Naked but Not Ashamed

Suggests Weakness

Nakedness in the Old Testament, continues Kselman, suggests weakness, neediness, and the like. When the sacred author indicates that the man and woman were unaware, or unconcerned, about nakedness, the meaning is rather that they should have been aware and concerned about it; about their "dependence on God who provides in the garden for their needs."24

Despite their absolute dependence upon God (their nakedness) the man and woman aspire to know everything, to "be like gods," to assert independence; the command of God against eating the forbidden fruit is sheer challenge to spread out wings and fly. Ironically, they now finally pay attention to the in escapable fact that they are naked: "weak, vulnerable, and helpless, having rejected their dependence upon God."25 The Jahwist author continues the ironic tone by describing their inadequate efforts to cover their nakedness and to hide from God: "As soon as they had eaten it, they were given understanding and realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves. (3:7).

One can hardly miss the clues the sacred author provides to make us understand that he uses symbolic language throughout. "These chapters (Genesis I -11) have a naive, symbolic way of speaking... but they do disclose to us certain important truths,"wrote Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, 1950.

Great Disadvantage

Much remains to be discovered in these chapters, and scholars now have linguistic tools and other advantages which Augustine did not have. As Pope Pius XII wrote in Divino Afflante Spiritu,Sept. 30, 1943,not many of the Fathers knew the Hebrew language as an aid to study the Old Testament text, which was a great disadvantage. The presidents of the Council of Trent had already asked the sovereign pontiff that the Latin version of the Bible be corrected, and that a corrected Greek, then a Hebrew version be prepared. Pius XII pointed out the difficulties which the Fathers encountered: "How difficult for the Fathers themselves, and indeed well nigh unintelligible, were certain passages is shown, among other things, by the oft-repeated efforts of many of them to explain the first chapters of Genesis.26 Read: the quantity of writing is in inverse proportion to the clarity of understanding.

The sacred author of Genesis symbolizes by the two trees the choice open to humans: a Way of Life, and a Way of Death. God instructed Adam explicitly to avoid the Way of Death. The "knowledge of good and evil" is a merism, including everything between the extremes or boundaries. An attempt to grasp universal knowledge is a declaration of independence from God, is a decision to "create with one's conscience" what is right and what is wrong. Genesis symbolically teaches that Adam and Eve, despite complete dependence upon God, disregarded their condition. Their shameless nakedness called for education. They learned the hard way. God called them to repentance, and they confessed. Then God dressed them in real clothes made of animal skins (3:2 1).Now they were educated.

This concept that "naked without shame" in Genesis 2:25signifies the beginning of sin rather than serene virtue fits in neatly with the insight of St. Augustine that pride had preceded the Fall:

How could these words (of the serpent) persuade the woman that it was a good and useful thing that had been forbidden by God if there was not already in her heart a love of her own independence and a proud presumption on self?27

Common sense indicates that inhabitants of paradise wore real clothes. Why should our Adam and Eve be exposed naked to sun, wind, and cold? All the more would this be meaningless if they had no sex drive. Even the Neanderthals left fossil needles, indicating that they stitched clothing. St. Thomas labored to explain a "paradise" without clothing: It had a most fortunate and salubrious climate, he explained. And why was that place not yet found?

"The situation of paradise is shutoff from the habitable world by mountains, or seas, or some torrid region, which cannot be crossed; and so people who have written about topography make no mention of it"28

Today we crossed those barriers, but have not yet found a paradise where it is more comfortable to live without clothing than with it. If Adam and Eve lived without clothes anywhere on this earth, life was not very convenient, lack of sex drive notwithstanding.

Another difficulty obtrudes itself: God would have to do no small amount of readjusting in Adam's anatomy to equip him with the sex drive we have. The main fixing would have to be done in the brain. To make changes in that enormously complex computer, with 13 billion interacting nerves, would be a job beyond the powers of human imagination. Of course, the God who created us can do that. He could instantly create or activate the pathways in Adam which our finely tuned drives have today. But I ask myself why God would want to "punish" us in this manner. The thought is difficult to digest.

