Polygamy · The Sin of Adam & Eve · Procreation Marriage · Safe Sex · Love · Sex after the Resurrection · Family Values
A New Look at Sexual Ethics
from a Biblical Perspective
Adultery · Nudity · Lust · Prostitution · Fornication Pornography · Homosexuality · Situation Ethics
Polygamy · The Sin of Adam & Eve · Procreation Marriage · Safe Sex · Love · Sex after the
Resurrection · Family Values
A New Look at Sexual Ethics
from a Biblical Perspective
Bible quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise stated. Copyright Ó 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
What the Bible “REALLY” Says About… SEX: A New Look at Sexual Ethics from a Biblical Perspective
Copyright Ó 1999 by Tom Gruber
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: Txu 878-194
“And you will know
the truth, and the
truth will set you
free” (John 8:32).
“Let God be true,
and every man a liar”
WHAT THE BIBLE
“REALLY” SAYS ABOUT…
1. ADULTERY …12
2. NUDITY & LUST …28
4. SITUATION ETHICS …56
5. POLYGAMY …. 72
6. THE SIN OF ADAM & EVE ….88
7. PROCREATION …104
8. MARRIAGE …119
9. SAFE SEX … 137
10. LOVE …149
11. SEX AFTER THE RESURRECTION ….169
12. FAMILY VALUES….182
What if much of what we think we “know” the Bible says about sex is not really the truth after all?
Remember… everyone once knew the earth was flat! To claim otherwise was “heresy.” Likewise, millions of Christians once knew that all sexual pleasure was a sin¾even within marriage! This belief was so deeply embedded within the consciences of some early Christians that they went to the extreme of having themselves castrated. Sexual paranoia persisted for over a thousand years, fueled mainly by the teachings of Saint Augustine. Although few contemporary Protestant Bible teachers would agree with Augustine on this point, he is still considered by many to be the greatest theologian of all time. I agree that Augustine was a great Christian teacher and believe he was sincere. But if the greatest theologian of all time can make such a whopping blunder¾a blunder that affected devastating repercussions for millions¾shouldn’t today’s theologians learn a lesson from history before propagating their personal interpretation of biblical morality?
Many today have taken sexual paranoia to a radical extreme. The general consensus of mainstream Christianity is that all sex outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is a sin. Period. According to them, it's a sin to even think about sex, which means that most men sin 24/ 7. Good Christian girls don’t wear necklines too low or hemlines too high. And only sluts walk, talk, or act sexy. Photos of nude women are labeled as “smut.” Portrayals of sex acts are classified as obscene fodder for perverts. If some of today’s religious activists had their way, everything from Playboy to Hustler would be banned.
I once believed this way. Fortunately, I challenged my assumptions and found them indefensible. How could all sex outside of a monogamous marriage be a sin if numerous biblical patriarchs were polygamists? If all sex outside of marriage really is a sin, does that mean Heaven is a sex-free environment? After all, the Bible does say there is no marriage after the resurrection. If it’s a sin for a man to look at a naked woman, does that mean that when God (who cannot sin) created Eve, He wore a blindfold? And if not, then why was it okay for God to look at a nude woman and it’s not okay for us? Aren’t we supposed to be perfect like God? These are just a few of the questions that prompted me to write this book.
Don’t misunderstand. The Bible condemns sexual immorality. That’s a given. However, nowhere does the Bible define sexual immorality as “all sex outside of a monogamous heterosexual marriage.” Although Martin Luther adamantly condemned adultery, his definition of adultery was quite different from that of most modern theologians. In fact, many of his views on marriage and sexual ethics would be considered radically liberal by many even today. I believe it’s critically important to define sexual misconduct with pinpoint accuracy. I also believe it’s vital to understand the underlying reasons behind God’s sexual rules. Otherwise, we’ll be wandering clueless until the Second Coming.
The Bible challenges us to prove everything and assume nothing.
The following is a list of the Top Ten things most people “think” the Bible says about sex. Test yourself to see if you agree or disagree with each statement.
Top Ten List
Things most people “think”
the Bible says about sex
10. Christ came to preserve the nuclear family.
9. God originally intended humans to use sex for procreation.
8. Adam and Eve ate a literal piece of fruit (such as an
apple) from a literal tree.
7. Unless a prostitute changes her profession, she cannot
enter God’s Kingdom.
6. The Bible condemns public nudism.
5. It is a sin for a man to have more than one wife.
4. Married people should love their mates exclusively,
forsaking all others.
3. There is no sex in Heaven.
2. Adam and Eve were married before they sinned.
1. All sex with anyone other than a monogamous heterosexual
spouse is a sin.
If you agreed with any or all of the aforementioned statements, then this book will challenge your assumptions and provide a sound, biblical case for a refreshing new position¾a position quite different from what you’ve probably been programmed to believe by well-meaning moralists.
Again, I am not endorsing sexual immorality. The Bible clearly condemns all sexual misconduct. In fact, the condemnation is so strong that unrepentant sexually immoral persons will be excluded from the Kingdom (1Co 6:9-10). The problem is, very few people understand what sexual immorality is and why it is wrong. As a result, we’ve been inflicted with cumbersome sexual restrictions that go way beyond what the Bible says. That is a form of legalism. Legalism is what the Pharisees were guilty of.
Error begets error. False assumptions lead to inaccurate conclusions. Christianity has muddied our consciences by redefining words. “Adultery,” “fornication,” and “lust” no longer mean what they meant in biblical times. Christianity has also misunderstood the meaning and purpose of sex and marriage.
Baseless assumptions are rampant. This book challenges those assumptions by carefully examining them in the spotlight of Scripture.
This book is for truth-seekers¾those noble-minded individuals who are willing to forsake error when confronted with truth. It is for those who are unconcerned with simply maintaining the status quo. It is for those willing to conform to the code of conduct prescribed by the Word of God¾regardless of the cost.
Truth has the power to set us free (Jn 8:32). Meanwhile, the multitudes are enslaved by error. This book unleashes what the Bible “really” says instead of parroting the “politically correct” traditions of men. It presents thought-provoking concepts that push the proverbial envelope while remaining faithful to the infallible, inspired Word of God.
So why is there so much misinformation regarding sexual ethics? Much of the problem stems from confusion over terminology.
Remember when gay simply meant happy? To chill used to be something you did to a beverage. Language is continually reinventing itself. Today’s MTV generation is living proof¾ they’ve got a language all their own.
Matters are further complicated when words and phrases are translated from one language to another. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Although scholars have done a tremendous job translating the ancient texts, words and expressions change in nuance. The Bible still seems like Greek to many¾even after it’s been translated.
Words change. Phrases change. Cultures also change, as technology marches on. Multiple generations have come and gone since Moses received God’s Top Ten To-Do List and Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
This book was printed on a high-speed press using ink and paper. The Bible was originally written on parchment. We travel by planes, trains, and automobiles. Jesus rode a donkey.
This book seeks to build an ironclad case for what has been coined “responsible non-monogamy,” using Scripture as its basis. A more popular word for responsible non-monogamy is “polyamory,” which simply means “many loves.” According to Dr. Deborah M. Anapol, “polyamory” is defined as:
A lovestyle which… emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to engage with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time. This is an umbrella term, which includes open marriage, group marriage, expanded family, and intimate networks.
Anapol argues that expressing one’s love sexually to more than one person can be responsible or irresponsible, depending on a wide variety of factors¾hence the term “responsible non-monogamy.” Obviously, the Bible would condemn any form of irresponsible sexual expression. The truth is, most people express their love sexually to more than one person in a lifetime anyway. It’s just that they do so either by cheating or by divorce and remarriage. Ironically, many of these same people cling to the concept of monogamy as the ideal.
For a Christian, the Bible is ultimately the final court of arbitration. Although I have quoted everyone from Martin Luther to Billy Graham, from the ultra-conservative to the moderate to the ultra-liberal, we must not base our beliefs solely on fallible teachers, regardless of their popularity. That includes yours truly. Instead, we should follow the example of the Bereans (Ac 17:10-11). Even though they had one of the best teachers in history, Paul the Apostle, they were commended for searching the Scriptures to make sure Paul was on target. If they needed to study the Bible to verify the teachings they heard from the pulpit, then how much more should we do likewise!
I have to warn the reader that due to the controversial nature of this material, there will probably be ideas expressed that are so radically different from what has always been assumed that there might be a temptation to reject the ideas expressed without first giving them careful consideration. William Barclay expressed my sentiments:
In teaching my first desire has always been to interest the listener; if I don’t interest him, he will soon stop being a listener. But I have never been eager that he should think as I think, but only that he should think. I hope that he will agree with me, but, if he does not, I shall be well content if he will examine his own beliefs in the light of what I say. The only kind of person who really “offends” me, to use Somerset Maugham’s word, is the person with the shut mind who refuses even to think about what is said to him, the person who deliberately misunderstands, the person who substitutes parrot cries for thought, and, worst of all, the person who criticizes a writer without ever having read a word of his books. I hope that I have always taught in order to stimulate and to awaken, and never to indoctrinate and stifle.
From the feedback I have received thus far, often an objection will arise that is not answered immediately, but nine times out of ten, it was an objection I had anticipated and is answered elsewhere. So patience, dear reader.
For those who are willing to have their belief-system challenged¾perhaps shattered¾fasten your seatbelt! Prepare to take a fascinating journey into uncharted territory¾the domain of truth. Let’s discover What the Bible “REALLY” Says About Sex by taking A New Look at Sexual Ethics from a Biblical Perspective.
 Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: the Christian between God and death. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999.
 Anapol, Deborah M. Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits. San Rafael, CA:
IntiNet Resource Center, 1997, p. 179.
 Barclay, William. A Spiritual Autobiography. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1975, p. 33.
“You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about ADULTERY, and what many people think the Bible says about adultery, are two different things. Granted¾everyone knows that the Bible condemns adultery. The words thundered from Mount Sinai are as familiar as our ABCs: “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14). Nevertheless, few are able to accurately define precisely what adultery is. Also, there is widespread confusion as to why adultery is wrong.
Non-monogamy is NOT ALWAYS ADULTERY
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible does not define adultery as “all sex outside of a monogamous marriage.”
Harper’s Bible Commentary drives this point home¾ adultery in the Old Testament… “did not correspond to our notions of the act.” So, if we are to remain faithful to the biblical text, our duty is to become unbiased detectives. What did God mean when He told Israel not to commit adultery? And why was committing adultery such a bad thing? Only if these questions are answered accurately and honestly can the Seventh Commandment have relevance for today.
How does the prohibition against
adultery apply to our modern society?
This is the standard approach of the religious right: All sex prior to marriage gets the rubber stamp¾sin! All sex after marriage with anyone other than a monogamous heterosexual spouse gets the same response. This ultra-simplistic approach doesn’t do justice to what the Bible is trying to tell us.
Yesteryear’s pat responses do not always adequately address many of today’s highly complex ethical dilemmas. For example, is it ethical for a modern single lady to deliberately become an unwed mother? True, a single parent household may not be the total ideal. But if a single woman’s biological clock is about to expire and her single status is due to circumstances beyond her control, the total ideal may not be an option. Which is more ethical¾to go to the grave childless or to produce a child outside of wedlock?
And what should the church’s response be? Should an unwed mother who made a conscious decision to have a baby outside the sanction of holy matrimony be stigmatized as a “fornicator?” Should she be reprimanded for not having enough faith in God to provide? The question is not, “Should be forgiven?” Having a child outside of wedlock is not the unpardonable sin. The real question that needs to be grappled with is, “Did she do anything that she needs to be forgiven of?”
Being a single parent would have been a tremendous financial burden for most unwed mothers of biblical times. The designation “working woman,” in terms of having gainful employment outside the home, would have probably been a synonym for “prostitute” in the days of Moses or Paul. In sharp contrast, many of today’s women earn a salary equal to that of a man.
Another phenomena radically different, especially when we consider the heavy emphasis in the Old Testament on getting married and having lots of children, is that many today are deliberately choosing not to go to the altar. And of those who do marry, an increasing percentage of married couples no longer choose to procreate. Thanks to the advent of modern technology, more and more people are now engaging in sex simply for pleasure. Many of today’s options, such as condoms and the pill, did not exist prior to the canonization of the Bible. (The reliability of condoms and the pill, along with the risk of STDs, is dealt with in the chapter on safe sex.)
Today’s liberated singles don’t appreciate having a Reverend Killjoy rain on their parade. This annoyance is understandable¾especially when the doomsayer bears a remarkable resemblance to fallen evangelists like Swaggart and Bakker.
It’s easy for Reverend Killjoy to condemn premarital and extramarital sex from the pulpit while his beaming wife and children are seated in the pews. Besides, if he did otherwise, he’d soon be unemployed.
Meanwhile in the real world, there are more reasons than ever before to stay single. And for those who do desire marriage, finding a suitable mate is not always a walk in the park. Innumerable multitudes have become casualties of love while saving themselves for a honeymoon that will probably never happen. Why? Because Reverend Killjoy has persuaded them that such a sacrifice is simply “the Lord’s will.”
Consider just one ramification of Reverend Killjoy’s teachings. According to one Harvard-Yale study, single women over age 50 have less than once chance in a hundred of ever getting married. Most women have their last menstrual period between the ages of 45 and 55. The last menstrual period marks the end of a woman’s natural childbearing years, which means that most women over 50 don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, the main reason for the biblical prohibition against adultery was to prevent illegitimate propagation. According to science, it is important for a woman to have orgasms after menopause in order to maintain good health. Yet according to Reverend Killjoy, God now adds insult to injury, requiring these unmarried postmenstrual ladies to spend the remainder of their lives void of sexual fulfillment. Is this what God had in mind at Sinai?
Is extramarital oral sex adultery?
Recently, an American President was accused of having sex with an intern. Although the President denied having sex with “that woman,” once it became common knowledge that she had performed oral sex on him, the Commander-In-Chief said his denial was legally accurate because, according to his definition, only “intercourse” should be defined as “having sex.” Dictionaries supported his definition. Critics did not. They accused the President of “splitting legal hairs” and engaging in “torturous semantic gymnastics.” Many seized this opportunity to remark on the moral decline of America. One well-known evangelist commented that we are losing our discernment.
During the days of Moses, the punishment for adultery was death (Lev 20:10), although this punishment was not always carried out. Since the Bible is silent on oral sex, one fact should be obvious¾there is no biblical record of Moses stoning anyone for fellatio.
To adulterate means to pollute or defile. The main concern back then was to keep the bloodline of the Hebrew race unadulterated. A woman became adulterated if she engaged in extramarital intercourse. Why? Simple¾she might become impregnated with an illegitimate child. Therefore, the prohibition against adultery was given as a deterrent against illegitimate propagation. Because Hebrew children would inherit their father’s property, it was necessary to insure that a man’s offspring were legitimate. Harper’s Bible Dictionary confirms this:
The law [against adultery] was probably intended to ensure that any child born to the wife was really the husband’s child, since it was considered crucial for the husband to have offspring, so that the family name could be perpetuated.
Another reason for keeping the Jewish bloodline pure was to insure the proper transfer of the covenant promises made to Abraham. God promised Abraham he would become the father of many nations. Numerous blessings were promised to Abraham’s descendents (Ge 17). David and Jesus were born through this lineage as a fulfillment of prophecy (Ge 49:10).
When Christ came, all these prophecies were fulfilled through Him (Mt 5:17). Salvation is now offered freely to both Jews and Gentiles (1Co 12:13). Christians become spiritual Jews through Christ, inheriting eternal life.
Under the Old Covenant, it was necessary to prohibit adultery in order to determine who beget whom. The only insurance was to marry a virgin and have her practice fidelity.
According to the Law of Moses, it was never an act of adultery for a man to have numerous wives or concubines. (Polygamy will be examined in a separate chapter.) Although the Old Testament frowns heavily on prostitution, prostitution was never classified as adultery (unless the prostitute was someone else’s wife). Children born of prostitutes were not heirs of any man’s property¾therefore, it was irrelevant who their biological father was. The same could be said of slaves. (Prostitution will be examined in a separate chapter.)
It was imperative for a Hebrew woman to be a virgin on her wedding night. If a wife wasn’t a virgin on the honeymoon¾ and her husband could prove it¾all the men of the city were instructed to stone her (Dt 22:13-21), although there is doubt among scholars that such a severe execution was ever carried out. This example proves that a woman was guilty of adultery only if there was penetration.
According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, “adultery had a precise and limited definition: sexual relations between a married (or betrothed) woman and any man other than her husband.” Therefore, it was not adultery for a man to have sex with a single woman unless she was engaged. Wrong?¾yes. Adulterous?¾no! If a man committed this offence, he was required to simply marry the woman and never divorce her (Dt 22:28-29)¾a far cry from being stoned to death.
