Sunday, February 04, 2007

Public Nudity in the Bible

I was raised ultra-conservative where boys were not allowed to swim with girls. It was wrong to wear shorts, because you might tempt the opposite sex and you did not want to be stumbling block! Then I read the bible and found passages that confused me.

Gen 2:25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame
In a perfect world before sin, public nudity was practiced and without any shame. If public nudity is a sin, then God created Adam & Eve in a sinful situation before sin existed? While this verse is challenging for a conservative, you use all kinds of twisted logic to explain how it was okay before sin but after sin it became a sin.

Isaiah 20:2 God told Isaiah son of Amoz, "Go, take off your clothes and sandals," and Isaiah did it, going about naked and barefooted.
Many years ago, I had trouble understanding how God could command a prophet to walk around naked for 3 years. If public nudity is a sin, then God just commanded Isaiah to sin for 3 years. This passage along with several others helped open my eyes to the possibility that what I thought was wrong may not be wrong. I began to realize that my value system was largely based on what my parents and other people taught me. The modern American society condemns public nudity, so growing up in that society I learned the value system. A value system that does not align with the bible.

I always assumed that the bible condemned public nudity. But the more I read through the bible the more I found that public nudity was not condemned. The more I studied history, the more I discovered that early Christians were often poor and without clothes! From a biblical and historical perspective I found significant evidence to support that public nudity was not a sin.

I Samuel 19:23 Prophets stripped naked to prophesy
In I Samuel 19:23, the bible says that the Spirit of God was on Saul. He ripped off his clothes and lay before Samuel for a day and a night, stretched out naked. When the people saw it, they were surprised to see Saul among the prophets. This is an important passage because Saul was not always known to be under God's control, but the bible tells us that this action was while he was following God's Spirit. Additionally, the passage implies that the other prophets were naked and that Saul joined them and blended in with them to the point where it amazed the people. Lastly, this action was in front of other people; after all the job of a prophet is to speak to the people on God's behalf.

Job 1:21 Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I'll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed.
Job trusted and followed God. He was so faithful that God allowed him to be tested by Satan. Job viewed nakedness as simply a state that we begin and end life. If God wants to take away our clothes, then so be it. Clothing was a gift; a possession that you may or may not have. In modern American culture clothing is viewed as much more than an optional possession that can be given or taken away.

Matthew 25 Jesus assumed you would see naked people
Public nudity was so common in biblical times that Jesus even referred to it while teaching. Public nudity was often associated with poor people who could not afford clothing. Jesus taught that we should help strangers, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and provide drinks to the thirsty. Jesus did not condemn people for being poor, hungry, thirsty or naked.

Micah 1:8 Micah said he must go barefoot and naked
The prophet Micah also talks about going around barefoot and naked, similar to the prophet Isaiah.

The Bible does not condemn public nudity. On the contrary, there are plenty of versus that appear to indicate that God commanded it several times. Public nudity was common in biblical times and was often associated with the lack of wealth (poor person).

The modern American view on public nudity is not consistent with the bible, which causes problems when people try to read and understand the bible based on a flawed value system. It would be very wrong to assume that public nudity is biblically wrong or a sin. If God commanded a person to go around naked for 3 years in today's society, what would you think? Does your personal value system have room to accept what God teaches in the bible?


At 3/08/2007 10:30 AM, Blogger Marvin Thomas said...

The church that I was a little different. still very conservative. But we did roller skatting once a month. The same church in Cailf would swim togather but not roller skate.
I was in Spain, they have nude beaches, this conservative is mostly in American. We think of God different then most do. I think we need to get in line with the rest of world.
I use to go by the Stan The Man, but changed it last week. I started a new business called Marvin Thomas Photography, do a serch on the BLOG.
Thanks for your thoughts, I am glad I am not the only person that belives in God that has the same thoughts.

At 5/04/2011 4:28 AM, Anonymous Morgan said...

I agree that nudity was common in Biblical times, but I am having trouble finding reference works or research results that prove how people lived then. The anti-nudity folks wiggle around trying to say nudity didn't commonly exist since it is shameful ("proof": Noah in Genesis 9). Can you help?

