Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Genesis, Needles and Stitching 

Elizabeth commented on biblical references to stitching/sewing/embroidery with a question concerning Genesis 3:7

3:7 (King James) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

"Linn, today I was reading a book that mentioned the needle and it's long history.
Now I'm wondering if the mention of sewing in Genesis 3:7 indicates the use of a
needle. All the parallel versions I found used "sewed" except one said "stitched"
together. A commentary (WES) said sewed or platted. Do you have any clues or did any
linquist help with your questions on embroidery yet that might have an idea about
this, too? Thanks"

I have always been of the opinion that Genesis 3:7 was referring to stitching or sewing with a needle rather than plaiting bits of fig leaves. If you've ever lived with a fig tree I think you would probably come to the conclusion that it wouldn't do very well in the plaiting department. The leaves are soft and fairly supple and would be amenable to stitching however.

The Exotic Fruit Growers site has some excellent information on fig trees. "Foliage: Fig leaves are bright green, single, alternate and large (to 1 ft length). They are more or less deeply lobed with 1 - 5 sinuses, rough hairy on the upper surface and soft hairy on the underside. In summer their foliage lends a beautiful tropical feeling. "

I do think the scholars involved with the King James version came from a social group that understood a needle to be involved in Adam and Eve's constructing garments. The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers, a London guild granted charter during the commonwealth years certainly felt that way as their heraldic device includes Adam and Eve flanking needles.

We certainly know that needles were used at the time of the earliest biblical scholarship. The British Museum has some excellent examples of very early needles.

So, just on circumstantial evidence, I would have to say sewed rather than plaited.

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Thanks very much, Linn! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this and following the links. What an interesting history of the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers on their site.
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