The Bible is very clear¾sex without penetration is not adultery, although it is true that adulterous thoughts break the spirit of the law, as Jesus said. (The prohibition of lust in Mt 5:28 will be dealt with in a later chapter). The point is, no woman has ever gotten pregnant from oral sex. (Of course, oral sex would be unethical if health risks are involved.) The Law of Moses was crystal clear on precisely what constituted adultery. The notion of stoning a woman for oral sex would probably have evoked chuckles from an ancient Jew. They would have simply considered fellatio a waste of valuable semen.
Not only do many Christian teachers irresponsibly define adultery as “all sex outside of a monogamous marriage,” they heap more crow onto their plate by broadening the definition of sex. Having sex now includes “any activity that can stimulate sexual arousal or result in sexual gratification.” Legalists have now lowered the bar to the extent where the following extramarital activities have now become adulterous: all prolonged kissing, any necking and petting, and all oral and manual manipulation of the sex organs.
Standing in sharp contrast to the contorted definition of legalists, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines adultery as “unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines adultery as “illicit intercourse with a married or betrothed woman.” Fornication is defined as “intercourse between a married man and an unmarried woman.” Notice that both dictionaries restrict adultery and fornication to acts of intercourse. Therefore, activities that do not include intercourse should not be referred to as adultery or fornication.
The definition of adultery can be restricted even further. Since the main concern in biblical times was illicit propagation, intercourse that cannot result in impregnation should not be defined as adultery.
According to Christian author and teacher R.C. Sproul:
We know, of course, that the Bible does not give us a clear list and directions, a manual of sexual behavior that gives us direct, explicit instructions on what we can and cannot do. There is not a section in the Bible that you can open and it’s going to say in there, “Do not place hand upon breast.” We will not find a list that says, “No petting above the waist.” “No petting below the waist.” “No petting over the clothes.” “No petting under the clothes,” and all that kind of thing. What we do have is an explicit prohibition against fornication.
Sproul rightly acknowledges that adultery and fornication are restricted to intercourse. Sproul also rightly acknowledges that Christians need to beware of legalism. According to Sproul:
Legalism involves imposing moral obligations upon people from a human tradition perspective, which are not in fact the laws of God. That is making it mandatory to conform to a certain behavioral pattern where God leaves you free. We see a lot of that in the Christian community. We see all kinds of lists of dos and don’ts that we read that Christians simply cannot be involved in. A Christian is one who can’t dance, a Christian is not allowed to go to movies, a Christian cannot wear lipstick, and all that sort of thing that we’ve been through at different periods of Christian history. In other words, artificial standards of spirituality and godliness have replaced biblical standards of Christian principles and ethics and sanctity. That’s legalism, where we legislate people’s behavior where God has left them free.
I join Sproul in his condemnation of legalism. We part company, however, when he says he does not consider it legalistic to condemn all sexual activity outside of marriage¾even if those actions are totally responsible and do not include intercourse¾even if the participants are engaged! Why? According to Sproul, people who engage in such actions are looking for loopholes in God’s law and are therefore breaking the “spirit (or intent) of the law.”
But what is the intent of the law that prohibits adultery? God’s intention at Sinai was not to put a noose around our necks. God’s laws are for our own good. God is not opposed to us experiencing intense pleasure with a variety of people ¾ providing our actions are responsible. As we’ve already demonstrated, the intent of the law was “to prevent illegitimate propagation.” How could a sexual action that could not possibly result in a pregnancy be breaking the spirit of the law? Here is how Sproul reaches that conclusion:
Jesus explicitly mentions two things as being sinful with respect to sex on the Sermon on the Mount. One is lust. The other is adultery. Do you see a pattern there? Lust is the first step. Adultery is the consummation. Now if the first step and the last step are regarded as sinful, what does that say to you about the steps in between? The simple answer to the question, “How far can I go?” is “Not as far as lust.”
Surely Sproul doesn’t mean to imply that every time a man gets turned on looking at a woman, he will automatically engage in intercourse with her. Matthew 5:27-30, which prohibits lust, makes more sense when taken in context with Matthew 5:31-32, which addresses divorce. Lustful glances can cause a man to become dissatisfied with his current wife, leading to divorce.
I agree that lustful thoughts are wrong¾providing we define lust accurately.
What does it mean to lust? According to Vine’s, to lust means to covet. But may I also suggest that it is possible for a man to look at a beautiful woman other than his wife, get totally turned on, then engage in sexual behavior that is both responsible and mutually gratifying for all parties involved, without lusting or committing adultery. (Lust will be examined in another chapter.)
I once was acquainted with a vivacious young lady who vowed to remain a virgin until her wedding night. But she didn’t let that spoil her fun. She dated constantly. Her nickname was Everything But. She would do almost everything sexually, but she would not go all the way. I admired her inhibitions. Although her critics labeled her a slut, was she really doing anything the Bible disapproves of? Is it possible that those who condemn her are guilty of legalism?
God does not invent meaningless rules just to deprive us of pleasure. Therefore, sexual ethics must be evaluated in light of the Golden Rule. Am I doing unto others as I would have others do unto me? How is everyone involved affected by this transaction? Even a man who is really open-minded would generally not appreciate having his new bride impregnated (adulterated) with another man’s sperm.
Nevertheless, because today’s circumstances are radically different, we should at least consider the possibility that intercourse outside of marriage can be responsible, without committing adultery or breaking the Golden Rule.
In the days of Moses, there were no DNA tests to identify a child’s biological father. There were no safe and effective forms of birth control. There were no do-it-yourself pregnancy test kits. In most cases, parents prearranged marriages. Back then, people usually married as soon as they reached puberty. Today, ten or twenty years may elapse between the time a person reaches puberty and gets married.
In Old Testament times, people wanted as many children as possible. It was a way to increase one’s wealth and status. Today, the world is more fully populated. Some would say that it’s over-populated, although this is debatable. Regardless, not everyone desires children. Many of today’s singles have no aspirations whatsoever for marriage. With the divorce rate skyrocketing and the enormous expense of rearing children, both in terms of time and money, who can blame them? Certainly not the Apostle Paul, who said the advantages of staying single outweigh the advantages of getting married (1Co 7:38). Yet, with today’s modern devices to prevent pregnancies and disease, is it really necessary from an ethical standpoint for all of these millions of confirmed bachelors to keep their virginity intact? And if so, why? One might argue, “Well, because God commands sexual purity.” True, but how does God define sexual purity?
The Bible identifies two ways to become sexually impure. One is for a man to unlawfully impregnate another man’s wife or fiancée. The other is to sexually unite something good with something bad.
For those Christians who choose to remain single, is it mandatory to practice celibacy? In Paul’s day, abstinence was probably the only socially responsible choice available for an avowed bachelor. But does that make it mandatory for today? History records gruesome accounts of early Christians who castrated themselves to avoid immorality. Today, a simple medical procedure¾vasectomy¾makes it possible to be intimate without fathering offspring.
Would it have been sinful for a single man and a single woman in Paul’s day to engage in responsible sexual activity that did not include intercourse? Paul said that all things were lawful for him, but all things were not beneficial (1Co 6:11-12). Paul was probably referring to men having sex with prostitutes. Paul was saying that New Testament Christians should make sexual decisions based on what is beneficial, not just on what is lawful. The same criterion is found elsewhere in 10:23; 12:7,12-26; and 14:1-33. One primary reason that it was not beneficial for Corinthian Christians to engage in sex with prostitutes was due to the cultural climate. In ancient Corinth, having sex with a prostitute was an act of idolatry. Sex was an act of worship that joined a man to a pagan goddess.
The Bible also describes breaches in relationships between God and believers as adultery. Israel’s idolatry is referred to as adultery (Eze 16:17; 23:43).
In the New Testament, it is spiritual adultery if a believer cultivates a friendship with the world or breaks his union with Christ. The church is united to Jesus in the same way a wife is united to her husband (Ro 7:4). Therefore, spiritual adultery is loving any one or any thing more than God. We are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul.
Does Proverbs 5:15-20
condemn all extramarital sex?
Proverbs 5:15-20 admonishes men to drink water from their own cisterns. Metaphorically speaking, this means a man should be satisfied with the wife of his youth. Many have taken this passage as a prohibition forbidding all sex outside of marriage. However, there are several things to consider.
First, this was written by Solomon, who himself had a thousand wives.
Second, although men should be satisfied drinking their own water, and though it is wrong to covet or steal water from a neighbor, it is not wrong to offer a neighbor a glass of water. Neither is it wrong to accept.
The same principle applies to a neighbor’s wife. If a man offers his wife to a neighbor for sexual enjoyment, assuming that all adults involved consent to the arrangement, then this would not be adultery if everyone acts responsibly. Adultery is restricted to irresponsible intercourse that could lead to illegitimate propagation.
The importance of a pure conscience
No one should ever do anything that defiles one’s conscience. Any action that does not proceed from faith is a sin (Ro 14:19-23)¾even if the action itself is totally moral.
Nevertheless, keeping our consciences pure should not be used as an excuse to remain ignorant to the glorious freedom the Bible allows for. The distribution of sexually repressive misinformation will not heal our crippled consciences. That’s what caused the problem in the first place. The only thing that can heal our consciences is the truth. It’s about time we all learned to discern truth. Christians should never be afraid of the truth.
Keeping all of this in mind, let me give two examples, one illustrating what adultery is and one demonstrating what adultery is not.
Example #1: What adultery is
Bill and Sue are happily married. So are Joe and Maxine. All four are good friends. Joe happens to bump into Bill’s wife Sue at the mall and they exchange pleasantries. Sue mentions that her husband is out of town on business. Joe says, “What a coincidence. My wife Maxine is also out of town.” They both get to thinking that they’ve always found each other attractive, one thing leads to another, and they agree to a secret rendezvous at the No-Tell Motel. They both agree not to tell their spouses about their affair. This example is clearly adultery. Why?
Earlier we defined adultery as intercourse that could adulterate, i.e. pollute or defile. If Joe impregnates Sue, imagine the bitterness and hostility that will be sown, both in the friendships of Bill and Joe and Sue and Maxine, and also in their marriages. Perhaps divorce will ensue. But even if Bill and Maxine forgive Sue and Joe, their relationship will never be quite the same. Even if Bill and Maxine never discover their spouses’ sorted secret, imagine the complications if Sue gives birth to Bill Junior. Bill can’t figure out why his wife gave birth to a boy that looks nothing like him. How odd that Bill Junior bears such a remarkable resemblance to his good buddy Joe.
Even if Joe doesn’t get Sue pregnant, there is still the possibility of contracting a disease.
But let’s take this a step further. Say Joe and Sue are super-cautious. Sue takes a birth control pill while Joe wears a high-quality condom. The chances of Joe impregnating Sue or the odds of acquiring a disease is almost zero. Nevertheless, Joe and Sue will no longer be able to be totally honest with their spouses. A marriage should be based on total honesty. Joe and Sue adulterated the emotional relationship of both their marriages and their friendships with Bill and Maxine by breaking their bonds of trust (although as I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe that intercourse that could not result in a pregnancy should be classified as physical adultery). You could also say that Joe violated Bill’s property rights by using his wife for a purpose that would not have met with Bill’s approval. It’s kind of like sitting on Bill’s car. It probably doesn’t hurt the car, but it shows disrespect for Bill.
Example #2: What adultery is NOT
Using this same scenario, we can turn an adulterous situation into a situation that is not adulterous by simply modifying a few key factors. For the sake of the argument, let’s say Sue and Maxine are unable to get pregnant. Maybe they had an operation or maybe they’re past menopause. Also, let’s suppose that Bill and Joe and Sue and Maxine have all been to a doctor recently and none of them have any sexually transmittable diseases. Let’s also add to the equation that our fabulous foursome are all Christians, Christians who just happen to believe that there is nothing wrong with responsible extramarital sex.
There is still one remaining factor that would determine whether or not it would be adulterous for Bill and Joe to swap wives. If Bill and Joe and Sue and Maxine all agreed to the arrangement, no adultery was committed. And since the Bible commands Christians to love one another fervently, wouldn’t it be a sin of omission for Bill and Joe not to swap wives? In fact, wouldn’t it be selfish for Bill and Joe not to be willing to share the sexual favors of their wives with each other?
Does the story of Potiphar’s
wife condemn all extramarital sex?
Another passage often used to condemn all extramarital sex is the story of Potiphar’s wife (Ge 39). Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar. Because Joseph was a good-looking hunk, Potiphar’s wife continually coaxed Joseph into the sack. As Joseph resisted, she persisted. Then one day, she tried to wrestle him into bed. Joseph broke loose, leaving behind his cloak, which she later used to frame him.
This story has been misused ad infinitum. The typical interpretation goes something like this: Since all sexual enticements outside of marriage are clever Satanic traps, whenever we encounter such a situation, we should follow Joseph’s example and do a U-turn ASAP.
Is this really the point?
Certainly there is no question that Joseph did the right thing by running away. But why was it the right thing? The answer is in Genesis 39:9. Joseph told Potiphar’s wife that the reason he would not sleep with her was because Potiphar instructed him not to. He did not say it was wrong because God said not to commit adultery. It would have been wrong for Joseph to disobey Potiphar, regardless of what the instruction was (within God’s law).
On the other hand, if Potiphar had given Joseph permission to sleep with his wife, that may have been quite a different story. Some scholars have speculated that Potiphar may have been a eunuch. A eunuch is a man who has either been castrated or has testes that are underdeveloped. Perhaps Potiphar’s wife pursued Joseph because her eunuch husband was unable to satisfy her. Also, there is no mention of Potiphar having any children. Perhaps Potiphar’s condition prevented him from fathering children.
What if Potiphar had said, “Joseph, I’m unable to perform my conjugal duties or produce offspring. Therefore, I give you permission¾in fact I urge you¾please sleep with my wife.” Would it still have been unethical for Joseph to sleep with Potiphar’s wife? Not according to Martin Luther. Here’s what Richard Marius has to say about Luther’s view:
Some of Luther’s thoughts on marriage were radical. Suppose a man is impotent, says Luther, and unable to have sexual intercourse with his wife. He might give his wife her freedom and marry another. But at the very least he should grant her the liberty to have sexual intercourse with somebody else. If she has children from such a union, the impotent husband should happily bring them up as his own. Luther, always conscious of appearances, suggested that in such cases the intimate arrangements be kept from the public at large. If the impotent husband should not give his consent, Luther advised the woman to run off with another man to some far-off place where she would not be known.  (Compare Dt 25:5-6 with Eph 6:5-8; 1Pe 2:18.)
What does the Bible “REALLY” say about adultery? It forbids it. Why? So bloodlines won’t become adulterated, so family trees won’t become untraceable, so dads will be responsible, so everyone will respect the property rights of others.
Nevertheless, times have changed¾dramatically. Earth is more populated¾perhaps overpopulated. Not everyone wants offspring. Women are not as financially dependent on men. People marry, on an average, much later. Some will never marry. Today, there are responsible forms of sexual expression unavailable in ancient times.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are many forms of non-marital sexual expression that are not irresponsible and therefore not adulterous.
Will we discover the freedom of real love? Or will we continue to enslave ourselves to legalistic rules of abstinence? The choice is ours. Let’s not spend the remainder of our lives confined to a prison of self-imposed prohibitions. The door is unlocked. Bail was paid¾with the precious blood of Jesus.
 Exter, Thomas. “How to figure your chances of getting married.” American Demographics. Ithaca, NY: Princeton University. Vol. 9, No. 6, June 1987, pp. 50-2.
 ¾The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 13M, 2000 edition. Chicago, IL: World Book Inc., p. 402.
 Achtemeier, Paul J., General Editor. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 1985, p. 13-14.
According to Dr. Alex Vermeulen MD, Ph.D., professor of medicine, University of Ghent, Belgium, “Sexuality should be just as much a part of life after menopause as before.” These findings and others were presented at a symposium entitled, “The Emerging Role of Estrogen-Androgen Therapy in the Care of the Postmenopausal Patient,” at the XV World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics, in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 7, 1997
 Achtemeier, Paul J., General Editor. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 1985, p. 13-14.
 Ibid, p. 13-14.
 Sproul, R.C. Sex and the Single Christian, “How far is too far?” ( sound recording) Ligonier Tape Series. Orlando, Florida: Ligonier Ministries, 1996.
 Brawley, Robert L. Biblical Ethics & Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture. Chapter 3, especially p. 44. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
 Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: the Christian between God and death. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 260b.
NUDITY & Lust
“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Ge 2:25).
“Anyone who looks upon a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about NUDITY and lust, and what many people think the Bible says about nudity and lust are two different things.
Ever since Adam and Eve first took a bite from the forbidden fruit, the disrobed human form has given moralists ulcers. Is it healthy to be ashamed of our bodies? Or, is this shame a direct result of The Fall?
If our shame is not as nature intended, then how should we respond to the eye candy that entices us on a continual basis? Should we shriek in horror at the mere sight of a luscious babe or a handsome hunk? Are impulses of raw sexual desire really satanic minefields camouflaged to outwit us into committing mental adultery? Are nudist resorts really hideaways for perverts who have found sanctuary for their wanton behavior?
