Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adjective γυμνος (gumnos) means naked, and (you'll be pleased to know) is the source of our English words gym and gymnast (see the verb γυμναζω, gumnazo, below). Our word stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "nogwnos-" which indeed also yielded the English word naked.
There's obviously a lot to say about being naked — when we're naked we are exposed and vulnerable (the PIE root also means unarmed and thus defenseless), destitute and probably violated in some way or other. The Hebrew adjective עור ('iwwer) means blind from a cataract, which is a "skin" grown over one's eyes (see our article on the proverbial lame and the blind). Adam and Eve were naked but unashamed (Genesis 2:25), which links nakedness both to pre-fall innocence and pre-enlightenment naivety. The Hebrew word for nakedness, namely ערם ('erom), comes from the verb עור ('ur), to be exposed or laid bare. The noun עיר ('ir) means city, whereas verb ערר ('arar) describes an accumulation in one place that results in an emptiness or barrenness everywhere else.
Clothing covers the flesh and nakedness exposes it, which means that a human without clothing is essentially an animal without reason, culture and law (Psalm 73:22, Ecclesiastes 3:18, 2 Peter 2:12, Jude 1:10). Subjecting a person to a physical beating — see the verb δερω (dero), to beat, hence the familiar noun δερμα (derma), skin — means that the beater disregards the person's mind and words and acts solely upon his body.
Between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, there was the crucially important Age of Weaving as the true first step toward modernity. As we note in our article on the verb αρνεομαι (arneomai), meaning to artificially select (to breed a domestic race): "Weaving allowed people to display patterns and thus symbols", which means that mankind's first step to modernity was accompanied by individuals expressing their own identity and leanings by means of their artistically decorated clothing.
As we discuss in our article on the noun ιματιον (imation), robe or outer garment: "In the time before advertising, folks dressed according to their jobs, and one could recognize a professional of any kind by his outfit. This means that one's outer garment primarily proclaimed to the world one's abilities and guild. In the New Testament, an outer garment is, per rule, mentioned solely in reference to the wearer's allegiances and associations (Matthew 11:8, 21:7-8). And when the wearer removes his outer garment (when stoning Stephen, for instance; Acts 7:58), he indicates that he acts purely by his own consternation and not from following his party's decrees."
The white robes mentioned in Revelation are robes without identifying marks, and thus are worn by people who don't derive their identity from their social status; people who are in effect naked, but whose "shame of their nakedness" is not revealed (Genesis 3:11, Revelation 3:18, also see Exodus 20:26).
Our adjective γυμνος (gumnos), naked, is used 15 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The verb γυμναζω (gumnazo), which literally means "to do the naked thing", and which came to denote the training of the flesh and practicing of bodily performances, ostensibly as contrary to mental and intellectual ones — a "trained" orator or disputer was also known by this verb, which seems to suggests that these arts were considered bodily skills rather than intellectual ones. Note that the Jews had neither traditions of sports nor oration, but specialized in calm negotiations, cooperation and the gentle exploration of one another's minds (see next). This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance, obviously facetiously: "practice yourself onto godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7). From this verb in turn comes:
- The verb γυμνητευω (gumneteuo), meaning to be naked, to exist in a condition of nakedness, or more elaborate: to be brought down to one's physical and animal constitution, while being denied one's mind, culture, language and reason (1 Corinthians 4:11 only).
- The noun γυμνοτης (gumnotes), meaning nakedness, or more elaborate: being regarded as only body and no mind; being denied one's mental capacities (Romans 8:35, 2 Corinthians 11:27 and Revelation 3:18 only).