"Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them”: the experience of biblical theological analysis of the realities of modern evolutionary anthropology
Father Oleg Mumrikov (Doctor of Theology, lecturer at St Tikhon’s Orthodox Humanities University, teacher at the Moscow Theological Academy), asks a rather important question for the field of theology in a report presented during the session "On the Origin of the World and of Man" at the Moscow Theological Academy 20th International Educational Christmas Readings on 24 January 2012: how should one understand the array of facts, supporting evolutionary anthropogenesis, which have been gathered in anthropology?

A human being as a person, the bearer of image and likeness of the Godhead (Gen. 1:26-28), has despite his biological nature, qualities which essentially distinguish him from other living beings that populate the earth. According to the Holy Scripture, the appearance of Adam in this world from non-existence, he being the first ancestor of all people and the prefiguration ("typos") of the incarnate Pre-eternal Logos, is the consequence of a special creative act (Gen. 2:7). The first man was created incorrupt and potentially immortal, with a calling to transform the whole of the cosmos through his communion with the Creator, uniting it with incorrupt paradise. Having been beguiled by the devil and having fallen into the sin of disobedience to God, he lost Eden and his mission was subsequently completed by the Second Adam – the God-Man Jesus Christ. A look at the origin of human beings from the position of a spontaneous or even teleological evolutionism, as we were shown in one of the preceding publications,[1] is linked with a very dangerous trend that undermines the basis of teaching on original sin and, therefore, on Redemption.

Nevertheless, a question arises: in this case how should we understand the great number of facts collected by anthropology that support evolutionary anthropogenesis?

Citing anatomical, physiological, genetic and even behavioural similarities between humans and other hominids, the neocreationist approach proposes the concept of a “creative plan”: “sibling species”, interpreted by the evolutionary anthropology as related forms, could in actual fact be the implementation of the same Creative plan.[2] Some neocreationist authors even propose formal schemes – “life matrices” – that correspond to a number of hierarchical levels – from the simplest organisms to human beings, the existence of which helps the world-view conceptualisation on certain biogenetic laws involved in the embryonic development of organisms.[3]

Nevertheless discoveries in the sphere of virology and genetics in the context of deciphering the genetic code of human beings and chimpanzees at the turn of the 20th - 21st centuries, whether we like this or not, show such suppositions to be unfounded.

Of particular interest is the detailed study of the location in the genome of the so-called endogenous retroviruses (ERV), which represent traces of ancient viral infections in the DNA. Retroviruses (such as HIV and the T-lymphothropic virus in humans, which causes leukaemia and lymphoma) use the mechanism of reverse transcription for the replication of its genome: the viral ferment – reverse transcriptase (or reverstase) – synthesises one strain of the DNA on the matrix of the virus RNA, and following this finishes building the second complementary strain on the synthesised strain of DNA. A double-stranded DNA molecule is formed, which, having made its way through the membrane of the nucleus, integrates into the chromosome DNA of the host’s cell and subsequently serves as the matrix for the synthesis of molecules of the virus RNA. These RNA molecules exit the cell nucleus and in the cell cytoplasm build into virus components, which are capable of infecting new cells.

Sometimes the ERV, inserted into the chromosomes of the infected organism's cells, can lay dormant for many generations, being “inherited” together with the copies of the host's DNA cells. Retroviruses insert themselves into the genome in a random fashion, the probability of independent insertion of identical viruses into identical positions of two different individuals being extremely small. And this means that the inserted genome of the same retrovirus could only be present in two organisms in the same position in the DNA only in the event of these organisms being descended from the same ancestor.

ERV make up about 1% of the human genome and in total there are around 30,000 such sequences in each person's DNA. Some of these retroviruses are found only in humans. Other sequences occur only in chimpanzees and in humans – these appear in the same positions in the genome (thus raising the question of humans and chimpanzees having a common ancestor). There are also sequences that occur in gorillas, chimpanzees and humans, in orang-utans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans, etc. The distribution of the endogenous retroviruses corresponds precisely to the evolutionary phylogenetic family tree.[4]

Thus, DNA analysis convincingly supports two of the main tenets of Darwin's theory of evolution – both the origin of all living beings from a common ancestor and natural selection from a myriad of random possibilities. Facts obtained following the deciphering of the human genome in particular show the succession in time, i.e. evolution. Thus, “we must <...> acknowledge that a human being, with all his favourable qualities <...> with his godlike mind, which grasped the movement and ordering of the Solar system, <...> with all his high abilities, does after all carry in his physical composition the indelible seal of his low origins.”[5]