Before we can answer these questions, we need to go back to the beginning. Adam and Eve were naked, yet they felt no shame (Ge 2:25). Immediately following their act of disobedience, their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked (Ge 3:7). So, prior to the downfall of humanity, nudism was as normal as apple pie and baseball. But immediately afterward, their bodies became a source of embarrassment, prompting Adam and Eve to manufacture aprons by sewing fig leaves together. Clearly, their shame was a byproduct of sin.
Critics contend that it was God’s intention all along for mankind to wear clothing. According to their argument, God permitted Adam and Eve to walk around nude only because they were married and isolated. But just as soon as other humans came on the scene, God intended them to cover themselves.
True, God did make garments to clothe them (Ge 3:21). But why? Since the garments of the first couple were made from animal skins, animals had to be slain. And why were animals slain in the Jewish sacrificial system? To cover sins.
The veil of the temple was made of woven goat’s hair (Ex 26:7-13). Goats were of particular importance on the Day of Atonement, the time when the children of Israel came together to be reconciled to God (Lev 16). Two goats were selected by lottery, one for sacrifice and the other to be sent out into the wilderness. The blood of the sacrificed goat was taken into the Holy of Holies by the High Priest, as required by God, to forgive the sins of the children of Israel; for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).
After the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, the veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom (Mt 27:51). Animal sacrifices were now obsolete. The body of a Christian is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Co 6:19), which is now clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rev 7:13, 19:8; 2Co 6:7).
God clothed Adam and Eve to cover mankind’s sin until believers could be clothed with the complete perfect righteousness of Christ. To say that a Christian forgiven of all sins past, present, and future and clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ should be ashamed of his body is to say that the perfect righteousness of Christ and the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross were insufficient. And if that’s the case, we might as well go back to sacrificing goats.
That is not to say that Christians should walk down Main Street nude. Christians are instructed to obey the laws of the land and the exercise of propriety should prevent us from causing undo offences. However, among Christians who do not take offense at what God has created, the standard policy should be “clothing optional.”
Jesus said, “…a bad tree cannot produce good fruit” (Mt 7:18). Therefore, those who believe nudism is bad must prove that nudism produces bad fruit (i.e. bad results). Otherwise, their arguments have no credibility. However, if numerous credible studies have proven consistently and conclusively that nudism is totally beneficial with no harmful effects whatsoever, then there cannot be any logical reason for God to disapprove of nudism. Now¾let’s allow the facts to speak for themselves.
Is nudism a social menace?
Numerous studies have been conducted on nudism. According to research done by Johnson during the late 1940s, 91 percent of nudists were Christians, while only 89 percent of the US population were Christians. It’s not uncommon for a nudist park to have religious services with nude clergy in attendance. The founder of the modern-day nudist movement was Hasley Boone, a Baptist preacher.
In several studies, nudists completed an in-depth personality test. The results of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory showed nudists to be ordinary men and women. Between 75 and 80 percent of nudists are married. Nudists are above average in education. The average nudist in 1960 was twice as likely to complete high school and college as was the average American. Their social class leans towards the upper end of the scale.
Nudist marriages are happy. Nudist women reported favorably on the benefits of nudism for their husbands and children. Divorced nudists typically responded that nudism was not a factor in the divorce. And non-nudist psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors who have been invited to study nudist children report that the children are happy and well adjusted.
Many reasons are given for becoming a nudist, such as relaxation, freedom from clothing, freedom from sickness or disease, an all-over tan, enjoyment of fresh air, and social congeniality. Reasons given for continuing in the nudist lifestyle include physical and mental health, as well as friendship. Although curiosity attracts a few newcomers, most curiosity seekers will drop out of the lifestyle unless there are other interests. Usually, those who do drop out do so not because of any negative feelings about nudism, but rather, because they either move or don’t have enough spare time. Law enforcement personnel are welcome at most nudist parks; however, they are seldom needed to assist in dealing with troublemakers.
Nudism has many therapeutic values.1 Nudists contend that the removal of clothing brings about greater honesty because clothing produces a false mystique about the body. They argue that nudity creates greater equality between the sexes and weakens sexual segregation and discrimination. Research by Vingerhoets and Bunk supports these claims.2
Negative examples of biblical nudity
Although some biblical references to nakedness have a negative connotation, many of those references use nakedness as a euphemism. For example, the Hebrews were warned not to “uncover the nakedness of” a close relative (Lev 18, KJV). This expression is used 16 times in this one chapter alone. However, other translations render these verses not as a prohibition against nudity per se, but rather a prohibition against sexual relations with a close relative. The Bible also uses the words naked and nakedness metaphorically to refer to “a bare seed,” (1Co 15:37); “the soul without the body,” (2Co 5:3); “things exposed to the all-seeing eye of God,” (Heb 4:13); “the carnal condition of a local church,” (Rev 3:17); “the carnal condition of an individual,” (Rev 16:15); and “the desolation of religious Babylon” (Rev 17:16). Note that none of these references are a condemnation of nudity per se.
Another negative reference to nakedness is when Noah became intoxicated (Ge 9:20-29). Ham, one of Noah’s sons, sees his father lying naked in his tent and tells his two brothers. The Hebrew word used here for nakedness is ervah, which connotes a display of the genitals. Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan, as well as all of his descendants. Although some interpreters say the curse was pronounced simply because Ham observed his father’s nakedness, others conclude that Ham was cursed for being disrespectful and mocking Noah’s drunken condition. The latter interpretation would be more in line with Exodus 21:15 and Leviticus 20:9, which call for a son to be punished if he brings shame to his parents.
Another negative display of public nudity is found in Exodus 32:19-25. About 3,000 people were executed because they were dancing naked while worshipping a golden calf. The reason given for the condemnation of their actions was that the Israelites had committed idolatry and were worshipping a golden calf, not that they were naked. Again, this Scripture cannot be used to condemn public nudity.
Positive examples of nudity in the Bible
There are also many positive examples of nudity in the Bible. Peter is described as being naked while fishing (Jn 21:7). Public nudity was apparently a common practice among fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Since Peter’s nakedness was stated without comment, it is not unreasonable to conclude that fishing in the nude was culturally acceptable.
Isaiah went naked for three years as a prophecy against Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa 20:1-4). When Saul went to Naioth, he also stripped off all his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in the same way, laying down naked all that day and all that night (1Sa 19:24). Micah also preached in the nude to get his point across (Mic 1:8).
Biblical examples of stripping
Today, most clergymen would be morally outraged at the idea of a Christian patronizing a strip club. But what does the Bible say? Although Scripture has nothing negative to say about stripping, there are two examples of a strip tease done in a public setting. Both of these examples are held in a positive light.
King David takes it all off for the slave girls!
If you think Monicagate was the scandal of the century, just imagine what would happen if an American President did a strip tease at the Mardi Gras. No famous political leader would ever do something as outrageous as that¾right? Not unless that famous political leader happens to be… King David!
It was a time of great celebration, as David brought the Ark of the Lord into the city (2Sa 6). There was shouting and blowing of trumpets, as David danced before the Lord with all his might. David got so excited that he took all his clothes off before a cheering audience! Imagine…David, King of Israel, dancing shamelessly in the streets without a stitch on, in full view of the entire nation.
Meanwhile, trouble was brewing on the home front. The text says David’s wife became angry because she saw David disrobing in front of the slave girls in a vulgar manner (v. 20).
The Living Bible says he exposed himself like a common pervert. David defended himself, saying that he was willing to act foolish in order to show his joy in the Lord. God blessed David. But David’s wife was punished, remaining childless throughout her life.
Some excuse David’s behavior by saying that he wasn’t totally naked; only his royal robe fell off and he was still covered with common clothing. But the facts say otherwise. There can be no doubt that David was totally naked. The words uncovered and shamelessly are translated from a Hebrew word meaning to denude. The same word is used repeatedly in 2 Kings 16:19, Genesis 9:21 and Leviticus 18:6-19. And in each case, people were stripped of all clothing. Although many modern translations mask exactly what was going on, translations like The Living Bible, Moffatt, Goodspeed, and Modern Language all make it crystal clear that David was totally nude. This was his way of celebrating before the Lord. Besides, even if David still had his priestly garments on, the vestments worn by Jewish priests, known as “linen ephods,” did not hide anything.
The Shulamite girl puts on
a burlesque show for an eager crowd
Another positive example of biblical burlesque has, as its main attraction, a beautiful Shulamite girl (SS 6:13-7:9). As she struts her stuff, the crowd cries out for her to dance their way so they can get a better view. All she is wearing is her shoes and a smile. As her body is described from her feet upward, between her thighs and belly, her navel is mentioned. According to The Interpreter’s Bible, what “navel” really means here is “vulva.” The original word is similar to an Arabic word meaning secret. The Interpreter’s Bible also says that the dance was performed nude, although The Pulpit Commentary says she may have been wearing see-through clothing. Either way, her nude body was clearly visible to her attentive audience. And her lover fully approved.
How much privacy was there in biblical times?
In today’s society, we take privacy for granted. When we shower, use the commode, or have sex, we close the door and lock it. But how much privacy did people have in biblical times?
David got an eyeful from his roof, as Bathsheba took her evening bath (2Sa 11:2). King Abimelech gazed down from his window and spotted Isaac and Rebekah getting intimate (Ge 26:8).
What is lust?
When does looking become lusting?
Many condemn nudity because they claim that looking at attractive members of the opposite sex walking around naked naturally leads to lust. Although it is possible to lust after a woman even if she is fully clothed, and although the inclination to lust is probably greater if the object of lust is nude, most nudists contend that “nude” is not necessarily “lewd.”
Is it possible to view attractive members of the opposite sex without being consumed with lust?”
One Scripture widely misunderstood is Matthew 5:28. Jesus warned, “Anyone who looks upon a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This verse has been used to denounce everything from perusing girlie magazines to ogling the scenery at the beach. To avoid lust, many early Christians took Jesus’ statement to the extreme by being castrated.
What did Jesus mean? Jesus had previously explained that anyone angry with his brother would be subject to judgment. Jesus was making a correlation between murder and anger.
Later, Jesus addressed the problem of divorce. Jesus explained that if a man divorces his wife without just cause, he causes her to become an adulteress. Sandwiched between these two statements is the prohibition against lusting. A pattern emerges. Not only is it wrong to commit a sinful action, but it is also wrong to harbor evil thoughts and desires that could lead to a sinful action. The principle is that evil thoughts can lead to evil actions. Evil thoughts corrupt the mind. Murder is proceeded by anger. Adultery is proceeded by lust.
Men in Jesus’ day were divorcing for trivial reasons. Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Mt 19:8). Nevertheless, since God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), He would naturally also hate any thoughts that might lead to divorce. Lust can easily lead a man astray. First, he becomes dissatisfied with his wife. Then before you know it, he’s in divorce court.
It’s not a question of, “Does the Bible prohibit lust?” The answer to that is obviously “yes.” The real question is, “What is lust?” Many confuse a healthy sex drive with lust and label all sexual desire outside of marriage as lust.
What is the difference between lust and a proper appreciation of beauty?
According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, lust simply means “a strong desire.” In the original Greek, epithumia is used to denote any strong desire, good or bad. Since lust usually has a negative connotation in English, epithumia is only translated lust when it is used in a negative sense. Epithumeo, the verb form of epithumia, is translated “covet.” So, to lust and to covet is the same thing.
When the Bible tells us not to covet, it is telling us not to have a strong desire to possess anything that belongs to someone else. The Tenth Commandment reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Ex 20:17).
The Tenth Commandment lists a man’s wife as his possession. Although this appraisal is not politically correct, most men are more possessive of their wives than anything else.
Most people today do not own oxen or donkeys. But, most people do own a car. If we can understand what it means to covet our neighbor’s car, we can also understand what it means to covet (or lust after) our neighbor's wife.
As an illustration, Bill has a spanking new BMW. Is it wrong to look at Bill’s car? Of course not. Well then, is it wrong to enjoy looking at Bill’s car? No. So when does looking become lusting? It’s common sense! If we plot to steal Bill’s car, we’re lusting. If we become envious or resentful of Bill for having such a beautiful car, we’re lusting. If we think about slashing Bill’s tires or killing him, we are lusting. The difference between looking and lusting is huge!
The same principles apply to Bill’s wife. There’s nothing wrong with admiring the beauty of Bill’s wife¾unless, of course, Bill is overly possessive. Then gawking at her may not be so much a matter of lust as it is a lack of wisdom. Looking becomes lusting when we harbor thoughts of putting the moves on Bill’s wife behind his back.
Many insist that the only way to curtail lust is to avoid looking at curvaceous cuties as much as possible. A friend of mine is so fastidious that he dispenses his swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated to the trash bin the instant it hits the mailbox.
If that’s what it takes to keep one’s conscience undefiled, then I’m all for it. Yet I have to believe this is simply a Band-Aid approach. The ultimate objective is to get to the point where you can look at an endless array of drop-dead gorgeous bombshells twenty-four/seven, with full appreciation and without lusting.
I used to take the Band-Aid approach. My teenage chums would flash me a centerfold and I would retreat in horror. That was before Art College. As a college student, I sketched and painted nude models, mainly female, as a requirement for several classes. At first, my conscience was racked with guilt. But I now believe this experience gave me a greater appreciation for God’s ultimate art form.
The Jews of Jesus’ day avoided women in the marketplace. Jesus broke the cultural norm and was friendly to the fairer sex. To evade looking to avert lusting is simply putting a Band-Aid on lust. A perfect man should be able to fully appreciate all of God’s handiwork without sinning.
Nudism throughout Christian history
Many non-conformists throughout history have defied the social norm of clothing. Socrates lectured in the nude. In ancient Greece, young athletes participated in various events in the nude. They marched in nude processions and ate and sang nude as part of their athletic celebration. In 168 BC, a gym was built in Jerusalem where members engaged in nude sporting activities. “Gymnasium” is a Greek word that means “a place of nude exercise.” Hebrews 4:13 says “...all things are ‘naked’ unto the eyes of God.” The Greek word for naked is “gymnos.”
Nudism was common in Old Testament times.
In ancient Egypt, poor men either wore a kilt and a girdle, or went naked while performing manual labor. While the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they probably followed the same custom. This made it possible for a woman coming to the rescue of her husband in a brawl to seize a man by his private parts, as we read in Deuteronomy 25:11.3
Some religions actually required public nudity upon entering a temple. According to Will Durant:
The early Christian church practiced nude baptism. Total nude immersion was required. Since men were born naked, they were also reborn naked in baptism. Early Christian leaders like Chrysostom, speaking of baptism, said that since Adam was naked until sin came, therefore, a man is to be naked in baptism that he might be freed from sin. Cyril of Jerusalem decreed that all clothing be removed within the inner part of the baptistery. A total removal of all clothing was a symbol of totally removing the old sinful man. Also, by removing one's clothing, an early Christian was seen as imitating Christ, who died naked on the cross .4
In Amsterdam, a religious group known as the Adamites went without clothes, claiming that they were “the naked truth.” Heaven is portrayed as a return to the idyllic state of Eden (Rev 22:1-3). Swedenborg taught that those who qualify for Heaven will be gloriously naked since clothing was introduced through sin.
Nudity at the cross
Although the crucified Christ is usually portrayed wearing a loincloth, there is little doubt that Jesus was nude. According to noted commentator Albert Barnes, people condemned to death during this time period were commonly stripped of all clothing and publicly exposed. Billy Graham, pointing out the shame of the cross, has repeatedly mentioned this in his crusades. The Catholic Encyclopedia makes the same point. The clothes of Jesus had been removed, and the soldiers cast lots for them (Jn 19:23-24).
Jesus is fully God and fully man. Jesus existed from the beginning and is the Creator of the universe (Jn 1:1-14). Jesus became flesh (v. 14). During His earthly ministry, Jesus had the same nature as God (Php 2:8-9). Since Jesus is fully God, He is omnipresent (i.e. present everywhere, Ps 139:7-10; Jer 23:23-24; 1Ki 8:27).
Right now, Jesus sees everything in this world and in this universe. David says nothing escapes God’s observance. He knows our thoughts and our feelings. There is nowhere to hide from God. How all this is possible is beyond our finite understanding.
Nothing is hidden from God (Heb 4:13). Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Jesus is now our Great High Priest in Heaven (v. 14). Since Jesus was (and is) fully human, He is able to fully identify with our feelings (v. 15). On earth, Jesus fully experienced what all men experience when they view a beautiful woman, yet He never sinned. Since Jesus is now in Heaven and sees everything, He sees us even when we take a shower or have sex. Not only does Jesus see everything that we see¾He also fully experiences everything we experience. In some mysterious manner beyond our comprehension, Jesus dwells within all Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus views more nudity in a single day than anyone else has ever viewed in an entire lifetime. And He is our perfect example (Jn 13:15; 1Pe 2:21).
