There are two extremes when it comes to Christians viewing nudity. One extreme says it is ok for all ages and all people to be naked at all times. The other extreme says that nudity is forbidden except in the case of parents with caring for children, adult children caring for parents, medical attention and of course marriage.
In this page I will present Biblical evidence for why I believe it is not always wrong for a Christian to view nudity. But let me be clear though, that this paper is not a defense of Christian nudism. The Bible says:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”.
Shouldn’t we wear clothes so we won’t cause others to lust?
For most Christians the issue of lust would be the first concern with people being unclothed in front of strangers. They say that if everyone walked around naked then we would constantly be lusting after each other and the Bible clearly condemns lust.
Here is a great article about what Biblical lust is:
In summary, Biblical lust is not simply being turned on by viewing a person’s body, whether fully clothed, partially clothed or completely nude. It is not even having a sexual fantasy or dream about that person. Biblical lust, is covetousness. To lust after someone, is to covet them, to fantasize about how you can possess that person.
There are two main Biblical passages that talk about lusting after someone (yes there are only two) and each one deals with a different kind of lust.
Lusting after a single woman
“I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”
This passage from Job describes the first type of Biblical lust, which is lusting after a single woman. This is talking about a man looking at an unmarried woman (a virgin in most cases) and thinking about how he can entice her into having sex with him outside of marriage. In no way is this saying Job never looked at any single woman – that is a ridiculous assumption.
It is also equally ridiculous in my understanding of this passage, to say that Job was never turned on or sexually attracted to a young single woman (even after being married). He was simply saying he had made a covenant with his eyes not to look on a single woman and think about how he could get her into bed without marrying her, this is the plain and simple truth of this passage. But in no way does Job 31:1 condemn sexual arousal or sexual fantasy toward someone of the opposite sex that you are not married to. It can become wrong, if it becomes obsessive or affects relationships or leads to covetous (lustful) thoughts, but sexual arousal and the pleasure from enjoying the view of a single woman’s body is not sinful.
Lusting after a married woman
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
This passage from Matthew 5 is from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. This passage describes the second type of Biblical lust, lusting after a married woman. The context is clearly talking about a man looking at a married woman because the word adultery only applies to married women. The word fornication most of the time refers to unmarried people, but sometimes it can apply to married persons as well.
What Christ is saying here is that if a man looks on a woman and lusts after her that he has sinned. But again lust is here is covetousness, and covetousness is the desire to possess something in a sinful way.
When it comes to a married woman, it is not wrong for a man to look on her and appreciate her form. It is not wrong that her form and face give him pleasure, it not even wrong for him to have some sexual thought or fantasy about her. Where it becomes wrong is when his thoughts turn to covetousness (or lust), and he begins to think about how he can entice her into cheating on her husband, or leaving her husband.
Summary of the two types of Biblical Lust
So let me try and summarize how the two types of Biblical lust work. Say for instance that my neighbor has this cool classic car he has rebuilt. I love looking at that car through my front window. The simple fact that I love his car, or fantasize about driving it down the highway is not sin. The sin comes in when I think about how I may steal his car, how I can take it in an illegal or unethical way. But if I offer him a fair amount and purchase the car that would not be wrong. So I desired the car, I thought about the car, and then I purchased the car, no sin has been committed.
If the car symbolized a single woman, then the car’s owner would be her father. If I have thoughts and fantasizes about how I can entice a single girl into having sex with me without us first being married I am lusting after another man’s daughter. But if I were to date the man’s daughter, and then eventually ask for her hand in marriage and marry her – no sin has been committed. I looked at her, desired her, and married her.
If the car symbolized a married woman then the car’s owner would be her husband. If I have thoughts and fantasizes about how I can entice his wife to cheat on her husband, or leave him for me then I am lusting after another man’s wife. Unlike the single woman analogy, I can never have this married woman so that is why a little more caution needs to take place so that our normal sexual desire, and pleasure from appreciating the form of a married woman, does not turn into lust(covetousness).
