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With Christianity, especially in African countries, came being properly dressed. It is said that people were walking around naked before the arrival of Christian missionaries.

On the other hand, there is Rev. Allen Parker of White Tail Chapel who does his preaching only in the buff.

Both refer to their belief to justify their means. Is there a part of the bible that backs either one up (nudity vs clothed)?

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  • One doesn't need the bible for this. Common decency tells us what to do. 'Doth not even nature teach .... ?' 1 Corinthians 11:14.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 17, 2021 at 16:51
  • Related Question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/86930/…
    – Jess
    Dec 17, 2021 at 22:15
  • Also, in the founding of America the natives were often described in the days of Columbus as naked and without shame. Also, when the pilgrims from the Mayflower arrived they described the natives in terms of how: "the men and women go about naked, only a skin about their middles." (Edward Winslow) How much of skin they wore is a good question to explore in the history section of stackexchange.
    – Jess
    Dec 18, 2021 at 1:08

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Nudity in Christianity?

In general, the vast majority of Christians being properly dressed is closely linked to the virtue of modesty.

Here follows a modern Catholic definition of the word modesty, something many Christians would think Rev. Allen Parker of White Tail Chapel lacks.

Modesty

The virtue that moderates all the internal and external movements and appearance of a person according to his or her endowments, possessions, and station in life. Four virtues are commonly included under modesty: humility, studiousness, and two kinds of external modesty, namely in dress and general behavior.

Humility is the ground of modesty in that it curbs the inordinate desire for personal excellence and inclines one to recognize his or her own worth in its true light. Studiousness moderates the desire and pursuit of truth in accordance with faith and right reason. Its contrary vices are curiosity, which is an excessive desire for knowledge, and negligence, which is remissness in acquiring the knowledge that should be had for one's age and position in life. Modesty in dress and bodily adornments inclines a person to avoid not only whatever is offensive to others but whatever is not necessary. Modesty in bodily behavior directs a person to observe proper decorum in bodily movements, according to the dictum of St. Augustine, "In all your movements let nothing be evident that would offend the eyes of another." (Etym. Latin modestia, moderation, modesty.)

There are many passages in Scriptures the deal with nudity in a general sense, as the following can be seen:

  • And the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. - 1 Corinthians 12:23
  • You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. - Leviticus 18:17
  • Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. - Genesis 9:23
  • And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it. - Exodus 20:26

In Scriptures, Peter is described as fishing naked (John 21:7). This is a poor English translation. The Greek text tells us that Peter had taken off his outer garment, which was lying in the boat. It is not practical to work with a cast net and pull a net up from the water, if you wear a heavy coat with long sleeves. So, the gymnos here does not mean "naked", but wearing only the undergarment, his work clothes. Because the outer garment had long sleeves, he could use those sleeves instead of a belt to pull up the inner garment and tie the waist with those sleeves.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew we see that to clothe the naked is what some Christians now call one of the corporal works of mercy.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Matthew 25:35-40

Here is one site where you can read a 100 Bible verses about nudity.

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    You wrote "Modesty in dress and bodily adornments inclines a person to avoid (...) whatever is not necessary." Wearing a swimsuit is not necessary for swimming. In a hot climate, it is not necessary to wear garment. Whereas modesty inclines a person to wear warm clothes in the winter. Therefore, modesty inclines a person to dress for the occasion, not for "decency".
    – Alex
    Dec 17, 2021 at 18:05
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    Can't "uncover nakedness" be a euphemism for more than that? Jan 4, 2022 at 1:55
  • @Alex - the part of that quote you've skipped is important too, about avoiding what is offensive in terms of dress. If no one at that church finds that nudity offensive, is it immodest by the definition given? Jul 20, 2022 at 9:03
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This is a very thought provoking question! It reminds me of the story of how C.S. Lewis was fond of swimming at a male-only nude bathing area called Parson’s Pleasure. The Parson's Pleasure was traditionally frequented by dons, including C. S. Lewis, and now forms part of the folklore of the University. Lewis praised it as a place that dispenses with "the tiresome convention of a bathing costume."

The story goes that those who frequented the spot told a story of how at one time a number of dons were skinny-sunbathing when some students (possibly female) passed by. Most of the startled dons put towels around their waists, but one placed a towel over his head instead. When asked why he had done that, he replied, “Oh, well my students know me by my face.”

C.S. Lewis shared some thoughts on this issue in his Mere Christianity book (p. 94):

The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle.  Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes.  A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally 'modest', proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies:  and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste).

Lewis adds:



When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity.

So what Lewis is arguing is that it essentially all depends on a specific context that it occurs in. The key question to ponder is whether the action of doing so in front of others comes across as a form of harassment and/or does it come across as seductive to the point of creating a great deal of sexual temptation?

Followers of C.S. Lewis might recall how in chapter 15 of his book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the Sea People are described as not wearing any clothes other than coronets of some kind and chains of pearls.

