I spent seven years as a singles pastor.  Can you imagine the issues I had to deal with regarding sex? How far can we go before marriage? What if we are engaged? What happens when we have already crossed that line? Is it okay to try living together if we don’t have sex? As well, I knew the issues of lust and temptation that come from magazines, internet sites, and promiscuous thoughts in general. While I was at seminary, I remember the head of the counseling department saying that by his estimation, half the male students were struggling with internet pornography. Half! If half this body of guys sold out to Jesus, selling everything they own to go to seminary, were this deeply involved in sexual struggles, how much more so the singles at my church?

Many of these are difficult questions. More difficult than one realizes, until pushed for an answer. We are dealing with sexual sin among sexual people. We are bound to attempt to find as many loopholes as possible.

One day I was blindsided by a question that, before then, I had considered a softball. A man walked up to me after my lesson and said that he had some good Christian friends (and by “good Christian friends” I mean he considered these friends to be good Christians), who questioned him about the issue of sex before marriage. They had suggested to him that, contrary to popular thought, the Bible does not anywhere condemn what is known in our language as “fornication.” They said that the word “fornication,” when it is used in the Bible, does not mean sex before marriage, but sexual immorality in general. According to their studies, the sexual immorality condemned in the Scripture does not include fornication.

After some quick research, I discovered that what they said was true . . . at least part of it.

Now, let me be up front here. Before I married Kristie, I did not do to well in the sex before marriage department. I regret it quit a bit. I don’t think I ever actually committed adultery, but for the most part I worked on a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” basis. I was a Christian at the time and the guilt was bad. However, I took some comfort in thinking that I had not crossed the actual adultery line (at least as far as I knew). Why? Because I knew that the Bible had a lot to say about adultery. You know, it was all that “take them out and stone them” stuff. But, while the guilt was bad, it was not as bad as it could have (or should have) been. After all, who was I hurting? God made me a sexual being. I was not coloring outside of the lines that much. After all, what does he expect? It is quite a killjoy to create sexual desire and then say, “You cannot touch.”

So, back to my question: Is fornication really a sin?

It is true that in the Bible, the word for fornication does not necessarily refer to sex before marriage. The Greek word translated “fornication” by the King James Bible is pornia (from which we get our word “pornography”). It refers to any unlawful sexual activity. BDAG (the standard and best Greek Lexicon) defines it as “unsanctioned sexual intercourse.” The sanctioning of a sexual activity is defined in the Old Testament by what it is not more often than what it is. In other words, we learn what is lawful with regard to fulfilling our sexual desires by creating boundaries of foreign territory considered sinful. Much of this law is covered in Leviticus 18. Take notice of the boundaries here:

Lev. 18:6-21, 23
6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD.

7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness.

8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.

9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home.

10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness.

11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister.

12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative.

13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative.

14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt.

15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.

16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.

17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity.

18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.

19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.

20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her.

22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

That pretty much covers the law with regard to sexual sin, right? After all, to “uncover the nakedness” of someone is a euphemism about sexual relations. However, one thing that is left out here is sex before marriage. It does not say, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of someone who is not your wife.” Yes, there are a lot of parameters, but it looks like we might have found ourselves a loophole toward a sexual revolution in Christianity! Not so fast, singles. While it is true that this particular passage does not speak specifically to the sex before marriage issue, sex before marriage is nonetheless condemned in Scripture as sin.

Old Testament

Let me be honest. From what I can see, the Old Testament does not seem to come down too hard on men having sex outside of the bonds of marriage. It is another story for women. Notice here:

Deut. 22:13-14
“If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,'”

This introduces a situation where a man finds out that his wife was not a virgin before they got married. If the charge was found to be true, then the women was to be stoned (Lev. 22:20-21). At the very least, this demonstrates that, for women, the laws against sexual immorality included sex before marriage.

Passages such as Lev. 19:20 further confuse the matter, giving males more liberty.

However, the liberty is not carte blanche for men. Notice here:

Deut. 22:28-29
“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”

Here, either through rape or consent (this is debated), we have an unwed woman and a man who sleep together. The woman has lost her virginity to the man. Due to this, the man is forced to pay a “fine” or properly marry the woman to cover her shame and make sure she is provided for. This shows that sex before marriage for men was not without its consequences in the Old Testament.

New Testament

The issue of sex before marriage becomes much more clear in the New Testament, as it is more explicitly forbidden to both men and women.

(This is not the time to discuss why the Old Testament is not more clear on this issue. It is my assumption that, like with so many other things, God, in the progress of revelation, did not express his full ideal in the Law of Moses, but conceded to some cultural norms like he did with slavery and polygamy.)

The word “fornication,” as I said above, does not necessarily mean sex before marriage. However, I do believe it is implied many times for two primary reasons.

1. Christ’s condemnation of lust

Mat 5:27-28
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If sex before marriage was not forbidden, why does Christ say that lust is? Implied here is that everything from lust to adultery is forbidden by the sixth commandment. Sex before marriage definitely fits right in between.

2. Paul’s admonishment to marry rather than burn

1 Cor. 7:8-9
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to stay single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The idea of “burning” here has to do with sexual desire. Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married. Why? Because Paul assumes that one cannot fulfill this sexual desire outside of the marital bed. While Paul would love for them to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7), he believes that sex outside of marriage is a destructive sin and cannot be used as a gratifying release of our sexual passions.

While there are other passages that can be used to build the case that sex outside of marriage is indeed sinful, I believe that these are strong enough to bind Christian consciences.

God created sex. God created our sexual desires. Sex is good within the borders of marriage. For those of you who think that God is a killjoy for limiting sex to such a situation, please remember a couple of things: 1) God created sex! How could he be a killjoy? Think about it. The very act about which you are complaining is an act he created. 2) God knows better than you do what will satisfy you. It takes an act of faith to believe this, but it is not too big a step to take. 3) Most married Christian men and women who, like myself, did not have a very successful single life would love to turn back the clocks and do it all over again. And this is not because we are not forgiven . . . we are. It is because we know the intimacy which is lost when you have already given yourself to another. Our advice to you would be to wait. If it is too late, stop and wait. It is never too late to trust God in this matter. As cliché as it may sound, he really does know best. Fornication is really a sin.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    190 replies to "Is Fornication Really a Sin?"

    • John

      “I don’t think I ever actually committed adultery”

      Well, I would hope not. But it sounds like you are mixing up adultery and fornication. And for that reason Mat 5:27 is the wrong verse for this topic.

      The word for lust is the same as for covet. It’s desiring something that belongs to someone else.

      You would have to covet your girlfriend, right? Or you wouldn’t bother marrying her. But since she doesn’t belong to someone else, Mt 5 is the wrong verse for this issue.

    • theoldadam

      If you ever looked at a woman, or man, in that way…then you have committed adultery. So says Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount didn’t pull any punches.

      Yes. Impurities of any kind are sinful. In thought, word, or deed.

      Fornicators will not inherit heaven.

      But repentant fornicators will. I’m one of those.

    • C Michael Patton

      One can commit adultery as an unwed person by sleeping with a we’d person.

    • Indeed once again, with Paul we see ‘Law & Gospel’. This is always St. Paul’s “method”, Jew, Roman and Apostle to the Gentiles, but also and always testifying to the Jews and Jewish Nation! (Acts 22-26)…Acts 24: 24-25.

      Surely, in 1 Cor. 6: 18-20, Paul sees the Christian’s body as belonging, not to the Christian himself, but the Lord, and the Holy Spirit! Not perfection of course, but true submission! Such is the general life of the Christian in this fallen world and age.

    • John

      Michael: You’re right, but I wonder why you confuse an already confusing issue by bringing adultery into it.

      Since covet and adultery are the same word, I wonder really if people look at this issue right. It’s wrong to covet your neighbour’s cow, but it’s OK to go to the cow sale auctions, to want a cow, then buy it. It’s wrong to covet your neighbour’s ipod, but its OK to go to the Apple store, to desire (covet one) and then buy it.

      My feeling is that the bible is talking about taking something that doesn’t belong to you rather than teaching that sexual desire is wrong, without which nobody would ever get married.

    • C Michael Patton

      Covering is covered in the 10th commandment. It is an insatiable desire for what one does not have. An inability to be thankful and content (Rom 1).

      The sixth commandment is about more than te actual act of adultery. It is about everything from lust to adultery. Jesus made that clear in Matt 6).

    • John

      That’s true Michael, but the parallel to coveting is inescapable. It’s not wrong to want stuff. Woman included.

    • C Michael Patton

      Of course not . . . Just within the boarders. And wanting is not the issue. It is wanting with an insatiable malcontent which continually breaks the tenth commandment. Breaking the sixth commandment does not need malcontentment. It is an ungodly engagement of our sexual drive.

    • John

      Perhaps Michael. But most women want to be wanted insatiably. It doesn’t have to be a sexual thing. Is it bad? If so, you destroyed all female romantic fantasies.

      • Darren

        This is a couple years old, but am going to respond anyway. We are comparing apples to oranges here. Covetousness has a distinct negative connotation. Desire for your mate does not. The term does not fit in that context.

    • msi4mahesh

      i think fornication is considered as a sin in each and every religion. but the question is what is sin? what happens to a person who doesn’t believe in a religion engage in sexual intercourse without marrying. i think it happens every now and then. even we Christians do it. i think it’s essential in nowadays society. read more about what Sin is from this article

      http://www.worldtransformation.com/what-is-sin/

    • John

      Good article. One thing that should be noted is that premarital sex was not nearly as big of an issue in ancient times b/c people got married shortly after puberty. This business getting married in your mid to late twenties is very new. It’s not that God is a killjoy. It’s that modern western society has a very unnatural view towards marriage. Men hit their sexual peak in their teens but don’t get married until 10 years later when they’ve calmed down some. You can’t tell me that’s natural, especially when people got married early for 1000s of years and still do in most cultures.

    • GoldCityDance

      Ok Michael, you’ve made a strong case that fornication is sin, but how would you define “fornication”? What sorts of acts belong under the “fornication” category, which ones belong under “lust”, and which ones are proper expressions of love that are not necessarily sinful?

      Christians are very creative at finding loopholes, ya know… Especially young high school and college kids.

      In the midst of such confusion, a few Christians I know played it “safe” by waiting till their wedding day to kiss the very first time!

    • JB Chappell

      Interesting topic, and certainly worthy of discussion. Full disclosure: my wife is the only woman I have ever slept with, but we did not wait until our wedding night. I do not feel that this was wrong. CMP essentially concedes that according to an OT description of sexual morality, this would be the correct view. But, he feels that the NT expands on this to exclude pre-marriage sexual activity. He does this by citing 1 Cor. 7:8-9 & Mat 5:27-28.

      Re: 1 Cor. 7:8-9
      -“Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married.”-

      I don’t think it is clear from this that he does so because he feels any kind of premarital sexual activity is wrong. It seems like practical advice more than anything, which would be more clear if more of the passage were considered. In verse 6, Paul admits he is making concessions, not commands. In verse 10, Paul is giving commands “from the Lord”. The exhortation to get married falls squarely in-between. If Paul was really basing such advice on what he really felt was right/wrong, it seems doubtful that this wouldn’t have been a command.

      There’s other reasons to suggest getting married to eliminate burning passions. And that obviously would be the natural result of sex: children. Getting married assures that there are no unwed mothers, which would have been even more important then. Thus, I think it is dubious to build a policy of sexual morality based even in part on this passage.

    • JB Chappell

      Re:Mat 5:27-28
      This passage makes it cler that the 6th commandment is more than just physical acts. Jesus is clearly expanding on the Law of Moses, similarly to Matthew 5:22 when anger and murder were equated. It seems to me that most would not consider any and all forms of “anger” as murder, but that Jesus was probably referring to a specific form/type of anger. I wonder if something similar is going on with lust.

      It seems to me that the key here is “adultery”. Which makes this passage especially curious for its inclusion, since the whole point is to demonstrate fornication, not adultery, is wrong. The conclusion in the article seems to be that if lust = adultery then anything in-between must be off limits as well. But I would suggest that perhaps the point is that Jesus is referring to lusting after others’ wives, not just any woman.

      I am no Greek expert, but it is my understanding that in the Septuagint, the same word used in the 10th commandment as “covet”. Further, that the Greek could just as easily refer to “wife” rather than the more general woman. Given that the context is a discussion on adultery and (later) divorce, I wonder why it isn’t translated as wife. Thus, it could easily be the case that Jesus is saying that there is more to the 10th commandment as well, that in fact breaking the 10th results in breaking the 6th. But none of that would lead to the conclusion that any/all pre-marital sexual activity is wrong.

    • JB Chappell

      Sorry, the first sentence in the last paragraph above was unclear. It was supposed to say that the same word translated as “lust” in Matthew 5:27-28, is also “covet” in the 10 commandments. Which would seemingly make it a fairly specific reference to desiring someone that “belongs” to someone else, not just a “burning passion” for someone else in general.

    • Chad Dougless

      JB,

      I would question what is motivating your desire to attempt to circumvent the general position that is brought forth in the article. Whether lust or covet is the more appropriate term here is not important, but if we argue from the sake of coveting for the purposes of determining whether premarital sex is good/bad/in between we can come to a better understanding.

      Covet – verb (used with object) – to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others

      I want to focus primarily on the “without due regard for the rights of others” section in relation to this. As is seen in the OT, an unwed woman belongs to the nearest male relative in the sense of responsibility/provision/rights. So, engaging in premartial sex with a woman in this situation would show a disregard for the rights of that relative to exercise protective rights and mar his reputation as a good and trusted provider for the woman. The man engaging in premarital sex would be interjecting himself in the desired role of provisioner and stealing affection and respect from the original guardian.

      Apathy or acceptance of premarital sex by the guardian does not absolve the engager of the coveting/theft of those factors, but merely shows that the guardian is also filled with sin and in need of the same grace as the engager. There is a reason for the verses of Deuteronomy 22:20-21. If the betrothed woman is found not to be a virgin, she is stoned at the father’s door because he is responsible for the daughter. The punishment is both on the daughter for sleeping with other men and for the father for not protecting and permitting his daughter to play the whore.

      Or we could also go from the premarital sex results in the taking of the conjugal rights of the future husband in that they can no longer know each other intimately in a way that is pure and untainted by others’ influences.

    • Chad Dougless

      Follow up for more characters:

      You also state that because you engaged in premarital sex with your future wife that you do not find this to be sinful. However, you surely can see the slippery slope that leads to that line of thinking. You cannot do something that would be covered under the covenant of marriage before marriage in the anticipation of being married to this person, because frankly there can be no certainty of the marriage happening or not. Would you have viewed your actions as not sinful if you had not been married later? That is essentially the line you are attempting to draw in the sand.

      Is it sinful for me to go into my friend’s house and take his steaks? Is is still sinful if I took them and shared the steaks with him? The idea here is the heart behind the issue. If my heart issue is that I wanted steak more than I wanted to respect my friend and his desire or lack of desire to share it with me, then I am still sinning regardless of how the events shape up. Even if my friend had planned on sharing the steaks with me, until he invites me over to share them with him, I cannot be certain that I will be eating steak with him. In the same way, just because you wish to engage in sex with someone you think you are going to marry, you cannot be certain that you are going to marry them until you actually do and thus your heart desire is really to sleep with them and not to respect the martial rights as part of the covenant.

      Hopefully I articulated my point clearly there as I am typing in a bit of a hurry at work.

    • John

      Chad: “Would you have viewed your actions as not sinful if you had not been married later?”

      That’s definitely a pertinent question. However, one could ask the same question of any Christian, what if you were divorced later, how would that change things? Because in theory it’s the same. If you have sex you are defacto married. If you split up, you are defacto divorced.