But doesn’t the Bible say women should dress modestly?
8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
I Timothy 2:8-12(KJV)
The context of this famous “modesty” passage is that of worship. It is talking about how people are to behave and act when they assemble for worship and instruction in the Word of God. Today when people hear “modest” they think of one of two things, either something small and simple (like a “modest salary”) or something not too revealing or sexy.
Paul’s meaning is probably a little of both. He is saying women should wear clothes that cover them appropriately and are not too costly when they came to worship together. Paul did not want the church turning into a fashion show. The Greek word that we translate in English as “apparel” is “Katastole”. Katastole actually comes from two Greek words, Kata and Stole which literally refers to a “complete stola”. A stola in New Testament times was a one piece robe with holes for the head and arms. Often times a strap would be worn around the middle below the breasts to give the stola some form around the body. Sometimes a stola had sleeves, other times it was sleeveless.
Keep in mind though, that the wealthier a roman was, the more clothing they wore. The poor men and women wore very simple stolas. These images will give you an idea of the clothing during the New Testament time. But the clothing depicted below would have been that of wealthier citizens. Poorer people or servants would have worn thinner and simpler clothing.
The image above shows a lot of different dress styles for both men and women. Some of the men have more clothing than others, one of the women is wearing a short sleeve stola and the other a long sleeve.
The statue above shows another stola
The picture above shows an ancient Roman school. Notice how the clothing these men are wearing is much simpler than what was shown of men above. This indicates people had more dressy clothing as simpler clothing just as we have dress clothing and simpler clothing today.
But women also wore less at times as illustrated in this ancient roman painting of women playing sports in their version of bikinis:
I showed all this to put in context what Paul was saying. Paul was saying that women should wear appropriate clothing for worship and yes the stola probably would have covered most their bodies, unless they were sleeveless as many stola’s were. Basically Paul was saying that women should not be coming to worship dressed like these athletes, or even in work attire which would be smaller less fancy stolas. But this was for worship only. He was not saying they had to wear all these layers of clothing all the time, or that there might not be appropriate times for shorter stolas or less clothes like these women above where wearing as the played sports.
In this section we proved two points. For worship we should wear, complete, appropriate and modest clothing. We don’t want church to look like a brothel, or like a fashion show. We also showed that in Roman times women did wear less clothing in some circumstances, and Paul does not extend his clothing standards beyond the assembly of the church for worship.
So why should we wear clothes?
Adam and Eve
As a general rule we should wear clothes because God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as well as the fact that in the new heaven and new earth people are seen wearing clothes.
9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
Genesis 1:9-11 & 21(KJV)
Christian nudist and others try to claim the only reason Adam and Eve needed clothing was because of their sin. I believe that God would have clothed them at some point anyway. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil gave them the insight that clothing represented dignity and honor. Men and women being clothed is an outward symbol that separates man from every other creature on this planet.
Think about it – every animal on this planet has a natural clothing that protects them from the elements, man had no such natural protection. I believe it was inevitable, whether man or woman sinned that God would have eventually clothed Adam and Eve.
Look in Revelation where there is no sin anymore and the saints are clothed in white:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
So yes as a general rule, people should wear clothing.
Nakedness in the scriptures is often associated with poverty and shame
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
Right after the flood when civilization is just beginning to be rebuilt, one of Noah’s three sons, Ham, does something that causes his father to curse him. This issue was not that he saw his father’s nakedness, the fact was he went out making fun of his father’s nakedness to his brothers.
In the Law of Moses, he states several commands about “uncovering nakedness”:
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.
The phrase “to uncover their nakedness”, literally is to have sex with them. This passage lists several close family relations that are forbidden, parents with children, as well as forbidding men to marry a woman and her daughter, or a woman and her sister. These are all about sex, and marriage.
In fact the same “uncover nakedness” language is talked about with a man and his wife:
Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
This was one of the many cleanliness laws of Israel (which of course we are no longer any more) which forbid men from having sex with their wives when they were on their periods.
