First and Last

And the man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.  Genesis 2:25  NASB

Naked – Camile Paglia made this observation about the Bible:

There are no sexual personae in the Bible, except among harlots.  Biblical character is unitary and homogenous.  Psychic splits are of the ‘whited sepulcher’ kind, where the self is cleanly divided into visible and invisible halves. . .  The Bible is unconcerned with mystery and motivation. . .  Classical personality, in contrast, is a theatrical projection of self. . .  In the Bible, individuals are inseparable from their acts.  Matthew Arnold says, ‘The uppermost idea with Hebraism is conduct and obedience.’  That Biblical personality exists in and for moral action makes sense inasmuch as the Bible is a chronicle, the record of a chosen people moving through history.  While action is important in classical culture, the persona is separate from and greater than acts.  No value inheres in an action unless one is seen performing it.[1]

She’s wrong.  She’s not wrong with regard to the typical way religion reads the Bible.  Religion almost categorically treats sexuality as something evil.  Well, if not actually evil, something not quite pure.  A trap.  An enticement.  The really, really good people are celibate priests and nuns, or the Protestant or Jewish equivalent.  Apparently sexuality is just too much for us the handle, so better to stay far away.  Procreation, yes, of course, the species must continue, but anything else, no, no.  Prohibited.  Scandalous.  Squeamish.

No wonder our exegetical interpretation about this verse reads like this:

עֵירֹם (ʿêrōm). Naked, nakedness. (ASV and RSV similar.) ʿêrōm is used ten times to designate spiritual and physical nakedness. As used of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:7, 10, 11), it indicates more than sex consciousness. It depicts an awareness of the openness of their guilt to God. Their relationship with God was impaired, upsetting their relationship to each other. In Ezk 16:7, 22, 29; 23:29 and Deut 12:29 this word is used of the personified Jerusalem, indicating both her material and spiritual poverty. Used in Ezk 18:7, 16 to indicate proper social concern of righteous in providing clothes for needy.[2]

Did you notice the creeping morality in this comment?  The verse about Adam and the woman says they “were not ashamed,” from bôš meaning “to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust.”[3]  The text clearly says this was not the case, but the comment by Schultz says that nakedness indicates their sense of guilt.   What guilt?  Why concentrate only on nakedness after the Fall?  The whole point of this verse is that God created us sexual beings and it was good that He did.  There isn’t any guilt about that.  Interpretations like Schultz’s are the reason Paglia thinks biblical characters are sexless (except for prostitutes, of course).  But Schultz is just as wrong as Paglia.  If anything, the biblical characters overflow with sexuality.  If you care to look, it’s obvious!  Affairs, incest, adultery, bestiality, penis envy, sexual political conquest, wife competition—and more, it’s all there along with all the emotions.  Lust, guilt, anger, revenge, scheming, and, thanks to the Song of Songs, passion, sexual pleasure, joy, obsession, happiness.  In fact, the only way you can read the Bible without its inherent sexuality is to do what Schultz and Paglia do—ignore the text and preach the doctrine.

Okay, so we correct our thinking.  What difference does it make?  Well, we could try to correct our attitudes and mores too.  We could recognize sexuality as an essential constituent of human being, a gift from God, a way of being in the world that marks fundamental differences between male and female, and at the same time, requires necessary involvement.  The celibate is not purified.  In fact, celibacy is a perversion of the human way of being alive.  Sometimes, rarely, necessary, but never for goodness sake.  In the Bible, the only non-sexual being is God.  Everyone else comes equipped.  Now deal with it.

Topical Index:  male, female, naked, ashamed, ʿêrōm, Paglia, Genesis 2:25

[1] Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickenson, p. 298.

[2] Schultz, C. (1999). 1588 עוּר. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 656). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Oswalt, J. N. (1999). 222 בּוֹשׁ. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 97). Chicago: Moody Press.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gayle Johnson

It is a modern day tragedy that we so easily toss the gifts given by the Creator, in favor of newer things. So much of what is tied to the natural order has become useless. We are in great need of restoration, beginning in the family.

I agree with your statements, Skip, and thank you for Guardian Angel.

Richard Bridgan

How does God demand that we deal with the exposure that results in shame? Simply put, repent; deal with with the exposure in agreement with him and move from shame to renewal by following the way that incapacitates shame… once again, put simply, by obedience to that supremely good and benevolent will of God that results in shalom.

Richard Bridgan

(And sex literally has little to nothing to do with this matter— except possibly as metaphor.)