Clothed with Salvation: The Garden, the Veil, Tabitha, and Christ

Daniel Belnap
Studies in the Bible and Antiquity: Volume – 4, Pages: 43-69
Provo, Utah:
Maxwell Institute, 2012
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
 
Sandwiched between the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 and Peter’s vision of the Gentiles in Acts 10 is the story of the raising of Tabitha. While staying in the town of Lydda, Peter, the presiding disciple of Christ, is approached by two individuals from the neighboring city of Joppa with the request that he come and attend to the then-deceased Tabitha. When he gets there, he is met by widows weeping and wailing over Tabitha’s departure. We know practically nothing of Tabitha except that she is a believer and a woman “full of good works and almsdeeds” (Acts 9:36). These works are revealed as the mourners present themselves before Peter, showing him the clothes and garments made by Tabitha for them.

This account may not, at first glance (or even at a second glance), appear to be related to the fall of Adam and Eve, the veil of the tabernacle described in Exodus, or the atonement of Christ; yet all three of these are linked to the narrative of Tabitha by the symbolic nature of clothing and its attendant rite, investiture. Throughout the scriptures, the acts of investiture and divestiture are used to describe the individual and social transformations made possible in the plan of salvation. This paper will examine the four scriptural subjects mentioned above–namely, the Garden of Eden narrative, the nature and role of the veil, the brief account of Tabitha, and the very nature of Christ and the atonement through the lens of clothing and investiture–and in so doing attempt to demonstrate that these two elements are among the most powerful and effective symbols in the scriptures to answer the fundamental questions concerning what our nature is now, what we really are, and how God understands us.

Clothing in the Garden of Eden

Experience with investiture began in the Garden of Eden, where through successive states of undress and dress Adam and Eve began their mortal progression.1 We are first introduced to the symbol of clothing, or lack thereof, as we are told that Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Moses 3:25). Though nakedness is often associated with nudity, there is a significant difference between the two states of undress. Whereas nudity simply defines a lack of clothing on any given individual, nakedness is determined by society and differs from culture to culture. Thus, while we may consider a native Amazonian tribe naked because of their lack of apparel, those tribes may consider themselves clothed and not naked at all by their standards. Instead, perhaps lacking a certain type of jewelry or tattoo would constitute their social understanding of nakedness.2 That nakedness is learned can best be exemplified by little children, who exhibit a complete lack of shame while nude. It is only as they are taught their culture’s values that their nudity becomes nakedness.3

In most societies, nakedness describes the social experience of shame or humiliation brought about by stepping beyond the proper social boundaries. Though we might want to view this negative consequence as a “bad” concept, the truth is that without a clear delineation between what is proper and what is not, one cannot have a functioning society. Therefore, nakedness as a cultural construct that brings about a negative consequence within that society actually allows for proper relationships to be established, further prospering the society. Thus nakedness and its attendant negative consequences are ultimately positive social constructs.

In light of this, it is not surprising to find nakedness as a legal punishment for social disharmony. In some Mesopotamian legal texts, the stripping of an individual of his or her raiment was considered punishment for offenses that went against the social order. In Middle Assyrian law codes, prostitutes who were caught wearing a veil in public were required to give up their clothing to those who turned them in. Moreover, if someone witnessed a prostitute walking while wearing a veil and did not report it, that individual would lose his or her own clothing if turned in by yet another.4 The phrase to strip the garment and to drive out naked is found in other Mesopotamian legal texts referring to the punishment given to those women who, of their own volition, disrupted the family.5 Similarly, in Ugarit, Emar, and El-Qiṭar, the loss of clothing is meant to represent a change in the social status of the individual. According to one Ugaritic text, the heir to the throne is told that he must either stay with his father or follow after his mother, who had divorced the king. If he chose the latter, the heir was to place his mantle on the throne and leave.6

Unfortunately, because clothing is used to define one’s status, forcing others to become naked and thus have no place in society has been used throughout history to control others. In the ancient Near East, the shame and humiliation of nakedness was associated with the loss of social status and was often depicted in images of captivity. Assyrian palace reliefs depict the captured inhabitants of conquered cities as naked, bound figures; Egyptian palaces do the same.7 In these cases, the captured soldiers and citizens were not originally naked but would have been divested of their clothing by the successful invaders, thereby demonstrating the captives’ complete subjugation by the conquerors.8 Voluntary nakedness reflected the same thing, demonstrating one’s subjugation to the authority of a more powerful individual. The Assyrian king Assurbanipal records in one of his annals, “They [the king of Elam and family] fled from Indabigash and came to me in Nineveh, crawling naked on their bellies.”9

The Old Testament reveals much of the same social stigma associated with nakedness. In Genesis 9, Noah’s drunkenness is emphasized by his naked state. In this case, filial duties are demonstrated as Noah’s two older sons walk backward in order not to view their father’s humiliating state while covering him in a garment. The youngest son, Ham, on the other hand, views his father’s nakedness but does nothing and is cursed. In Genesis 37, when Joseph’s brothers strip him of his robe, he is transformed from his honorable state to one of shame and slavery.10 In Isaiah 20, captivity and subjugation are associated with nakedness. Isaiah is commanded to take off his shoes, loosen his loincloth, and walk naked and barefoot for three years, symbolizing the eventual captivity of Egypt by Assyria: “Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years . . . so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt” (Isaiah 20:3–4). Similarly, Micah declares that he will “wail and howl” and “go stripped and naked” on account of the desolation that would result from the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:8).11

All this takes us back to the garden; there we are confronted with a unique situation as Adam and Eve were naked yet not experiencing shame. In fact, this is the only place in the scriptures where nakedness does not bring about negative social consequences; this situation therefore demonstrates that the early social network is flawed or incomplete. That social structures exist in the Garden of Eden is evidenced by the marriage of Adam and Eve and the proto-Zion society that Adam and Eve share with God.12 Yet, as Lehi makes clear in 2 Nephi 2:22–23, until the decision to partake of the fruit, Adam and Eve remain in a state in which progression is suspended:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

This state can be described as a liminal one, or one that lies between two other states of existence. The term liminality is taken from the Latin limen, meaning “doorway, threshold,” and is used in ritual studies to describe the temporary time and space made by ritual that allows an individual to move from one social state to another.13 Rites of passage, for instance, often incorporate liminality to facilitate the transformation of child to adult, single to married, boy to man, and so forth. What is important to recognize is that while liminal states have a useful function in social movement, they are meant to be temporary. With this perspective, we can see that prior to partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve in the garden live a liminal, or “in-between,” existence, as if they were cocooned caterpillars awaiting the final transformation. This liminality is exemplified in their naked but not ashamed state; as long as they stay in this state the plan of salvation is halted, just as Lehi described.14

Adam and Eve remain in this liminal state until Eve partakes of the fruit. According to Moses 4, Eve only partakes of the fruit when she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes” (Moses 4:12). Neither one of these statements describes an actual change in the fruit, suggesting that the fruit was always good to eat. What changed was Eve’s perspective in regard to the fruit, yet this change in perspective also leads to Adam and Eve’s discerning their naked state. They now experience the shame that one should experience with nakedness. Though this leads them to separate themselves from God (as noted in their hiding from him), it also moves them out of their liminal state to the state of mortality necessary for their progression. This movement is characterized by their donning of clothing, the visible, tangible evidence that Adam and Eve now define their relationship with God and each other differently than they did before. With the wisdom that comes from the fruit, they are now aware of their social separateness from God, or, to put it another way, they now define themselves as beings different from God.

