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Bible Topic Study 1 Corinthians 6:19- "Fornication"

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1 Corinthians 6:18-19

"1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

Also, consider 1 Corinthians 5 - 8. The history and outline of these chapters of scripture are as follows:

  1. The religion of Corinth had gods of Egypt, Rome and Greece. The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth and housed 1000 cultic/temple prostitutes. These prostitutes had sex as a form of worship to the goddess Aphrodite. Knowing these facts about the city of corinth is vital to understanding the wording and situation for the church of Corinth.
  2. 1 Corinthians 5 - Sexual immorality of a man with his father's wife (incest). Put him out of church, as he is leaven/yeast, which will ruin the church.
  3. 1 Corinthians 6 - Meats are for the belly. Should the members of Christ be joined to the members of an harlot. It is discussing here "food" and "sex". It illudes pretty clearly to these temple prositutes of Aphrodite, as Paul says "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost". Indicating that the "harlot" he is refering to are temple harlots.
  4. 1 Corinthians 7 - Paul's solution to man's desire for affection, sex, is to marry a Christian woman. Rather than visiting temples and defiling oneself in idolatry and sexual immorality. Mentions that if a non-believer departs from a Christian, you are not in bondage to stay married to them. Indicates that you are able to do more for the Lord single, rather than married.
  5. 1 Corinthians 8 - Do not use our liberty in Christ as a stumblingblock (regarding meats(food) and marrying(sex, affection)).

If you read through 1 Corinthians chapter 5 through 8, you will notice, a pattern. Paul is talking to a church within a city that is steeped in idolatry and temple prostitution. He mentions, we have liberty with "meats" and "marriage". But, we are not to use our liberty in Christ as a stumbling block or to sin, HENCE, avoid eating meat in the idol's temple, avoid fornication (hinting at avoiding temple prostitutes and other forms of fornication)..

What I discovered over the years is that scripture, upon closer inspection does not align exactly with most common conservative viewpoints on sex, marriage, etc. I noticed the same pattern with the sex topic. I assumed that sex before marriage would be very black and white, as it appears when you just read through scripture. You see the word "fornication" and you are told that means "sex before marriage". If that is true, it would obviously be a sin. However, what I discovered is something I had not thought of before. What if people have altered the meaning of words? What if the word fornication, as understood today, is not the exact meaning that was intended within scripture, particularly within the original languages. After all, I am seeking after God, and I do not want to lean on my own understanding, but rather His understanding.

So, lets take a journey through scripture to understand what the word "fornication" really means, and why sometimes it is translated "sexual immorality" rather than fornication.. OK, first, you have to understand, all the commandments that you see within the New Covenant (New Testament) are based on the Old Testament.. So, the foundation of your understanding of right and wrong would have its foundation within the Old Testament.. Meaning, if you want to know what is exactly meant by a commandment in the New Testament, you should look back at the Old Testament to get a better idea.

And to make it clear now, the term pornea in Greek, which is translated "fornication" or "sexual immorality" means all around, anything that is a sexual sin and also means idolatry in some instances. So, the translaters in more recent versions are right to use the term "sexual immorality" rather than "fornication" as the term "fornication" as understood today, does not accurately define the term "pornea" in the greek.

Why did they use the term "fornication" in the 1611 King James Bible? It is because, the term fornication meant something different back then, compared to today's definition. See the word history of the term fornication below:

"n. Sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other."
Word History: The word fornication had a lowly beginning suitable to what has long been the low moral status of the act to which it refers. The Latin word fornix, from which fornicatio, the ancestor of fornication, is derived, meant "a vault, an arch." The term also referred to a vaulted cellar or similar place where prostitutes plied their trade. This sense of fornix in Late Latin yielded the verb fornicari, "to commit fornication," from which is derived fornicatio, "whoredom, fornication." Our word is first recorded in Middle English about 1303. - American Heritage Dictionary



So, at one time, the term "fornication" actually more closely resembled the term "pornea", as the main meaning of the term pornea is "harlotry". As you can imagine, it maybe difficult to pinpoint the perfect english term that will fit a greek or hebrew word's definition. Today, though, the term fornication means something too different from the original meaning for it to be used correctly within this term.

