What does nakedness mean?

Words have meaning. And as such, much of our communication can become an exercise in semantics if we cannot agree on the definitions of the words being used.

Classical languages use different words to communicate nuance where English only uses one word to express a host of different ideas. I think of the word “love.” In Greek there were four words for love:

  • Philia – a love found in strong friendships
  • Eros – an erotic love of passion and intimacy
  • Storge – a love found in family relationships
  • Agape – a type of selfless, unconditional love

In English we use the same word to cover the gamut of feelings from “I love my wife”  to “I love frozen yogurt.” I sure hope my love for my wife is stronger and different than my love for froyo! Do you begin to see the potential confusion over words that are identical in every way except for context?

So it is with nudity and nakedness. Watch this video to see what I mean. The video text will be printed after.

The word naked is usually used as a descriptive adjective. 

One might think of a naked mole rat, which describes a pink, nearly hairless rodent, or the “naked” truth, which is a way of saying that the information shared is unvarnished or without ornamentation. Simply put, we usually think of naked as meaning “without a covering.”

What does the term “nakedness” mean in the Bible?

Most of the passages that speak to nakedness are found in the Old Testament. As such, it is from within the Old Testament pages that most Bible teachers today draw their conclusions about what God thinks about nakedness.

If we really want to know what God’s perspective is towards nudity, it stands to reason that we must correctly understand the words from the Bible and their meanings.

There are three individual words for nakedness in the Old Testament: arowm, eyrom and ervah.

In Genesis 2:25, we are first introduced to arowm, which means “simple and innocent nakedness.” 

“The man and his wife were arowm, but they were not ashamed.”

Later, in Genesis 3:7, after the Fall, the word eyrom for “vulnerable nakedness, with a sense of being exposed to harm” is used. 

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were eyrom; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”

And finally, after the global flood, in Genesis 9:22 we are exposed to a new word for “active sexual nakedness,” ervah

“And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the ervah of his father…”

All three of these variants have their basis in the same root Hebrew word, but their biblical usage indicates different shades of meaning. Sadly, in our common language translations, we generally just get one word, “naked,” which, understandably, has led many to develop wrong thoughts on what nakedness is all about!

God never calls arowm or eyrom shameful. There is no Scripture in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not be naked” or “Nakedness is sinful.” In fact, He used naked circumcision as a visible sign of His Covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

Ervah, on the other hand, is where we see sin joined with nakedness and shame. If what a person was doing in a situation was sinful, or could be the cause of sin, it was ervah

In the New Testament, the word for naked is gymnos. It means “bare, without clothing” and is the root of the word, “gymnasium.” The gym was a place to exercise in a state of nudity. 

Hebrews 4:13 reminds us that in God’s eyes, “No creature is hidden, but all are gymnos…

Many “grown-up” translations try to “cover up” simple nudity in the Bible, such as when the Apostle Peter was naked and fishing, but interestingly, the International Children’s Bible gets it right!

“…he wrapped his coat around himself. (Peter had taken his clothes off.) Then he jumped into the water.” See John 21:3-7.

What word was used in the Greek for his lack of clothing? Gymnos, of course!

Like ervah above, there are two instances in the New Testament where shame added to nudity produces a negative situation. The greek word aschēmosýnē is used for specific situations when nudity is inappropriately sexual or used to shame. 

In Romans 1:27, this word is used to describe unnatural sexual activity, and in Revelation 16:15, it is used to implicate the consequences of laziness. 

Ultimately, we look to the teaching of our Rabbi, Y’Shua, who teaches us that sin starts in the heart and grows into action. 

Nakedness, like other subjects in the Bible, is actually a neutral state. Most people throughout history have known that simple nudity is not sinful. Yet, if we hold faulty definitions, our thoughts, our actions, and our discipleship journey with other believers in the Body of Christ will be affected. 

It is wonderful that, as New Covenant believers, we have the ability to focus our hearts on Jesus and experience the innocent, pure nakedness of the Garden.

What wrongs might be righted if the church rediscovered this truth?

See also the presentation at https://renude.life/what-is-naked/


[H6174] (ex. Gen. 2:25, 1 Sam 19:24, Job 1:21) — arowm

[H5903] (ex. Gen. 3:7 & 10, Deut. 28:48, Eze. 18:7) – eyrom

[H6172] (ex. Gen. 9:22, Exo. 28:42, Lev. 18:6) – ervah

[G1131] (ex. John 21:7, Heb 4:13) — gymnos

[G808] – ashchemosyne

Noah and the Curse

Does the story of Noah and Ham justify racism and slavery? Many used to think it did. Does it support the prudish view that you are not to see another person naked? Many today think it does. Upon closer examination, however, it does neither.

