly tells them to eat [7b], the proficient seducer that he is. (In the Pritzker edition of the Zohar, there are texts cited that suggest that the serpent seduced and consummated the relationship.) For the audience of Genesis, the serpent would have seemed like an untrustworthy source, given that it is a ritually unclean animal. [7c]

As with the authors above, though, Bernard Batto similarly writes of the investing of Adam and Eve in the garments of skin, concurring with their judgment and expanding it:

the deity’s clothing of the human couple with skin clothing (3:21) is often attributed to divine compassion, though I prefer to read this as an investiture of humankind with the symbol of their humanness. [8]

(Batto sees the Yahwist author as telling a tale of gradual creation and marking-out of the lines dividing humanity and divinity that does not get settled until Noah.)

There is something about the folly of the human attempt to cover up nudeness that stands in contrast with the divine wisdom in the provision of the skin tunics: being initiated into the spectrum from wisdom to folly, from good to evil, the human pair show that they are neophytes, who have neglected (should we read Genesis 2-3 canonically?) the precept that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9, Ps 111), and so now are in a kind of danger they were not before — their nudeness becomes a problem in a way that it was not, requiring special divine provisions it seemingly did not before. The nudeness or nakedness that these tunics of skin are supposed to remedy, however, are aurally paired, in the text, with the shrewdness or cunning attributed to the serpent.

shrewdness and nudeness

First, regarding this “shrewdness”: in his commentary on Genesis, Gordon Wenham notes that the “shrewd[ness]” of the serpent derives from a word in Hebrew (עָרוּם “arum” from עָרֹם “arom”, “shrewd or crafty”) that is ambivalent in its sense:

“Shrewd” עָרוּם is an ambiguous term. On the one hand it is a virtue the wise should cultivate (Prov 12:16; 13:16), but misused it becomes wiliness and guile (Job 5:12; 15:5; cf. Exod 21:14; Josh 9:4). The choice of the term עָר֔וּם “shrewd” here is one of the more obvious plays on words in the text; for the man and his wife have just been described as עָרֹם “nude” (2:25). They will seek themselves to be shrewd (cf. 3:6) but will discover that they are “nude” (3:7, 10) [9]

This is why, Edwin Good, in his Tales of the Earliest World, notes that the word used for the cunning of the serpent is homophonic to the Hebrew word used for nakedness of the pair (עֲרוּמִּ֔ים or ‘arūmmîmArnold writes ” ‘erummim “):

The word “subtle” (‘arūm) is very like the word to describe the humans, ‘naked” (arūmmîm, a plural form). The two words are not related, coming from different roots, but all you need for a pun is similar sound. So the subtlety of the snake somehow corresponds to the nakedness of the humans. Is it that the snake’s subtlety can get through the nondefenses of the naked humans? Perhaps. [10]

Batto does not comment on the unashamed nakedness that the pair have in Eden before eating of the fruit of the tree, but Arnold does, connecting it to the pun that Edwin Good mentioned above, and the implications of his read are not flattering:

The real point of the narrative returns in v.7 when the humans learn they are “naked” (‘erummim again), reminding the reader of their shameless innocence in 2:25 and the serpent’s shrewdness in 3:1. They have gained the serpent’s shrewdness (‘arum, v.1), and become shrewd themselves (‘erummim, v.7), which is to say they have become shamefully naked. The issue here is shameful nakedness rather than simple nudity, linking concepts of nakedness and knowledge, and implicitly sexuality (cf. vv. 10-11). They sacrificed their blissful innocence at the altar of self-serving knowledge, especially in light of the limited pleasure afforded in the fruit (v.6) “good for food…a delight to the eyes…to be desired to make one wise…” [11]

I would refer back above to Wenham’s comments on “shame” above, with the reference found in footnote 2. Before moving on, two points on the block quotation from Arnold immediately above.

First, it is easy to read Arnold’s point here in a way that would assimilate it to Philip Pullman’s argument (though Pullman surely didn’t invent it) running through his brilliantly written anti-Christian epic His Dark Materials [12] that this Genesis narrative is hostile to adulthood and sexual maturity. See also the section above on the knowledge of good and evil, above, and the footnote detailing the rejected interpretations (though commentators overwhelmingly reject his reading, Good accepts that “the knowledge of good and evil” is really about sex). Arnold, however, sees this not as anti-pleasure or anti-knowledge, but as fundamentally about the false promise of a kind of pleasure and a kind of autonomy that are both lies, which promise fails to deliver on real freedom and real pleasure.

Second, there is a sense in which, shrewdness having been gained, it has become a replacement for innocence; it is not clear that the two are necessarily at odds –Jesus, in Matthew 10:16, commands his apostles to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves”, so the shrewdness can even be taken as a kind of gain– and, insofar as the shrewdness found expression in the re-tooling of fig leaves for “loincloths”, one might be moved to represent the shrewdness in parallel with the former innocence as a kind of garment, even if this were a stretch.


But is it? The couple are ashamed; they are not ashamed as ones who’re alone, but ashamed in the presence of one another, which is why they seek to cover their nakedness. Westermann expounds:

The meaning is, they were ashamed in the presence of each other. Shame can be the reaction to a mistake. But that is not really the point. Shame is a reaction to an unmasking or a being unmasked. It is ethically ambivalent; it can occur, for example, when a person is publicly praised. This ambivalence is shown where on the one hand the lack of shame can refer to complete blamelessness (so in 2:25), whereas on the other hand ‘shameless’ and ‘impertinence’ are negative predicates. Shame can also have a positive meaning when it refers to the reaction to a false step: ‘blessed the false steps, which have left shame behind in us’ (G. Bernanos). It can also be effective in turning one away from sin.

The shame of man who has transgressed God’s command is ambivalent. Shame indicates that man has lost something which was there before, that he has failed, that something is not right. But at the same time man knows that it is not right when he continues naked, and he is capable of supplying a remedy. Man has certainly become wise; but he has paid dearly for it with what he has lost.

What man has lost only becomes clear in his meeting with God. [13]

As Westermann argues over several pages, what the human pair has lost is his responsibility, which nothing can substitute for, and which the man and the woman fob off down the line. God approaches the pair as free, as fully human, and as responsible; even before the eating of the fruit, however, Adam is more than willing to let others decide for him, to remove his power of decision, and absolve him of responsibility. Half of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov come in for scrutiny at this point, Yuri!

Read together with Clark’s notes about responsibility above, in the section on “the knowledge of good and evil”, and we have an environment in which humans may have great difficulty tilling the earth and being responsible for anything — even as the pair possibly sought the kind of controlling divine wisdom that would give them sway over everything.

the evil impulse, “yetzer hara

Per the above, the pair in Genesis 2-3 had in them the potential for self-interested actions that were against the commandment; there is nothing in Genesis 2-3 to suggest that they were born perfect. This is mirrored in the subsequent chapters of the early section of Genesis. It seems that, taken in isolation from the vision found in Genesis 1, the author behind Genesis 2-3 had no notion that the pair was flawless before the transgression. There is evil in the world, and humanity is vulnerable to it (so with the word play between the serpent’s shrewdness breaching the couple’s nudeness, above), even though humanity is not responsible for it; the individual is responsible only for his or her own actions. The principle seems to be found by the same author only one chapter later in Genesis: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7, NASB)

I have never seen this impulse figured as demonic in the earlier Rabbinic Jewish writings I have read (there are notes in the Zohar about Samael descending from heaven to the serpent, and the chapters of Rabbi Eliezer have similar notes — compare with the Christian tradition of Satan being cast from heaven in The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, or the Life of Adam and Eve where the same tradition is found in the earliest extant version of it; the earlier passage in The Wisdom of Solomon 2, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it” (Wis 2:24, NRSV), shows that this tradition is even older, though it’s not spelled out), though there is a long tradition of attributing this impulse to demonic prompting in ascetical Patristic sources.

