In Mark 10:46-52, we have the story of Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

I've seen some treatments of the story that claim Bartimaeus would have been so poor as to possess nothing but a mat and a cloak, so would have come to Jesus naked. Thus, extra theological meanings are drawn about coming without any works or individual merits, the scandal of free grace etc.

A google image search turns up many inspiring depictions of the event from historical paintings or woodcuts, but none hint at nakedness. But many hardly depict a desperately poor person who's thrown off anything.

What evidence do we have for this? What prominent theologians have made this claim?

  • 1
    This is the first I've heard about this. Just like in today's society if someone were naked on the streets, and only had a blanket (cloak), the first thing that they would be given is clothing.
    – jlaverde
    Oct 14 '13 at 12:38
  • If it helps, I really meant "evidence that this is a view held by other than an unscholarly crank or two."
    – pterandon
    Oct 14 '13 at 20:47

I do not know who else has said this, but one prominent commentator who is of this opinion is the Venerable Bede (672-735), in his commentary on Mark.1 He does not offer historical reasons for why the blind man might have been naked, but presents his nudity in the context of the doctrine of being "born again" in Christ. As you say, this involves casting off the old ways, like taking off ones old clothes (compare Mark 2:21). In imitation of Christ, for which Bede cites John 12:26, we must re-enter the world (metaphorically) naked and vulnerable, knowing that we may face terrible hardships; and we choose to humble ourselves rather than submit to false worldly comforts.

My fairly free translation of the key passage:

Since there are many, who so they may merit the treasure of eternity in heaven, cast off worldly ways and follow naked the gospel of life, it is rightly said of the illumination of the blind man: Who throwing his garment aside, leaped up and came to him. He indeed throws aside his garment and leaps, coming to be illuminated by Christ, who, with the snares of the world discarded, hurries with bold and eager steps to the granter of eternal light. [...] See, how the Lord and creator of the angels, in his taking up and joining with our nature, came in the womb of a virgin. But he did not wish to be born in this world from the wealthy, but chose poor parents.2

Latin nudus may not mean precisely "naked", but at least refers to a condition of vulnerability or destitution. Even if Bartimaeus was not strictly naked, he was at least making a "leap of faith" in throwing his cloak aside: discarding what little comfort he had in order to follow Jesus.

1. In Marci Evangelium Expositio, book 3, chapter 10. In Migne's Patrologia Latina, vol. 92, p238-239.
2. Quia [...] ut plurimi, relictis mundi facultatibus, nudi evangelicam vitam sequerentur, quo aeternum in coelis mererentur habere thesaurum, recte de illuminando caeco subditur: Qui projecto vestimento suo exsiliens venit ad eum. Projecto quippe vestimento exsilit, ut adveniens illuminetur a Christo, qui abiectis mundi retinaculis, expedito mentis gressu ad largitorem aeternae lucis properat. [...] Ecce cum sit Dominus et creator angelorum, suscepturus naturam nostram quam condidit, in uterum virginis venit. Nasci tamen in hoc mundo per divites noluit, parentes pauperes elegit.


Before attempting an answer to your question I went back and spent some time studying the passage in Mark.

Since I find no other passages in the KJV covering the incident I am only able to tell you what I feel concerning it, perhaps someone with a better background in Theology could give you a better answer.

Beggars were not necessarily indigent, but in those days, (before welfare) anyone unable to support themselves were forced to become beggars.

The only indication that he was indigent would be in that he was a beggar. That is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he is called 'the son of" which would indicate that he had family.

While his family may not have been able to support him totally it does not mean that they left him with only a cloak (the outer garment worn over a tunic).

In short I find no evidence to either indicate that he was or was not naked.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.