Some neo-creationists look for a way out of the situation that arises by maintaining that endogenous retroviruses were initially created as part of the genome of the host for the purpose of coding jointly regulated proteins and for the regulation of the dispersed genes of the host. Retrotransposition and mobility of genetic elements adds flexibility to the cell genome, and the intercellular transfer allows ERV to take part in horizontal transfer of genes and homologous recombination. It is supposed that in the context of the functions being carried out  “common design” mayexplain the similarities between ERV in both humans and in great apes. Consequently, following the tragedy of the Fall, the loss of the regulation of viral replication and integration led to mutagenesis through random insertions and brought about the pathogenic qualities of modern retroviruses.[6] After all, modern science believes that according to their historic origins viruses are not primary, but secondary in relation to organisms' genomes.

However, this theory, firstly, at the very least demands additional and weighty evidence of positive interaction between ERV and the genome of the host; secondly, it does not sit well with the facts that came to light after comparison of sets of chromosomes (karyotypes) of humans and chimpanzees.[7]

Meanwhile, in our view, the dilemma reconciling the teaching of the Bible and the Church Fathers on the creation of man with modern scientific evidence only appears to be irresolvable for Orthodox theology.

The solution to the problem is revealed during the study of the patristic interpretations of Gen. 3:21: when exiling our ancestors from Eden “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Not denying the literal meaning of this verse, the fathers also pointed to the deep symbolic and ontological meaning of this passage: in clothing himself with the coats of skins after transgressing the divine commandment man takes upon himself “the nature of a beast”: his body becomes as mortal and susceptible to decay as that of other living creatures populating the earth. Of special interest is the fact that the interpretative tradition going as far back as Philo of Alexandria saw Gen. 3:21 as a parallel to several places in the book of Leviticus (Lev. 1:6; Lev. 4:10-11; Lev. 7:8; Lev 8:16-17; Lev. 9:10-11; Lev. 16:27) which contain instructions concerning important details of sacrifices and which at the same time reveal their deep theological symbolism. Moreover, in the pre-Christian and Christian interpretative tradition, these instructions, which were set in writing by the Prophet Moses, are directly linked to the prehistoric times of Adam, Cain, Abel and Seth. Thus Philo, when explaining why according to the Law the skin of the sacrificial animal belonged to the priests, writes (“On the sacrifice of Abel and Cain”, 139): “the law regarding sacrifices and burnt offerings is as follows: skin and excrement are signs of bodily weakness, but not corruption, are kept by the mortal [man], but the rest, which shows the soul to be spotless in all its parts is burnt wholly [in an offering] to God”.[8] Origen, in his “Homilies on the Book of Leviticus”, refers directly to Gen. 3:21 “These clothes were made from the skins of animals, because only such clothes should be worn by a sinner – coats of skins, as a sign of mortality, which he gained on account of sin and corruptibility to which he became subject on account of the decomposition of the body.[9]

The use of animal skins and contact with dead bodies made the trade of the Old Testament tanner unclean; the tanning of skins was forbidden within the bounds of the city and they lived outside the city boundary.[10]