Like the concept of nakedness, the function of clothing is primarily a social one used by individuals to define or establish themselves within a given community,15 a function recognized explicitly today in the church pamphlet For the Strength of Youth.16 Because clothing is used by individuals to provide information about their own self-concept, and therefore their place within a given social structure, the actual clothing act, investiture, is as significant to the creation of the identity as the clothing itself since it demonstrates that we have the ability to make these definitions.17 Thus Adam and Eve’s clothing of fig leaves is not only a representation of their understanding concerning nakedness but also a means to describe their new standing within the existing society, specifically their unworthiness to socialize with God.18 The clothing itself allows them to physically demonstrate this separation since the leaves would act as camouflage when they hid in the trees. Prior to partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve understood themselves to be part of the same social stratum as God; now they dress themselves and in so doing demonstrate they are no longer worthy to associate with God.19 Yet this social separation that Adam and Eve now understand to exist is not necessarily negative. Again, while nakedness is associated with negative responses, the social result of nakedness is, overall, a positive one, allowing members of a society to interact in the correct manner.20

Another well-known ancient Near Eastern epic teaches the same principle using the same symbols of clothing and investiture. In the Gilgamesh epic, Enkidu, a being who had lived in the wilderness, becomes civilized by first recognizing his nakedness and then by clothing himself as he approaches the city; thus the awareness of his nakedness and his consequent act of clothing represent his transformation from a wild, animal-like state of nonawareness into a state in which he is socially aware of himself and others. Gilgamesh himself, following his adventures to the ends of the earth, notes his return to society by dressing himself in the best garments he has.21

Though different in setting than the Gilgamesh epic, investiture also marks the transformation of Aaron and his sons from normal society to the specialized status of priests.22 While wearing the priestly garb placed upon them by Moses, Aaron and his sons are transformed from ordinary men to priests of God.23 Further priestly transformation via investiture occurs as the high priest is instructed to wear only pure white linen garments into the holy of holies instead of the more colorful costume found elsewhere.24 Thus he becomes part of the divine world, wearing the same color with which divine beings are associated.25 Aaron’s transformation and new identity is vividly demonstrated in Leviticus 10 when Aaron is not allowed to mourn the death of his sons in the traditional manner, a ritualized nakedness: “Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; . . . but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail” (Leviticus 10:6). Instead he is to remain in the priestly clothing; having lost his old identity through the investiture process described above, he is no longer the same person and is in fact to be treated as an individual in a completely different state of being.26 Thus Adam and Eve’s shame of their nakedness demonstrates their maturation into intelligible beings worthy of exaltation–a net gain, not a loss.

Adam and Eve’s movement from nakedness to a clothed state is paralleled by the serpent’s going from a clothed to a naked state. The serpent is described as the most “subtle” of all the animals. In Hebrew this descriptive word is spelled exactly the same as the word translated as “naked,” though they have slightly different pronunciations. Others have noted this wordplay, and the pun suggests that while the serpent may be the most subtle it may actually be the most naked as well. Just as Adam and Eve’s nakedness can represent their ignorance, the serpent’s nakedness is represented in his lack of knowledge, for we are told that the serpent “knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6) and is thus naked before him. Later, when the serpent is cursed for his role in the fall, we are told that he is to experience the social effects of nakedness: “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” (Moses 4:20).27 In this then, Satan’s complete estrangement from the divine society is symbolized by his nakedness.

The final divine acts in the Garden of Eden are the divestiture of Adam and Eve’s aprons of leaves and their investiture in the clothing made by God. This second investiture, we are told, is performed by God and therefore represents God’s definition of Adam and Eve, while also demonstrating his power to provide them with this definition. The text does not explicitly tell us what that definition is, but because it replaces the fig-leaf clothing, we can assume that the definition contrasts with the social meaning of that first set of clothing, which represented the separation and shame that Adam and Eve believed then defined their relationship with God. In other words, the second investiture would have demonstrated that Adam and Eve were not in fact estranged from God but were still worthy of a social relationship with God. This new set of clothing would have stood as a constant reminder of his presence with them and of his power to bless them.28 This, in turn, gives us a greater appreciation for the atonement, which allows us to always have God with us even if we are away from his physical presence. Thus the investiture can be seen as an act that is symbolic and prophetic of the coming atonement. That we learn elsewhere that the investiture, while instigated by God the Father, is actually performed by Christ, only strengthens this association.29

The Veil as Clothing

According to the book of Exodus, separating the space designated as the holy of holies from the larger antechamber known as the holy place was to be a curtain, or veil:

And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made. . . . And thou shalt hang up the vail . . . that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. (Exodus 26:31, 33)

We are not told within the biblical text what the veil would have meant symbolically to the ancient Israelite, but in both the function and the design pattern mentioned above, one can discern some of the symbolic import of the veil. The primary image on the veil is the cherubim. Cherubim imagery shows up throughout both the tabernacle and the later temple built by Solomon. According to Exodus, the ark was to have two golden cherubim placed on top of the box. The curtain walls that demarcated the entire sacred precincts also incorporated cherubim imagery. Later, cherubim were carved into the wooden walls of the temple as well. Outside of sacred architecture, cherubim are found in the Garden of Eden narrative and in Ezekiel’s visions. In these texts, the cherubim are divine guardians who protect the sacred spaces (in the garden, the tree of life) from improper trespassing as well as beings of transportation who carry God from place to place. In all cases, cherubim act as intermediaries that one must approach first before entering into the presence of God and as such are associated with liminality.

Just as liminality played a role in the Garden of Eden, liminality is central to the activities associated with the temple. The cherubim that one interacts with are liminal creatures positioned in the gate between the mortal sphere and the divine one. As guardians they function both to keep out individuals from the presence of God and also to invite them in. In terms of their location within sacred space, they occupy the space between the tree of life, or the divine realm, and the rest of mortality. In both respects, the cherubim perform the same function as the veil in the temple. Like the cherubim, the veil acts both as a limitation to unlawful entry into the holy of holies and as the passage into the same.

