Is all premarital sex actually prohibited in the Bible?

Debating issues regarding sexuality

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micatala
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Is all premarital sex actually prohibited in the Bible?

Post #1

Post by micatala »

It has been assumed in many posts that premarital sex is a sin, or against certain Biblical teachings, or both. One recent example is in the Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner thread.

Obviously, one of the 10 commandments is Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery. However, common understanding would be that adultery is:
Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary wrote:
voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or a married woman and someone other than her husband
Fornication is usually defined as sex between unmarried people.

Here are a few relevant verses:
LEviticus 19 wrote: 20 " 'If a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for a guilt offering to the LORD. 22 With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the LORD for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven.


29 " 'Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.

The latter implies that being a prostitute is certainly less than ideal, but it does not seem to be prohibited. Certainly there are many examples of prostitution in the Bible, and neither the men nor the women are necessarily punished for engaging in sex in this context.
Leviticus 20 wrote: 20 " 'If a man sleeps with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless.
One assumes the uncle is already dead. Notice the punishment is something we assume only God can accomplish.

Priests are to be held to a higher than ordinary standard.
Leviticus 21 wrote: 7 " 'They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God. 8 Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy—I who make you holy.

9 " 'If a priest's daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.

13 " 'The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the LORD, who makes him holy. [d] ' "


The latter implies it is OK for others to marry women who are not virgins. The fact that there is prostitution and it is at least condoned means sex outside of marriage must have been occuring and at least condoned.



QUestions for debate are:

Does the Bible unambiguously teach that premarital sex is wrong? Where is the Biblical justification?

Many Christians would say 'all sins are equal.' However, many others would say some sins are more serious than others. Murder might be considered more egregious than adultery, and adultery more egregious than telling a 'fish story.'

WHere does premarital sex rank on a list of sins, say even compared to the 10 commandments?

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Post #21

Post by Goat »

Madeline wrote:
goat wrote:
Madeline wrote:
goat wrote:
Madeline wrote:The bible clearly condemns sex out of wedlock (Acts 15:20; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13,18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Cor, 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7). So essentially if your on the internet looking for hot guys and lusting after them whilst engaged to be married, then you're basically committed pre-marital sex.

Love,
Madeline
Well, the problem with your translation is that the literal translation of the word 'fornication' in many of those passages is 'whoredom', which is different than 'fornication'.
It's still wrongful lust which is a sin, and we find that lust is usually connected to fornication and adultery in the scriptures (Matt. 5:28; Mk. 4:19; Jn. 8:44; Rom. 1:24; 1 Cor. 10:6; Gal. 5:16,17,24; Tit. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Jn. 2:16 f; Jude 1:16,18; Rev. 18:14).

Love,
Madeline
It is not lust that is the sin. It is the lust after another man's wife that is the sin.
goat, did you bother to take a look at the scriptures I cited? Also premarital sex go against the institution of marriage. Marriage and sex go hand in hand, such as consummation.

Love,
Madeline
Historically, the church did not get involved in marriage until after the 5th century,
which is hundreds of years after the gospels being written. Until then, it was a civil
issue. Therefore, your associating those passages with the institution of marriage.
Even in the 5th century, it was priests giving blessing to a couple after the fact.

Did you look at those passages in context? You are reading 19th century sensibilities onto late first,early second century documents.

There were many occations in the middle ages where the marriage banns would be posted, but the couple did not get married until the woman was pregnant, to insure the couple was fertile That is why in many medival wedding pictures that women often had their hands on their stomachs.

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Post #22

Post by Madeline »

goat wrote:
Madeline wrote:
goat wrote:
Madeline wrote:
goat wrote:
Madeline wrote:The bible clearly condemns sex out of wedlock (Acts 15:20; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13,18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Cor, 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7). So essentially if your on the internet looking for hot guys and lusting after them whilst engaged to be married, then you're basically committed pre-marital sex.

Love,
Madeline
Well, the problem with your translation is that the literal translation of the word 'fornication' in many of those passages is 'whoredom', which is different than 'fornication'.
It's still wrongful lust which is a sin, and we find that lust is usually connected to fornication and adultery in the scriptures (Matt. 5:28; Mk. 4:19; Jn. 8:44; Rom. 1:24; 1 Cor. 10:6; Gal. 5:16,17,24; Tit. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Jn. 2:16 f; Jude 1:16,18; Rev. 18:14).