      “As is seen in the OT, an unwed woman belongs to the nearest male relative in the sense of responsibility/provision/rights. ”

      I don’t think the bible draws a link between that and sexual morality. Otherwise adultery and or fornication would be completely equivalent. And very clearly they are not the same thing in the bible. The penalty for adultery was death. The penalty for fornication was marriage. ( or do you think marriage is equivalent to death? 🙂

    • JB Chappell

      @Chad

      -“I would question what is motivating your desire to attempt to circumvent the general position that is brought forth in the article.”-

      We all have our biases; I just chose to air my potential bias out in the open as others had done. I’d like to think I am an objective thinker, but so does everyone else. In any case, one can always question the motives of others.

      -“Whether lust or covet is the more appropriate term here is not important…”-

      I think it is very important. It provides context. Words are important.

      -“I want to focus primarily on the “without due regard for the rights of others” section in relation to this. As is seen in the OT, an unwed woman belongs to the nearest male relative in the sense of responsibility/provision/rights.”-

      So, let me get this straight… are you honestly claiming that women, until they are married, “belong” to their fathers? This is an aspect of the OT you would still affirm? In OT times, when people would have been marrying off their 12-year olds, this idea makes more sense than it does now, when we’re discussing adults who know very well what they’re doing.

      -“Apathy or acceptance of premarital sex by the guardian does not absolve the engager of the coveting/theft of those factors, but merely shows that the guardian is also filled with sin and in need of the same grace as the engager.”-

      You cannot argue that someone’s rights are being violated, if they voluntarily relinquish their rights. If you’re simply going to argue that “it doesn’t matter if they do, it’s still wrong”, then you’ve defeated your own line of reasoning. It’s wrong for some other reason.

    • JB Chappell

      @Chad

      -“If the betrothed woman is found not to be a virgin, she is stoned at the father’s door because he is responsible for the daughter.”-

      Call me crazy, but you’re argument lacks rhetorical power if you need to resort to OT passages approving of stoning non-virgins.

      -“The punishment is both on the daughter for sleeping with other men and for the father for not protecting and permitting his daughter to play the whore.”-

      Oh no, keep in mind that if she had been raped, it was probably her fault too. The important thing here is that she wasn’t a virgin. Very upsetting.

      -“You also state that because you engaged in premarital sex with your future wife that you do not find this to be sinful.”-

      That’s not quite what I said. I do not think that it is OK *because* I did it; that is obviously nonsensical. I did it thinking that it was OK, and I still do. It remains a fact that the only person I have slept with was my wife, a woman who was 27 years old at the time, and hardly “belonged” to her father, who had little to do with her in the first place.

      -“You cannot do something that would be covered under the covenant of marriage before marriage in the anticipation of being married to this person, because frankly there can be no certainty of the marriage happening or not.”-

      What is up for debate is whether or not what we did is exclusive to “the covenant of marriage”. So, you’re simply begging the question by saying that doing something in anticipation of it happening is wrong.

      -“Would you have viewed your actions as not sinful if you had not been married later?”-

      That is a great question, and I would say that it depends on the circumstances of why the marriage did not happen.

    • JB Chappell

      Does it not strike others that if these two passages are the defining go-to verses for defining pre-marital sexual morality, that Christianity has built a significant degree of its sexual snobbery and judgmentalism on a rather shoddy foundation? It seems to me like the unspoken principle here is “it’s always been this way, so there has to be a good reason for it”. Tradition is not value-less, but neither does it need to be immutable.

    • Henry

      Just a basic point that I think was missed:

      If it was a sin in the OT for a virgin young lady to fornicate then surely it follows that at the very least it must be sin for the man who sleeps with her – since he would be causing her to sin.

      How could he sleep with her and not be sinning if it was a sin for her to sleep with him?

    • JB Chappell

      @Henry

      -“How could he sleep with her and not be sinning if it was a sin for her to sleep with him?”-

      Ah, but you forget that it’s those wily women who seduce us innocent men. Funny how times change. Just look at all the warnings in the Bible about women seducing men. I’ve never had that problem! Now, we warn all our daughters about men who only want one thing….

      Unfortunately, Henry, by the same logic it would have been OK for women to have concubines and multiple husbands – but we all know that wasn’t true. There was a double-standard.

    • John

      I should point out that Joseph and Mary were living together before they were married (if they ever did get married, which scripture does not record). I’m not suggesting anything was going on, but it shows that it wasn’t considered odd in the culture for people betrothed to be living together. In the normal course if events, we know what goes on when engaged men and women live together, even if it wasn’t in this special case.

    • JB Chappell

      Not only were Joseph and Mary living together, but it would appear that they were spending time alone together, which was frowned upon. (Not part of the Torah, but often custom). Scandalous!

      See Song of Solomon as well were some insight on how the Bible views pre-marital sex. It starts with a kiss and excitement about their fresh love. Later, they discuss their bed, which – as I understand it – is often a euphemism for sex in Scripture. And, here’s the kicker: notice they don’t have a marriage ceremony until much later. Seems to me that Solomon and his lover would have received some very disapproving looks from Christians today, yet this is *scripture*. And, please, PLEASE don’t give me this crap about it being allegorical.

      Pretty good discussion on this same issue here:

      http://www.unc.edu/home/jasondm/OT-sex.html
      http://www.unc.edu/home/jasondm/sex.html

      Simply put: there’s not a good argument to be made for any/all pre-marital sex to be considered “fornication”. Fornication is, in fact, a sin. BUt one can’t help but note that of all the explicit sexual prohibitions in the Bible (adultery, rape, bestiality, incest), sexual relations prior to a wedding ceremony is not included among them. And, given that they seem to have attempted to be pretty thorough here, there’s probably a reason why.

    • Mark Allison

      Good post Michael.

      In response to some of the comments above:

      So, when Jesus said to look at a woman with lust in your heart was a sin, he was REALLY saying that it was okay to have sex with her, as long as you didn’t look at her with lust in your heart. Good thing we have theology to clear that up.

    • JB Chappell

      @Mark

      -“So, when Jesus said to look at a woman with lust in your heart was a sin, he was REALLY saying that it was okay to have sex with her, as long as you didn’t look at her with lust in your heart.”-

      No.

      Jesus was saying that adultery is not limited to physical acts, and that if you lust/covet someone else’s wife you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart. There is a reason why Jesus uses the word “adultery” here, and not the more general “fornication”. Adultery is a specific offense involving married people.

      Of course, it’s possible that Jesus was simply speaking to married men, and that the object of desire here is not. That is why I find the use of the word “covet” (translated as “lust”) here so important. The implication is clear: she belongs to another.

      Again, you can claim that even if she wasn’t married, she would have “belonged to another” in that she would have been under the domain of her father/guardian. But that would be an odd approach, seeing as how most Christians don’t affirm this part of the OT as applicable. I am not even sure, to be honest, if that is even part of the Law of Moses, or if that would have simply been custom.

      I guess the more interesting question is whether, if it was part of the Law of Moses, if Jesus would have affirmed this part of the OT. This whole section seems to be Jesus’ demonstration that he does hold to the Torah, yet it is clear that He does not hold to it in the same way.

    • Mark Allison

      That would make sense if Jesus was only speaking to married men in this context. He’s not. He says “everyone who looks on a woman” . . . The Greek word for “everyone” means “everyone.”

    • C Michael Patton

      Definitely. Jesus, the ought this whole section, ups the ante on all these “you have heard it said” laws. Jesus gets down to the principle of the sixth commandment extending its application to all those who are able to even lust. The idea is that there is no marriage required to break the spirit of the sixth commandment. All mouths should be shut by the end of Christ’s teaching!!

    • John

      Oh come on Michael and Mark. This verse is not applicable, end of story! Does the “everybody” include you looking at your own woman? No. So, the “everybody” looking at a woman isn’t actually everybody is it? But if you want to say its everybody, sure it can be the unmarried man looking at a married woman. That satisfies those determined to make it everybody. But the reality is, it doesn’t include some cases – your own woman for one thing. Then we come to argue who is your own woman. Certainly, a woman you were betrothed to was considered your woman in Jewish culture, for a start. That’s why Joseph could wander the countryside with Mary. Everyone knows the verse has exceptions, or married folks won’t be having sex. The argument then is, when is the exceptions? You won’t find any answer in this verse. I still think nobody will ever be married unless you start by coveting a woman. Did you WANT your wife before you married her Michael? I don’t even mean sexually. I just mean did you want her? I would hope so!! But then, you broke this commandment, which says not to covet/lust/desire a woman!!

    • C Michael Patton

      I think you are over exegeting and finding loopholes in some obvious stuff and pulling a text book red herring. First, covet is not simply want or desire. Lust is not either. It is to have an insatiable desire for something that is not yours. Of course there are proper ways to fulfill lusts and sl desires within the law (Mosaic and natural as Paul illustrates in Rom 7). But to lust sexually for something that is not yours (whether it be someone else’s wife or an unmarried woman) or to have an in contentment for what God has given you expresses the principles of the sixth and tenth cmamemts. Christ was talking to people who thought that they were not guilty of breaking the law. He showed th that adultery includes all lust outside of marriage just as mirder includes all ill-will toward another.

    • John

      But Michael… Isn’t it a simple fact, just a real simple fact that not all sex outside marriage is adultery? Can Jesus really be saying that to imagine to do something is adultery, when to really do it actually isn’t adultery?
      Come on.

      If you want to argue that adultery includes fornication, I’d be interested to hear the argument. But until then, this is simple misapplication of scripture.

    • C Michael Patton

      I have already argues it. But my ability to convince a party does not determine the strength of the argument. Everything from lust to actual adultery breaks the sixth commandment. That is Jesus’ point. Just like everything from hatred to murder breaks the fifth commandment. The context of Jesus’ argument makes this clear. It is a movement beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the law. His purpose is to show that even the religious leaders of the day were in desperate need of a solution that bypasses the keeping of the Law on their part.

    • John

      If lust breaks the spirit of the anti-adultery law, why wasn’t the original law anti-fornication too? I thought Jesus point was that doing something in your head is like doing it in real life. But you’re saying that doing something in your head can break a totally unrelated command.

      You said that the bad lust/coveting is an “insatiable” desire for something that is not yours. What exactly is insatiable anyway? you’re saying desire is fine, as long as its not insatiable? There’s a ton of leeway there in estimating what is insatiable. I guess then fornication is ok, as long as its fairly casual, and not too much strong desire is involved? A one night stand is better than two committed lovers?

    • Nick Peters

      Just wanted to post here to say as a 32 year-old man that I married at the age of 29 to my wife who was 19 at the time. We both have Asperger’s which make us a unique match. She is the only woman I have ever slept with and she is in fact the only woman I have romantically kissed. (Of course, I have kissed other women such as relatives.) I consider that a joy. (Note, Michael knows my Mrs. so I’m sure he can heartily endorse my testimony.)

      Also, my Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies are going crazy with something I keep seeing in the comments.

      The 6th commandment is “Do not murder.” It is the seventh that says “Do not commit adultery.”

    • John

      Nick: there are multiple numbering schemes. Look up the 10 commandments in Wikipedia.

    • Nick Peters

      I know there are others, but by and large, when we refer to the Ten Commandments, the 7th is adultery.

      Also, on principle, I do not use Wikipedia for discussions like this.

    • John

      I don’t know who you think “we” is, but Catholics and Luther disagree with your numbering. You are using the Jewish numbering. We are using the Christian numbering.

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      -“But my ability to convince a party does not determine the strength of the argument.”-

      Very true. But, of course, that something is clear *to you*, does not actually mean that it is clear. I find it interesting that you think John was over-exegeting when it is clear *to me* that you are extrapolating more from the text than what is actually there.

      I could be wrong, but it isn’t as if one can go to the early church writings/fathers for an exegesis on this either. They are largely silent on this issue. The Didache, for example, simply prohibits “promiscuity” and “adultery”. I could be wrong, but I think most would acknowledge that not all who engage in pre-marital sex are “promiscuous”.

      -“Everything from lust to actual adultery breaks the sixth commandment. That is Jesus’ point.”-

      But “everything” from lust/coveting to actual adultery breaks the 6th commandment is NOT what Jesus said, nor – even if it was – does it actually tell us that pre-marital sex is wrong.

      Because if it was the 7th Commandment (thanks for the correction, Nick!), Jesus was addressing, the context is obviously “cheating on your spouse”. There is no question that Jesus is expanding the law here to include the spirit of intent! But is not clear that Jesus is equating “adultery = all non-sanctioned sex”. There was already a word for the latter: “fornication”, and Jesus chose not to use it. And we’ve already established that it’s clear the OT did not consider pre-marital sex as “non-sanctioned”.

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      -“The context of Jesus’ argument makes this clear. It is a movement beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the law.”-

      Agreed! What is clear by what Jesus says here is that adultery is more than a physical act, that it includes lust. What is NOT clear is that Jesus is saying lust = fornication. Extrapolating that from what is written is reading what you want/expect into the text, IMHO. The only real argument offered here for interpreting it this way is that Jesus does say “everyone”. As John pointed out, however, clearly it doesn’t apply to “everyone”.

      Rather, it is clear that it applies to “everyone within this context”. So, the issue that needs justification is why we should interpret the context as “fornication” rather than “adultery”, And, when we consider the usage of the word “covet” (translated as “lust”) here – which does not actually refer to sexual desire – we wouldn’t consider it an allusion to the 10th commandment, where the context is obviously desiring something belonging to somebody else – which, again, is perfectly consistent which a discussion on adultery.

    • JB Chappell

      John said it better than I could:

      -“…Jesus point was that doing something in your head is like doing it in real life. But you’re saying that doing something in your head can break a totally unrelated command.”-

      I think we all agree the point of Jesus discussion here is that doing something in your head is wrong, just as the physical act is wrong. Thus, it needs to be demonstrated that Jesus felt pre-marital sex is wrong, and that simply isn’t clear from a discussion on “adultery”. Stating that “everything from lust to adultery is wrong” assumes that marital sex and pre-marital sex are not on the same continuum of “sanctioned sex”. In other words, it’s assuming the very thing in question.

    • Rene

      Wow. Thanks for admitting that you did not do to well in the sex before marriage department. Your post brings back sad memories of those days at Stonebriar church when I had to watch you leading the singles. Your struggle was obvious as a newly married man (to a weak Christian), who did not live what he preached. I don’t remember you loving the people around, but treating so many with an indifference and snobbery more characteristic of a frat boy than a person who loved Jesus. I didn’t stay for long. I hope this new ministry can be a time for redemption and bring glory to Jesus.

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      -“…covet is not simply want or desire. Lust is not either. It is to have an insatiable desire for something that is not yours.”-

      Can you elaborate on why this desire must be “insatiable”? I bring this up because it seems to me that you may defeating your own argument here. “Insatiable” is an odd standard. If one covets another’s possessions, that desire is, in fact, satiable – by stealing them. So, it would seem to me that if covet/lust is an extra-special type of desire, than it would be possible for someone to have this desire (and perhaps even engage in the activity?), so long as it is “satiable”. With a married woman, this desire is “insatiable” in the sense that fulfilling the desire is expressly forbidden. Not so with pre-marital sex.

      The trick bag here seems to be that you are admitting that there are acceptable forms of desire. If you claim that a single man desiring a single woman is “lust”, period, then you are arguing circularly. Otherwise, as I said before, you have to assume that pre-marital sex lies in the continuum of non-sanctioned activity (lust adultery), which again is arguing circularly.

      The only escape I see is flatly declaring *any* desire, sexual or not (lust/covet) & insatiable or not, for a woman you are not married to = adultery. But, as John pointed out, that seems crazy, as then any marriage that isn’t arranged probably was “adulterous” to begin with. But maybe that’s why we’re encouraged to be celibate…?

