English blog

prostitution in discussion

09-07-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet

sexual immorality?

In quite a few places in the NT “prostitution” is mentioned. Here are a few examples from Paul’s letters:

Flee from prostitution…  -1Corinthians 6:18-

It is clear what the works of the flesh are: prostitution… -Galatians 5:19-

For this is the will of God: your holiness. You are to be abstaining from all prostitution… -1Thessalonians 4:3-

What does Paul (and the NT in general) mean with “prostitution”? Usually this question is rather vaguely answered with: prostitution is sexual immorality. But that only shifts the question, because what is “sexual immorality”? The concept of “morality” gives no guidance, anyway, because morality refers to the “prevailing morals” (Lat. moris = habit). But what authority does that have? Morality tells us how one thinks (conservatively or progressively) but that is different from what God says. It is very important to keenly grasp what the Scriptures understand with respect to prostitution. Because how can we flee from prostitution or abstain from it, when we have no idea of what that specifically means?

prostitution not prostitution?

This week, I read an article in which it was argued that prostitution includes all sexual acts which are listed in Leviticus 18, such as… * intercourse with a direct blood relative * intercourse with an in-law * intercourse with a menstruating woman * intercourse with a wife of an other * intercourse of men among themselves * intercourse with an animal The reasoning in the article is: since prostitution is defined as “unlawful sexual intercourse”, we must consult the law of Moses to know what is unlawful. One of the conclusions in the article is that, since paid sex is not in the above list, or elsewhere, this is therefore (Biblically considered) not prostitution. Could it be true? Let’s have a closer look at the concept of “prostitution”.


The Greek word for prostitution is porneia, in which we, of course, recognize the word porn. It is derived from a verb that means “to pay” (> selling). In the literal sense, we see this in the account of “the prodigal son,” who spent his possessions with prostitutes (Luke 15:30). But the meaning of a word is obviously not (only) determined from what it originated, but especially from the way it is used. The concept of prostitution appears to be broader than only referring to paid sex. Thus we read in 1Cor.5:1 about a man who had an affair with the wife of his father and this is called prostitution. Not because a literal payment was made for the body of the woman, but because it was used as if it was merchandise: freely available for anyone interested.

someone other than one’s own wife

To know what prostitution is, we do not have to consult with a list of sexual prohibitions in the law of Moses. Prostitution is much older than Moses and for his argumentation, Paul, therefore, does not go back to Sinai, but to the first human couple!

Or are you not aware that he who joins a PROSTITUTE is one body? For, He is averring, “the two will be ONE FLESH”. -1Corinthians 6:16- 

Paul refers to the very first word in the Bible that talks about sexual intercourse. A divine statement:

Therefore a man shall forsake his father and his mother and cling to HIS WIFE, and THEY TWO become ONE FLESH. -Genesis 2:24-

A man who has intercourse with a woman is “one flesh” with her. For whom is this: “being one-flesh”, intended? The answer is: for a man and his wife. That is what it says. Not for any woman, but the woman with whom he is lawfully joined for life (Romans 7:2; 1Cor.7:39). As Jesus later explained:

So that no longer are they two, but one flesh. What God, then, yokes together, let not man be separating.” -Matthew 19:6-

Coming back to 1 Corinthians 6:16, we see that one who has intercourse with a prostitute is one flesh with a woman who is not his own. This is the definition! Prostitution is having sexual intercourse with someone other than one’s own husband or wife. In 1Corinthians 7:2, Paul continues to further explain this simple fact:

Yet, because of PROSTITUTIONS, let each man have A WIFE FOR HIMSELF  and each woman have her OWN HUSBAND.

Can it be any clearer? Also in 1Thessalonians 4:3-5, Paul expresses himself in a similar manner:

3 For this is the will of God: your holiness. You are to be abstaining from all PROSTITUTION; 4 each of you is to be aware of HIS OWN VESSEL, to be acquiring it in holiness and honor…

By prostitution, a man acquires a woman who is not his (“his vessel”). In short, when we read in the New Testament about abstaining from prostitution, then we know exactly what that is; even without any knowledge of specific regulations which God gave in the law of Moses.