Understood this way then, the veil’s primary function is to facilitate movement from one state or spatiality to another, either away from or toward the higher state of being. Yet the veil also had another function similar to the function of clothing. In Numbers 4:5 we are told: “And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark of testimony with it.” That the veil was meant to be more than mere covering is recognized by the fact that the veil was then itself covered by two other pieces of cloth: the badger skin that covered the tabernacle and finally a cloth of blue. As such, the function is similar to that of clothing in that the veil is used here more to define the space that lies beneath it as sacred and less to protect it from the elements; the veil represented the demarcation between the ark, the symbolic presence of God, and the outer layer of badger skins that covered the entire tabernacle and was open to the elements (which in our sequence may have been represented by the cloth of blue).

The association of the veil with clothing is also found in the color scheme of the veil. According to the text, the veil is to be made up of red, blue, and purple cloth. The same color scheme is found throughout the tabernacle precincts and is particularly noticeable as the color scheme for much of the priest’s clothing:

And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work. . . . And the curious girdle of the ephod . . . shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. . . . And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue , and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen. . . . Upon the hem of it [the priest’s robe] thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof. (Exodus 28:5–6, 8, 15, 33)

Thus at least four pieces of the overall seven-piece costume incorporate the same color scheme as the veil.30

Unfortunately, we are not told what the specific colors represent, though later intertestamental literature assigned them cosmic meaning.31 The scriptures state that the primary function of the clothing was “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2), which may have meant more than simple adornment. The text does explain that some of the pieces had other functional values. The ephod, for instance, held the Urim and Thummim and served as a reminder of the veil of the temple, also made of the same material and colors as the clothing. The hem of the robe, made up of bells and pomegranates incorporating the same color scheme, was used to provide protection: “And beneath upon the hem of [the robe] thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about. . . . And his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not” (Exodus 28:33, 35).32

Yet while emphasis is placed on the protective nature of the robe, it should not be lost that its ultimate function is not to keep the priest out but to facilitate his interaction with God. In other words, the primary function of the hem of the robe was to protect the priest via the bells and keep him safe while in the presence of God, particularly while going in and out. Thus the entire set of clothing served to create liminal space, just as the veil did spatially within the tabernacle proper. Similarly, the ephod that held the Urim and Thummim functions as an intermediary between two different states, allowing them (in this case the mortal and the divine, represented by the Urim and Thummim) to interact and be in contact. In all of these cases, the items that shared the same color scheme are associated with liminality and the temporary time and space in which interaction between two inimical states can happen.33 That the priest himself functions like the veil between God and the rest of the host of Israel goes without saying, and the veil, like clothing, defines the spaces it covers or separates.34 With this in mind, it is not surprising to see that Christ, our intermediary, is symbolically associated both with the temple veil and as clothing.

Christ and Clothing

Though the association of Christ with clothing has already been noted in the Garden of Eden narrative, Isaiah 61 explicitly reveals the Messiah as one who will invest others with clothing.35 In verse 2 we are told that the anointed one will “comfort all that mourn” by engaging in a series of exchanges, most of them acts either of direct investitures or associated with the covering of an object: “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”36 The transformation enacted through this investiture results in a new designation: “that they might be called trees of righteousness.” Later, in Isaiah 61:10, the individual rejoices, “for [God] hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”37 The significance of this passage and the saving power of Christ was not lost to the early Christians, for Luke 4 records that Christ began his public ministry by standing up, reading from Isaiah 61, and sitting down, proclaiming that “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

Investiture was also utilized by Christ in his later teachings and ministry. One of the more significant events is related in Luke 8:26–35 as Christ interacts with an unnamed man in Galilee who is possessed “and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs” (v. 27). The naked state expresses the young man’s lack of identity; his abode among the tombs demonstrates his lack of belonging, both of which are reemphasized by verse 30, where, when asked his name, he cannot provide it but instead gives another. According to the account, after asking his name, Christ then casts out the devils, at which point the witnesses run back into town to tell of the event. When they return they find “the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed (enduō), and in his right mind” (v. 35). In this case, it would appear that Christ literally clothed the young man, restoring his ability to interact within society.38

Later, in the parable of the prodigal son recorded in chapter 15, Christ’s transforming power through repentance is emphasized when the young man returns from his lost, deathlike state (Luke 15:24). Though the young man admits he has lost his place within the family, the father has him clothed (enduō) in the best robe, among other things, thus symbolically restoring him to his proper place within the family, including the right to be an heir. Finally, Christ tells his disciples that they were to remain in Jerusalem following Christ’s resurrection until “ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis added).

Christ’s transforming power through investiture is also attested outside of the Four Gospels. In Revelation 7:14 the martyrs killed during the fifth seal are given white robes made “white in the blood of the Lamb.”39 Similarly, the Book of Mormon mentions the cleansing of clothing through Christ’s atoning blood. For example, in 3 Nephi 27:19 Christ himself exhorts us: “No unclean thing can enter into [the Father’s] kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood.”40 In both of these references, the proper state of the clothing is made possible through the atoning process of Christ.

Immortality, one of the transcendent consequences of Christ’s act, is described as something to be put on in no fewer than five references.41 Eternal life is also described in terms of clothing and investiture. Doctrine and Covenants 29:13 records that the righteous dead would come forth “to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as [Christ is], to be with [him], that [they] may be one.” Here we are told that to be with our Father requires both the same clothing that Christ himself is dressed in and the investiture through which the clothing is put on. Thus two gospel concepts–oneness with God (i.e., Zion) and eternal life–are encapsulated in the symbolism of clothing and the significance of investiture. Similarly, in the Book of Mormon, Jacob describes judgment in which the righteous “shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:14). Like the verse that precedes it, exaltation is exemplified not only in the clothing worn but also in the investiture. Moreover, Jacob associates the investiture with the acquisition of knowledge as well. In other words, being clothed in the robe of righteousness, the righteous now possess a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment. The clothing acts as communication, providing one the means of knowing “enjoyment.”

Yet Christ is depicted in the scriptures as more than one who clothes us, literally or otherwise. He is also represented as clothing. A woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years decided to touch the hem of Christ’s robe in the hope of being healed: “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind [Jesus], and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:20–21). That her surmise is correct is demonstrated in Mark: “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed in that plague” (Mark 5:29). Though the physical healing is certainly representative of Christ’s ministry, this event also demonstrates his work as one who restores individuals to a place within society. A malady such as the one the woman experienced would have meant she was unclean and therefore could have transmitted the unclean state to others, from whom she was likely isolated. Christ therefore not only healed her physically but restored the opportunity to interact socially. Achieving this transformation through the medium of his clothing implies that clothing could stand in place of the individual; thus Christ’s clothing can stand in the place of Christ himself.

