Be Fruitful And Multiply

Here is another interesting submission to ExChristian.Net by T. Simmons:

fornication?Every Christian I know believes that sex between two consenting unmarried adults is a sin. They throw around words such as promiscuous and fornication but has sex outside of a marriage construct been unduly condemned by Christians? I believe that this belief (sex is immoral unless within a marriage construct) was an evolution (mutation may be a better word here) of some early church teachings because nowhere in the entire Bible does it preclude the above supposed sin. There is no prohibition found anywhere in the Bible concerning sex between two unmarried adults while there are ample passages that presuppose it and imply that it is perfectly fine with God. I am about to back up my argument with a somewhat thorough study of the issue but much more could be said on this topic than the ten pages I have assembled here. I could delve into a theory of how the notion that sex between two unmarried adults is a sin came about and even how sex itself came to be regarded as sinful but that wouldn’t help my case here all that much and besides, maybe I’ll write a sequel.

First, we need to examine a few passages from the Old Testament that will expose the mindset of the early Semitic people toward sex between a man and woman when they lived 3000 years ago sometime around when the Pentateuch was penned.

Leviticus 15:24

18Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
19"If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. 20Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean. 21Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. 22And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. 23If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. 24And if any man lies with her at all, so that her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

There are a couple of things to notice here. First is the lack of the word husband. The verse assumes sex between any woman and any man. If sex between two unmarried people was considered by God to be a sin, he would have said, “If her husband lies with her” instead. It might be argued that Moses was just using the terms man and woman instead of husband and wife but the problem is that it would have no support from the passage. Further, look at verse 24. It says if “any” man lies with her at all during her menstrual period then he will be unclean for seven days. That certainly doesn’t leave room for the concept of a husband, does it?

The point is that the text itself implies no marriage and therefore indirectly condones sex between two unmarried adults. If it was immoral, then the passage makes no sense at all. “If any man lies with a woman during her period then he is unclean - not to mention immoral.” If the only “lying” one could do was inside of a marriage then all of the sexual taboos should start off with “When a man lies with his wife….”. You get the point, I’m sure.

Let’s examine some more sexual taboos.

Leviticus 18:6-23
6 ”‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.
7 ”‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.
8 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.
9 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
10 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.
11 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.
12 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.
13 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.
14 ”‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.
15 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.
16 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.
17 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.
18 ”‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
19 ”‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.
20 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.
21 ”‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
22 ”‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
23 ”‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

Of all of the sexual sins listed here, you’d think this would be THE ideal time for “Moses” to explain to the Hebrews that sex between the non-married is a sin! Think with me for just a moment. Ask the question “Why doesn’t it say wife or husband in any of the verses?” Let’s look at verse 6 again.

6 ”‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.

Do you see the problem? How can anyone approach a relative to have sex if they are married to begin with? That would either mean they were trying to have sex with a relative other than their spouse or worse they were already married to a relative! The former case would be adultery and these verses give no indication of adultery. The latter would be nonsensical since that would make the law say “Those who are married to a close relative – don’t have sex with them!”.

What about verse nineteen?

19 ”‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.

Obviously, Moses is giving laws to those people who are going to have sex with a consenting partner but he’s restricting their choices somewhat. There is no indication at all of any marriage construct here. Let’s look at another law of “Moses”.

Leviticus 19:20

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.

If sex outside of marriage was considered wrong by Moses (i.e., God) then surely he could have avoided this verse by simply saying “If a man sleeps with a woman - PERIOD - it is sin.” It wouldn’t matter if she was betrothed or not, free or not, it would be sex outside of marriage, assuming, of course, that the man is not married. There is an implied green light for men to ‘lay with’ women as long as certain conditions were met, one of which wasn’t marriage. However, if you are still not convinced, let’s examine some more of God’s “word”.

Leviticus 20:18

18 ”‘If a man lies with a woman during her monthly period and has sexual relations with her, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them must be cut off from their people.