The narrator in The Brothers Karamazov notes that, for instance, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is amazed at his self-restraint, after some dark power takes him over to do something wicked, and he follows it, and “plunges off a mountain” (the same language used for the swine in the scene of the Gerasene demoniac). There is some halfway language here in accounting for the impulse as something between foreign and native, something that moves towards certain ends without going crazy about anthropomorphic language. It may be that the language of the demonic is not really something we can do away with in the modern world.

This impulse in Genesis 2-3, the fact that it is there at all, shows clearly the seams between the Priestly narrative of Genesis 1 and the account of Genesis 2-3, so that any interpreter of both texts as a canonical whole is forced to resolve the difference in a single reading; nonetheless, we are still no closer to our garments of divine light, Yuri.


The text does not say that the woman ever heard the command of God not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; it is possible that she only heard it reported to her from the man.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, / Let my right hand forget its skill! / If I do not remember you, / Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth— / If I do not exalt Jerusalem / Above my chief joy.” (Ps 137:5-6, NKJV) — memory is a key virtue in the biblical books; there is an imperative to remember the commands, and to remember the temple, to remember the land. In the event of trauma and exile, memory becomes especially important to anchor identity. So the book of Leviticus becomes a virtual walk around the tabernacle and temple for those with no access. [13a]

Most of the talk I have seen about memory is either in response to disease or senescence on the one hand, or else to hone it for the sake of gaining power, social capital, or finesse in our projects, on the other. It’s relation to identity and responsibility — I cannot recall seeing or hearing a discussion about this. What do we remember, and what do we forget?

Does Eve recall the commands because of some drive to misremember? –if so, for what end? She overstates the boundary of the command: the command was to eat not, but she enlarges the prohibition to include touching, which set her up for a breach of the command; the serpent had perhaps meddled with her memory by stating the command falsely. In the absence of direct divine speech, or the presence of divine absence [13b], memory is open to being contested, and the forum for a war of interpretations.

the garden and the tabernacle and temple

We have noted the connections between the Genesis 2-3 text and tabernacle-temple imagery. Genesis 2-3 deals with themes that are specific to Hebrew religious concerns, but uses a number of images that it shares with the ancient Near East. Fr. Jean Daniélou helps to situate this a bit more broadly:

Paradise, in the eyes of the Near East, is the home of the gods. It is surrounded by a ring of fire and guarded by cherubim. Often its location is in the north. These descriptions are used by Ezechiel (28:12) to describe the exalted position given to the king of Tyre by God:

You were in Eden, in God’s garden,
You were covered with precious stones,
You were an anointed cherub to protect it;
I placed you on the Holy Mountain of God
And you walked among sparkling jewels.

All these images are found in Genesis 2. The literary context is the same. For Genesis 2, Paradise is God’s dwelling place. We see God moving about there. [14]

There is a reading of Genesis 2-3 as a “fall” narrative, where originally perfect humans lose their perfection and unleash chaos in the world as a result of their error. Genesis 2-3 does not force this reading on us by itself. Bernard Batto, in several of his works (chiefly Slaying the Dragon), has persuasively argued that what one finds in Genesis 2 and following through Noah is not a tale about a fall from perfection, but a series of creation events by which humanity and God sort out their respective places from one another, and come even to respect these boundaries that form the world. Being not a fall narrative, Gen 2-3 cannot be considered a paradise narrative, a fall-from-perfection story. The Priestly writer who wrote Genesis 1 did intend this reading for it, though, Batto argues. At any rate, whether one accepts this argument or not, by the time of the writing of the later book of Ezekiel (Batto, in In the Beginning, 83, dates this to the first half of the sixth century B.C.), the garden story was understood as a paradise story, as we see from Ezekiel 28.

The connections between (1) the language for, and items within, the garden in Genesis 2-3, (2) the material for the garments and appurtenances of the tabernacle in Exodus, and (3) the language for, and items within, paradise in Ezekiel 28 are too numerous to ignore, or to list here, for that matter. (The precious stones and metals enumerated in Genesis 2-3 and Ezekiel 28 are both employed in the tabernacle and temple and the vestments of the high priest in Exodus. The parallel between the menorah and the tree of life has been noted by so many authors; the rivers that come out of Eden and the “river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High” [Ps. 46:4] that flowed beneath the Jerusalem temple are not accidental. I could keep enumerating connections, but I am tired already of performing and recounting this rabbit hole, Yuri, as I have other things I would like to move on and write for you — though I don’t want to leave you with nothing.)  Wenham notes a number of the parallels in his commentary [15], even to the point of the language used for Adam’s role “to serve, till” and “to guard/keep”; it

עָבַד “to serve, till” is a very common verb and is often used of cultivating the soil (2:5; 3:23; 4:2, 12, &c.). The word is commonly used in a religious sense of serving God (e.g., Deut 4:19), and in priestly texts, especially of the tabernacle duties of the Levites (Num 3:7-8; 4:23-24, 26, &c.). Similarly, שָׁמַר “to guard, to keep” has the simple profane sense of “guard” (4:9; 30:31), but it is even more commonly used in legal texts of observing religious commands and duties (17:9; Lev 18:5) and particularly of the Levitical responsibility for guarding the tabernacle from intruders (Num 1:53; 3:7-8). It is striking that here and in the priestly law these two terms are juxtaposed (Num 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6), another pointer to the interplay of tabernacle and Eden symbolism already noted […]. [16]

There something like a recovery of this in the Exodus narrative with the introduction of the tabernacle. The tabernacle and its pattern are shown to Moses on mount Sinai, as though it were a cosmic mountain, like Zion, which is anticipated in the Song of Miriam (Exodus 15, esp. vv.13 & 17). Similarly, the streams of Eden seem to flow downward from there to water the earth, making it also a cosmic mountain.

Given the parallels between Eden and the tabernacle, between Eden and Sinai, can we say that Adam’s garments are simply patterned after the high priestly garments of Exodus? Aaron and his sons are not merely invested in the garments of the high priest and the priesthood: the vestments are made “according to the pattern” seen on the mountain, and, in Exodus, they are “installed” into the vestments and made holy through them, which vestments themselves need to be hallowed (Lev 8:30): the clothes seem literally to make the men. The tabernacle is thought to mirror some heavenly pattern, so that the installing of Aaron and his sons into the garments, is basically angelomorphism. The access to the precincts of the tabernacle and temple the garments offer, is itself seen as a vertical bridge of sorts. As Nissan Rubin and Admiel Kosman write:

clothing also helps to bridge the gap between the worlds above and below. At the very outset one should note that both the heavenly creatures and God appear in the Bible clothed, even if their gar-[164]ments are frequently metaphorical. As was customary in the ancient Near East, in Israel holy vestments featured prominently in the temple liturgy. God commanded Moses, “You shall make a holy garment for your brother Aaron,” and the aim of this command is, “For respect and glory.” It would appear that donning the holy garments helps to sanctify the priest; as Exod 28:3 puts it, “They shall make the garments of Aaron to sanctify him.” These clothes could not leave the holy precincts, and the priests had to doff them before leaving there.

This clothing assumed special attributes of its own, independent of its wearer. […] The holy garments of the Bible thus help link the world above to that below. Here the garment does not function for personal territorial separation and defense of selfhood, but for linking the worlds. This special quality requires the wearer to be ritually pure. Otherwise, the garment can have a deleterious effect. [17a]

This makes the garments sound an awful lot like the two paths opened by a commandment such as the one in Genesis 2.