      -“But to lust sexually for something that is not yours (whether it be someone else’s wife or an unmarried woman) … expresses the principles of the sixth and tenth [commandments].”-

      Well, not quite, I don’t think. It seems that the emphasis in both cases was simply to not desire/lust/covet things that *belong to someone else*, no? Again, I’m no Greek expert, but my understanding is that the “woman” in Matthew 5 could easily be translated as “wife”.

    • C Michael Patton

      I imagine that it is from this passage that Paul got the idea that it is better to marry than to burn, which argues against sec before marriage.

      I am curious. Those who are arguing against my interpretation of Matt 6, do you beleive that sex before marriage/3″engagement (depending on customs) is not a sin.

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      -“Those who are arguing against my interpretation of Matt 6, do you beleive that sex before marriage/3″engagement (depending on customs) is not a sin.”-

      Honestly, I would simply say it’s unclear. It’s not explicitly forbidden. So, we have to read into things if we are to get this prohibition. I can respect that some may think it is “clear” from certain passages that it is wrong, but others obviously do not. I would say when things need to be interpreted like this that it is probably a matter of conscience.

      I would say that if one feels it is wrong, for that person it is wrong. Complicating issues now is that, Biblical or not, chastity is part of “Mere Christianity” now. So, the world snickers when Christians have sex outside marriage. In this way, it almost feels like it *needs* to be wrong, because otherwise it will be seen as compromising, even if we were wrong all along. We’ve backed ourselves into a corner on this, and I think that motivates quite a bit of the interpretation in many (not necessarily yours) cases.

    • […] Read More […]

    • C Michael Patton

      Okay, I think I see what you all are saying about Christ’s statement about lust. You are saying that it is limited to a married man who lusts. I think Christ is broadening it more than this, but I can see how one could limit it.

      I suppose that the next strongest argument is Paul’s statement that it is better to marry than to burn. This is clearly not talking about married people, but unmarried burning for sex. If sex outside of marriage was not forbidden in Paul’s mind, why does he say this?

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      -“If sex outside of marriage was not forbidden in Paul’s mind, why does he say this?”-

      What else is he going to say? “Go nuts, you crazy kids”? Nobody wants to have sex just a few times (that I know of), and promiscuity was always frowned on.

      Again, Paul makes it fairly clear that he is NOT giving them commands here. So, I think the better question is, if he felt sex outside marriage was wrong, why wouldn’t that have been included in the “command” section? I think it is significant that regarding sex he offers only wise advice and “concessions” but regarding divorce he offers “commands” from God. Seems the modern church has reversed things.

      Paul seems to me to be specifically addressing those who lose their self-control. The “burn” here is not talking about a small candle flame, but a consuming fire. Losing self-control is never acceptable, it leads to unwise decisions. And just as the married folks are directed to each other to keep their passions in check, so those who are going to lose self-control are wisely directed to marriage as a “concession”. There really is no advice given for those who aren’t going to be getting out of control. Remember, sexual *promiscuity* was specifically forbidden in the Didache.

      In any case, even if Paul *did* feel that sex before marriage was wrong, he didn’t bother to mention that fact. Once again, we are left to read between the lines, and they aren’t very clear. And they are in a spot where he isn’t offering revelation from God, but practical advice. I would say even more practical in that day, considering the stigma that would have been attached to an unwed mother in those days.

      I guess the question here is whether anyone who engages in pre-marital sex should be considered someone who loses their self-control, or not. Again, I don’t see such specificity from Paul, and I think that if someone takes that away from the text, it’s because they brought it with them.

    • John

      There is another difficulty with the text, which is the use of husband and wife. “Each man is to have her own wife, and each woman her own husband”. The word for wife and husband is the same as man and woman. So it can be read “each man is to have his own woman, and each woman her own man”. When we see in the bible something like “Abraham took another wife/woman named Keturah” does it mean he rocked up to the local synagogue/church and went through the ceremony? I don’t think so. Paul criticizes going to a prostitute, because you “become on flesh”. He doesn’t say anything criticizing your girlfriend. Without being an expert on the culture of the whole Mediterranean world, the implication to me is that if you are sleeping with your girlfriend she IS your woman/wife. In the modern world we know that too because we have a term “defacto wife”.

      Michael, as far as I see, the reason the text is so problematic on this question, is that the ancient world didn’t have this category of behavior. There was prostitutes, which are condemned. There basically was no casual sex, because there was no pill. So all there was, was sleeping with your own woman.

      Maybe I’m wrong on this Michael, but this is what I get from just reading the bible.

      So when Paul says “it is better to marry than to burn”, its because he isn’t aware of any other options. We don’t know what question prompted this sermon from Paul, but we can guess it is something like whether they should remain alone, perhaps because the second coming may be near. Obviously you burn if you are alone. The solution is to take a woman – obviously. Taking a woman, the word for this concept is “marry”. Not a concept that carries all the officialdom and ceremony that we assume it does today.

      So you ask Michael if sex before marriage is a sin. My question is: is there even such a thing as sex before marriage? Biblically, I don’t think it exists. If you try it, then you are married.

    • Chad Dougless

      @John post #19

      I think there are pretty clear teaching against divorce in the Bible, see Matthew 5:31-32. So if your argument is that you are “defacto married” by having sex and then “defacto divorced” when you split up, that would only be a viable defense in the case of sexual immorality. So either the premarital sex resulting in the “defacto marriage” is the sexual immorality, or the “defacto adultery” of cheating on the partner would be the grounds for the “divorce”. Then we can debate the methodical legal ramifications of all the “defacto” break up scenarios, but it seems rather pointless as your point seems to argue against itself.

      @JB post 20

      I did not claim that words are not important as you seemed to indicate with your line of thought. However, I did say that the debate between lust and covet was not important as the definitions of them are extremely similar, see Lust – a passionate or overmastering desire or craving; Covet – to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others. I would say that inordinate desire and overmastering desire are the same.

      As far as would I attest the “belonging” portion of women to the nearest male relative still, I would say yes I do and find it irrelevant to the age of the woman in question. Does that mean that I would sell her like a belonging or disrespect choices and preferences in a suitor, no, but until she is married I view it as my responsibility to protect my daughter (I do not currently have one). Whether this is protection from others or herself I see no real distinction. Obviously, she will sin, I will sin, others will sin against us, but the heart is the big issue here. I believe that it is cultural for us to hit the eject button on our children at 18 and give them a hug and a thumbs up and say good luck.

      More in next post…

    • John

      Not really sure what your point is Chad.

      I had the romantic notions of many folks here. Marriage is forever, blah blah. Then my wife left me, with a lot of nonsense excuses. Still, my opinion didn’t change. Marriage should be forever, but we don’t always get the choice, and we can’t live in loneliness on romantic notion. That’s my sad lonely opinion this New Year’s Eve. Happy new year folks.

    • Chad Dougless

      @JB post 21

      Should I abandon the OT texts because we are in the New Covenant? Seems inane at the best. My point is not to say that we should go stone some non-virgins right now, but to show you a contextual example of what we are discussing and the “spirit of the Law” behind it as you discuss later. The point, and a very serious point it was, was that a woman should be a virgin on her wedding day. Does that explicitly state that men should be virgins on their wedding day? No, but it could be seen as implicit by virtue of not provoking your wife to anger or shame or putting unrealistic sexual expectations upon her based on a male’s past experiences.

      So, you went into the engagement of sexual relations thinking it was not just OK, but acceptable by God? You were a believer at the time, she was as well, you consulted the Scriptures for definitive information, prayed for the Spirit to move to the truth? Obviously you have not found any explicit command in Scripture against it, so you were an active member of a Christian church, and decided to concede to their authority in the matter? You consulted them and saw what their answer regarding the matter was, and then proceeded based on conscience if they approved of premarital sex? You may think that the line of thinking here is extreme or oppressive, but in fact you fall under all of these authorities and you are supposed to respect and obey these authorities. Let me know if you see where I am going with this and whether you agree or disagree.

      I think your point is arguing whether sex is actually covered under the covenant of marriage, and that my point did not adequately ascertain this fact. I would then have to ask what the purpose of sex is and investigate in Scripture these purposes. They are numerous and varied, but could briefly confine them to procreation, pleasure, and expression of love. Do we see sanctioning in the eyes of God in these things outside of marriage?

    • Chad Dougless

      @John, page 2, comment 1

      Sorry to hear that your wife left you. I can only imagine the pain and distress that would cause in the life of anyone. Was she a believer? I assume you are since you are posting here, but you can tell me I am wrong if I am. I do not believe that marriage is forever. I believe that marriage is temporal, it is only valid here on earth and while both parties are alive. We do not always get the choice in how things play out, and the truth of the matter is, that no matter what there are 2 sinners involved in a marriage and we can not have a completely redeemed and perfect marriage here on earth. Again, sorry to hear that you are lonely and pained by this.

    • John

      Yes Chad, she was a believer. It’s amazing what people will justify, if it suits them. She was my first and still only. But now, probably not last, because I can’t be alone.

    • Chad Dougless

      I would also like to throw Matthew 19:1-12 into the ring. This actually seems to work backward from marriage to singleness. It starts off with the creation of man and woman and the ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. We can debate about what it means exactly with the two becoming one flesh, whether that is explicit to sex or to the relationship decisions as a whole, etc. But the point I would like to make here is that the progression of events is clearly, a man lives with his father and mother, leaves them, holds fast to his wife, and the two become one flesh. It does not teach, a man leaves his father and mother and has some sex, then gets married later. While not explicitly applicable to all situations, specifically JB’s case, it does seem to implicitly state that you would be married prior to becoming one flesh physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Obviously it is metaphorical to an extent because each person still exists, etc.

      Continuing from there, is the question about “well if it is going to be that tough to stay married, why bother?” Jesus states that some will be eunuchs for various reasons, but that it would be an extremely difficult teaching and only some would be able to receive it, whether by nature, man, or choice. The thing to note here is that the idea of the eunuch is that they would be unable to have sex. I do not know the science behind whether castration makes it impossible to have sex or not, because that is weird science. But the implication certainly seems to be that you are either married and having sex, or not married and not having sex. There does not seem to be room for a third position of not married and having sex. I could be mistaken, so feel free to point out the other options.

    • Chad Dougless

      @John, page 2, post 4

      Unfortunately it is part of our sinful nature that we attempt to justify behaviors based upon our own desires instead of what God would have us do. This is a constant battle for all of us, but seems to be extremely potent when it comes to divorce. People become so hardened in heart that they become blinded to the truth of Christ and want to willingly pursue the enemy. I pray that you will be able to pursue a new Christian woman who will team with you to pursue sanctification through marriage…the most difficult of ministries. I hope that you are connected within your church and able to lean on them for support in these troubling times.

    • JB Chappell

      @Chad

      -“…the debate between lust and covet was not important as the definitions of them are extremely similar”-

      And yet, they do mean different things. Again, the fact that “coveting” refers to desiring something *that belongs to someone else* is not insignificant here.

      -“As far as would I attest the “belonging” portion of women to the nearest male relative still, I would say yes I do and find it irrelevant to the age of the woman in question.”-

      Um, OK. Can you explain why this is an element of the OT that we should affirm, but not prohibiting wearing mixed fabrics?

      -“Does that mean that I would sell her like a belonging or disrespect choices and preferences in a suitor, no…”- 

      But you would find it OK to deny her a suitor that she wants, as long as you “respect” it?

      -“…but until she is married I view it as my responsibility to protect my daughter.”-

      That is your obligation as a father, yes. But  the nature of this changes as they grow. eventually, they become morally autonomous beings.

      Should I abandon the OT texts because we are in the New Covenant?  

      Nope. But there are principles in the OT that are not worth affirming anymore, and probably never were.

      -“The point, and a very serious point it was, was that a woman should be a virgin on her wedding day.”-

      No, I think it’s obvious that the “wedding day” was often simply whenever they had sex, as John pointed out. Further, the issue here is being MISLEAD about the wife being a virgin. 

      -“Does that explicitly state that men should be virgins on their wedding day?  No, but it could be seen as implicit”-

      This assumes that men were held to the same standard. It should be obvious they were not, even CMP conceded that much.

      -“Obviously you have not found any explicit command in Scripture against it, so you were an active member of a Christian church, and decided to concede to their authority in the matter?”-

      Call me crazy, but – no – I did not…

    • JB Chappell

      @Chad (cont’d)

      …consult my church about my sex life. Nor did they ask me about it. The answers to your other questions were “yes”.

      -“You may think that the line of thinking here is extreme or oppressive”-

      Yes, I do. Many of these things are what we do when unsure of what was right. I was not uncertain. My guess is most people don’t call their church every time they make a moral choice.

      -“Let me know if you see where I am going with this and whether you agree or disagree.”-

      I respect my church, but their authority does not extend to unilateral control.  Again, you are approaching it as someone who thinks I should have seen this was wrong. One does not do all this consulting when conviction is otherwise.

      -“I would then have to ask what the purpose of sex is and investigate in Scripture these purposes.”-

      There is no explicit mention of this in scripture either. See, this is where I find it funny that those of us who think things are unclear are “over-exegeting”. People try to read into the text, extract principles from what (they think) is implied, then turn around and make it dogma. 

      -“They are numerous and varied, but could briefly confine them to procreation, pleasure, and expression of love. Do we see sanctioning in the eyes of God in these things outside of marriage?”-

      I would argue that we don’t even see what you have stated so far. Where in scripture does it say sex is an expression of love? Pleasure and procreation hardly require scriptural interpretation. Do we see God sanctioning these things outside “marriage”. That depends on what we mean by “marriage”. Obviously, it worked much differently. This is why things are unclear. If you mean “a sexually monogamous relationship preceded by a socio-religious ceremony” then that concept is nowhere to be found in scripture. Regardless, there are plenty of examples of sex outside marriage in the Bible, some of which have already been mentioned. It is questionable…

    • JB Chappell

      @Chad (cont’d)

      …whether they are “sanctioned”, but neither are they explicitly condemned. 

      Re: Matthew 19:1-12 
      -“…the progression of events is clearly, a man lives with his father and mother, leaves them, holds fast to his wife, and the two become one flesh.”-

      This doesn’t help at all. If “becoming one” is a euphemism  for sex, this obviously doesn’t help your case at all. If it is a euphemism for marriage, then it says nothing regarding whether sexual relations are prohibited. Either way, doesn’t work.

      -“But the implication certainly seems to be that you are either married and having sex, or not married and not having sex.”-

      My impression here was that they didn’t like what he had to say about divorce, not sex. It used to be they could get rid of a woman if they wanted to, now they were stuck with her. That was a bummer for them. This makes it easier to understand why they would say “why get married at all?” They can have sex anyway, but if when you get married you’re STUCK with her. Apparently, that was a bummer.

    • Mark

      6th or 7th?

    • C Michael Patton

      I am intrigued by this conversation. Against my will, I have loosened my grip on sex before marriage as being a sin. But I still hold to it based on the Cor passage. It still seems strongly implied that sex before marriage is a significant sin. So much so that the life changing institution of marriage is invoked as a safeguard. This passage is enough right now and I have seen no arguments that are strong and against my interpretation.

    • Nick Peters

      Michael. I think even without an explicit commandment, considering the way marriage is seen in our society, this is a good practical rule. I’d say for the ancients, as soon as you had sex, you were technically married. Today, it’s best to wait for marriage since anything could happen before the time of the wedding.

    • John

      Sola Scriptura Michael: what is marriage? Prove your answer from bible alone, while refuting other possible answers.

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      RE: 1 Corinthians 7:9
      -“It still seems strongly implied that sex before marriage is a significant sin.”-

      This still puzzles me.