In other words, if Lewis were still around today, he may not have been so surprised by how there is a Church of England Anglican Bishop, Karen Gorham in good standing, who is an advocate for both men and women being at liberty to be textile optional in certain recreational situations. See here.

In early Christian art there appears to have been no moral qualms about displaying believers without much clothing. For example, see this harvest crushing of the grapes scene.

enter image description here

The two common proof texts that are used in the debate, to argue against an adiaphora approach to the wearing of textiles, are subject to a lot equivocation in their meaning.

One text that might apply is 1 Timothy 2:9 where it states, "I also want women to dress modestly,..." However, the context is that of being overly ostentatious in how one dresses. Hence, the phrase "Not with breaded hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes."

Than there is Leviticus 18:7. Here it is helpful to read the literal translation that the N.E.T. provides:

Leviticus 18:7 "You must not expose your father’s nakedness by having sexual intercourse with your mother. She is your mother; you must not have intercourse with her.

Leviticus 18:10 "You must not expose the nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter by having sexual intercourse with them, because they are your own nakedness." (N.E.T.)

Another proof text commonly used is Genesis 9:23. However, that passage is most likely conveying a euphemism for having an erection. The sons got into trouble by not covering their father while in such a state.

While living in Egypt the Israelites would have been used to a lack of clothing being part of their servant culture. This picture of Egyptian beer making is an illustration of such lack of attire.

enter image description here

One might argue that nudism is ok, but only if it takes place with people of the same sex - e.g. at gyms, saunas, the doctor's office, etc. However, the problem with that argument is that there is a reality that a large percentage (15% or more) of people in a given population has an attraction toward the same sex.

In John 21:7, Peter is described as fishing “naked.” (KJV, NRSV, etc. translations). While some translations differ, the most natural literal translation of the text is, “He wrapped/girded his outer garment around himself, for he was naked.”

The reason to take it as literal runs like this. Γυμνός (Gymnos) in ancient and modern greek primarily is understood as “naked”, because that is how athletes appeared while working out. That’s the milieu of Ephesus that the author of the passage, John, is writing to.

To be sure, some argue that John’s use of the Greek word γυμνός (gumnos, usually translated “naked”) does not have to refer to complete nudity (as it most often does), since this would have been offensive to Jewish sensibilities in this historical context. (Note, this is the presupposition that Fred Danker in his Lexicon works with.) However, this begs the question.

Evidence that being naked was a common practice in fishing can be see in this painting, which goes back to early Roman times and depicts an area close to the events in the Bible:

enter image description here

A great deal of early Church art shows baptism being done in the nude. This is consistent with how gender inclusive bathing areas were normative through out the first century empire.

Rev. Allen Parker of the White Tail Chapel appears to be searching for his own Golden Age to appear on this earth. But, due to the fallen nature of humanity and the problem of lust, it will likely never grow in popularity. But one must not be too judgmental on that point. Still, there is a reason why even non Christians are no longer pushing to go textile free in San Francisco, Venice beach, etc. For most people, who are easily tempted, it’s probably not a good idea.

It is interesting how the 16th century close friend of Martin Luther, Lucas Cranach liked to paint naked people - complete with Wittenberg in the background and a living water motif.

Luther evidently, didn't see any Biblical reason why naked people couldn't be seen in paintings. Although, I am not sure about what he thought about those modeling for Cranach while in the buff.

See the following pictures by Cranach. The second one by Cranach is allegorical of the power of love and the resurrection to come. The men have already gone in out of the water on the right side, awaiting the ladies restoration to youth and the feast to come.

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    In the Bible, Peter is described as fishing naked (John 21:7). This is a poor English translation. The Greek text tells us that Peter had taken off his outer garment, which was lying in the boat. It is not practical to work with a cast net and pull a net up from the water, if you wear a heavy coat with long sleeves. So, the gymnos here does not mean "naked", but wearing only the undergarment, his work clothes. Because the outer garment had long sleeves, he could use those sleeves instead of a belt to pull up the inner garment and tie the waist with those sleeves.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 18, 2021 at 7:40
  • Thanks I added some additional comments.
    – Jess
    Dec 18, 2021 at 16:05
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    This 2005 JBL journal article makes the case that Ham's sin is a lot more serious than simple exposure: maternal incest(!) which explains the severity of Noah's reaction: the curse of Canaan. Jan 5, 2022 at 6:09
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We are not the same humans we were before the fall of man. (Genesis 3:1-6). The moment the fall came we saw our nakedness. Our nakedness is reference to our sin nature. Sin results in lustful thought, actions, and feeling. This would be a direct stumble to your brother and sister in church and God warns of this. (Genesis 14:15)

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    – agarza
    Jan 3, 2022 at 16:11
  • @samson ayeni, I'm wondering if you have this in mind, in part. There are several verses in the Bible where wearing various items is associated with salvation, and nakedness is associated with being lost. They suddenly discovered they were naked immediately after their first sin, and found themselves in need or reparation. Elements of the fall of man reads like an allegory.
    – DDover
    Jan 4, 2022 at 6:20

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