Did St. Augustine create an irreconcilable inconsistency with another teaching of his own? He holds that God created everything He ever created "at the beginning" (Gn 1: 1); nothing new (except possibly human souls) was created thereafter.29 In this view God sowed the "rationes seminales"for the development of Adam at the initial moment of creation. Thereafter God rested from His works. How, then, would the miraculous change in Adam from motor control of the sex organs be transformed to our present automatisms? The change should be instantaneous, a "punctuated" type of evolution, to be neatly synchronized with Adam's sin when that would finally occur. The 13 billion nerves must be rearranged, motor control must yield to automatisms.

Irreconcilable Inconsistency

The answer is that the keen mind of Augustine had construed the rationes rationales"to direct the growth of a creature from its original inchoate state or (by exception) to form a creature in its fully mature state instantaneously, in accordance with God's will for the particular occasion."30 Augustine, therefore, construed rationescapable of bringing about this transformation on schedule, according to the prevision and will of the Creator.

The very thought that God would purposely derange Adam's anatomy with an evil blight of "lust" appears absurd now as we review this quaint concept from the vantage point of true Church teaching. Why should God choose to "punish" humans with a superfluous sex drive, one not needed in paradise, one which will be the occasion of many sins? Is not God on our side? Will the Son of God not become incarnate and redeem us of our sins of the flesh by heroically hanging on the cross? Then why make His cross more painful because we commit more sins occasioned by our sex drive? God would operate at cross purposes with His own work of creation and redemption if He introduced into our bodies an instinct which does not belong there, which was not in Adam initially, which is not beautiful, which demeans our character, which makes us less His image and likeness because the implanted foreign body is not in harmony with our constitution as He created it primevally.

Finally, even if we read Genesis 2:25 to signify a nakedness without clothing, that does not justify the interpretation of St. Augustine that they were not in possession of a sex drive. Quite the contrary. It should rather signify that our first parents, when in the original state of justice and holiness, were fully aware of the nuptial meaning of the body and could communicate this meaning to each other, could give and receive this gift in a full measure of person to person communication.31


The profound theology of the body which the pope developed is based upon the innocence and holiness of our first parents. Whether they were clothed or unclothed is only incidental to this theology. If clothed, then all the more are innocent and holy Adam and Eve models for a life of holy matrimony in the real world.

We conclude that St. Augustine was wrong in this one teaching, and that the Church is correct when she speaks through Vatican II:

Authentic marital love is caught up into the divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ's redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church... . This love is uniquely expressed, perfected through the marital act. The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions signify and promote that mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and thankful will.32

I cannot close with the risk of leaving a bad taste in the mouth about St. Augustine, or of lowering his esteem in our eyes. He is an intellectual giant, one who formulated early the mainline doctrines of the Church and indicated lines for future development. To him we owe much of our Catholic heritage. Philip Hughes justly holds him up for admiration:

In theology, beyond what has been already described, St. Augustine is responsible for a philosophically inspired exposition on the Trinity which is one of the marvels of Christian thought, and which remains to this day impossible to better. In his teaching on the Incarnation, there is, once again, a richness of new light and a new precision, thanks to his philosophical mind; and as his exposition of the Trinity precludes the difficulties over whose solution Eastern Catholicism tore itself to shreds, so here his solutions leave no place for misunderstandings out of which Nestorianism and Monophysitism were to rise....

There is one book, especially, of St. Augustine which never ceased to be read and studied for the next thousand years and to influence western thought and even political action - the De Civitate Dei. Not only was this a principal means whereby much of the saint's theological teaching passed into the minds of others than the professional theologians, into the minds of schoolmasters and lawyers and administrators and even rulers, forming the mind of the educated layman, but the book was the first attempt to understand the meaning of history, and it was the foundation of all later Christian speculation about what we now call social philosophy. For a thousand years1 . t was the European's guide to the rights and duties of man vis a vis the state....