Love,
Madeline
It is not lust that is the sin. It is the lust after another man's wife that is the sin.
goat, did you bother to take a look at the scriptures I cited? Also premarital sex go against the institution of marriage. Marriage and sex go hand in hand, such as consummation.

Love,
Madeline
Historically, the church did not get involved in marriage until after the 5th century,
which is hundreds of years after the gospels being written. Until then, it was a civil
issue. Therefore, your associating those passages with the institution of marriage.
Even in the 5th century, it was priests giving blessing to a couple after the fact.

Did you look at those passages in context? You are reading 19th century sensibilities onto late first,early second century documents.

There were many occations in the middle ages where the marriage banns would be posted, but the couple did not get married until the woman was pregnant, to insure the couple was fertile That is why in many medival wedding pictures that women often had their hands on their stomachs.
In logic we call this the fallacy of equivocation (changing the meaning of the word in an argument). The ambiguity is in the phrase: "...did not get involved in marriage..."

It is true that regulation of marriage in the Roman empire (as today) was a state responsibility. The Greeks and Romans saw marriage as a divine institution, but of importance to the state. There were Roman laws regarding who you could marry, when you could divorce, and what was sexually immoral. This was true of most societies. In fact we have old law codes going back to the 2nd millennium, such as the Code of Hammurabi, Assyrian law code, etc. that show the state regulating marriage, adultery, divorce, rape, and sexual morality. This is even true today - that is, you still need to get a marriage license from the county to unite together, marriage is defined by the state as a union of "a man and a woman," and divorces are granted by a judge in a civil case before a government court. Of course, the church did not get involved in the regulation of marriage or the making of marital laws in Roman society. It was a persecuted religion until AD 312.

So it would be true to say that the church "did not get involved until after the 5th century" in the state regulation of marriage. The situation before the 5th century would be quite similar to what the church does today. Marriage is a combination of a family affair, civil regulation by the state, and involvement of religious societies and professionals depending upon your belief in God. After the 5th century the church had essentially become the state and so there was more uniting of church and state functions at this time and during the Middle Ages.

But to say the church was not regulating marriage is a very different thing than to say the church "did not get involved in marriage." Of course, the church was involved in marriage. How was the church involved? Three ways:
RECORDING AND BLESSING: In the Old Testament, marriage documents and bills of divorce involved the local town rabbi - we see many examples of this in the Jewish Mishnah. When an engagement was made the parties went before the rabbi to draw up a document of marriage. The marriage ceremony itself was a family affair performed in a family setting. The rabbi might be involved in the function, but usually just gave the "blessing" to the couple at the end of the ceremony. I really don't have accurate information on early church practice, so I fail you here. I checked my reference books, but was unable to find anything on elders or bishops and wedding ceremonies. I suspect (although I can't put my finger on a reference at this moment) that church elders blessed the couple at (or following the wedding) and recorded the marriage in church records - continuing the practice of the local Jewish rabbi.
So, yes, it likely is true that an elder (or priest) blessed a couple after they had gone through the wedding ceremony. Weddings were still thought of as being done before God (Jesus and the Old Testament said so), but were a family function involving religious professionals secondarily. Add to this the early church's elevating of celibacy to a sacrament - not the New Testament, but the 2nd and 3rd century church - and you can see why the early church was not very involved in marital ceremonies apart from blessing and recording the marriage.


DISCIPLINE: How else was the church involved in marriage? The church disciplined its own members, when they violated certain standards for marriage. See 1 Corinthians 5 for a prime example which went so far as to involve excommunication. Church members were called to repent from sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14-16 and 2:20-23).
PROCLAMATION: Was the church involved in marriage any other way? The greatest involvement of the church in marriage was that the church's founder and apostles claimed to speak for God about what was proper and improper in (and outside of) marriage. The Old Testament recorded God's marriage commandments and called marriage a covenant before God (Malachi 2:13-16). Jesus spoke about marriage on many occasions and called it a God-given institution (Matthew 19:1-12). All the apostles wrote about marriage or marital immorality. Paul even gave over a whole chapter to discussing marriage questions (1 Corinthians 7).
AND the church claimed to speak not just about Christian marriage morality, but also what was proper for pagans. It claimed that God's commandments were true for all people, pagan and Christian alike. This is the church's prophetic role in speaking the word of God, being the pillar of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), salt to a rotting world (Matthew 5:13), and light to the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16).