At any rate, the same material and language used to describe the furnishings of the tabernacle are also the same material and language used to describe the vestments of the high priest and priests. Further, many of the distinctive materials for the tabernacle and temple are also found in the Eden narrative, though not on Adam himself. [17b] (There were no easy shortcuts for me in this journey, Yuri.) The above symmetry between the temple furnishings and the vestments, and the garden motifs woven into the material of the tabernacle itself, make it as though the temple priests were the “angels in the architecture” — and there were indeed angels woven into the architecture, vi&. the fabric, of the tabernacle. The sense that the pattern of temple service both mirrored the worship of the heavenly hosts, and participated in it, was encouraged by the structure of these parallels. Examples of it are found within the apocalyptic literature of the second temple period (the ascents of Isaiah and Jeremiah within the biblical text, and more besides), the ritual language of the Psalms and other second temple hymns, possibly (but only possibly) sectarian literature like the Dead Sea Scrolls text The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (titled “The Angelic Liturgy” in older scholarship). The Dead Sea Scrolls collection also contains a hymn (IQH, IQ36) with the words

Thou hast allotted to man an everlasting destiny amidst the spirits of knowledge,

that he may praise Thy Name in a common rejoicing

and recount Thy marvels before all Thy works

In a common rejoicing“. Humans must don vestments for the vertical ascent, to participate in angelic worship. The angels are depicted as vested in all of Jewish apocalyptic literature. Why not Adam, then?

Gary Anderson pursues this very question:

the vestments of the priest matched exactly those particular areas of the Temple to which he had access. [The Jerusalem temple was divided into three areas with ascending grades of holiness, and the celebrants had to don and remove garments matching these areas.] […] 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.

And now to the point: If Eden was holy ground, then Adam’s personal holiness must have approximated that of a priest. And if Adam was like a priest, then one could presume that he was dressed like one.  [17c]

–but this must all sound like a speculative limb of associations about how ancient readers would have read these texts, right, Yuri? Besides, in the text, the human pair were “naked and unashamed” in the garden, and were not clothed until after the transgression (the fig leaves) and expulsion (the tunics of skin), so what grounds could there possibly be for talking about any garments?

“image and likeness”; angelic Adam

The hope that I would find something in Genesis 2-3 that might commend itself as the foundation for the tradition of Adam’s garments is so far disappointing, and only the resonances and connections that Genesis 2-3 have with tabernacle and temple texts seem to be a fruitful avenue. Connecting Genesis 2-3 to Genesis 1 before moving on, it is helpful to remember there the text about humanity being made in “the image and likeness” of God:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26-28, NKJV, italics removed)

If memory serves Wolfhart Pannenberg, citing a number of word studies (he was Gerhard von Rad‘s student, and, again if memory serves, followed von Rad’s interpretation), stated that “image and likeness” were rough synonyms, and typically referred to the statues of kings within their domains. Certainly the much later text Genesis Rabbah 8.8 has this sense of humanity as a statue of God. Gordon Wenham similarly states that the word “likeness” is used here to clarify the meaning of the term “image”. [17d] It seems possible to me that there is an anti-idolatrous polemic here: as the wood, stone, and metal cult statues of the gods of the nations are typically polemicized as the dead images of dead gods, so the cult statue of the living God is correspondingly alive itself. Wenham explicitly links this high anthropology to the Jewish high priest: “[i]n a similar way, the high high priest represents Israel to God and God to Israel. The ritual system of the [Hebrew Bible] is not just concerned with establishing the gulf between God and man, but with ways of bridging the gap.” (Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 31) Wenham goes on, though:

it must be observed that man is made “in the divine image,” just as the tabernacle was made “in the pattern.” This suggests that man is a copy of something that had the divine image, not necessarily a copy of God himself. Exod 25:9, 40 states that the earthly tabernacle was modeled on the heavenly, and Mettinger [“Abbild oder Urbild? ‘Imago Dei’ in traditionsgeschichtlicher Sicht.” ZAW 86(1974) 403-424] argues that Genesis, in speaking of men being made in God’s image, is comparing man to the angels who worship in heaven. Man’s similarity to them consists in their similar function: both praise God either on earth or in heaven […]. Furthermore, angels are pictured as ruling the nations on God’s behalf (Deut 32:8), just as man is appointed to rule the animal kingdom. [Wenham, 32]

The connections between the human pair, the angels, and earthly-heavenly sanctuaries just keeps deepening the further one gets into the scholarly literature on the way that these texts were read by second-temple Jews. We shall see some Rabbinic commentary on one tradition concerning this “image and likeness”, below, but here it is enough to note that second temple readers apparently read Genesis 1 together with both Genesis 2-3 and Psalm 8. [17d1] I cannot say what the accepted dating of Psalm 8 is, Yuri, but it was apparently read to refer to Adam, and there we read that Adam/the human was “a little lower than the angels”, and “crowned with honor and glory”; the Syriac of Psalm 8, interestingly, has it that Adam was “clothed with honor and glory”. [17d2]

So it is no surprise that, in the Life of Adam and Eve (dated ca. first century A.D., though I’ve seen some scholars place 250 B.C. as possible dates), when Adam asks Satan, who has pursued the pair as they have fled the garden, “Why do you assault us for nothing? […] Have we stolen your glory and made you to be without honor?” (11:2, 3) Satan replies that he was “deprived of [his] glory” (12:1) because of Adam:

When God blew into you the breath of life and your countenance and likeness were made in the image of God, Michael brought you and made (us) worship you in the sight of God, and the LORD God said, ‘Behold Adam! I have made you in our image and likeness.’ And Michael went out and called all the angels, saying, ‘Worship the image of the LORD God, and the LORD God has instructed.’ And Michael himself worshiped first, and called me and said, ‘Worship the image of God, Yahweh.’ And I answered, ‘I do not worship Adam.’ And when Michael kept forcing me to worship, I said to him, ‘Why do you compel me? I will not worship one inferior and subsequent to me. I am prior to him in creation; before he was made, I was already made. He ought to worship me.’ [13:3-14:3] [17e]

(Apparently Muhammad heard this account from Christian and Jewish neighbors; its influence can be seen in several passages of the Koran, suras 2, 7, 15, 17, 18, 20, 38.) The companion text to The Life of Adam and Eve, the Apocalypse of Moses, has Adam and Eve losing the glory (δόξα) that covered them before the transgression (“I have been estranged from my glory with which I was clothed” 20:2, 21:16 [see James Dunn, Paul, 88]), not unlike the glory Satan here once had, but lost. There are analogues in the Old English retellings of Genesis in the Junius 11 manuscript, and this is at the origin of the stories in Milton’s Paradise Lost. At any rate, Yuri, this Life likely is behind later passages such as Genesis Rabbah 8.10, which states R. Hoshiah’s report that

“When the Holy One, blessed be he, came to create the first man, the ministering angels mistook him [for God, since man was God’s image,] and wanted to say before him, ‘Holy, [holy, holy is the Lord of hosts].’  [17f]

A near-divine or angelic Adam may have garments of some sort; the roughly-contemporary Book of Jubilees represents the purity restrictions of the tabernacle and temple as being in effect for paradise, but neglects to mention garments or worship there; Enoch is clothed in angelic garments upon his ascent in 2 Enoch; the Genesis Rabbah also talks of God’s garments of light as the light of first day (3.4), still, we have only suggestions through patterns of similarity, and nothing earlier than the first century B.C. or A.D.

Garments of Skin, or Garments of Light?

The language used in Genesis 2 for Adam’s work in the garden was, we have seen, language evocative of the priestly office and work in the later biblical texts. It is forbidden, however, for Israelites to minister before God exposed, with similar consequences stipulated as those for Adam and the original commandment (Exod 28:42ff.). –yet there seems to be no way to talk about any garments on Adam before the transgression, so far as we have seen. So where does this tradition of Adam’s luminous garments come from?

Curiously, the letters in the Hebrew for the “garments of skin” in Genesis 3:21 can be changed to render “skin” (עוֹר) as “light” (אוֹר), with only the change of an aleph and an ayin, which apparently have no difference in the way that they are pronounced by my contemporaries today; Stephen Lambden suggests that Hebrew gutturals were also weak in the first century. [17g] Lambden also notes that these traditions of Adam’s glory and garments cannot be found earlier than the first century. (Among several streams, Lambden suggests an Iranian origin for the ‘glorious Adam’ tradition.)

As a relatively late witness to this reading of Genesis 3:21, the Genesis Rabbah (ca. A.D. 300-500) has a passage (20:12) commenting on that verse which reads

1. A. “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21):

B. In the Torah belonging to R. Meir they found the passage written, ‘Garments of light.’ […] This speaks of the clothing of the first man, which was like a lamp, [and] they were broad at the bottom and narrow at the top.”

