Premarital Sex is Not a Sin Against God
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The Bible does not forbid premarital sex. There is no passage of the Bible that references premarital sex as a sin against God. The association between sin and premarital sex is a new Christian idea. The only possible reference to premarital sex being a sin in the Bible is in the New Testament. This premise although, is generally dismissed by theologians because the Greek word pornei, or sexual immorality is commonly incorrectly translated into the English word fornication.
In Biblical times women were the owned property of a man. Men ruled over women and their children. Women had very few, if any, rights, and men often bought women from their families or at an auction, usually at age twelve and a half. The fathers owned the women (daughters, wives, concubines, handmaidens, servants etc.) and if you wanted to have intercourse with one of his properties, then you had to ask his permission.
If a father sold a daughter, he would get more money for her if she was a virgin. Non-virgins were less expensive to buy. If a man purchased a daughter at a virgin price, and she was not, or she did not bleed during intercourse, then he could return her to her father and get his money back.
Most marriages were arranged for financial reasons. Many couples never even met until the day of the marriage. On the day of marriage the proposed husband would give a dowry, or monetary compensation, to the father of a bride. The price of the dowry was different from woman to woman, was determined by the father, and was based on the woman's beauty, ability to bear children, strength, household skills, and status as a virgin.
In the Old Testament, many verses that people site for being against premarital sex are actual verses against stealing another man's property.
In Exodus 22:16 - 17, "If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay the bride-price for her, and she will be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins." According to this, the only reason any wrong was done is because the father of the woman lost money when the man and the woman consented to having premarital sex without her father's knowledge. This passage showed that through premarital sex, the man is actually stealing from the woman's father, the difference in value between her as a virgin and her as a nonvirgin. It does not show that premarital sex is wrong.
In Deuteronomy 22:28 - 29 it says, "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." This shows that forced premarital sex, or rape is also stealing, but unlike the book of exodus, this trespass provides a punishment, as the male rapist not only stole from the woman herself but from the woman's father as well.
Another example of premarital sex in the Old Testament is given in Deuteronomy 21:10. This is a case in which a man takes a woman captive and then if he wants to make her his wife he must follow the conditions it sets forth, and then have intercourse with her. Then, if she is found to be desirable he has the option of marrying her or sending her away. This passage not only possibly condones premarital sex, but maybe even divorce as well.
Even the 10 Commandments don't forbid premarital sex. Most Christians would classify premarital sex under the seventh commandment, "Thou shall not commit adultery," but adultery is defined as: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse. If neither persons are married, it cannot be adultery.
If the man performing the premarital sex was married and the woman was not, in biblical times this did not matter. The reason for this was that in biblical times adultery was defined as a situation in which there was the danger of a married woman being impregnated by another man. This is also why sex with a prostitute is/was not adultery, even if the man is married. In the Hebrew understanding of the Adultery Commandment of Moses, Adultery, as understood by what Moses said, was only wrong for married women, never a married man.
Even Solomon, a great prophet of the figure of the Bible who was said to be favored by God had seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines. The Bible shows that polygamy, rape, incest, and orgies are not only accepted, but was often rewarded, by God and was common practice of "great men of the Bible," none of whom wherever spoken out against in the Bible.
Christ's teachings at the Sermon on the Mount were that the only law is the law of love. He showed this by reversing four of the Old Testament laws which conflicted with loving people. Therefore, anything that was unkind, not by mutual consent, etc. would be immoral for a Christian, but obviously not loving sexuality regardless of marital status or natural sexual orientation.
The New Testament says nothing about premarital sex. Some versions though do mistranslate the Greek word pornei, which means sexual immorality, into the English word fornication, which means sexual intercourse with someone who one is not married to.
Pornei, meaning sexual immorality, included such things as having sex with a woman during menstruations, adultery, temple prostitution, and pederasty.
Adultery although, is not the same sin we know today, in which it is common for a man and a woman to be considered equal. The Hebrew understanding of adultery was that it was wrong for a married woman to have sex with another man since that violated her husbands property rights to his wife. It was not wrong for a man because a woman had no such property rights. A married man could have as many wives as he could afford as long as he did not marry another man's property.
Temple prostitution was actually the practice of the prostitutes in the Temples of Corinth selling their services as a part of the worship of a pagan fertility goddess, which was what Paul was warning against when he spoke of uniting the members of Christ with a prostitute in I Corinthians 6:12-17. This passage was not even specifically about prostitution, which is still legal and very popular in modern day Israel, but prostitution used as a form of pagan worship. He was speaking out against idolatry, not prostitution.
Pederasty was one of the worst of all sexual sins and it took on many forms. The practice of pederasty falls into three different categories. The first form is that of a sexual relationship between an older man and a young boy. Second is the practice of having a sexual relationship with slave prostitutes. Third is that of the effeminate male, commonly called a "call boy" or Gigolo. Other such practices included two heterosexual males degrading one another by anal intercourse after capturing them in a battle. Another practice was heterosexuals' using anal intercourse to drive away other heterosexual strangers they didn't like. An example of this would be the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis 19:1-5. "The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. "My lords," he said, "please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning."
"No," they answered, "we will spend the night in the square."
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom, both young and old-surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."
This story had absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. Sexual orientation is only a modern concept and was not known in biblical times. This was a story of hospitality, as displayed by Lot. The men had surrounded the house for the sole purpose of gang raping the unwanted travelers, and Lot, the owner of the house, even offered his virgin daughters to calm the mob and save his guests. This not only shows that pederasty was accepted in biblical times, but it also proves that women were thought of as property and little more.
In every case of premarital sex in the Bible there is no punishment for the sexual act. The only penalty is the man had to pay compensation to the father for the woman's change in market value.
Today however, because most women are of a comparable status to men in most parts of the Christian world, there is no market value for daughters in Christian cultures. Given this, it stands to reason that the only penalty for having premarital sex is now gone, and it would be entirely acceptable for everyone to have consensual premarital sex. In fact, a document authorized by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church sated that the passages in the Biblical book SONG OF SONGS are "in praise of sexual love, celebrating youthful passion, with no reference to marriage... It affirms that sexual love is in itself good and beneficial."
Today many women have the same social and political freedoms that men have always had. But to say that responsible premarital sex, or fornication is somehow wrong, shows little more than ignorance to biblical teachings. Many of the sexually repressive teachings that developed in the middle ages are still being followed today. These teachings are based on oppressive Christian traditions that have no biblical basis other than ignorance.
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Continuing the Dialogue.
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International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A.,1984