Later in the writings of Paul we find that those who have been baptized “put on” Christ. Similarly, Romans 13:14 exhorts the saints to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ.42 Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10, though they do not mention Christ explicitly, speak of the need for the newly converted to “put on” the new man made possible through Christ, and in Colossians 3:12–14, the spiritual attributes made possible through baptism are also to be “put on.”43 Yet perhaps one of the most intriguing confluences of images is that found in Hebrews 10:19–20, where we are exhorted to have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” As the verse suggests, at least some in early Christianity associated Christ and his mission with the temple veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies. Certainly there is affinity in function between the veil and Christ in that both must be approached if one is to enter into the presence of God.44 Thus Christ represents the veil that all must pass through to enter the holy of holies, and the veil represents Christ as the keeper of the way to exaltation.45

The poignant irony of associating Christ with clothing is that throughout the atonement that made it possible for us to be clothed in immortality and eternal life, he himself was experiencing the utter humiliation of nakedness. At least three times over the course of the atonement, Christ was stripped of his clothing. The first occurrence was prior to his scourging, as recorded in Mark 15:15, where he was stripped to be beaten with the whip. The second occurrence was when the Roman soldiers stripped Christ of his own robe and placed purple clothing on him, mocking him as king. Finally, the last stripping occurred at the cross as his clothing was taken from him and gambled away among the guards.46 Both the stripping and the resulting nakedness were meant to enhance the total humiliation experienced by those being crucified.47 Thus Christ was completely naked as he performed the exalting sacrifice for all individuals while at the same time fulfilling the supernal promise given to Adam and Eve at their investiture–that Christ would make it possible for all to be clothed, transformed into beings who know they are worthy of salvation and exaltation. This leaves only one loose thread–what does this have to do with Tabitha?

Tabitha, Discipleship, and Investiture

As we noted earlier, we know nothing of this woman’s background, family life, even livelihood, except that she was a disciple of Christ and made clothing (robes and garments) for the widows of the Christian community in Joppa. Yet these are not insignificant details, for Tabitha is the only woman in the New Testament designated as a disciple. It appears that clothing widows is how she carried out her discipleship.48 Understood in this way, like Christ’s acts of investiture, Tabitha’s acts of making and giving clothing to the widows represents her care and love for them; the clothing became tangible symbols of her recognition of the Joppan widows, letting them know that they were not forgotten or abandoned.

In this manner, then, Tabitha becomes an example of the ultimate disciple, one who not only learns but performs in the same manner as the teacher. Not surprisingly, other references describe discipleship in terms of clothing others. Perhaps one of the most powerful is found in Doctrine and Covenants 133:32, where we, having been clothed and crowned, are now responsible for crowning yet others, becoming like God with the power to invest others with the same transformation that we have experienced.49

Thus investiture becomes a sublime symbol of spiritual transformation. Like Adam and Eve, we have a need to be clothed in vestments that represent God’s definition of who we really are, the vestments acting as a bridge, like the temple veil, between the divine and mortal states, and this knowledge in turn provides us the power to become true disciples, like Tabitha, of the one who both clothes and defines us, even Jesus Christ. All of this brings us into a state whereby we can then turn around and bring others into that same exalted sociality, which, of course, is the very plan of salvation.50

Daniel Belnap is assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.


1.    Gary A. Anderson, “The Garments of Skin in Apocryphal Narrative and Biblical Commentary,” in Studies in Ancient Midrash, ed. James L. Kugel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies, 2001), 109: “The propensity to understand ourselves in relation to others and God by virtue of our habits of dress is a deeply rooted aspect of our human condition. Hence any shift in these habits is a potential indicator of a larger ontological shift in human nature.”

2.    Terence S. Turner, “The Social Skin,” in Not Work Alone: A Cross-cultural View of Activities Superfluous to Survival, ed. Jeremy Cherfas and Roger Lewin (London: Temple Smith, 1980), 114–15: “The Kayapo are a native tribe of the southern borders of the Amazon forest. . . . The Kayapo possess a quite elaborate code of what could be called ‘dress,’ a fact which might escape notice by a casual Western observer, because it does not involve the use of clothing. . . . A closer look at Kayapo bodily adornment discloses that the apparently naked savage is as fully covered in a fabric of cultural meaning as the most elaborately draped Victorian lady or gentleman.” See also E. Adamson Hoebel, “Clothing and Ornament,” in Dress, Adornment, and the Social Order, ed. Mary E. Roach and Joanne B. Eicher (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1965), 16–17: “A favored tale among anthropologists is that of Baron von Nordenskiold, who in his Amazonian travels undertook to purchase the facial plugs of a Botocudo woman, who stood all unabashed in customary nudity before him. Only irresistible offers of trade goods at long last tempted her to remove and hand over her labrets. When thus stripped of her proper raiment, she fled in shame and confusion into the jungle.”

3.    Susan B. Kaiser, The Social Psychology of Clothing and Personal Adornment (New York: Macmillan, 1985), 32–33: “There is little evidence to support the idea that individuals are instinctively ashamed of their bodies. . . . The fact that modesty is socially learned and situated–and thus not instinctive–can be illustrated by the fact that children are not instinctively modest. . . . Cross-cultural definitions of modesty vary. That is to say, what is considered to be a shameful display of the body in one culture may be totally acceptable, or even expected, in another.”

4.    Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 168–69, Middle Assyrian Law Code A, 40-1. Similarly, a palace decree of Tiglath-Pileser states if a male responds to the attentions of a woman of the palace who “has bared her shoulders and is not covered even with a kindabašše garment” and he is reported, the one who gives the report gets the clothing of the offending individual, and in the end, the offending individual has only sackcloth tied around his waist (206).

5.    Meir Malul, Studies in Mesopotamian Legal Symbolism (Kevelaer, Germany: Butzon & Bercker, 1988), 122–38. Also, Karel van der Toorn, “The Significance of the Veil in the Ancient Near East,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom, ed. David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman, and Avi Hurvitz (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 327–39.