In the subsequent Christian tradition, free from the extremes and errors of Origen, the symbolic understanding of the term “coats of skins” became very widespread. Priest-martyr Methodius of Olympus (3rd-4th century AD) in the treatise “On the resurrection, against Origen” (chapter 10) speaks of “coats of skins” as “mortality prepared for the rational [creature]” and “sense of death”.[11] The comments and opinions of the Cappadocian Fathers regarding both of these meanings are of particular significance. St Gregory the Theologian (Discourse 7: On the Soul): “But when <...> man tasted before time of the sweet fruit and donned coats of skins – heavy flesh – and became the carrier of a corpse, because by death Christ put a limit to sin, he then departed from paradise to earth, from which he was taken, and received the lot of a life full of difficulties.[12] In Discourse 38 (“On Theophany and on the Birth of the Saviour”) he also writes the following: “But when, due to the envy of the devil and the seduction of the woman, to which she herself was subjected as the weaker [of the two] and which she carried out as one crafty in persuasion <...>, man forgot the commandment given to him and was conquered by eating of bitterness, then through sin he became an exile, distanced at the same time from the tree of life, from paradise and from God; he was clothed in coats of skins (perhaps in the most crude, mortal and rebelling flesh), and for the first time he perceived his own shame and hid from God.[13] St John Chrysostom, despite his strictly literal understanding of Gen. 3:31 nevertheless notes (“Discourses on the Book of Genesis, XVIII, 2): “Thus, let the use of clothing constantly remind us of the lost blessingsand of the punishment that humanity suffered for disobedience.[14] If St John Chrysostom mostly keeps the view according to which before the Fall the whole world was incorrupt, St Gregory of Nyssa, following his brother Basil the Great argues the viewpoint that only the first man was incorruptible and immortal and that after the fall he assimilated the corrupt nature of animals, which is symbolised by his donning the coats of skins: “...man, like some earthen vessel, once again disintegrates into the dust of the earth, so that, by separation from the impurity that he had acquired, he could after the resurrection be re-fashioned in his initial form. The same doctrine is set before us by Moses under the guise of an historical tale and riddles. Nevertheless the teaching contained in these riddles is plain. For, he says, when the first people touched the forbidden fruit and stripped themselves of this blessed state, the Lord put coats of skins on the first man (Gen. 3:21), and it seems to me that the meaning of that passage does not refer exactly to skins as such (because from which sort of slain animals could skins have been taken and clothing for people prepared?) However, because every skin separated from an animal is dead, I believe that following this, the Doctor treating ourdepravity, in order to prevent it remaining in us forever, in His providence invested man with that capacity of dying that had been the special attribute of the brute creation; because a robe is something put on us, lending itself to the body for a time, without becoming part of its nature. Thus, by special providence, mortality was transferred from the nature of brute creatures to the nature that was created for immortality and covered it externally and not internally, encompassingthe sensory part of man without touching the image of God itself. <...> For which reason <...> death and decomposition following the donning of dead skins, does not touch the soul... (Great Catechetical Discourse, Chapter 8)[15] In another work of his (“On the Soul and the Resurrection”) St Gregory writes: “Thus, everything that became mixed with human nature from the nature of brutes did not previously exist in us, until humanityfell into passions due to wickedness; <...>  so we too, when we have cast off that dead unsightly tunic, which was made from the skins of brutes and put upon us (for I take the "coats of skins" to mean the external features of a brute nature with which we were clothed when we became familiar with passionate indulgence), shall, along with the casting off of that tunic, fling from us everything that was within us of that skin of a brute, which includes sexual intercourse, conception, birth, impurities, suckling, feeding, excretion, gradual growth to full size, prime of life, old age, disease, and death. <...>  I mean, what have wrinkles or corpulence, leanness or fatness, or any other condition occurring in a nature that is ever in a flux, to do with the other life, stranger as it is to any fleeting and transitory passing such as that?[16] The subsequent development of the symbolic interpretation of “coats of skins” can also be found in the theological treatise “The life of Moses”, where St Gregory refers not to the abovementioned places in the book of Leviticus, but this time finds some parallels in the book of Exodus, which tells of how God appeared to Moses in the guise of a burning bush. Addressing the prophet “in the flame of fire from the midst of a thorn bush”, God commands him to take off his shoes (Exod. 3:5). Interpreting these words, Bishop Gregory of Nyssa notes: “That light teaches us what we must do to stand within the rays of the true light: Sandaled feet cannot ascend that height where the light of truth is seen, but the dead and earthly covering of skins, which was placed around our nature at the beginning when we were found naked because of disobedience to the divine will, must be removed from the feet of the soul.”[17]

Although in his “Commentaries on the Book of Genesis” (Chapter 2) St Ephrem the Syrian gives greater significance to the literal meaning (like St John Chrysostom), he does not ignore the symbolic aspect of Genesis 3:21: “These coats were either made from animal skins or made anew, because, according to Moses, the Lord made these coats and clothed Adam and Eve in them. One may imagine that our ancestors, having touched theirwaistbands with their hands, foun d that they were wearing robes made of animal skins, which were possibly killed before their very eyes so that they would eat their meat and cover their nakedness with skins, and in their very death saw the death of their own bodies.[18]

Professor A.I. Sidorov notes that St Athanasius of Sinai (7th century) “can trace the origins of his interpretation of the ‘coats’ to Philo of Alexandria, according to which, they are our present nature, our crude biological state, so different from the transparent bodies of paradise <...> but, departing in a personal side note from the interpretation that was widespread in the writings of the ancient church, he remains, examining the anthropological problem from a Christological and soteriological perspective, within the general course of the patristic tradition.”[19]

