There are a lot of discussions in various online Christian forums, articles and blogs where some Christians are proposing that the traditional Christian view that sexual relations are strictly reserved for a man and woman in the covenant of marriage is not supported by the Bible.
Specifically, these people assert that the Bible only condemns adultery and engaging in sex with cult prostitutes. They propose that this means that all other forms of consensual sex between a man and woman whether they are married or not is not a sin before God. They even state that sex with prostitutes is acceptable before God as long as those prostitutes are not cult prostitutes.
What follows are some excerpts from a few emails I have recently received from a man who takes this position.
The Bible Only Condemns Adultery and Cult Prostitution?
“Regarding premarital sex. I have probably searched this the most because I feel there are just so many different arguments concerning it and it can leave many confused. I still do not see, even a yearly animal sacrifice for people engaging in sex before marriage. Now before I continue, I strongly believe God wants sex in marriage because that’s His ideal, and it avoids complications, like a child not having a father one day, since marriage ensures that child will have a father for instance.
And also, I do not promote the idea of casual sex at all, because that leads to addiction, possible abortion and health risks, not to mention spiritual degradation because of those things too, such as addiction.
But nowhere do I see that premarital sex is a sin.
I suppose that Hebrews 13:4 could also be used when it says the marriage bed is to be kept pure. And I see you used the word “whoremonger” to refer to premarital sex in one of your topics. However, the original word for whoremonger meant “male prostitute”, not premarital sex. It just seems that these verses are discussing marriage related issues concerning adultery, not premarital sex.
Yes, if a man steals a father’s right, then it’s wrong, but only if he doesn’t pay the dowry – that is theft. And the consequence to me it seems is that the two must marry. And in most of the cases, I see that God commands marriage after premarital sex has taken place, again, because it is the ideal, and it guards against many problems. But say you have a widow or a woman who is no longer a virgin, who supports herself etc and she consents to sex with a man. I do not see any punishment attached here but only to stern warnings against it because it leads to sin possibly (addiction, abortion, defrauding). And in this case, I’m talking about the two people who are in love and are progressing to marriage, in other words, they are not casually having sex, but they don’t yet have the means to get married (finances, work contracts, etc that hold them back a bit). I do not find this being wrong, it’s just not ideal.
On the subject of prostitution, I do genuinely believe that there is a big difference between cult prostitution and normal prostitution, and that Paul and many others guard against only the former, because the former is regarded as sin because of the idolatry and possible adultery that is attached.
And normal prostitution with a married woman is also strictly a sin, because of adultery. But, if the woman is living alone, she is single, she supports herself, and men have sex with her, I do not see this being condemned as sin. And Solomon also did not sentence the two prostitutes to death who went to him with the issue of the child. I don’t remember any instances where Sampson was punished, even I don’t remember any sacrifice made for sleeping with a prostitute. And Tamar was called righteous for disguising herself as a prostitute to bear a child, be it out of wedlock. Now again, I’m not advocating for prostitution, especially not in this day and age where women can support themselves healthily. And there is too much risk in visiting a prostitute.
But what I am concerned with, is calling something a sin when it is not, and vice-versa. Under this, I do want to also ask concerning casual sex: say for instance, two people who are single, they are supporting themselves, meet to have consensual sex as a means of release and they separate or rarely see each other… Thus, they are not addicted, they practice it safely and they know they are not getting any diseases. Is this then a sin, even though very very unwise? The same can be asked of a man who uses a prostitute every now and then. And said prostitute may be desolate, putting bread on the table because she can’t otherwise.
Another note on the cult prostitution. I have not just looked at the usual facts such as Strabo’s claims, and I have not just looked at word translations, but historical context as well, as context often defines a word. What is interesting to note is that in Corinth, though there were no longer official Aphrodite prostitutes in Paul’s time, the prostitutes there were still considered “unofficial temple prostitutes to Aphrodite”. Rome was also known for its own versions of idolatrous prostitutes and also taxed those institutions (they were regulated).
If you can show me from the Scriptures where I am wrong on this, I am open to it. I just don’t see where I am wrong based on my studies both of the Bible, the words of the original language and the historical context in which they were written.
A Faulty Interpretation of Hebrews 13:4
In Hebrews 13:4 the Bible states “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”. The word “whoremongers” in the KJV is a translation of the Greek word Pornos.
This is Strong’s Lexicon Definition of Pornos:
1) a man who prostitutes his body to another’ s lust for hire
2) a male prostitute
3) a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator
Part of Speech: noun masculine
Relation: from pernemi (to sell)
In the KJV this word is translated as ‘whoremonger’ five times and then as ‘fornicator’ another five times.