6.    See ke Viberg, Symbols of Law: A Contextual Analysis of Legal Symbolic Acts in the Old Testament (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1992), who discusses these texts: “The act performed by Jonathan may very well be based on a legal symbolic act which is also known from Ugarit, Emar and El-Qiṭar. There are three texts from Ugarit that are relevant, PRU IV, 17.159; RS 8.145 and Ugaritica V, 83 (RS 20.146). Of these RS 8.145 and Ugaritica V, 83 are wills, describing how a son who refuses to obey his father is forced to leave the house and deposit his mantle on the stool or the door-bolt. The legal function was to expel a member from the family, thus depriving him of his legal status as a member of the family. In PRU IV, 17.159, the prince and heir to the throne of Ugarit, called Utrisharruma, is given an ultimatum, lines 22–31. Either he stays with his father Amistamru, King of Ugarit, or he follows his mother Bentesina, who has been divorced from the king, lines 8–10. As mentioned above, if the prince chooses to follow his mother, he is told to put his mantle on the throne and leave, line 26. The texts from Emar are mainly wills, containing clauses that regulate the inheritance in the case of certain changed circumstances. One of these wills states that a daughter who does not accept the mother after the death of the father, must put the mantle on a chair and leave the house. The same is applied to a child who does not accept the father, the husband in the will of the wife, and the wife in the will of the husband.” Similarly, in an Old Babylonian text (BRM IV 52), the stripping of the wife’s clothes was performed for divorce. Elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern documents, divorce was effected by the cutting off of the hem of the spouse (primarily the wife’s hem); see Wolfram von Soden, Akkadisches Handwšrterbuch (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965–81), s.v. sissiktu, 4a, 1051. For a general discussion on the role of hems, see Jacob Milgrom, “Of Hems and Tassals: Rank, Authority and Holiness Were Expressed in Antiquity by Fringes on Garments,” Biblical Archaeology Review 9/3 (1983): 61–65; see also Paul A. Kruger, “The Hem of the Garment in Marriage: The Meaning of the Symbolic Gesture in Ruth 3:9 and Ezek 16:8,” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 12 (1984): 79–86.

7.    Robert K. Ritner, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice (Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1993), 114–36. Rendering the captive naked is a common image; see also the Megiddo Ivory in the Israeli Museum.

8.    Similarly, in the Old Testament foreign women who are taken captive are made naked. See Saul Olyan, Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of the Cult (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 97: “The text describes the process by which a foreign woman, taken by force to the home of her captor, makes the transition from alien captive to wife or concubine of an Israelite male. A series of ritual actions are presented that are intended to begin that transition. The shaving of the hair of the head, the cutting of the nails, and the removal of the ‘garment of captivity’ move the woman into a period of liminality during which she mourns her parents, whom she will never see again. It is probable that they have become ‘socially dead’ to her, though they are not physically dead. These gestures are all to be understood as rites effecting the separation or alienation of the woman from her previous identity. . . . To shave off the hair and cut the nails in combination with discarding the ‘garment of captivity’ and mourning socially dead parents seem in this context to mean to cut off the captive from her past, erasing her old identity and making it possible for her to assume a new identity in Israel.”

9.    Maximilian Streck, Assurbanipal und die Letzten Assyrischen Kšnige bis zum Untergange Niniveh’s, vol. 2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1916), 34, IV, 1.26. For a general study on the role of stripping as a form of subjugation and humiliation, see M. E. Vogelzang and W. J. van Bekkum, “Meaning and Symbolism of Clothing in Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” in Scripta Signa Vocis: Studies about Scripts, Scriptures, Scribes, and Languages in the Near East, Presented to J. H. Hospers, ed. H. L. J. Vanstiphout et al. (Groningen, Netherlands: Forsten, 1986), 265–84.

10.    Victor H. Matthews, “The Anthropology of Clothing in the Joseph Narrative,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 20/65 (March 1995): 31. Interestingly, the entire Joseph pericope centers around the reception and loss of clothing. When Potiphar’s wife seeks relations with Joseph, Joseph is again reduced to “nakedness”: “Again, he is stripped of his status-marker and the symbol of his role within that community” (32). Later, he is reinvested with clothing upon entering the royal court: “The radical change in appearance effected by these new robes of office, and the other gifts given to him by the pharaoh (his new name, and his Egyptian wife) transforms Joseph from a prisoner into a courtier” (34). Finally, Joseph demonstrates his acceptance of his brothers by providing them with their own sets of clothing. “This final step brings the story full circle and provides one final use of garments as a status marker. Joseph is now in a position to give clothing to his brothers” (35).

11.    Shaving was used to humiliate and shame an individual as well. Saul Olyan discusses the role of shaving in rites associated with transition in social status; see Saul M. Olyan, “What Do Shaving Rites Accomplish and What Do They Signal in Biblical Ritual Contexts?” Journal of Biblical Studies 117/4 (1998): 611–22.

12.    Both social relationships are emphasized in the recent document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

13.    Liminality is first used in the studies of Arthur Van Gennep in his seminal work The Rites of Passage, trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960). Van Gennep coined the term to describe the temporary time and space created during ritual processes in which individuals were formally taken out of one social state (childhood, single status, etc.) and prepared for both entrance and participation in another social state (puberty, marriage, etc.). Because liminality exists outside of “normal” space and time, this place was symbolized as death, the womb, the outside, and was a dangerous place in terms of its being outside society but completely necessary for the smooth transitions within a society. Most important, liminality was never meant to be a permanent state but a temporary one that existed for the specific purpose only.

14.    Julie Galambush, “ʾādām from ʾadāmā, iššâ from ʾ”š: Derivation and Subordination in Genesis 2.4b–3.24,” in History and Interpretation: Essays in Honour of John H. Hayes, ed. M. P. Graham et al. (Sheffield, England: JSOT, 1993), 38: “Shame’s absence is noteworthy only in a world characterized by its presence.”

15.    Kaiser, Social Psychology of Clothing, 216–17, emphasis in original: “There are two important functions to clothes in nonverbal communication. First, they help us to negotiate identities, as we present our situated identities or roles, moods, values, and attitudes to one another. Second, they help us to define situations, that is, to socially construct the basis for our interactions.” See Malcolm Bernard, Fashion as Communication, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2002), 39: “Clothing and fashion, as communication, are cultural phenomena in that culture may itself be understood as a signifying system, as the ways in which a society’s beliefs, values, ideas and experiences are communicated through practices, artefacts and institutions. . . . Fashion, clothing and dress are the artefacts, practices and institutions that constitute a society’s beliefs, values, ideas and experiences. According to this view, fashion, dress and clothing are ways in which people communicate, not only things like feeling and mood, but also the values, hopes and beliefs of the social groups of which they are members. They are, then, the ways in which society is produced and reproduced.”

16.    “Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.” For the Strength of Youth (2011), 6.

17.    Kate Soper, “Dress Needs: Reflections on the Clothed Body, Selfhood and Consumption,” in Body Dressing, ed. Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wilson (Oxford: Berg, 2001), 20–21: “In the emphasis on the need for clothing as personal self-expression, we should not overlook the recourse to regulations on dress and the wearing of uniform as a means of excluding, oppressing and condemning. Nor should we forget the extent to which restrictions on human dress are used to distinguish and police social and sexual hierarchies.”

18.    Some suggest that this status change represents a movement from animal to human. See Soper, “Dress Needs,” 17: “In Christian mythology, we acquire our clothes in losing our ‘natural’ innocence and coming into knowledge of good and evil. Clothes are in this sense definitively cultural objects closely bound up with a sense of shame, and their primary purpose is to conceal the organs of those functions . . . which have been deemed to degrade us by tying us too closely to a bestial nature. Clothes, in short, serve us as a cardinal marker of the divide between ourselves and the rest of the animal world. . . . Clothes have been very extensively used to assert the cultural status of human beings, to police the border between humans and animals.”