      “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

      What is it about this passage, or its context, that indicates if one chooses some other option – for instance, exercising self-control while still engaging in pre-marital sex, they are committing “a significant sin”? Stating that one thing is better than another is either majorly underplaying something considered significant, or a reflection of something considered not very significant – or at least not necessarily “right” vs. “wrong”. I’m especially curious why this is in light of the passage in question seemingly not falling under the domain of his “commands” from God later. This seems significant to me, I’m not sure why it isn’t for you (or if it is, how you interpret it).

    • JB Chappell

      @Nick

      -“I think even without an explicit commandment, considering the way marriage is seen in our society, this is a good practical rule.”-

      Curious what you mean by “how marriage is seen in our society”. I actually agree that is a good, virtuous practice. I don’t want to come across as someone who thinks chastity isn’t a virtue. It is. So maintaining chastity until marriage is something to be celebrated and honored. But I think it is obvious the rule isn’t a “practical” rule at all. Not sure in what sense you mean it is.

      -“I’d say for the ancients, as soon as you had sex, you were technically married. Today, it’s best to wait for marriage since anything could happen before the time of the wedding.”-

      Well, I assume you’ve abandoned many other ideas that “the ancients” had. If you maintain this one, I’d be curious why the solution here is to wait until a ceremony, as opposed to simply doing what they did. If you don’t want to preserve this concept, then what’s the importance of waiting?

    • C Michael Patton

      Jb

      Thanks so much. I am very interested to hear arguments against the traditional understanding of this passage (and my interpretation seems to be where most interpreters go). However, I did not really understand any of your counter-argument. This does not mean I am saying it is wrong, it is just that it made no sense to me at all.

      I will try to check back in here sometime, but my involvement in this post will not be very practical soon.

    • JB Chappell

      @CMP

      Fair enough! I’m sure the fault is mine for not being very clear.

    • Nick Peters

      I think my post has my implicit answers. Still, I’d answer that the sexual bond is a powerful and explosive bond that I believe only should be unlocked with the special bond of trust that comes in marriage. If you think you’re ready for sex, go ahead and get married. If not, then don’t do it. A love that truly loves will be capable of waiting for fulfillment.

    • Ross

      I wonder how many contesting from a position of “I can’t/don’t want to restrain my lust, therefore fornication must be reconciled with Christianity.”

      If sex outside marriage was lawful, then sex outside marriage would be prevalent. If sex outside marriage was prevalent, children outside marriage would be prevalent. As well, resistance to marry would be prevalent.

      Neither of these features are prevalent in the narrative. So it’s fair to conclude that it’s unlikely that sex outside marriage was lawful.

    • John

      Again Ross, what is marriage? Prove your answer from “the narrative”. Maybe these things aren’t “prevalent” because they simply can’t exist.

    • Ross

      I’m not sure what your point is, John.

      What is marriage, prove your answer from “the narrative”? What narrative are you talking about? Are you saying that marriage is an incoherent concept? What can’t exist?

      You’ll have to be clearer.

    • Gary Simmons

      John said: “Good article. One thing that should be noted is that premarital sex was not nearly as big of an issue in ancient times b/c people got married shortly after puberty. This business getting married in your mid to late twenties is very new. It’s not that God is a killjoy. It’s that modern western society has a very unnatural view towards marriage. Men hit their sexual peak in their teens but don’t get married until 10 years later when they’ve calmed down some. You can’t tell me that’s natural, especially when people got married early for 1000s of years and still do in most cultures.”

      An excellent point. So, why do we follow the culture on this? Genesis 2 seems to presume a pattern of heterosexual union brought forth by the groom’s (and bride’s, if God counts as dual roles here) father, with the groom possibly having direct input in selection, also. It also seems to imply that one does not leave one’s parent’s house until marrying, anyway. For clan-centered Israel, this makes sense: leaving/abandoning one’s parents needs justification; the multiplication of mouths to feed provides that justification.

      Young people today, myself included, are too married to their singleness and freedom. I admit that arranged marriage of teenagers is not just countercultural, but also a barrier to higher education, but to what extent is society making the mistake of Icarus flying too close to the sun? Are we foolishly trying to “ascend” higher than we ought as well?

      Being young and single in the church is hard. It seems as if women in their 20s do not feel compelled to marry or even date. I speak as someone who attends a conservative Evangelical complementarian church.

      What solution is there to the people-who-should-marry-not-marrying problem?

    • John

      The point is Ross, that maybe you haven’t defined your terms the same way the “narrative” does, so that you you see in it what you think you see. If those people slice and dice reality different to you, then it explains the omissions that you think you see.

    • Laura

      I belong to a small, conservative Lutherian congregation in Scandinavia. One of the best cermons I’ve heard was being held by a young priest in Christmas time couple of years ago. It was about Joseph and her young fiancee, who all the suddenly was pregnant. Of course Joseph new immediatelly that the baby wasn’t his. Why? Because he had waited, done the right thing.

      Priest stated that an honorable man during those time wanted to be the one who was able to wait. And all the suddenly, the society, the whole village looked at Joseph as a man who hadn’t had the nerves to wait till marriage with her beautiful young bride.

      Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I have an illusion in my mind that Joseph and Maria got married only after Jesus was born? I highly doubt that their life included premarital sex before that. I would assume, that nevertheless Joseph wanted to be the godly man who waited till marriage.

      What comes to the importance of waiting before marriage, I’d like to share a woman’s view of the subject too. Have you ever thought of, that maybe waiting before marriage is meaningful because of the more vulnerable party in the subject? 1. Peter 3:7

      Pieter, a married man, actually says, that women are more fragile creatures. And that men have great responsibility over them in the eyes of God. In fact, so great responsibility, that God even gave the law (the instructions not to eat from the tree etc.) to Adam way before Eve was even created for him to share his life with. Genesis 2:15-18.

      So I would personally assume, that God was quite serious about this order. Even after the fall, it was Adam, God fronted first. Just by asking. Where are you? Gen. 3:9

      If you would have kids, and the younger would set house on fire, would you in that moment call the older one (who was suppost to take care of the younger one and the house too) just by asking, where are you?

      As a woman, it is also almost quite impossible to truly respect a man who cannot…

    • Laura

      Sorry -too many words and too many mistakes with them, due to my language skills…

      But I was about to say, that as a woman, it is far more easier to respect a man as a husband (or any man) who can and are able and willing to control themselves with their lusts. Because woman can and do lust too, and it’s almost impossible for them to “lead the ship” in that situation to other direction if their loved ones decides not to wait. And that act gives a woman clear signal about the foundations of their marriage. It’s based on lust, maybe he doesn’t love me as a person that much after all? Plus man gave a way, even temporarily, his capability to lead the whole relationship to the right direction. This is not a good start for any marriage.

      How to respect a leader, who puts his desires first over the one who is weaker? It is extremely difficult to do that as a woman. Would you guys follow that kind of church leader as your spiritual leader? Not to mention in war? And yet so many woman have to trust their whole lives and children’s lives for these kind of leaders, who think more of their own lust than anything else.

      So, personally, I think there are no loopholes in this matter. As always God is thinking the weaker parties when giving his commands and instructions for us. And that way it will be the blessing of the leader as well.

    • JB Chappell

      @Laura

      Your perspective is an interesting one; thanks for sharing it.

      -“Of course Joseph new immediatelly that the baby wasn’t his. Why? Because he had waited, done the right thing.”-

      This is bringing your own assumptions to the text. Joseph could have known because of the timing. If they had only recently had intimate relations, but she was showing, then he would obviously have reason to be suspicious. There simply isn’t enough information to conclude one way or another. We know that an unmarried couple spending a significant amount of time alone together was well outside the norm, and we know what unmarried couples tend to do with such time, but that doesn’t mean that they did. Again, there simply isn’t enough information here to conclude one way or another.

      -“Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I have an illusion in my mind that Joseph and Maria got married only after Jesus was born?”-

      The Bible does not actually say if they ever did get married, I don’t think.

      -“I highly doubt that their life included premarital sex before that. I would assume, that nevertheless Joseph wanted to be the godly man who waited till marriage.”-

      That’s fine, as log as you recognize that is your *assumption*. It isn’t anything you conclude based on reading the text, and it definitely isn’t something we should build a doctrine on, even in part.

      • anna

        JB Chappell, Your comment: “This is bringing your own assumptions to the text. Joseph could have known because of the timing. If they had only recently had intimate relations, but she was showing, then he would obviously have reason to be suspicious. There simply isn’t enough information to conclude one way or another.”

        The Bible states “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly…Behold the Virgin shall be with child…And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matt 1)

        This is clear they had no prior sexual relations, they did marry.

        • JB Chappell

          Anna, I appreciate the correction. I was going off the Luke account, and I should have known better to consult only the one. I can understand why you would conclude what you do based on the way it reads in English, so you were not really bringing your own assumptions in – so I apologize for saying that you did.

          However, the “come together” phrase in Matthew is not a euphemism for intercourse, it is a euphemism for *cohabitation* (which can involve conjugal relations). The “knew” terminology used later (v25) is the common Jewish euphemism for sex, and it is significant that it was not used in v18. So, it is still the case that the text is not clear that they never had sex.

          • JB Chappell

            However, it may be a moot point as they were “betrothed”. This is partly what muddies the waters – Jewish marriage did not work like our marriage now. Joseph and Mary were “betrothed”, which would actually be more like our “marriage” – at least legally. They were bound to each other, and could only be separated by a divorce. However, despite that, they had not actually lived together yet. So, even if they were having sex, it isn’t at all clear (to me) that this would have been considered “wrong”. The area is actually pretty gray in terms of Rabbinic tradition as well, from what I understand. Usually they just delegated the interpretation of “pre-marital sex” to community leaders.

    • JB Chappell

      @Laura

      -“Have you ever thought of, that maybe waiting before marriage is meaningful because of the more vulnerable party in the subject? 1 Peter 3:7”-

      No, honestly, I had not considered this. I think, however, that you are speaking on behalf of all women, when perhaps you should only be speaking for women who think like you do. It may very well be the case that for many women, they need to see a man is capable of waiting. It may also be that for many women, this is a non-factor.

      -“But I was about to say, that as a woman, it is far more easier to respect a man as a husband (or any man) who can and are able and willing to control themselves with their lusts.”-

      Well, I think this goes for the men as well. I mean, I wouldn’t exactly prefer a woman who wants to get it on with just about anybody. I think the assumption here is that EITHER someone has self-control and waits until marriage, OR they lack self-control and don’t. That seems to me to be mistaken.

      -“And that act gives a woman clear signal about the foundations of their marriage. It’s based on lust…”-

      Again, I think you’re introducing your own assumptions into the fray here. Just because pre-marital relations have occurred, does not mean the relationship is based on lust.

    • Ross

      @John “The point is Ross, that maybe you haven’t defined your terms the same way the “narrative” does, so that you you see in it what you think you see. If those people slice and dice reality different to you, then it explains the omissions that you think you see.”

      I understand what you are saying here, John. That differences in definition can change meaning. However, I don’t see any reason to believe I am misinterpreting what the Bible is saying here. The army of scholars, researchers, textual critics and anthropologists have not told us any such thing.

      But I wonder, John- Do you wish the Bible permitted premarital sex?

      @Laura: I found your thoughts interesting. Because of the female perspective, but also because of your cultural background, which brings a fresh, non-anglophonic perspective. Please post more often.

    • John

      Ross, does your army of scholars and anthropologists say that when the bible says Abraham took a wife, it means he fronted up at the local synagogue for a ceremony, or does it mean he took her to bed?

      As for what I “hope” the bible says, not being a Protestant, I think the Christian tradition carries some weight. So it doesn’t affect me what the bible teaches. I think from bible alone teaching, going to bed and taking a wife would be equivalent. Just as well I’m not Protestant huh?

    • Ross

      John,

      I’m not sure one has to “front up at a local synagogue” in order to be married. Nor does it mean one just “takes her to bed”.

      Sounds like a false dichotomy here. Why can’t we believe it was meant to be a monogamous lifelong social contract, meant to be recognized by all?

    • JB Chappell

      @Ross

      -“Why can’t we believe it was meant to be a monogamous lifelong social contract, meant to be recognized by all?”-

      Because marriage obviously wasn’t thought to be a monogamous arrangement… unless you were a woman.

    • John

      Ross: “Why can’t we believe it was meant to be a monogamous lifelong social contract, meant to be recognized by all?”

      There are many many things we could choose to believe about this. But since the whole argument hinges on it, you would have to prove it, no?

      BTW, it doesn’t seem to be lifelong OR monogomous, since Abraham sent away one of his wives.

    • Ross

      What I meant to say by monogamy was “infidelity, or the idea of an open marriage” was not condoned as being within God’s definition of marriage.

      But you guys are partly right. God did allow some leeway with marriage in the OT, mostly for practical reasons given the constraints of the time.

      But this fails to justify premarital sex.

      The stark omission of acceptable premarital sex, or some of the expected sociological outcomes of premarital sex from Biblical narratives provides plenty of reason to think that sex was meant to be within marriage.

      On the flipside, however, at least one of you appeals to a sort of selective hyper-skepticism. Ie, when it comes to marriage, we conveniently have no idea what anything means anymore. Until suddenly we’re made to believe that Abraham just “took Sarah to bed” one day and she became his wife. And according to John that’s the only place where we don’t have to be skeptical.

      So what else besides the selective skepticism? JB I’m all ears. Convince me.

    • Laura

      @JB Chappel on comment nro 27.

      Thank you for your welcoming thoughts and good points concerning my own assumptions.

      I admit, I was hasty with my conclusions and assumptions. However, as said they were not originally my own inventions since many points were coming from the sermon I heard from one of our priests.

      But – I still stand behind those thoughts based on how I interpret the Bible. And also, I’m a layman, I don’t know any hebrew, aramaic of greek. But I took a better look on the bible again. Matt. 1:18-21

      I used two current translations we have in Finnish. The one for modern Finnish language is from 1992 and the older one from 1938. These two are the only ones we use in Finland. (But I also checked these verses from the year 1776 Finnish bible and also the Swedish version from 1917 and the King James version (don’t know the year)).

      It says there:

      “Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

      In the Finnish and Swedish versions of bible I checked, instead of word espoused was being used the word engaged.

      Then the more important phrase: before they came together.

      In the older scandinavian versions it says in the bible just like that, before they had been together and in the Finnish version from year 1992 it says that before their union was validated.

      To me this is a matter of faith part here. I take it literally. When it says that they hadn’t been together I believe it.(meaning, the union would become an official validated marriage if they would have had sex).

      And that’s why I assume, that Joseph knew that he definitely was not the father, because he had waited and hadn’t had sex with Maria. (Since they weren’t “married”).

      I also want to remind that in case of Jacob, Leah and Rachel the marriage happened immediatelly when Leah “accidentally” happened to be in Jacob’s wedding bed of instead of Rachel that night. After that Leah become his official wife in…

    • John

      Ross: “The stark omission of acceptable premarital sex, or some of the expected sociological outcomes of premarital sex from Biblical narratives provides plenty of reason to think that sex was meant to be within marriage. ”

      Again Ross, you seem to be obtusely ignoring the obvious. The reason there is no premarital sex in the bible, is because when they took the woman to bed, it was considered marriage. Premarital sex is about as as realistic as unicorns in that mindset, wouldn’t you say? It’s not that it’s bad, in that world view, rather it can’t exist.

    • Laura

      Continuing…

      After that Leah became Jacobs official and validated wife immediatilly, because they had had sex the night before. No matter how fair the circumstances were. Laban used that knowledge when he orchestrated the whole thing. He just merely stated to Jacobs astonishment:

      “It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn”.

      And I also noticed, that the words go in unto her were used here when Jacob spoked about marrying Rachel after seven years of waiting:

      21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

      22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

      23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

      25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me

      And the same words went in unto her were used, when the marriage became official to Leah.