C. Isaac, his master, said, “They were as smooth as a finger nail and as lovely as a pearl.”

D. Said R. Yohanana, “They were like fine linen that comes from Beth Shean.” [18]

The seemingly later Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 24 similarly reads

What was the dress of the first man? A skin of nail, and a cloud of glory covered him. When he ate of the fruits of the tree, the nail skin was stripped off him, and the cloud of glory departed from him, and he saw himself naked, as it is said, “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee?” [see here]

The same tradition appears very late, in the Zohar, 1.36b.

The eyes of both of them were opened (Genesis 3:7).
Rabbi Hiyya said, “Opened to perceive the evil of the world, unknown to them till now?’ Once they knew and were open to knowing evil, then they knew that they were naked (ibid.), for they had lost the supernal radiance enveloping them, which disappeared, leaving them naked.”? [Zohar, transl. Daniel Matt, 229]

The Artscroll volume on Genesis has a good brief summary of one Rabbinic tradition surrounding this mythical garment, how it was passed down from Adam to Joseph. [18a] The article by Rubin and Kosman gives citations from Rabbinic sources (see also the similar account in Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews vol 1, 177ff., vol 5, 199), rather than a mere summary, and notes that the traditions of Adam passing on his garment shows how, in the Jewish tradition, clothing connects time horizontally via the transmission, just as it does vertically through its holiness and hallowing effects: in the Rabbinic sources, this is the same garment that God will outfit the Messiah with at the end of history.

We mentioned above, Yuri, that Genesis 2-3 reads differently when read canonically together with the Priestly addition of Genesis 1. It is only in Genesis 1 that Adam is made “in the image and likeness” of God, not in Genesis 2-3. We have looked at what the author likely meant by “image and likeness”, above. Curiously, however, the Rabbinic sources sometimes say that this “image and likeness” is the divine luminosity. So Alon Goshen Gottstein cites Leviticus Rabbah 20:2:

Resh Lakish in the name of R. Simon ben Menasseya said: “the apple of Adam’s heel outshone the globe of the sun; how much more so the brightness of his face. Nor need you wonder. In the ordinary way, if a person makes servants, one for himself and one for his household, whose will he make more beautiful? Not his own? Similarly, Adam was created for the service of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the globe of the sun for the service of mankind.” [18b]

So this divine robe of light is sometimes simply divine light in the Rabbinic sources, Adam being clothed with the divine radiance that God himself is clothed with in the Psalms:

1 O Lord my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. (Psalm 104:1-2, NKJV)

Genesis Rabbah 3.6 mentions that this divine light was the light of first day, and that it was hidden away, and will be given to the righteous in the age to come. I don’t have time to get into the theological and philosophical aspects of the anthropomorphism of any of these texts, though it is interesting that the cosmic imagery following the divine light in Psalm 104 refers to the making of the world in language that strongly resembles the making of the tabernacle. This text (Psalm 104) is chanted at every vigil service for the Divine Liturgy, I should note: Dostoyevsky would have heard and known it. God –“the Father of lights” (James 1:17), as is also chanted at the end of each Divine Liturgy– is here figured in this psalm as clothed in light.

The garment Aaron is given is “for glory and for beauty” (28:2) in Exodus. Adam is made in God’s image in Genesis 1, which, when read together with the account in Genesis 2-3, and when “skin” is swapped out for “light”, produces readings like that in the Genesis and Leviticus Rabbah, above. It might seem like a massively unstable eisegetical limb to us today, Yuri, but this is one kind of reading that seems not to have been unusual in the second temple period and in Late Antiquity.

One of the Targumim also has this reading of Adam being clothed in garments of light, but years ago I had to sell my Targumim for some cash to pay bills, Yuri, so I don’t have them any longer to refer to. I am reasonably sure it was either Targum Neofiti or Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, as I owned both.

Another problem: even if we grant this as a variant reading, whether original in intent or not, Adam is vested after the transgression, not before. How could this variant reading contribute to any interpretation of Adam before the transgression? Andrei Orlov, in an excellent and brief article showing the connections between the glory of Adam and Moses in the Dead Sea Scrolls (and the fourth-century Syriac Christian texts of Pseudo-Macarius), says that

S[ebastian] Brock […] argues that sufficient evidence exist to suggest that there also was another way of understanding the time reference of Gen 3:21. According to this alternative understanding the verbs are to be taken as pluperfects, referring to the status of Adam and Eve at their creation before the Fall. [“the Lord God had made … garments of glory” Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise transl. Sebastian Brock (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990) 68]

It is noteworthy that in the later Jewish and Samaritan sources, the story about Adam’s luminous garments is often mentioned in conjunction with Moses’ story. In these materials, Moses is often depicted as a luminous counterpart of Adam.

Jarl Fossum and April De Conick successfully demonstrated the importance of the Samaritan materials for understanding the connection between the “glories” of Adam and Moses. The Samaritan texts insist that when Moses ascended to Mount Sinai, he received the image of God which Adam cast off in the Garden of Eden. According to Memar Marqa, Moses was endowed with the identical glorious body as Adam. Memar Marqa 5.4 tells that:

He [Moses] was vested with the form which Adam cast off in the Garden of Eden; and his face shone up to the day of his death.

There are footnotes in that passage that I have omitted, Yuri. (I don’t own that particular Brock article that Orlov is citing, so I can’t give you any details on Brock’s argument.) This all refers, though, of course, to Moses’ luminous face in Exodus 34:29ff. Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:3 similarly compares the two:

Adam said to Moses: “I am greater than you because I have been created [luminous] as the image of God” [Gen. 1:26]. Moses replied, “I am far superior to you, for your glorious light was taken away but as for me, the radiant countenance that God gave me […] still abides.” [18c]

So Adam’s garment becomes simply divine luminosity in this reading, found across centuries and traditions. It is even found in the Samaritan tradition, as we saw above. Jarl Fossum has a section in his The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord dealing with Marqah, who is a Samaritan author who seems likely to have been an earlier source for this tradition than the Genesis Rabbah. There we see that Adam was crowned and vested with “glory”, and that Moses was similarly crowned and vested with “glory”. [18d] So the Samaritan tradition bears witness to the same pattern (I do not have access to any translation of the Samaritan Bible, so I can’t read the Adam or Moses passages that might reflect this strand of interpretation); Lambden notes that the Samaritan tradition continues similar comparisons up through the nineteenth century; it is sad that they are almost extinct as a community.

The Late Second Temple Period

This inter-textual connection between Eden and the later Jewish sanctuaries, and between Adam and the later high priests, likely furthers this reading about Adam’s garments. It is present throughout the texts of the second temple period (530 B.C.–A.D. 70). There is, however, no uniformity in the teachings about Adam in the second temple period, and, given the disjunction between the Priestly vision in Genesis 1 and the Yahwist vision in Genesis 2-3, the seeds of instability are there in the canonical text itself, which must resolve these differences in the singularity of a reading. Nonetheless, there is a certain thread that can be singled out among the many options, and it regards the link between Adam and the garden, and the high priest and the tabernacle/temple.

The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (“Ecclesiasticus”), mirroring the Samaritan and later Rabbinic texts we have looked at, states that Moses was made “like the holy ones [angels] in glory” [“Ὡμοίωσεν ἀυτὸν δόξῃ ἁγίων”, Brenton] (Sir 45:2); Sirach also says that “beyond that of any living being is the splendor [but note that Brenton’s LXX has “ἐδοξάσθησαν” –GDS] of Adam” (Sir 49:16). The praise of Wisdom in chapter 24 hit many parallels in the praise of Simeon the high priest in chapter 50, especially as concerns his garments.

The garments of the high priest are not just pretty. So the Letter of Aristeas, likely written by an Egyptian Jew, and purporting to be a report to Ptolemy II Philadelphus, says of the temple rites, and especially the garments and ritual motions of the high priest:

The overall appearance of these things created awe and confusion, so as to make one think that he has come close to another man from outside the world. [18e]

The second temple sources are consistent about the otherworldly nature of these high priestly garments.

