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An earlier question asks about the first animal sacrifice. The two top answers both suggest that God instituted animal sacrifice by example when He killed an animal to provide Adam and Eve with clothing in Gen 3:21. It is easy to find that opinion in sermons or statements about Christian doctrine, but I wondered if the animal skins were regarded as sacrificial in the early church?

What is the earliest statement that the clothing in Gen 3:21 represent a sacrifice? I would hope to find an answer within the first few centuries of Christianity, but if not then the earliest teaching of any Christian leader is fair game.

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  • It has a meaning, remember Adam & Eve already clothe their physical nature.But their soul suffers death when they fall into sin. God clothe them with animal skin does not mean to replace their physical clothing but it is a symbol that God provided protection to & revive their soul as Satan successfully killed their soul & removed the garments of their soul.Satan ENVY their soul garments of "original holiness" which Satan lost. "animal killing" somehow connotes "sacrifice" as atonement.Do you prefer Catholic Doctrine based answers or pure biblical standpoint? Nov 3, 2018 at 22:56
  • @marianagustin I'd prefer a quote from the apostolic or post-apostolic era if anyone understood it as a sacrifice at that early a date.
    – Bit Chaser
    Nov 4, 2018 at 1:15
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    @NigelJ I would like to know who expressed the idea early. If gnostic or other considered deviant from Christianity, it's still interesting to know they considered it a sacrifice. If Aquinas or Calvin is the earliest anyone can find, then that's the answer. I'm interested more in the earliest than whether their theology is pleasing or abhorrent to me.
    – Bit Chaser
    Nov 22, 2018 at 20:43

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Among the Church Fathers who discuss the coverings that God made for Adam and Eve, most are concerned with what type of skin was involved. It does not appear than any of them saw the coverings as a sacrifice per se. Among the suggestions:

  • their physical bodies (Origen)
  • the bark of trees (Gregory Nazianzen)
  • miraculously-fashioned apparel (Grotius)

Ephrem the Syrian (b. 306) comes the closest when he speculates, after suggesting that God miraculously transformed leaves into animal skins:

Or were, perhaps, some animals killed before them, so that they could nourish themselves with their flesh, cover up their nakedness with their skins, and in their deaths see the death of their own bodies?

This, however, is not a sacrifice, but merely a slaughter. The best answer may have been given by Theodoret of Cyrus:

It strikes me as futile to pry into the way God came by skins and to imagine a novel form of clothing. We should be content with the text, acknowledge that there is no task beyond the Creator of the universe, and admire the unlimited goodness of God who, taking care for sinners, did not overlook their need for clothing when they were naked.

Conclusion: a search for an apostolic or post-apostolic age writer who suggested that Gen. 3:21 was sacrifice performed by God has proved futile so far. Since several church fathers discuss the skins, we can conclude that they preserved no teaching to the effect that the clothing represented a sacrifice.

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