What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Debating issues regarding sexuality

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
Checkpoint
Prodigy
Posts: 3527
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:07 pm
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 7 times

What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #1

Post by Checkpoint »

It seems to me it is seldom if ever specifically defined in scripture, although the term is used more than a few times.

Does it, for example, include polygamy?

How about sex before marriage?

Or homosexuality?

Adultery is a sin, but is it also fornication?

User avatar
JehovahsWitness
Savant
Posts: 14657
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:03 am
Has thanked: 38 times
Been thanked: 49 times
Contact:

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #2

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Checkpoint wrote: It seems to me it is seldom if ever specifically defined in scripture, although the term is used more than a few times.
Biblically FORNICATION [Gr Pornia] it means "unlawful" or "illicit"/illegal sex. The only law referenced in scripture are the Mosaic law Under which sex OUTSIDE of marriage always carried a penelty ie was illegal. Christian law, which reflected some of the limits of the Mosaic law therefore carries the same meaning in the word "fornication": so basically sex that is outside of legal marriage. According to Timothy George (Galatians: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy p. 392), by the mid-first century CE, PORNEIA came to mean "sexual immorality or irregularity"



Further reading
http://fosterheologicalreflections.blog ... ronic.html

Checkpoint wrote:
Does it, for example, include polygamy?
No, "polygamy" is marrying more than one Partner, and fornication would be sex with someone to whom one is not married. In bible times polygamy was perfectly legal although it was prohibited by Jesus for Christians.

Checkpoint wrote: How about sex before marriage?
Yes (see above)

Checkpoint wrote: Or homosexuality?
Yes, homosexual activity is "illegal"in bible law and thus would be considered "fornication" in scripture.
Checkpoint wrote: Adultery is a sin, but is it also fornication?
Yes, because adultery would be having sex with anyone that is not one's legal marriage Partner. So a married man or woman that has sex with a single (or married) person that is not their own partner would be committing both adultery and fornication.

Hope that helps,

JEHOVAHS WITNESS
Last edited by JehovahsWitness on Sun Jul 05, 2020 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
INDEX: More bible based ANSWERS
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... 81#p826681


"For if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. So both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah" -
Romans 14:8

Checkpoint
Prodigy
Posts: 3527
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:07 pm
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #3

Post by Checkpoint »

[Replying to post 2 by JehovahsWitness]
Checkpoint wrote:

It seems to me it is seldom if ever specifically defined in scripture, although the term is used more than a few times.


Biblically FORNICATION [Gr Pornia] it means "unlawful" or "illicit"/illegal sex. The only law referenced in scripture are the Mosaic law Under which sex OUTSIDE of marriage always carried a penelty ie was illegal.
Your response is partly why I made that statement.

That definition of fornication still does not specify what it is.

My reading of Mosaic law does not specify "outside of marriage", but cites various family relationships and has no blanket law on sex before marriage, at least as far as I can see.

postroad
Prodigy
Posts: 2882
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:58 am

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #4

Post by postroad »

[Replying to post 3 by Checkpoint]

A daughter and her virginity was the property of her father until transferred through marriage. It was property crime to steal what didn't belong to you.
Deuteronomy 22:13-21New International Version (NIV)

Marriage Violations

13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,� 15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. 16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.� Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels[a] of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.

20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

Checkpoint
Prodigy
Posts: 3527
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:07 pm
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #5

Post by Checkpoint »

[Replying to post 4 by postroad]
A daughter and her virginity was the property of her father until transferred through marriage. It was property crime to steal what didn't belong to you.

Quote:
Deuteronomy 22:13-21New International Version (NIV)
Thanks for that.

Totally different social and family protocol and expectations than we have had for centuries.

Hardly a basis to establish what fornication is and is not, imo.

User avatar
JehovahsWitness
Savant
Posts: 14657
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:03 am
Has thanked: 38 times
Been thanked: 49 times
Contact:

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #6

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Checkpoint wrote:That definition of fornication still does not specify what it is.
Yes it does. It is "sex which is illegal". Thus one has to refer to "the law" to determine the details.
To illustrate: If the crime of "speeding" is "breaking the speed limit" one could not justifiably say to a highway petrolman, yes, but "that defintion still does not specify what "speeding" is". He would simply point out what the maximum speed limit is in that area. And then book you.
Fornication is illicit or illegal sex. One has simply to defer to "law" ( in this case Christian or Hebrew) to find out what it has to say one the prohibitions of sexual behavior.
Checkpoint wrote:My reading of Mosaic law does not specify "outside of marriage", but cites various family relationships and has no blanket law on sex before marriage, at least as far as I can see.
When it came to Hebrew laws governing sexual misconduct, the Mosaic law favored describing specific sexual behaviour rather than use such a broad term. Thus we will read "You must not rape" or "You must not have sex with a close relative" or "you must not have intercourse with an animal" (all of which where considered lude or illegal sexual misconduct) rather than the broader "you must not commit fornication".

