Let’s look at what the Bible really says about nudity. The Bible actually mentions nudity fairly often, something that I doubt you will hear from the pulpit in our culture. First, let’s look at the passages most preachers ignore when they preach against nudity.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Genesis I. God created man and woman, Adam and Eve. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, (Gen. 2:25 - chap) “and the man and woman were naked and unashamed”, and God called it “Very Good” (Gen. 1:31 - chap).
How can something that God calls “Very Good” be considered by a Christain Society to be wrong, evil or sinful?
I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve were told to wear clothing when God ejected them from the garden, but what the Bible actually says is that Adam and Eve made the first set of clothing, out of fig leaves (Gen. 3:7 - chap). Then God made clothing for them out of animal skins when he ejected them from the garden, (Gen. 3:21-24 - chap) but the Bible didn’t say that he ordered them to wear them. Clothing was invented by man to hide shame (Gen. 3:7). God’s original plan was to never have us to wear clothing. I think that Genesis 1-3 makes that quite clear.
God instructed the prophet Isaiah to take off his clothes and go preach to the Isrealites. (Isaiah 20:2-3 - chap) And Isaiah lived completely naked and barefoot for 3 years, traveling around Isreal preaching to all of the Isrealites. This sounds really strange to our 21st century ears, but this is what God told him. Not only that, but it seems to have become a fashion statement among the Isrealite prophets, because when Saul came to the prophet Samuel, he tore off his clothing, (1st Samuel 19:23-24 - chap) and the people asked, “…is Saul also among the prophets?”
The reason that God told Isaiah to do this was a warning that if the Isrealites didn’t change their behavior, God would allow another country to come and invade them. But my point is, that if God had a problem with nudity, why did he order one of his prophets to live that way?
Many modern Christians will say, “But this was the Old Testament, we live under the new law.” And they are right. So let’s see what the New Testament has to say about nudity.
After his crucifixion, Jesus appeared to the Apostles by the sea while they were fishing. The Bible says that Peter was fishing naked (John 21:7) - chap. I assume most of them were naked. Why would the Apostles be fishing naked? Well, think about it a bit and it makes a lot of sense. Back at that time, they didn’t have a large, multinational clothing industry. All clothing was locally made out of locally sourced materials. There was no automation, no computer controlled looms, no electrically powered sewing machines. The flax, was grown by hand, the sheep were shorn by hand, the fibers were spun into thread by hand or at most with simple, hand-powered tools, the fabric was woven by hand, the snails, mollusks, roots, berries and leaves for dyes were collected and prepared by hand, the cloth was cut and sewn into garments by hand with needle and thread. Just typing this makes me feel exhausted just thinking about and typing this. All of this work was labor and time intensive, making clothing a very expensive thing to own. It was about on par in their budgets with us purchasing a used car. With clothing this expensive, most people didn’t own more than one set of clothing, and they took very good care of what clothing they had.
I’ve heard all of my life that the Ancient Greeks competed in the first olympics and their training for the olympic games, totally nude. But in truth, they did just about any manual labor nude, the farmers worked in the fields nude, fishermen fished nude. Same thing here, if they were about to embark on any activity that could tear their clothing, or get them sweaty, or any job that was unpleasant or stinky, they would take off their precious expensive clothing and do that task totally nude. Nobody minded, everybody did it. It wasn’t sexual, it was just practical. It was common-place.
Keep in mind that the laundry also was something that they had to do manually. There were no electric, computer controlled washers and dryers then. They literally washed their clothing by going down to the creek, the same place they bathed, and beating wet clothing on a rock many times they did the two things at the same time. Take off your clothes, wash them, hang them to dry. Then go for a swim, wash off the day’s dirt, grime, sweat. We see the same pattern of behavior in undeveloped areas of our world today. And anything they could do that would not dirty their clothing, was work saved, and let’s face it. It’s much easier to wash skin than clothing.
Anyone who has ever fished, knows that it is a sweaty, stinky job. The fishermen of that time, would take off their precious, expensive clothing, and do their dirty, stinky job totally nude. Then bathe in the sea, washing off the stink of the day before putting their clothing back on. Jesus knew this about them. He saw his Apostles fishing. John says that they were close enough to the shore that they could hear Jesus tell them to fish on the other side of the boat. He, Jesus, could probably see Peter from his vantage point on the shore, and saw him naked. When Peter got back to the shore to see Jesus, did Jesus admonish him for being naked? NO! Was Jesus ever shy about telling someone they were doing the wrong thing? Jesus continuously, throughout the gospels told the Apostles when he felt they could improve their behaviour, their mindset, their hearts. But here, he said nothing. He had no problem with Peter’s or any of the Apostles’ nudity.