19.    Rita C. Poretsky, “Clothing and Self: Biblical and Rabbinic Perspectives,” Journal of Psychology and Judaism 10/1 (1986): 53: “Nakedness is a nakedness of self in a social context, not just a nakedness of body. There is a microcosmic balancing of principle within each specific act. . . . The fear of being naked, without identity, is strong, especially when the only available clothes do not fit. The task to make new clothes and a new world in order to be whole is overwhelming, but the only other choices are a lost sense of self, from wearing no clothes; or a self that is betrayed, bound to the dead hand of custom and costume. In this context, it is not surprising that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, saw that they were naked, and Adam-humankind felt afraid before God.”

20.    Terje Stordalen, Echoes of Eden: Genesis 2–3 and the Symbolism of the Eden Garden in Biblical Hebrew Literature (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), 228–29: “If nakedness was depriving within the shame codex in which the implied reader was socialised, Gen 2:25 would not imply restrained happiness. . . . Eating from the tree has a positive function in removing human ignorance. By 3:8.10 the human couple has gained the insight that one should not appear naked before YHWH. Such an effect of the tree is conceived of as ‘regular’ within the story world. . . . All this should indicate a positive development, stretching from the ignorance in 2:25 through the eating (3:1–6) and the gained insight (3:7–11) to the clothing (3:21).”

21.    Robert A. Oden Jr., “Grace or Status? Yahweh’s Clothing of the First Humans,” in The Bible without Theology: The Theological Tradition and Alternatives to It (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 102–3: “Finally, and significantly, Utnapishtim asks that Gilgamesh return to civilization, to his city, wearing a ‘garment,’ ‘his finest garment.’ . . . The cumulative effect of all these references to clothing in the Gilgamesh Epic is impressive. The human state–and that, among many other things, is partly what Gilgamesh is all about–is a state symbolized by the donning of manufactured garments. . . . Humans are those who live most properly in cities (the social setting, par excellence), are mortal, have obligations to one another–and wear clothing.”

22.    Frank H. Gorman Jr., The Ideology of Ritual: Space, Time and Status in the Priestly Theology (Sheffield, England: JSOT, 1990), 116–17: “The change of clothes is symbolic of a ritually constituted change of status. In Lev. 16.4, 24 Aaron’s bathings mark off his marginal status, symbolized by his change of clothes, within the larger ritual process.”

23.    Ernest Crawley, “Sacred Dress,” in Dress, Adornment, and the Social Order, 141: “With the vestment the priest puts on the ‘character’ of divinity. By change of vestments he multiplies the Divine force, while showing its different aspects.”

24.    See Leviticus 16:4–24, which describes the divestiture and investiture of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Jung Hoon Kim, The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus (London: Clark International, 2004), 20: “All these garments seem to constitute the formal apparel of Aaron the [high] priest. No doubt, whenever he entered the Holy Place for the performance of his ministry, he had to wear them. Yet, when he entered the most holy place, he might wear only the linen tunic, linen undergarments, the linen sash and the linen turban, and not the ephod and the blue robe. The author of the Pentateuch does not provide any explanation concerning this difference. But as the whiteness of the four linen items can represent divine holiness, the difference probably means that when the priest entered the most holy place, he had to endue himself with a holiness which was suited to the supreme sacredness of the place.”

25.    A similar transformation is witnessed in Zechariah 3:3–5, where the high priest Joshua is in the presence of an angel and Satan. After Satan is rebuked and sent away, God commands that Joshua be clothed and given a crown before being given his instructions. Though this article concerns the transformations through investiture and divestiture in the scriptures, it should be pointed out that this process is found throughout intertestamental and postbiblical literature; see the Testament of Levi, 2 Enoch, 3 Enoch, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. In each case, as the individual ascends into the presence of God, a change of apparel, usually performed by another member of the divine society, is required for the transformation to be made complete. For more on the role of investiture in divine ascents, see Martha Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); and William J. Hamblin, “Temple Motifs in Jewish Mysticism,” in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994), 440–76.

26.    Gorman, Ideology of Ritual, 118–19, 134–35: “Aaron is clothed in the special attire of the high priest. The concern here is not to find any particular symbolic meaning for each item of clothing; rather, the concern is to see the ritual importance of the act of clothing. As already suggested, the clothing rite serves as a marker of Aaron’s passage into his new status. It does not in and of itself effect that passage. . . . The clothes are a symbolic statement about his status. They give tangible evidence of his changed position in society and serve as a symbol of his unique status. . . . There is a consistent theme in these chapters that those who encroach upon the realm of the holy are liable to death. This is the response of Yahweh to encroachers who cross the boundaries of the sacred improperly. Aaron and his sons have been given safe passage, not only to cross these boundaries, but to stay within them. The crossing of the sacred boundaries is dangerous, but ritual structures make it possible. The priests have stood in the breach between life and death and now live to act as mediators between the sacred and non-sacred, and between life and death.” While Gorman would assign only symbolic meaning to the investiture, that the investiture can also be a ritual of transformation is demonstrated in Numbers 20:25–29. Here Moses invests Aaron’s son Eleazar with Aaron’s garments, signifying that he has become the new high priest. Aaron then dies on the mountain. It is possible that his death is brought upon by his now profane state. Whatever the reason for his dying, it is clear that the stripping of Aaron and the dressing of Eleazar is the primary ritual that denotes the transformation, not the washing.

27.    George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955), 1:306: “‘Dust’ has several figurative and symbolic meanings in the Scriptures. To sit in the dust and to sprinkle dust on the head was a sign of deep mourning. (Job 1:12, 13; Isa. 47:1) To lick the dust of one’s feet, as it is said was customary at some Oriental courts, when subjects were admitted to the presence of sovereigns (Isa. 49:23) was, of course, a degrading humiliation. When the Serpent (Gen. 3:14; Isa. 65:25) was condemned to ‘eat dust’ all the days of his life, he was, in modern language, doomed to an existence of the most degrading nature imaginable. He who, in the Garden of Eden, was the spokesman of Satan, became, as it were, a slave of slaves of the fallen angel. (Pearl of Great Price, Mos. 4:6–7).” In the apocryphal work Discourse on Abbaton (found in Coptic Martyrdoms etc. in the Dialect of Upper Egypt, ed. and trans. E. A. Wallis Budge [London: Longmans, 1914], 483–84), we read an interesting passage concerning Satan’s loss of clothing leading to a loss of his power and authority: “And when Adam had risen up he cast himself down before [My] Father, saying, ‘My Lord and my God! Thou hast made me to come into being [from a state in which] I did not exist.’ Thereupon My Father set him upon a great throne, and He placed on his head a crown of glory, and He put a royal sceptre [in his hand], and My Father made every order [of angels] in the heavens to come and worship him, whether angel or archangel. . . . And My Father said unto him (i.e. their chief), ‘Come, thou thyself shalt worship my image and likeness.’ And he, being of great pride, drew himself up in a shameless manner, and said, ‘It is meet that this [man Adam] should come and worship me, for I existed before he came into being.’ And when My Father saw his great pride, and that his wickedness and his evil-doing were complete, He commanded all the armies of heaven, saying, ‘Remove the writing [which is] in the hand of the proud one, strip ye off his armour, and cast ye him down upon the earth, for his time hath come.’ . . . And all the angels gathered together to him, and they did not wish to remove the writing from his hand. And My Father commanded them to bring a sharp reaping-knife, and to stab him therewith on this side and that, right through his body to the vertebrae of his shoulders” (bracketed text in original). Nibley changes this translation slightly by placing “token” there instead of “writing” and “panoply” instead of “armor.” Moreover, he notes that the cutting is at breast level with a sickle-shaped instrument. For the purposes of this paper, note Satan’s humiliation and loss of social status through the symbolic loss of clothing (his armor). Hugh Nibley, “On the Sacred and the Symbolic,” in Temples of the Ancient World, 556.