It comes down, like so many other objections, to simple Hebrew euphemisms. Watch the short video to see the explanation:

A perspective of Michael Heiser’s that I would agree with comes from his “The Naked Bible Podcast” (I love the name, and it’s not even a naturist podcast!) Here is a downloadable transcript. This great episode about this oft misunderstood passage rehashes the scholarly work of Bergsma and Hahn found here.

What IS clear is that there is something way beyond simple nudity at play here. And yet, this remains one of the most common objections of all against the practice of non-sexual social nudity. There’s not much else to say about this that is not covered already by the video or the podcast link.

One other resource that would be beneficial to anyone who brings this story up against Christian naturists would be “Who Said You Were Naked?” by David L. Hatton. While it does not bring up this story, it is a clarion call to those who have had those knee-jerk reactions like this of body shame and porno/prudery in their theological framework to think more deeply and be more body friendly like the God who created us is.

On page 192 he says:

When Gnostic prudery’s enchantment is broken, a mental veil is lifted. The blind legalism of deceptively “opened” eyes is replaced by a human-friendly vision of our incarnate nature. Body shame insulated us from a proper perception of ourselves. Body acceptance mentally restores not only a human-friendly attitude about our embodiment, but a Creator-honoring perspective on His handiwork.

A variety of resources and evidences confirms this awareness. One is a careful, thoughtful review of Scripture itself, but only when done with the culture-tinted spectacles of prudery removed. Then we will see that, unlike today, those in Bible times were familiar with routines that made occasional nudity a normal part of life. A human-friendly rereading of the Bible can also show us how God uses our physical sexuality to symbolize His divine plan for human salvation and how our bodies visually reflect certain divine attributes or convey divine message about Himself.

I agree with Hatton, not only on these points, but also the conviction he has written about– that once you know the truth, you must speak the truth as a way of making restitution for the wrong and harmful interpretations the church has historically baptized as gospel.

See all posts and videos in the “Objections” series here.

Leviticus says what???

My friend Jason (if you read the comfortablist blog, you know about Jason) has been helping me with this project since I put out the first “Objections” video. In fact, this video is a remake of the first one released. We have tweaked the content a bit and upgraded the voiceover. Instead of an artificial intelligence narration, we have hired a professional. Some generous naturist friends have contributed to help pay for these services. Jason and I do the writing and video editing pro-bono. If you would like to contribute towards our plans for at least 10 of such videos, let me know on the contact page and I will email you a way to help out. Each narration costs about $50-75, and we are finding unique voices for each video. Of course, there’s no pressure. We want to keep all our content free to view!

We are looking forward to putting out a new video as time allows, and hoping they will be shared far and wide. We especially hope that some of the videos get shared and seen outside of the naturist community to help stretch the thinking among our textile oriented friends. In case you missed the first video with a professional voiceover, you can watch “False Modesty” here.

The following objection and argument is an easy one. We will be delving into more difficult objections soon. However, that said, many opponents of Christian nudism (they may not even know the term “naturism”) will use Leviticus against us. As stated, the defense is easy, but it often doesn’t matter, if you are set in your ways. It would most likely take more than this video to convince anyone of a better way, but it’s such a common argument, that we must address it with an honest approach.

There can be achieved a chaste nakedness. Simple nudity is simply not prohibited…

Thanks for reading, watching, and sharing. Stay tuned for more exciting installments on this series of common objections to Christian naturism answered.

See all “Objections” series blogs and videos here.

Christians and Nakedness (a poem)

We often quote and make references to David L. Hatton on this blog. His writings have helped and challenged us both in many ways.

Today, we will feature a wonderful poem of his with added visual elements. I have produced this video with David’s permission with the hopes that it blesses those who see it and would agree with its powerful message, and challenge those who may be startled by its assertions.

To that end, if you would want to share this video with others, please do so! Copy and paste this link where you would like:

https://youtu.be/-t5eCWtnsds

A printable PDF file of “Christians and Nakedness” is available here via David L. Hatton.

CHRISTIANS AND NAKEDNESS

Today we are not used to the body when it’s bare,
The skin beyond our face and arms beneath the clothes we wear.
Untaught to see its beauty, we’ve learned to label “lewd”
The “birthday suit” we started with, which God created nude.

