Ancient texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi codices, the pseudepigrapha, and Rabbinic and early Christian literature have much to say about the ritual significance of sacred vestments. The symbolism of donning sacred vestments, of putting on a garment in a ritual context, assumes a plan of salvation that acknowledges certain conditions necessary to obtain certain blessings.
The ritual action of putting on a sacred garment is properly termed an “endowment.” The word garment is, in fact, representative of ordinances found in ancient texts. The Greek word that means “garment” or “to clothe upon” was used to represent sacramental, baptismal, and sealing ordinances in the Clementine Recognitions, an extremely important and ancient Christian (Ebionite) work. The Latin induere, meaning “to clothe,” and inducere, “to lead or initiate,” are the roots for our English word endowment. All connote temple ordinances. The endowment, the complex of ordinances associated with the donning of sacred vestments, contained in ancient Judeo-Christian texts, provides a framework for symbolic interpretation. The doctrine of the preexistence, for example, appears frequently in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the pseudepigrapha, and the Nag Hammadi texts. The soul must journey to the earth in order to prove itself as part of God’s plan set down before the foundation of the world. In order for the soul to return to the presence of God, certain ordinances are necessary. Among these ordinances are baptism, washings, anointings, special garments, and signs as seals and passwords to pass by the angels who guard the gate to God’s kingdom.