With reference to sex before marriage, the term "fornication" has its relations based on Old Testament Law. Whereas, in most situations, sex before marriage is looked at as against God's desire or ideal, yet only in a few cases, do we see a punishment attached to sex before marriage. Only in the case of a daughter prostituting herself, while under her father's roof (Deuteronomy 22:20-27 ), or in the case where a woman is doing temple prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17-18), or when tied to religious activity (Leviticus 21:9 ), or in the case some sort of theft or sin is attached to the act. In other cases, we do not see God's judgement on those who participated in sex before marriage. Rather, we see encouragement to have sex in marriage (as seen with the Apostle Paul's exhortation).

Read closely again verses 18 through 20:

"1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

I just realized this. it says "ye are bought with a price". What is this refering to? It is refering to the marriage design instituted in the Old Testament. In that a man would pay the "dowry" or "price" for his bride and she is then his wife. So, you are bought with a price and are married to Jesus Christ. Now, a question for you: "If you are married to Jesus Christ, can you marry another?" The answer to that question is "No". But, the Bible makes it clear that Christian men and women can marry. Therefore, it is not speaking of physical marriage, but rather spiritual marriage. So, Paul is saying you are to flee fornication, because you are spiritually married to Jesus Christ. And from this, we can see that this fornication violates your spiritual marriage to Christ. Since it is not refering to physical marriage (as you are allowed to marry another Christian), it is refering to a fornication that is "spiritual". And looking at the preceding verses, we see it discussing "harlots". How can harlots make you cheat on God spiritually? Only if there is idolatry involved. Therefore, Paul is speaking of temple harlotry.

After doing further research, I discovered more evidence that the Apostle Paul is most likely refering to temple harlotry. First, the Historian Strabo indicates that in 7th Century B.C., Corinth's Temple to Aphrodite employed 1000 cultic temple prostitutes. Now many historians seem to "squable" regarding whether it truly was 1000 temple prostitutes in 7th Century BC, as it is questionable what source Strabo used for this information. However, the only reason they contest is because Strabo was living in (ca. 64 BC-AD 21) and he would not have direct prima facie knowledge of what was occuring in 7th century Corinth. During Strabo's time, Rome had already conquered Corinth and had significant influence over it, and much of the operations at the Temple of Aphrodite had diminished. So, if you research it, you will discover many seem to down play this idea of Corinth being filled with temple prostitutes.

HOWEVER, I found one very interesting line, which many seem to miss:

"Prostitutes were regularly regarded as devotees of Aphrodite in Greek literature, but that does not make them cult prostitutes per se." - Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.3 (1999): 443-460

Isn't that an interesting little statement? Most people in Corinth during the time of Paul, regularly regarded harlots as "devotees of Aphrodite". So, in other words, they were not doing "official harlotry for Aphrodite", but still considered their "harlotry" unto Aphrodite. Would that not make them an unofficial "temple prostitute" in God's sight? According to God's Law, yes.

Now, I mentioned all of this, because a lot of "historians" downplay this "temple prostitute" idea. However, we are not looking for "official" temple prostitutes, but rather, harlots doing their service unto false gods, whether officially or unofficially. Now, lets discuss this passage of Paul's. Notice, it says "ye are the temple of God". Why would Paul mention you are the temple of God, while talking about "harlots", unless he was directly refering to the "temple prostitutes" of Corinth? So, it is about looking at the scripture in context to the time, location and people being written to.

Further, Paul seems to be making an argument against sleeping with these harlots, by saying "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost". So, saying the body is a temple, and that bringing an idol into a temple would "defile" it. So, if it was refering to a normal prostitute, it does not make a lot of sense to argue this way. But, if he is refering to these temple prostitutes, it makes a great deal of sense, as she is worshipping an idol and you are bring her body, an "idolatrous body temple", and making it one with your body, a "temple to the Holy Ghost", hence defiling the temple of God. For which, God would destroy you as a result.

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