According to St Maximus the Confessor, the donning of “coats of skins” signified that “strife was introduced to the elements of the human body and for this reason it became crude and corruptible, susceptible to suffering and death. <...> Man was not only stripped of the incorruptibility of his nature, but condemned to a passion-filled birth from a seed, like that of the animals. His body was completely subjected to the laws of the freely chosen beast-like existence.”[20]

St John of Damascus, in “The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (book 3 chapter 1), follows the exegetic tradition of the Cappadocian Fathers and St Maximus the Confessor: Man<...> who forfeited grace and put off his confidence with God, covering himself with the hardships of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves), and who was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies), <...> and made subject to corruption, was not despised by the Compassionate One.[21]

St Gregory of Sinai (14th century) in his “Chapters on Commandments and Dogmas...” also says that after the tragedy of the Fall in his physical nature Man became similar to corruptible animals (Chapters 9 and 82): “Corruption is derived from the flesh. To consume food and expel theexcess, to proudly hold the head up high and to sleep lying down – is a natural property of all animals and beasts, of which we, having become through transgression beast-like, fell away from the God-given blessings granted to us and became beast-like instead of rational and animal-like instead of godlike. <...> When the soul was breathed into us and created rational and capable of thought, then God did not create together with it anger or beastly desire, but only put into it the power of the will and the courage to fulfil desires. In the same way, having created the body, He did not at the beginning add to it anger and irrational desire, but afterwards, following the disobedience, it took within itself death, corruption and beast-like qualities. Theologians say that the body, having been created incorrupt, will be resurrected as such, just as the soul was created passionless; but just as the soul had the freedom to sin, the body had the chance of being subjected to corruption. And both of them, i.e. the soul and the body, became corrupt and both dissolved, according to the natural law of them being joined to each other and their mutual influence: moreover the soul became tinged with passions and even demons; and the body became similar to irrational beasts and sunk into corruption.[22]

St Gregory Palamas: “In this manner both disease and weakness and the many-faceted burden of temptations have their origin in sin; because as a result of it we became clothed in a robe of skins – this body that is sickly and mortal and scarred by many sorrows – and crossed over into this world, which is subject to time and death, and have been condemned to live this very unhappy life that is beset with many passions.”[23]

The traditional interpretation of the “coats of skins” as the initiation of human nature into the laws of “bestial nature” even entered into Church canon law (clarification of the 109th rule of the Carthage Council by Zonara and Balsamon): “Although at the time man also had flesh, though it was not like that which he has now; Gregory the Theologian has the following to say about this: clothed in coats of skins, perhaps in the crudest of flesh, mortal and contrary (to its previous state); because before the transgression Adam did have flesh and it was not crude or mortal by nature”.[24] A similar interpretation of Gen 3:21 can also be found in church liturgical hymnography.”[25]

St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) says that “because of the fall our body entered into one category with the bodies of animals, it exists as animal life, the life of its fallen nature.[26]

Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow in his “Notes on the book of Genesis” not only departs from the general patristic understanding  of this biblical text, but also like the ancient exegetes draws well-known parallels with the book of Leviticus: “In the opinion of Gregory the Theologian  [Discourse 38, see above – Priest O.M.] the coats of skins, given to the first people, meanthe crude and mortal flesh. But although it is true that the human body became crude and mortal after the fall, it cannot be said that before it man was free of the flesh; because his body was created prior to his soul, and the coats of skins that were given to him, at least in their literal sense, also do not signify flesh, just like in the case of his first, own experience of clothing – the fig leaves. Neither would it be natural to label clothes from fibre or from the barkof plants as coats of skins, but clothes fromanimal skinsshould be understood to be the closest in meaning to this. Inasmuch as the emergence of the need for such clothes supposes the commencing of the current state of the human beast-like body and because Moses usually describes what is visible, concealing beneath the visible what is to be contemplated, the words: unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, in actual fact suppose that God gave the fallen humans beast-like flesh.<...> At the same time God taught humans to sacrifice animals and to turn their skins into clothes, so that with these sacrifices he was instructed to kill in himself the beast-like desires and passions <...>. Such a supposition also gives a satisfactory explanation to the origin of bloody sacrifices<...> and, especially, the origin of the law that gives the priest the skin from the burnt offering(Lev. 8:8).”[27]