Nakedness was also associated with the shame of slavery as slaves were stripped naked for inspection when being sold.
A positive display of nakedness
So it is clear that clothing represents dignity and honor, while nakedness MOST of the time, represents shame. But an event with King David tells us nakedness is not always a shame:
14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
16 And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart…
20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
21 And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.
22 And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.
23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
II Samuel 2:14-16 & 20-23(KJV)
Basically David was excited for all the Lord had done for Israel and stripped down to his underwear and danced with all his might before the Lord. His wife Michal thought his actions were undignified but God caused her to barren because of her attitude toward her husband’s behavior.
Voluntary temporary nakedness for a purpose is not wrong
Why was David’s nakedness not dishonorable, yet most every other instance of nakedness in the Bible is associated with shame?
This is the key question. The answer is that under certain conditions, nakedness is honorable and acceptable, rather than being a shame.
Within marriage nakedness is a beautiful thing – the Song of Solomon spends most of the book using symbolic imagery to convey the beauty of both the male and female bodies.
The other time is when the nakedness is not forced, but clothing is voluntarily taken off for a specific temporary purpose. When David took his clothes off for worship, it was for a specific, temporary purpose. David did not walk around the rest of his life naked, eventually he put his clothes back on.
Doctors and paramedics must remove people’s clothes to give them medical attention. When children care for their elderly parents, or when parents care for disabled adult children they will sometimes have to see them naked – there is no shame in this, and no sin in this.
Medical students must examine naked bodies.
I would argue that a male or female model stripping to be painted is nakedness with a purpose.
When people swim or bath whether in the nude that is nudity for a purpose, and it is temporary. (So no I would not be opposed to nude beaches, although I don’t ever plan on going to one).
But swimming nude, and walking around nude all the time like in nudist colonies are two very different things. We should be wearing clothing, unless there is a specific and temporary reason why we are not.
I don’t agree with nude dancing in topless bars because this has physical contact between the dancers and the men and definitely leads to covetousness and fornication.
But what about some plays or shows where dancers are sometimes half naked or completely naked? I don’t see an issue in these types of dancing because it does not have naked women interacting with men in the audience, it is a show of the beauty of the body, and nothing more.
Ancient Egyptian painting of nude dancers
Even if the men are aroused by the female bodies, or women by the male bodies it is highly unlikely they are going to try and find a dancer and try to have sex with them.
What about people taking nude pictures of themselves?
I don’t believe it is always wrong for a Christian to take nude pictures of themselves, or allow themselves to be filmed naked. I also do not believe if they allow nude pictures of themselves to be made public that it is wrong to do so. I think there needs to be discretion here, and I am not advocating for child pornography or the breaking of any laws in doing this.
I believe that while a woman’s body belongs to her husband(in reference to the physical acts of touching and sex), her beauty belongs to world. If a woman enjoys displaying her beauty, under the right conditions(like her husband is allowing it if she is married) then I don’t see an issue. Obviously there is a time and place for everything, I don’t think a woman should show up to her church, or her job naked(unless of course she is a nude model).
If a man or woman want to put a picture of themselves on some website, as long as they do it with some discretion, realizing they can never get that picture off the web, then that is their right to do so, and nothing Biblically forbids them from doing it.
Conclusion and Application
I realize we have gone over a lot of information, and you can see by the images I have displayed in this paper that I do not believe it is wrong for a Christian to view nudity.
It is not wrong to view nudity, whether in paintings or in photographs, or even certain kinds of pornography. See these links from RestoringChristianSexuality.com on the subject of Christian Porn.
If someone becomes voluntarily naked, temporarily and for a legitimate purpose that does not involve sinful behavior, there is nothing wrong that. So there would be nothing wrong with a Christian being a nude model, or a Christian photographing or painting nude models.
The sin comes when covetous thoughts come as we talked about earlier.
All images in this paper were taken from Wikipedia or wiki commons common domain images.