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Pro-Nudity Challenge No.1
Isaiah 47:3 (New International
Version) - "Your nakedness will be exposed and your shame
uncovered. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one."
Isaiah 47:3 - Response
The chapter refers not to Israel but to the "virgin daughter of
Babylon." Here (as per my Bible commentary)
"virgin" means the previously unconquered status of Babylon.
Babylon is cursed with various things, of which nudity is only one:
"on the ground without a throne", "no more be called
tender and delicate", forced to grind meal (my Bible commentary
says this means the former royalty is now doing slave scut work).
As per the nudity: Babylon is metaphorically stripped of its veil
(uncovering its face), its [royal] robe (uncovering the legs),
"pass through the rivers" (commentary doesn't say what, but
this is evidently not a pleasurable skinny dip - probably more beast of
burden scut work).
The straightforward meaning of Isaiah 47 is that the shame of Babylon is
a loss of status from royal superpower to slave people - including
wearing the slave uniform of nakedness as a vivid badge of their new
Shame is here being associated with the nudity of Babylon. The
problem is the challenger is wrong because s/he is reading his/her own
culture and moral viewpoint into the verse.
Simple nudity to the ancient Hebrews was a shame and a reproach only in
the context being a part of the condition of economic and military
failure. Such failure was catastrophic because the price of
failure was literal slavery and status at the far bottom of the social
hierarchy (and the winners weren't at all nice about it).
But this shame is the shame of being the dregs and underdogs of society.
This is not body shame or concern of decency as modern Westerners think
Isaiah is not telling Babylon to put on clothes for decency's sake.
Isaiah is predicting the shame of slavery for the wicked (well dressed)
If we read Isaiah in the a historical sense then apparently God is
commanding all women to wear robes and veils, and don't go swimming.
This is an absurd meaning that is obviously not the message of the text.
Lamentations 1:8 -
"Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean. All
who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself
1:8 - Response
The Lamentations of Jeremiah concerned the now accomplished Babylonian
conquest of the remaining southern kingdom of Israel (the northern
portion being wiped by the Assyrians over a century earlier).
Here Jeremiah is using the time-honored symbol of a woman for Jerusalem
as the conquered - and thus shamed - city.
Verse 8 speaks of Jerusalem's filthiness (my commentary says "or a
mockery"). Again we have the clear message of humiliation in
terms of status. Those who honored her for success now despise her
for failure. Military failure and defeat is the context of the
nudity of a conquered, impoverished and humiliated people.
Note verse 9 specifically states that Jerusalem's filthiness is not
due to her nudity, but "Her
uncleanness was in her skirts."
I.e. Jerusalem's sin is not nudity - that is not on God's mind - but
rather her conduct in the days of her prosperity and power.
(Prosperity and power were symbolized in the ancient world by textiles -
a luxury item for the privileged and powerful.)
Here nudity is indeed shame - but only in the context of defeat,
humiliation, and want. This is not a verse that is moralizing
about personal modesty.
Micah 1:11 (New International
Version) - "Pass on in nakedness and shame, you who live in
Shaphir. Those who live in Zaanan will not come out. Beth Ezel
is in mourning; its protection is taken from you and turns away."
1:11 - Response
Micah was a younger contemporary of Isaiah. In the Book of
Micah the "minor" prophet Micah prophesied the imminent fall
The context hasn't changed here - living in nakedness is the consequence
of military defeat and serious poverty.
Prefacing Micah 1:11 is the verse (Micah 1:8) where Micah himself goes
naked as part of a theatrical prophetic demonstration to graphically
demonstrate Jerusalem's imminent fate.
Shame, yes - but status shame,
not Western style body shame. Else, why is the Prophet of God
going naked in front of all of the people as a part of his mission and
Nahum 3:5 (New International
Version) - "I am against you," declares the LORD Almighty.
"I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the
nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame."
3:5 - Response
The Book of Nahum is a "paean of joy" over the forthcoming
destruction of Nineveh. This book is the epitome of schadenfreude
(delight in the downfall of your rivals/enemies).