Exodus 22:16
16And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

This one is also painfully clear if you think logically. It assumes that a man (notice the conspicuous absence of the words husband and wife) lying with a woman is fine unless she is having her period or unless he tricks or entices a young woman into having sex. One cannot argue that Moses is just speaking in general terms in Exodus 22:16 because of the text itself! A man who persuades a maid (young woman) who is not married or given in marriage yet to have sex, then his only penalty is that he must take her as a wife. The sex is completely a given! Again, if sex outside of marriage is a sin, then the only lying with that would have been permitted would have been between a husband and wife. “Moses” never uses those terms or anything similar to them. The American citizen is so far removed from life in the Arab regions during the pre B.C. era that they do not have any idea of the social structures that existed (many of which still exist today). The woman was slightly higher in status than say a camel. She was property – almost. But more on this later… Let us have a look at another example.

Deuteronomy 5:18

18 “You shall not commit adultery.

This is one of the well-known Ten Commandments. If sex outside of marriage was considered a sin by God, what better place to let us know than here? But in God’s mysterious way, he is conspicuously silent on that terrible sin of sex outside of marriage (which, for the remainder of this article, I will call SOOM) even though adultery is listed. The absence of the prohibition does not mean that it couldn’t be considered a sin but I’m going for a preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, let’s continue.

Deut 22:22-28

22 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

Now, we see here a perfectly good example of adultery and its consequences. No problem here.

23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

Ah. The sin is given in verse 24 – he violated another man’s … woman? No, WIFE!

25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death.

Here the difference is that a man who forces himself on another’s wife (actually soon-to-be wife) then the man is still at fault (rape) but the woman has done no wrong.

26 cont. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, 27 for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Now, the violation was the raping and what a penalty! Only fifty shekels of silver and he must now marry her! But the very next verse should tell us that…

30 If a man happens to meet a young woman who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her and they are discovered, 30 they shall both be put to death for they have committed fornication.

But apparently the all-knowing God, in his mysterious ways again, didn’t feel it important to include that terrible sin of SOOM.

If SOOM was taboo, certainly it would have been listed along with (perhaps instead of) the other explicit forbidden sexual relationships. It isn’t to be found anywhere in the Bible. But for the sake of those who are still not convinced, let’s view another command from God’s “word”.

Ezekiel 18:6

He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
or lie with a woman during her period.

Here is yet another instance of a qualified sin. Lying with a woman during her period is a sin. So, we are left with no other choice but to assume that as long as she isn’t having her period, it is all right to have sex with her. Otherwise, now is the time to stamp the holy foot and say “If a man lies with a woman and neither are married, it is a sin.” Is the reason for the complete absence of any condemnation of SOOM because - it was never a sin?

At this point, if any Christians are still reading, many will be flipping feverishly through the pages of their Bibles to see if they can find a reference to SOOM. The more clever ones will first turn to the New Testament. There, perhaps, they will find a prohibition on SOOM. It is at this point that we must take an in-depth look at the words whore, harlot, prostitute, adultery, fornication and pornography because the matter hinges on the meaning of these words.

According to Strong’s Hebrew lexicon, a whore and a harlot are synonymous. Here is the actual reference from Strong’s lexicon for the word whore.

2181 zanah { zaw-naw’}

a primitive root [highly-fed and therefore wanton]; TWOT - 563; v

AV - ...harlot 36, go a whoring 19, ...whoredom 15, whore 11, commit fornication 3, whorish 3, harlot + 802 2, commit 1, continually 1, great 1, whore’s + 802 1; 93

1) to commit fornication, be a harlot, play the harlot
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to be a harlot, act as a harlot, commit fornication
1a2) to commit adultery
1a3) to be a cult prostitute
1a4) to be unfaithful (to God) (fig.)
1b) (Pual) to play the harlot
1c) (Hiphil)
1c1) to cause to commit adultery
1c2) to force into prostitution
1c3) to commit fornication

We see that a whore is one who either commits adultery, fornication or prostitution. Now, we are left with three terms to define - adultery, fornication and prostitution. Let’s look at adultery. Although the definition is well known, it deserves a look. Here is Strong’s definition of the Hebrew word for adultery.