At 5/05/2011 11:30 PM, Blogger SAM said...

You will never convince someone that is "closed minded" and wants to believe a lie to make them feel better. However, if you look at historic facts, the evidence is really quite clear.

In Ancient Greek/Roman times, the olympic athletes were nude. It was common to lay aside clothing that would slow you down, so you could compete to win the race. Ironically, this laying aside of clothing is referenced in Heb 12:1 in a figurative sense.

In John 21:7, the bible describes that Peter was fishing naked. Many historic paintings show fishermen nude as well as other people who worked out in the fields. It gets very hot in the summer time and clothing would be cast aside to work. Poor people may have only had one outfit to wear, and you wouldn't work in that outfit and ruin it. Do you think a fisherman wanted his clothes to smell like fish? In John 21, Peter had gone back to the life he knew, which was being a fisherman...and that appears to have been done in the nude.

In Song of Solomon 1:6, Solomon's bride asks him not to stare at her for she is dark (tan complexion) from working in the vineyards. People who worked in the fields or vineyards would often strip off their clothes and work nude, which resulted in them getting dark tans. Her body is described several times in detail throughout the book of Song of Songs (Solomon), which includes details that would not have been visible if she were wearing traditional robes. Solomon 6:13 a group of people ask her to "come back, come back, that we may gaze (look) on you."

Take a look at cave paintings, vases and prehistoric artwork and you will find that most images show people in some form of nudity. When so called "Christians" traveled the world, they often found "savages" and "heathens" that were unclothed or partially naked. In cultures that were preserved for thousands of years, we found people working and hunting in the nude or very little clothing. Look at the tribes in Africa, Australia, Asia and the early Americas. There is plenty of historic evidence that early men and women worked in the nude and were more open to social nudity. Even the bible has references to people working and competing nude.

Bras were not invented until the early 1900s (1913 patent) and even then they were not widely accepted by women. The clothing of today is very different than it was a few hundred years ago. Pants as we know them are less than 500 years old, which is not that old when you look at thousands of years. Take a look at the history of clothing and you will begin to understand why some clothes may have been laid aside for sports, playing in rivers, lakes and oceans or working. Before air conditioning, how did people stay cool?

Gen 9 is very interesting, because it also states that Noah was drunk from wine. I wonder if these same anti-nudity folks would condone getting drunk on wine? If Noah was naked in the privacy of his tent, what was the big deal? Is it wrong to be nude in your own bedroom? Noah was naked within his tent and everyone but Noah's family was killed in the flood. This cannot be a verse talking about public nudity, because it takes place inside a tent among family members (who happen to all be men). There appears to be more going on in these verses than mere nudity...but that is another topic.

At 5/21/2012 1:32 AM, Blogger Jarrod Robinson said...

This is an exelent topic to discuss and there are probably a lot of differing opinions on the matter. I respect each of them. All previous contibutors to this blog seem to think that the issue is whether or not the bible condones or doesn't condone public Nudity...oh, and by the way, SAM, those same Anti-Nudity folk probably wouldn't condone getting drunk, but probably do...(sorry, got side tracked)...cultures are different and what one culture accepts and another culture doesn't accept plays a huge role whether we like it or not. You guys have supported your arguments using scripture, however, your opinions on what those passages are saying specifically are weak. There is a difference between being naked or Nude and then wearing an under garment or some covering...for example, it's weak to say that Peter was fishing totally in the nude. It doesn't say that. It says that he was "stripped for work", but that when he saw Jesus, he put on his "Outer" garment. It was likely that Peter had on his "Underwear" (in our cultures lingo) an "Under Garment" while he was fishing. It's interesting, don't you think, that Peter puts on his Outer garment when in the presence of Jesus...there is a bigger issue here...whether you think public nudity shouldn't be a sin or not, our culture...the Western culture does tie Nudity with sex and eroticism...And the issue comes back to our hearts and our minds. As Disciples of Jesus, our goal is to help people have a relationship with God and to have a clear conscience in doing that. So, if that means not exposing yourself more than you should to protect those who may struggle with nudity, then that's what we do respectfully. If you can look at nude people and you don't struggle in the least, fine, but that's NOT the case with most. The issue isn't whether the bible condones or doesn't condone nudity, it's about our hearts...and whether you choose to believe it or admit it, Nudity, unfortunately, triggers our sexual desires and emotions. I wish I had more time to express more of my thoughts...