I believe the answer to that question is “Yes”, and I’ll tell you why.
First, Jesus helped Joseph in his carpentry shop. This was a place that would have many sharp tools which could accidentally tear their expensive clothing. If they cut their skin it would heal. Cut clothing had to be sewn shut, and it weakened the cloth. Carpentry was a hot, dirty, sweaty job, so most likely, Joseph and Jesus went about their trade totally naked, then they would wash themselves and put on their clothing before they met their customers. But anyone who dropped by the carpentry shop to discuss an order would see them naked, and would not think anything was wrong in the exchange. They understood the expense and care that went into clothing at that time and would totally agree that the practical thing to do was protect the clothing. Jesus probably grew up naked practically all the time. You know how expensive it is even now to keep rapidly growing children clothed. When clothing was as expensive as it was at that time, the poor just couldn’t afford clothing for 10-12 children. The Bible tells us that there were at least 7 children in Joseph and Mary’s family. It tells us the names of his 4 brothers, and says he had sisters (at least two) so assuming Jesus, 4 brothers, and 2 sisters that’s 7 kids in the house. Joseph and Mary were poor. Their kids probably ran naked much of the time.
Second, the Christian baptism is based on an earlier, Jewish religious ritual bath intended to cleanse one’s “uncleanliness” called the mitzvah. And the rules were very clear. They are the same today with modern jews. They must undergo the mitzvah totally nude. They must remove any adornments (jewelry, makeup, nail polish) they must unbind their hair (no braids or pony tails). The Mitzvah had to take place in a place called a Mikveh, a place ordained by a priest for the mitzvah. Wikipedia has a page containing requirements for the Mitzvah) if you would like to read about them. There were many reasons to perform the mitzvah, but one of it’s uses was when a person not born a jew converted to judaism. The first century (and into the 3rd century) Christians followed the same rules when a person became a Christian. For three centuries, Christians baptized every new convert requiring them to be totally naked. Nobody thought this was unusual, nudity was common-place, and the Jews had been performing the mitzvah nude for centuries. In their minds, “why would we put on clothes to bathe?” So knowing all of this, it becomes easy to believe that when John the Baptist, baptized Jesus at the river, in the midst of a multitude of people of mixed genders, Jesus, and probably John also, were totally naked. Early writings of the church “fathers” reinforce this.
Those were some passages and arguments about the things most preachers won’t preach from the pulpit today. Here’s my arguments and answers for the things they do preach.
The stories that they tell us usually start with the story of Noah being found by his son, Ham in his tent, naked (Gen. 9:20-27 - chap). Noah had planted a vineyard, made himself some wine and overindulged. Ham came upon his father in his tent drunk, passed out and naked and he called his brothers. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything other than this, and that Noah’s sons thought it was wrong to see their father drunk and naked, so they walked backwards into his tent covering him without ever looking at him. We don’t see this unwillingness to see a family member naked anywhere else in the Bible, just here.
We don’t know exactly what Ham did when he found his father naked and unconscious in his tent. One interesting commentary that I found while researching this was a Jewish commentary website. it had the interesting take that the language used in the story of Noah and Ham was used at other places both in the Torah (Old Testament), and in contemporary non-biblical writings when sex was being talked about. The conclusion the author of the commentary came to was that Ham must have raped his unconscious father.
No matter what, I have to believe that with the preponderance of evidence that the Godhead has no problem with nudity, that the issue that the Sons of Noah had with seeing their father nude might have been either a case of regional bias or a bias of that time. I also want to point out that Noah was naked, but he was not the one who got into trouble.
Here’s what I think: In Leviticus 8:7 the Law says “The nakedness of thy father, even the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover”. Ham, by finding his father in his tent passed out drunk and naked, and throwing open the door to the tent and calling his brothers, he “uncovered the nakedness of his father”. Some people say that this means don’t have sex with your father or mother. And this may be true. But I think it can also be taken at face value. It also means don’t force someone else to be naked against their will.
