We know enough of Jesus' baptism...to be able to envisage something of the scene, with the hairy John in his camel-skins, and Jesus himself most likely naked for according to early churchman Hippolytus [Apostolic Tradition XXI, 3, 5, 11], and references to 'complete stripping' by Paul (I Colossians 2:11), that is how the earliest Christian baptisms seem to have been conducted. In the earliest Christian art, where Jesus' baptism is a common theme, he is invariably represented quite naked. Such nudity does not contradict the traditional association of a white garment with baptism, symbolic of a burial shroud, and cast aside at the moment of baptismal 'rebirth' (Jesus, The Evidence).
MISSION OF PURPOSE STATEMENT
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Does The Bible Condone Nudism?
Most Christians would probably answer "no" to the former and "yes" to the latter. Nevertheless, many followers of the Christian faith are, and probably always have been, a part of a widespread clothing-optional movement. In fact, the American Sunbathing Association, an early nudist group, was founded in 1931 by Reverend Ilsley Boone, a Baptist pastor.
Christian nudists, better known as Christian naturists, are found in just about every denomination, though most are probably incognito. The claim among these Christians is that they see no contradiction between biblical teachings and nudism. Some even go so far as to say the Bible promotes a nudist lifestyle. The Garden Of Eden: The World's First Nudist ParkTo support their position, Christian naturists often begin at the beginning of civilization with the biblical account of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:8-4:2).
Everyone knows the story. Before they ate the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were the world's first nudists. Not only were they naked, but they were also unashamed of their nakedness. Therefore, the Garden of Eden was not only a sin-free environment, it was also the world's first nudist park.
But Utopia was abruptly interrupted when something evil happened. A mysterious moral transgression of epidemic proportions plunged humanity headlong into a downward spiral, known in theological terms as "The Fall." Lurking nearby, a cunning serpent, identified elsewhere in the Bible as the devil, persuaded them to eat the forbidden fruit.
"Sure, God said no, but who cares what God said? Eat, and your eyes will be opened. In fact, you will actually become like God, knowing good and evil!"
So in direct defiance of the Creator's explicit prohibition, they ate. And just as the serpent predicted, their eyes were opened wide. Only probably not in the manner they had anticipated. Suddenly, they became profoundly ashamed of their nakedness.
This was new. After covering their bodies with fig leaves, they hid from God. God, of course, found their hiding place. Adam told God the reason he hid was because he was naked."Who told you that you were naked?" God asked. "Have you eaten the fruit I commanded you not to eat?" "Uh, yes," Adam admitted, "but it was the woman's fault."
The woman said the devil made her do it. "The serpent tricked me," she replied. So God pronounced a curse. The serpent was to crawl on its belly. From that point forward, the serpent and his offspring would be the enemies of the woman and her offspring.
"He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." The woman would now bear children with intense pain. Her desire would be for her husband, and he would be her master. God said to Adam, "All your life you will struggle to earn a living. Then you will die." Adam then named his wife Eve, meaning "The Mother of All Living." God changed their wardrobe to animal skins, then booted them pronto from paradise. Mighty angels and a flaming sword guarded the entrance to The Tree of Life. East of Eden, a clothed humanity continues to live unhappily ever after.
How The Eden Account Is Used As A Biblical Endorsement Of Nudism
Christian naturists notice several elements in the Eden saga that suggest an endorsement of the nudist lifestyle. Since Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed before The Fall, and since they were clothed and ashamed after The Fall, it seems logical that wearing clothes and being ashamed of our bodies are both a direct result of sin. Early Christianity seems to agree with this assessment.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
St. Chrysostom, speaking of baptism, says, Men were naked as Adam in paradise; but with this difference; Adam was naked because he had sinned, but in baptism, a man was naked that he might be freed from sin; the one was divested of his glory which he once had, but the other put off the old man, which he did as easily as his clothes.
St. Ambrose says, Men came as naked to the font, as they came into the world; and thence he draws an argument by way of illusion, to rich men, telling them, how absurd it was, that a man was born naked of his mother, and received naked by the church, should think of going rich into heaven.
Cyril of Jerusalem takes notice of the circumstance, together with the reasons of it, when he thus addresses himself to persons newly baptized:
As soon as ye came into the inner part of the baptistry, ye put off your clothes, which is an emblem of putting off the old man with his deeds; and being thus divested, ye stood naked, imitating Christ, that was naked upon the cross, who by his nakedness spoiled principalities and powers, publicly triumphing over them in the cross. O wonderful thing! ye were naked, imitating the first Adam, that was naked in paradise, and was not ashamed. So also Amphilochius in the Life of St. Basil, speaking of his baptism, says, He arose with fear and put off his clothes, and with them the old man. . . (Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 758, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1973).
According to Rev. Rousas J. Rushdoony, a conservative Reformed theologian:
Since baptism meant in part the believers' death and rebirth or resurrection in Christ, it was very early associated with the Easter season, although not exclusively so. This same aspect, rebirth, led to an interesting custom which survived for some centuries as basic to baptism, namely, baptism, usually by immersion, in the nude.
Sprinkling and immersion were both used by the church, which recognized sprinkling, after Ezekiel 36:25, as the mark of the new covenant. Aspersion was also very early a common practice. The emphasis on death and rebirth led to a stress on immersion as symbolically representative of this fact. Men were born naked; hence, they were reborn naked in baptism. No works of the unregenerate man could be carried into heaven; therefore, the candidate symbolically stripped himself of all clothing to indicate that he had nothing save God's grace.
There were two baptistries thus in churches for some generations, since men and women were baptized separately. Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12 were passages cited to confirm this practice of symbolic burial and resurrection.
This practice of naked baptism indicates how seriously the Biblical symbolism was taken by the early church; nothing was avoided, and sometimes over-literal applications resulted.
Umberto Fasola of The Christian Catacombs of Rome indicates that their catacombs show Christians being baptized in the nude. The Jews, in their parallel rite of proselyte baptism, insisted upon this to such an extent that "a ring on the finger, a band confining the hair, or anything that in the least degree broke the continuity of contact with the water, was held to invalidate the act" (C. Taylor, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, Cambridge, 1886, pp. 51, 52).
The allusions of the early Fathers imply a like nudity in their method of celebrating the Christian rite (Bingham, Origines, XI, xi, 1; DCA, i, 160).
According to the Australian EJournal of Theology:
Just prior to entering the water the candidates removed their clothes, for the baptism was received nude. This surprises moderns, for we wonder about modesty. This may be a consideration in the instructions of the Apostolic Tradition (21.4-5) to baptize the small children first, the grown men next, and finally the women. In order to observe decency women deacons assisted at the baptism of women according to the third-century Didascalia (16), repeated in the 4th century Apostolic Constitutions (3.15-16).
In the baptism of a woman, the male presbyter anointed the forehead, pronounced the formula, and dipped the head, but the female deacon anointed the body and received the woman as she came out of the water. Some baptisteries may have had curtains.
Another factor is that the ancient world seems to have had a more relaxed attitude toward nudity.
The nudity expressed the idea of new birth- hence in art the baptizand is shown not only nude but smaller than the baptizer. This manner of representation is not an indication of infant or child baptism but follows artistic convention. The newly baptized person put on a white garment, symbolizing purity.
(INAUGURAL ISSUE - AUGUST 2003. ISSN 1448 - 6326)