This is what most people in our present day object too: "Don't impose your morality on me." Of course, we aren't trying to impose our morality on anyone. We are simply telling people what their Creator said. The New Testament church did this: labeling certain actions as "immoral" and warning of God's punishment, even when speaking of pagans. For examples see Romans 1:18-32; Galatians 5:19-21; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 9:20-21.

So to say that "the church did not get involved in marriage until after the 5th century" is a ridiculous statement given all the evidence found in the New Testament. Involvement of blessing, discipline, and proclamation was certainly NOT "hundreds of years after the gospels" were written.

My final comment would be regarding the statement about the Middle Ages and the couple not getting married until the woman was pregnant. I can think of "many occasions" (MANY historical examples) in which individuals were married first, then found to be unable to have children. This was the basis for much anxiety among various rulers, if you will remember. Even if it were sometimes true, I would certainly NEVER use the church and the Middle Ages to prove anything. This is a totally unconvincing argument from my perspective, since the church had fallen into ignorance of the Bible and copied the world's practices in many ways. So even if virginity was not held in some cases as moral standard in the church during the Middle Ages, what does that have to do with whether or not the Bible says that it is supposed to be the standard? The church has often been inconsistent in proclaiming and living the truth. It doesn't change the fact that it is still truth and still should be proclaimed. Hope this helps! :hug:

Love,
Madeline

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Post #23

Post by youngborean »

I don't think premarital sex is forbidden in the bible. But it is clear that the intention after extra-marital sex is that the man needs to fully persue the possiblity of marriage with that woman.

Deu 22:28 If a man find a damsel [that is] a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Deu 22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty [shekels] of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

and
Exd 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.
Exd 22:17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins

I think that the basic scriptural premise is that it is not proper or respectful to have premarital sex, but it is not a sin punishable by death. The outcome should always be that the man seeks to make good by her. There is responsibility for the action in other words.

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Post #24

Post by micatala »

Madeline wrote:
goat wrote:
Madeline wrote:The bible clearly condemns sex out of wedlock (Acts 15:20; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13,18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Cor, 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7). So essentially if your on the internet looking for hot guys and lusting after them whilst engaged to be married, then you're basically committed pre-marital sex.

Love,
Madeline
Well, the problem with your translation is that the literal translation of the word 'fornication' in many of those passages is 'whoredom', which is different than 'fornication'.
It's still wrongful lust which is a sin, and we find that lust is usually connected to fornication and adultery in the scriptures (Matt. 5:28; Mk. 4:19; Jn. 8:44; Rom. 1:24; 1 Cor. 10:6; Gal. 5:16,17,24; Tit. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Jn. 2:16 f; Jude 1:16,18; Rev. 18:14).

Love,
Madeline
I am not an original language scholar, but if goat has any sources one could consult on the word that is translated as fornication in many English translations, I would be most grateful.

In general, I do think we need to be careful about reading the Bible with '20th century lenses' on. That is partly why I started this thread; to see how much of our assumptions we typically read into the Bible. I also wanted to see what folks would produce for evidence from the Bible, ans Madeline and others have provided a good deal of this.

Although it is difficult, and I confess I have not had time to devote the forum much lately, I would want to get into:

1. The translation issues.

2. The 'point of view' issues. How do we look at things differently than the ancient Hebrews and early Christians.

3. Any seeming or evident disparities between passages in different portions of the Bible. Is the NT view of pre-marital sex really the same as the OT?

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Post #25

Post by Confused »

youngborean wrote:I don't think premarital sex is forbidden in the bible. But it is clear that the intention after extra-marital sex is that the man needs to fully persue the possiblity of marriage with that woman.