This otherworldly, angelic character of the garments is repeated in 1 Enoch. 1 Enoch has the investiture of the one ascending to heaven into angelic garments (chs. 14, 62, &c.). The tree of life seems to be there with God in paradise in 1 Enoch 25; the text says that it will be planted in the temple sanctuary when God descends in judgment. Adam really only appears in the so-called “animal apocalypse” there, with similar language to Noah. What is significant, for the tradition we are trying to retrace, Yuri, is the link between angelic garments and paradise: one must, it seems, be appropriately “clothed” to come before God in paradise. (2 Enoch, of course, has these themes in tighter connection, especially 2 Enoch 22, but it is a later text — though I’m told that many of these pseudepigraphic apocalypses survive in the Slavonic, because they informed the spiritual aspirations of many Slavic monastics. I don’t know whether there is a connection of these themes to Dostoyevsky through this channel of transmission.)

Adam is also a figure in the eventually-Christianized Testament of Abraham, where, in chapter 11, Adam is described as “the wondrous one who was seated on the throne of gold”, and that the “appearance of that man was terrifying, like the Master’s.” Abraham describes him as “this most wondrous man, who is adorned in such glory”. [18f]

Bp. Alexander Golitzin, in his article “Recovering the “Glory of Adam”: “Divine Light” Traditions in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Ascetical Literature of Fourth-Century Syro-Mesopotamia”, lists the theme of Adam’s glory in several Dead Sea Scroll texts, particularly the Manual of Discipline:

The phrase “All the Glory of Adam” (kol kevod adam) occurs three times in the scrolls, once each in 1QS iv 23, CD iii 20, and 1QHa iv 15. In the Manual of Discipline 4:22-23 we find the following:

He [God] will instruct the upright with knowledge of the Most High, and teach the wisdom of the sons of heaven to the perfect of way. For those God has chosen for an everlasting covenant, and to them shall belong all the Glory of Adam.

Two details of this description are important. First, there is the association of this protological glory, which I take to be associated with the theme we shall consider below, the clothing or robes of light present elsewhere in Second Temple and Rabbinic-era literature, with the “knowledge of God” and the “wisdom of the sons of heaven”, that is, the angels. Second, while the “glory of Adam” appears in this passage, and in its equivalent in the Damascus Document, as something that will be given in the age to come, in the Hodayot, God is praised as “casting away all their iniquities” and “giving them as a legacy all the glory of Adam”, which seems to indicate that the latter is available in some sense even now.

That “all the glory of Adam” will be theirs is even more notable for the connections we’re trying to suss out, Yuri, because, for whoever was performing the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (it’s not clear that it was a sect, not clear that it was the Qumran group as is often alleged) understood that

[t]he worship of the holy community and its celestial, angelic counterpart is, so to speak, the substance of which the temple is composed. [18g]

There was an excellent book I read years ago comparing the Dead Sea Scrolls’ treatment of certain themes to the same themes as they were treated in the New Testament, and this language of ‘the people as the temple’ was one of them; that book is boxed up in my attic, and if you want it, Yuri, I’ll rip through boxes for you to get it. I couldn’t find the title on an search.

The Testament of Levi 8 (in The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs) also repeats the idea that the priestly office is appointed by angels, and bestows both vestments and knowledge. [19] It also, in ch. 18, says that in the time of the “new priest”, the righteous will be allowed to eat from the tree of life. The themes connect. If there were not a tradition of Adam’s garment because of this variant reading of Genesis 3:21, it would probably be forced into existence because of the typological thrust the passage is caught inside of within the many traditions — Rabbinic, Samaritan, Christian.

The New Testament


We saw above that the angels venerated or ministered to Adam in the Genesis Rabbah and in The Life of Adam and Eve; here, Jesus is in the wilderness, with the wild beasts at the outset, and “the angels minister to him”.

Jesus’ garments at the Transfiguration atop Mount Tabor in Mark 9 have numerous intertextual references, but they are referring to this tradition of Adam’s garments. (In the Lukan and Matthean version of this scene, Jesus face shines together with his garments, connecting Jesus to Moses, as well — though in one of the Rabbinic sources above, Adam’s countenance was linked to the splendor of the divine image, so I’m not sure how strict this distinction always was; in Mark, only his garments shine, because Mark is more interested in the Adam-Jesus connection.) It is hardly surprising, then, that Joel Marcus’ magisterial two-volume set on Mark notes the background that this scene has within the tradition. [20]

It is possible that there are at least two other scenes that deal with Adam’s garments, but they depend on the Transfiguration. [20a]

Luke & Matthew

There seems to be a connection of this to Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. There, the son who returns to his father, the son who “was dead, and is now alive” is immediately, upon his return home, clothed. “[T]he father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him […].” (Luke 15:22, NKJV, italics removed). The “best robe” was clearly hidden away, for otherwise it would not need to be “br[ought] out”; given that the father is clearly God in this parable, this looks too much like God is bringing out a robe he has, for some time, tucked away for a special occasion…

The Parable of the Great Supper in Matthew 22:1-14 has a scene (v.11ff.) not found in the Lukan version (14:15-24), where a guest has found himself at the wedding feast of the king’s son without a wedding garment, and is cast out. I have not been able to look at Dale Allison’s commentary to confirm any connection, but it seems possible.

Paul of Tarsus

Regarding the “garments of glory” tradition, perhaps the clearest example in Paul is from Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and lack the glory of God”; though Paul believes very strongly in an historical Adam, his use of Adam here is as a stand-in for everyone. James Dunn notes that the verb “lack”, “ὑστεροῦνται“, carries both the sense of “lack” and “fall short of”, and he thinks this reflects the ambiguous nature of the tree of life in the garden story — did Adam fail the test, and “fall short of” a glory that would have been, or was he stripped of something already possessed? [Dunn, Paul, 94] Many of the passages in his writings connect Adam and the Messiah, though with particular application to Jesus, such as 1 Corinthians 15:45 ff. [20b] Later on, the clothing imagery becomes more prominent in 15:53 (NKJV):

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Paul elsewhere uses clothing language: “as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27) [J. Louis Martyn, Galatians, 373 ff. persuasively suggests an actual exchange of clothing in a baptismal liturgy as the location for this language], “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom13:14), and “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col 3:8-9), which seems to contrast Adam and Christ, sometimes under two principles or ways of life (Adam and Christ become like the Deuteronomic promise of life vs. threat of death, as we covered far above), sometimes under two aspects of the person; the (probably deutero-)Pauline injunction in Ephesians to “put off the old man” and “put on the new man” is more of the same.

The conflation of being clothed in garments of immortality, having a tent in the heavens with which one is clothed, and the present concourse with the divine Spirit as a pledge of this future clothing with incorruptible life (the tent, the garments, are “in heaven”; God keeps his wardrobe there, it would appear), with seemingly clear Adam imagery in the background (“we do not wish to be unclothed”, which might be taken as anti-Gnostic, but also seems to argue against a pure protology — the thing desired is not merely a return to the protological state, but a movement on to something that is held out to be better), can also be found in 2 Cor 5:1-5.

The extended meditation in 2 Corinthians 3 about the glory that made Moses’ face shine and the glory that shines forth in the face of Jesus also connects this network of texts. [20c]

The Revelation to John

The Revelation of Jesus to John has numerous passages about the white garments given to the holy ones (7:13, 19:8, &c.); Christ is clothed in white garments. The Adam tradition is recapitulated in the Messianic garments; the faithful are clothed in divine garments, seemingly in divine qualities themselves. That the Messianic garment restores the Adamic one we’ve already looked at.

Other passages could probably be supplied with not much more effort, but I must move on to other projects. At least within Christian contexts, there is most likely a baptismal location for some of this imagery, in terms of its location in the ritual lives of the communities that are attached to the writers of these books; Adam’s garment lives between the spiritual life of the communities, the interpretation of these texts, and the ritual acts that connect them and give them shape.

