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  • Bible Topic Study 1 Corinthians 6:19- "Fornication"

    ARTICLE INDEX     



    1 Corinthians 6:18-19

    "1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

    Also, consider 1 Corinthians 5 - 8. The history and outline of these chapters of scripture are as follows:

    1. The religion of Corinth had gods of Egypt, Rome and Greece. The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth and housed 1000 cultic/temple prostitutes. These prostitutes had sex as a form of worship to the goddess Aphrodite. Knowing these facts about the city of corinth is vital to understanding the wording and situation for the church of Corinth.
    2. 1 Corinthians 5 - Sexual immorality of a man with his father's wife (incest). Put him out of church, as he is leaven/yeast, which will ruin the church.
    3. 1 Corinthians 6 - Meats are for the belly. Should the members of Christ be joined to the members of an harlot. It is discussing here "food" and "sex". It illudes pretty clearly to these temple prositutes of Aphrodite, as Paul says "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost". Indicating that the "harlot" he is refering to are temple harlots.
    4. 1 Corinthians 7 - Paul's solution to man's desire for affection, sex, is to marry a Christian woman. Rather than visiting temples and defiling oneself in idolatry and sexual immorality. Mentions that if a non-believer departs from a Christian, you are not in bondage to stay married to them. Indicates that you are able to do more for the Lord single, rather than married.
    5. 1 Corinthians 8 - Do not use our liberty in Christ as a stumblingblock (regarding meats(food) and marrying(sex, affection)).

    If you read through 1 Corinthians chapter 5 through 8, you will notice, a pattern. Paul is talking to a church within a city that is steeped in idolatry and temple prostitution. He mentions, we have liberty with "meats" and "marriage". But, we are not to use our liberty in Christ as a stumbling block or to sin, HENCE, avoid eating meat in the idol's temple, avoid fornication (hinting at avoiding temple prostitutes and other forms of fornication)..

    What I discovered over the years is that scripture, upon closer inspection does not align exactly with most common conservative viewpoints on sex, marriage, etc. I noticed the same pattern with the sex topic. I assumed that sex before marriage would be very black and white, as it appears when you just read through scripture. You see the word "fornication" and you are told that means "sex before marriage". If that is true, it would obviously be a sin. However, what I discovered is something I had not thought of before. What if people have altered the meaning of words? What if the word fornication, as understood today, is not the exact meaning that was intended within scripture, particularly within the original languages. After all, I am seeking after God, and I do not want to lean on my own understanding, but rather His understanding.

    So, lets take a journey through scripture to understand what the word "fornication" really means, and why sometimes it is translated "sexual immorality" rather than fornication.. OK, first, you have to understand, all the commandments that you see within the New Covenant (New Testament) are based on the Old Testament.. So, the foundation of your understanding of right and wrong would have its foundation within the Old Testament.. Meaning, if you want to know what is exactly meant by a commandment in the New Testament, you should look back at the Old Testament to get a better idea.

    And to make it clear now, the term pornea in Greek, which is translated "fornication" or "sexual immorality" means all around, anything that is a sexual sin and also means idolatry in some instances. So, the translaters in more recent versions are right to use the term "sexual immorality" rather than "fornication" as the term "fornication" as understood today, does not accurately define the term "pornea" in the greek.

    Why did they use the term "fornication" in the 1611 King James Bible? It is because, the term fornication meant something different back then, compared to today's definition. See the word history of the term fornication below:

    "n. Sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other."
    Word History: The word fornication had a lowly beginning suitable to what has long been the low moral status of the act to which it refers. The Latin word fornix, from which fornicatio, the ancestor of fornication, is derived, meant "a vault, an arch." The term also referred to a vaulted cellar or similar place where prostitutes plied their trade. This sense of fornix in Late Latin yielded the verb fornicari, "to commit fornication," from which is derived fornicatio, "whoredom, fornication." Our word is first recorded in Middle English about 1303. - American Heritage Dictionary

    Compare the above Word History to the below definition of pornea:

    Word: porneia

    Pronounce: por-ni'-ah

    Strongs Number: G4202

    Orig: from 4203; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively, idolatry:--sexual immorality. G4203

    Use: TDNT-6:579,918 Noun Feminine

    Heb Strong: H2183 H8457

      1) illicit(unlawful) sexual intercourse
      1a) adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality, intercourse with animals etc.
      1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
      1c) sexual intercourse with an unlawfully divorced man or woman; Mr 10:11,12
      2) metaph. the worship of idols
      2a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols
      2b) any form of idolatry

    So, at one time, the term "fornication" actually more closely resembled the term "pornea", as the main meaning of the term pornea is "harlotry". As you can imagine, it maybe difficult to pinpoint the perfect english term that will fit a greek or hebrew word's definition. Today, though, the term fornication means something too different from the original meaning for it to be used correctly within this term.

