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NUDITY, - AS MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE
According to one source, there are 104 references to the word "naked"
and its derivatives in 87 verses of the King James Version of the
Bible. But with the New International Version, a translation
preferred by many conservative Christians, there are only 49 references in
Passages from the creation story in Genesis
There are a number of passages near the beginning of Genesis that
might be considered to have a relationship to social nudism:
- Genesis 2 Adam was created from mud, and Eve was created from one of
Adam's ribs. Both had remained naked in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:25
states: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and
were not ashamed." (KJV).
- Genesis 3:7: "Then the eyes of both [Adam and Eve] were opened
and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves
together and made coverings for themselves." (NIV)
There is an ambiguity in the original Hebrew text over the word
translated here as naked. It may be:
- eromim which means to be naked, without clothes, or
- arumim which means the uncovering of deceptions
Genesis and the rest of the Torah was written using only consonants,
with no letters or signs indicating vowels. Thus "eromim"
and "arumim" appear the same in the Hebrew text, as
The Hebrew word translated here as coverings is chagowr
which literally means a belt for the waist. But some translators of the
Bible into English seem to have recoiled from the thought of Eve walking
around topless, wearing just a belt. The King James and Revised
Standard Versions both mention "aprons" which could
have covered most of their bodies. The Modern Language version
describes them as "skirts". The Living Bible
mentions that they covered "themselves around the hips"
The New American Standard Bible calls them "loin
coverings." The NIV translation is particularly obscure; they
refer simply to "coverings" without defining what type
was used. In spite of what the NIV translators wrote, it is obvious that
Eve went topless.
- Genesis 3:10-11: God called for Adam, who replied: "I heard
thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I
hid myself." God answered: "Who told thee that thou
wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that
thou shouldest not eat?" (KJV).
There are many conflicting interpretations to the significance of
nudity in these passages:
- Some interpret that passages as implying that Adam and Eve had
once lived a sinless life. But after eating the fruit, their
thoughts became selfish. They lost their unconditional, pure love
for each other and began to look upon their partner as sex objects
-- as a body to exploit in order to satisfy their sexual appetite.
Their clothing might have been intended to protect themselves from
- Some suggest that the act of covering of their body was a
metaphor. It symbolized their real need to try to hide their sin
- Some feel that Adam and Eve were so embarrassed by their nudity
that they had to create clothes to hide their genitals. However,
that interpretation seems unlikely, because Adam and Eve would have
been used to seeing each other naked continually since Eve was
created. They would hardly suddenly become embarrassed in each
- Some Christians interpret the passage as implying that once Adam
and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world, that nudity
became intrinsically sinful. Adam and Eve then wished to be clothed
when they became aware of their sin.
- Another explanation was that the aprons would give them at least
some form of physical protection when they were expelled from the
Garden of Eden into a barren land. Perhaps the belts would
facilitate the carrying of knives to ward off dangerous animals.
- Still another interpretation of the passage is that Adam and Eve's
eating of the forbidden fruit gave them knowledge. God had created
them as a type of proto-human, without the knowledge of good and
evil, and without much knowledge of themselves and their
surroundings. In some magical way, the eating of the fruit brought
them instant knowledge of morality: of good and bad. They became
fully human, It may have also brought them knowledge of how sexual
intercourse can lead to procreation. They realized the tremendous
magical power of sex. They decided that their sexual organs were so
powerful and mysterious that they should be covered.
- Religious liberals tend to interpret the first part of Genesis as
a series of religious myths. They are stories of great spiritual
significance, but unrelated to any historical happenings. The
passage about Adam and Eve wearing a belt might simply be a myth
that the author(s) included to account for the embarrassment that
youth and adults often feel when they are naked in the presence of
the opposite gender.
- Others refer to a Pagan Babylonian religious text, the Gilgamesh
epic. It contains a passage that is very close parallel to the
Genesis story. It involves Enkidu and a harlot who received sexual
knowledge as a result of eating the forbidden fruit. This caused
them to be embarrassed at their nudity. The Epic was written many
centuries before Genesis. Religious liberals generally assume that
parts of Genesis were copied
from The Gilgamesh epic. This would include the stories of the
forbidden fruit, the clothing, and the universal flood.
