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Chapter 17.—Of the Nakedness of Our First Parents, Which They Saw After Their Base and Shameful Sin.

Justly is shame very specially connected with this lust; justly, too, these members themselves, being moved and restrained not at our will, but by a certain independent autocracy, so to speak, are called “shameful.”  Their condition was different before sin.  For as it is written, “They were naked and were not ashamed,” 742 —not that their nakedness was unknown to them, but because nakedness was not yet shameful, because not yet did lust move those members without the will’s consent; not yet did the flesh by its disobedience testify against the disobedience of man.  For they were not created blind, as the unenlightened vulgar fancy; 743 for Adam saw the animals to whom he gave names, and of Eve we read, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes.” 744   Their eyes, therefore were open, but were not open to this, that is to say, were not observant so as to recognize what was conferred upon them by the garment of grace, for they had no consciousness of their members warring against their will.  But when they were stripped of this grace, 745 that their disobedience might be punished by fit retribution, there began in the movement of their bodily members a shameless novelty which made nakedness indecent:  it at once made them observant and made them ashamed.  And therefore, after they violated God’s command by open transgression, it is written:  “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” 746   “The eyes of them both were opened,” not to see, for already they saw, but to discern between the good they had lost and the evil into which they had fallen.  And therefore also the tree itself which they were forbidden to touch was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from this circumstance, that if they ate of it it would impart to them this knowledge.  For the discomfort of sickness reveals the pleasure of health.  “They knew,” therefore, “that they were naked,”—naked of that grace which prevented them from being ashamed of bodily nakedness while the law of sin offered no resistance to their mind.  And thus they obtained a knowledge which they would have lived in blissful ignorance of, had they, in trustful obedience to God, declined to commit that offence which involved them in the experience of the hurtful effects of unfaithfulness and disobedience.  And therefore, being ashamed of the disobedience of their own flesh, which witnessed to their disobedience while it punished it, “they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons,” that is, cinctures for their privy parts; for some interpreters have rendered the word by succinctoriaCampestria is, indeed, a Latin word, but it is used of the drawers or aprons used for a similar purpose by the young men who stripped for exercise in the campus; hence those who were so girt were commonly called campestrati.  Shame modestly covered that which lust disobediently moved in opposition to the will, which was thus punished for its own disobedience.  Consequently all nations, being propagated from that one stock, have so strong an instinct to cover the shameful parts, that some barbarians do not uncover them even in the bath, but wash with their drawers on.  In the dark solitudes of India also, though some philosophers go naked, and are therefore called gymnosophists, yet they make an exception in the case of these members and cover them.



Gen. 2.25.


An error which arose from the words, The eyes of them both were opened, Gen. iii. 7.—See De Genesi ad lit. ii. 40.


Gen. 3.6.


This doctrine and phraseology of Augustin being important in connection with his whole theory of the fall, we give some parallel passages to show that the words are not used at random:  De Genesi ad lit. xi. 41; De Corrept. et Gratia, xi. 31; and especially Cont. Julian. iv. 82.


Gen. 3.7.

Next: Chapter 18