Why, then is there no law that explicity states "You must not have sex before marriage"?

Because within the historical, cultural and social context that the Mosaic law was given, all aspects of the sexual behaviour had already been covered by specific laws (see above). If you are going to have sex you are going to do so as a single person or as a married person. An individual is going to have sex with either a single or married person, male or female (or with an animal) and that for money (prostition) or for religious reasons (idolatry/temple prostitution).

If two single people chose to have "consensual" sex outside marriage there was not policing method to stop them but that fact that it was considered as "illicit" (the basic meaning of the word "fornication") is seen by what the legal consequences would be if such behaviour came to light. For the man who had sex with a virgin, there would be a sanction (he would have to marry her or pay her father a fine). If the girl kept the incident quiet and later married another man (as a non-virgin) then she risked being executed. If she made it public, although there would be no legal consequences, she would have more or less destroyed her marriage prospects (which represented her sustanance) and would open herself up to accusations of prostitution (which carried the death penalty). If she fell pregnant, her child would have no inheritance (generally passed down through the male relatives) and again exposed her to accusations of prostitution. Similar socio-economic constraints effected the widow or a divorced woman and rendered "sex outside of marriage" highly disadvantageous for them. Since most men that would want to have sex, would want to do so with a woman, if a woman refused, he would be left with the option of rape (which carried the death penalty and is repulsive to most normal men), hiring the services of a prostitute (Prostitution was illgal under the mosaic law) or sex with a temple prosititute/idolatury (ditto).

CONCLUSION: Most people that highlight the absence of a specific law that states "You must not have sex outside of marriage" are doing so because they are not aware of the scope of the original words in the bible text and/or are looking at the subject through the lense of 21st century "morals" where such behaviour is common. The specific laws in the Hebrew bible for the most part, cover "sex outside of marriage" rendering the need for a law "You must not fornicate" or "You must not have sex outside of marriage" redundant.

By the Christian era did "porneia" not simply mean "prostitution" or "homosexual intercourse"?

No. Although it may have orginally had its roots as such (the pagan temples was were ordinary citizens at the time primarily went to engage in such conduct) by the mid-first century the word had taken on a much broader sense and covered all kinds of sexual misconduct/perversions and was able to reflect the scope of its equivalent in the Hebrew text.
Last edited by JehovahsWitness on Sun Jul 05, 2020 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
INDEX: More bible based ANSWERS
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... 81#p826681


"For if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. So both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah" -
Romans 14:8

Yahu
Banned
Banned
Posts: 1488
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:28 am
Location: Atlanta

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #7

Post by Yahu »

Checkpoint wrote: It seems to me it is seldom if ever specifically defined in scripture, although the term is used more than a few times.

Does it, for example, include polygamy?

How about sex before marriage?

Or homosexuality?

Adultery is a sin, but is it also fornication?
The JW is correct that fornication is 'illegal sexual intercourse' BUT incorrect in determining what is legal verses illegal. The has NEVER been a law against pre-marital sex in Yah's law.

There are laws against sexual worship, prostitution, rape, homosexuality, taking another man's wife or betrothed (adultery), taking a girls virginity without marrying her. There are also the laws against incest and bestiality.

If you were betrothed, you could legally have sex. The betrothal was the beginning of the covenant. It was up to the couple when to start a sexual relationship.

If a girl was not a virgin, she could get involved in a sexual relationship with any man but had to limit herself to one man as a concubine to that man. A concubine was a sexual partner that was not a wife. She had a lesser status and didn't produce heirs unless the father made him so. The man was still responsible for the children she had.

Jacob had two wives and two concubines but made all 12 sons equal as heirs.

Adultery is a subset of fornication. Adultery of a man was having sex with another man's wife or betrothed. It had nothing to do with his own marital status. It was NOT cheating on his wife. That is a more modern concept of adultery that is not biblical. A man could have multiple wives and concubines. Adultery of a woman was having sex with anyone other then the man she was married to or involved with as a concubine. Women were never to have more then one sexual partner at a time so any child she conceived would have a known father to be responsible for that child.

Now there were also the Levirate laws. A childless widow could require a child by the same bloodline as her husband to provide an heir of that bloodline to inherit her dead husbands inheritance or property. The wife didn't get it when he died. It belongs to his family but if she had a child of that family, that child could gain that property and a the mother would be his regent until he was legally a man and then he had to maintain his mother. If she remarried a man of any other bloodline, she could not gain her dead husband's property. So in the case of a Levirite widow, she could have sex with men of the family of her dead husband for the sake of a child but it was not a marriage. She didn't have the same rights as the primary wife of that man.