Passages from the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
- Genesis 9:20-29: This is the story of Noah becoming intoxicated and
lying naked in his tent. He had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japeth. Ham
sees his father, and tells his two brothers. The Hebrew word for
nakedness is here "ervah," which connotes a display of
the genitals. Shem and Japeth then cover their father without looking at
him. When Noah wakes up, he engages in evil sorcery: He lays a verbal
curse; not on Ham, but on Ham's son Canaan, and all of his
descendants. Some conservative theologians interpret this passage to
mean that Ham's descendants were cursed because Ham had observed his
father naked. This would imply that nudity with a family is forbidden
behavior. Others interpret it to mean that Ham ridiculed his father's
nakedness and was being punished for his disrespect. That would be more
in agreement with Exodus 21:15 and Leviticus 20:9 which calls for a son
to be punished if he curses or shames his parent (the Hebrew word is
ambiguous). Others reject the passage
as profoundly immoral. By today's secular and religious standards,
people are not punished for the behavior of their parent(s) or
other ancestor; individuals are responsible for their own behavior, not
- Exodus 32:19-25: At least 3,000 men and an unknown
number of women danced while worshiping a golden calf. Various
translations of the Bible say that they were "unrestrained",
or had "broken loose" or were "committing
adultery" or were "running wild." The
original Hebrew appears to imply that they were naked. The sons of Levi
sided with Moses who disapproved of idol worship and exterminated the
worshipers. The worshipers appear to have been punished because they
revered the golden calf, not because they were publicly nude.
- 1 Samuel 18:3-4 "And Jonathan made a covenant with David
because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was
wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword,
his bow and his belt." (NIV) Since people in those days did not
wear underwear, Jonathan stripped himself naked in front of David. This
is one of many indications in the Bible where David and Jonathan's
relationship may have been sexual in nature.
- 1 Samuel 19:20-24: Saul had sent a group of messengers to capture
David. The "Spirit of God" descended on the
messengers, and they started to prophesize. Saul sent a second group of
messengers, with the same result. Finally Saul went himself and the
Spirit descended upon him as well. Verse 24 states: "And he
stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like
manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night...." (KJV).
The nudity of Saul and his messengers while prophesizing is the
first of many similar instances in the Bible.
- 2 Samuel 6:14: "And David danced before the LORD with all his
might; and David was girded with a linen ephod." (KJV) David
engaged in some kind of whirling dance to the accompaniment of music and
ritual shouting. An ephod was a type of simple apron that covered his
genitals. David was nearly naked. Presumably his genitals would
have been exposed as he danced.
- 2 Samuel 11:2: "...David...went for a stroll on the roof of
the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of
unusual beauty taking her evening bath." (NIV) David and
Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, later engaged in an adulterous affair.
Bathsheba became pregnant, David sent her husband into a hopeless
military situation so that Uriah was killed. This passage appears to
reflect the building design in Palestine at the time. The populace
generally had no access to indoor bathtubs, and commonly bathed in
public in the river. In Bathsheba's case, she was probably bathing in
her courtyard out of sight of passersby, but visible from the roof of
the palace. Her nudity was mentioned in passing without comment. That
would seem to imply that to be naked in the view of others, or to
observe a person naked, are not sinful acts. David was later punished by
God, not for gazing on a naked woman, but for committing adultery with
her and for being indirectly responsible for arranging the death of her
- Isaiah 20:2: "The Lord told Isaiah, the son of Amoz, to take
off his clothing, including his shoes, and to walk around naked and
barefoot" (NIV) Isaiah's nudity, which was to continue for
three years, was symbolic of the Assyrians conquering Egypt and
Ethiopia, when they carted their prisoners away naked and barefoot.
Isaiah was clearly acting as a naturist, but not necessarily of his own
choosing. And God used his nudity to teach others. Many centuries later,
St., Francis of Assisi followed Isaiah's behavior. He removed his
clothes in the center of the village. He and Brother Rufino later
preached nude in church. 1,2
- Esther 1:10-11: "...when the heart of the king was merry with
wine, he commanded ...the seven chamberlains that served in the presence
of Ahasuerus the king, to bring Vashti the queen before the king with
the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she
was fair to look on." (KJV) Ancient rabbinical interpreters
suggested that she was ordered to appear naked, wearing only her
crown. She refused.
- Job 22:6: "For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for
nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing." (KJV) This
is a criticism of unrighteous people who are totally lacking in empathy
for other individuals. They are so keen to exploit others that they take
from the naked what they do not have: clothes. There is no condemnation
for the naked in this passage.
- Job 24:7: "They cause the naked to lodge without clothing,
that they have no covering in the cold." (KJV) Same comment as
- Job 24:10: "They cause him to go naked without clothing, and
they take away the sheaf from the hungry." (KJV) Not only do
the unrighteous take clothing from the naked, they even steal food.
Again, there is no condemnation of those who simply are naked.
- Isaiah 58:7: "Is it not to share your food with the hungry and
to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to
clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"
(NIV) This is clearly not a command to clothe all naked persons. Rather,
it is an instruction to care for the people who are in need of shelter,
food and clothes in order to sustain life.
- Micah 1:8: "Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go
about barefoot and naked" Like Samuel and Isaiah, Micah
prophesied while unclad.
Passages from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
There are a number of passages in the Christian Scriptures that might be
considered to have a relationship to social nudism:
- Matthew 5:28: "...I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman
lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
(NIV) Some would believe that more lustful thoughts might be experienced
at a nudist facility than at a textile resort. However, it can equally
be argued that the suggestive nature of many modern bathing suits arouse
greater feelings of sexual lust at a textile beach or clothed resort
than in a naturist location. So, the passage could be used to support or
- Mark 10:46-50: "... blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat
by the highway side begging...And he, casting away his garment, rose,
and came to Jesus." (KJV) It is unclear why he wished to
come to Jesus naked. But his actions were not condemned.