At 7/07/2012 10:49 PM, Anonymous Alun said...

It was refreshing to come across this blog today. At last some open discussion about what is a very important subject. I am not American, being a UK citizen, but share the views of the original author here. It seems to me virtually self evident that God would find the nude state a natural one. If He didn't then why were we not created already wearing clothes?

I am somewhat concerned by the most recent post. Of course, all opinions are valid but to base them on the idea that because our society leads people to associate nudity with sexuality then we must protect against nudity seems to me to be a deeply flawed argument.

Moving back in history to the time of the reformation the same argument could have been used to reject any action against the sale of indulgences. This was seen by the Church and society at large at that time as a way of "helping people have a relationship with God". Thankfully Martin Luther and his many successors have realized that it is the role of the Christian not to fit the teaching of the Bible into society's views but rather to work to change the views of society to meet the teaching of the Bible.

Unfortunately in many cases today the Churches seek to make the Bible fit the moral understanding of the Victorian age and any scriptures that don't quite fit are reinterpreted.

I too was brought up in a very conservative church and it took me many years before i was able to read the Bible to see what it said and not what I had been told it said.

Many thanks to the original author for the courage to challenge the power of the Church. Let's hear what God says not what the conservative church says.

At 11/09/2012 1:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Jarrod. I believe that the naked human body is not inherently sinful but as what Jarrod pointed out, the issue here is really concerning the hearts and minds of people. After the fall, things changed, the Adam and Eve's innocence was lost and sin affected their hearts and minds. I think it's important to note that Adam and Eve made fig leaves as covering after the fall and God replaced it with a much more permanent and adequate clothing, animal skin. I believe this indicates that God regarded clothing as necessary and appropriate in this fallen world.

And there are several passages in the Bible that nakedness is presented as shameful and degrading. Some examples are Isaiah 47:3, Exodus 20:26, Revelation 3:17, Ezekiel 16:35-36, Luke 8:27.

At 11/17/2012 11:06 PM, Blogger SAM said...

Anonymous referenced Adam and Eve (first husband & wife) as an argument for clothing. Obviously, it is shameful for a husband and wife to be naked and God helped them cover up their bodies so they wouldn't be tempted to look at each other and sin. Right? If you use this passage of scripture as an argument for clothing, then you must conclude that a husband and wife should not look on each other's naked body because it is shameful and should be covered...that is the logical conclusion of your argument. There are no other people around at this point, so the only people they are hiding from is each other (and/or God).

I think shame is tied to sin. Adam and Eve were ashamed of their sin, they were hiding from God because they sinned. God said that when they eat of the tree they would die, so is it possible that their bodies started to show immediate signs of death? Did their skin cells start to die? Was there a physical change in their appearance that they were trying to cover up? Did the sun start to burn and destroy their skin and were their bodies now weaker and in the process of dying (vulnerable to insect bites, cuts and other dangers that did not exist before). Clothes are important, because they protect our bodies from the elements. I'm not suggesting that we all abandon our clothes and run around naked.

If shame is tied to sin and some sins happen while you are naked, then nakedness and shame can be tied together. Sexual sins are shameful, but so are stealing, killing and most other sins. Many of the verses that Anonymous referenced deal with sin, so the idea of shame being tied to them should not be surprising.

I think the question comes down to this: Is nudity (or nakedness) always shameful? If it is not always shameful, then in what conditions does it become shameful? Is it shameful for a husband and wife to be naked together? Obviously, the Anonymous posting above references Adam and Eve covering up and God making it more permanent leading to the conclusion that husband and wives should be clothed around each other; otherwise, it is shameful. But is that really what the bible teaches? And if you believe that nudity is always shameful, then how do you explain God commanding a prophet to go around naked?

