Can porneia only refer to sex with someone you have no emotional connection with?

Question:

I was reading your page about the Greek "porneia" and I was wondering if this meant prostitution and sexual intercourse with those whom you have no emotional connection to. More specifically, is sex with someone you love, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, specifically deemed immoral in the Bible or is this another misrepresented sin lumped into the "sexual immorality" category? 


Answer:

What you are proposing is a change in the definition of porneia, but one that is not based on scholarship. Clearly the motivation is to justify sexual intercourse where a person can claim that "love" is the motivation for the sex. In order to prove you desired definition, you would have to show that porneia is never used to describe sex between a boyfriend and girlfriend.

First, we note that the scholars who actually know the language disagree with you:

  • "it denotes "unchasity, illicit sexual relations" of any kind" [The Complete Biblical Library].
  • "illicit sexual intercourse in general" [Henry Thayer, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 532].
  • "The New Testament is characterized by an unconditional repudiation of all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse" [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6, pg. 590].

You will not find porneia being used in the Bible referring to an acceptable act. Nor will you find circumstances being modified because of a person's feelings regarding the act of sex. For example,

"If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins" (Exodus 22:16-17).

"If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days" (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

Sex with a virgin carried a penalty of a fine, payable to the girl's father. A shekel was approximately what an unskilled labor earned in a week. Thus, it would take nearly a year, with no other expenses to earn enough money to pay the fine. In addition, if the father did not refuse, the man would be required to marry the girl with whom he had sex and would have have no option to ever divorce her. A claim of love would not alter these rules, though it is likely that the father would refuse to allow his daughter to marry a man if he had raped her.

In "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4), a contrast between two states is made: sex within marriage and sex outside of marriage (fornication and adultery). Adultery is where at least one party is married, but not to the person they are having sex with. It doesn't matter if they are in love or if it is with a prostitute, it remains adultery. Fornication is a broader word meaning sex outside of marriage, but when it is used with adultery it takes on the narrower definition of sex when the parties are not married. Thus, when sex takes place, there are two states you can be in: in honor because the sex is with your spouse, or facing the judgment of God because the sex is taking place with someone else. There is no third state.