Mostly the same deal - a woman symbolizing a nation, poverty-nakedness
as part of the humiliations of military defeat.
Here the Assyrians apparently suffer an embarrassment by getting their
metaphorical skirts lifted. But this is again misreading the text
by reading our own prejudices and preoccupations into it rather than
reading it on its own terms.
Recall from Ezekiel 16 that the Hebrew custom was that children grew up
naked into and including the age of sexual maturity. But when
married, females by tradition did wear a skirt (but, apparently still
topfree, breasts were not an issue).
This passage is another "so there" to the Assyrians, but is
not about the embarrassment of simple physical nudity.
The nudity of Nahum 3:5 is probably "Ervah" (sexual,
licentious nudity) not "Erom."
This would make sense because the immediately preceding verse (Nahum
3:4) assails Assyria for "countless harlotries" and the
betrayal of nations with harlotry.
Remember this is about a metaphorical vision about a defeated, sexually
Considering the severity of Ninevah's condition ("hosts of slain,
dead bodies without end", etc) interpreting this verse as simple
embarrassment would be rather ridiculously beside the point.
In this context the vision of getting your harlot skirt lifted is
probably a prophecy of sexual rape of the married females of the
Assyrian men - another great humiliation of the military defeat.
The prophecy also is a picture of the exposing of Assyrian
licentiousness as the world will know what the Assyrians have done.
It is not, however, about simple body shame. Nahum has bigger fish
Revelation 3:18 (New International
Version) - "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the
fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover
your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can
Revelation 3:18 - Response
Nice try, but no. This is not about the Bible condemning physical
Erom-style nakedness (of course we're into common Greek now).
John the Revelator is writing to slam the Christian church at Laodicea
for spiritual poverty.
As the prior verse 17 states, "For you say, I am rich, I have
prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked."
St. John's prescriptive white "clothing" needed to "keep
the shame of your [spiritual] nakedness from being seen" is the
same "clothing" worn by the woman symbolizing the church of
God - the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev. 19:8, 1 Timothy 2:9,10).
John is not talking about threads here.
If we read these verses literally - obviously not what is meant - then
we have to conclude that St. John or God is condemning poor people and
blind people. Not likely.
In fact, don't ignore the rest of the prescription to "buy from me
gold refined by fire, that you may be rich ..." If we take
this literally (thus entirely missing the point) then all Christians
should be hoarding gold while wearing (specifically white) clothing.
But John isn't talking about gold here either.
This is a spiritual parable. The shame here is a shame of
spiritual poverty which is allegorically related to the long tradition
of ancient shame over physical poverty.
None of this is a slam against naturist style nudity, such as the simple
nudity praised by Jesus and John himself for that matter.
By the way, when Revelation is written here we near the end of the first
century and Christians are commonly attending the Roman baths in the
nude. Where is the denunciation of this practice? Nowhere.
It is striking that all
of the Old Testament supposed nudity = shame examples come from the same
historical period and from the same prophetic genre of military defeat and
In three of the four Old Testament challenges the nudity is probably Erom
because it is notably non-sexual. This is the nudity of want and
social status humiliation. The shame is in having low status.
The idea of indecency as a sexual offense or sin in itself is notably not
Two of the four challenges are written by the same prophets who went nude
in front of the people to testify. So much for nudity = indecency.
Only in the fourth and last Old Testament challenge is even the slightest
hint of nudity as an embarrassment. However this too is a misreading
of the author's message. The image is a picture of sexual violence
and the exposure of Assyrian scandals to the world. It is not about
schoolyard nudity embarrassment.
Only one challenge was presented from the New Testament. However
this challenge like the others is taken out of context. In context
the passage is clearly talking about a shameful spiritual poverty which
mirrors the classical shame over physical poverty. The prescriptions
deal with doing good deeds, not any need to wear physical clothing.
In fact this passage buttresses rather than refutes the idea that
Christianity supports naturism, i.e. other scriptures which similarly make
metaphors about the true clothing
being righteous deeds.
None of these passages support the idea of simple nudity as such being
shameful or sinful.