It is phariseeism to follow that any pre-marital sexual contact is fornication. That is expanding on the actual definition with the traditions of man. It is fine to have a higher standard but you don't have the right to force others to that higher standard or equate it as sin for those that reject those traditions of man.

The 'playing the whore' references in the OT are women that got involved with the sexual worship of the groves. It was random sex with strangers just for fun and had nothing to do with a relationship and was with multiple partners.

The modern day equivalent of that type behavior is having 'one night stands'. You don't pick up strangers for sex. That type of sex was illegal.

As long as your in a relationship and the woman isn't married or betrothed to another man, its not fornication by biblical law.

Checkpoint
Prodigy
Posts: 3527
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:07 pm
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #8

Post by Checkpoint »

[Replying to post 7 by Yahu]
The has NEVER been a law against pre-marital sex in Yah's law.

It is phariseism to follow that any pre-marital sexual contact is fornication. That is expanding on the actual definition with the traditions of man. It is fine to have a higher standard but you don't have the right to force others to that higher standard or equate it as sin for those that reject those traditions of man.
You have confirmed what my own reading of scripture led me to think was probable.

Thank you!

User avatar
JehovahsWitness
Savant
Posts: 14657
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:03 am
Has thanked: 38 times
Been thanked: 49 times
Contact:

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #9

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Yahu wrote: If you were betrothed, you could legally have sex. The betrothal was the beginning of the covenant. It was up to the couple when to start a sexual relationship.
Yahu is correct about the nature of a betrothal in Jesus' day but wrong to imply that betrothed people could not fornicate with each other or that such behaviour would be approved by God.

Does that fact that there was no specific law prohibiting engaged people from having sex in bible times mean that God sanctions single people having sex before they are wed, if they are committed to each other?

While it is true that by Jesus time, the engagement contract required a certificate of divorce to be annulled and an engagement was viewed as the beginning of the marriage contract, it is also true that unenforcable laws are laws that have no use or purpose. Since it would only be possible to prove a woman had had sex before her marriage and that only if she fell pregnant or her husband suspected her of unfaithfulness, and made those suspisions public there would be little purpose served in having a law that stipulated engaged couples should wait until marriage.

Further more those that wish to sanction extra marital sex do well to also note that when choosing a mother for Jesus, God chose an engaged woman that was still a virgin. It would not be unreasonable then to take that as the "gold standard" and a ^proper reflection of God's view of couples having sex before they are legally married.

It should also be noted that the Mosaic laws said nothing of "legally binding" engagments so the whole arrangement was basically manmade tradition and hardly one that can be used to imply God's approval. Remember, when Jesus referred to God's original standard he referred not to an engaged couple but God binding a man with his WIFE (not his fiance) thus it is evident that the scriptures do indicate that the privileges of marital intimacy should commence when God "yokes" the two together in marriage, not when manmade traditions provide a loophole to.

CONCLUSION: Not only are engagements today not legally binding but a study of scripure indicate that although God has tolerated certain behaviours, Christians today cannot use this to promote loose morals and degraded sexual practices such as sex before marriage. The Christian bible is clear, those that wish to please God must "flee from fornication" and this includes having sex before one is legally married.
Last edited by JehovahsWitness on Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
INDEX: More bible based ANSWERS
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... 81#p826681


"For if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. So both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah" -
Romans 14:8

User avatar
JehovahsWitness
Savant
Posts: 14657
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:03 am
Has thanked: 38 times
Been thanked: 49 times
Contact:

Re: What does the Bible mean by "fornication"?

Post #10

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Yahu wrote: A concubine was a sexual partner that was not a wife.

Was a concubine a single woman having sex with the Partner (a single woman "involved with a man") or was a concubine considered a married woman?

The bible is somewhat ambiguous about the status of a concubine but most scholars agree a concubine was considered a "secondary wife" and not a single woman that was choosing to have sex. We notice that in the account of the unnamed concubine in Judges 19:20. The Levite is referred to as the husband of the woman (19:3; 20:4) and the son-in-law of the woman's father (19:5), who in turn is referred to as the Levite's father-in-law (19:4, 7, 9). So sex between a man and his concubine was not considered "fornication", or "sex outside marriage" but sex within a marriage contract, with a secondary wife. Effectively, polygamy. God's tolerating this legally binding arrangement does not indicate that single people having sex without the sanction of marriage has support in scripture.

But wouldn't it be more accurate to describe a conclubine as a woman that has chosen to be in an exclusive sexual relationship with one man and enjoy many of the legal and cultural benefits of that relationship?

Yes, that's what is generally called ... a wife.
Last edited by JehovahsWitness on Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:54 am, edited 3 times in total.
INDEX: More bible based ANSWERS
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... 81#p826681


"For if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. So both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah" -
Romans 14:8

Post Reply