Nudity and Biblical Shame

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Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Genesis says they “were both naked, and were not ashamed.” Once they gained knowledge of good and evil, they immediately covered themselves with fig leaves. This shows, according to Alan Jacobs in Cabinet, “Even fear of God’s wrath must be set aside so that the shame of nakedness can be removed.”

Adam and Eve’s reactions to their own nudity reveal the human connection between nudity and shame, Jacobs writes. Both of them tried to deflect the wrongdoing onto someone else: Adam onto Eve, and Eve onto the Serpent. This is a different reaction from feeling guilty, where one feels more personal responsibility. Shame is all about the exposure of wrongdoing. Jacobs writes, “Guilt must be learned; shame, it appears, comes naturally.”

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