Christianity adopted the Jewish Genesis of the Torah. Koran also tells the Creation Story. According to Islamic understanding, Allah used the same spiritual source, to reveal the story of Creation to the prophet. In this manner, all three Abrahamic religions have the same Genesis, that deals with Adam and Eve as the first humans.
The Fall of Man separates two fundamental notions of nudity, which have thus shaped all three mentioned religions:
- Nudity in cluelessness and innocence. The nudity of Adam and Eve in paradise was a complete lack of clothing in innocence, namely in terms of that they were not even aware of their nudity, before they had eaten from the tree of knowledge. This is most likely to be equated with animal nudity, that is, the primal state of earthly living beings of all kinds. The Hebrew language uses the word “ārôm“ for that notion.
- Conscious, shame-ridden nakedness. After the fall of mankind, Adam and Eve experienced their nakedness as guilt- and shame-ridden, causing them to cover themselves with fig leaves. The Hebrew language uses the word “êrom“. By the way: Both terms of the Hebrew language have no sexual connotation, but only describe the different senses of nudity vs nakedness.
All known sources relate this paradisiacal nudity through the biblical words “And they saw, that they were naked.“ to mere nakedness after the fall of mankind. But what should be problematic about nakedness?
In fact, however, the insight may had been “And they saw, that they were sexual beings.“, because, as we know from ethnology, the shame on sexual action was one of the main sources of all shame on genitals and other body parts.
There is another notion of nudity, which is also grounded in all three religions:
- Nakedness as sign of poverty. The imperative “if you see someone naked, dress him.“ is a promise of the Tanach, the Bible, and the Koran of well-being, health, and ongoing well support to a person, who complies with that imperative. Conversely, the sacred books stigmatise all the wrong-doers, who deprive the needy of food and clothing.
Jews and Christians also have the story of Saul in common:
- Nakedness as an expression of delusion. The nakedness of Saul, who tears off his clothes and thus symbolically loses the ability to exercise power as a king.
Genesis legend vs reality
The Genesis of Jews, Christians, and Muslims does not correspond to the scientifically proven facts. The jewish calendar (year 1 is the first year after the Genesis ≈ 3761 BC; 9 September 2018 was Jewish New Year's Eve 5779) displaces the beginning of the world into the 4th millennium BC, thus at a time, when in Egypt the Old Egyptian Kingdom emerged. However, the earth is 4.5 milliard years old, and there is a history of humanity since the emergence of humanoid beings about 6 million years ago, a long epoch of about 4 to 5 million years, in which humans and early humans have behaved more likely as today's primates.
Similar to primates living today, there was only limited contact and exchange beyond the clan borders. Certainly the nude living together in these early historical times was still a paradisiacal nudity on earth, because it was a matter of course for everyone and nobody could imagine anything like clothes at all. Consequently, there could be no conscious nudity – nudity was without alternative and therefore unconscious.
- Sozially secured nudity
From the coexistence within the pack under the traditional regime of a leader of a pack, only slowly, in the course of the last 2 million years, a deliberate, conscious, and socially cohabited coexistence in a clan developed. A social consensus within the clan probably evolved only in the last 200,000 years of human history, which eventually required a complex, even abstract thinking ability on meta-level.
As you may observe with primates today, rules for social interaction have developed among early humans, that prevented attacks on other members of the group, included protective mechanisms for the weaker, and also included punitive measures against overbearing rowdies. Without such a set of rules on social compatibility, the survival of the group would have been severely endangered, but on the other hand the individual's belonging to the group and the classification in the group rules was also a prerequisite for the personal survival.
Since clothing was far from being invented, this set of rules, which undoubtedly had to be practiced and passed on to future generations, functioned in socially lived nudity. The refinement of such rules to a socially secured, nude coexistence lasted for a very long time, until ethnologically documented taboos and behavioural patterns, that we were able to study with indigenous peoples just a few decades ago.
- Conscious, accepted nudity
Nudity could only become known to humans when, in contrast, there was the option to cover one's body with clothing. Ethnologists date the invention of jewelry and the creation of shame, as a result of which the invention of clothing took place, approx 100,000 years ago.
However, clothing remained a privilege of princes and the rich for the next 95,000 years or so. German Brockhaus Encyclopedia reports about normal people (hunters, gatherers, fishermen, farmers, …) still from the Old Kingdom of Egypt (about 4,000 BC) succinctly: By the way, they went nude. The first ones, who regularly sweated their aprons, were the officials of the Pharaoh.
In these nearly 100,000 years, in which clothing had already been invented and used by an elite minority, the majority of people remained true to their millions of years old tradition and walked through life knowingly nude. It was also much more practical not to wear clothes when doing physical work in the fields or hunting: Clothing was only a hindrance. It was not until the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (around 3,000 BC), that clothing became widespread among the ordinary population.
It was in this epoch, that the historiography of the Jews began: The beginning of the Jewish calendar is fixed at 3,761 BC, the “Year of Creation“. So, it is not surprising, that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam perceive the clothed human as normal: At the time of their origin, clothing gradually became widespread (Judaism) or was already established (Christianity, Islam).