Those Christians online and elsewhere that take Ben’s position emphasize the first two parts of the definition referring to male prostitutes and also the root of the word which comes from pernemi which means “to sell”.
They use this to make their case that Pornos strictly refers to male prostitutes and has nothing to do with people having sex outside of marriage. Some will even explain the third part of Strong’s definition as referring strictly to adultery. They go further in stating that pornos during the time the Bible was written referred more specifically to temple prostitutes and not prostitutes in general.
And there we have their case made from Hebrews 13:4 – that God was only condemning people having sex with cult prostitutes and married persons committing adultery.
The Case Against the “Cult Prostitutes Only” Interpretation of Hebrews 13:4
But there is a flaw, a single thread that can be pulled from their interpretation that causes their interpretation to fall completely apart. While it is important for us to understand the historical context of words as they were used in the Greek language when the New Testament was written, we must also understand that the New Testament expands upon Greek words and uses them in spiritual ways that they had not been used before.
The Greek Word Ekklesia in its common usage referred to a called-out assembly of citizens of a local town. But Christ and his Apostles greatly expanded the meaning of Ekklesia and used it to refer to the Church collectively as well as to local bodies of believers.
The Greek word Moichao in its common usage referred to having unlawful sex with another man’s wife. However, in Mark 10:11 Christ used Moichao not to refer a man having unlawful sex with another man’s wife, but rather he used it to a refer to man divorcing his wife for unjust reasons. The people who heard him say this would have been astounded at his expanded definition of Moichao.
In the same way Greek word Pornos in its common usage may have referred to male prostitutes but the Bible uses this word to refer to a person engaging in any form of sexual immorality and not strictly male prostitution or cult prostitution.
In I Corinthians 5:1 the Bible states:
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife”.
The situation being described is most likely referring to a man having sex not with his actual mother, but rather with another of his father’s wives similar to what Reuben did with his father’s wife Bilhah who was not his biological mother in Genesis 35:22.
Now I will need you to “follow the bouncing ball” so to speak. The English word “fornication” in 1 Corinthians 5:1 is a translation of the Greek word Porneia.
Below is the Strong’s Lexicon Definition of Porneia:
1) illicit sexual intercourse
1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
1c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mark 10:11,Mark 10:12
2) metaphorically the worship of idols
2a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols
The root of Porneia comes from Porneuo,
Below is the Strong’s Lexicon Definition of Porneuo:
1) to prostitute one’ s body to the lust of another
2) to give one’ s self to unlawful sexual intercourse
2a) to commit fornication
3) metaphorically to be given to idolatry, to worship idols
3a) to permit one’ s self to be drawn away by another into idolatry
Part of Speech: verb
And the root of Porneuo is Porne.
Below is the Strong’s Lexicon Definition of Porne:
1) a woman who sells her body for sexual uses
1a) a prostitute, a harlot, one who yields herself to defilement for the sake of gain
1b) any woman indulging in unlawful sexual intercourse, whether for gain or for lust
2) metaphorically an idolatress
2a) of “Babylon,” i.e. Rome, the chief seat of idolatry
Part of Speech: noun feminine
Porne is the feminine equivalent of the masculine noun Pornos.
Porneia and Porneuo all have at their root acts related to female prostitution and yet even Strong’s Lexicon is forced to give a much more expanded definition of Porne (female prostitutes) than it did for Pornos (male prostitutes).
So, what have we shown so far? The Bible uses a word that at its root refers to female prostitution to refer to a man having sex with his father’s wife which has nothing to whatsoever to do with prostitution. The only thing incest and prostitution have in common is that they are both forms of sexual immorality.
But then later in this same passage condemning the incestuous actions of this man with his father’s wife Paul writes the following in verses 9-13:
“9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
Guess what Greek Word the Apostle Paul connects to the incestuous actions of this man with his father’s wife? It is Pornos. So, in one passage Paul connects Porneia which at its root is Porne, a reference to female prostitutes, with Pornos which at its root referred to Male prostitutes to a man having sex with his father’s wife, an action that has nothing to do with prostitution.
This means we can rightly say that the Bible uses Porneia to refer to all forms of sexual immorality, and it also uses pornos to refer to people who commit sexual immorality, not just male prostitutes.
This pulls the thread on the entire argument of those who say the Bible is only condemning cult prostitution.