      So sex = marriage, even I don’t quite understand here the exact words, but I do understand these same phrases in my own language and the meaning is the same there.

      Now I also remember why I thought that Josef didn’t marry Maria only after Christ was born.

      It says in Matt.1:25

      25 And (Josef) knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

      So, basically, you can now see my “logic” here, albeit I admit it’s based on assumptions and merely to faith that the Scripture is precise in this matter. When it was stated earlier that Josef and Mary hadn’t had sex (hadn’t been together)= they weren’t married. And since Joseph didn’t have sex (didn’t knew her) before the born of Christ = they weren’t officially married before that either.

      Conclusion, they were married after the born of Christ when they had sex…

    • John

      “Conclusion, they were married after the born of Christ when they had sex…”

      You mean IF.

    • Laura

      Ok – I have to admit, that I’m a bit over my head with this topic, but Jacob did have an official wedding party too.

      Laban even asked him to go through the whole wedding week with Leah, eventhough he had been just betrayed and given the wrong wife.

      To make things even more complicated with this debate, I have always wondered how on earth Jacob didn’t notice anything strange while having sex with Leah instead of Rachel, the woman of his lusts for more than seven years. Was he so drunk that night or what just happened???

      At least that should clear out, that if he would have had sex with Rachel before that night, he would have definitely noticed the difference. Or otherwise he was just an idiot and had sex with Leah too, no matter what the consequences because he had an opportunity to do so in the heat of the night. Hope that is not what happened.

      On the other hand, his old man had been fooled years ago with the same trick. Jaboc with fake fur hands instead of Esau, to claim the blessing of his father. How that happened too???

    • Laura

      @John 38.

      When they finally had sex, because Jesus did have brothers.

    • John

      They could be step brothers.

    • Laura

      What comes to God giving some kind of leeway with many wifes, I believe it was merely the guys who gave the leeway themselves since they weren’t able to have kids in the first place.

      Or as in Jacob’s case, to be satisfied to the fact, that God had allowed Leah to become his wife instead of Rachel and Jacob just decided to have her anyway…

      Where does it say there, that it God gave Abraham or Jacob anykind fo leeway for what they did by taking more wifes than one?

      I think the fact that Abraham had to repel this “extra wife” and child of his flesh and blood away from their home (Because God command him to do so) how seriously God took the idea of a monogamous relationship with Abraham and Sarah. Gen. 21:10-12

      If Jacob would have just settled to what he probably knew was right thing to do ( at least he should have known from the examples of his grandfather what a havoc it caused to have more than one wife), maybe his wife’s, Leah’s life and their childrens life would have been easier. Especially when I personally believe, that God didn’t meant Jacob to have four wives. And not to mention his children from all these wives to be so gruelling towards each others, that they even wanted to kill their younger brother.

      What a mess. When you think about the lives of those women, I would have never ever wanted to be in none of theirs shoes. Not Leah’s, Zilpah’s, Rachel’s or Bilbah’s.

      I don’t think that Jacob’s life was a special treat either after these events. And yet bible tells, that eventually God turned out his lifelong mistakes to a blessing of nations. But in my mind in doesn’t meen, that God gave any leeway or freedom for him to take many wives. He just what he did, and bible only tells, that this happened in Jacob’s life.

    • John

      Yeah but Laura, as I understand it, if a wife’s husband dies, the brother is obligated under the law to take the woman as another one of his wives. Polygamy was not just leeway, it was the law.

      In any case, while you can choose to read into these narratives your own ideas, nothing in the bible prohibits polygamy, not even in the new testament.

    • Laura

      Dear John. All this is possible, it’s even possible that the whole bible is mambo jambo world class fairy tail.

      However, I don’t have anything else in this universe. I’m life scientist, and I cannot believe to anything else than that there is a God and that He’s accurate, precise and knows what He’s doing. Otherwise anything in this world doesn’t make any sense to me.

      Whether it has to be something valid every time, when He says so, or anything what He says sometimes, doesn’t mean anything ever.

      He either can tell us what His will is, and is a sovereign God or he’s nothing else but an untrustworthy whimsical creature who sometimes can tell us something and most of the time nothing.

      And what I know from nature, everything works there for a reason. I know that doesn’t prove anything to you, but to me it does. Mathematically, statistically and with what ever scientific point of view you try to look at it, I cannot believe that something has created or developed itself from absolute pure nothing in the first place, no matter how many billion years there would be time for things to evolve from this nothingness of any energy or material substance.

      It’s either that reasoning behind the life as we know it, or that there is a God.

      I just personally rather believe in God, since otherwise life is too darn arbitrary and unfair to me. I put all my eggs to that basket, cling on to that hope, that bible is true and that there is a heaven for me also because of Jesus Christ.

      Maybe I’m mad, maybe I’m stupid, but that’s all I got in this life and I want to cling on that hope.

      As said, eventually, these are matter’s of faith. That’s all I got and even that is weak. But since it’s all I got in this life, I cling on that. It’s better than arbitraty randomness. I prefer more of the idea that there’s a rational God, who’s willing to help me and save me from this wretched world eventually.

      All the best John, I’ll go to sleep now.

    • John

      Laura: I’m not sure what your little speech here has got to do with the topic. We are debating here what if anything the bible is saying about relationships. We are not debating if there is a God. God doesn’t have to specify everything about everything, even if you want him to. I would also suggest perhaps, God did specify some things outside the bible, but that’s a topic for another day.

    • Laura

      I also need a break with the language, you try to do this level discussions in Finnish next time… These are difficult subjects to debate even in my mother tong and it doesn’t make it any easier to try to this by typing in English…

      Sorry, I give up. I just rather believe, that God meant people to be monogamous for their own good. That’s it. I honestly don’t think, that it makes life any easier to anyone to have many wives or husbands, or childrens to different mothers/fathers. The ones who are suffering the most on those situations are children. As in case of Jacob’s family life too. I don’t think that I’m too narrative, if I say, that there was something wrong with that family dynamic, if the other siblings wanted to kill Josef in the first place.

      Gen. 37:20-21

      20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

      21 And Reuben heard it , and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

      Anyway, I can only speak for myself as I already said. These are my personal opinions and believes.

      I personally will not ever in this life respect a man 100%, who cannot control himself and who would like to have sex before marriage and call himself christian also. Not to mention have multiple wives, girl friends etc. But I also know, that my opinion doesn’t really matter here. It’s just my opinion.

      Ok, now I’ll go to sleep, I’ll have to work tomorrow also.

    • John

      There are so many lonely women out there, I’m not sure if monogamy is doing women any favours actually. I suspect they’d be happier if they brought back the law to marry your husband’s brother. You could say it is the fault of all the unmarriable men out there, which would be true, but isn’t much consolation. Perhaps one day you’ll find yourself middle aged or older, and seeing it as a lessor of two evils, when you can’t imagine it now. Who knows?

    • Laura

      John,

      Please forgive me my stubborness, but I just had to do still some research even though I should be sleeping.

      I won’t harras you anymore after this.

      BR, Laura

      1. Tim 3:2 and 12

      A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

      12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

      1. Tim 5:9

      9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,

      Titus 1:6

      6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

    • John

      Is your husband s bishop Laura? 🙂

    • Laura

      John,

      Maybe I’m already there.

      I didn’t mean to be disrespectful and some of the difficulties with these discussions are because of cultural differences. Finnish way of speaking is quite blunt in general and especially since I’m not a native speaker and not familiar with the nuances and correct way of saying things.

      All the best to you, and God bless you.

      Laura

    • Ross

      John: “Again Ross, you seem to be obtusely ignoring the obvious. The reason there is no premarital sex in the bible, is because when they took the woman to bed, it was considered marriage. Premarital sex is about as as realistic as unicorns in that mindset, wouldn’t you say? It’s not that it’s bad, in that world view, rather it can’t exist.”

      John, unable to add anything of substance. Your claims sound fictional.

      We’re going to have to take this discussion for what it is- your attempt to legitimize a lack of self-control. Let’s be honest about it.

      Ultimately though, if God asked you to abstain from sex, would you be able to obey God?

      That seems to be the real question here. Only when you can’t, or don’t want to obey, or find it inconvenient will you try so hard to come up with these fascinating assertions.

      Take it from me- managing your sexual desires is empowering and satisfying. Initially, it’s difficult and leads to frustration. Your mind and body is literally detoxing itself from lustful thoughts and desires. You’re moving in a new direction and your mind and body are not used to it. But once you get over the initial hump, it’s easy. What happens is a counter-conditioning of your reflexes associated with sexual impulses. Give it a few weeks and you’ll feel great.

      I feel better now than when I was sexually active, with another person or otherwise. And I thought I could never let go.

      Bottom line is, you don’t have to give up. You don’t have to twist the Bible to rationalize your feelings. Just be honest with your difficulties to God. He will carry you through.

      You won’t become a nonsexual being. You won’t turn into a robot. Your personality won’t change. You’ll just be more clear-headed and authentic as an individual.

    • John

      Ross: since (a) I only ever had one woman, and I’m 43, and (b), not being a Protestant, I’m not bound by bible alone, I don’t think this is really about me, my self control or lack thereof. The issue, for you as a Protestant, is that the bible teaches that sex and marriage are basically equivalent. Laura even pointed out that Jacob accidentally married the wrong woman by having sex with her. Now if you have any rebuttal based on the bible, lets hear it. If you want to only talk about my personal life, I think it’s because you don’t have an argument.

    • JB Chappell

      @Ross

      -“What I meant to say by monogamy was ‘infidelity, or the idea of an open marriage’ was not condoned as being within God’s definition of marriage.”-

      This much IS clear from scripture: you are not supposed to commit adultery. If that’s what you meant, great, but obviously that’s not what “monogamy” means.

      God did allow some leeway with marriage in the OT, mostly for practical reasons given the constraints of the time.

      Jesus makes it plain that the reason for the divorce laws in the OT was because of their stubbornness. Nowhere else is any indication given that sexuality was different in the OT because of “practical reasons”. This is yet another assumption.

      -“But this fails to justify premarital sex.”-

      Agreed. But you’re begging the question by assuming it needs justification.

      -“The stark omission of acceptable premarital sex…”-

      So on top of begging the question, we’re making arguments from silence now? Regardless, there is a good case to be made for sex before marriage being mentioned in an acceptable manner in the Bible. More on that later.

      -“…or some of the expected sociological outcomes of premarital sex from Biblical narratives provides plenty of reason to think that sex was meant to be within marriage.”-

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “expected sociological outcomes” not being mentioned. But again, the fact that the Bible is silent on the issue is not good reason to think it is against it.

    • JB Chappell

      @Ross

      -“On the flipside, however, at least one of you appeals to a sort of selective hyper-skepticism.”-

      Given that you later refer to me by name, I’m concluding you have me in mind here? I’m honestly not sure why, so I could be wrong. If so, in what way am I a “hyper” skeptic?

      The fact that there is no good case to be made for what you’re claiming should be rather obvious when the OP refers to only 2 verses to try to build such a case, neither mentions the act explicitly, and one is later admitted by the author as being possible to be interpreted otherwise. The lone verse remaining is problematic as well, but unfortunately I was (apparently) not clear enough in my response on that.

      -“So what else besides the selective skepticism? JB I’m all ears. Convince me.”-

      Again, not sure where any skepticism I have is “selective”. Where is the double-standard?

      In any case, I have already said I’m not trying to build a case against chastity, or for pre-marital sex being “right” (everything is conditional). I am saying that the matter is unclear, and that the church has built a dogma around a shoddy scriptural foundation.

      “Marriage” in the Bible has no explicit definition, and if one simply looks at concrete examples for implicit guidelines, one finds that the idea is fairly flexible – unless you’re a woman. Polygamy is accepted. Concubines are OK (how is the use of concubines not considered “acceptable” forms of pre-marital sex in the OT?). Forcing a female POW to “marry” = acceptable. Ceremony is unnecessary.

      Likewise, there is no explicit description of “sanctioned sex acts”, only “non-sanctioned” sex acts. I find it interesting that you see it as notable that there is (allegedly) no mention of acceptable pre-marital sex, but you do not find it as notable that neither is there any mention of it as “unacceptable” – unless it is connected with some other sin (rape, incest, adultery, etc.).

    • JB Chappell

      @Ross

      Besides the rather commonplace mentioning of concubines without negative comment, there are at least two other stories that could easily be interpreted as (implicitly) endorsing certain instances of pre-marital sex.

      Consider the story of Ruth. Naomi encourages Ruth to “adorn herself” and approach Boaz at night (!). Ruth does this, and ends up “uncovering his feet”, which pretty much everyone agrees is a euphemism for something far more intimate. After this, Boaz goes to town to find out whether he can marry her.

      The Song of Solomon… well, where to begin. In the very first chapter their bed is discussed, which again pretty much anyone can tell you is a euphemism for something done in a bed (hint: not sleep). However, notice they don’t have a marriage ceremony until later, at the end of chapter 3.

      Now, neither of these passages contains a “And the Lord did grin” clause. Many are quick to note that mentioning something in the OT is not necessarily a positive endorsement. I would argue, however, that especially in Song of Solomon, the actions mentioned here are portrayed as very positive, or, in the case of Ruth, heroic.

      Again, note that I am not arguing one can build a clear-cut case either way. I would say that implicit examples are mixed, and that people too often read their own assumptions unto the text.

    • JB Chappell

      @Laura

      -“I think the fact that Abraham had to repel this “extra wife” and child of his flesh and blood away from their home (Because God command him to do so) how seriously God took the idea of a monogamous relationship with Abraham and Sarah. Gen. 21:10-12”-

      But God did not command him to do so. The relationship ceased to be “monogamous” as soon as Abraham slept with Hagar (with Sarah’s approval!), and God never condemns this action – Sarah simply got jealous.

      -“What a mess. When you think about the lives of those women, I would have never ever wanted to be in none of theirs shoes. Not Leah’s, Zilpah’s, Rachel’s or Bilbah’s.”-

      No one here is arguing that it would be convenient to have multiple wives. That such an arrangement might present difficulties is obvious. That we would not consider it ideal is much different than saying it is morally wrong, however.

      I just rather believe, that God meant people to be monogamous for their own good.

      It is possible that He did. If He did, however, He could have been more clear about it. But, again, we have to be careful about casting our own cultural biases upon others. I can imagine people in other cultural contexts being repulsed by the notion of monogamy, and thinking God intended for it to be otherwise “for our own good”.

      You use the example of Joseph as highlighting something wrong with the multiple wives family dynamic, yet we see family tensions with Jacob & Esau with only one mother/wife. Family tensions can exist anywhere. Again, when you read that story and interpret the fallout as being the result of polygamy probably says more about you than it does about them.

    • JB Chappell

      @Laura

      -“I personally will not ever in this life respect a man 100%, who cannot control himself and who would like to have sex before marriage and call himself christian also.”-

      And you have every right to feel this way. So long as you’re up front with a man about this, and he feels the same way, I imagine that the stage is set for a wonderful relationship.

      -“But I also know, that my opinion doesn’t really matter here. It’s just my opinion.”-

      You’re opinion is important – for you. But, again, what we’re discussing is whether it is *morally wrong* to engage in premarital sex. That you have certain preferences, or even heartfelt convictions, is perfectly fine. But the church as a whole has gone much farther than that. That people engage in premarital relations is seen by many (at least here in the US) as the downfall of western civilization, as if it hasn’t been occurring for millenia already.

      You reference 1 Tim 3:2 and 12 and other verses
      -“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”-

      -“Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”-

      As John pointed out, these standards are obviously selected for *leaders* within the church. Does it not seem obvious to you that if there are these requirements for the leaders, that this is an implicit acknowledgment that there are others in the laity that are polygamous. Is it not significant that this isn’t condemned?