    With reference to sex before marriage, the term "fornication" has its relations based on Old Testament Law. Whereas, in most situations, sex before marriage is looked at as against God's desire or ideal, yet only in a few cases, do we see a punishment attached to sex before marriage. Only in the case of a daughter prostituting herself, while under her father's roof (Deuteronomy 22:20-27 ), or in the case where a woman is doing temple prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17-18), or when tied to religious activity (Leviticus 21:9 ), or in the case some sort of theft or sin is attached to the act. In other cases, we do not see God's judgement on those who participated in sex before marriage. Rather, we see encouragement to have sex in marriage (as seen with the Apostle Paul's exhortation).

    Read closely again verses 18 through 20:

    "1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

    I just realized this. it says "ye are bought with a price". What is this refering to? It is refering to the marriage design instituted in the Old Testament. In that a man would pay the "dowry" or "price" for his bride and she is then his wife. So, you are bought with a price and are married to Jesus Christ. Now, a question for you: "If you are married to Jesus Christ, can you marry another?" The answer to that question is "No". But, the Bible makes it clear that Christian men and women can marry. Therefore, it is not speaking of physical marriage, but rather spiritual marriage. So, Paul is saying you are to flee fornication, because you are spiritually married to Jesus Christ. And from this, we can see that this fornication violates your spiritual marriage to Christ. Since it is not refering to physical marriage (as you are allowed to marry another Christian), it is refering to a fornication that is "spiritual". And looking at the preceding verses, we see it discussing "harlots". How can harlots make you cheat on God spiritually? Only if there is idolatry involved. Therefore, Paul is speaking of temple harlotry.

    After doing further research, I discovered more evidence that the Apostle Paul is most likely refering to temple harlotry. First, the Historian Strabo indicates that in 7th Century B.C., Corinth's Temple to Aphrodite employed 1000 cultic temple prostitutes. Now many historians seem to "squable" regarding whether it truly was 1000 temple prostitutes in 7th Century BC, as it is questionable what source Strabo used for this information. However, the only reason they contest is because Strabo was living in (ca. 64 BC-AD 21) and he would not have direct prima facie knowledge of what was occuring in 7th century Corinth. During Strabo's time, Rome had already conquered Corinth and had significant influence over it, and much of the operations at the Temple of Aphrodite had diminished. So, if you research it, you will discover many seem to down play this idea of Corinth being filled with temple prostitutes.

    HOWEVER, I found one very interesting line, which many seem to miss:

    "Prostitutes were regularly regarded as devotees of Aphrodite in Greek literature, but that does not make them cult prostitutes per se." - Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.3 (1999): 443-460

    Isn't that an interesting little statement? Most people in Corinth during the time of Paul, regularly regarded harlots as "devotees of Aphrodite". So, in other words, they were not doing "official harlotry for Aphrodite", but still considered their "harlotry" unto Aphrodite. Would that not make them an unofficial "temple prostitute" in God's sight? According to God's Law, yes.

    Now, I mentioned all of this, because a lot of "historians" downplay this "temple prostitute" idea. However, we are not looking for "official" temple prostitutes, but rather, harlots doing their service unto false gods, whether officially or unofficially. Now, lets discuss this passage of Paul's. Notice, it says "ye are the temple of God". Why would Paul mention you are the temple of God, while talking about "harlots", unless he was directly refering to the "temple prostitutes" of Corinth? So, it is about looking at the scripture in context to the time, location and people being written to.

    Further, Paul seems to be making an argument against sleeping with these harlots, by saying "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost". So, saying the body is a temple, and that bringing an idol into a temple would "defile" it. So, if it was refering to a normal prostitute, it does not make a lot of sense to argue this way. But, if he is refering to these temple prostitutes, it makes a great deal of sense, as she is worshipping an idol and you are bring her body, an "idolatrous body temple", and making it one with your body, a "temple to the Holy Ghost", hence defiling the temple of God. For which, God would destroy you as a result.