- Mark 14:51-52: "And there followed him a certain young man,
having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid
hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked."
(KJV) This verse is a bit of a puzzle. Some theologians speculate
that the young man had just been baptized naked and had afterwards put
on a white linen sheet. In the early years of the Christian movement,
believers and the person doing the baptizing were both nude.
- John 20:5-7: Two disciples visited the tomb where
Jesus was interred. They found strips of linen and the burial cloth that
had been around Jesus' head. Presumably, when Jesus was resurrected by
God (according to Paul) or resurrected himself (according to the Gospel
writers), he was without clothing. See also Luke 24:12.
- John 21:7: "...And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the
Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work); and
threw himself into the sea.". (NIV) Once again, as in Genesis
3:7, the NIV translators seem to recoil from a vision of nudity; the
idea of Peter working as a fisherman in the nude appears too much for
them to handle. They chose an obscure term to describe the garment that
Peter put on. The resultant passage is ambiguous whether he put the
outer garment on over an inner garment, or over his previously naked
body. The King James Version translates this verse quite clearly: "...he
girt his fisher's coat onto him, (for he was naked)..." The New
Revised Standard Version renders this passage: "...he put on
some clothes for he was naked." This passage describes how
Peter had stripped naked to work on the fishing boat, and later put on a
garment and dove into the sea. Public nudity while fishing was
apparently a common practice among fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, and
Peter was no exception. Since Peter's nakedness was stated without
comment, one could conclude that public nudity was/is acceptable
- 1 Corinthians 8:9: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of
your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."
Some interpreters believe that this is a generic statement that a
Christian must not engage in any behavior that might cause another
believer to falter. They might argue that nudism may tempt some persons
to have unclean thoughts. Other interpreters note that the passage is
preceded and followed with discussions of eating meat that had been used
in Pagan rituals. The instruction may be limited to interaction with
animal-sacrificing Pagan groups, as is seen today among the
followers of Santeria.
- 1 Corinthians 12:23: "and those (parts) of the body, which we
think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor;
and our uncomely (parts) have more abundant comeliness; whereas our
comely (parts) have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving
more abundant honor to that (part) which lacked." (ASV). Paul
is apparently saying that parts of the human body which are not
presentable are to be treated with special modesty, while the rest of
our body needs no such special treatment. He is apparently referring to
social practices in his culture, which did not allow nudity in social
- There are three other passages in the Christian Scriptures where
nudity is mentioned. Two are associated with mental illness. (Luke
8:27, Acts 19:13-16). The remaining reference is in Luke
10:30, when the man rescued by the good Samaritan was stripped
and left for dead by robbers. None of these are related to consensual
nudity in public.
The Gospel of Thomas is a recently discovered Gospel that was in wide use
among early Christian groups, but which never made it into the official
canon of the Bible. One verse reads: "His disciples asked, 'When
will you become revealed to us and when shall we see you?' Jesus answered,
'When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garments and place
them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you
see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.' "
Nudity in this case appears to be refer to achieving a state of personal
One source lists many dozens of verses in the Bible and interprets each.
That author concludes that God abhors nakedness when:
- It is forced upon a person against their will (as when captured as a
- It is associated with a sinful act (as in Pagan worship of a golden
calf or engaging in an orgy or temple prostitution)
- It means that the individual is lacking in basic needs to the extent
that they are unprotected from the harsh elements, without shelter,
food, and clothing 3
But God also used nakedness positively, in order to communicate the
message of some of the Prophets more effectively.
We have been unable to find a passage in the Bible that condemns public
nudity, as in attendance at a naturist resort. There appear to be none which
condemns private nudity. There seem to be a number of passages that mention
nudity in the presence of others as acceptable behavior. There also appears
to be many instances in the history of the Christian Church where public
nudity was a normal activity. We would conclude that naturism is not
disallowed by the Bible, or by church tradition and that Christians should
feel free to investigate naturism freely.
Pope John Paul II, while still a Polish Cardinal wrote: "Nakedness
itself is not immodest... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a
negative role with regard to the value of the person, when its aim is to
arouse concupiscence, as a result of which the person is put in the position
of an object for enjoyment."
- "The Little Flowers of St. Francis", Part I, Chapter
- Thomas of Celano, "The Life of St. Francis."
- Jeff Rockel has written an essay: "The Bible, Society and
Nudity: A study of social nudity from a Biblical and secular
- Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, "Love and Responsibility",
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, New York, NY, (1981) pp. 176, 186, 189ff.
- St. Hippolytus, "Apostolic Constitutions"
- Jeff Rockel, "The Bible, Society and Nudity: A study of social
nudity from a Biblical and secular perspective"