Cyber Swing/Polyamory Resource Center
Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality
Premarital Sex - Not A Biblical Conflict
Extensive Biblical Discussion
There is absolutely nothing in the bible forbidding
premarital sex. It is one of the traditions that is man made to control people.
The only reference is in the OT and in the NT only the total mistranslation of
the Greek word "porneia" as "fornication" - a clear lie that has no basis.
I hear from so many Christian women who say there biggest mistake was not having more sex before marriage and now find themselves in such a totally unsatisfying relationship physically. Where is one to learn good sex skills when both partners are ignorant? There is far more to sex than just having intercourse. Studies show about 40% of women never have an orgasm from just intercourse and most women enjoy far more. That is why so many women are sexually frustrated when a man doesn't have a clue- how is he supposed to learn, or the women learn of her own sexuality if they go into marriage clueless without much experience?
Due to the patriarchal society, a family with sons was stronger than a family with daughters. However, cultures find ways to balance wealth and power. In the OT culture, a man seeking marriage would pay the father of the bride. The value of the bride was determined by many factors including her beauty, ability to bear children, strength, various household skills and even her status as a virgin. You find an example of this in the story of Jacob and Leah and Rachel.
Also remember in biblical times most young women were betrothed based on a family financial deal. Sometimes she never even had met her husband until the wedding day. And once betrothed they families had to wait until the girl was 12.5 year old before they could marry. Since most boys and girls were married by the time of puberty and there was little dating, singles sexuality was never an issues.
In biblical times there was nothing wrong with a married man having as many wives as he could afford, concubine and "common" prostitutes. Adultery was only wrong for a married women, since it violated her husbands property (and sexual) rights over her and his other wives or concubines.
In biblical times men were masters, and ruled over women and their children. Women had very few rights, and men often bought women from their families or at an auction usually at age 12.5. Women were owned property of a man. Father own women (daughters, wives, concubines, handmaidens, servants etc) and if you wanted to have sex with one of his property, then you had to ask him permission.
To sell a daughter they would get more money if she was a virgin, non-virgin were cheaper to buy. If a man bought a daughter at a virgin price and she was not (after he had sex with her and the bedding was not bloody), then he could return her to the father and get his money back.
Some Concubines were war gifts to soldier for fighting good in battle. They would kill all the men and then divide up all the women to the fighting men. Some concubines were bought at auctions. Prostitute rented themselves on time-limited basics and was never wrong (common not temple prostitutes worshiping the fertility gods - idolatry was wrong not prostitution). It was better to buy a woman then rent one. They had no condoms, or birth control or modern medicines in the Bible days. Most sex rules were just to solve a practical problem of the time.
Today women have the same sexual freedoms that men have always had. But to try and preach that responsible non-monogamy, premarital sex, swinging, polyamory or fornication is somehow wrong, simply shows biblical ignorance. But the sexual repressive teachings that developed in the middle ages are still followed today based on repressive Christian traditions - out of ignorance and having no biblical basis.
Exodus 22:16 - 17, "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."
Deuteronomy 22:28 - 29, "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 Exodus passage is one of the few passages that deal directly with the issue of premarital sex. There are a couple of important points concerning this passage. First, neither the man or woman is rebuked or punished for any sin (compare with Deut. 22). The man is required to seek marriage but can be refused by the father. The key here is that there is no punishment for the man and woman having sex. The punishment is for the change in value of the woman as bride. The term "virgin's dowry" implies that there was a special dowry (probably of greater compensation) for her virgin status and since she is no longer a virgin, the father is still payed the dowry as compensation regardless of whether she marries the guy or not. Also note that there is no law concerning the pre-marital sexuality of men or unbetrothed non-virgin women.
The passage in Deut. refers to a rape not consensual pre-marital sex. In order to remedy this crime, the man must take the woman into his household and care for her. He cannot divorce her. The rape of a married or engaged woman carried the death penalty. The rape of a virgin who is not engaged carries a lesser penalty. And while the penalty may seem unjust by our culture's standpoint, the penalty was probably very just for that culture.