      One could make the argument that if these standards exist for the leaders, then this is obviously the more “ideal” scenario. That is certainly possible. It is also possible that it was considered a man with multiple wives to have too many distractions for leadership. More likely, however, is that because the Romans frowned upon polygamy, they didn’t want leaders who would attract negative attention.

    • Ross

      @John

      You seem to think oblique references to consummation and the marriage contract serve as ironclad evidence that “sex is marriage”.

      This kind of reasoning is not rigorous. Many contemporary views of marriage similarly hold to consummation as defining a marriage. In these perspectives, consummation is a necessary, not a sufficient condition for defining a marriage. This is the critical difference between your claims and the Biblical position.

      There’s a reason you don’t see a social trend in the Biblical text whereby people coerce their loves into sex in order to enforce a marriage contract upon them.

      Your entire claim falls apart when you ask yourself why Jacob had to deal with Laban to marry his daughters when he could have just taken Rachel to bed.

      Sorry John. Your argument sounds like an exegetical hatchet job. You shouldn’t be arguing for it.

    • John

      @Ross – that’s fine. My main objective was to force you into justifying your own position, from the bible. You are yet to do that, but you moved one step closer in expressing some vague dissatisfaction with what I said. I await your much more rigorous proof of what marriage is, from the bible.

      As for why Jacab had to deal with Laban, I hope your response is better than the guess work you ask me to indulge in. After all, there’s a difference between common courtesy and the local culture as far as that, and what constitutes marriage.

    • Ross

      JB Chappell,

      An argument from silence works both ways.

      That being said, we can certainly make the case that if premarital sex were acceptable in the Bible, we would certainly not see any silence on it. Premarital sex leaves such a prevalent and pervasive mark on culture, with such pervasive outcomes that it would be impossible for the Bible to be silent on it if it were true. In fact I have a hunch you could make a Bayesian argument for this if you were sufficiently motivated to.

      So yes we can make an argument from silence here.

      Your reference to Ruth’s marriage just goes to show you have done no real research on the subject. Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was of a type codified by the culture of the time as a Levirate marriage, not a mere “I walked up to someone and voila we’re married.” Would this be a good time to insert the (!), or does your improper reading into the text deserve no mention in this case?

      Keep in mind, most if not all these arguments that try and weaken the definition of marriage and a prohibition of sex outside of marriage do so by misusing sociological and cultural factors of the day.

      I suppose I’m just left wondering why these arguments are so prevalent in the first place.

    • Ross

      JB, some added food for thought:

      Despite your interpretation of Ruth laying at Boaz’ feet, Ruth 4:13 makes mention of the actual start of their marriage.

    • JB Chappell

      @Ross

      -“Premarital sex leaves such a prevalent and pervasive mark on culture, with such pervasive outcomes that it would be impossible for the Bible to be silent on it if it were true.”-

      I’m not sure how this could possibly be justified. There are many morally acceptable actions that the Bible is silent on. I would think it is far easier to justify the assertion that it is impossible for the Bible to explicitly address all moral actions, positive or negative, than it would be to justify any notion that it is impossible for the Bible NOT to address one. There are many moral actions that are *now* considered to have “pervasive outcomes” that are not addressed in the Bible. That they were not *then* considered as such is why they were not addressed. You are, again, begging the question in that you assume Biblical authors felt as strongly about this as you do.

      -“So yes we can make an argument from silence here.”-

      One can make an argument of silence if it is thought that something could easily be considered to have been mentioned, but wasn’t. The problem, as you already stated, is that it works both ways. It would be just as easy to make an argument for the permissibility of pre-marital sex based on silence. After all, folks tend not to rant against things they have no issue with.

    • JB Chappell

      @Ross

      -“Your reference to Ruth’s marriage just goes to show you have done no real research on the subject.”-

      Excuse me? Ignoring the presumption here for a moment, would you kindly explain where I referenced Ruth & Boaz’s “marriage”?

      -“Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was of a type codified by the culture of the time as a Levirate marriage…-”

      Right, which you later mentioned was arranged in 4:13. Problem (if you want to consider it such) is, in Ruth 3 some rather interesting things go down:

      – Naomi tells Ruth to seduce Boaz
      – Ruth uncovers Boaz’s “feet” (euphemism for genitals)
      – Ruth asks Boaz to spread his garment over her as well.
      – Boaz tells Ruth that she has done him a great “kindness”

      Now, you can try to claim that a naked man lying next to a women clearly trying to seduce him might not have actually done the deed, I suppose. I have heard it said that Ruth was merely trying to trick Boaz into thinking he had sex with her. I’m not sure the distinction here is that important. The bottom line here is that all of this appears to be portrayed in a positive light.

      So, either Ruth & Boaz were “married” the night in the threshing fields, or they were married later and appear to be “guilty” of some rather intimate behavior before then. Either way, this does not help your case.

      -“Keep in mind, most if not all these arguments that try and weaken the definition of marriage and a prohibition of sex outside of marriage do so by misusing sociological and cultural factors of the day.”-

      You’ll have to elaborate on this; it’s unclear how the “sociological and cultural factors” are 1) misused, and/or 2) significantly different than our own (with respect to sex before marriage).

    • John K

      I’m entering the fray late, so here goes:
      1. The command about lusting is not just to married males. It is to unmarried males as well. You don’t have to be married to commit adultery; an unmarried person commits adultery when they commit adultery with an unmarried person. So Jesus was not just addressing married males but unmarried males as well.
      2. If the OT says that marriage happened once a couple went to bed, were Judah and Tamar married because they had sex once? If so, he was a very bad husband because he never had sex with her again (or she was a bad wife).
      3. If the Deut 22 passage refers to consensual sex, why is it considered wrong and the male penalized? After all, if by virtue of having sex, they were married, why should there be a penalty? Unless, of course, they weren’t actually married by having sex. Or perhaps they only were married unless they weren’t betrothed, or the man didn’t want to stay with the wife. But those are pretty big exceptions which might disprove the “rule”
      4. If its only OK to have sex with your future spouse, but not OK to be promiscuous, then having a wedding ceremony with vows as a hard and fast absolute rule is a great practical thing, since even engagements get broken, and a lot of men (and some women) lie to get in bed, or break their promises easily. And I’m not even referring to the possibility of death.

    • John K

      And as far as the issue of “fornication” and “sexual immorality” is concerned, whether it means unmarried sex, in I Corinthians 6, Paul asks rhetorically whether the Corinthians should join the body of Christ to a harlot? Of course, the answer is no. If unmarried sex is not actually wrong, then what’s wrong with having unmarried sex with an unmarried harlot? But Paul does not make any distinction here. All sex with a harlot is wrong, including an unmarried man having sex with an unmarried harlot. And so this is an example of the Bible condemning unmarried sex as part of a blanket condemnation of sex with a harlot. BTW, I said “an unmarried person commits adultery when they commit adultery with a married person.” I meant to say “when they have sex with a married person.”

    • John K

      One more thing now. The argument advanced that the wife is an exception to the “everyone” in “everyone who lusts for a woman” in Matthew 5 does not work. It is not possible to “lust” for your wife in the Matthew 5 sense. I believe the def that the blogger put out about lust or covet is “an insatiable desire for something you cannot have.” Another way that lust can be defined is as an “evil” desire. It is not an evil desire to sexually desire your wife, and your wife is not something you “cannot have”. So “lusting” for your wife is not an exception to “everyone” as it is not possible to “lust” for your wife in the Matthew 5 sense.

    • John

      John K: ” an unmarried person commits adultery when they commit adultery with an unmarried person”

      That’s not my understanding of the definition of “adultery”. But I’m happy to hear an actual argument for it, should you have one.

      “If the OT says that marriage happened once a couple went to bed, were Judah and Tamar married because they had sex once?”

      But Tamar was playing the harlot. This seems to be a case of unsanctioned relations rather than sanctioned, surely? If you want to make an argument from an OT narrative, surely it has to be one that plausibly is sanctioned.

      ” If the Deut 22 passage refers to consensual sex, why is it considered wrong and the male penalized? ”

      Which verse and penalty are we talking about? Are we talking v28 and the 50 shekels? Is it a “penalty” or is it a dowry?

      “having a wedding ceremony with vows as a hard and fast absolute rule is a great practical thing, since even engagements get broken, and a lot of men (and some women) lie to get in bed, or break their promises easily”

      That’s true. But a lot of people lie to get married and lie when they are married. One could argue that at least then when you are abandoned you don’t have the legal destruction of your life added to the emotional one.

      “If unmarried sex is not actually wrong, then what’s wrong with having unmarried sex with an unmarried harlot?”

      I think we are all capable of distinguishing a harlot from other scenarios. The bible draws such a distinction, so the “what’s wrong?” question is really moot. I could give you some plausible answers, but it’s unnecessary. Extending the harlot case to non-harlot case would be like extending it also to the married case, which would be absurd.

      “It is not possible to “lust” for your wife in the Matthew 5 sense…. your wife is not something you “cannot have” ”

      Neither, most likely is your girlfriend something you “cannot have”. So, all Mt 5 applies to is violating someone else’s, or…

    • John

      … your marriage.

      Someone should really fix the character limit on this site.

    • JB Chappell

      @John K
      -“…an unmarried person commits adultery when they commit adultery with an married person.”-

      (I edited this to reflect what you meant). This would still be incorrect, as only the married person would be the one committing adultery. That doesn’t mean that the unmarried person isn’t “fornicating” of course. Only that they mean different things. Adultery is when a married person cheats on their spouse, period. This is isn’t denying that there are other forms of sexual immorality. Thus, the context of “adultery” is that Jesus is addressing married men (although we’d assume the concept applies to women as well), although his utilization of the word lust/covet could easily be seen to extend it to folks who want something that belongs to someone else, as in your example above. It is a far more strained interpretation to think that this extends to everyone with a sexual attraction to someone, which is how this is most often interpreted.

      John responds well to your Judah & Tamar and 1 Cor. 6 examples. Prostitution is never OK, and comparing other examples to such reveals quite a bit about the assumptions your bringing to the table. I’d also echo what he said in that it isn’t clear what you’re referencing by simply “Deut 22”.

      -“If its only OK to have sex with your future spouse, but not OK to be promiscuous, then having a wedding ceremony with vows as a hard and fast absolute rule is a great practical thing, since even engagements get broken…”-

      First of all, with possible rare exceptions, having absolute rules are never “a great practical thing”. Morality is always conditional, and absolute rules ignore conditions. Second, no one is arguing that weddings are bad, that waiting until your wedding night is bad, or that either are “impractical”. Lastly, if it is promiscuity that is forbidden, then of course there would be no reason to worry about an engagement that were to end on good terms, death, etc.

    • Shell

      I have found this in 1 Corinthians 7….can you explain what it means? 36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly towards his betrothed,[i] if his[j] passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
      —————————————————————-
      Betrothed means virgin (Greek)
      We study so much of the GREEK side of things, when we should be studying the Hebraic side, they were Hebrew and Hebrew was their tongue.

      Thank You

    • JB Chappell

      Shell, there are a number of ways to translate this passage. Some decent synopses can here:

      http://lukeplant.me.uk/blog/posts/1-corinthians-7-36-38-marry-or-give-in-marriage/

      http://www.tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/library/TynBull_1998_49_1_05_Winter_1Cor7_Puberty.pdf

      Basically, what is being referred to is the phenomenon of arranged marriage. Its confusing, as some aspects of the verses seem to refer to a father giving/keeping his daughter, but others seem to refer to an amorous couple. Regardless, the end result is that Paul is saying that it is neither a sin to marry or not to marry.

      I think the traditional view here would be that Paul is telling the Corinthians to let the couple marry, because otherwise they will sin by fornicating. I think it needs to be emphasized that this not clear at all, and that actually the [alleged] “improper” behavior referenced in v36 could very well have been pre-marital sex. So, the question is when, later on, Paul says “it has to be” or “its bound to happen” (as one of the documents above say it should be translated), the question is what is “it”? It’s not entirely clear. It could be that Paul is referring to consummation of passions yet to actually fulfilled, a pregnancy that is bound to occur, but it could also be that he is referring to a marriage that would take place with or without the approval of the church. Who really knows? Only Paul and the Corinthians, at this point.

      In any case, the most important point of the whole chapter (IMHO) is v27: “concerning the betrothed/virgins, I have no command of the Lord…” He says he speaks as someone who is trustworthy, not infallible – which is more obvious when He indicates the Lord’s return is so imminent that people shouldn’t even act like they have a spouse. Yikes.

    • Teresa Rincon

      “Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married.”

      What would be the biblical solution to someone who experiences sexual desire but is incapable of marrying, either due to physical/mental disability or other problems?

    • […] let’s take a quick look at what the Bible says about chastity and premarital […]

    • pilar opo

      is kissing a sin?

    • chi

      just passing through. I have read what you all have to say about the matter and I must confess that I am more confused now than I was before reading your posts. is it right to say that each person would be judged based on what he perceives as wrong or right as it appears each person has his own interpretation of what is read in the bible. well, I’d keep reading up on your posts, but for now I’m curious to know the answer you’d have to ‘pilar opo’s’ question.

    • JB Chappell

      Chi,

      James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

      So, yes, it is correct to say that we would be judged not only on what is *actually* right and wrong, but also according to our own consciences – what we *thought* was right and wrong.

    • John

      “So, yes, it is correct to say that we would be judged not only on what is *actually* right and wrong, but also according to our own consciences – what we *thought* was right and wrong.”

      So if we think its right to slaughter innocents, but we don’t do it, then we are judged for it? I don’t think that’s what it’s saying.

    • JB Chappell

      @John

      Probably the better passage to reference would have been this:

      Romans 14:14 “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”

      Of course, the specific context here is food offered to idols, but the principle seems easily extended, as the Epistle of James seems to indicate. If you think something is right, but don’t do it, then it is wrong. The same principle seems to be expressed inversely in Romans: if you think something is wrong, then it is (if you do it).

    • chi

      @john, if you don’t agree with Jb Chappell, may I please have your own interpretation.

    • chi

      @ john, if you dont agree with JB Chappell, may I please have your own interpretation

    • John

      I would have thought the “know” of James 4:17 means true knowledge rather than mistaken knowledge. But I guess it’s a matter of interpretation.

    • JB Chappell

      @John

      I think that is a possible interpretation. One complicating factor is that the context isn’t as clear to me in James, as it is in Romans (which is why I should have used Romans first). The statement in question (at least in English) seems somewhat disconnected from what precedes it and from what follows it. However, here are a few factors that might sway you in favor of interpreting it the way I do:

      1. It seems unlikely to me that James (or whoever) was thinking in terms of formal epistemology. Admittedly, this runs the risk of under-estimating the author who apparently (I’m not familiar with Greek) wrote in cultured Greek. But I just don’t see any clues which would indicate thinking that formally/philosophically.

      2. If you use the hermeneutic of using clearer scripture to inform less-clear scripture, then the passage in Romans would seem to shed some light on the one in James. However, this is problematic as well, as it certainly seems as if the authors might have had a few disagreements.

      3. Ultimately, James seems to emphasize a pretty strict moral code. It seems more likely to me, then, that James would see a violation of conscience – even if one’s conscience were incorrect – as sinful.

      Not necessarily a slam-dunk case, I grant you. But I’d be curious what you think, especially in light of the Romans passage as well.

    • Rachel

      “Do unto others and you would have done unto you” is the correct verse. Should you risk someone’s life and emotional health for a few seconds of pleasure? No. Since sex involves serious risks (disease and possible death from childbirth for the woman – even today) it should not be done outside the protection of a monogamous marriage covenant. This covenant protects from disease and provides means to care for the children should pregnancy occur.

