Warning: This post contains opinions, if you are allergic to this please continue with caution and an EpiPenn at the ready. Also, I am no expert so mistakes are expected (it’s an opinion piece) and sorry for the length, I could go on and on. It’s a complex subject with so many angles that it can be discussed from! 🙂
To start off I just want to state that nudity in art is an art form, period.
Recently in one of my BCM 212 tutorials for someone’s research project they were exploring nudity in art, the opinions and ideas around the subject. As BCM 212 is a generally creative individual orientated subject the class was positive about art that contains nudity, with concerns only with if the image is sexualised, whether by setting or body positioning, and if minors are involved. Often Christians are at the forefront or at least framed to be, of opposing nudity whether in art, particularly modern art, or other mediums.
There are ten different Greek and Hebrew words used for the word ‘naked’ in the KJV (King James Version) Bible according to Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, these words are; para` (H), ma`arom (H), `arah (H),`arowm (H), chaba’ (H),`eyrom (H), `eryah (H), `uwr, gymnos (G), gymnēteuō (G). The letter ‘H’ here is meaning that the word is Hebrew and ‘G’ is Greek. When one observes the literary use of the majority of these words for naked/nakedness there are three key forms, firstly in a figurative sense referring ‘to being laid bare’, secondly, an aspect/experience of shame/being ashamed, lastly the literal lack of/no clothing. These forms can be implied simultaneously, but this highlights how careful one must be when interpreting biblical texts use of the subject and word naked, though not just in terms of the word naked there’s a universal need to be aware of this. The Bible is a complicated beast to tackle with.
In this subject of nudity in art though I wish to focus on in my opinion the main biblical meaning/aspect of nudity, this can be found near the very beginning of the Bible, Genisis chapter 2 verse 25 (Gen 2:25) to Genisis Chapter three verse eleven (Gen 3:11). This describes the famous ‘fall’ of humanity through Satan (fallen/rebel Angel Lucifer), and the ‘couple goals’ of that time period for humans, Adam and Eve. This ‘fall’ by humanity is what introduces sin into the world. In chronological order, the event in terms of being naked occurs in this order.
“25 And the man and his wife were both naked (`arowm) and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25
“7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked (`eyrom). And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Genesis 3:7
“10 And he [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of you [God] in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked (`eyrom), and I hid myself.”” Genesis 3:10
“11 He [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked (`eyrom)? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”” Genesis 3:11
English Standard Version (ESV)
These verses detail the progression and beginning of shame in being naked, but in my opinion, and this is reflected by Raby’s 2013 blog post on the biblical definition of being naked, these verses are referring to the “shame and exposure for disobedience – not some inherent problem with the human naked body”. With this now established one can propose that there is nothing sinful, immoral or inherently wrong when it comes to creating and viewing nudity in art, whether painted or pictured, with of course the exception of if it’s in a sexualised format or taking advantage of a vulnerable individual such as minors. In fact biblically, and I think one can also see this movement occur in western society currently, the beauty of a naked body should be embraced and admired as we are all created in the image of God (Gen 1:27)!
There is, however, a consideration and discernment to be made when sharing this form of art with the wider society. As a Christian, we are called to not mislead or lead a fellow human into temptation, as they are all our brothers and sisters (Rom 14:13). We, therefore, must be aware of our actions and their effects on others. In the case of nudity in art if we know that someone struggles with disassociating the sexual aspect of a body from the overall beauty of it then there’s an issue. In this case, the art, as unfortunate as it is, should most likely not be shared with them until they are in a different mindset. Having said this the display of nudity in public art exhibitions etc. I would argue is still ok as in this case no one is directly, intentionally or purposely leading someone into their personal temptations. I would also add that by doing this one is working towards de-sexualising the human form and making every human form special and humanised. Particularly in the case of pornographic material, this shows a body, not for the purpose of degrading acts viewed for the crude pleasure of other individuals. It displays a different story to what many magazines and pornography portray. This is crucial as children are growing up in a highly-sexualised environment with them accessing pornographic material in their tweens. Sexual assault and abuse are very prevalent in our societies today and body image and low self-esteem are causing many to have various eating disorders and mental health issues, this all often leading to further unnecessary deaths and suicides. By displaying the human body in the pure and exquisite form that it is we could possibly and finally have an effective way to tackle these issues.
In conclusion, I as a Christian, support nudity in art as an expression and display of the wonderful beauty and uniqueness of the human form, which is created in the likeness of God. I believe that the viewing of the art is important for crucial social change and to tackle issues threatening and affecting lives across the globe. Essentially, for us and our children, nudity in art is imperative.
There is no shame in an exposed body, shame is merely from sin.
“…the love of God cannot be stopped by our nakedness. This is not possible if nakedness in and of itself is a sin. Nakedness is a result and not an action; a state not an act of disobedience.” Roby 2013
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
P.S. Let me know if this was at all interesting to you, your opinion on the topic and if you wish to see more similar content! 🙂