28.    Kim, Significance of Clothing, 17: “Adam’s restoration to God’s image particularly denotes the restoration of his royal status. The garment of skin also connotes reconciliation with God. When Adam wore his own fig-leaves apron, he was afraid of God, but when he was clothed with a garment of skin provided by God, he did not panic before him. In short, the clothing image in Gen. 3.21 signifies that Adam’s restoration to his original life and glory, to peace with God, and to kingship over the other creatures has started.”

29.    The Hebrew word translated as “atonement” or “atone” in the Old Testament is kipper. Though its meaning has been debated somewhat, the act associated with the term describes a smearing or wiping of a substance, usually blood, on the surface of another. Thus one is “atoned” when blood from the sacrifice covers the prescribed item regardless of whether the term actually means “cleansing” or “covering.” Thus the act of covering becomes symbolic of Christ’s atonement when he was “covered” to cleanse us from sin. Interestingly, the clothing is made of skins, suggesting that Christ performed an animal sacrifice symbolic of his own atoning sacrifice, thus perhaps representing the doctrine that only Christ could perform the atonement. This, in turn, provides greater significance to the nakedness experienced by Christ in the atonement. Like Adam and Eve, Christ goes through a series of investitures and divestitures through the process, beginning clothed and ending naked. Adam and Eve go from naked to clothed. Both are defined by mortals, Adam and Eve in the beginning and Christ at the end, and defined by God, Christ in the beginning (covered in blood), Adam and Eve at the end (by Christ).

30.    The seven pieces are the underlying pure white linen shift, the breastplate, the ephod, the girdle, the robe, the bonnet or mitre, and the outer coat. Of these the breastplate, the ephod, the girdle, and the border of the robe all incorporate the blue, scarlet, and purple colors found on the veil.

31.    Philo of Alexandria and Josephus both describe the high priest’s clothing as being covered in images symbolizing the cosmos and thus standing as the universe itself. It is a long-standing tradition that the robes of the high priest are in fact the same garments given to Adam prior to the expulsion. Thus the garments themselves would have represented the cosmos (see Wisdom of Solomon 18:24; Josephus, Antiquities 3.184). It is unclear whether the descriptions found within these references represent older traditions since they are all of relatively late dating. Nothing in the Old Testament explicitly states that these clothing items carried these connotations.

32.    The role of clothing to provide protection from supernatural forces is attested elsewhere; see Linda Welters “Introduction: Folk Dress, Supernatural Beliefs, and the Body,” in Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia: Beliefs about Protection and Fertility, ed. Linda Welters (Oxford: Berg, 1999), 10: “In many parts of the Western world, people still believe that clothing holds special powers. They still practice rituals and customs that invest cloth with the power to aid and protect the body. ‘Luck’ is a quality we all associate with certain articles of dress in our wardrobes. For decades brides have worn ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ to ensure a happy union blessed with children. Baseball players use clothing rituals as ‘magic to try to control or eliminate the change and uncertainty built into baseball.'” Other examples are explored in Patricia Williams, “Protection from Harm: The Shawl and Cap in Czech and Slovak Wedding, Birthing and Funerary Rites,” in Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia, 146–47: “The earliest extant examples of Slavic ritual cloths have red embroidery, which represents good fortune and is a repellent of the evil eye. The idea of the color was so powerful that it did not matter if the dyes failed to achieve a deep tone. . . . During the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries simple embroidery, incorporating symbols first developed in materials other than textiles, replaced the use of three-dimensional fetishes and amulets worn on the body and attached to clothing.” See also Mary B. Kelly, “Living Textile Traditions of the Carpathians,” in Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia, 167, 169: “Whether in the Ukraine or Romania, mountain women protected themselves and their families with sacred motifs on dress. The placement of the motifs on clothing was of particular importance. . . . The sleeves of both men’s and women’s garments were banded with designs over the pectoral muscle that emphasized strength for the arm. The openings of the neck, sleeve and hem, the areas where evil could enter and harm the body, were similarly protected. Positioning of motifs on the chest area of men’s shirts, and over women’s breasts, emphasized power for the men and good milk for the women.” See also Henry Maguire, “Garments Pleasing to God: The Significance of Domestic Textile Designs in the Early Byzantine Period,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990): 215: “The designs on early Byzantine domestic textiles were more than mere conveyors of messages; it was not only information that they projected, such as social rank or status, but a force operating invisibly on behalf of the wearers or users of the textiles.” See also 2 Kings 2:8, where Elijah uses his cloak to split the river Jordan.

33.    The idea of clothing as liminality has been realized elsewhere; see Joanne Entwistle, “The Dressed Body,” in Body Dressing, 37: “Dress lies at the margins of the body and marks the boundary between self and other, individual and society . . . [and] is structured by social forces and subject to social and moral pressures.”

34.    Blake Ostler, “Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity,” BYU Studies 22/1 (1982): 35–36: “Many ancient texts confuse the garment with the veil of the temple, such as Ambrose of Milano’s Tractate of the Mysteries or the Hebrew Book of Enoch where ‘garment’ and ‘veil’ are used interchangeably. Enoch is clothed with the veil in the Hebrew Book of Enoch: ‘The Holy One . . . made me a throne similar to the throne of glory. And He spread over me a curtain [veil] of splendour and brilliant appearance of beauty, grace, and mercy, similar to the curtain [veil] of the throne of glory, and on it were fixed all kinds of lights in the universe.'”

35.    This is somewhat ironic in that the term Messiah is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew meshiach, which means the one who is anointed, or covered, in oil. Similarly, the Greek translation “Christos” describes one who has been covered in oil (which is the meaning of the word chrism). Thus the Messiah, one who was covered, has the primary responsibility to clothe and cover others.