Garments of Light in the Syriac Tradition

As you know, Yuri, the Peshitta is the Syriac Bible, and was apparently translated from the Hebrew; it is supposed to be very old, dating to the second century after the miscalculated date of Jesus’ birth. The Peshitta text on Adam’s garments, as I recall it, is that they are listed as “garments of skin”. I’d need to have access to the critical edition of this part of the Peshitta to confirm this (even though it is apparently not the only Syriac version of Genesis in Late Antiquity). What is fascinating is that, so far as I know, the Syriac tradition is unanimous in representing Adam’s garments as luminous, and connecting it to the garments that Christ gives to the faithful. An excellent overview of much of this Syriac language connecting garments, the tree of life, access to paradise and an ascent up the grades of the paradisical mountain of God can be found in Robert Murray’s Symbols of Church and Kingdom. [21]

Odes of Solomon

The Odes of Solomon (there is an excellent Hermeneia volume; that volume argues for a dating of the Odes between A.D. 100 and A.D. 125) is the first Christian Syriac source I know of after the Peshitta. It is filled with clothing language as basic metaphors for salvation and divine knowledge; it opens with “The Lord is on my head like a wreath / and I will not flee from him.” It also lists “the garment of flesh” being unreceptive to the divine gift of knowledge (8:8-9); Ode 11 professes that

I left folly lying on the earth, / I stripped it off and cast it from me. / The Lord renewed me by his garment / and regained me by his light / and recalled me to life by his imperishability. / […]  / And he led me away into his paradise, / where is the fullness of the Lord’s delight. [22]

There is no explicit mention of Adam’s garment, but with the divine garment being given to the hymnist, and with that garment granting that one access to paradise, and the trees of paradise, &c., the tradition it is part of seems clear. Ode 20 similarly hymns the garment as “grace” that is “put on”, allowing one to enter paradise and to “make thyself a wreath from his tree / and set it on thy head and rejoice”, &c. Ode 21 has darkness “put off”, and light “put on”. “Joy” and “love” are donned in Ode 23, bringing divine knowledge. Ode 25 makes the connection to Gen 3:21 more clearly. The Syriac version of Ode 25 reads that

I was covered with the covering of thy spirit, / and thou didst remove from me my garments of skin.

while the Coptic of the same reads

Thou coverest me with the covering of thy mercy, / and I rose above the garments of skin.

Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem the Syrian (d. A.D. 373) picks up these themes very explicitly in his Hymns on Paradise. Sebastian Brock summarizes this tradition in Ephrem:

there are four main episodes which go to make up this cosmic drama: at the Fall, Adam and Eve lose the “Robe of Glory’ with which they had originally been clothed in Paradise; in order to re-clothe the naked Adam and Eve (in other words, humanity), God himself “puts on the body” from Mary, and at the Baptism Christ laid the Robe of Glory in the river Jordan, making it available once again for humanity to put on at baptism; then, at his or her baptism, the individual Christian, in “putting on Christ,” puts on the Robe of Glory, thus re-entering the terrestrial anticipation of the eschatological Paradise, in other words, the Church; finally, at the Resurrection of the Dead, the just will in all reality reenter the celestial Paradise, clothed in their Robes of Glory. [23]

The volume of material in Ephrem that describes this is massive, overwhelming. Brock has an entire section recounting this tradition in Ephrem in his translation of Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise. I list only three here.

The first is actually from Ephrem’s Commentary on Genesis 2.14. Commenting on Genesis 2:25, where the biblical text reads “the two were naked, but they were not ashamed”, Ephrem writes that

[i]t was because of the glory in which they were wrapped that they were not ashamed. Once this had been taken away from them, after the transgression of the commandment, they were ashamed because they had been stripped of it, and the two of them rushed to the leaves in order to cover not so much their bodies as their shameful members. [Hymns on Paradise, Brock, 206]

The next two are from Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise. They are self-explanatory, given how much territory we’ve already covered. The first clearly connects paradise and the tabernacle/temple sanctuary, Adam and the high priest, and their garments:

Accompanied by the knowledge / which was hidden in the ephod / the priest entered the sanctuary, / a type for Paradise, / and he tasted of the Tree / through the symbol of the revelation given him. / But if anyone entered / contrary to the commandment, they died, / as a type of Adam who died / for taking the fruit prematurely. / The priest put on sanctification, / but Adam was stripped of glory. [Hymns on Paradise 15.8, Brock, 184]

We see Ephrem using this theme of Adam’s garment to connect themes across the biblical text:

Among the saints none is naked, / for they have put on glory, / nor is any clad in those leaves / or standing in shame, / for they have found, through our Lord, / the robe that belongs to Adam and Eve. / As the Church / purges her ears / of the serpent’s poison, / those who had lost their garments, / having listened to it and become diseased, / have now been renewed and whitened. [Hymns on Paradise 6.9, Brock, 112]

Ephrem has a whole host of images of God and humanity exchanging garments — God puts on “a garment of names” in the biblical text, and then takes on “the garment of our humanity” so that he might clothe us with himself — these qualities of joy, grace, love, light, and so forth that we see in the Odes and elsewhere, or the “active love” so prominent in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, to say nothing of John’s Gospel and in 1 John and 2 John.


I would include the language found in the writings of the Syriac mystic Pseudo-Macarius, who composed his works within 20 years of Ephrem’s death, but we have seen enough of the tradition. Significantly, one of the questions Pseudo-Macarius heard often enough from his disciples was “before [the transgression] were [the primeval pair] covered with God’s glory in place of clothing?” [Pseudo-Macarius, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter transl. George A. Maloney, SJ (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1992), 100]

The Byzantine Tradition

The trail does not stop here, but I must. I have not covered Philo, nor the line of interpretation coming from at least Origen that the “garments of skin” is life in the body as a fall from a primordial state of unity with one another and with God; I have not traced this through the Cappadocians, nor the corrections to this tradition in Maximus the Confessor. Bouteneff’s Beginnings can serve as an introduction to all that.

Romanos the Melodist is a Byzantine bridge to many Syriac themes and texts, specifically Ephrem; I will not look at him. I am far out of time.

Instead I will cite a few texts from the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete , a series of odes customarily chanted during the beginning of Great Lent. There is influence from Ephrem and from Philo in his constructions. It typically takes days for a parish to get through the Canon.

At almost the very beginning of Canticle One of the Monday portion of the Canon, only lines into it, we read

I have rivaled in transgression Adam the first-formed man, and have found myself stripped naked of God, of the eternal Kingdom and its joy, because of my sins.  [The Lenten Triodion transl. Mother Mary & Kallistos Ware (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 199]

Canticle Two of the Monday portion continues with the same theme:

I have torn the first garment that the Creator wove for me in the beginning, and now I lie naked.

I have clothed myself in the torn coat that the serpent wove for me by his counsel, and I am ashamed. [The Lenten Triodion, 200]

Canticle Two of the Tuesday portion reiterates:

Sin has stripped me of the robe that God once wove for me, and it has sewed for me garments of skin. [The Lenten Triodion, 219]

and so on. More examples could be produced.


I’m not sure much can be said by way of conclusion, Yuri; the destination requires the journey. The tradition of Adam’s garment is a common concern among Jews, Christians, Samaritans — if I had the time, I’m sure I could find it in various Gnostic traditions, in Manichaeism, and even in the contemporary Mandaean tradition, and I’m sure Kurt Rudolph has a few things to say about each of those.

I don’t have much to say about the role and value of the mythic imagery of our subject, either, as that would be another paper, probably apologetic in tone, unless my interlocutor were attacking the value of myth as such, in which my project would not be apologetic. I have nothing to say about the religious value of this tradition, which is my own; in fact, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Adam myth is our Western myth. Creationism makes the value and reception of this myth quite difficult.

