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The Biblical Meaning of Clothing

It takes on special significance throughout the arc of Scripture.
The Biblical Meaning of Clothing
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Before becoming a PhD candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary, I served for 12 years at a church in Long Beach, California. A number of my congregants worked in the fashion industry. From them I learned that programs on fashion—fashion design, merchandising, and a body of literature called fashion theory—were popping up all over.

When I looked for a Christian response to the fashion industry, I didn’t find anything. There are books on Christianity and film, Christianity and literature, Christianity and psychology, but I couldn’t find anything on Christianity and fashion.

Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ” Like Kuyper, I want to understand every aspect of human life in relationship to Christ. This set me on a quest to understand the fashion industry and emerging fashion studies.

The Bible doesn’t directly address fashion, which today refers to the rapid interplay of clothing in consumer societies. But the Bible has a surprising amount to say about clothing. Right from the beginning, after the Fall, Adam and Eve became aware of being “undressed.” Then God provides for them in their nakedness. Theologians call this a protoevangelium—literally a “first gospel.” The gift of clothing reveals a God who meets us in our shameful, sinful condition and covers us through a sacrificial death.

Clothing takes on special significance in the story of Joseph; in the way the prophets Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah delivered their message; and at the Transfiguration, where Jesus appeared in clothing that ...

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Christianity Today
The Biblical Meaning of Clothing
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July/August 2015

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