    And as I mentioned above, to know what is "sexual immorality" you need to look at the Old Testament, where sexual sin is defined. Rather than just believing your church or your pastor, you should study to show yourself approved. This is how many definitions are expanded in greek and hebrew concordances, however you have to be careful not to allow theological ideas to creep into it as well. Below is a list of the sexual sins as God exactly stated within Leviticus:

    1. Do not have sexual relations with thy father (Leviticus 18:7).
    2. Do not have sexual relations with thy mother (Leviticus 18:7).
    3. Do not have sexual relations with thy father's wife (Leviticus 18:8).
    4. Do not have sexual relations with thy sister (Leviticus 18:9).
    5. Do not have sexual relations with thy son's daughter (Leviticus 18:10).
    6. Do not have sexual relations with thy daughter's daughter (Leviticus 18:10).
    7. Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of thy father's wife (Leviticus 18:11).
    8. Do not have sexual relations with thy father's sister (Leviticus 18:12).
    9. Do not have sexual relations with thy mother's sister (Leviticus 18:13).
    10. Do not have sexual relations with thy father's brother (Leviticus 18:14).
    11. Do not have sexual relations with thy father's brother's wife (Leviticus 18:14).
    12. Do not have sexual relations with thy daughter-in-law (Leviticus 18:15).
    13. Do not have sexual relations with thy brother's wife (Leviticus 18:16).
    14. Do not have sexual relations with a woman and her daughter (Leviticus 18:17).
    15. Do not have sexual relations with a woman and her son's daughter (Leviticus 18:17).
    16. Do not have sexual relations with a woman and her daughter's daughter (Leviticus 18:17).
    17. Do not have sexual relations with thy wife in addition to her sister, as rivals (Leviticus 18:18).
    18. Do not have sexual relations with a menstruous woman (Leviticus 18:19).
    19. Do not have sexual relations with thy neighbour's wife (Leviticus 18:20).
    20. Man can not have sex between men (Leviticus 18:22).
    21. Man can not have sexual relations with an animal (Leviticus 18:23).
    22. Woman can not have sexual relations with an animal (Leviticus 18:23).

    There are a couple other places within the Old Testament where sexual sins are mentioned, however, this encompasses them all (except a few things things that are indirectly related to sex, such as prostituting your daughter is a sin, a Levite is not to marry a prostitute, etc). This is where sin was defined by God and the New Testament's foundation is based on the Old Testament. If you want to know the definition of a word such as "fornication", you need not look further than the above. And, if you have not noticed, sex before marriage is not on the list.

    Now, does this mean God encourages sex before marriage? The answer to that would be "no", as it is not God's design. Sex is to be in marriage, yet, it does not follow that God has a penalty for all of those who have had sex before marriage (albeit, potential consequences, such as STDs, pregnancy, etc). There is some situations where it is considered a sin in the Old Testament to have sex before marriage, but generally it was in the case it was attached to some other sin or violating your parent's rights or violating the "love God, love neighbor" principle. Lets look briefly at the Old Testament passages that discuss sex before marriage:

    "22:16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. 22:17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins." - Exodus 22:16-17

    Notice, no blood sacrifice is required for the sex act before marriage. Also, notice, no one is "stoned to death", unlike adultery. Rather, in this instance, God instructs the man to marry the woman. Now, lets analyze this a little. Could it be, God understands men and women's desires and wants to salvage situations? So, instead of putting them to death, he instructs them to marry. The point being, sex is intrinsically neutral, while what you are doing with the sex act is not. It is like a gun. A gun is not evil, but what you do with a gun will determine if it is a good or evil act. So, sex before marriage here was not a sin, yet, seeing the father has rights to his daughter having an honorable marriage, the man now is required to marry her, assuming the father will accept him. Again, this is the only scripture that discusses young virgins specifically having sex before marriage. The only other passage in the Bible that directly discusses standard sex before marriage is this one below:

    "21:10 When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, 21:11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; 21:12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; 21:13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. 21:14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." - Deuteronomy 21:10-14

    Notice here, there is literally no penalty for this man to have had sex with this woman. How do we know for sure he had sex with her? Because it says he "humbled" her before he sent her out (assuming he has no delight in her). Further, if in a month, he is not happy, he can send her away. Of course, this is a special situation, where you have a woman, who's relatives potentially died in combat when fighting Israel. So, this situation is not exactly the norm. However, we can see, though, that sex before marriage is not a sin, otherwise, God would not have given the instructions seen in the passage above. It is not God's ideal, as we can see, but that does not mean it is a sin.

