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

In the Beginning

Nothing could have prepared me for the conversation that would take place in my living room on that October day. It started like any other Friday. My husband works from home on Fridays, so they are generally very laid back. I had been watching a baking show on Netflix and was on the last episode and wanted to finish the season so I grabbed my coffee and sat down on the couch to watch. My hubby made me french toast that morning. It was very thoughtful of him, but looking back, he was probably buttering me up a bit. When he was done with breakfast he sat down on the love seat and “watched” with me. I do recall him being on his phone more than watching though.

When the show was over I started to get up, that’s when it happened. “We need to talk.” he said. My first thought was, “Oh dang!” I sat back down and got comfortable. As stated, I sensed this was going to be a doozy, and I wasn’t wrong.

He took his phone and started reading a script he had prepared ahead of time. The first few sentences out of his mouth had me wondering if he had had an affair. They went something like, “We’ve loved each other a long time. You’re the only one for me.” I sensed a HUGE “but” coming.  Then it came. “I’m a nudist.” First thoughts on that phrase, “Duh.” I had known for a long time that he enjoyed being nude. I knew that as a teenager he would streak around his house and sometimes he and his friends would hang out nude. I knew that when the kids were not home he liked being nude and sometimes I would join him. I knew he liked skinny dipping. I knew that when we had gone camping just a few months earlier that he had been nude 95% of the time. I knew all of this about him so why did this feel like a big deal? There had to be more… and there was. 

He revealed to me that he was part of an online community of Christian naturists (oxymoron in my book).

I started to feel anger rise up in me. “What does that even mean?,” I asked. He explained that he had become friends with other people who happened to enjoy being nude and who happened to be Christians. He told me that they were actually praying for us at that very moment because they knew he was going to be talking with me that morning. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I kind of felt ganged up on.

I knew he had struggled with pornography in the past, but this was taking it to a whole new level. Justifying seeing naked people because they are Christian naturists. It’s just taking something that is obviously wrong and twisting it so you feel like it’s ok.

I was livid! The tears began to flow because that’s what I do when I’m angry and hurt. He assured me it wasn’t like that, and that it was actually the total opposite. He reminded me how he had struggled with porn for the last 20 years and had tried over and over to defeat it. I knew that, because he had been honest with me about it several times. He went on to say that he had hit rock bottom and in his climb out of the pit he came across naturism. It wasn’t the first time he had crossed paths with naturism, but because of things we were taught in church and in a Christian upbringing he had dismissed it thinking it had to be wrong. He had met a man, a former pastor actually, who had directed him to a website, www.nakedandunashamed.org. Because of this man, and others, and ultimately the Lord working in his heart and mind, the chains of pornography had fallen away. His mind had been renewed and he no longer looked at other women lustfully, but as image bearers of God. He now saw others through eyes of admiration for a Creator instead of eyes of lust. I wasn’t convinced, but I sensed something inside me telling me to remain calm and hear him out. I know that voice, I’ve heard it before. It was the Holy Spirit, so I listened. 

He went on to share with me his thoughts that maybe naturism could help me overcome my own body shaming issues.

He told me of a lady in his online community that had just joined their group to catch her husband cheating and ended up becoming a naturist herself after reading all of the Christian evidence for the naturist lifestyle. He thought maybe I could do the same. Never in a million years

He gave me 3 options to think on. Now that I had this information, here were my choices:

  1. Forbid him from being in the group. He hoped I wouldn’t choose this option.
  2. Allow him to be a naturist and participate in the group, but not participate myself. He also said this would not be ideal.
  3. Check it out for myself, and hopefully join him in naturism. 

I told him several times that I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place because I didn’t really feel like I had options. 

I couldn’t choose option #1 because that would be like spitting in the face of the fact that he had had a supposed lasting victory over pornography. I couldn’t choose option #2 because I didn’t want him seeing a bunch of naked ladies without me knowing what he was seeing and doing. I didn’t trust him again yet. If I wanted to stay married to him my only option was #3. I contemplated whether I did want to stay married or not. Even though I knew #3 was my only option for a happy and healthy marriage, I wasn’t sure I could make this work or wanted to. We could lose everything after all. If anyone were to find out, our lives would be ruined. After listening to his prepared speech, I hugged him and thanked him for being honest with me. As angry as I was I knew it took balls to share and confess what he had.

As usual on our Fridays, we decided to go to lunch. As we sat and ate, mostly in silence, I began to think of questions I wanted to ask. They weren’t questions for the middle of a restaurant so I waited until we got in the car. I asked if he had shared pictures of himself in this group. He said very matter of factly that he had. Again anger raised its ugly head, but I get quiet when I’m angry. We decided to go for ice cream. Maybe it would help cool me down. On the way home I was hit with what I later started calling a wave of anger and threw my ice cream out the window. We again sat in silence.

The first several days were an emotional roller coaster. The more we talked, the more he revealed his heart and his past. There were hard questions and hard answers. These were hard things. Harder than I could have imagined, but the more he shared the more God broke my heart and opened it to this wounded, yet healed man. I could tell he was different. His spirit felt different. He prayed with me and for me and even cried for me to be free of the scales over my eyes. There was a lot of spiritual warfare going on. Voices in my head continuously threatened me with phrases like, “You’ll never be enough!” and “He’s lying to you.” or  “You’re still fat.” and “You thought you could actually do this? You’ll never be free!” On several occasions I would feel a weight on my chest like I couldn’t breathe. I prayed so much!  

We read so many things together. One of the resources we came across a website called www.mychainsaregone.org. We read the Bible. The more I read, the angrier I got, but not at my husband. I was angry at the enemy, and his deception, and the lies. I began to feel myself leaning into this lifestyle. I couldn’t share that with him though, because I was afraid he would push me too hard. Besides, I still hated how I looked. There was no way I was going to let anyone see me naked. I might be nude while camping next time, but no way social nudity was part of this for me. Finally I asked to see his groups and some friends he had made and messages of praying for us.

“Could it be real that these people aren’t perverts?” I definitely hadn’t seen anything perverted within his group. 

He gave me an assignment of standing in front of the mirror naked and saying outloud to myself, “I am beautiful.” I laughed when he gave me this assignment telling him there was no way I was going to do that. I did though. I sent him a picture the first day with the words “I am beautiful” written on it. He said, “Nice picture, but I don’t believe you.” He was right, I didn’t believe it. I was just trying to end this silly game! I didn’t do it the next day because I thought this assignment was stupid. I did day 3 and then, on day 4 I looked at myself and said, “I am beautiful, I am beautiful.” and it was like a veil was lifted from my eyes. I physically felt it. I got this smirk on my face and thought, “Oh crap, he’s right, I AM beautiful!”  For the first time since I can remember, I actually thought I was beautiful… extra pounds and stretch marks and dimples and all. I took another picture that day and sent it to him. This time he said right away that he could tell I actually believed it. 

The next night I did something I never thought I would do and only days before I had said never in a million years. I joined that group and told of the transformation that had happened in my mind and heart in only a matter of days. October 18th was the day we began the worst conversation that turned into the best conversation. October 24th was the day I became a naturist by Biblical conviction. Oh, and a week after I threw my ice cream out the window we went back and got some more and laughed and enjoyed the healing that was taking place.