      • BradyR

        Rachel, real life just doesn’t work like that. And this is what we are talking about, real life. We are not talking about the way we wish things were. Marriage doesn’t protect people from disease or provide for children. That is just not something we are promised, and has not been effective for many people. Birth control and education is the only proven method that prevents disease and children born into poverty. Most people who are successful at abstinence marry too early. Early marriage has an extremely high rate of divorce, and I’m not sure how relationships that end in divorce are any better than relationships where couples just live together or have premarital sexual relations. Suppressing a biological urge, like sex, causes people to make horrible decisions in regards to marriage, because they end up marrying to satisfy their urges, and not for rational reasons. As for emotional trauma, please google “evangelical purity culture.” You will find endless stories of mostly women, but also men who were seriously emotionally harmed by these aggressive abstinence teachings. That is real emotional trauma that causes sexual dysfunction that follows them right into, and damages their marriage, which leads to more divorce. That is not okay, the ends do not justify the means when it causes unhealthy attitudes about sexuality. We know from endless studies that people who wait until they are older (late twenties) to marry are more financially stable, and make better decisions regarding a spouse, and their marriages are more likely to last. We also know that these people are rarely virgins. All of the things you mentioned, disease and pregnancy, can easily be managed with a very high success rate, all without marriage or abstinence.

    • JB Chappell

      Rachel, can you explain how the covenant of marriage protects someone from possibly dying during childbirth? I agree that sex involves risks, but your golden rule application here just means that if both parties are willing to accept those risks, then they aren’t violating the golden rule. Yet, I’m pretty sure you’d still claim that it is wrong (correct me if I’m mistaken). It is also true that if everyone waited until marriage, that would significantly reduce the risk of STD’s. But, of course, the question here then is: what is the acceptable risk threshold? Avoiding marriage and sex altogether reduces the risk to zero, yet I’m sure you’d agree that isn’t an obligation.

      • Rachel

        A monogamous marriage covenant does not protect anyone from dying, but in it, both parties are agreeing to risk death for each others well being. The man is love his wife as Christ loved the church, ie sacrifice himself for her. (see Eph 5:25) Childbirth is when the wife makes this offering of herself as well. It isn’t about risk it is about equality of relationship. In premarital sex the woman is committing her very life and the man is committing nothing since he has made no life commitment to her. A man shouldn’t expect a woman to offer her life to him if he’s not willing to do the same to her. When two people do that it is called marriage. That is why multiple spouses were never the ideal, you can’t die for one wife without abandoning the others.

        • JB Chappell

          Rachel, I think it’s really strained to claim that childbirth is a sacrificial act the wife makes for her *husband’s* well-being. It is true that, in pre-marital sex, the woman assumes a risk that the man does not. Of course, this is the case any time a man and a woman have sex. What you’re trying to claim is that marriage insulates the woman from at least some of this risk. So, again, your argument really does boil down to what level of risk you’re willing to accept. Again, however, if the goal is merely risk reduction, then no sex is the way to go – but no one is arguing that is the ideal.

          I am not going dispute that marriage is a good thing, that it lessens the risk involved. Given divorce nowadays, I think that is easily contested, but I am willing to grant it for the sake of argument. What is lacking here is a justification for why assuming extra risk is *morally wrong*. I think a key statement you make is found here:

          “A man shouldn’t expect a woman to offer her life to him if he’s not willing to do the same to her.”

          Again, I think it is inaccurate that a woman is offering her life *to a man* in pregnancy/childbirth, but your claim is conditional: IF he’s not willing to reciprocate. There are plenty of pre-marital sexual relationships occurring where a man would help raise a child if pregnancy occurrs, or even lay down his life in defense of the woman. My guess is you’d still claim that those relationships are immoral.

          Regardless, your claim works inversely as well. Perhaps it is the case that the man is not willing to do those things. In that case, he should not expect the woman to make such a sacrifice. Fine – that is why birth control exists. It isn’t 100% effective, but it has a much higher success rate than marriage.

    • BradyR

      I did not read all of these comments, but I got as far as a few men arguing about whether or not women being stoned on their wedding night is proof that men having premarital sex is a sin. First, the whole scripture on this issue is cruel and illogical. Bloody sheets on a wedding night is not proof of virginity. It is only in the mind of an ignorant person that it seems logical that a young girl barely out of puberty would have gone around ‘playing a whore’ with permission of her father. Many murders were committed by this scripture because of ignorance of the female anatomy. Second, these laws only applied to Jewish women, not all women. We often forget that the OT was not written for all ancient people, but for the Jewish people. They did not go around stoning prostutites from other cultures. Jewish men did take liberty to engage in sex with prostitutes, Judah and Tamar is an example. Judah was going to stone Tamar for playing a harlot, but nobody was coming to stone Judah, even though he didn’t hide the fact he had been with a prostitute. The laws about premarital sex in the bible is about property ownership. That is why a man who has sex with a virgin must pay her father, because the man is paying for property he has damaged. It is the same reason we place so much pressure on females to remain virgins by equating their virginity to their very worth. We do not come close to putting the same pressure on young men. Sure, we mention in passing that they shouldn’t have sex until marriage, but the issue is not stressed in the same way. I can’t believe Christians can’t resolve this issue without refering to women as chattel. We have to come to terms the reality of our society. If young teens get married it will end in divorce. If young girls marry older men in arranged marriage that is abuse. If both parties wait to marry when they are at a mature age, they will most likely engage in premarital sex. Those are the only options we have. I choose option #3.

    • Brian Khanyile

      Let us not confuse an already confused matter. I am convinced about all ur comments, u knw wat u talkng abt. But I think we should 1st ask: what is marriage? 4 this see: Matthews 5:34 (isnt mere counter sayings of love b2wn 2 not enough 2 amount 2 a marriage (Wise man Solomon had 700 wives & 300 concubines)); what abt th use of “HUSBAND” 2 a Samaritan woman by the Lord? Do u notice dat where fornication features in the bible it tacitly refers 2 whoredom(Ezekiel 22-23); Note also Leviticus 18 (OT-Almighty God) and 1 Corinthians 7:25 (NT-The Master is silent on the matter)…space does not permit me to go further…

    • Kurt Cobain

      “…I did not do to well in the sex before marriage department…I don’t think I ever actually committed adultery, but for the most part I worked on a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” basis.”

      So we are to take advice on the sinfulness of fornication from a promiscuous fornicator who bedded women he barely knew much less respected? Did you bother finding out the expectations of these women you bedded? Or did you slink away after “scoring”, never to contact them again?

      You may find it surprising, but many unmarried couples are capable of having intimate and rewarding relationships which are founded upon trust and mutual respect. Some of these relationships don’t last, but many are sealed with marriage for the sake of having children. To label such relationships as “sinful” is not only wrong, but obscene. Who are you, or anyone else, to judge those in such relationships? Don’t hide behind the rants in some ancient book, be honest: you are mining the Bible for passages that vindicate your judgement of others. Your hypocrisy is the icing on the cake. Saying you wouldn’t have done it if you could turn back the clock doesn’t wipe it away, nor does whining about feeling guilt. You enjoyed fornicating, but now that you’re married, it’s a sin which should not be enjoyed by anyone else. How clever and convenient of you.

    • Joseph

      Christ did not condemn lust. He condemned adultery, and the lusting after another person’s wife or for other women when you already had your own is what he was getting after here. Remember that he said “has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” If you’re unmarried, you’re not committing adultery. Did you lust for your wife before you were married?

    • John

      “Wise man Solomon had 700 wives & 300 concubines”

      Okay…. And now you’ve pointed this out, what is the biblical status of concubines?

    • D. John

      Ok, I see now it says awaiting moderation, but my first post does not even appear for that.

    • D. John

      Maybe my first post was too long. I’ll break it up and try again.

    • D. John

      I’m no longer convinced that the standard understanding of this matter is accurate and true. Of course, I guess that would mean that people have been wrong all these centuries, but that is certainly not impossible.

      Some background on me: male believer since early 1980’s, happened in college. Transferred more than once and graduated from one of the well known Christian colleges afterward. Did very well after some early turbulence during college, but no great accomplishments. Might have gone to seminary and had a different life if I had been more fully “sanctified” and spiritual, but it’s in the past. Very regrettable college major now, however. No grad school. Independent minded, critical thinker, but also strong believer not only in scriptural inspiration and inerrancy but also total “calvinistic” predestination. I suppose you could probably also call me a full “five point” calvinist, though I don’t dwell on those kinds of formal labels or concerns at all – merely think of myself as a Bible believing believer.

      Supposedly had a bright future when I was young, but was not meant to be I guess. Anyone who has been through similar things would understand. Have had a “perfect storm” of circumstances and problems, especially various health problems, that have derailed everything. Average I.Q. higher than what I heard Einstein’s was, once tested in the 99.9%-tile. Yes was a member of Mensa. When I was younger people often did consider me to be a “genius,” but life has turned out rather extremely embarrassingly the opposite of what everyone self-included thought. People still often think of me more or less the same way despite my lackluster life. I often say I’ve had a “book of Job” kind of life, and am still living it now. (continued below)

    • D. John

      I don’t really want to mention all the “IQ” stuff in my last paragraph and normally I never talk about any of that, by the way, so hopefully nobody thinks it’s about anything like bragging, which would actually be pretty laughable now considering how my life has turned out. I wanted to mention it because I’m genuinely just looking for an answer to this issue and wanted to convey if possible the idea that I approach it very thoughtfully, and with a keen sense of investigation and so forth. And yes I’ve spent plenty of time on the “philosophy of religion” with regard to the “calvinism vs. arminianism” debate and such, by the way, so you can be sure there’s no simplistic thinking going on.

      Was once a really cute young fellow, girls definitely thought so and definitely verified that many times, but that’s in the past. I’m definitely not “marrigeable,” however. All these years since college have never been able to get married and have been living without intimacy of every kind, including sex. No pushing the envelope, either, but simply no physical contact at all – no kissing and everything else between that and “intercourse.” Only once I “compromised” a bit, but not “all the way” and that’s it during all these years. As you might imagine, um, difficult to even convey in words what that has been and is like, especially as you see more or less all your friends and acquaintances marrying away over the years, some from college married more than 20 years now.

      I’m no Greek and Hebrew scholar either, though definitely not without some of the Lord’s gifts.

      I read the posts here down to a certain point, then rapidly scrolled down to the end. Some have already mentioned it here, including as late as post #137 just above, so addressing the Matthew 5 element of the authors argument is certainly on my mind. It happens that prior to doing the search that even led me to this blog post I had already thought of this many times. (continued below)

    • D. John

      It stopped letting me add the parts to my post. I’ll try again below.

    • D. John

      It’s not letting me add more, but there was much more to my post. Also the captcha is very hard to make out and I have to zoom it a lot.

    • D. John

      continued from 143: The standard or what I would describe as “politically correct” or “intellectually correct” understanding of the Matthew 5 passage is that it is a reference to all forms of “lust” or desire for sex with a woman. It’s continually taught as if it is “Gospel truth” and I used to be among those who accepted this idea as accurate and true. It’s become one of those unquestioned ideas that people don’t even think of questioning or thinking about. continued below

    • John

      I managed to get a number of posts in “awaiting moderation” status last night, but after a while was unable to add anything more. My main post had to be broken up into smaller parts but was unable to get all the parts in. I don’t know how often posts in moderation status are even checked here, and even with zooming the browser it was often almost impossible to make out the captchas just to try to post. Perhaps what I did get in will be approved and appear, however.

    • Gahigi

      I know this started in 2012 and I haven’t read all the comments but I would love for a couple issues to be addressed. Jesus says if you lust/covet after someone you’ve committed adultery. I’m not married but if I covet a man’s wife I’ve commited adultery. That makes sense. Jesus also says your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees (maybe not exact words but at least implied). That’s scary. They kept a lot of rules that I could never keep. Thus whether in the OT or NT it seems we should give up trying to keep a bunch of rules and regulations.

      Also I always wanted a loophole as a kid but now that I know a few more things I’m not even sure I’d want to have premarital sex whether it’s right or not. Are we being too hard when we give people rules like this. If God has a problem with it then I think he has his own ways of getting His point across to someone engaging in this activity especially Christians.

    • Tan

      So in the Bible when it states those that commit fornication, adultery etc will NOT enter the kingdom of Heaven…. What is it really saying?!
      See also Heb 13:4, Eph 5:5 WHAT IS FORNICATION in these verses meaning?,

    • John

      “That is why multiple spouses were never the ideal, you can’t die for one wife without abandoning the others.”

      Where does the bible say that’s why multiple spouses were never ideal?

      For that matter, where does the bible even say multiple spouses were never ideal?

      Purely as a matter of logic, if you had to die for your one spouse, won’t that mean abandoning her, just exactly as if you had multiple spouses?

    • D. John

      @Gahigi, post #47: That verse has so often been used to refer to all forms of male to female desire, but how about just going by what it actually says? Clearly it is a reference to adultery. The explicit reference to adultery does not give anyone a license to make it say more. Also, though I’m not qualified, there may be word/language studies out there to show that the noun normally appearing as “woman” in English may be a greek word which is also normally supposed to refer to wife or a married woman.

      @Tan, post #48: This question seems to get phrased in ways which can unfortunately be confusing. The real question should be more like, “is any and all sex between a single man and a single woman before or outside of marriage the sin of fornication?”; or, another way, “is what is normally known as ‘fornication’ according to English vocabulary really and truly the sin which is known and translated into English as ‘fornication’ or ‘sexual immortality’ from the Bible?”

      So even if you accept that the term ‘fornication’ or ‘sexual immorality’ is the correct English term to refer to such sins, whatever they really are, the real question is whether sex outside of marriage really is ‘fornication’ or ‘sexual immorality’ at all according to the Bible. ‘Fornication’ itself may be the sin, but what is it? For more on this, check out this video on youtube: “What does fornication mean in the Bible; Latin Greek and Hebrew origin” (www(dot)youtube(dot)com / watch?v=UVAI2TTOcgM

    • Fred

      The main point here is to keep from premarital sex, lust of flesh, fornication and all it concerns. Stop looking for loop holes to getting to do it or to justify your actions. Before the Lord it is sin. Break off your fallow ground to allow good seeds to grow into your life.. Thanks for good advice patton

    • Diane

      In all of these comments, it seems to be “all about me”. “Oh it’s allright to have sex before marriage, as long as you really want to marry the person.”
      For me, everyone seems to forget the social and societal aspects of the whole question. What about asking: is it love to live out my lust without the commitment? Does this honor God? What happens in a society where sex is not confined to marriage? What about human trafficking? This terrible abuse? Selling women? Selling children and boys to use and destroy for one’s own selfish desires? Is this not a consequence that results from thinking that sex does not belong in marriage?

    • Anthony

      I can’t believe all the nonsense I just read both in this article and on these comments. Fornication is indeed a sin. And you, yourself confirmed this through Matthew 5:27
      A minister, pastor, priest should know this all too well. There is no such thing as a tough question for a man or woman that lives their life according to our Lord. Right is right, wrong is wrong, not maybe if you go about doing it this way or that way.
      This is a perfect example of one attempting to sugar coat the truth with deception. Lust is a huge factor for the chaos that goes on in this world today. Eliminate pornography of every single kind (magazines, movies, Internet, book stores, strip clubs, prostitution, etc) and greatly reduce the sin of lust in the minds of both men and women. As long as this country cries freedom to be foolish, this country condemns itself. Not by my words but by the very words that comes from our Lord through Scriptures.

