Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” At first glance, this detail seems superfluous—far less important, say, than the previous verse about becoming “one flesh.” But actually, it introduces us to one of the main elements in the story: the theme of original nakedness. This is, in fact, the key to understanding the biblical vision of man’s created nature.
This verse, which says that the first man and woman were “both naked” but “felt no shame,” is a description of human consciousness. It takes us inside the minds of Adam and Eve, revealing how they experienced their bodies—both their own and each other’s. It describes Adam’s experience of femininity as revealed by Eve’s naked body, and, at the same time, Eve’s experience of masculinity through Adam’s body. The author describes this experience in simple, precise words: “they felt no shame.”
Several verses later, in the account of man’s Fall, we read:
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Gen. 3:1–7)
After breaking their covenant with God, Adam and Eve experience their bodies differently—for the first time, they become conscious of their nakedness and are ashamed. Between Genesis 2:25 and 3:7, there is a fundamental shift.
Before, Adam and Eve were “both naked, and they felt no shame.” Now, “they realized they were naked.” Does this mean that, before the fall, Adam and Eve didn’t really see each other’s naked bodies? Or has a change taken place on a much deeper level?
It is not simply that Adam and Eve have gone from a state of ignorance to “knowing.” Instead, there has been a radical change in the meaning of the original nakedness of man and woman in front of each other. This change emerges from their conscience; it’s a fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
This change directly involves the way we experience the meaning of bodies. After their eyes are “opened,” Adam and Eve first cover their bodies from each other’s sight; then they try to hide from God.
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (Gen. 3:8–10)
Shame is a fundamental human experience. Like Adam, we all know what it means to feel shame. In Genesis, this experience marks the border between original innocence and man’s sinfulness. To understand what it means to be without shame, and what significance this has for us today, we must look back to the time of original innocence.
Originally posted 2019-05-21 12:27:44.