Before the fall, nudity was acceptable. After the fall, Adam and Eve were covered. Why the inconsistency?
Because the story of the Fall in the Book of Genesis was never intended to be taken literally, the physical nudity of Adam and Eve likewise should not be the focus when one reads about it. Instead, the story of the Fall is meant to evoke a greater meaning, that of man severing his harmonious relationship with his Creator.
When God created Adam and Eve, he created them in perfect union with him. They were sinless, but they still had the gift of free will, and thus had the capacity to choose against God. And so, Adam and Eve’s nakedness points to that reality — their utter purity and stainlessness in their relation to God. The fact that Adam and Eve are depicted as naked before the Fall, then, after their disobedience, as hiding themselves and being covered indicates the nature of sin and how we relate to God while we’re mired in it.
So, in this case, “clothing” is a metaphor for Adam and Eve masking their true nature as a result of them saying to God, “I know better than you.” They were in pure, perfect union with God before the Fall, and had willfully severed themselves from God after it.
Matthew Sewell, a Denver Broncos fan and amateur Chestertonian, loves golf, music, truth and good food. A lifelong Catholic, he graduated from a Catholic college (Carroll College; Helena, Mont.) but experienced a “re-version” to the faith during graduate studies at a state school (N. Arizona; Flagstaff, Ariz.). Irony is also one of his favorite things. He and his wife currently reside in Spokane, though they’re Montanans at heart. He blogs at mtncatholic.com.