Deu 22:28 If a man find a damsel [that is] a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Deu 22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty [shekels] of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

and
Exd 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.
Exd 22:17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins

I think that the basic scriptural premise is that it is not proper or respectful to have premarital sex, but it is not a sin punishable by death. The outcome should always be that the man seeks to make good by her. There is responsibility for the action in other words.
But this is just your interpretation, correct? I read the scripture you have listed, and listed it earlier in the thread and while it might appear to suggest one should marry if they have sex, it does say that if they don't , the man can pay a virgin price and it is ok. But there isn't anything that condemns it per se, or makes it a sin right?
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Post #26

Post by pyrite »

after reading this thread i'd have to say i'm unsure as to whether premarital sex is sinful per se.. but i believe keeping sex within marriage is a very good idea.
i'm engaged at the moment, i'm a Christian, and not being able to have sex is terrible, but the fact is that my fiance knows i love her for more than her sex, and that means a lot to her. it's a good way of showing a person what they mean to you before committing to marriage.
if you can have a great time without the sex, you'll have an incredible time with it :)

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Post #27

Post by Confused »

pyrite wrote:after reading this thread i'd have to say i'm unsure as to whether premarital sex is sinful per se.. but i believe keeping sex within marriage is a very good idea.
i'm engaged at the moment, i'm a Christian, and not being able to have sex is terrible, but the fact is that my fiance knows i love her for more than her sex, and that means a lot to her. it's a good way of showing a person what they mean to you before committing to marriage.
if you can have a great time without the sex, you'll have an incredible time with it :)
Still opinion, not sin.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

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Post #28

Post by micatala »

pyrite wrote:after reading this thread i'd have to say i'm unsure as to whether premarital sex is sinful per se.. but i believe keeping sex within marriage is a very good idea.
i'm engaged at the moment, i'm a Christian, and not being able to have sex is terrible, but the fact is that my fiance knows i love her for more than her sex, and that means a lot to her. it's a good way of showing a person what they mean to you before committing to marriage.
if you can have a great time without the sex, you'll have an incredible time with it :)
I can accept this point. It is better to do what is best, but if one does not do what is best, one is not necessarily sinning. As previously stated, if one is acting in faith, one is not necessarily sinning. If one is acting against your faith, then you are sinning no matter what you do.

Also, what is good for you and your fiance may not necessarily be good for all. However, if your 'waiting' approach works for you (and ny wife and I did the same a rather long time ago now), then more power to you. :)

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Post #29

Post by pyrite »

micatala wrote:if one is acting in faith, one is not necessarily sinning. If one is acting against your faith, then you are sinning no matter what you do
this is very true..
i'm not sure whether paul's statement 'all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial' (1 Cor 10:23) and its surrounding chapter have come into this thread, but they should! another thing we may need to consider is if premarital sex will hurt or offend other people we are close to (eg christian family), or cause them to stumble against their own beliefs. it is our responsibility to honor the convictions of our close ones, and as soon as your sex becomes public and offends them, there's an opportunity for you to cause them to stumble against their own convictions, which is highly discouraged in scripture.

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Post #30

Post by micatala »

pyrite wrote:
micatala wrote:if one is acting in faith, one is not necessarily sinning. If one is acting against your faith, then you are sinning no matter what you do
this is very true..
i'm not sure whether paul's statement 'all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial' (1 Cor 10:23) and its surrounding chapter have come into this thread, but they should! another thing we may need to consider is if premarital sex will hurt or offend other people we are close to (eg christian family), or cause them to stumble against their own beliefs. it is our responsibility to honor the convictions of our close ones, and as soon as your sex becomes public and offends them, there's an opportunity for you to cause them to stumble against their own convictions, which is highly discouraged in scripture.
I think this is a valid point. As noted in Romans 14, we should act for the benefit of our brothers. However, it seems to me we also have to consider the possibility of becoming 'hostage' to other people's over-active tendencies to be offended.

For example, if person A marries person B who is of another faith, it might cause members of person A's family to quarrel with each other, be offended, or even leave the church or the faith. Should A and B allow what they feel is their God-ordained love to be held hostage to this potential situation? They can certainly attempt to be as diplomatic, discrete, and understanding as possible, but it is not likely they would long be able to hide their intentions, or their marriage if they end up, for example, eloping.

I would certainly agree that those engaging in pre-marital sex are, at a minimum, obliged to act very discretely so as to avoid creating a temptation for others who for whom such action would prove harmful (because of lack of maturity, inability to distinguish between love and lust, etc.)

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