In Deut. 22 there is a clear example of what happens to a woman who has had sex prior to her marriage but deceives her parents and husband into believing that she was a virgin and accepted money ("playing the harlot in her father's house") for her virgin status. Although the severe penalty for such a deception is stoning, the husband can show love, forgiveness and mercy.
There are two other examples of pre-marital sex in the OT. In Deut. 21:10 there is another case study of how a man is to handle a captive woman. If he desires her as a wife, he must follow the conditions and then sleep with her. If she is found pleasing, he has the option to marry her or he can send her away. The book of Esther also describes how Esther is brought into the King's household to become a part of the King's harem.
In every case of pre-marital sex in the Bible there is no punishment for the sexual act. The only penalty is the compensation to the father for the woman's change in status.
G. Rattray Taylor, author of Sex in History: [The adultery Commandment, essentially a property offense against another's mate, does not require] that a man should restrict his attentions to his wife; indeed, when a wife proved barren, she would often give one of her handmaidens to her husband that she might bear children for him. Nor was there any ban on premarital sex; it is seldom appreciated that nowhere in the Old Testament is there any prohibition of unpremeditated fornication--apart from rape, and subject to a father's right to claim a cash interest in a virgin. Once a girl had reached the age of 12 1/2 years, she was free to engage in sexual activity, unless her father specifically forbade it.
A document commissioned by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (Continuing the Dialogue, published by Forward Movement, Cincinnati, 1995) stated on page 45 that the passages in this Biblical story (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."
In Sexual Paradox: Creative Tensions in Our Lives and in Our Congregations (Pilgrim Press, New York, 1991), Celia Allison Hahn noted on page 192 that "The story (SONG OF SONGS ) is clearly not about marriage or procreation ... but about the delights of erotic love."
In New International Biblical Commentary: ... Song of Songs (Henderson Publishers; Peabody, Massachusetts; 1999), Roland E. Murphy and Elizabeth Huwiler noted on page 243 that "According to many [interpreters], the central couple is not married. This view is supported by the fact that the lovers must part in the morning.... Also, most of the couple's lovemaking apparently takes place out of doors, in the wilds, and in gardens.... [Overall, the text] does not seem to insist that the appropriate expression of sexuality is necessarily limited to marriage."
There is nothing said about premarital sex in the New Testament.
The scriptures were not written in English. "Fornication" is a great example of the lies in translation of some bibles. Some English bibles say that, others say the more correct translation "sexual immorality". The koline Greek word that has been mistranslated as fornication is porneia. There is no biblical basis whatsoever to translate porneia into fornication (singles sex).
Porneia meant sexual immorality which included:
1) Sex during women's menstruation.
2) Adultery which biblically was understood by the Hebrews to mean wrong for a married women to have sex with another man since violated her husbands property rights. It was never understood to be wrong for a married man since his wife had no such rights. The married man could have as many wives and concubines (breeders) as he wished as long as not married (another man's property. Nothing ever was wrong with singles sexuality. "Fornication" is a total mistranslation of Greek "porneia"
3) Pagan sex goddess prostitution. Porneia as used in I Cor 6-9, falsely translated in some bibles as fornication was actually the practice of the prostitutes in the Temples of Corinth selling their services as a part of pagan fertility goddess worship which was what Paul was warning against. Not even specifically about prostitution (still legal and very popular in Israel today) but used as a pagan sexual goddess worship.
4) Pederasty - one of the worst of all sexual sins that took various forms: The practice of pederasty falls into three distinct styles. First is the relationship between an older man and a young boy. Second is the practice of slave prostitutes. Third is that of the effeminate "call boy" or prostitute. Other practices included a heterosexual male degrading another heterosexual male by anal intercourse after capturing them in battle. Another practice was heterosexual's using anal intercourse to drive out other heterosexual strangers they didn't like such as the case of the Sodom story. It had absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality as we know it today, which is simply being as God designed some people to be.
Adultery in biblical times did not mean what it means to us today. Clearly there was never a word said about the fact Hebrew men could have as many wives, concubines (breeders) and "other women" as they could afford. THIS IS NOT ADULTERY, 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.
Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount that the only law is the law of love. He demonstrated this by reversing four of the OT laws which conflicted with loving people. Therefore anything that was hurtful, not by mutual consent etc. would be immoral for a Christian, but obviously not loving sexuality regardless of marital status or natural sexual orientation.
For those that want to do their own serious research by looking at both sides of issues here is some suggested bibliography for serious study of Christian sexual issues. In addition we have a HUGE biblical research section covering just about any question / challenge that has come up in the last 10 years at The Bible, Christianity & Sexual Issues section of libchrist.com or direct link:
"Dirt, Greed, And Sex," Professor of NT, Church Divinity School, Rev. Countryman points out "nowhere does the Bible make monogamy a clear and explicit standard" The Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles suggests the book be required reading for those who think they know what the Bible says about sexual ethics. Christians have allowed the fundamentalists to hijack the issue of sexual morality, both heterosexual and homosexual.
"The Poisoning of Eros" Raymond Lawrence, Jr., Episcopal extensively quotes many resources. Concludes a new sexual ethic is needed based on affirmation of sex and valuing polyamorous communities over exclusivity. Discusses porneia and concludes it is limited to the cultic prostitution having nothing to do with singles sex or monogamy. Points out Torah said nothing about adultery for men, only for women. A clergyman for 31 years, now teaches and supervises clergy in pastoral counseling.
Another book that is enormously helpful on an emotional level is "The Intimate Connection: Male Sexuality, Masculine Spirituality," by James B. Nelson. Nelson is a pretty theologically liberal Christian, but is recognized as a foremost authority on sexuality and Christianity. The book is really not a biblical one, but deals very helpfully with psychological and cultural issues that impact Christians in relation to their sexuality. While it focuses on men, its principles are mostly applicable to women, too.
Other books you might find helpful are "What the Bible Really Says About Sex: A New Look at Sexual Ethics from a Biblical Perspective," by Tom Gruber. This is privately published by the author, who lives in Ohio. I don't have an e-mail address for him, but you can write or call him at: 116 Heischman Ave., Worthington, OH 43085; phone 614 844-6650. He sells the book directly and you can tell him we referred you; he knows us.
"God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality" Phyllis Trible discusses the legitimacy of polygamy in biblical times and women today want the same sexual freedom men have always had.
"Body Theology" James B. Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics, United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, Minnesota proposes we reclaim sexuality and rejoice in a true Body Theology that is sex-affirming, understanding of sexuality as a moral good rooted in the sacred value of our sensuality and erotic power without needing justifications that applied to a much different biblical culture.
"After Polygamy Was Made a Sin: The Social History of Christian Polygamy," by John Cairncross, Routledge and Kegan Paul Publishers, London; U.S. distributor: Dufour Editions, Chester Springs, Pa 19415-0449, 215 458-5005.
For contemporary approaches to poly relationships:"Breaking the Barriers to Desire: New Approaches to Multiple Relationships," Kevin Lano and Claire Parry, eds., Five Leaves Publications, Nottingham, England, ISBN 0 907123 36 8.
"Against the Protestant Gnostics" by Philip J. Lee
"Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church", by Uta Ranke-Henemann
"The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity," by Peter Brown
Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology," by James B. Nelson
"Radical Love: An Approach to Sexual Spirituality," by Dody H. Donnelly
Not specifically Christian materials but these have helped many Christians in their polyamory explorations:
"Responsible Non monogamy - Love Without Limits - Quest for Sustainable Intimate Relationships" Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Deborah Anapol's model for sexual intimacy and ethical non monogamous relationships. Not specifically Christian but more Christ-like ideas than traditional Church repression. This is the classic work that has changed so many lives helping people understand their desire for responsible-non monogamous relationships, especially women. A new updated version was released in 1997 and is available from Loving More web site: http://lovemore.com
"Loving More: The Polyfidelity Primer," Ryam Nearing
"Loving More" Magazine,
Both available at Loving More web site: http://lovemore.com
Human Awareness Institute (see report in LC newsletter, Fall 1996) Web site: http://www.hai.org. This is the only practical workshop group Dave has ever experienced that really teachings love, intimacy and sexuality in the post powerful, hands on, effective loving way.
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