It’s true we make exceptions for toddlers full of glee
Who run around in pure delight, stark naked, clothing-free.
But those who rediscover this liberty so clean
Are called, when they come back to it, “perverted and obscene.”

Yet artists, who observe it in models posed unclad,
Acknowledge how the human form is beautiful! Not bad!
When health-care workers view it, no decency is gone.
A patient’s dignity remains when seen with nothing on.

It’s found by missionaries, to naked peoples sent,
That “porn” invades a culture’s land to which “our clothing” went.
It’s known by skinny-dippers who bathe in sea and sun
That recreation in the buff is simply healthy fun.

The church has failed her duty to guard and to proclaim
That God’s own image in our flesh is free from body-shame.
Instead, the naked body is marketed for lust,
Relinquished into sordid hands by pulpits breaking trust.

Are human bodies “sinful” without their textile wraps?
Must children have to look for them in pornographic traps?
Can’t we who praise our Maker sustain our hungry youth
Whose natural curiosity God meant to feast on truth?

False modesty is shameful! It sends the lovely breast
Into a realm of carnal thoughts when mothers nurse undressed.
It bans the Sistine Chapel, where nudes are plainly shown,
And censures Michelangelo for sculpting them in stone.

We’ve grown quite unaccustomed to normal nudity.
We even hide ourselves at home from friends and family.
Some people hate their bodies, despising God’s design,
Embarrassed if they must disrobe and let His glory shine.

Yet most of our ancestors all bathed in open air.
They lived and dressed in one-room homes and saw each other bare.
We trim for sports and work-outs. Greek athletes did so stripped!
And Christians went to Roman baths with just their towels equipped!

The ancients often labored like Peter, in the nude.
When prophets preached without a stitch, nobody called it “Rude!”
The early church’s converts were naked when baptized.
Though Bible scholars know these facts, they’re never advertized!

Have we made better progress in our morality
By pushing man-contrived taboos on human nudity?
Did God create His likeness to foster sinful lust?
Do we confirm the Serpent’s scheme for souls God sheathed in dust?

If we could just recapture the ancient attitude
That saw no scandal in a field of gardeners working nude,
If we more often witnessed God’s image on display,
We might regain a wholesome view of nakedness today.

— David L. Hatton, 5/23/2005

Have you no shame?

Let me use this meme from our ever-growing memes page as a springboard for today’s post.

Have you no shame?

Why would I want any?

I absolutely love that attitude and believe it to be the godly response to an ungodly question. What really is a shame is that we as a society ask such questions and think this way. We’ve equated a portion of the image of God in us (the body) with the feeling caused by our wrongdoing. Allow me to try to explain a bit better…

It sounds a whole lot like the scene way back in Genesis with our first ancestors in Adam and Eve. Shame is not of God. However, it shows up on the scene fairly early in the human narrative. Let’s examine this phenomenon.

God utilized the refrain “it is good” after creating something, but after creating both the male and female form in his image, he says “it is very good” in Genesis 1:31. They are the crowning glory of creation and were so in the unclothed state in which we are born and the same state in which we shall depart this life (see Job 1:21).

Genesis 2:25 states that Adam and Eve were naked and without shame. In fact, shame did not exist at this time, neither did the concept of clothing, or the word “naked” when you think about it.

The crafty serpent convinces both Eve and Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and their eyes were open to a whole new world. 

When a child does something strictly forbidden by their parent, what is the first thing they do? They want to hide the evidence, cover up the infraction, bury their face in their hands. Not much has changed.

Adam and Eve miss their regularly scheduled walk with God, so God calls out to them. They are hiding (Gen. 3:8-10). In my “Personal Manifesto of a Christian Naturist” point #11, I maintain that they covered themselves out of fear, not shame. The editor of fig leaf forum argued this point with a critic:

There we have it—right from the mouth of Adam. It wasn’t shame at all.
It was fear. They realized that they were vulnerable, open,
unprotected—and guilty—so they ‘covered’ themselves and hid. They were
attempting to cover and hide themselves from what and whom they feared
(Genesis 2.17; Genesis 3.9-10). I believe Scripture categorically
states within these passages that fear is what was motivating Adam and
Eve after their fall, not shame.

The text could easily have had Adam saying, “I was ashamed because I
was naked, so I hid.” Then my critic would have some ground to stand
on. But it doesn’t say that. The Hebrew word that is translated
“shame” in Genesis 2.25 occurs 114 times in the Old Testament, yet
it’s not used again to indicate shame until Judges 3.25! The text says
that Adam was “afraid.” The Hebrew word translated “afraid” in Genesis
3.10 occurs 192 more times in the Old Testament. Not once is it ever
translated as any word even remotely close to meaning “shame.”