What does the Bible “REALLY” say about nudity and lust? Shame of the human anatomy is a result of the original sin. The serpent beguiled Adam through Eve and confused good and evil. This confusion continues to this very day.
Nothing in the Bible condemns social nudism. Numerous studies validate a myriad of positive benefits.
As for lust, to look at a woman lustfully is not the same thing as appreciating her beauty and even getting turned on. Looking only becomes lusting when it turns into coveting.
After God wrapped up a productive week of creation, He unequivocally declared everything was very good¾including Eve. Adam seconded that emotion.
An old-time preacher summed it up best. “If God had intended us to walk around naked, He would have made us that way!”
 Hartman, W.E., M. Fithian, and D. Johnson. Nudist Society. New York, NY: Crown, 1970; revised by I. Bancroft. Los Angeles: Elysium Growth Press, 1992.
2 A. Vingerhoets and B. Bunk. "Attitudes Toward Nudist and Public Beaches: Some Evidence Of Dissonance Reduction and Gender Differences." Journal of Leisure Research, Vol. 23, May 1987, pp. 11-21.
3Wall, Otto A. Sex and Sex Worship. College Park, MD: McGrath Publishing Company, 1970, p. 185.
4 Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1935, p. 75.
pornography & homosexuality
And Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you” (Mt 21:31).
“Flee fornication” (1Co 6:18, KJV).
Then Jesus said unto them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Mt 23:23-24).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about situation ethics, and what many people think the Bible says about situation ethics are two different things.
Critics denounce situation ethics as the propaganda of left-wing liberals, contending that determining what is ethical by analyzing all the circumstances in a given situation is akin to denying the divine authority of the Scripture.
Because many see God’s moral mandates as frozen in stone, the Bible has become a rigid list of legalistic do’s and don’ts for millions. One problem with giving strict allegiance to a list of biblical rules is that the Bible does not have a rule to cover every conceivable situation. Also, not every rule in the Bible is applicable to our current situation. Unless we understand the reasons behind the rules and adapt them to our current situation, the Word of God becomes impotent.
Many legalists believe that since God’s perfect will does not change, and since God’s will is revealed in the Bible, any attempt to adapt God’s standard of ethics to a particular situation is akin to watering down the Word of God.
A common rallying cry of the counterculture has been: “If it feels good, do it!” Moralists have denounced this slogan as a battle cry of the Devil.
But, as long as an action doesn’t hurt anybody, isn’t “If it feels good, do it!” simply another way of saying, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”? Aren’t God’s laws designed to make us feel good, while simultaneously protecting us from harm?
Extending their denouncement to sexual situations, the message is: “Sex only in marriage.”
Yes, the Bible gives “two thumbs” up to marital sex. It also gives “two thumbs down” to sexual immorality. However, to conclude that the Bible therefore condemns all sex outside of marriage is entirely unwarranted. That’s like saying, “God likes blue and dislikes red. Green is not blue. Therefore, God dislikes green.” The statement “God likes blue and dislikes red” says nothing about His attitude towards green. And it’s only when people mistakenly define sexual immorality as “all extramarital and all premarital sex” while ignoring the many examples of virtuous sex outside of marriage mentioned in the Bible that they reach such an erroneous conclusion. In fact, if you’re like I was for over twenty years of my life, you may not even be aware that there are any examples of virtuous sex outside of marriage mentioned in the Bible.
Let’s consider some biblical heroes and heroines who adapted situation ethics to their particular set of circumstances and were commended by God for doing so. These examples will demonstrate that, in the final analysis, the spirit (intent) of the law takes precedence over the letter.
Judah and Tamar
One example of situation ethics is Tamar’s seduction of Judah (Ge 38). Judah was the great-grandson of Abraham, and heir to the covenant blessings. Judah’s firstborn son, Er, married a woman named Tamar (v. 6). Er was a wicked man, so God took his life (v. 7). Meanwhile, Tamar remained childless.
Judah had a second son named Onan. Onan’s duty was to produce offspring for his deceased brother, a duty which later became a requirement of the levirate law (Dt 25:5–10). This was to ensure that a childless widow would produce an heir. Unless Tamar became pregnant, there would be no one to inherit the blessings of the covenant. Onan resented this duty because the offspring would not belong to him. So, every time Onan slept with Tamar, he spilled his semen (v. 9). This provoked God’s wrath, and Onan became casualty number two (v. 10).
This is the only place in the Bible that says anything about masturbation (from whence comes the term Onanism). Some erroneously use this example to condemn all masturbation. Surveys show that anywhere from 80 to 97 percent of men masturbate. I was amazed to read that, according to the book Sex in America, “Married people were significantly more likely to masturbate than people who were living alone.” Many doctors and therapists agree that there is nothing harmful about masturbation and many claim there are benefits. Woody Allen quipped that masturbation was, “Sex with someone I love.” Nevertheless, many still feel guilty.
One person said, “I know I’m going to Hell for masturbating and I also know that God could forgive me and help me to stop. But it feels so good, I don’t want to stop.”
Back to the story. After burying two sons, Judah promised Tamar his third son, Shelah (v. 11). Tamar waited. When Shelah reached the age of marriage, Judah broke his promise (v. 14).
That was the final straw! Desperately seeking motherhood, Tamar took the bull by the horns and charted her own destiny.
Judah’s wife had recently died, and he was in hot pursuit of female companionship. Tamar heard it through the grave vine, disguised herself as a temple prostitute, and wove her web of deceit by seducing Judah (vv. 13-19). Judah impregnated Tamar, and she gave birth to twins (v. 27). She is now among the “who’s who” of Jesus’ lineage (Mt 1:3).
Even though Tamar seduced Judah by posing as a prostitute, her action is described as an act of righteousness. Judah said of Tamar, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (Ge 38:26). If Tamar were a contemporary Christian, she would be condemned for not having faith to wait for God’s intervention.
Judah and Tamar never married.
The scepter was never to depart from Judah
It was prophesied that the scepter would never depart from Judah (Ge 49:10). There would always be a continuous succession of rulers from the tribe of Judah ruling over Israel, which would last up until the time of Jesus. This prophecy was partially fulfilled as the scepter came into the tribe of Judah through the lineage of King David. The crown was then passed on through David’s family tree. To fulfill prophecy, Jesus had to be a descendant of both Judah and David.
From David’s time forward, the scepter continued in Judah. The subsequent governors of Judea were also of the tribe of Judah, or of the Levite tribe that adhered to it, which was the equivalent. This lineage continued until Judea became a providence of the Roman Empire. At the time of our Savior’s birth, Judea was a province of Rome.
These prophecies were fulfilled because Tamar posed as a prostitute, seduced Judah, and provided an heir. Indeed, God works in mysterious ways.
Lot and his daughters
A similar saga of seduction is the incestuous menage a trois’ between Lot and his two daughters (Ge 20:9-38). Having escaped the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters got their father inebriated, then slept with him in order to become pregnant. Glaringly absent from the text is any condemnation of their behavior. According to verse 31, there were no other men available. Since the Mosaic Law had not yet been given, there were no laws prohibiting incest.
On the surface, it seems as if both Tamar and Lot’s daughters clearly violated God’s Law. Yet, although they may have broken the letter of the law, both Tamar and Lot’s daughters kept the spirit of the law and did the right thing.
Is it unethical to become an unwed mother?
Now, let’s fast-forward to the present and apply these principles to a hypothetical situation. Janet is a single woman with a good paying job. She would make a fine mother. Only problem is, Janet’s biological clock is winding down and no one has asked Janet for her hand in marriage.
Being single doesn’t bother Janet, though¾she enjoys the freedom of being unattached. Nevertheless, she wants a child¾ big time!
She pursues her desire by frequenting a single’s bar, dressed to kill. A brief affair ensues, resulting in Janet’s pregnancy. She gets the child she’s dreamed of, and raises it as a single mother.
Did Janet sin?
If sex outside of marriage is always a sin, regardless of the circumstances, then there is only one conclusion¾yes. Admittedly, this is not an ideal circumstance. But the circumstances of Tamar and Lot’s daughters weren’t ideal either.
Does the Bible forbid substitute fathers?
Let’s take another hypothetical situation. Alice has been married to Fred for a number of years. Alice loves Fred, but hasn’t been able to get pregnant. Alice desperately wants a child, so Alice and Fred go to the doctor, hoping to resolve the problem. After examining Fred, the doctor gives his diagnosis. Fred is unable to father children because of his low sperm count.
What is the moral thing to do? If extramarital sex is always unethical, regardless of the situation, then there is only one moral thing to do¾nothing.
Martin Luther, however, did not believe that extramarital sex was always unethical. In fact, many today would consider some of his positions radical. For example, Luther’s advice to Fred would have been to give Alice the freedom to remarry. But at the very least, Alice should be given the liberty to have sex with someone else. If she had children from such a union, Fred should raise them as if he were their biological father. As an act of discretion, the intimate details of what transpired should be kept strictly confidential. Preferably, Fred’s brother or close relative should father Alice’s children. But if that wasn’t possible, then any man would do. If Fred refused to give Alice permission, then Luther would have advised Alice to run off with another man to some far-away place where she would not be known.
Luther would have referred Alice to Deuteronomy 25:5, which explains levirate marriages. According to Mosaic Law, if a widow was childless, her deceased husband’s brother was required to impregnate her. According to Luther, even though this woman’s husband was not yet physically dead, he was dead in respect to his ability to sire children. Luther believed that allowing the woman’s brother-in-law to impregnate her fulfilled the spirit of the law, which, therefore, made it ethical.
Luther believed that women had rights, which included sexual rights. He did not see marriage as an institution where the husband owns the wife as though she were a slave. If a husband really loves his wife, and if he is unable to meet her sexual needs, then he should be willing to let someone else do the honors.1
Is it always unethical to lie?
Another example of situation ethics involves an act of deception by a harlot named Rahab (Jos 2).
Joshua sent two spies to Jericho. There they entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab. When the whereabouts of the spies leaked out to the king, he dispatched his henchmen in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, Rahab hid the spies.
When interrogated, Rahab lied, claiming the spies had been there but left. Rahab’s fib sent all the king’s men off on a wild goose chase, which saved the lives of her Jewish patrons. Because of her courage, Rahab’s life was later spared when Joshua’s soldiers raided her city.
Rahab’s name is recorded in Hebrews 11 as one of two women who are biblical examples of faith. Where would her name be now if she had told the truth?
Even though Rahab lied¾which some would say was a clear violation of the Ninth Commandment¾according to the spirit of the law, she did the right thing.
Should cultural changes influence ethics?
Today’s culture is radically different from that of our biblical forefathers. Should this have any influence on what takes place in our bedrooms? In Bible days, most men were farmers or ranchers who followed in the vocational footsteps of their fathers. Parents usually arranged marriages, with newlyweds marrying very young ¾usually soon after puberty.
Being fruitful and multiplying was an obligation taken seriously in Old Testament times. Having as many children as humanly possible was both an act of obedience and a sound investment. Children were a blessing¾literally. More children meant more laborers and more wealth.
Contrast this with today’s cultural climate. Although children are still desirable for some, speaking strictly as a financial investment, having children today is anything but a blessing.
As much as we may love kids, let’s face it¾children are a tremendous financial burden. Bringing a child into this world is a tough decision. Back then, it was a no-brainer.
In spite of this, some still claim it is immoral for married couples to put off having children. Deciding not to have children is worse yet. Many sincere Christians adamantly insist that the mandate to multiply is still binding. Some go so far as to insist that married couples should have as many children as possible. Yet, if that is true, why did Paul say it is best to stay single (1Co 7:38)?
In previous generations, a woman’s place was at home. Today, most women work outside the home. Over half of the US workforce is female. Today’s job market has become so competitive that many feel they must go to college in order to secure a good paying job. The commitment of time and money for most college students is so stressful that the added obligations of marriage usually make it prudent to remain single until after graduation. Yet, at the same time, society and religion are telling us to wait until marriage to have sex.
According to a Time magazine article, “How should we teach our children about sex?” the average age when a girl begins menstruation has dropped from 14 to 12 since 1900.2 During a comparable time period, the average age of first marriages increased from 21 to 25 as a result of economic pressures to become better educated, thus making children dependent on their parents for a greater period of time.3 This leaves a gap of 13 years between the time an average girl becomes a woman, and the time she becomes a lawfully wedded wife.
The “abstinence until marriage” proponents expect young people to battle their basic instincts for 13 grueling years. But their message has fallen on deaf ears. Statistics reveal that when nature calls, people listen. Most newlyweds are not virgins on their wedding night.
There was a continual increase in sexual activity among US teens in the 1980s.4 However, since the increase in sexual activity was accompanied by an increase in condom usage, the pregnancy rate remained fairly stable from 1980 to 1988. During that nine-year period, approximately 110 out of every 1,000 teenage girls were getting pregnant each year. That means that more than 1 out of 10 teenage girls were getting pregnant in any given year.
During this same period, between 51 to 59 percent of all teenage girls were sexually active. Other studies, such as those done by Child Trends, Incorporated, a Washington, D.C. research organization, show that the percentage rate of sexually active teens is even higher among teenage boys.5
Among the general public, there were over 6 million US pregnancies in 1988. Sixty-two percent of them ended in a live birth, 13 percent ended in a miscarriage, and 25 percent ended in an abortion. Among pregnant teenage girls, the abortion rate was a staggering 40 percent. That was 15 percent higher than the general population.
According to Child Trends, Inc., only 14 percent of the teenage girls surveyed who became pregnant wanted a child. According to William L. Roper, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
This high level of sexual activity and pregnancy causes many teens to have to deal with responsibilities and problems far beyond their physical and emotional resources. Teens who have unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases affect not only their present health and welfare but change, for the worse, their entire future.
In the 1990s, pregnancy rates among teenagers dropped significantly, with reductions ranging from 10 to 38 percent from 1991 to 1998. For example, according to the National Center for Health Statistics for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1998, US teens 15-19 years gave birth to almost 485,000 babies, a birth rate of 51.1 births per 1,000 females, down from 61 births per 1,000 females in 1992. Nevertheless, the birth rate among US teens is the highest in the developed world. It’s twice as high as England’s, three times as high as Australia’s, four times as high as Germany’s, six times as high as France’s, eight times as high as the Netherlands’, and 15 times as high as Japan’s. According to Berne & Huberman, the reasons for the lower rates of teenage childbearing in these countries include mandatory, medically accurate sexuality education programs that provide comprehensive information and encourage teens to make responsible choices. Other reasons include easy access to contraception and other forms of reproductive health care, social acceptance of adolescent sexual expression as normal, healthy straightforward public health media campaigns, and government support for the rights of teens to accurate information and confidential services.
Take the Netherlands as an example. Why is the rate of teen pregnancies so low in the Netherlands? It’s certainly not because they are less sexually active. The reverse seems to be true. For example, prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since 1988. Brothels advertise openly.
There are several lessons to be learned from the Netherlands. Although they have the lowest abortion rate in the world at 5.5 per 1,000 women, this is in spite of the fact that the Netherlands is also one of the countries with the least restrictive abortion laws in the world. It is suggested that the reason the Dutch have such a low abortion rate is because they concentrate on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. The Dutch generally view teen pregnancy as a health issue, not a moral issue.
On the other hand, the US views adolescent sexuality and birth control generally as moral issues. As a result, the rate of US teen pregnancies is over ten times greater than the Netherlands.
Recently, the World Health Organization found that countries that encourage a straightforward, factual approach to sex education seem to have the best results in preventing unwanted pregnancies. There was no evidence that sex education in schools encourages sexual experimentation. The article concludes by saying the US is doing a lousy job preventing teenage pregnancies.
Many modern teens see their parents as clueless old fogies that just don’t understand what it’s like to have hormones. Meanwhile, too many parents are too busy, too afraid, or too uneducated to give their teens practical advice. Ironically, many of those same parents oppose sex education in schools. Is it any wonder that teens are rebelling by engaging in irresponsible behavior? Today, the US leads the world in teen pregnancies and abortions.
Biological drives VS moral
instruction¾ implications for US women
Teens are not the only ones being victimized by the “sex only in marriage” dogma. According to a Harvard-Yale study, if a never-married woman is still single at age 30, her odds of ever getting married are about 1 in 5. If she is single at age 35, her odds drop considerably to 1 in 20. Age 40, it’s 1 in 100.
In spite of the fact that millions fall into this category, most ministers would condemn any attempt by these women to satisfy their sexual desires. As an example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 3,735,000 unmarried women between the ages of 55 to 64 in the United States in 1998. That’s about 32% of the women in that age group. Less than 1 in 100 of those women will marry. That means that over 99% of all US single women between the ages of 55 to 64, a whopping total of over 3,361,500 single women, will never marry. I would hate to appear before God’s Judgement seat after telling all of these women that it is a sin for them to engage in any kind of sexual relations.
We now have a wealth of reliable, scientific information unavailable in Bible times. We now know that even after menopause, it is important for a woman to have orgasms, not just because orgasms feel good, but also because orgasms are good for a woman’s health. According to Dr. Alex Vermeulen MD, Ph.D., professor of medicine, University of Ghent, Belgium, “Sexuality should be just as much a part of life after menopause as before.” 