The cited patristic texts that unfold the theology of “coats of skins”, bring us to the solution of the problem posed: in studying the common genetic, physiological and anatomical hereditary features of animals and humans, in actual fact, science is only dealing with humans that have already been exiled from Eden. In studying his physical nature, clothed in “coats of skins”, natural science quite legitimately and “lawfully” makes certain conclusions about the evolutionary and historical relation with primates. But from the point of view of orthodox theology these conclusions ontologically do not apply to Adam, created in the beginning, and his descendants, but in themselves constitute one of the paradoxical consequences of the fall of our forefathers: the likeness of God is not destroyed, but in a way recedes to the background before the likeness of the “beasts of the field”. Being outside Eden and existing autonomously from the Creator it is impossible to delve very deep into the mystery of our own origin. If the Book of Nature was to give exhaustive knowledge of our origins, then there would have been no need of Supernatural Revelation, given by the Holy Spirit through His chosen prophets.[28]

It is clear that the realisation or actualisation of the unchangeable, blessed creative plan for the world (matter – space – time) as incorruptible and “very good” depends on the moral self-determination of our first ancestors in Paradise in relation to God. The created world exists in accordance with the good, unchangeable, perfect divine meaning and plan ( logos), but the form of its existence (tropos -  according to St. Maximus the Confessor) may not correspond to this plan.[29] By expressing his freedom as rebellion against the Divine will, Adam gains a bitter right to “autonomous” existence (And the LORD God said, Behold, man is become as one of us, to know good and evil - Gen. 3:22). Consequently both the story of its formation and the current existence of the world and existence of man himself appear to him, in his fallen state, as dependent on chance, a blind, meaningless, dead and chaotic process, which includes not only competition, natural selection and death, but also cruelty, suffering and elaborate parasitism. Dwelling outside Eden and having ephemeral existence, which is 'autonomous from the Creator', it is impossible to  “perceive”, using the means of rationalisation and experience provided by the senses, one's own origins in any different way. “Thus the demons divide into parts amongst themselves the visible creation [consisting of] the four elements, letting us see [it only] through our senses in order to arouse our passions, unaware of the divine logoi contained in it,” said St. Maximus the Confessor.[30]

The coats of skins symbolise our biological hypostasis, which clothes the personal otherness of man. Before the fall all biological energies manifested themselves and acted in man exclusively as the expression of God’s image: man constituted the personal otherness and the ability of life to exist through unity in love. After the fall the hypostasis of the human subject become biological and the natural psychosomatic energies serve to support life, which is reduced to individual survival.”[31]

Nevertheless the Supernatural biblical revelation and faith would still allow man, who remains in a state of corruption, damaged by “carnal thoughts” (Romans. 8:5-6) and clothed in “coats of skins” (Gen. 3:21), to see, beyond the existence of“cursed earth” (Gen. 3:17-19), the action of Divine providence and to meet the Creator Himself face to Face. This is what the theology of the “coats of skins” should help to achieve.

[1] See priest O. Mumrikov, Biblical and Patristic teaching on the image and likeness of God in man and the evolutionary concept of anthropogenesis: the problems of comparison  // Report for the XVIIInternational Educational Christmas Readings - 2009, Session “Science in the light of an orthodox worldview”, 16 February 2009 – [13 March 2009] Electronic resource: Research and Theology Portal Bogoslov.ru: http://www.bogoslov.ru/text/389980.html

[2] A.S. Khomenkov  Unjustified stereotypes. The meaning of the apes' similarity to humans. - Electronic resource: http://www.portalslovo.ru/impressionism/36406.php

[3] A.S. Khomenkov:  Unjustified stereotypes. On certain strategical mistakes in modern creationist thinking. - Electronic resource: http://www.portal-slovo.ru/impressionism/40543.php

[4] See for example: Evidence for evolution. - Electronic publication:  http://www.bogoslov.ru/text/601165.html (http://www.evolbiol.ru/evidence06.htm#erv)

[5] C. Darwin “Origins of Man, an Selection in Relation to Sex” – St. Petersburg, 1896, p. 421.