5003 naƕaph { naw-af’}

a primitive root; TWOT - 1273; v

AV - adultery 17, adulterer 8, adulteress 4, adulterous 1, women that break wedlock 1; 31

1) to commit adultery
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to commit adultery
1a1a) usually of man
1a1a1) always with wife of another
1a1b) adultery (of women) (participle)
1a2) idolatrous worship (fig.)
1b) (Piel)
1b1) to commit adultery
1b1a) of man
1b1b) adultery (of women) (participle)
1b2) idolatrous worship (fig.)

An adulteress was a woman who broke wedlock or to put it differently, the woman had sex with a man other than her husband. The term usually referred to women in those days because since a man was allowed to have many wives, the man needn’t seek beyond his own bedroom for a new sex partner each day. We still haven’t found any reference to SOOM in the Bible. Let’s see what prostitution means. Here is Strong’s definition.

2490 chalal { khaw-lal’}

a primitive root [compare 2470]; TWOT - 660,661; v

AV - begin 52, profane 36, pollute 23, defile 9, break 4, wounded 3, eat 2, slay 2, first 1, gather grapes 1, inheritance 1, began men 1, piped 1, players 1, prostitute 1, sorrow 1, stain 1, eat as common things 1; 141

1) to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, begin
1a) (Niphal)
1a1) to profane oneself, defile oneself, pollute oneself
1a1a) ritually
1a1b) sexually
1a2) to be polluted, be defiled
1b) (Piel)
1b1) to profane, make common, defile, pollute
1b2) to violate the honour of, dishonour
1b3) to violate (a covenant)
1b4) to treat as common
1c) (Pual) to profane (name of God)
1d) (Hiphil)
1d1) to let be profaned
1d2) to begin
1e) (Hophal) to be begun

Prostitute, the verb, means to defile or pollute. It might include payment for sexual services but it is not limited to that. It has multiple meanings, none of which imply SOOM. Another word that needs examination is fornication. This may provide some insight into the issue. Strong’s definition -

2181 zanah { zaw-naw’}

a primitive root [highly-fed and therefore wanton]; TWOT - 563; v

AV - ...harlot 36, go a whoring 19, ...whoredom 15, whore 11, commit fornication 3, whorish 3, harlot + 802 2, commit 1, continually 1, great 1, whore’s + 802 1; 93

1) to commit fornication, be a harlot, play the harlot
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to be a harlot, act as a harlot, commit fornication
1a2) to commit adultery
1a3) to be a cult prostitute
1a4) to be unfaithful (to God) (fig.)
1b) (Pual) to play the harlot
1c) (Hiphil)
1c1) to cause to commit adultery
1c2) to force into prostitution
1c3) to commit fornication

The root for fornication is the exact same root as whore. It is another way of saying adultery or prostitution. Sorry, Christians, it looks as if it’s a vicious circle here with absolutely no intimation of SOOM! Another interesting word is pornography, which we will also examine.

However, my work here would not be complete until we looked at the references to and context of fornication, not just the definition, to make sure that the usage is clear and also make sure it is never used to imply SOOM. Once we do this, the belief that SOOM is immoral will have been shown to have no textual support from the Bible.

Old Testament

The word fornication occurs four times. In the first three occurrences, the Hebrew root is zanah as shown in the above definition of fornication. The last instance uses the root taznuwth meaning whoredom. Here is the text.

2nd Chronicles 21:10-11
10So the Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day. The same time also did Libnah revolt from under his hand; because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers. 11Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.

Isaiah 23:17
17And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

Ezekiel 16:26
26Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

Ezekiel 16:2
29Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.

So, there is no reference to SOOM in the Old Testament. This also fits with the social structures of that era. Let’s see if the New Testament will shed any opposing light on this matter. The Greek word translated as fornication is porneia from which we get the word pornography. This is where it gets a little tricky and a prudent suspension of judgement must occur (i.e., don’t read definition one and say “Aha!”). You’ve read this far so hear me out. Here is Strong’s definition.