Because of our strict adherence to an unwritten rule which vilifies all sex outside of marriage, millions of singles are expected to deprive themselves of the emotional expression sex can offer. Can such an inhumane disregard for the most basic of all human drives really be classified as Christian?
The problem with sexual legalism
Rules are necessary. They make society function smoothly. Without them, anarchy would reign.
God’s rules were given for our good, and for good reasons. Blind adherence to rules without understanding the reasons behind them can become an exercise in absurdity.
The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life (2Co 3:6b). Since God is spirit, we must worship Him in spirit and truth. Jesus was constantly criticizing the Pharisees for being legalistic.
To illustrate the folly of legalism, a man stops at a traffic light. As he waits for the light to turn green, minutes go by, then hours. Obviously, the light is broken. The letter of the law says, “Thou shall stop and remain motionless at all red traffic lights until the light changes to green.” Normally, this is good advice. However, because this gentleman has such a strict adherence to the letter of the law, he spends the entire night waiting for the light to change.
Of course, this is a ridiculous scenario, but it does dramatize the point. The spirit of the law says, “Let there be smooth-flowing traffic.”
There are higher laws behind the lesser laws that help the lesser laws make sense.
God’s law is no different. The higher law says, “love our neighbors as ourselves” and “love God with all our being.” Unless we understand God’s higher laws and the intentions behind them, we cannot understand God’s lesser laws. We’ll either spend the rest of our lives stuck at a spiritual traffic light or simply disregard spiritual traffic lights all together. Neither extreme is prudent.
Legalism appeals to those who don’t want to think. They want simple answers to life’s complex questions. They want a list of mechanical do’s and don’ts.
The Hebrews were a simple people. They needed a simple list of do’s and don’ts. But the wise are admonished to exercise discernment (Pr 3:21).
It is due to a lack of discernment that many people define sexual sin as simply “all sex outside of a monogamous heterosexual marriage.” Where did this definition come from? Certainly not from the Bible. If it were that simple, surely the Bible would give us concise instructions, like… “You shall only engage in sexual relations with your one heterosexual spouse.” The reason the Bible does not do this is obvious¾God has no interest in imposing burdensome nonsensical rules and regulations upon humanity. God is not a Cosmic Killjoy, nor is He a legalistic Pharisee.
How do we determine what
is sexually ethical for today?
This book is entitled What the Bible “REALLY” Says About Sex. One of the difficulties with biblical interpretation, however, is determining not only what the Bible says about a particular subject, but also we must determine what parts are applicable for today. God gave the Israelites a long list of do’s and don’ts, much of which was for a particular people for a particular time and purpose. The New Testament tells us that laws like the animal sacrifices and circumcision are no longer binding on Christians. Most Bible teachers recognize that not all of God’s laws are applicable for today. Determining what is and is not binding, however, is not always easy. Some say tithing is still mandatory, while others just believe in generous giving.
Many divide biblical laws into three categories: 1) Civil laws, 2) Ceremonial laws, and 3) Moral laws. According to these proponents, the civil laws and the ceremonial laws are no longer in force, but the moral laws are. Of course, according to them, laws regulating sexual morality would fall into the category of moral laws, making them eternally binding. Perhaps they never heard of the phrase “wedding ceremony.” Wouldn’t something that includes a “ceremony” be “ceremonial”?
Leading apologist Norman Geisler promotes moral absolutes and warns of moral relativism. Many would accuse this book of promoting moral relativism. Here’s why I disagree. Geisler defines a moral absolute as an absolute duty that is binding on all persons at all times in all places. Before the Ten Commandments, it was common to marry a close relative. The Law of Moses allowed for polygamy, instructed a man to impregnate his deceased brother’s widow, and punished adultery with the death penalty. Few Bible teachers today would insist that these rules should be re-instituted. The point is, even though the law which says, “You shall not commit adultery,” may be eternal i.e. universal, incest, as an example, was not adultery prior to the Ten Commandments. And how would we define adultery in a society where people neither marry nor are given in marriage? How can laws regulating marriage be eternal when the institution itself is not eternal?
So what does the Bible “REALLY” say about situation ethics? Biblical examples of those who broke the letter of the law while doing the right thing include: Tamar seducing Judah, Lot’s daughters getting their father drunk, and Rahab lying. An unwillingness to adapt the spirit of the law to various situations has resulted in needless suffering for millions.
Perhaps the words of Jesus are more applicable today than ever before. Jesus denounced the rule-setting religious lawmakers of His time. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Mt 23:23-24).
Although Jesus was not addressing sexual legalism specifically, He was denouncing the idea that one is righteous by adhering to the letter of the law, while neglecting things of utmost importance¾things like mercy.
Is it merciful to expect a 50-year-old single woman who will probably never marry to practice celibacy? Is it merciful to expect a teenager to wait 10 to 20 long years between puberty and marriage to have sex? Although we should all be concerned about unwanted pregnancies and abortions, wouldn’t it be much better if we taught our teens how they can have sex that is totally responsible, while respecting the rights and dignity of others?
Although few would deny that loving, caring relationships are important, isn’t sex simply for the sake of pleasure and emotional fulfillment also important for those who have not yet found the love of their life? What’s wrong with teaching teens to do unto others as they would have others do unto them? What’s wrong with helping teens make intelligent choices, choices based on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
If we keep on doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep on getting more of what we’re getting¾more abortions, more unwed mothers, more shattered lives.
Instead of just saying no to sex, why not build as many responsible, loving relationships as possible¾relationships that may or may not include sexual expression? And above all, why impose the outdated rules of yesteryear on a generation that is radically different in so many ways?
If a person has a legitimate reason for abstaining from sex, that’s one thing. But if a person is avoiding intercourse for invalid reasons, based upon a misapplication of Scripture, then that’s a horse of a different color.
For the Bible to stay relevant, we must adapt its unchanging principles to an ever-changing culture. This is not the same thing as watering it down. Christians can have a tremendous impact on society if, and only if, the rules of the Bible become more than just a list of legalistic do’s and don’ts. Isn’t it about time Christians got in touch with today’s biological and economic realities? To do otherwise is to become modern Pharisees¾straining out gnats, swallowing camels!
1 Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 260b.
2 Gibbs, Nancy. “How should we teach our children about sex?” Time. May 24, 1993, p. 62.
3 Harry Braverman. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1974.
4 “Trends in Pregnancies and Pregnancy Rates, United States, 1980-88,” a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics.
5 Child Trends, Inc., a Washington, DC research organization. Commonly Misreported Facts About Teen Pregnancy <>.
 Copies of this report are available without charge on the NCHS Internet
< http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/releases/00facts/statebrt.htm > or by calling the NCHS press office at (301) 458-4636.
 Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1998; Bernie & Huberman, 1999.
 ¾“Curbing Teen Pregnancy.” The Montreal Gazette, editorial, January 26, 1998.
Exter, Thomas. “How to figure your chances of getting married.” American Demographics. Ithaca, NY: Princeton University. Vol. 9, No. 6, June 1987, pp. 50-2.
 These findings and others were presented at a symposium entitled, “The Emerging Role of Estrogen-Androgen Therapy in the Care of the Postmenopausal Patient,” at the XV World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics, in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 7, 1997 <http://pslgroup.com/dg/34622.htm>.
 Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1999, p. 501.
The Lord God of Israel said to King David, “I gave you Saul’s wives ” (2Sa 12:7-8).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about POLYGAMY, and what many people think the Bible says about polygamy, are two different things.
Polygamy, the practice of a man being married to more than one wife at the same time, was commonplace in Old Testament times. Polygamists named in the Bible include: David, Lamech, Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Ashur, Gideon, Elkanah, Rehaboam, Abijah, Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jehoiachin, Belshazzar, and Hosea. The all-time record-holder was Solomon, with 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Ki 11:3). In spite of this impressive roster, one of the most controversial issues ever to come down the theological pike is: “Does the Bible condemn or condone polygamy?”
Christians have long been divided over this volatile issue. While numerous theologians dogmatically contend that the Bible totally condemns polygamy, others are equally confident that the Bible condones polygamy as a perfectly moral option.
A typical appraisal of polygamy
The typical appraisal of those critical of polygamy is that God tolerated it because He wanted the Jews to experience the evils of non-monogamy firsthand. Apparently, they needed to learn a few lessons from H.K.U.¾Hard Knocks University. According to this conjecture, the biblical patriarchs were oblivious to the virtues of monogamy. But once we reach the New Testament, the polygamy paradox is resolved! Just in the nick of time, Paul rescues us from our dilemma. Finally, the truth which should have been so obvious all along, is now elucidated¾Christians are restricted to one wife (1Ti 3:2).
Is it really that simple? Were the Old Testament polygamists really adulterers who didn’t know better? Is polygamy really condemned in the New Testament?
Was Old Testament polygamy a sin?
First, did God consider polygamous unions adulterous in Old Testament times?
During the time of Moses, polygamy was such a well-established part of the social system that Mosaic Law is not even critical of it. Instead, we only find rules to regulate it (Lev 21:13; Dt 17:17; Ex 21:10). In fact, Moses himself may have been a polygamist. The Bible mentions that Moses had two wives, Zipporah, a Midianite (Ex 2:21) and an unnamed Ethiopian (Nu 12:1). Although some commentators say that the wife in Numbers may have been Zipporah, this seems unlikely because Moses’ marriage to the Ethiopian had been recent, long after his marriage to Zipporah. Also, it was because of his marriage to this Ethiopian that Miriam and Aaron waged an attack against Moses. Of course, it is possible that Zipporah had died prior to Moses’ marriage to the Ethiopian, but there is no mention of Zipporah’s death in Scripture.
The Law limited a man to as many wives as he could comfortably afford. When taking a second wife, the economic position of the first wife was to remain secure. Since women and children depended very heavily on the head of the household, a polygamist was obligated to provide for the basic needs of his family on a continual basis. This prohibited men from simply loving women and leaving them without regard for their welfare.
Why polygamy was NOT Solomon’s sin
The most famous polygamist of all time was King Solomon. Although critics have often used Solomon’s harem to demonize polygamy, there are at least two good reasons to reject this evaluation.
Yes, Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord (1Ki 11:6). But what was that evil? The text says the wives of Solomon were at least partially responsible.
God warned Israel not to intermarry with Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites (Ex 34:16). Why? Because their women would cause their husbands to worship pagan gods (1Ki 11:2).
Solomon ignored God’s warning and intermarried among those tribes. There is no evidence that Solomon sinned simply because he took numerous wives. The real problem was that Solomon married ungodly women who turned his heart away from God.
Even if Solomon had married one ungodly woman, he still would have experienced difficulties as a result. Marrying hundreds simply compounded his problems.
Deuteronomy 17:17 cautions a king not to take many wives. However, if God meant to restrict kings to just one wife, then why would God muddle His directive by telling kings not to take many wives? How many is too many?
According to Exodus 21:10, too many wives are more wives than a man can adequately provide for. Surely, as rich as Solomon was, he had no problem providing for all of his wives. Considering that Solomon built shrines for a few of his wives, it’s safe to say Solomon provided for his wives above and beyond the biblical mandate.
The sin of Solomon was not that he was a polygamist. His real sin was that he married ungodly women and allowed them to turn his heart away from God. If Solomon’s wives had been godly, wouldn’t they have been a blessing?
First Kings 11:6 says, “Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord because he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.” Therefore, Solomon’s sin could not have been polygamy per se, since David also had many wives.
Was David an unrepentant polygamist?
David had seven wives before he began to reign in Jerusalem (2Sa 3:2-15). Later, David took more concubines and wives (2Sa 5:13). Nathan said God had given David his wives (2Sa 12:8). Would God have given David these wives if polygamy were a sin?
Nowhere does the Bible imply that God disapproved of David being a polygamist. Instead, the Bible says David’s wives were a gift from God!
David was a man after God’s own heart (1Ki 11:4). He meditated on God’s law all day long (Ps 119:97). Surely David understood Hebrew better than most of today’s scholars. Isn’t it foolish, then, to assume that today’s critics of polygamy possess a comprehension of God’s law superior to that of King David? Could it be that some of these faultfinders are simply unwilling to relinquish their unsupported biases?
Does polygamy lead to other immoral conduct?
Many believe polygamy leads to other immoral conduct. “The Bible may not specifically condemn polygamy,” critics contend, “yet we must assume God disapproved because of the bad consequences often associated with multiple marriages.”
This argument is faulty. When God disapproves of something, He has no problem saying so. Sure, things sometimes went wrong for polygamists. Things also went wrong at times for monogamists and celibates.
Jealousy among multiple wives
One common argument against polygamy is that multiple wives are just naturally going to be jealous rivals.
Sarah and Hagar are one example of jealousy among rival wives. Sarah had been unable to bear children for an extended period of time. Her desire for a child motivated her to persuade her husband, Abraham, to sleep with her maidservant Hagar. Ironically, once Hagar got pregnant, Sarah became embittered with jealousy (Ge 16:4).
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was involved in a similar situation. Jacob had two wives. Jacob’s first wife, Leah, gave birth to four sons while Jacob’s second wife, Rachel, remained barren. These two factors invoked Rachel’s jealousy towards Leah (Ge 30:1).
It’s rather peculiar to a modern reader that there is no mention of either Sarah or Rachel displaying any jealousy until after their competitors became pregnant. The mere fact that their husbands were having sex with other women apparently didn’t bother them.
Polygamists face unique complications. Is it wrong to prefer one wife to another? Yes. But it is also wrong to prefer one child to another. That doesn’t mean all couples should limit themselves to one child. Multiple children can and should be treated equally. The same applies to multiple wives. God does not show favoritism and neither should we.
Does polygamy lead to idolatry?
Regarding idolatry¾although it is possible for a polygamist to allow his wives to lead him into idol worship, it is also possible to let almost anything lead us into idolatry. Plenty of men have made idols out of their monogamous wives. So, just because polygamists had problems, this does not preclude the fact that those problems could have been resolved. And it certainly doesn’t prove the Bible condemns polygamy per se.
The only question relevant to this issue is “Can polygamous marriages work?” Many polygamists maintain that the answer is “yes.”
Does Genesis 2:24 condemn polygamy?
A verse commonly used to discredit polygamy is Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
It is typically argued that since God made the human race from a monogamous couple, then this was the pattern God intended to establish from the beginning. Many contend it was only because of man’s Fall that God tolerated polygamy.
However, numerous scholars, including Westermann, H. Gunkel, and R. Smith, strongly disagree. They contend that this passage is not intended in any way to be considered as a description of or an endorsement for any kind of marital institution¾monogamous or polygamous. Instead, Westermann demonstrates that this passage is simply meant to explain why men and women are sexually attracted to each other. It’s because Eve was taken from Adam’s rib that the drive between the sexes exists. This is spelled out in Genesis 2:23. “For this reason” in verse 24 refers back to verse 23.
Although God ideally intended sexual attraction to motivate men and women to unite as one flesh, history concedes that the sex drive was not the decisive element for most marital unions. The parents did the mate selection in most Hebrew marriages. Kings frequently married as part of political alliances. Family, social and economic elements were usually the decisive factor.
Another argument put forth against polygamy is that God made Adam and Eve, and not Adam and Eve and Lucy. Therefore, according to this argument, God intended to establish monogamy as the ideal from the very beginning. But what kind of an argument is that? Adam and Eve were also created perfect. Their children married their own brothers and sisters. When Jesus said marriage should be as it was from the beginning, He was referring to the permanency of marriage. He was in no way condemning polygamy.
The Hebrew word for wife¾issah¾can be translated four different ways: wife, wives, woman or women. Therefore, Genesis 2:24 could legitimately be translated, “…a man will be united to his wives.” The Greek word for wife is gune. Gune, like issah, can also be translated wife, wives, woman, or women. So, in passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:2, which says “let each man have his own wife,” it is perfectly valid to translate this as “let each man have his own wives.” David was simultaneously married to Abigail, Haggith, and others. When David married Abigail, he had his own wife. David also had his own wife when he married Haggith.
Is it possible for more than
two people to become one flesh?
But some might ask, “Doesn’t having sex with more than one person violate the ‘one flesh’ principle?” After all, Adam and Eve were two people who were to become one flesh. How can three or more people become one flesh?
The Bible clearly shows it is possible for a man to become one flesh with more than one woman. In 1 Corinthians 6:16 we read that a man becomes one flesh with a prostitute when he engages in sexual relations with her. To confirm this, Paul refers back to Genesis 2:24, which states that “the two shall become one flesh.” Since prostitutes have intercourse with numerous partners, it logically follows that a prostitute becomes one flesh with each partner. The Bible compares the one flesh a man has with a woman in sexual union to the union a Christian has with Christ. Christ is one flesh with all Christians. Doesn’t this parallel polygamy more closely than monogamy? Also, the oneness of God is expressed in three persons¾Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we become one with Christ, we also become one with the other members of the Trinity. So, the oneness of flesh has nothing to do with the number of persons involved. It has to do with the unity of spirit.