    "22:20 But if this thing be true, [and the tokens of] virginity be not found for the damsel: 22:21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you. 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, [both] the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. 22:23 If a damsel [that is] a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, [being] in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. 22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: 22:26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; [there is] in the damsel no sin [worthy] of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so [is] this matter: 22:27 For he found her in the field, [and] the betrothed damsel cried, and [there was] none to save her. " - Deuteronomy 22:20-27

    This passage is really interesting, as it goes through all the various forms of theft:

    1. Theft against a father - ( Daughter stealing from her father, while in his household, by prostituting herself for money. This makes it impossible for the father to have a honorable marriage for his daughter. This is in contrast to a virgin daugher who has sex before marriage and then is required to marry the man she had sex with. )
    2. Theft against a married man - ( His wife lies with another man. )
    3. Theft against a married man, but the wife did not want - ( The man rapes another man's wife and the wife tries to scream or get away. )

    So, the idea is that the daughter is raised by her parents, so she needs to honor them while living with them, by allowing her father to have an honorable marriage for her. Yet, once she is not under his care or lordship, she generally then is under the care of a husband, but there are cases where a woman is not. And in those cases, such as widowhood, proper divorce or just out on her own, she is permitted to have sex before marriage, though, it is against God's ideal. If we read God's original design, before "The Fall", we see that the intent is for a man to leave his parents and become one flesh with his wife and to never have a divorce.

    Now for you religious leaders, who assume all forms of sex before marriage is sin. I can very easily prove it to you that it is not a sin in of itself (yet against God's desire). It is a very simple logical, biblical progression. I elaborate on it more below, however, to concisely state it here it goes like this: All sin requires blood sacrifice to atone for the sin (Hebrews 9:22 & Leviticus 17:11). Sin is defined within the Old Testament. When an action is a sin, either the person is stoned (blood shedd) or an animal is sacrificed for the sin (blood shed). Hebrews makes it very clear, that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. However, if you read in the Old Testament, as I discussed above, it is made abundantly clear that no sacrifice or stoning is required if someone has sex before marriage, thus proving, it is not a sin. Rather than a sin, it is something God doesn't desire. There are certain things that are not sins, but God would rather you not do them, and this would be one of those things.

    Well, as I mentioned above, in Exodus 22:16-17 we see what the consequences are for a virgin to have sex before marriage (while living in her father's house). If she is a young virgin under parential care and you have sex with her, you have stolen the dowry from the father and are required to marry his daughter (unless he refuses you). Whether he ends up marrying or not, he has to pay the dowry(as he stole this from the father when sleeping with his daughter the ability to get rightly married). There is no burnt sacrifice required for this situation (as long as the dowry is paid, otherwise it is theft). And as we discussed before, blood has to be shed for remission of sins. So, if this was a sin, there would have either been someone dying for their sin or an animal dying in his place. Plain and simple.

    Just like it is God's desire for no marriage to break, however, sometimes, there are situations where it is wise for a marriage to be broken(abuse, infidelity, etc). So, sex before marriage is not a sin, however, God would desire sex to be within marriage and actually in Old Testament times, having sex with a virgin meant obligation to marry (unless the father refuses). However, again, this is refering to virgins and ironically a non-virgin or potentially a woman who is divorced, there is no such command to marry if they have sex before marriage (atleast in all my studies, I have never seen such a scripture).

    Often, the term fornication means such things as temple prostitution, incest or even adultery. Yet, it is not often used to refer to sex before marriage. I think the point is to realize the term pornea can be used as a cautionary tool against sex before marriage, but not as a tool of condemnation. Meaning, God's desire is for sex to be in marriage, however, it is not a sin to do so.

    Well, what about harlots? Should they all be thrown in hell? According to Jesus Christ himself, some will make it to heaven:

    "Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." - Matthew 21:31

    But your pastor tells you they are the vilest of sinners, right? Actually, as you can see above, false righteousness or hypocrisy is a worse sin. So, what is God's opinion about harlotry? Is it like your pastor says? The vilest of sins?