4202 porneia { por-ni’-ah}

from 4203; TDNT - 6:579,918; n f

AV - fornication 26; 26

1) illicit sexual intercourse
1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
1c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12
2) metaph. the worship of idols
2a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols

sex is sinfully ugly?Here, one might say that “illicit sexual intercourse” means “sex outside of marriage” but this is exactly what I’m trying to disprove! Illicit means unlawful and my point is that for the early Hebrews and first century Jews alike, SOOM was NOT unlawful. Notice above the list of those sexual acts which are considered unlawful -

1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
1c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman;

I don’t see SOOM listed anywhere, do you? It was not unlawful and I have shown this to be true for the early Hebrews. We shall soon see that the first-century Jews also made no mention of SOOM. Unlike the older definition of pornography, our modern definition reflects the thinking of this modern age and lumps sex in general into the definition (i.e. dirty magazines) but this idea – that sex = pornography – is UNKNOWN in the Bible.
Let’s now look at a few passages from the New Testament.

Matthew 5:32
32But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

The very first occurrence of the word fornication in the New Testament tells us all we need to know. How could this make sense if fornication (pornography) means SOOM??? It would then be saying “If a man put away his wife unless she has sex with an unmarried man and she is also unmarried then the man causes her to commit adultery.” How could the woman be both married and unmarried simultaneously?

The Greek word here is porneia. Notice how “Jesus” used the word fornication. He was saying that if a wife indulges in any of the illicit (unlawful) sexual acts as defined in Strong’s definition of porneia, the husband then has the right to divorce her and not sin by doing so. This picture is becoming clearer. It is becoming obvious that SOOM was not considered a sin even up to the time of “Jesus’” ministry and well into the first century and only after hundreds of years later did it become a church tradition that SOOM was immoral. But for the doubting Thomas’s sake who’s saying, “This can’t be true!”, let’s keep looking.

The following are references using the word fornication (Strong 4202 or 4203, which is the act itself).

Matthew 19:9
John 8:21
Acts 15:20
Acts 15:29
Acts 21:25
Romans 1:29
1st Corinthians 6:13
1st Corinthians 6:18
1st Corinthians 10:8
2nd Corinthians 12:21
Ephesians 5:3
Colossians 3:5
1st Thessalonians 4:3
Revelation 2:14
Revelation 2:20-21
Revelation 9:21
Revelation 14:8
Revelation 17:2
Revelation 17:4
Revelation 18:3
Revelation 18:9
Revelation 19:2

The above scriptures use the word consistently with the definition. The following verse gives a little more support for my theory.

1st Corinthians 5:1
1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

Again, fornication, or sexual immorality as the NIV translates the word, was not any reference to SOOM but to the taboos listed in Leviticus (sex with a relative, adultery, prostitution, bestiality, homosexuality, etc.) This may be a total shock to the Christian but this is why we have dictionaries.

1st Corinthians 7:2
1Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Now then. Here is the only reference that even remotely sounds as if fornication means SOOM but remember that the list of unlawful sexual acts did NOT include SOOM! But let’s see how the NIV renders this passage.

1st Corinthians 7:2
Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

Paul says it is best not to marry so that you have more time for God (see 1st Corinthians 7). The concept is that if a man has his own wife, and the wife renders to him her duty (sex), then the man will be less likely to get involved with fornication or sexual immorality (i.e., adultery, sex with a relative, bestiality, homosexuality, etc.). Here, in this passage concerning sexual immorality as it pertains to marriage, would be a perfect time to condemn SOOM but strangely, Paul never mentions it!

Galatians 5:19-20
19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Surely in a passage condemning works of the flesh Paul would have listed SOOM as one of the immoralities. But for some strange reason he remains silent on the issue! He does mention lust but remember that “Jesus” equated lust with the inevitable consequence of adultery – not SOOM!

Matthew 5:28
But *I* say unto you, that every one who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Even here, the idea of lusting after a non-married woman is absent.

What’s that, oh, Christian? You need more proof?

Jude 1:7
7Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Strange flesh probably refers to bestiality and homosexuality here. Still, we see no sign of a prohibition or condemnation of SOOM.

In summary, the absence of its mention, especially its absence from the very passages listing the various sexual taboos, is telling. But the positive evidence added to the unusual silences makes the case rock-solid.

Apparently, the early Hebrews and Jews of Jesus’ day were free to “be fruitful and multiply” and if you profess to believe the Bible, so are you.

© 2003 Tim Simmons

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