Does the New Testament condemn polygamy?
Another common argument is that although the Old Testament may allow for polygamy, the New Testament clearly condemns it. One key Scripture used is 1 Timothy 3:2, which states that a church leader is to be the husband of one wife. This qualification was not new. Even in the Old Testament, the High Priest was restricted to one wife (Lev 21:13). Notice also that this qualification was only given to those with a high position of church leadership. Nowhere does the New Testament condemn polygamy for all Christians.
There is some dispute among scholars as to exactly what Paul meant by “husband of one wife.” Some say this means “one wife in a lifetime,” while others see it as a prohibition against divorce. According to Roy B. Zuck, polygamy was not Paul’s main concern. Paul was simply listing character traits of men seeking a high office. A church leader cannot be someone who easily succumbs to sexually immoral conduct. Zuck argues that Paul set this high standard of moral character because converts in the early church did not always immediately withdraw from their pagan customs and become sexually perfect overnight.1 Biblical historians concede that polygamy was prevalent among the early Christian church. According to Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, many Christian men had four or five wives. Calvin also said in his commentaries that polygamy was “exceedingly prevalent” among early believers.2 According to both Augustine and Luther, nowhere does the Bible forbid polygamy. The only exception is if polygamy violates the laws of a particular culture. Christians are to be subject to man’s laws as long as there is no conflict with the laws of God (Ro 13:1). Although Luther did not encourage polygamy, he did give his approval to Landgrave Philip of Hesse to take a second wife in 1539, which had far-reaching consequences.
To state unequivocally that Christians are not allowed numerous wives because it is against the laws of man does not hold water. When the laws of man are in conflict with the laws of God, we are to obey the laws of God. Although the laws of God do not command a man to have more than one wife, they do allow for it. And although polygamy is against the laws of man in many parts of the world, it is only illegal to have more than one wife if those marriages are legally contracted by the state. The state did not legally contract marriages throughout most of history, yet God recognized those marital unions as valid. So, as long as Christians conduct their own ceremonies and do not register their multiple marriages, they are free to practice their polygamous beliefs without breaking any laws. Therefore, it is possible for a Christian to be both a polygamist and a law-abiding citizen simultaneously.
More than three-fourths of the world’s societies permit polygamy. In many parts of Africa, the practice is common. Reasons for polygamy include a desire for prestige, economic reasons, the desire for offspring, cultural norms and sexual reasons.3
Missionaries are called to preach the gospel to all nations, including Africa. If polygamists in Africa are to be converted to Christianity, it is critically important that missionaries approach the subject of polygamy from an unbiased biblical mindset.
A person who has come to faith in Jesus Christ is not to continue in sin just because he is under grace (Ro 6:15). Yet, if polygamy really is a sin, and if a missionary is doing his job, then he must proclaim Christ as both Savior and Lord. Lord means “master” or “ruler.” As our Lord and Master, Christ commands us to repent of sin. Therefore, if polygamy really is a sin, then a convert who practices polygamy must repent of that sin by divorcing all but one of his wives. This would force thousands of women and children to become homeless and destitute. Many of those women would invariably resort to prostitution.
These are just a few of the negative ramifications that would arise if we allow a bias against polygamy to cloud our judgment regarding the clear teaching of Scripture.
What’s so bad about polyandry?
Many feminists envision God as a male chauvinist. To them, it’s a double standard to allow for polygamy while prohibiting women from having more than one husband.
If God does not discriminate based upon gender, then why doesn’t the Bible allow for polyandry?
The Bible does not address this specific question. Nevertheless, there are at least two good reasons why God would have disapproved of polyandry in biblical times. Throughout most of human history, man has been the breadwinner. God was concerned that polygamists adequately provide for their families. It wasn’t until recent times that women were in a position to be financially independent. Although many modern women could afford multiple husbands, few male egos could survive the transition from Macho Man to Mister Mom.
There’s another problem with polyandry. If a Hebrew woman were allowed numerous male bed partners, it would have been impossible to determine who beget whom. With polygamy, the identity of a child’s biological father is never in question¾unless, of course, the wife has sex outside of marriage.
Unlike ancient times, it is now possible to separate sex for reproduction from sex for pleasure¾thanks to modern technology.
God is not a respecter of persons (Ac 10:34). There is neither male nor female with God (Gal 3:28). So, even though Scripture nowhere endorses polyandry, once we understand a few underlying principles, there is no logical reason why God would disapprove of responsible sexual variety for today’s woman on an equal basis with a man.
Why did God allow polygamy?
Although the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically why God allowed polygamy, we can make an educated guess.
There were three motivations for biblical polygamy.
First, it enabled men to have more children. The Hebrews took God’s command to be fruitful and multiply seriously.
Second, having a large family was a means of increasing one’s wealth and sphere of influence.
Third, having numerous wives was a safeguard against temptation. Hebrew men generally did not have sex with their wives during their pregnancies¾that would have been a waste of valuable sperm. The Hebrews also believed that a nursing mother should avoid sex because it would dilute the quality of her milk. These prohibitions would have resulted in lengthy intervals of abstinence for men with only one wife.
Is monogamy better than polygamy?
Although some Christians reluctantly concede that the Bible allows for polygamy, they are also quick to argue that monogamy is still better than polygamy.
Really? Would it have been better for Israel if God had prohibited polygamy? If God had prohibited polygamy in Israel, they wouldn’t have been as populous and may have died out. If God had prohibited polygamy in Israel, many women would not have been provided for and probably would have turned to prostitution. If polygamy were allowed today, surely the divorce rate would go way down. Instead of trading a wife in for a newer model, the Bible allowed a man to take a second wife. Also, I’ve spoken with many men who complain because they want sex more frequently than their wives. Wouldn’t it be better if they could simply take a second wife instead of having an affair?
Another factor to take into consideration is that as women get older, they lose their physical beauty, while some say men get more distinguished with age. Although it may be considered selfish for a man to desire a more attractive wife when his wife loses her youthful looks, the entire aging process would not have occurred if Eve hadn’t offered Adam the forbidden fruit. Death entered the world when Adam sinned (1Co 15:21; Ge 3:19b). Although Adam died spiritually, he also died physically. True, he didn’t drop dead the instant he disobeyed God. But his disobedience did set the process of dying in motion. Today we call this process the aging process, but in reality, it should be called the dying process.
Is the church’s marriage
to Christ a monogamous union?
Others object to polygamy because they believe it violates the analogy of Jesus being married to the church. However, there is an obvious fallacy with that argument. Although it is true that Jesus has only one wife¾the church¾that one wife is composed of many people. Also, since the Greek word for wife can be translated “wives,” it is not inaccurate to refer to Christians as the “wives” of Christ.
God portrayed Himself as the Husband of two wives, Samaria and Jerusalem (Eze 23). Even if this was just an analogy, God would never depict Himself as a polygamist if polygamy were a sin. God cannot sin.
Some claim Jesus was denouncing polygamy in Luke 16:18. Jesus said anyone who divorces his wife without just cause and marries another is committing adultery. However, this says nothing about a man remaining married while entering holy matrimony with a second wife. Jesus was not implying that the Law of Moses, which allowed for polygamy, was in error. He was simply demonstrating that many in His day were misinterpreting the Mosaic Law regarding divorce. God intended marriage to be a permanent commitment from the beginning. Surely Jesus would have considered polygamy a moral option since it complied with the Law.
Today, we consider serial monogamy a moral option. It is now perfectly acceptable for a person to marry and divorce, then remarry and divorce again. Isn’t it ironic? If all these people were to stay married, while engaging in either a polygamous lifestyle or a group marriage lifestyle, then we would become morally outraged. Talk about a classic example of swallowing a camel while straining out a gnat!
Is polygamy just a “Mormon heresy”?
Another objection to polygamy is that it is simply a heresy perpetuated by Mormonism and should be rejected on that basis alone. Let me state that I am not a Mormon (or a polygamist) and never have been. I have not quoted the Book of Mormon to support polygamy. I have quoted the Bible. Some argue that the Mormons have discontinued polygamy because they have seen the error of their ways. But a more honest evaluation is that the Mormon Church has simply denounced polygamy as a means of avoiding persecution, while allowing statehood for Utah.
What’s wrong with pleasure?
Since God approved of ancient men having sex with numerous women for the purpose of procreation, then wouldn’t God equally approve of modern men having sex with numerous women simply for the purpose of pleasure? Isn’t pleasure just as much a purpose for sex as procreation?
When the man said to his lover, “How much more pleasing is your love than wine,” I doubt if his main concern was for procreation (SS 4:10).
Yet some conclude that God made sex strictly for procreation. Augustine believed that even if a couple is married, intercourse should only be for procreation¾never gratification. According to Augustine: “We should not condemn marriage because of the evil of lust, nor should we praise lust because of the good of marriage.” 4
Although few Protestants today hold to Augustine’s view, one explanation heard repeatedly as to why there will be no sex in Heaven is that there will no longer be any need to reproduce. However, just because God intends to take out the crib, this does not give us the license to assume He also intends to remove the playpen.
Is there a future for plural marriages?
According to Philip Kilbride, a professor of anthropology at Bryn Mawr College, “Part of our problem today is our narrow view of what constitutes a proper family form. Absolute monogamy and the nuclear family of husband, wife and children should by no means be seen as the only or even as the ideal form of family life.” During an interview, Kilbride said that the prevalent societal mores that anything goes have led to a fracturing of traditional family life: rampant divorce, a high rate of single mothers and absentee fathers, children bounced from one home to the next in an ever-increasing network of step-families. “Surely,” Kilbride says, “there are some cases where plural marriage could be a solution.”
So what does the Bible “REALLY” say about polygamy?
Nowhere does the Bible condemn polygamy. Many Old Testament patriarchs were polygamous. God gave David his wives. God even referred to Himself as a polygamist.
The Greek and Hebrew words for wife can just as easily be translated as wives. The “husband of one wife” qualification in 1 Timothy 3:2 can be interpreted several different ways. This only applies to men seeking a high position in the church. As long as a man does not divorce his first wife to marry a second, and as long as a man is financially able to provide for all his wives, there is no prohibition against polygamy.
The New Testament moves from Law to Grace, which is generally a trend towards restrictions being removed, not of new restrictions being added. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the rules regulating polygamy have been reversed.
All sex, polygamous or monogamous, must always be responsible. It must never violate the rights and dignity of another.
God is not a respecter of persons. There is no favoritism in God’s eyes between males and females. Therefore, there is no valid reason why it would be wrong for a woman to also have multiple sex partners, just as long as her behavior is totally responsible and does not violate the rights of anyone else.
In the final analysis, it all boils down to loving your neighbors as yourself.
 Westermann, Claus. Genesis 1-11: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House. 1984, p. 233.
Zuck, Roy B. Vital Biblical Issues. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Resources, 1994, pp. 197-8.
2 Calvin, John. Commentaries on the First Epistle to Timothy, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 21. Translation by William Pringle, 22 volumes. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981, p. 77.
3 Carter, Melinda. “Panel discusses polygamy in Africa.” Kansas State Collegian. Student Publications, Incorporated: Kansas State University, April 24, 1995
4 Augustine, Aurelius. The Evil of Lust does not take away the Good of Marriage. On Marriage and Concupiscence. Chapter 8 <http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-05/npnf1-05-27.htm#P3871_1466999>.
the sin of
adam and evE
“The eyes of them both were opened, and they realized they were naked” (Ge 3:7).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about THE SIN OF ADAM AND EVE, and what many people think the Bible says about the sin of Adam and Eve are two different things.
The story of Eden depicts the human tragedy of how our original parents forfeited paradise by allowing a crafty serpent to entice them with the fruit of the forbidden knowledge of good and evil. The disastrous consequences of their actions plunged mankind into a cesspool of worldwide sin and corruption known in theological terms as The Fall (Ge 1:26-4:1).
(New International Version)
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground¾everything that has the breath of life in it¾I give every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning¾the sixth day.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens¾ 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not yet sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground¾ 7 the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. 8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground¾trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
18 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Temptation and sin
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" 12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me¾she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
Banishment from the garden
23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man." 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Throughout the history of biblical interpretation, it has been widely accepted that whatever the sin of Adam and Eve was, it had something to do with sex.
Today, however, it has become unfashionable to interpret the forbidden fruit as a sexual metaphor. So, the common approach today is to regard all the elements of this story as totally literal. In other words, Adam and Eve ate a literal piece of fruit, perhaps an apple, from a literal tree after being tempted by a literal talking snake.
Contrary to popular opinion, the case for taking such a wooden approach is both weak and problematic. Anyone who honestly examines the text will soon become painfully cognizant of the obvious. Either the author of the Eden account intended many elements to be understood symbolically¾or¾the entire narrative falls flat on its face, entangled in an endless web of contradictions and absurdities. Once we understand the symbolism, we’ll also grasp what the story is trying to tell us.
Some people would have us believe that if we try to interpret this account symbolically, we are free to run amuck and make the narrative mean whatever we want. That is simply not true. The Bible interprets itself and explains its own symbols. Obscure Scriptures can be understood in the light of other Scriptures that are clear.
We must also take into consideration the cultural context of the original audience. Words and figures of speech continually change from one generation to the next. Our task is to determine what the author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, meant to communicate to the original listeners he was addressing. If we do not comply with these fundamental rules of biblical interpretation, we will not do justice to the text.
Keeping this in mind, let’s discover why numerous top theologians throughout the centuries have interpreted the story of The Fall as a saga of sexual seduction. It’s my conclusion that their rationale is both theologically sound and logically irrefutable.
Unfortunately, however, this is today’s typical mindset. I’ll often ask people if they believe the original sin was the eating of a piece of literal fruit. And nine times out of ten, this is their response: “No,” they’ll say, “I don’t believe the original sin was the eating of a piece of fruit. I believe the original sin was that Adam and Eve disobeyed God.”
Now wait a minute. What kind of an answer is that? Although I wholeheartedly agree that it is a sin to disobey God and that Adam and Eve did indeed disobey God, isn’t it also true that all sin is in some way being disobedient to God? To say that the sin of Adam and Eve was that they disobeyed God is like saying that the sin of Adam and Eve was that they sinned. It doesn’t say anything.
The bottom line is, most Christians today believe that Adam and Eve did eat a literal piece of fruit. Oh, it may not have been an apple. It may have been a banana or some other kind of fruit. But whatever that fruit was, some people will fight tooth and nail, insisting that the forbidden fruit was literal.
For many, the suggestion that this is a metaphor is heretical. Yet there are other references in the Bible that everyone understands as metaphors. We all agree that the Lord was not “literally” a lamb. And only a simpleton would argue that the Bible is “literally” a lamp for our feet. These are obviously figures of speech. Likewise, the symbolic nature of many elements of the Eden narrative would have been obvious to an ancient Hebrew.
Problems with the literal interpretation
Let’s evaluate a few reasons why a literal interpretation of the forbidden fruit is bothersome.
First, it contradicts what the Bible says elsewhere about God’s sense of justice. According to an ancient Hebrew saying, “A man’s punishment should always fit his crime.” As an example, everyone would agree that the punishment for jaywalking should be considerably less than the punishment for robbing a bank. It also follows that the punishment for robbing a bank should be less severe than the punishment for dropping a bomb on the White House.
God’s laws are similar. The penalty for stealing in Old Testament Israel was not as severe as the penalty for murder.
If we apply this to the sin of Adam and Eve, then God’s punishment should accurately reflect the seriousness of their crime.
What was their punishment? For starters, Eve and her female descendants would experience great pain in childbearing. As for Adam, the earth was cursed. From that point forward, hard labor became man’s lot in life, compelling him to toil long and hard. The man would now rule over the woman, while her desire would be towards him. Furthermore, death came into the world and humanity has been dying ever since.
Are we to assume that all of this is the result of two good people eating one bad apple? Surely there must be more to the story than this.
God is a God of justice (2Ch 12:6; Lev 19:15; Ps 9:8, 33:5). If all Adam and Eve were guilty of was eating a literal apple, then wasn’t God being a bit too harsh? Wouldn’t it be just as logical for God to execute a jaywalker?
Sure, God warned them of the consequences. But why was eating this fruit such a terrible thing? What kind of a father would punish his children this harshly for simply putting their hands in a cookie jar?
James Barr said it best: "What a fuss about a mere apple!" The eating of an apple does not belong in the same category as murder or armed robbery.
Other critics share Barr’s sentiments. One complaint is that the story doesn't carry any weighty message. There are no narrative slants or rhetorical devices to make the reader feel fear, guilt, or sorrow.
The most logical explanation is that the Eden narrative is using symbolic language to convey a very profound truth. Only by understanding the symbolism can we fully appreciate the seriousness of the offense. Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai explains it this way:
The biblical text of Genesis deliberately obscures the monstrous secret of Adam's sin. The first man asked that his sin not be revealed to the world. The true nature of the great sin is concealed in that tree in the Garden of Eden.