When the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem after David became king, David was excited, he ran out to meet the ark. He was wearing only an ephod, basically a vest, he was naked from the waist down or it was at least short enough that he exposed himself due to the energetic dancing he was doing. He danced and praised God as he accompanied the ark into town. (2 Samuel 6:14-22 - chap) One of his wives, Michael, the daughter of King Saul, chastised David for making a spectacle of himself in front of the people. David took up for himself, telling Michael that he was not dancing for himself, or the people, he was dancing for God. And Michael never had any children. Some people think that God cursed Michael with infertility. The Bible doesn’t actually say that. But God said that David was a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 - chap). When David did the wrong thing, like in the murder of Uriah the Hitite, God told David he was wrong. Nothing like this happened here.
The Bible doesn’t say that Bathsheba was naked. But nudity was prevalent in their society and not looked down upon for its own sake. It was seen as a sign of being poor, but poor, naked people seemed to be everywhere. The Bible doesn’t say where Bathsheba was. Most assume her own home. But I have a different theory.
2 Samuel 11:4 says “…and she came in unto him, and he lay with her (for she was purified from her uncleanness)”. I think that this indicates that there was an open mikvah near enough to the palace that David could see down into it from the roof of the palace. David saw Bathsheba purifying herself via the mitzvah, the ritual cleansing that every woman was required by law to perform after her monthly menstrual flow. To undergo this ritual bath, she was required to be completely naked, and it seems that she was doing so in the open and David could see her from the roof of the palace. This was commonplace, and not seen as a sinful act by the people of the time, or for several centuries afterward.
I’ve heard the passage James 2: 15-16 used to try to say that it’s wrong to be naked, but even though James tells us that it is wrong for the church to let people be naked, if you read the whole chapter, it’s about the church’s responsibility to care for members. This is not saying it’s wrong to be nude. It’s saying it’s wrong for the church to let it’s members have nothing to wear because they can’t afford coverings.
I grew up hearing preached from the pulpit at church that it was a sin for mixed genders to swim in the same location at the same time because of the immodesty of bathing suits and the likelihood that we would lust after each other if we saw each other dressed that provocatively. As I grew older and read more of the Bible (what it really said, the whole thing not just the watered down, highly edited version heard in churches today), and read the portions I’ve just talked about above, I’ve come to believe that the Bible, God, Jesus, the Apostles have no problem with the naked human form.
I was, and still am, stunned by the incongruity of the messages in the church’s belief system. It was good for the people to be naked together in the beginning, but it is a sin for we church members to swim in a mixed-gendered crowd while clothed? God can order his prophets to strip naked, and preach to the people while not even wearing sandals, but it’s a sin for us to be naked today anywhere outside of our own bathroom, or to be together clothed if the clothing shows too much? I can’t believe God would be that two-faced.
And what about Circumcision? This was the sign that God gave to the Isrealites to prove that they were God’s Chosen People. How is elective surgery to remove a flap of skin on a man’s PENIS a sign to the nations of the world? The world had to be able to see the sign, so God’s Chosen People must have spent a lot of time with their penises waving around in the wind, probably totally nude, for that to be true.
I believe that God is consistent, it is man that has introduced inconsistencies into life and morality. God expected man and woman to live together, nude, for their entire life. This was his original plan for our race, and why the Garden of Eden was created. Neither God, Jesus nor the apostles said anything negative about a person choosing to be naked anywhere in the old or new testaments. All of the passages that our preachers point at to backup our culture’s nude phobia don’t say never be naked, they say “don’t force others to be naked”. The Apostles said that it was a sin for people to have no clothes to put on for protection against the cold, but that was a condemnation of the church, that the church was not providing necessities of life for the people too poor to afford them. A condemnation of the church for not providing for the poor in their community. It was not a condemnation of the people themselves for being nude.
I believe that many of our churches fit into the warning that Christ gave in Matt. 16:6 - chap. He went on in chapter 23 to further expand on what he was talking about.
I see all of this as proof that God has no problem with nudity. Remember, God said Adam and Eve’s nudity in the garden was “Very good”.
This is not mine. I found it on the Internet. I liked it because it didn’t portray Adam & Eve as necessarially white with caucasian features, there’s a little color in their skin, and Adam wasn’t clean shaven like so many pictures of them. It’s more the way I think they probably were, although their skin was probably darker brown.
Bible Christian Naturism christianity naturism