So, when the Bible uses the words pornos and porne it is far more inclusive than just male and female prostitutes. It uses pornos to refer to all people who commit sexually immoral acts and it uses porne to refer to women who commit sexually immoral acts. Only in the most specific of contexts does porne refer only to a female prostitute as it is used to refer to Rahab the harlot in James 2:25 where it states “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot [Greek Porne] justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”.
This means it is possible that 1 Corinthians 6:15-18 refers not just to prostitutes (harlots) but also to loose and whorish women who have sex outside of marriage from a position of lust rather than just for money:
“15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.“
But having said all that, the Bible’s condemnation of porneia would absolutely include a condemnation of all forms of prostitution, not just cult prostitution which is asserted by Ben and other Christians online and elsewhere.
Marriage is the Answer to Avoiding Fornication
If sex outside of marriage is not a sin, and if porneia only referred to engaging in sex with cult prostitutes the following passage of the Bible would make no sense:
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication [Greek Porneia], let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”
1 Corinthians 7:2 (KJV)
If having sex with one’s girl friend or with prostitutes is ok as long as those prostitutes are not temple prostitutes for false gods then marriage would not be the only answer to avoiding fornication. But this is the answer the Bible gives us.
A Woman’s Body is Not Hers to Give
“Yes, if a man steals a father’s right, then it’s wrong, but only if he doesn’t pay the dowry – that is theft. And the consequence to me it seems is that the two must marry. And in most of the cases, I see that God commands marriage after premarital sex has taken place, again, because it is the ideal, and it guards against many problems.”
Let’s look at the Scripture passage Ben alludes to:
“16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”
Exodus 22:16-17 (KJV)
So yes, it is clear that that a man enticing another man’s daughter into having sex was indeed a property crime and restitution had to be made to the father. The restitution was that the man had to marry the virgin he seduced into having sex and also pay her father the bride price which was about half a year’s wages for the average man.
However, there is a big detail in this that is being overlooked. The father could refuse to give his daughter to the man who seduced his daughter while still collecting the bride price as a penalty. Why did God not require the father to give his daughter in marriage to the man that seduced her? Because she was his to give.
Both the daughter and the man who seduced her engaged in an act of theft against the father. She gave something that was not hers to give and he took something that was not his to take. And theft is a violation of the 8th commandment found in Exodus 20:15 which states “Thou shalt not steal”. Therefore, a man enticing a man’s virgin daughter into having premarital sex is a sin against God based on the fact that is an act of theft against her father.
Even so, the father is only God’s steward of his daughter to prepare for her future her husband.
God Does Not Allow A Man to Take a Woman Except as Her Rightful Husband
“But say you have a widow or a woman who is no longer a virgin, who supports herself etc and she consents to sex with a man.”
God does not allow a woman, even one without a father, to have sex with a man that has not become her husband. Even in the extreme case of a man taking a woman as a prisoner of war, he had to become her husband to have sex with her (Deuteronomy 21:13).
Tamar Was Not Righteous for Playing the Harlot
“Tamar was called righteous for disguising herself as a prostitute to bear a child, be it out of wedlock.”
In Genesis chapter 38, Tamar was not called righteous for prostituting herself with her father-in-law, but rather she was called “more righteous” than Judah because his sin of not giving her his son as husband put her in a position to be tempted to act sinfully in order to produce an heir. Both Judah and Tamar sinned and this is shown in Genesis 38:26 when it states of Judah “And he knew her again no more” a clear reference to an act of repentance on his part.
Not every action of Biblical characters was right before God. Samson’s laying with prostitutes was sinful as was Judah’s seeking of a prostitute and his daughter-in-law playing the prostitute. Some like Ben argue that if a they don’t see a condemnation right alongside a Biblical character’s action that this means their actions were righteous before God.
But this is not the case at all. God told men to seek sex within the covenant of marriage and not to go after strange women in Proverbs 5. In Proverbs 5:22 God calls men having sex with strange women who are not their wives’ a sin that can destroy a man’s life. Hebrews 13:4 tells us that that only sexual relations that God considers honorable and pure is that which occurs in the marriage bed. And Christ told us in Matthew 19:4-6 that God “made them male and female” and he made the male and female to come together as “one flesh” in marriage.
The whoremongering that God says he will judge in Hebrews 13:4 refers to all sexually immoral behavior, not just male prostitution. This is proven beyond doubt when the Apostle Paul uses the same word to refer the incestuous actions of a man with his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5.
Sexual purity is not simply “God’s ideal” while he accepts that people will have sex before marriage or with prostitutes. Sexual purity is God’s rule for which he makes absolutely NO exceptions. And the reason our sexual purity is so important to God is because it represents the faithfulness of God’s people to himself.
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:2 (KJV)