A literal interpretation also contradicts what God said about the goodness of His creation. Upon completion of the heavens and the earth, the very first thing God did was to announce that everything (not some things) He had made was very good (Ge 1:31). However, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not good. It was good and evil. How do we explain that?
The answer, as we shall see, is that the tree was a symbol¾for Satan. The majority of biblical references to trees use a tree either symbolically or allegorically to refer either to a person or to a group of persons. In order for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to become evil, it had to choose evil. God does not create evil. Literal trees do not choose evil; people do. God did not create an evil tree or, for that matter, an evil serpent.
When God originally made Satan, He created an archangel who was very good. It wasn’t until later that Satan corrupted himself by choosing to do evil (Isa 14:12-17; Eze 28:11-19). Both the Pharaoh of Egypt and the nation of Assyria are likened to great trees (Eze 31). The text also mentions the trees of Eden. If Satan was the power behind these wicked men, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that a tree could be used symbolically to refer to Satan. In Hebrew, to “know” or to have knowledge of something means to fully experience it. Who else but Satan has fully experienced both good and evil? Therefore, only Satan can be referred to as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Most Christian scholars agree that the serpent in the story is Satan. Yet there are several reasons why we should not assume that Satan originally appeared to Eve in the literal form of a snake.
Satan is described as perfect in beauty (Eze 28:11). The Devil disguises himself as an angel of light (2Co 11:14). The serpent in the story did not take on the form of a literal snake until after Adam and Eve sinned. God turned the serpent into a creature that would crawl on its belly (Ge 3:14). God could not have done this if the serpent already crawled on its belly. The inference, then, is that prior to the curse, the snake walked upright and had arms and legs, as many commentators point out.
Leviathan is referred to as a serpent (Isa 27:1). This serpent was not a snake. It was a dragon.
Throughout Scripture, Satan is referred to as both a serpent and a dragon. For example, in the book of Revelation, Satan is referred to four times as a serpent and thirteen times as a dragon.
Satan did not originally appear to Eve in the form of a snake. Why risk frightening Eve away?
Satan would have been infinitely more persuasive as a handsome angel of light. God often describes things the way they really are and not as they appear to us. Satan probably appeared to Eve as a man “pleasant to the eyes” (Ge 3:6).
Satan is described as being clothed with an array of beautiful precious gems¾rubies, emeralds, sapphires, gold, etc.(Eze 28:13). Snakes are renowned for their beautiful skin. By putting these texts together, it’s logical that Satan appeared to Eve in the body of a man but with the skin of a snake.
Artwork from Babylon and the Near East portray their gods as half-human and half-snake. Although many dismiss these findings as pagan superstitions, there must be factual reasons why these artistic renderings are so prevalent.
Why was Satan turned into a snake?
After God turned the serpent into a creature that would crawl on its belly, Eve had her eyes opened. For the first time, she realized the serpent was a cold-hearted snake. But why turn Satan into a snake? Why not a cockroach or a pig? Is there any symbolic significance to the snake? Here’s what The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says:
It is abundantly clear from a wide range of evidence that the snake was a symbol of deity and of fertility powers in the ancient Near East. In Egypt, the veneration of serpents in one form or another was common. The snake served as a religious symbol in Mesopotamia, Canaan and early Hebrew Palestine.
From The Cult of the Serpent by Balaji Mundkur:
The snake has "the distinction of being one of the most constant and invariable symbols of the phallus." Apparently, to some symbol makers, with scholars as well as lay people expressing their traditions, the serpent's entire body suggests itself as a super-penis. There is no question but that the serpent, in some cultures, has incited a powerful genital symbolism ancillary to the cult of fertility and the deities that preside over it.
Weston La Barre gives many examples of the snake as a universal phallic symbol. An abundance of evidence has been found in cultures from both the Old and New Worlds. Documentation exists in Mexico, Egypt, India, Greece, Rome, China and the Far East. According to La Barre, instead of asking, “Where is the snake a phallic symbol?” the question would be better phrased, “Where is the snake not a phallic symbol?”
The snake has also been a symbol of wisdom. When Eve saw the forbidden fruit, somehow she understood it was desirable for gaining wisdom (Ge 3:6). Canaanite mythology is filled with stories of magical trees that endowed the wisdom of the gods to those who partook of its fruit. According to these myths, a person acquired wisdom by having sex with a temple prostitute. Having sex with a prostitute was a means of worshipping one’s favorite god or goddess. The prostitute’s body was perceived as a temple for their gods.
So, the serpent and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are two different symbols that both represent the Devil. Dual symbolism is not uncommon in the Bible. In Genesis 41:26, Joseph interpreted a dream for the Pharaoh. Seven ugly cows and seven worthless ears of grain both represented seven years of famine. According to verse 32, the reason God gave two different symbols to represent the same thing is to add extra emphasis to the certainty of the symbol.
The idea of a literal forbidden fruit is further discredited by James 1:13. Here the Bible informs us that God never tempts anyone. Nevertheless, many believe God made an incredibly tempting tree, placed it prominently in the midst of the garden, and then instructed Adam and Eve not to partake of its goodies in order to test them. According to this theory, God did all of this knowing good and well that Adam and Eve were two sitting ducks who didn’t have a prayer.
Another Achilles’ heal to the literal fruit theory is Matthew 15:11. According to Jesus, nothing that goes into a man’s mouth defiles him. Not only did the sin of Adam and Eve defile them, it defiled the entire human race.
Everything we eat goes in one orifice and out the other (Mt 15:17). Oh, occasionally people die from food poisoning. But whatever the forbidden fruit of Eden was, it was not laced with cyanide.
All non-sexual sins are outside of the body. People who sin sexually sin against their bodies (1Co 6:18). We must conclude that Adam and Eve sinned against their bodies when we evaluate the consequences. These Scriptures alone should sufficiently lay to rest once and for all any misguided notions that there is even a remote possibility that the forbidden fruit could have been literal.
Reasons why Adam’s sin
was a sexual transgression
Now that the wrecking ball of common sense has shattered any possible delusions of the forbidden fruit being literal, let’s examine the evidence that will guide us step-by-step to the only logical conclusion available. Let’s discover why numerous scholars throughout history have deduced that the sin of Adam and Eve was a sexual transgression.
In the vast majority of biblical passages where fruit and tree appear, these words are unmistakably being used metaphorically. A good rule of thumb for interpreting Hebrew literature is, if you’re in doubt about whether something should be interpreted literally, it should probably be interpreted metaphorically.
One indication of this is when Eve saw that the tree was good for food (Ge 3:6). How can anyone tell that something is good to eat by simply looking at it? The Bible says she saw the tree was desirable to make one wise. How could anyone tell just by looking at a tree that its fruit would make one wise?
After they both ate the fruit, the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew they were naked (Ge 3:7).
Let’s be rational. Does God really expect us to accept the notion that immediately after Adam and Eve ate some magical piece of literal fruit, their eyes were miraculously opened and they suddenly discovered their nakedness? Isn’t it more logical to believe that Adam and Eve became ashamed of their private parts because they did something shameful with those private parts?
Take a hypothetical example. A married couple has always had a fantastic sex life. Then out of the blue, the husband notices his wife becoming extremely uncomfortable displaying herself unclothed in his presence. Mrs. Uninhibited Nymphomaniac suddenly metamorphosises into Her Royal Shyness. Overnight, she becomes as cold as ice. What’s the immediate diagnosis? Most men would strongly suspect that their wife had been to the cheating side of town.
Although the apple is universally regarded as the forbidden fruit that Eve offered to Adam, it’s doubtful that the apple was regarded as anything more than a symbol in the early church. The apple has a long history of symbolic meaning, much of which is sexual. According to ancient mythology, Dionysus was both the creator of the apple and the god of intoxication. Dionysus presented the apple to Aphrodite, from which she derived her powers as the goddess of love. Erotic associations likened apples to female breasts, while the core of an apple cut in halves was associated with a woman’s vulva.
The story of the Fall is jam-packed with sexual innuendo. Before the Fall, the couple were unashamed of their nudity. After the Fall, they were paranoid with shame.
References to fruits and gardens have been used in literature throughout the ages to create metaphorical sexual imagery. The Song of Songs is just one of many prime examples. According to the famous literary critic C. S. Lewis, the garden as a metaphor represents a celebration of idealized sexual passion. In ancient times, rich men would build enclosed gardens as a romantic place to entice a lover. Today, we use the expression “He slept with her” as a metaphor for having sex. But in reality, it is possible to have sex with a woman without sleeping with her. It is also possible to sleep with a woman with having sex with her.
“Yada” implies that the forbidden knowledge
of good and evil could have been sexual
The Hebrew word yada means to know. And it can refer to having sexual relations. In King James terminology, when a man knew his wife, it meant that he engaged in intercourse with her and knew her intimately. The idea that the Hebrew was trying to convey was that a man knew a woman in the most intimate way possible through sexual union.
The word yada is used five times in this narrative. Yada is first used in Genesis 3:5. The serpent says to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God ‘knows’ [yada] that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God ‘knowing’ [yada] good and evil.” Then in verse 7, after Adam and Eve had both eaten of the forbidden fruit, the Scripture says their eyes were opened, and they ‘knew’ [yada] they were naked. In verse 22, God said the man had become like one of us, ‘knowing’ [yada] good and evil. Then, after God drove them out of the garden, Adam ‘knew’ Eve [yada] and she gave birth to Cain, the world’s first murderer (Ge 4:1).
Adam and Eve acquired knowledge of good and evil¾ knowledge God did not want them to possess. What kind of knowledge was it?
Most commentators concur that they acquired decision-making ability regarding good and evil. But this explanation seems inadequate when we consider that they already had that ability before the Fall. The Bible continually instructs us to choose between good and evil. Whatever their sin was, it caused them to become like God in some way, it caused them to be ashamed of their nakedness, and it caused Eve to become the Mother of All Living.
So what was the sin of Adam and Eve? According to the Talmud, the entire bloodline of the human race became adulterated when Adam and Eve engaged in an orgy with Satan and his demons. According to scholars like Ivan Engnell, man acquired procreative powers as a result of Adam’s transgression. If this is true, then it logically follows that God would restrict man’s sexual freedom.
So, what does the Bible “REALLY” say about the sin of Adam and Eve?
If we allow the Bible to interpret itself, then we come to the inevitable conclusion that God would not have deliberately created an evil tree designed to tempt Adam and Eve beyond their capacity. And, if their punishment really did fit their crime, then Adam and Eve did not just eat a bad apple. Instead, they allowed the bad apple, Satan himself, to adulterate the bloodline of the entire human race.
So, as a memorial of Eve’s sexual union with the serpent, God turned a creature pleasant to the eyes of Eve into a universal phallic symbol that would crawl on it’s belly and eat dust. If the original sin was a sexual transgression, then it’s only fitting that restricting man’s sexual freedom would be an appropriate punishment for this crime. The institution of marriage provides such a restriction.
The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled at Calvary. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, crushed the head of the serpent. And as a result, paradise has now been reclaimed. Therefore, let us now “eat freely from all the good fruit of the garden” (Ge 2:16).
 Barr, James. The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.
 ¾ In the beginning: Bereshith, from the Zohar. London; Santa Barbara: Concord Grove Press, 1983, p. 19a.
 ¾ The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. New York, NY: Abingdon Press, 1962, vol. 4, p. 290.
 Mundkur, Balaji. The Cult of the Serpent. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 172-3, 1983.
 LaBarre, Weston. They Shall Take Up Serpents. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, pp. 74-5, 1962.
 Biedermann, Hans: translated by James Hulbert. Dictionary of Symbolism. New York, NY and United Kingdom: Facts On File, Inc., 1992, p. 16.
“I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Mt 3:9b).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about PROCREATION, and what many people think the Bible says about procreation are two different things.
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “If God had asked me for my opinion, I would have recommended that the Creator continue forming mankind from clay.”
There is no question that God could have done it that way. God’s plan to populate this planet does not depend on mere mortals copulating. God is capable of producing humans individually out of stones (Mt 3:9b). After all, angels were created individually (Col 1:16; Ps 148:5), not through procreation (Mt 22:28-30), and man is now a little lower than the angels (Heb 2:7).
God not only could have populated the earth without sex, but most Christian authors prior to Augustine believed He would have if Adam hadn’t sinned. According to Margaret R. Miles:
Most Christian authors before Augustine thought that procreation by sexual intercourse was initiated by sin and would not have occurred if Adam and Eve had not sinned.1
Biblical scholar Ivan Engnell also concludes that producing offspring through sexual relations was a result of The Fall. According to Engnell, Adam and Eve became like gods because they acquired the power to procreate as a result of eating from the tree of 'knowledge.’ Engnell says when Adam and Eve ceased to observe God’s prohibition, they secured divine knowledge, something they did not have before. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, they knew they were naked, and they became mutually ashamed of their nakedness, covering themselves.
That the nakedness and the shame form a central motive is to be seen also from Yahweh's words in Genesis 3:11. Of the utmost importance, moreover, is the connection of the curse upon the woman with the sexual: she shall bring forth sons, though in pain, and, although her husband is to be her ruler, her desire shall be to him, as we see in Genesis 3:16. Central too is the context in Genesis 4:1. Adam knows Eve, she conceives and bears a son of whom she says: “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.”2
Some commentators believe Eve was boasting. What she meant was, “Hey, get a load of me! I have become a goddess because I have produced a man, just like God.”
However these words are interpreted, their ultimate meaning, according to Engnell and others, is “... Adam is now like the ‘gods’ because he is now capable of begetting.” Engnell is quick to point out, however, that the text is not talking about sexual life per se. Whether or not Adam and Eve had intercourse before eating from the tree of knowledge is not the issue here. Instead, Engnell explains that “the whole stress is laid on the ability to procreate.”
This is the decisive fact: Adam and Eve in Eden have not been allowed earlier to reproduce offspring.3
Westermann agrees that Engnell's interpretation, unlike most other theories, explains the whole sentence “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” because the ability to beget makes a person like God. H. Gressman says that begetting life was the knowledge God wanted to withhold from Adam and Eve because it would make them like God. Gressman says, “begetting and sparking life is a divine craft.” H. Schmidt also agrees. Schmidt says, “knowledge of the secret of begetting is something divine.”
But didn’t God command
man to be fruitful and multiply?
But if this evaluation is accurate, then why did God instruct man to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Ge 1:28)?
There’s a simple explanation. Genesis records two accounts of creation. The first account is sometimes referred to as the P account (Ge 1:1-2:3). The second account is sometimes referred to as the J account (Ge 2:4-4:1). Even though the instruction to be fruitful and multiply appears in the Bible before the second account of creation, many scholars believe that the instruction was not given until after the Fall. Joan Timmerman explains it this way:
The P account was written 550 BC, after the time of the captivity. Here the admonition to be fruitful and multiply is a major emphasis of the text and it dominates the P account. After the exile, when the chosen people needed to return to build the temple, an increased population was absolutely essential for them. There was a great social importance for preserving and propagating the children of Israel after the exile. This made certain rules of behavior, especially those with regard to procreation, both practical and necessary. These ideas were rooted in the social and cultural needs of the time.4
The J account puts the emphasis on companionship and the uniting of a man and woman as one flesh. The J account, in its final form, was written 950 BC¾400 years before the P account. The reversal of their appearance in the Bible was the work of a later redactor (editor). There is nothing in the J account about man having the ability to procreate until after the Fall.
Whenever the New Testament writers spoke of sexual relations, they always referred back to the J account. They always spoke of the unification of a man and a woman through intercourse. The King James uses the word “cleave.” The New Testament never refers to sex in terms of being fruitful and multiplying. In fact, the term “be fruitful and multiply” is nowhere in the New Testament. There is no New Testament admonition that Christians should procreate and have lots of children.
The serpent as a fertility symbol
The historical significance of the serpent gives additional support to our premise. Here’s what The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says:
It is abundantly clear from a wide range of evidence that the snake was a symbol of deity and of fertility powers in the ancient Near East. In Egypt, the veneration of serpents in one form or another was common…
The snake served as a religious symbol in Mesopotamia, Canaan and early Hebrew Palestine.5 Balaji Mundkur says:
There is no question but that the serpent, in some cultures, has incited a powerful genital symbolism ancillary to the cult of fertility and the deities that preside over it.6
Weston La Barre gives countless examples of the snake as a fertility god/ phallic symbol. According to La Barre, an abundance of evidence has been found in both the Old and New Worlds. Documentation exists in Mexico, Egypt, India, Greece, Rome, China and the Far East.7
The serpent was worshipped in Canaan. According to Canaanite mythology, rain was the result of Baal, sometimes symbolized by a serpent, having a heavenly orgasm after copulating with Mother Earth. There was a close connection in primitive agrarian societies between the fertility gods they worshipped and the fertility of crops and cattle.