The City of God was the favorite reading of Charlemagne, whose empire may be fairly considered as the mighty attempt of a somewhat less than saintly Christian genius, to set that City up as an actual political institution.33


We searched the Scriptures in the above for evidence to support the concept that Adam had no sex drive before the Fall. We have not consulted the teachings of the Rabbi's, of the Church Fathers, the theologians, the analogy of the Faith, and the magisterium. This must be done at another time. I believe we can say without hesitation that it is not possible to prove that Adam had no sex drive before the Fall from the Scriptures alone.

Restores Human Condition

St. Irenaeus taught that Christ, through baptism, restores our personal human condition to be like it was in Adam before the Fall.34 He wrote before complicated theology developed about so-called preternatural gifts in Adam (in addition to sanctifying grace). St. Irenaeus knew St. Polycarp, who knew St. John, who knew Christ.

St. Augustine opposed with a teaching that the sex drive in us was not in innocent Adam; that it is a novelty, an evil thing, a punishment for Original Sin. Concerning this point, the company of St. Irenaeus is more congenial to me than that of St. Augustine.


1 Quasten, Johannes, Patrology, Vol. 1, 195 1; Vol. 11, 1953; Westminster, Maryland, The Newman Press. See John Paul II: Original Unity of Man and Woman. Catechesis on the book of Genesis, 5 September 1979-2 April 1980; compiled and indexed by Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, 198 1. [Back]

2 29 October 1951. [Back]

3 Gaudium et Spes, 49. [Back]

4 Cf. The Literal Meaning of Genesis, translated and annotated by John H. Taylor, S.J., New York, Newman Press, 1982; part of a series on ancient Christian writers. The notes provided by Father Taylor are a priceless source of information. 1: 19. [Back]

5 John L. Delaney, Dictionary of the Saints, New York, Doubleday, 1980. [Back]

6 Hughes, Philip, A History of the Church, 11, New York, Sheed and Ward, revised edition 1949. p. 11. [Back]

7 Op. cit., p.8. [Back]

8 The Confessions, excerpts from The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, John A. Hardon, S.J. ed., New York, Doubleday, 1987, 8:7. [Back]

9 Ibid. THE PRIEST/September 1992 53. [Back]

10 Op. cit., 8. [Back]

11 Rom 8:13-14; op. cit., 8:12. Bible quotations: St. Jerome, The New Catholic Study Bible, American Bible Society, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985. [Back]


 Cf. Summa Theologica, 1,98,2. [Back]

13 Augustine, The City of God, Basic Writings of St. Augustine, Vol. 11, Whitney J. Oates ed., Random House, New York, 1948, 1426. 13. [Back]

14 Summa Theologica, 1,98,2. [Back]

15 City of God,14:16. [Back]

16 Summa Theologica, Supp. [Back]


17 Retractions, 2.50; see "Introduction" to the English translation by John H. Taylor, S.J. [Back]

18 The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 11:31. [Back]

19 Op. cit. 11:32. [Back]

20 Cf. J.H. Taylor, "Introduction" and "Appendix 2" The Literal Meaning of Genesis. [Back]

21 See, e.g., Strong, John, John, Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, with Dictionaries of the Hebrew and Greek Words of the Original, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts (no date of publication given.) [Back]

22 Tennant, F.R. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin, first published in 1903; Shocken edition 1968. p.93. [Back]

23 See "Genesis" in Harper's Bible Commentary, 88. [Back]

24 ibid. [Back]

25 Kselman, ibid. [Back]

26 Ibid., no. 31. [Back]

27 Literal Meaning, 11:30. [Back]

28 Summa Theologica, 102,1. [Back]

29 See Literal Meaning, 1:1. [Back]

30 Taylor, note to Literal Meaning, 6:13. [Back]

31 See Catechesis of John Paul II, especially Jan. 9 - Mar. 9, 1980. [Back]

32 Gaudium et Spes, no. 48. [Back]

33 A History of the Church, 11,21,23,25. [Back]

34 See, e.g., Adversus Haereses, 3:18.1;5:2.1. [Back]

1, 2,