Did God Make Fur Coats for Adam and Eve? By Chapman Chen, HKBNews
Updated: Jul 21, 2021
"The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). This verse has been quoted by many a meat-eater to argue against Christian veganism. Did God actually hunt down in cold blood a couple of innocent animals and skin them mercilessly to make fur coats for Adam and Eve to wear? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? In reality, עור (`owr), the Hebrew original of "skin" in the verse, means human skin and/or the physical human body, in accordance with the Hebrew Lexicon. It is rarely used to refer to the skin of animals. In fact, in the context concerned, the death of an animal is in no way mentioned. So where did the Lord acquire the skin with which he provided clothes for Adam and his wife? The text doesn’t say. But there is good reason to believe that God just created it to be either the human skin or the human body itself.
Adam & Eve Had Bodies of Light
According to Taylor (2013) and The First Book of Adam and Eve, translated into English by Dr. S. C. Malan (1882), Vicar of Broadwindsor, from the Ethiopic edition edited by Dr. Ernest Trumpp, Professor at the University of Munich, who had the advantage of the Arabic original (note 1), Adam and Eve, instead of physical bodies, had bodies of light before the fall, when they were still living in the Garden of Eden. In other words, they were simply spiritual beings.
In my interpretation, these bodies of light were spiritual bodies or souls. Indeed, "Garments" [כתנת (kĕthoneth)] is specifically used in Hebrew to refer to an undergarment, as confirmed by Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon, in other words, a covering over nakedness, which signifies purity or spirituality (cf. Taylor 2013).
As pointed out by Jeremy Myers (2014), certain sectors of Judaism and Christianity were of the view that before Genesis 3:21, human beings did not possess “skin” the way we perceive it nowadays, but "existed in some other form". They were convinced that humans were “clothed in light” akin to God (Psalm 104:2).
Garments of Light vs Garments of Skin
To put it in another way, Adam and Eve had garments of light before the fall. The Midrash Rabbah called them garments of light, not of skin. The Hebrew words for light and skin are similar. ע֖וֹר (o wr) is the Hebrew word for “skin” in the Bible (Hebrew Concordance); א֖וֹרִי (o wri) is the Hebrew word for “shine” (Hebrew Concordance); א֖וֹרִי as in “Arise, Shine, for thy Light has come!” (Isaiah 60).
“Their flesh was dried up”
As noted by Taylor (2013), it was not until Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden that their bodies of light turned into "flesh” (Book of Adam and Eve, Ch IV:9). God put in plain words to them that their “bright nature was withdrawn” (Ch. VIII: 2). At one point, Adam complained that “their flesh was dried up” (Ch. XLIX: 13).
So when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they lost their skin of light and their "naked" flesh was exposed. They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), but it was inadequate and not of much help. Maybe this was where the human skin came into the picture — the garment that was "made" or fashioned by God to take the place of the not-so-good fig leaf.
Garment of Skin as the Human Body
Anonymous (2013) goes one step further than the human skin theory. He/she argues that the skin made or produced [עשה (`asah)] by God is not some sort of garment but the human body itself, which is akin to "a covering over the pure spirit". He/she explains that this is not inconsistent with the other imageries or representations used in this parable. Eden is not a material location on our planet, and Adam and Eve were not the first humans born on Earth five thousand years ago. This idea has been refuted by countless "human remains dating back hundreds of thousands of years ago". Instead, this story of Genesis is an allegory that portrays how we dropped from the spiritual realm to the physical realm and adopted these transitory physical bodies.
We are not our Body To borrow Anonymous' (2013) words, "one can scientifically arrive at the understanding that we are not the physical body. We are each spiritual beings, temporarily occupying a physical body, much as a driver temporarily drives an automobile. Once the driver is behind the wheel, the driver steers the car. Sometimes the driver even begins to identify with the car." Similarly, once inside the physical body, we start to see our essence as it. We forget that each of us is a spirit. We start to hunt for vain, trivial, transient, material, worldly and physical pleasures as if we were our body, while our body is just a "stinking skin bag," a Buddhist phrase often used in classical Chinese novels like The Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber.
1. The Book of Adam and Eve is the work of unknown Egyptians (the lack of historical allusion makes it impossible to date the writing). Parts of this version are found in the Talmud, the Koran, and elsewhere, showing what a vital role it played in the original literature of human wisdom. The Egyptian author first wrote in Arabic (which may be taken as the original manuscript) and that found its way farther south and was translated into Ethiopic. For the present English translation we are indebted to Dr. S. C. Malan, Vicar of Broadwindsor, who worked from the Ethiopic edition edited by Dr. E. Trumpp, Professor at the University of Munich. Dr. Trumpp had the advantage of the Arabic original, which makes our bridge over the gap of many centuries a direct one.
Anonymous (2013). " Genesis 3:21 - The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife". Meaning of Genesis. (http://www.meaningofgenesis.com/2012/01/lord-god-made-garments-of-skin-for-adam.html)
Myers, Jeremy (2014). "Did God Perform the First Sacrifice in Genesis 3:21?" (https://redeeminggod.com/first-sacrifice-genesis-3_21/)
Taylor, Deila (2013). "The Lord made garments of skin — whose skin?" Eve Out of The Garden. (https://www.deilataylor.com/the-lord-made-garments-of-skin/ )