[6] Yingguang Liu, Charles Soper.The Natural History of Retroviruses: Exogenization vs Endogenization // Answers Research Journal, 2 (2009) : 97-106. - http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v2/n1/exogenization-vsendogenization

[7] “Chromosome structure in humans and chimpanzees <...> shows considerable similarities. Chromosomes, which contain the DNA, can be seen through an optical microscope during cell division; each of them contains hundreds of genes. <...> Man has 23 pairs of chromosomes, while chimpanzees have 24. This difference seems to have arisen as a result of the merging of two predecessor chromosomes, from which man's second chromosome was formed. The fact that this merging occurred in humans is confirmed by the data on the chromosome structure in gorillas and orang-utans: both these species each have 24 pairs of chromosomes, very similar to chimpanzee chromosomes.

After the exact DNA sequence in the human genome became known, a close study of the location of the merging, which is located in the long shoulder of the second chromosome, became possible. This analysis has turned up a lot of interesting information – to avoid going into technical details I would only say that the sequence of the base nucleotides in this segment corresponds to the sequence on the ends of the chromosomes of all the other primates. As a rule, these fragments of code do not occur in other places, but are found exactly where they should be according to the theory of evolution – in the middle of our joined chromosome. The merging that took place in the course of the development of our species left a imprint in the shape of DNA at the point of the joining. This fact is difficult to explain without supposing descent from a common ancestor.” - See F. Collins (Director of International “Human Genome” Project). “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”; Translated from English – M. Alpina, non-fiction, 2008 – pp. 99-111.

[8] Philo of Alexandria. On the birth of Abel and on how he and his brother Cain made sacrifices to God/Interpretations of the Old Testament. - Moscow: Yuri Shichalin's Museum Graeco-Latinum, 2000, p.188.

[9] Quote according to: Biblical commentary of the Church fathers and other authors of I-VIII centuries. Old Testament.  Volume I: The Book of Genesis 1-11. / Translated from English, Greek Latin, Syriac. Edited by A. Louth and M. Conti / Russian edition edited by K.K. Gavrilkin. - Tver: Germenevtika, 2004, p. 119.

[10] Skin, Skinner-Tanner // The Large Biblical Dictionary edited by W. Elwell and P. Comfort - St. Petersburg, 2007. - Page 692.

[11] St. Gregory the Wonderworker and St. Methodius, bishop and martyr. Works. - Repr. – Moscow. Palomnik, 1996. - pp. 216, 218.

[12] St. Gregory the Theologian.Discourse 7. On the Soul // Collection of works. Vol. II, The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, 1994. - p. 34.

[13] St. Gregory the Theologian, Discourse 38, On the Theophany and the Birth of the Saviour//Collection of works, Vol. I, The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, 1994. p. 528.

[14] St. John Chrysostom. Discourses on the book of Genesis// Complete collection of works in Russian. Vol. IV, Book I. - St. Petersburg: SBbDA, 1898. - p.157. Compare with the following words, also by him: “The life to come does not destroy and annihilate the body, but death and corruption that have become attached to it. Thus the groaning does not occur on account of the body, but on account of corruption to which it is subject. The body really is burdensome, heavy and crude not on account of its own nature, but due to mortality that has later become attached to it. The body itself is not corrupt, but incorrupt. <...> Do not speak to me of the wetness, bile, sweat, uncleanness and other things pointed out by those disparaging the body, because it did not belong to the nature of the body, but to the corruption that entered later”. St. John Chrysostom. Discourse on the Resurrection of the Dead // Complete collection of woks of St. John Chrysostom: In 12 volumes -Vol. 2, book 1, Reprinted – Moscow, Pravoslavnaya Kniga [Orthodox Book], 1993 – p.477.

A entirely literal interpretation of Gen. 3:21, that completely rules out other meanings can only be found in blessed Theodoret of Cyrrhus (“Selected explanations of difficult passages of the Holy Scripture”, Question 40): “Those who like to allegorise say that the skins mean the mortal body. Others maintain that these clothes were made from the bark of trees. But I do not allow either one or the other, because one interpretation is forced, and the other is too incredible. If the Holy Scripture says that the body was created before the soul, then is it not incredible to maintain that after transgressing the commandment our forefathers acquired the mortal body? To delve into investigations of where God took the skins and for this reason think up a new type of clothes seems to me superfluous. This is why we should be satisfied with what is written and know that nothing is difficult for the Creator of all and be amazed by his boundless goodness, because he takes care even of those who have broken the commandment and has not left naked those who have come to need clothes”. Blessed Theodoret of Cyrrhus. Selected explanations of difficult passages of the Holy Scripture // Works, Part 1 – The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, 1905 – p.39.