At 3/30/2013 7:48 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Gen 3v7 says That Both theirs eyes were opened and they knew they were naked and they made coverings for themselves.
So it was Adam and Eve who decided to cover themselves from each other. No motive is given.
Gen 3v21 says Also for Adam and his wife God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. No reason is given. So let us see what a traditional view says and what the scripture says.
The Traditional view says God could no longer look on man naked as he was (and is) now sinful. The traditional view also says the skins came from animals that came from a sacrifice God had made for their sin.

It stands to reason that God being God can see through all our clothes to our naked bodies and straight to our hearts. So That cannot be the issue. Also we read God found Adam and Eve and was talking to them (while they were still naked) so that further proves that is not the issue. Also if a sacrifice had been made for their sin coverings would not be required as the price would have been paid.

However Gen3v17-19 Tells us that God cursed the ground that Adam was tending that thorns and thistles would grow from it (ever thought how painful it would be to sit on one of these while naked? Ouch!) God gave string animal skin coverings as a means of grace to protect Adam and Eve from the results of the cursed ground.

The only sacrifice good enough to forgive any and every sin is the sacrifice made by The Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. And by the way when He done that He was naked.
The redemption of mankind was achieved by God incarnate while dying naked on the cross in public. is nakedness in and of its self sinful? No! The way society has twisted it to be is!

At 1/20/2014 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how we justify our sins by hand picking certain verses. Man's thoughts, ideas, and assumptions are not important. The truth is what does God have to say about nudity from Genesis to Revelation. Repent you heathen.

At 1/25/2014 9:34 PM, Anonymous Bonnyinvers said...

Nakedness: is a form of humility. It does not cause sin but exposes ours. You have no secrets from anyone when you are naked. If we look at the first mention in the bible we see Adam and Eve become aware of their state after they sin. They were exposed and humiliated. From outside appearances nothing had changed... but something in their heart did. Our nakedness exposes the attitude of our heart.
God does not look on the outside but on the heart.
Prior to sinning Adam and Eve were clothed in God's righteousness which what they lost through their disobedience and Jesus bought back buy gaining for us a Robe of Righteousness and covering us with his blood which covers our unrighteousness and sin.

At 2/05/2014 9:05 PM, Blogger SAM said...

In response to Anonymous on 1/20 - You are the very reason that I write these posts, so I can expose the truth of the bible and the hypocrisy of people like yourself that claim to know the bible, but refuse to actually study the verses from Genesis to Revelation. My posts actually quote multiple verses and if you examine them in context, I believe you will see that God commanded Micah and Isaiah to walk around Naked. Is God capable of asking (commanding) a man to commit sin? How can you ignore these passages in the bible and claim that public nudity is a sin and makes a person a heathen? Does that mean Isaiah and Micah were heathen's and that God commanded them to be a heathen? I am truly sorry that you are not open to the truth and would rather judge and call me names.

At 2/08/2014 10:13 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

We are naked right now I think is the point in Genesis. Prophets stripping 'bare' or people being so poor as nto to be able to afford clotehrs (many people only had one set of clothes for many many years)...does not justify going nude but in private places if one so desires, but be advised, others in such settings are unlikely to be of the same Christ mind set as ourselves which doesn't set a good example. We are still naked until clothed in Righteousness in Christ is the point all along..covering themselves to hide their shame. Going naked would be an outward statement that one is perfect and has no shame yet when we are redeemed we are to be of respectful nature. It would seem to me that a result of original sin, that is the message and the case for those who Believe. But we no longer need to be ashamed in front of our Heavenly Father as long as we remain in the Vine.

At 8/25/2014 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

White folks risk sunburning and skin cancer from excessive sun exposure. More than a slight tan indicates skin damage.
People who have no qualms about public nakedness wear clothes for protection and hygiene. Would you want to plop your bare breech on a bus seat that another bare bottom had just been sitting on?


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