In my theological training, there is a point of going to first principles in Scripture for understanding and interpretation. Genesis 3 is the first place that nudity is mentioned, so here are some quick observations from my reading.
Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:25 NLT)
We are in the image of God, and we were originally nude, no shame.
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
“Who told you that you were naked?” the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:7-11 NLT)
Who told them they were naked, not God. Adam and Eve judged themselves, their own shame led them to cover themselves. God only covered them later when they were banished.
So the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the LORD God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3: 23, 24 NLT)
God does not say they are banished from Eden because they are naked, they are banished because they took from the tree, disobedience.
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21 ESV)
Adam and Eve were removed from Eden, no longer in the protection of God from the elements, cold etc. God gave them skins for protection, an animal skin, an animal had to be sacrificed for our sin. This action of God is the first mention of blood sacrifices that is to continue on through the old testament through to Christ. God is not ashamed of us, though we are ashamed of ourselves.
There is a teaching that its OK for a husband and wife to be the only ones to see each other naked, however, Adam and Eve are the original equivalents of marriage, yet they still covered themselves. Generally the Church also recognises the need for nakedness in medical situations, but these situations aren’t accounted for anywhere in scripture
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:7 ESV)
This translation as opposed to more modern translations includes the statement “made themselves loincloths”.
If nudity is sinful, then we must be more accurate and place the shame on the loins, or the genitals of men and women. Modern scripture translations have succumbed to the culture of restricting women from being top free. The breasts of neither men or women are included as shameful to Adam and Eve.
According to one source, there are 104 references to the word “naked” and its derivatives in 87 verses of the King James Version of the Bible. But with the New International Version, a translation preferred by many conservative Christians, there are only 49 references in 47 verses. 6 The NIV translators may have tampered with the original Hebrew and Greek, perhaps because they find nudity too embarrassing.
Passages from the creation story in Genesis
There are a number of passages near the beginning of Genesis that might be considered to have a relationship to social nudism:
Genesis 2 Adam was created from mud, and Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs. Both had remained naked in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:25 states: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (KJV).
Genesis 3:7: “Then the eyes of both [Adam and Eve] were opened and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (NIV)
There is an ambiguity in the original Hebrew text over the word translated here as naked. It may be:
eromim which means to be naked, without clothes, or
arumim which means the uncovering of deceptions
Genesis and the rest of the Torah was written using only consonants, with no letters or signs indicating vowels. Thus “eromim” and “arumim” appear the same in the Hebrew text, as rmm.
The Hebrew word translated here as coverings is chagowr which literally means a belt for the waist. But some translators of the Bible into English seem to have recoiled from the thought of Eve walking around topless, wearing just a belt. The King James and Revised Standard Versions both mention “aprons” which could have covered most of their bodies. The Modern Language version describes them as “skirts”. The Living Bible mentions that they covered “themselves around the hips” The New American Standard Bible calls them “loin coverings.” The NIV translation is particularly obscure; they refer simply to “coverings” without defining what type was used. In spite of what the NIV translators wrote, it is obvious that Eve went topless.
Genesis 3:10-11: God called for Adam, who replied: “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” God answered: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (KJV).
There are many conflicting interpretations to the significance of nudity in these passages:
Some interpret that passages as implying that Adam and Eve had once lived a sinless life. But after eating the fruit, their thoughts became selfish. They lost their unconditional, pure love for each other and began to look upon their partner as sex objects — as a body to exploit in order to satisfy their sexual appetite. Their clothing might have been intended to protect themselves from the other.
Some suggest that the act of covering of their body was a metaphor. It symbolized their real need to try to hide their sin from God.
Some feel that Adam and Eve were so embarrassed by their nudity that they had to create clothes to hide their genitals. However, that interpretation seems unlikely, because Adam and Eve would have been used to seeing each other naked continually since Eve was created. They would hardly suddenly become embarrassed in each other’s presence.
Some Christians interpret the passage as implying that once Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world, Adam and Eve knew felt shame because of their naked bodies, and nudity became intrinsically sinful. Adam and Eve then wished to be clothed when they became aware of their sin.
Another explanation was that the aprons would give them at least some form of physical protection when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden into a barren land. Perhaps the belts would facilitate the carrying of knives to ward off dangerous animals.
Still another interpretation of the passage is that Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit gave them knowledge. God had created them as a type of proto-human, with their natures intermediate between that of animals and of the humans they would become. They lacked a moral sense. They had no knowledge of good and evil, and without much knowledge of themselves and their surroundings. In some magical way, the eating of the fruit brought them instant knowledge of morality: of good and bad behavior. The fruit made them fully human, It may have also brought them knowledge of how sexual intercourse can lead to procreation. They realized the tremendous magical power of sex. They decided that their sexual organs were so powerful and mysterious that they should be covered.
Religious liberals tend to interpret the first part of Genesis as a series of religious myths. They are stories of great spiritual significance, but unrelated to any historical happenings. The passage about Adam and Eve wearing a belt might simply be a myth that the author(s) included to account for the embarrassment that youth and adults often feel when they are naked in the presence of the opposite gender.
Others refer to a Pagan Babylonian religious text, the Gilgamesh epic. It contains a passage that is very close parallel to the Genesis story. It involves Enkidu and a harlot who received sexual knowledge as a result of eating the forbidden fruit. This caused them to be embarrassed at their nudity. The Epic was written many centuries before Genesis. Religious liberals generally assume that parts of Genesis were copied from The Gilgamesh epic. This would include the stories of the forbidden fruit, the clothing, and the universal flood.