    Well, long story short, here is basically the rundown on harlots:

    1. Sex with a non-married temple prostitute = Sexual Idolatry
    2. Sex with a married temple prostitute = Adultery & Idolatry
    3. Sex with a non-married prostitute = Something God does not desire, yet is not a sin.
    4. Sex with a married prostitute = Adultery

    Here is a detailed study on harlotry proving the above statements. Of course, such things are not God's desire or ideal, however, we have to be logical and truly seek what the Bible says on such topics, instead of glossing it over and just declaring all forms of whatever act is a sin.

    As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7, God solution is for men to marry. So, sex was designed strictly for marriage. However, sex before marriage, is not actually a sin, due to the fact that in the Old Testament, no sacrifice was required for sex before marriage. Rather, God instructed them to marry, if they had sex, unless the father of the bride-to-be refused the man.

    What is the reason that God desires sex to be in marriage? I believe it was to curb the spread of sin, as I have seen scripture that would indicate such things lead to the spread of sin (like gambling, alcohol, prostitution also have this ability). Meaning, it may not be a sin to have sex before marriage, however, it tends to be something to where sin is easily born from. Kind of like drinking alcohol. It may not be a sin, however, is it wise? As we know, getting intoxicated is a sin. Yet, if I drink one beer, I have not sinned, as I still have self control. Yet, that does not mean you should drink alcohol. Most people would think it is unwise to walk near an edge of a cliff. It may not be a sin to walk near an edge of a cliff, but that doesn't mean you should go do it either.. Same is the case with sex before marriage. It is not a sin, however, is it wise or would God like it? Alcoholism is no joke and neither is the myriad of problems that can come from promiscuity. In other words, sleeping around with people is not wise, just like taking drugs is not wise.

    I look at these type of lifestyle choices like "coveting". It may not be a sin to covet, but it sure can lead you to sinning. Just ask King David! I am sure he very much regreted some of the choices he made, particularly with Bathesheba. Not only did he commit adultery, but it is easily arguable that he murdered a man as well. If you are not married, but in a serious relationship, it is very tempting to have sex. What I would suggest is to abstain. Know it is very possible to accomplish, as you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. Does that mean you can not kiss, touch, etc? No, it does not, however realize, those things can make it far more tempting to have sex as well.

    Just reading the above scriptural link and thinking it through, it becomes very obvious on God's viewpoint of sex between a young woman(under father's care) and a man. Although, there is no sin and sacrifice requirement for the action, note that he wants them to marry, because of the father's rights. It shows it is something that bears responsibility, or he would not have said they should marry. I don't want to read into this too much, as there are two factors. One factor is the father's right to an honorable marriage for his daughter and the dowry to be paid to him. The other factor is whether God wants them to marry outside the influence of the father. I believe the only factor is the father's loss, because the father has the last word on whether the man can marry his daughter or not. If there was more wrong to the situation, God would then be having the final word (as it would be theft from God also). So, I believe God looks at it as he stole from the father of the girl only in this situation.

    Today, we do not have a "dowry" in many modern nations like the United States, however, we do have an age to which she is under the father's care. So, if you sleep with a non-married woman who is under her father's care, you have stolen from the father, if you do not marry her. This is assuming she is a virgin. Also, there is the factor of the father's desire. I would assume a righteous father would want an honorable marriage for his daughter. However, in the case the daughter has moved out and is on her own, we find no scripture stating it is a sin for her to have sex. Though, we can see from a variety of scriptures in the New and Old Testament that God desires sex to be in marriage. Yet, since no sacrifice is required, even in the case of a virgin daughter who is still under her father's care, we can not conclude it is a sin, but rather something to see as the non-ideal form. It could be the point of risk and potential wisdom. Similar to drinking alcohol. One can not find a verse that says you can not drink alcohol, but one can find many verses talking about the destruction that can follow drinking too much. Further, sin is often born from such things as uncontrolled sexual desire, just like with alcohol, etc. With sex, there is the potential of pregnancy, STDs, etc. This is maybe why many Christians just assume sex before marriage is a sin. For it is in some cases and it can also be an undesired form in others and can lead to risk and uncontrolled lust in general. Yet, I want to amke clear, that for judgement's sake, we can not say it is a sin of itself, as scripture does not appear to make such a declaration. It is sin, when someone's rights are violated. Such as the case of God (such as temple prostitution) or man (such as your parent's rights to an honorable marriage for you and you refuse marriage).



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