The Latin "nudus" can mean wearing only the first layer of tunic or a loincloth. BAG says gymnos can mean wearing a loincloth. Many writers say that where the Biblical text says that Peter while fishing was "gymnos" but that he was actually not nude but wearing any number of items. Yet, searching writings I cant find any unambiguous case where a person who is "gymnos" was covered.

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1 Answer 1


The LSJ entry for γυμνός lists several meanings, along with representative passages, beyond the base meaning of "naked/unclad."

These meanings include "unarmed / without armor," "beardless," "scalped," and "destitute." Meaning 5, which you are referencing, is "lightly clad, i.e. in the undergarment only."

Here are some of the examples given:

Καὶ ὅς, Ὦ Σώκρατες, ἔφη, τοιοῦτον ἐκβέβληκας ῥῆμά τε καὶ λόγον, ὃν εἰπὼν ἡγοῦ ἐπὶ σὲ πάνυ πολλούς τε καὶ οὐ φαύλους νῦν οὕτως, οἷον ῥίψαντας τὰ ἱμάτια, γυμνοὺς λαβόντας ὅτι ἑκάστῳ παρέτυχεν ὅπλον, θεῖν διατεταμένους ὡς θαυμάσια ἐργασομένους (Plato, Republic, 473e-474a)

Here is the translation of Grube (rev. Reeve):

. . . a great many people will cast off their cloaks and, stripped for action, snatch any available weapon. . . .

Perhaps this isn't unambiguous. A cloak (ἱμάτιον) is an outer garment, but it's not impossible that they strip entirely bear after removing the outer garment.

LSJ cites another example from Demosthenes that isn't as convincing as it imagines:

. . . ὥστε με, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, φοβηθέντα τὸν ὑμέτερον θόρυβον θοἰμάτιον προέσθαι καὶ μικροῦ γυμνὸν ἐν τῷ χιτωνίσκῳ γενέσθαι. . . . (In Midiam, 216.3)

My translation:

. . . so that, Athenians, fearing your uproar, I let my cloak drop and became almost naked in my small cloak.

"μικροῦ" here means "nearly," so I don't think it establishes what LSJ wants it to say.

The example from Aristophanes' Clouds is perhaps the clearest. Socrates tells Strepsiades to take off his himation, and describes this state as being "γυμνός." In context, it is clear that they're taking off just the outer cloak:

Σωκράτης: ἴθι νυν κατάθου θοἰμάτιον.
Στρεψιάδης: ἠδίκηκά τι;
Σωκράτης: οὔκ, ἀλλὰ γυμνοὺς εἰσιέναι νομίζεται.

My translation:

Socrates: Come now lay down your cloak [ἱμάτιον].
Strepsiades: Have I done something wrong?
Socrates: No, but it's the custom to enter γυμνοί.

Whether or not this is the operative sense in John 21:7 is a different question. There, John says that he put on his "ἐπενδύτης" (i.e. a garment worn over another one) because he was "γυμνός." I suppose the idea could be that he had nothing on and put on his outer garment over nothing else, but it seems like a reasonable interpretation that he was γυμνός because he only had his undergarments on. A full answer to that question would probably need to consider the similar passage in Mark 14:52.


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