I have not dwelt long on the internal elements of this language of Adam, his garments, his exile (or our spiritual exile ‘into the external world’, as it were; I have only mentioned, and perhaps have relegated to the footnotes, the way that this clothing can be internal within the traditions outlined (moreso for the Christian than for the Jewish tradition), or how it opens up interior space that aids one on the ascent to God; this is one connection to the characters and themes we looked at at the beginning. I did have a conversation once with a practicing Jewish man on the difference between his prayer shawl and my prayer rope, though, and it was telling on this: for the Jewish tradition, the prayer affirms the garment, and for me, the rope facilitates the prayer. It is surely an oversimplification, but it is a profitable oversimplification, as there is much truth in it. Considering only laymen: the Jewish prayer shawl connects the worshiper vertically, even if it does so in its material concreteness, to a transformed inner and outer state, even if it, in a sense, affirms that state, affirms that Israel is God’s priestly people; I kiss my prayer rope as I take it up or put it down, recognizing it as the means of interior “prayer of the heart” as I recite the Jesus prayer, and am, as it were, clothed interiorly with the divine Name.

The theme of interiority, and of the heart, particularly connects us to Dostoyevsky, and it is not the only one. The language of light is a theme in Brothers Karamazov, and the primordial divine light of first day in Genesis 1, contrasted with the physical light that appears on fourth day, is explicitly drawn out as such in the catechetical scene between the servant Grigorii and Smerdyakov. It appears at numerous times before and after this, and so, without much further connecting it to the novel, I leave here this theme of Adam’s garments of divine light, Adam’s clothing in divinity, and the loss (and recovery) of this divine glory, this garment. If you have read this far, Yuri, I owe you a drink.



Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov transl. Pevear and Volokhonsky (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990/2002), 14, 18-19


Seraphim Sigrist, Theology of Wonder (Crestwood, NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999), 24


The gathering of the people of God to the mountain of God, the gathering of the material composing the tabernacle and temple from all over the then-known world, and the gathering of the nations to the city of God in the early chapters of Isaiah, are examples of this gathering motif, though it is not a prominent feature usually in the biblical texts, or other second temple texts.

There is a continuum between the people and the temple, however, even in the identity of material of the priestly vestments and the material of the tabernacle, which allows Paul to talk of the churches as a temple, and allows texts like The Shepherd of Hermas to talk about angels gathering properly cut stones –properly formed souls– for the tower of God being built. When the Fathers of the Church use microcosm-macrocosm language to talk about the human person or the temple, and talk of the human person as a temple, they are not simply foisting this reading upon the text, regardless of what we make of this tradition today.

In the Bp. Seraphim quote we started with, as in the passage from The Brothers Karamazov that brought it to mind, there is a theme of being gathered. It’s not clear how any reader would have thought of connecting different themes of different biblical texts this way. The images in Bp. Seraphim’s text has only the weakest links to the Adam story, especially to his garments, if any. (Did the bishop beautifully misread Kabbalistic texts? –am I basically cleaning up after him?)

The only connection seems to be (1a) through the microcosmic nature of the tabernacle and temple, (1b) which are connected to the high priest and his garments, (1c) which are themselves connected to the garden of Eden implicitly through analogues in the description of Eden, (1d) and, implicitly, therefore, to Adam.


In numerous passages, Isaac shows himself in the broad tradition of Late Antique Christian soteriology regarding the ascent towards divine contemplation, using both clothing imagery and the imagery of withdrawing to the interior vs. being squandered in the exterior:

When the mind is in a state of natural steadfastness, it is in angelic contemplation, which is the first and natural contemplation which is also named naked mind. When the mind is in the second state of natural knowledge, it sucks and is sustained by the milk from the corporeal breasts; this state is called the last garment of the aforementioned state; it is placed after [the state of] purity, which the mind enters first. […] [22] The last garment of the mind are the senses. Its state of nakedness is its being moved by kinds of non-material contemplation. Leave the small things in order to find the honored ones. [Isaac the Syrian, Mystic Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh transl. A. J. Wensinck, section “Six Treatises on the Behavior of Excellence” (Amsterdam: 1922), 21, 22]


When the mind is guided by the senses, it feeds with them upon the food of the beasts; but when the senses are guided by the mind, they feed with it upon the sustenance of the angels. [Isaac the Syrian, Mystic Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh transl. A. J. Wensinck, section “Six Treatises on the Behavior of Excellence” (Amsterdam: 1922), 31]


Choose the delightful service of continual vigils, by which all the Fathers have put off their old man and have become worthy of the renewal of the intellect. At these times the soul perceives that immortal life, by which apperception it throws off the garment of darkness and becomes the recipient of spiritual gifts. [Isaac the Syrian, Mystic Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh transl. A. J. Wensinck, section “A Letter Which He Sent to His Friend, &c.” (Amsterdam: 1922), 315]

so finally

O Christ who are covered with light as though with a garment, who for my sake stood naked in front of Pilate, clothe me with that might which You caused to overshadow the saints, whereby they [16] conquered this world of struggle.

[Christ,] may Your clothing for which lots were cast tear asunder before my eyes the garment of darkness with which I am inwardly clothed [Isaac of Nineveh, ‘The Second Part’, Chapters IV-XLI 5.22, 25 (Louvain: Peeters, 1995), 15-16, 16]

The clothing imagery is distinctively Syrian in its emphasis, though not exclusively Syrian:

For the Cross is Christ’s garment just as the humanity of Christ is the garment of the divinity. Thus (the Cross today) serves as a type, awaiting the time when the true prototype will be revealed: then those things will not be required (any longer). For the Divinity dwells inseparably in the Humanity, without any end, and for ever; in other words, boundlessly. For this reason we look on the Cross as the place belonging to the Shekhina of the Most High, the Lord’s sanctuary, the ocean of the symbols (or, mysteries) of God’s economy. [Isaac of Nineveh, ‘The Second Part’, Chapters IV-XLI 11.24 (Louvain: Peeters, 1995), 60]

I put this here because it is one possible connection to both Dostoyevsky and this tradition. On to the Genesis text! –let us see what we find.


Though, now that I think of it, this language of interiority likely begins with Augustine, so it was a dead end before I began, and I should have known better, Yuri. The trip was worthwhile, though, and I hope you find it profitable!


Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nelson Reference, 1987), 45


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 71


Claus Westermann, Creation transl. John J. Scullion, S.J. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1974), 91


Westermann, Creation, 89


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 64


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 75


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 89


Westermann, Creation, 89, 90


The Neoplatonist in me doesn’t want the command to be beyond the reach of intellect and intelligibility, doesn’t want the command to be basically about trust, wants there to be some rationality in it –even if the pair don’t have access to the command’s intelligibility yet at this point in the story (and perhaps this is what’s happening)– wants any good command to be ontologically grounded, not hanging out of the reach of the pair.

I want to go through so many passages in The Brothers Karamazov here, but that will need to be another post, as we’re already breaking 9k words, and not even you will read all this, Yuri.


Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Eden Narrative: A Literary and Religio-Historical Study of Genesis 2-3 (Eisenbrauns, 2007), 52ff.


Westermann, Creation, 94


William P. Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (New York: Oxford, 2010), 84-85


Or one of the gods, depending on how one reads the Hebrew, apparently.


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 62-63


Mettinger, The Eden Narrative, 62-63


(Α) is an argument that “knowledge of G&E represents maturity”; Mettinger never really offers an argument against this. (Β) and (3) are the same, and rejected for different reasons (the idea that sexual relations are the exclusive domain of God and the gods before this point is difficult to insert into the text). (Γ) and (2) are the same, and rejected for the same reason — it is silly to think that moral consciousness were only found in God and the gods before this, for not only does the conversation between the serpent and the woman show an awareness of moral qualities, but the giving of a command involves moral capacities and awareness on the part of the human. (4) is rejected because the pair acquired “the knowledge of good and evil”, but were not afterwards omniscient.


Mettinger, The Eden Narrative, 63


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 63


W. Malcolm Clark, “A Legal Background to the Yahwist’s Use of “Good and Evil” in Genesis 2-3″, JBL 88.3, 1969, pp.266-278


Compare The Apocalypse of Baruch 54:19 with 4 Ezra 7:118.


See Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 74-75, for more on this.


Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation, 88


3:7, NKJV. For the NKJV readings, I have removed the italics that have an idiosyncratic function there, which many readers will not know about and are likely to misinterpret.

For you Greek scholars out there, the Septuagint version is: καὶ διηνοίχθησαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τῶν δύο, καὶ ἔγνωσαν ὅτι γυμνοὶ ἦσαν, καὶ ἔρραψαν φύλλα συκῆς καὶ ἐποίησαν ἑαυτοῖς περιζώματα.


Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation, 86


“Loincloths” is “elsewhere used of a belt (1 Kgs 2:5; 2 Kgs 3:21; Isa 3:24).” “Perhaps again the skimpiness of their clothing is being emphasized. […] who are the couple trying to hide from?” Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 76


Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation, 86


Bill T. Arnold, The New Cambridge Bible Commentary on Genesis (New York: Cambridge, 2009), 72; the Tetragrammaton is voweled in the original text.


Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation, 89


Robert Davidson, Genesis 1-11: The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the new English Bible (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 47


“[O]n the surface the conversation between the snake and the woman is smooth and urbane. The snake’s opening question appears to be innocent curiosity. He never tells the woman to disobey God and eat from the tree. He cannot even be accused of lying: in the most literal sense all his words prove true, although at a more profound level they are totally misleading.” Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 88


“[A]ccording to the classification of animals found in Lev 11 and Deut 14, the snake must count as an archetypal unclean animal. Its swarming, writhing locomotion puts it at the farthest point from those pure animals that can be offered in sacrifice. Within the world of OT animal symbolism a snake is an obvious candidate for an anti-God symbol, notwithstanding its creation by God. […] So for any Israelite familiar with the symbolic values of different animals, a creature more likely than a serpent to lead man away from his creator could not be imagined. The serpent Leviathan, mentioned in Ugaritic mythology, is also referred to in Isa 27:1 (cf. Job 26:13) as a creature destroyed by God, further evidence of the familiar association in biblical times of serpents and God’s enemies.” Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 73


Bernard F. Batto, In the Beginning: Essays on Creation Motifs in the Ancient Near East and the Bible (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), 81. In a footnote on this section, Batto refers to Robert Oden’s The Bible Without Theology, where Oden apparently suggested that “the original nakedness is an approximation of the divine status” (Batto’s summary of Oden). Batto disagrees with Oden on this, but, not having Oden’s text, I can’t see what kind of argument Oden may have made for this reading of the Yahwist author’s alleged intent.


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 72


Edwin M. Good, Genesis 1-11, Tales of the Earliest World (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 36


Arnold, Genesis, 66


Hardback here; the trilogy is a retelling of Paradise Lost, and sporting an interesting theology of its own. I remember seeing a lovely non-polemical interview between Rowan Williams and Pullman some years ago, though it seems to have disappeared from YouTube. I do not think the following video is it: [[[]]] There is a writeup of at least part (all?) of it here.


Claus Westermann, Creation transl. John J. Scullion, S.J. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1974), 95


Mary Douglas, Jacob’s Tears: The Priestly Work of Reconciliation (New York: Oxford, 2004) 133-156, the chapter, “The Body-House Cosmogram”


Where did God go when he was not in the garden? –it reminds me of Zeus being away from Olympus in the Iliad, off to visit the Ethiopians — one more mark of the Yahwist’s early and pre-theological mythological narrative, before the increasingly more austere stages of religious development in the Priestly and Deuteronomic sources. Even in the Gospel parables, though, God plants a vineyard…and leaves.


Jean Daniélou, S.J., In the Beginning…Genesis I-III (Baltimore, MD: Helicon Press, 1965), 46-47


See Wenham, Genesis 1-15, pp. 61, 62, 65, 74ff., 86, 90, 91, and so on.


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 67


Nissan Rubin and Admiel Kosman, “The Clothing of the Primordial Adam as a Symbol of Apocalyptic Time in the Midrashic Sources”, HTR 90.2 (1997), 163-164


Are we meant to read the continuum between the high priest and the tabernacle/temple building into the Adam story? –there is a long tradition of Adam being taken from the elements of the earth, found in Late Antique Celtic sources no less than in Mediterranean ones, just as the temple is taken from material found over the breadth of the world that the Israelites knew.


Gary A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 122


Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 29ff.


The relevant part of Psalm 8 reads:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas. (NKJV, italics removed)


Ephrem, Hymns on Paradise transl. Brock, 68


The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 2, ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1985), 262


Neusner, ed., Genesis Rabbah, 82-83


Stephen N. Lambden, “From Fig Leaves to Fingernails: Some Notes on the Garments of Adam and Eve in the Hebrew Bible and Select Early Postbiblical Jewish Writings” in A Walk in the Garden: Biblical, Iconographical, and Literary Images of Eden ed. Paul Morris & Deborah Sawyer (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 87


Jacob Neusner, Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis: A New American Translation Volume I, Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985), 227


Bereishis, Genesis: A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources transl. & commentary Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz Overviews by Rabbi Nosson Scherman (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1986) 136, fn. 1


Alon Goshen Gottstein, “The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature”, HTR 87.2 (1994?), 179


Andersen, Genesis of Perfection, 117


Jarl E. Fossum, The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Intermediation and the Origin of Gnosticism (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017), 93-94


C. T. R. Hayward, The Jewish Temple: a Non-Biblical Sourcebook (New York: Routledge, 1996), 30


James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 1: Apocalyptic Literature & Testaments (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 888


Christopher R. A. Morray-Jones, “The Temple Within” in Paradise Now: Essays on Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism ed. April D. DeConick (Atlanta: SBL, 2006), 167


“There I again saw the vision as formerly, after we had been there seventy days. And I saw seven men in white clothing, who were saying to me, ‘Arise, put on the vestments of the priesthood, the crown of righteousness, the oracle of understanding, the robe of truth, the breastplate of faith, the miter for the head, and the apron for prophetic power.’ Each carried one of these and put them on me and said, ‘From now on be a priest, you and all your posterity.’ The first anointed me with holy oil and gave me a staff. The second washed me with pure water, fed me by hand with bread and holy wine, and put on me a holy and glorious vestment. The third put on me something made of linen, like an ephod. The fourth placed…around me a girdle which was like purple. The fifth gave me a branch of rich olive wood. The sixth placed a wreath on my head. The seventh placed the priestly diadem on me and filled my hands with incense, in order that I might serve as priest for the Lord God.”

Charlesworth, OT Pseudepigrapha vol. 1, 790-791


Joel Marcus, Mark 8-16 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 636-637; 1113-1114.

Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 545 has an Index section on “Adam”, with numerous references to pages where the Adam typology of Mark is recounted, and numerous other independent traditions about Adam –traditions that are earlier or contemporary to The Gospel According to Mark– are mentioned. I have neglected to cite most of them.


Marcus does not say that the scene of the woman with the flow of blood, who says to herself “even if I just touch his garments, I’ll be cured” (Mark 5:28) is interfacing with this tradition. The similar passage in Mark 6:56, where people who are suffering are laid out and beg to touch “the fringe of his garments” (τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου), however, does elicit a comment from Marcus — κρασπέδον is the word used in the LXX for the tassels of Num 15 and Deut 22, which have cosmic significance in latter Rabbinic writing; Marcus thinks it’s possible that this Talmudic tradition of the tassels’ power could have an earlier stage that is in the background here. I don’t see why we don’t simply connect these to the transfiguration narrative, above.


1 Cor 15:45 ff.

45 […] it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.


2 Cor 3:13 ff.

Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.


Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition, revised ed. (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2004), 69ff. (esp. 82ff.), 254ff., 306ff., 310ff.


Odes of Solomon transl. with notes by Michael Lattke (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 149


Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise transl. Sebastian Brock, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009) 67


Header image found here.

One thought on “Adam’s Garments

  1. Pingback: Some Baseless Speculations about Christianity and Words and Speaking and Writing, With Regard to Hearts, and Regarding Dostoyevsky, Clumsily Conceived, Part 5 | Into the Clarities

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