Genesis 3.21 does indeed tell us that God clothed Adam and Eve with
“garments of skin.” Again, my critic seems to insinuate that mankind’s
shame was the motivation behind this action. If we are to rely
strictly upon what is actually revealed by Scripture in our search for
understanding, and not on tradition or presumption or speculation,
then I must conclude that there is no evidence that Adam and Eve were
ever ashamed of their nakedness. Not before the fall. Not after the
fall. Rather, they were fearful because they were naked. Are we then
to assume that God covered them because He was ashamed of their
nakedness? I don’t see how Scripture would support this possibility
either. Only two chapters earlier, in Genesis 1.31, “God saw all that
he had made, and it was very good.” Scripture says “all”—including the
naked man and the naked woman.

Humans are the only creatures that cover up. My dog may hide if he understands that I am displeased with him. My kids? Well, as a parent, I am more pleased by the better response of my kids owning up to their mistakes than hiding or trying to cover it up. There is something about being uncovered and laid bare before the one to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13), because after all, nothing is ever hidden from God’s sight. It’s always better to be open and vulnerable, not just in the outer garments, but also in the inner spirit (which is of great worth in God’s sight – 1 Peter 3:4).

An example is from church history of genuine and complete openness devoid of shame would be in regards to baptism. Dr. Michael Wilson writes: In the first four centuries of the Church many of our Christian forbears found no contradiction whatsoever between nakedness at worship, and holiness. Rather, they found deep theological significance in nakedness at baptismal rites. These were not private occasions. Baptismal candidates found themselves ‘naked in the sight of all, and unashamed,’ as Cyril of Alexandria reminds his flock.1

Our experience at naturist parks and nude beaches is that shame is practically absent. What’s often in its place is an innocent joy. In this regard, it’s really quite different than the public pool or a “textile” beach. This is one of the parts of the lifestyle that I love so much! We can be naked and unashamed and full of joy and life. It’s almost as if it’s the way we were created! In a fallen world, can we restore the innocence of Eden? Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

We hold on to that promise, knowing that we too are being made new. The sins we commit in the body are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Jesus bore our guilt and our shame and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). We can live free in the knowledge and experience of close relationship with the God of Eden, without the need to hide a thing.

Are there verses that equate nakedness with shame? I would say no, but others who only look on the surface, would say yes. However, upon closer examination, taking the verses in context, you will discover that there is always something else at play that is causing the shame other than the simple state of nakedness. (Read this article from nakedandunashamed.org about each of these verses.)

Much can be said on this subject, and semantics do play a part. However, the subtle distinction between fear and shame, hiding from nakedness or because of wrongdoing is an important one. David L. Hatton puts this whole scene from the fall in such beautiful poetic form:

ORIGIN OF BODY SHAME

Dressed up as a serpent in crafty disguise,
A demon attempted, by using his lies,
To blot out the beautiful image that God
Had made of Himself out of hand-woven sod.

As naked as truth from the day of their birth,
And destined by God to be rulers of earth,
Both Adam and Eve were alive by God’s breath,
But Satan used knowledge to put them to death.

The serpentine liar pretended to heal
Their blind faith in God for what’s moral and real.
His trick by that Gnostic fruit opened their eyes,
Remaking their minds independently wise.

“You see for yourself, God left both of you nude!
Your unhidden bodies are shamefully lewd!”
Our first parents listened to what Satan said,
For now their life-bond to the Maker was dead.

The diet of conscience controls how it guides,
Which sins it allows, or what goodness it hides.
So, God found and asked them, with leaves round their waist,
“Who said you were naked? What fruit did you taste?”

Some call it God’s will to keep chewing that fruit,
Embracing its scruples in zealous pursuit,
Maligning His gift of our wonderful skin
By calling the sight of its nudity sin.

But others discover a godlier view,
Rejecting this prudery’s body taboo,
Resisting the porn that is wedded to shame
Passed on from the devil’s original claim.

These temples are sacred, not sordid, unclean.
If you would be holy, don’t call them obscene.
Our hearts can be dirty, or lustful and bad,
But bodies are closest to truth when unclad.

— David L. Hatton, 1/23/2009from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection ©2013 by David L. Hatton (www.pastordavidrn.com)

_____________________

1 Margaret R Miles, Carnal Knowing – Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian West. (Boston: Beacon Press. 1989) p 33