[15] St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechetical Discourse // Works. Part IV. - Moscow, 1862., pp. 29-31.

[16] St. Gregory of Nyssa. On the Soul and the Resurrection // Works. Part IV. - Moscow, 1862. - pp. 315-316. A similar opinion can be found in blessed Augustine of Hippo (“On the Trinity”, 12, paragraph 11): “Having become naked of their initial robes of innocence, Adam and Eve earned the robes of death. <...> Having wished to become like God, not subject to anyone, his punishment was to be expelled <...> and be thrown to the very bottom – to that in which animals take pleasure. Man was unable to do this when he was in the place of honour; and he acquired the likeness of irrational animals after he became the same as they.” - Quote from: Biblical commentaries by the Church fathers and other authors of I-VIII centuries. Old Testament. Volume I: The Book of Genesis 1-11. / Translated from English, Greek Latin, Syriac. Edited by A. Louth and M. Conti / Russian edition edited by K.K. Gavrilkin. - Tver: Germenevtika, 2004, p. 119.

[17] St. Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses // Works. Part I – M. 1861 – p. 265. [Translator's note: English translation taken from http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=wAJ6fwFAligC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=skins&f=false]

[18] St. Ephrem the Syrian. Commentaries on the Book of Genesis // Works Vol. 6 – M.: Otchiy Dom [Father's House], 1995 – p.249.

[19] Adam, “instead of the incorrupt, immortal andclose to incorporeal body, which he possessed [before the fall], was re-clothed by God with the current body, which is more fleshly and susceptible to passions. This example, I mean the nakedness and clothing of Adam, also shows how it is seen by the divine Gregory, that the naked and uncovered God the Word will be covered and clothed in the particular God-made and not-wrought-by-hand, skin and fleshly robes of our nature. This is why man was created naked and is not self-clothing, like beasts and birds, which [naturally] possess a covering appropriate to them of feathers, thick skin, fur and hair. And man being [initially] naked, incorrupt and immortal, was [then] clothed inbarren coats of skins in the image and likeness of the naked Word; because God [clothed Adam] without tearing off or taking [these coats] from any beast,but seedlessly and in reflection of God's glory put him over above [all other] nature. This is why these coats are not beast-like and are not originated with irrational beings, but like man himself have been created by the hand of God. After all [it is thus] that the divinely created andseedless flesh of God the Word, which was made for Him by God [Himself], has been clearly and doubtlessly foreordained <...>.  And if the coats of skins did not foreordain the Incarnation of the naked second Adam, then why did not God clothe him in robes of byssus, linen, or woven from some other material?” - St. Anastasius of Sinai: On the forming of man after the image and likeness of God. Second discourse// Selected Works. Moscow: Palomnik – Sibirskaya Blagozvonnitsa, 2003. - pp. 101-104.

[20] S.L. Epifanovich. St. Maximus the Confessor and Byzantine Theology. Moscow: Martis, 2003. - pp. 80-81.

[21] St. John of Damascus. “The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” - Moscow: Lodya, 1998. - p.191.

[22] St. Gregory of Sinai. Chapters on commandments and dogmas, threats and promises, and also on thoughts, passions and virtues, and also on silence and prayer // Philokalia in Russian, enlarged. Vol. 5 – Reprinted. Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1966 – pp. 131, 140.

[23] St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 31, spoken during a prayer hymn, sung on the first day of August. PG 151.388S. Russ transl.: Moscow. Published by the Valaam Monastery of our Saviour and Transfiguration, 1993. Vol. 2, p.57.

[24] Canons of the Holy Local Councils: with explanations. Pt. 2. - Reprinted – Tutayev: Orthodox Fellowship of St. Boris and St. Gleb, 2001. p.703.

[25] C. Matins canon (tone 4), ode 4, troparion 3: “Having received the robes of death, I have become clothed in the impudent lack of abstinence: but Thou clothe me, oh Son of God, with the bright clothes ofa new birth.”

On the last Sunday before Lent, which commemorates Adam's expulsion from Paradise: During the vespers, for the 'Lord I cry unto Thee hear me...' hymn, 2nd stikhera: “In my impudence I disrobed myself of the God-created garments, having transgressed Thy divine commandment, O Lord, by the council of the enemy, and with a fig leaf and the coats of skins I now clothe myself: I was then condemned to eat the bread of labour: thorns and thistles will the cursed earth bring forth for me. But Thou who was Incarnate of the Virgin, call me back again to paradise.”