36.    Though the KJV translates the term peēr as “beauty,” a more literal translation would reflect a piece of clothing, thus “a turban for ashes.”

37.    Other scriptures associate divine investiture of the priests with clothes of salvation: “Let thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation” (2 Chronicles 6:41), and “I will also clothe her priests with salvation” (Psalm 132:16). In both cases, this is followed by a clause recounting the joyful praise of the saints following the investiture. Interestingly, the Isaiah reference above can be construed as the type of praise the saints will have, as it is in the voice of the one invested. The same terminology is employed in Doctrine and Covenants 109:80, the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple: “And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy.” Finally, the imagery allows us to grasp the full depth of Nephi’s plea, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness” (2 Nephi 4:33), as it emphasizes his desire to participate in the social relationship with God implied through investiture. Brigham Young associated this series of exchanges with the temple endowment: “Brethren, we verily know and bear testimony that a cloud of blessing and of endowment, and of keys of the fulness of the priesthood, and of things pertaining to eternal life, is hanging over us. . . . Therefore . . . enter steadily and regularly upon a strict observance of the law of tithing, and of freewill offerings, till Jehovah shall say it is enough; your offerings are accepted: then come up to the House of the Lord, and be taught in his ways, and walk in his paths; yea, enter his sanctuary; and receive the oil of joy for mourning, and garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (History of the Church, 7:280).

38.    His sitting at Christ’s feet would have demonstrated not only a return to society but also the recognized position between teacher and student.

39.    The primary characteristic of all the divine beings, including those who had been exalted, is the clothing or the white robe. As such their clothing represents their divine status. See Dietmar Neufeld, “Sumptuous Clothing and Ornamentation in the Apocalypse,” Hervormde teologiese studies 58/2 (2002): 684: “These astral deities, so clad in white and gold, . . . symbolize purity and righteousness and exalted status. . . . They are power wielders who are entitled to privileges not normally accorded human beings. . . . Yet, even though the scene is not part of human experience, those who are robed in white, may, however, share in the reign of God.”

40.    See 1 Nephi 12:10, 11; Alma 5:21, 27; 13:11; 34:36; 3 Nephi 27:19; Ether 13:10. Alma 5:21–29 discusses the need for clean clothing, how one becomes clean, and the necessity of becoming naked first by stripping oneself of pride and envy.

41.    The five references are 1 Corinthians 15:53–54; Enos 1:27; Mosiah 16:10; Alma 40:2; and Mormon 6:21. Throughout Leviticus to put on is used to describe the act of the priestly dressing.

42.    An intriguing study on the early Christian association of Christ with clothing can be seen in Ewa Kuryluk, Veronica and Her Cloth: History, Symbolism and Structure of a “True” Image (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1991), where she explores the role of cloth imprinted with the images of Christ in early Christian belief.

43.    “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, . . . bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another . . . and above all these things, put on charity” (Colossians 3:12–14). The association of the Holy Ghost with clothing is found elsewhere. In Judges 6:34, the Hebrew reads, “The Spirit clothed Gideon.” For more on the divine influence as clothing, see Nahum M. Waldman, “The Imagery of Clothing, Covering, and Overpowering,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 19 (1989): 161–70. See also Yochanan Muffs, “As a Cloak Clings to Its Owner: Aspects of Divine-Human Reciprocity,” in Love and Joy: Law, Language, and Religion in Ancient Israel (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992), 49–60.

44.    In the Book of Mormon, Jacob tells us that the gate to eternal life is narrow and that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate” (2 Nephi 9:41).

45.    As such, Christ’s work, and even Christ himself, may be associated with liminality, as his ministry provides a time and space to work out our salvation. Alma understood the liminal nature of time-space created through the atonement when he stated in Alma 42:13 that only on conditions of repentance and this probationary state (elsewhere described as a preparatory state, a liminal description to be sure) could salvation come about. Thus Christ takes the negative liminality of the Garden of Eden and creates a new, positive liminality, our time-space, in terms of our eternal destiny.

46.    This specific stripping had another powerful connotation that would have been recognized by Jewish readers. According to Exodus 22:26–27, a person’s clothing, if taken in a pledge, is to be returned to that person by evening: “If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by [the time] the sun goeth down: for that is his covering only.” In other words, to avoid the individual’s nakedness the clothing has to be given back that day, unlike his land or other possessions, which may kept longer. Thus Christ is stripped of the only possession that a man can truly keep at all times. He is utterly bereft.

47.    Gerald G. O’Collins, “Crucifixion,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1208–9: “The victims carried the cross or at least a transverse beam (patibulum) to the place of the execution, where they were stripped and bound or nailed to the beam. . . . The Romans frequently employed the sadistically cruel and utterly shameful death by crucifixion to uphold civil authority and to preserve law. . . . In Palestine crucifixion was a public reminder of Jewish servitude to a foreign power. Hence Jesus’ cross was a sign of extreme ‘shame’ (Heb 12:2).” The same idea is found in 2 Nephi 9:18: “they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

48.    The common term used to designate a disciple in the New Testament is mathētēs; however, the only feminine form of the word (mathētria) appears in Acts 9:36. While some have questioned the exact relationship between the widows and Tabitha’s clothing, Fitzmyer points out that the verb used to describe the widows showing Peter the clothing (epideiknymenai) means “to show oneself”–in other words, they showed themselves dressed in the robes she made for them. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 445.

49.    Sebastian Brock, “Clothing Metaphors as a Means of Theological Expression in Syriac Tradition,” in Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den šstlichen VÅ tern und ihren Parallelen im Mittelalter, ed. Margot Schmidt (Regensburg: Pustet, 1982), 20: “We have already seen that the eschatological aspects of the ‘robe of glory’ obviate any idea of a purely cyclical process, in that the Endzeit is by no means a straight reflection of the Urzeit: the last state of Adam/mankind is to be far more glorious than his former state in the primordial Paradise, for, as Ephrem puts it, ‘The exalted One knew that Adam desired to become a God, so he sent his Son who put Adam on, to give him his desire.’ The Syriac Fathers, no less than the Greek, see the theōsis or divinization of man as the end purpose of the inhominization of God.”

50.    Jean A. Hamilton and Jana Hawley, “Sacred Dress, Public Worlds: Amish and Mormon Experiences and Commitment,” in Religion, Dress and the Body, ed. Linda B. Arthur (Oxford: Berg, 1999), 49–50: “A garment-wearing Mormon is not obvious to an observer. Hidden by street clothes, the benefits of wearing one’s garments, from the view of most members, are spiritual. However, as an unseen undergarment, they also facilitate the individual’s immersion in and influence on, the dominant social world. . . . This, in turn, facilitates their ability to influence it. . . . Their sacred dress serves to preserve their worldviews at the same [time] as it mediates being both in and of the public world” (emphasis in original).

 

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