13 Comments

  1. Great insights. I wonder if there is more connection to nature than just an obscure “trees” or “shrubs” connotation. It would be fascinating to uncover its true origins.

    Thanks for the information and the link to Brown’s article.

  2. Matthew Brown does include some commentary about how the tree of life was sometimes iconified upon the apron of ancient kings:

    In some Hebrew theological circles it was held that Adam was the first earthly king, and the kings of Israel were thus seen as imitators of the first man (see Genesis 1:26—28). Since Adam wore an apron made of fig leaves (see Genesis 3:7), is it possible that the apron worn by Israel’s king somehow imitated the one worn by Adam? A strong connection was made in ancient Near Eastern religious thought between the king and the tree of life, even to the point where the king was seen as a personification of that tree. This correlates closely with ancient Hebrew legends which taught that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a fig tree and it was from this tree’s leaves that Adam constructed his apron. It is apparent from the depiction of the Christian king Charlemagne (AD 742—814) in figure 2 just how the ancient king could personify a sacred tree by the iconography upon his apron. (“Girded about with a Lambskin”)

    See this post I wrote a while ago for the example of the depiction of King Charlemagne.

  3. Thanks, Bryce.

    You have a real talent for finding subtle pieces of information, and your this post should remind us that we LDS need to be more literate in comparative religion, especially in knowing more about the practices and tradtions of our “other” Christian brothers and sisters.

  4. Steve

    Excellent article, I find stuff like this fascinating. I really enjoy symbolism and the study of what could be considered ‘doctrinal debris’ among the different religions of the world.

  5. Matthew B. Brown

    You might want to compare the center symbols on Juan’s gremial with those on the “elaborately embroidered apron” given to some eastern orthodox monks when they are initiated into higher orders. This apron includes an acronym for Paradise and the word “Adam.”

    Graham Speake, Mount Athos, 212-13; Wikipedia article on “Great Schema” / “Degrees of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Schema#Great_Schema

    Then compare the symbols found on monastic aprons with those that decorate the aprons of the Freemasons.

  6. Br. Brown, thank you for the references! Fantastic! I looked up the reference in Mount Athos, and it is very interesting indeed:

    Only great schema monks may wear the full habit, which includes an elaborately embroidered apron or stole with numerous crosses and Greek acronyms picked out in red – beginning with M[ichael] and G[abriel] and ending with the skull and cross-bones of Adam at the foot of the cross over the words ‘T[opos] K[ranious] [the place of the skull, i.e. Golgotha] P[aradeisos] G[egonen] [has become Paradise]’. This garment symbolizes the cross that the monk takes up when he vows to follow Christ. Great schema monks undertake to accept for themselves the cross and death of Christ and take stricter vows than other monks with regard to prayer and fasting. Initiates go through a ceremony similar to that for the small schema but of longer duration and more solemn tone. (Speake, Graham. Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2004. 212-13. Link.)

    Thanks for the reference to the Wikipedia article too, which shows an illustration of this vestment. Here is another illustration. Here is a photo of one, and another, and another. This is another clearer photo, and here.

    It appears that this vestment is similar to the scapular – “Monastic scapulars originated as aprons worn by medieval monks, and were later extended to habits for members of religious organizations, orders or confraternities… many sources agree that the scapular emerged from an apron-like piece of cloth worn by monks… Some authors interpret the scapular as a symbolic apron based on the fact that monks and nuns, when engaged on some manual labor, tend to cover it with a protective apron or carefully tuck it up or throw the front length back over their shoulder to prevent it from getting in the way.”

    Val Brinkerhoff showed me a rare photo of Joseph Smith’s masonic apron just last week, and it looked similar to George Washington’s. It seems that both share elements such as instruments, and both clearly also show the skull and crossbones representing Adam at the bottom.

    I’ve thought for a long time that the Eastern Orthodox tradition has some of the most striking resemblances to the LDS. Why that is, I’m not sure, but I love to learn more about them.

  7. Great post! You have done some wonderful research here! Matthew Brown probably mentions this in his article, but the Old Testament priestly ephod was supposed to be an apron-like vestment (sometimes described as gold in color) that the high priest wore. The ephod was a symbol of priestly authority. The ephod was also connected to revelation somehow (1 Sam 30:7–8; cf. Judg 18:5), likely because it had some connection to the Urim and Thummim. It is interesting that in the OT, not only the high priest, but also prophets, kings, and judges (like Gideon) are mentioned as using this ephod.
    Again, wonderful post! Its neat to see how long this tradition has carried on.

    David

  8. Matthew B. Brown

    If you take a close look at the picture of the eastern orthodox apron that I linked to above you will notice that there are two crosses on its shoulder pieces. These crosses correspond to the two engraved stones placed on the shoulder straps of the Israelite ephod/apron (see Exodus 28:12; the breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim was secured between the straps). It therefore appears that orthodox Christian monks are wearing an item of apparel somewhat akin to what was worn by the temple priests of ancient Israel. Since the king of ancient Israel also wore an ephod/apron (see 2 Samuel 6:14; 1 Chronicles 15:27) and the king was equated with Adam (see Psalm 72 and Psalm 89) – and Adam was a king (see Genesis 1:26) – the question naturally arises about whether there was some type of connection between the ephod/apron that the Israelite king wore and the kind of apron worn by king Adam (see Genesis 3:7).

  9. Floyd the Wonderdog

    I thought the skull and bones on the Masonic apron represented those of Hiram Abiff.

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