During the matins canon the synaxarion: “Having transgressed and having become clothed in mortal flesh, and being put under oath I was expelled from paradise: and the fiery sword was ordered to guard these gates.”

Ode 7 of the canon (tone 6), troparion 2: “Woe is me, I have been clothed with robes of shame instead of the robes of light, and I now weep due to my demise, O Saviour, and with faith cry to Thee O Good One: despise me not O God, but call me back again.”

During the Lauds stikhera 1 (tone 5): “Woe is me, Adam cried weeping, because the serpent and the woman have stripped me of boldness before God and the eating of the tree has made me alien to the sweetness of paradise. Woe is me; I cannot bear the rest of the humiliation: once the king of all the God's earthly creatures, I am now their prisoner due to an unlawful word of council and having once been clothed with the glory of immortality, I, wretched, am now wearing the skin of death as a mortal. Woe is me, who can weep with me as I do?; but Thou O Lover of Mankind, who has created me from the dust of the earth, having put on Thy loving kindness, deliver me from the bondage of the enemy and save me.”

On Tuesday evening of the first week of Great Lent. At Compline, the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Troparion 1, Ode two: “Sin had sown for me the coats of skins, stripping me of the first Divinely made robes.” Second troparion: “Having donned the robe of dishonour, shamefully bloodstained, by the flowing of life full of passions and licentiousness.” Third troparion: “I have fallen into destruction and physical corruption through my passions and for that reason the enemy harasses me to this day.” (Lenten Triodion).

The hymnographical quotes cited above were systematised by N.S. Serebryakov (N.S. Serebryakov: The problem of reconciling the biblical story of the creation of the world and modern scientific data. Diploma paper. - M. PSTBI, Missionary and Catechetical Faculty, Mission History Department, 2002 – pp. 114-116). However, we believe it is important to draw attention to the fact that the person receiving Holy Baptism, on the contrary is clothed in “robes of incorruption” (The Canon of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Prayer for the catechumens; The Canon of the Holy Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts of St. Gregory Dialogos. Litany for those preparing for illumination, 5th petition; the Order of Holy Baptism, second prayer for the blessing of the water).

[26] St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). Discourse on the emotional and spiritual vision of spirits// Discourse on Death – Minsk: published by the St. Elizabeth monastery, 2004, p.9. In another place Bishop Ignatius says that the “human body deteriorated to the [level of] the bodies of beasts and animals on account of the fall.” - St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov). Discourse on Man. St.Petersburg.: Centre of Spiritual Enlightenment, 1995. p.29.

[27] St. Filaret (Drozdov). Interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Moscow. Russkiy Khronograf, 2004, pp.114-116.

[28] An in-depth study and systematisation of the theology of “coats of skins” was carried out by the work of Nellas Panayiotis: N. Panayiotis. Garments of Skins. - Electronic resource: http://lib.pravmir.ru/library/readbook/428#part_1576

[29] P. Sherwood. The Earlier Ambigua of St. Maximus the Confessor and his Refutation of Oreginism// Maximus the Confessor: His Polemics with Origenism and Monoenergism / Compiled by G.I. Benevich, D.S. Biryukov, A.M. Shufrin. - St. Petersburg, Published by SPbGU, 2007. – pp. 436-458. Priest I. Meyendorff. Introduction to Patristic Theology. Minsk, 2001 – p.319.

See also Priest O. MumrikovOn the problems of “theology of evolution” at the turn of 20th-21st centuries, // Report at the 19th International Educational Christmas Readings – 2011. Theme “Science in the light of Orthodox Worldview” 22-26 January 2011. - [27 January 2011] Electronic resource:: Research and Theology Portal “Bogoslov.Ru”: http://www.bogoslov.ru/text/1415473.html

[30] St. Maximus the Confessor. Works: Book II. Questions and answers to Thalassius. Part I: Questions I-LV. Translation from Ancient Greek with comments by A.I. Sidorov. - M. Martis, 1993. p. 33 (Question IV).

[31] C. Yannaras. Faith of the Church. Introduction to Orthodox Theology. M. Centre for Religious Studies, 1992. p. 137.

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