    • Anthony

      To clarify the conflict some have here back in 2012, fornication and covet are two different circumstances. Fornication is two people having intercourse that are not married (plain and simple). Covet is a person desiring to have something that is not theirs, that belongs to someone else, including family members, regardless of your reason why you want them.
      Adultery is that which a man or woman commits when they look at another person with lust in their hearts, or have intercourse for the simple pleasure of lust and not for creation. Yes, even a husband or wife can commit adultery by lust for their flesh (when they get sexually aroused by listing for another and use their spouse as a way of relief). There is no difficult question that can’t be answered by Scriptures. The problem exists with people who wish to manipulate the words of our Lord to comfort their own wicked thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • John

      ” Yes, even a husband or wife can commit adultery by lust for their flesh (when they get sexually aroused by listing for another and use their spouse as a way of relief). There is no difficult question that can’t be answered by Scriptures. ”

      That’s not in the scriptures. You totally just made that up.

    • John

      ” Fornication is indeed a sin. And you, yourself confirmed this through Matthew 5:27″

      But.. But… But…. Mt 5:27 is about adultery, which is a whole different issue to fornication. If this verse wanted to instruct about fornication, why would it discuss adultery?

    • Anthony

      Nothing made up John. Lust is lust, regardless if you are single or married. Christ said should you even look at a woman with lust in your heart, you have committed adultery. You can not go by all that Paul has written in his letters because he made many comments to satisfy the people of the region he was addressing at that given time. Paul was no different than Moses and people need be aware of they when reading the Bible. Christ made it clear to the Scribes and Pharisees that due to the hardness of their hearts Moses gave them the right to dismiss their spouse. But this is not the word of our Father in heaven above. Man is to leave his parents and cling to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.
      You can claim I made it up but I do not wear blinders on. Lust is lust, even in marriage.

    • Anthony

      Fornication is two people having intercourse outside of marriage. Ask yourself the reason why people have sexual relations outside of marriage. It is because they lust for the flesh of another, not for love or to create new life. Adultery is also labeled as lust for the flesh of another as Christ made that clear. Therefore fornication, adultery and lust all carry the same burden upon the soul.

    • psue

      We have a 20 year old son that is dating a girl for 4mo.. Ever since they have been friends they have slept together akmost every day. (Fallen asleep, cuddling) and they say they are not having sex. They are adamant about sleeping together. They both live at separate homes. It is ok at her house but not ours. We as his parents say it is a sin to sleep together without being married and they need to stop. They want chapter and verse where it says it’s a sin. We would appreciate your response on what you would say to them.

    • Alex

      I think it’s as John said, in the ancient world, there simply wasnt a lot of casual sex going on. There was either marriage or prostitution and not a whole lot in between.

      It should be noted that the situations described in Deut 22 are related to betrothal. When the betrothed virgin is found with a man in the city, they are both stoned because if it had been rape, she could have screamed and the neighbors would put a stop to it. Betrothal was a much stronger relationship than our modern engagment; betrothed people were practically married already, so if the virgin is sleeping with some other man, it would be considered as serious offense as adultery – thats why the punishment is the same.

      The senario with the virgin who is not betrothed is a protection for her. If the man is going to sleep with her, then he must take responsibility and marry her and not divorce her. Otherwise, as a non-virgin, her marriage prospects were grim, and if she concieved a child from that union, even worse. Such an arragment would be what we’d call a “shotgun wedding” today and in most cases would be a good situation for the virgin. In this case they arent put to death as there was no betrothal in place.

      Regarding the Matthew 5 passage, it directly address adultery, not “fornication”. That’s not to say that fornication is not unwise or possibly sinful; but it’s not a good idea to read into a verse what’s not there. The english word “lust” also has a broader and highly sexual connotation which wasnt really present in the original language, so I think it’s important to note that this kind of lust is the same thing as the coveting in the 7th commandment.

    • Anthony

      Let us not live with blinders on. Fornication, same as adultery. Christ did say if you even so look at a woman with lust you commit adultery. Fornication is a form of lust, not love.

    • Charlie Fink

      I agree that fornication is a sin, but what about the heart? If Paul is saying it is better to get married than to burn with sexual passion and not being able to control sexual desires, then what about those who can’t get married right away? What about those who don’t have anybody, currently, are Christian and can’t seem to find anybody for the time being who have been single their whole lives? What about them? Like me?

    • John

      “What about those who don’t have anybody, currently, are Christian and can’t seem to find anybody for the time being who have been single their whole lives? What about them? Like me?”

      Errr, then you’ll burn with desire, quite likely. That’s what Paul says.

      I don’t see Paul here saying that’s a sin. I see Paul saying it’s undesirable, for obvious reasons.

    • Monique

      Matthew 5:27–28: Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· οὐ μοιχεύσεις. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ.

      “You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

      Standard Interpretation(s)
      The ordinary interpretation of this passage is that lust is equivalent to adultery; that is, if a man sexually desires a woman, he has already committed adultery with her in God’s eyes. This interpretation is reflected in the following translations:

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NIV)

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NASB)

      “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NLT)

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NRSV)

      Many churches (especially within Evangelical circles), emphasize this verse to adolescent boys, warning them that if they so much as think of a woman in a sexual manner, they’ve already sinned, that they’ve already effectively done the deed with her. Such an interpretation often works hand-in-glove with the common idea that Jesus “intensified” the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, setting a higher standard in order to show that no person could actually live up to God’s standards, showing that a person could only be saved by recognizing the impossibility of righteousness and then receiving forgiveness (a subject that will soon be addressed on this blog). So the common teaching is that sexual lust is absolutely evil—equivalent, even, to the actual act of sexual sin.

      Another very popular way of reading this verse is to understand “lust” as indicating misplaced or overly robust libido; that is, “lust” is seen as illicit sexual desire. For example, here’s a recent (and quite common) response to the question of what lust is from a message board conversation I had some time ago: “I take lust to mean wanting something more than you should in an unhealthy way.”

      This conception of “lust” often overlaps with the prior interpretation, to the effect that the young man is told, “Of course you will recognize that a woman is beautiful—that’s natural and unavoidable—but the moment your thoughts become sexual in nature, you’ve lusted, and that’s as bad as actually committing adultery.” Despite its popularity, this interpretation is imprecise, even flat wrong, and leads to surprisingly harmful consequences, making it a great candidate to start this series.

      Lust or Covet?
      The first thing to understand in this passage is that Jesus is in no way intensifying the Law here, nor is he saying anything new. What’s that, you say? The Law doesn’t forbid lusting after a woman? Well, as it turns out, the Greek word usually translated “lust” in this passage (ἐπιθυμέω; epithumeô) happens to be the same word used to translate the Hebrew word for “covet” (‏חמד) in the Tenth Command in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), which says:

      οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου. οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν. (Ex 20:17 LXX)

      “You will not covet your neighbor’s wife. You will not covet your neighbors house or his field or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or any animal which is your neighbor’s.”

      Sounds an awful lot like what Jesus says in this passage, doesn’t it? They’re even more alike once one realizes that the Greek word for “woman” and “wife” happens to be the same. In this passage, Jesus reminds his audience that the Law not only prohibits adultery, it prohibits coveting. This is not so much an intensification of the Law as it is a reminder of what the Law already says. And just as the Law itself was intended to be fulfilled, Jesus intends his words here to be followed (and that following them is entirely possible).

      Another important point is that the command does not forbid recognition of quality or even desire itself (such would be nonsense) but something else: it forbids the action of coveting (hence the verbal form). “Lust” or “desire,” even the sexual variety, is nowhere forbidden in Scripture, nor is it equated with sin, only with the potential to sin (cf. James 1, where lust leads to sin but is not itself sinful). It is also important to note the distinction between the verbal form and the nominal form: when the Hebrew חמד or Greek ἐπιθυμέω are used as verbs in the OT, it denotes desire directed at obtaining the specific object in question and not merely the existence of the desire itself. This fits well with the Tenth Command, which is perhaps best understood as forbidding fixing one’s desire upon obtaining something that is not rightfully one’s own. In order to explain this point more adequately, a fuller discussion of the meaning of “lust” (Gk. ἐπιθυμία; epithumia) in the New Testament and the culture of that period is necessary.

      Drives and Desires
      One misconception that should immediately be eliminated is that “lust” (ἐπιθυμία) is a specifically sexual term. In fact, the word simply refers to a strong, passionate desire, used either of sexual desire or of a strong desire for something non-sexual. Stepping back further, in Platonic thought, ἐπιθυμία (epithumia) is the lowest part of the human soul—representing the connection of the soul with the fleshy, bodily part of the person.

    • Fornicator

      I find this discussion so bizzare. God made humans as He saw fit; in his own image according to some. If God didn’t want humans to fornicate he wouldn’t have given them the instinct to do so.

      If he made us to have an insatiable need to fornicate while not actually wanting us to do so, then he is either a weak God or a sadist and thus unworthy of our worship.

    • Brian

      so fornication is a sin? so what was so right with the incest that went on back in the Bible times. If im not mistaken, they replenished the earth through incest and a lot of people married within their bloodline somewhere. Look at the story of Isaac. so is incest right and fornication wrong or what’s what?

    • Kurdt

      If you all put this amount of effort into studying the Bible’s instructions on owning and beating slaves, you might realize that it is not fit to be studied as any sort of moral handbook.

    • Rod

      Seems to me that the act of intercouse is marriage? I mean if the penalty for being observed fornicating is that the man must marry the woman, then that wouldn’t that say that in the eyes of God (even when not caught by other people- since God sees all) that if you fornicate then you are married? From a pragmatic standpoint wouldn’t it make sense that the act of sex is really a marriage between DNA of two people in the act of reproduction? And so wouldn’t that bond be something like marriage when dealing with offspring? You can say well condoms and pills can be used as contraceptives to prevent child birth these days, but that destroys the original intent of what the whole context of sex is about from a creators viewpoint? Isn’t it to foster the development of children? And wouldn’t marriage be instantaneous if not caught even by the eyes of men, if the lord sees all and say’s the punishment is marriage? Its marriage in his eyes folks. Consummation is the act of marriage! So the next time this man thought he was fornicating with another different woman, then instead he would be adultering in the eyes of God. And same with the woman too!

      The idea that God would be ok with using sex as a recreation like an amusement park, is quite offensive just by commonsense alone. The idea outside of silly theologist that can’t ascertain the value behind all this without one lines out of the bible, is to raise children in an environment that is conducive not just to their procreation but economical and emotionally supportive environment. Geez and you all need to be pastors or bible quoters to get this? Whats wrong with you people?

      Now if the intent was to marry a person anyway (engaged) and you slipped up and had premarital sex, then in the eyes of God you haven’t commited a wrong. Because in his eyes you are married, the very act of fornication is consummation into marriage. And from a sexual reproduction viewpoint doesn’t this also happen? The ceremony to occur later then wouldn’t be punishment it would just be symbolic of the prior act right? If it was never your intent to marry the girl you slept with but have sex, then it would be punishment if another person catches you and makes you marry her in ceremony? Its my thoughts that you can only be a fornicator once, thereafter you become an adulterer by not stepping up to the plate. For some of you people….come on… use your commonsense! Please!

      God gave you reasoning for a reason ( a big juicy brain), and you have to kind of integrate between the lines in the bible. You can’t do that if you use your penis to try to contort the bible into a self serving support thought. If you can’t think without your penis/reproductive organs doing the thinking, then you shouldn’t be preaching. That means you are hopelessly lost and are blind yourselves. Who needs the blind leading the blind?

      Another note, I hate to tell preachers they shouldn’t be preaching for a livable wage either. No one needs hirelings for helping sheep. You need to earn a living just like the rest of us, being carpenters and such and doing the job of pastor out of love of God for no personal gain. What good does it do to be a theoretician that has never dabbled with real life of picking weeds or holding a job? Answer: No Good as they can’t learn the lessons or laws of God through works. The tithe turned salary turns into the reward, and what one gets in a reward here he cannot get in heaven.

      God Bless,
      Rod

    • Donnica

      Now I am on a journey of becoming a Christian. But I’m sexually active with two children NO marriage, by choice I’m only 27 now I had my first child at the age of 20 and the second at the age of 23 I wasn’t ready for marriage. I want to be some day. But if ,God intended for no sex before marriage why were/are there so many of us born out of wedlock and still going on today. And were those of us that aren’t married suppose to have stayed virgins until death, because no one knows the time our life will end so many kris won’t even live long enough to get married and then there’s those who just doesn’t wanna be married. And lastly ,Paul said if we can not control our sexual desires then we should just get married, so should we just get married to have sex w/o sinning?

    • Phil Hertsberg

      Dear C Michael Patton,

      Thanks for your article on Fornication.
      I would like to know if tongue-kissing is oral sex or a type of sex.
      My Pastor says it is not allowed as Christians.
      What do you think and where can I find biblical texts that implied it a sin?

      Kind Regards,
      Phil Hertsberg
      [email protected]

    • Amos G

      I think that we have to take a look at history what life was then. And now,the laws, the customs of the people then.because to .me I think that most of the law is to protect. Women as it was then.

    • C Michael Patton

      Phil,

      Good to hear from you!

      I would say that wisdom and good conscious must be our guide. I would never say that someone who has used tongue in their kiss has committed any type of fornication. I would say that the Bible does not speak to this issue.

      That would be like saying that handholding is okay so long as the fingers are not interlocked.

    • Kurt

      “I would like to know if tongue-kissing is oral sex or a type of sex. My Pastor says it is not allowed as Christians.”

      You’re pastor is correct. French kissing is the work of the devil and every time you slip your tongue into a woman’s mouth an angle dies.

    • Barri

      Let me help you out here . Anything outside the first commandment is sin . I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart . Yes that makes us all sinners . and there are lots of other ways of being outside the first commandment . If one might keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Wouldn’t it be better to repent of sin than try to obfuscate around it ? Sure most of us won’t last an hour before we have sinned again , but obfuscate around this only leads to that . I don[‘t see how anyone could miss this .

    • Barri

      Holding hands is fine , if your worshiping God . The commandment says Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. That means all the time . Fall a little short of that daily ? Everybody does . Yes when kissing , holding hands or whatever , you wouldn’t be tongue kissing if you were doing that Preachers should teach the truth . Not how to lead a lust filled life that is scriptural . . How much greed is exactly scriptural , how much envy , hate , ego ??? I think all are answered here . None … If it happens thats because you are a sinner and need to repent and seek forgiveness so devoutly that your heart is set to go and sin no more . As you continue to fail at this you may get what it really means to be a sinner . It sounds like everyone in the modern church should be walking on water with all of that righteousness and faith … Could we get some video’s ? No wonder people reject the Bible without ever even reading it .

    • Dammy

      An affair between a married man and an unmarried woman is not considered adultery in the bible. It is only between a married woman and any man or a married man and married woman. why is that?

    • John

      dammy, probably because polygamy is assumed, so to get wife #2 you’ve got to start something with an unmarried woman.

    • Phil Hertsberg

      Hi Dammy, your comment makes no sense. Can you provide Bible verses that states “An affair between a married man and an unmarried woman is not considered adultery”?

      This is your comment: Author: Dammy
      Comment:
      An affair between a married man and an unmarried woman is not considered adultery in the bible. It is only between a married woman and any man or a married man and married woman. why is that?

    • PHIL HERTSBERG

      DANNY CAN YOU BE CLEAR WHEN YOU SAY “Desire for your mate does not. The term does not fit in that context.”

      WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? THAT FORNICATION IS NOT A SIN?

    • Shelby

      All of this b.s. is because people are so hung up on sex. Sex is something that is totally natural and meant for us to enjoy. What is wrong with doing what you want and not placing all this guilt on it. Forget the guilt, make your own rules and live by them. Enjoy sex, that’s what it’s for.

    • Shelby

      I’ll say it for you Phil, if you don’t get it–FORNICATION IS NOT A SIN!!!!!!!

    • Fredro

      Nice post!

    • Donella

      You did a excellent job! This post seem very nice.

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