Nakedness is a neutral state of being.
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.
The man and his wife were arowm, but they were not ashamed.Gen. 2:25
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.Gen. 3:7
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…Gen. 9:22
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.
Gym is Naked
In the New Testament, words are written in Greek, rather than Hebrew. 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 ICB
What word was used in the Greek for his lack of clothing? Gymnos, of course!
Context is Key
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.
Ultimately, we look to the teaching of our Rabbi, Y’Shua. He teaches us that sin starts in the heart and grows into action.
Most people throughout history have known that simple nudity is not sinful. Nakedness, like other subjects in the Bible, is actually a neutral state.
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.
Imagine the wrongs that might be righted if the church
rediscovered this truth!