To insure a bountiful harvest, the Canaanites indulged in elaborate orgies choreographed to induce their rain god to water their crops. To get everyone into the appropriate festive mood, the guests would eat fruits widely acknowledged as aphrodisiacs. For instance, apples have long been known for their ability to stimulate sexual desire.
This is also true of figs. Ancient Greece celebrated the arrival of a new crop of figs with ritual copulation. We recall from the Eden narrative that Adam and Eve covered themselves with aprons made from fig leaves.
The Greek goddess Aphrodite (Venus was her Roman counterpart) was closely associated with Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of love. Asherah was the most famous Canaanite goddess. As the wife of Baal, Asherah was revered as both the Mother of All Living and Mother Earth.
One bizarre example of snake worship concerns women who were barren. If a Canaanite woman was barren, the remedy was to have her recline in a snake pit while slimy pit vipers slithered all over her nude body. It was believed these reptilian gods of fertility would magically infuse her with generative powers.
Perhaps this explains why Asherah was often portrayed in her birthday suit with a snake. Invariably, the snake’s head pointed to her reproductive organs. Since the Israelites were neighbors to the Canaanites, not only were Canaan’s practices common knowledge among the Jewish people, but many Jews were heavily influenced by them. These Jews would have also recognized these elements¾the nude Mother of All Living, the serpent god of fertility, fruits with aphrodisiac qualities¾as part of the Eden narrative. The struggle to uproot Canaanite customs among the Hebrews was a long and difficult battle.
J. Alberto Soggin states quite emphatically that the elements woven into the story of Adam and Eve are obviously of a sexual nature. Soggin agrees with Engnell¾sex within marriage is not the issue. Obviously, the Bible approves of marital intercourse. Instead, Soggin argues rather convincingly that the same sexual deviation that took place in the Canaan fertility cults also caused man’s downfall in Eden.
Because of Eve’s transgression, women experience pain in childbirth (Ge 3:16). But was pain the “real punishment”? Or wasn’t the “real punishment” the entire process of childbearing, a process which results in pain? Science confirms it would be virtually impossible for a woman to give birth without experiencing pain. If God is just, then Eve’s punishment fit her crime. Childbearing is a result of sex. Therefore, her sin must have been sexual also. How is justice being served to punish Eve with painful childbearing if all she did was eat an apple? Wouldn’t that be a little melodramatic? Besides, no woman has ever gotten pregnant as a result of eating an apple.
It is noteworthy that it was not until after Eve had sinned that she was given the title Mother of All Living. Remember, this was a well-known alias for Asherah. Again, the Hebrews would have been very familiar with this fact. Is it any wonder, then, that the belief was common and widespread among the ancient Jews that the original sin was a sexual transgression?
Why did Adam rename his wife Eve?
Before Eve sinned, Adam named her Issa, meaning “of man.” The English word “woman” (womb-man) can be misleading because it implies she already had reproductive capabilities. In the narrative, however, procreative capabilities aren’t mentioned until after the Fall. Only then does the man rename his wife Eve, a name that denotes her new status as the mother of all living. Something must have happened in the interim to necessitate that name change.
Unlike today, names in biblical times had great meaning. If someone’s name was changed, there was a good reason. Two other examples of name changes include Abraham and Jacob. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham because he was to become the father of many nations (Ge 17:5). Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after he engaged in a wrestling match and overcame (Ge 32:28).
What does Eve’s name mean?
The Hebrew word for Eve is Hawwah. Many commentators believe Eve’s name was a pun which meant Serpent Mother. There is an Aramaic word very similar to Hawwah that means serpent. In other words, some scholars believe Eve became The Mother of All Living as a direct result of sinning with the serpent. According to Bruce Vawter:
Whatever may have once been the sense of the “hawwah” (serpent mother = mother goddess?) which the Yahwist decided to read as “mother of all the living,” and whatever the route by which the term came to him in the first place, he may very well have recognized its etymological appropriateness for the present context. What the woman is in her historical state, after all, for good as well as for ill, she owes to the intervention of the serpent.8
Now let’s put two and two together. The serpent was a phallic symbol and a fertility god. Eve became the Mother of All Living as a direct result of sinning with the serpent. So what was Eve’s sin? I know this next statement will sound rather bizarre, but the sin of Adam and Eve involved a forbidden use of sex with Satan and his demons. According to F.R. Tennant:
It is beyond question that various legends concerning the monstrous intercourse of Adam and Eve with demons, and especially of Eve with the serpent or Satan, were both widespread and ancient among the Jews. The Talmud describes a contamination of the race, which is ascribed to the serpent's intercourse with Eve, and to the poison, which she derived from him.9
In other words, the sin of Adam and Eve, which has been veiled in symbolic language for thousands of years, is simply this: as a result of engaging in a fertility ritual similar to Canaanite orgies, Adam and Eve committed adultery by adulterating their bodies and the bodies of humanity with the forbidden fruit of Satan and his demons!
How Augustine influenced sexual attitudes
Before Augustine, most Christian authors believed sexual reproduction was a result of the Fall. Then, in the fourth century AD, Augustine puts a different spin on the story. His ideas have influenced the sexual attitudes of countless millions.
According to Augustine, God designed sex strictly for procreation. All sexual pleasure, even within the bonds of holy matrimony, was an evil result of the Fall. To quote Augustine:
What they afterward effected in propagation, that is the good of marriage. But what they first veiled through shame, that is the evil of concupiscence. Since, therefore, marriage effects some good even out of that evil, it has whereof to glory. But since the good cannot be effected without the evil, it has reason for feeling shame. We ought not to condemn marriage because of the evil of lust, nor must we praise lust because of the good of marriage.10
Augustine believed that God intended human reproduction to be solely an act of the will and never an act of passion. Yes, Augustine believed God intended sex for reproduction, but he also believed sexual desire and sexual pleasure was strictly a result of sin. According to him, the forbidden fruit was evil because it acted as an aphrodisiac. Sexual passion, which Augustine referred to as concupiscence, was now passed on from generation to generation.
So prior to Augustine, most Christian authors rightly believed that God made sex for pleasure, not for reproduction, and that the capacity for human procreation was a result of The Fall. Then for a thousand years after Augustine, most Christians erroneously believed the exact opposite¾God made sex strictly for procreation. Christians now believed that the capacity for humans to experience sexual pleasure was a result of The Fall.
Prior to his conversion, Augustine had several mistresses. He sought sexual gratification with little regard for what was moral. Although he later renounced his wayward lifestyle, those prior experiences must have had an enormous influence on Augustine’s sexual attitudes.
Apparently, it never occurred to Augustine that it would be extremely incongruent for God to punish Adam and Eve by making sex pleasurable. That would almost be like a father punishing his children by giving them lollipops.
On the other hand, if the sin of Adam and Eve was the acquisition of procreative powers, as Engnell and others assert, then it is logical to believe that God punished humanity by restricting sexual pleasure and limiting it to the boundaries of marriage. This would also explain the dichotomy expressed in the Bible between marriage as an honorable institution and marriage as a worldly institution that will pass away.
The sexual subjugation of
women throughout the ages
Due to both the influence of Augustine and a lack of scientific knowledge, it's not surprising that for many years, innumerable women believed they were not supposed to enjoy sex. The only position for marital coitus approved by the church was the missionary position.
We now know that the missionary position is the position least likely to give a woman an orgasm. It is also the position most likely to produce conception.
In previous generations, women were not expected to have an orgasm, much less pleasure in sex. Intercourse with their husband was their conjugal debt. And, with a few exceptions, women lived up to these expectations.
Now we know that women are capable of having multiple orgasms, while experiencing a great intensity of pleasure in a variety of positions. For centuries, women have been conditioned to inhibit their sexuality.
Today, there is much evidence to prove that there is a correlation between good health and female orgasms. Even after menopause, it is important for a woman to have orgasms, not just for pleasure, but to maintain good health. We now know that after a woman reaches menopause, her ovaries no longer produce hormones. Unless a post-menopausal woman experiences regular orgasms, there is no other mechanism in her body for releasing androgen and estrogen, something vital for good health.
In spite of this overwhelming evidence, many still moralize that we should regress to the Dark Ages by disallowing intercourse for unmarried post-menopausal women.
Not until the last century has science realized that procreation is clearly not possible with most acts of intercourse. A woman is fertile far less often than not. An extraordinary number of fertilized ova, sometimes as high as 60 percent, are expelled in normal processes and are never implanted in the womb to develop into embryos. Isn't this a clear message from nature, telling us that sex within the human species is primarily for pleasure, not procreation?
Other clues that God intended
human sexuality primarily for pleasure
Joan Timmerman uncovers other clues from nature that indicate God intended human sexuality primarily for pleasure:
An important discovery of recent times is that we now know that the primary sex organ of the human body is the brain, not the genitals. And since the menstrual cycles do not control the human species, sexuality becomes a matter of thought, will, and especially imagination. In other words, to put it bluntly, if it's not happening between your ears, it won't be happening between your legs either. Now this is a revolutionary breakthrough in our understanding of sex because it totally obliterates all the dualistic notions of yesteryear that said that sex belongs exclusively to the body while spirit belongs exclusively to the mind. The truth is, unlike animals, instinct and biological drives alone do not insure the automatic operation of mating practices among humans. Human beings learn to interact. Therefore, sexual interaction is not intuitive for humans.11
As Timmerman points out:
It is precisely in our sexuality that we least resemble the animals. Unlike the animal kingdom, human beings are not a slave to the sexual demands of the reproductive cycle. The female animal cannot receive sexual penetration unless she is fertile. And as for the male animal, his desire is governed by the demands of instinct. Conversely, we humans can make love in season and out of season. And there is evidence that the sexual desire of the female human is greatest during periods when she is least likely to conceive. Why then have animals been used so often to determine what is natural for human beings? For it is primarily on that basis that procreation is seen as the natural end product of sex.
Female sexuality strongly indicates that pleasure is just as much a natural purpose for sex as is reproduction. Not only is it clear that in the human female her sexual capacity is separate from her reproductive cycle, but it's also clear from her female anatomy that nature intends pleasure to be a separate function from procreation. The clitoris has absolutely no function in regards to conception or birth. Yet, it is the source of a woman's most intense and heightened pleasure. So, if God did not intend for women to enjoy sex, as was once commonly believed, then God made a mistake.12
Why menstruation is
viewed negatively in the Bible
Throughout Scripture, from the animal sacrifices to Christ’s sacrifice, blood was shed to atone for sin. When a girl becomes a woman, the shedding of blood is a part of her menstrual cycle. Coincidence?
Even today, this monthly visitation is referred to as “the curse.” Is it possible that menstruation is a reminder of the curse placed on Eve?
Today, menstruation is seen as a natural biological process, a rite of passage where a girl becomes a woman and now has the capacity to become a mother as well. Nevertheless, the Bible does not hold a positive view of this monthly incident.
According to Leviticus 15:29-30, after a woman completed her monthly cycle, she was required by Mosaic Law to take two young pigeons or two doves to the priest for a sin offering. If she failed to comply, she received the death sentence. Does it compute that a woman should have to go through such a demeaning ritual if the menstruation cycle was something God built into the first woman prior to the Fall?
A Jewish woman was ceremonially unclean for seven days after giving birth (Lev 12:1-2). If a Jewish husband and wife had sex during the wife’s menstrual cycle, both parties were scheduled for execution (Lev 20:18). In fact, they were not even allowed to hold hands. Today, we would consider those prohibitions superstitious.
A well-known verse says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Eze 18:4). One sin worthy of death was sleeping with a wife during her period (v. 6). When Ezekiel and Jeremiah described something detestable, they used the example of a menstrual rag.
Did God have a “Plan B” for Adam and Eve?
Much of this book addresses the question of what sex would be like in a perfect world. In other words, what rules of sexual ethics would exist today if Adam and Eve had not eaten the forbidden fruit yesterday?
Many theologians believe such an inquiry is futile. After all, since God is all-knowing, He knew man would fall. In fact, it was all part of His plan, allowing Christ to die and extend grace to humanity. Therefore, according to their position, God had no need for a “Plan B.”
I do not know if Augustine believed in a “Plan B. I do know that Augustine taught that before The Fall, man had the ability to either sin or to not sin, while after The Fall, man no longer had the ability to refrain from sin. Man had become totally deprived. It seems logical that if man had the ability to refrain from sinning prior to the Fall, then God must have had a “Plan B.”
I doubt that anyone knows for certain whether God had a “Plan B.” I believe God is “all-knowing” because that is what the Bible says (Ps 139:1-6; Pr 5:21). However, I doubt that anyone knows exactly what it means to be “all-knowing.” Calvinists say God knew from the beginning the identity of those who would spend eternity in Heaven. Some would even go so far as to say God knew from the beginning of time that I was going to eat a bowl of corn flakes at exactly 7:32 AM this morning.
Whether or not God knew from eternity what I would eat today or what Adam and Eve would eat yesterday could be debated until doomsday. Nevertheless, this inquiry into Original Sin is important. Christians are the pioneers for a perfect world, which is Paradise restored. Christians are forgiven. They should not live like fallen creatures in a fallen world. They should live as if the Garden of Eden were here now.
So, what does the Bible “REALLY” say about procreation?
According to Engnell and others, Eve acquired procreative powers and received the title Mother of All Living because of her sexual sin with the serpent, the pagan god of fertility.
God could have populated the planet without sex. There are numerous indications He would have done exactly that if Adam and Eve had been obedient. Had they resisted temptation, mankind could have experienced total sexual freedom¾there would have been no reason for boundaries (i.e. marriage).
God gave Adam and Eve a choice. Eve lusted to acquire procreative powers, just like God. Once Eve became The Mother of All Living, sex could now be used for both pleasure and procreation¾for both good and evil. Therefore, in order for sex to be used responsibly, God needed to impose sexual limitations on mankind. That is why the marriage institution became a temporal intermediate necessity until the restoration of all things.
In the beginning, man was free to eat from every tree of the garden. There are numerous references found in both the Bible and in other literature where eating fruit from a tree is a euphemism for lovemaking. If that’s the case in the Eden narrative, then this is a clear endorsement by God for sexual variety.
As the lover says in the Song of Songs 7:7-8, “Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit. May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.”
1 Miles,.Margaret R. Carnal Knowing. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1991, p. 94.
2 Engnell, Ivan. ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Life’ in the Creation Story, Volume III of Supplements to Vestus Testamentum. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960, pp. 115-117.
3 Ibid. p. 116.
4 Timmerman, Joan. Thank God It’s Tuesday (audio recording). Kansas City, Missouri: National Catholic Reporter, 1982.
5 Buttrick, George Arthur¾Dictionary Editor. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962, vol. 4, p. 290.
6 Mundkur, Balaji. The Cult of the Serpent. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983, p. 173.
7 La Barre, Weston. They Shall Take Up Serpents. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1962, pp. 74-5.
8 Vawter, Bruce. On Genesis: A New Reading. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977, p. 87.
9 Tennant, F.R. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1968, p. 156.
10Augustine, Aurelius. The Evil of Lust does not take away the Good of Marriage. On Marriage and Concupiscence. Chapter 8,
11Timmerman, Joan. Thank God It’s Tuesday (audio recording). Kansas City, Missouri: National Catholic Reporter, 1982.
“Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on, those who have wives should live as though they had none. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1Co 7:27-29, 31).
What the Bible “REALLY” says about MARRIAGE, and what many people think the Bible says about marriage are two different things.
There is mass confusion over what marriage is, why God instituted marriage, when marriage was instituted, when marriage was to become obsolete, and what it means to marry Christ.
What does it mean to be married?
First, by what criteria does God determine if someone is truly married?
Today, many define marriage narrowly. If a couple is pronounced husband and wife in an official ceremony, they are “married.” Couples living together without a legal document are often ostracized, even though more than half of today’s newlyweds lived together before tying the knot.
In ancient Israel, marriage was neither a religious affair nor a public matter. Religious leaders and public officials did not pronounce couples husband and wife. Isaac and Rebekah became husband and wife when he brought her into his mother’s tent (Ge 24:67). Many of today’s wedding customs didn’t originate until long after the canonization of the Bible.
Some say that a marriage is not “official” unless there are two or more witnesses. With that kind of logic, if a single man and woman get stranded on a desert island, they cannot ever become husband and wife. Confusing, isn’t it? Yet these same people conclude that Adam and Eve were married. Hmm.
On the other hand, God did not always acknowledge two people who claimed to be married as actually being married. John the Baptist denounced Herod, saying it was unlawful for him to have taken his brother’s wife (Mt 14:6). Jesus did not acknowledge that the woman at the well was legally married to the man she was living with (Jn 4:17-18).
Love and marriage did not always
go together like a horse and carriage
According to Hebrew customs, the father usually chose a wife for his son. Marriages were typically consummated at a very early age. Sometimes the young girl’s consent was asked for, but usually the girl simply married according to her father’s wishes. In times of war, wives were often kidnapped as booty (Dt 21:10-14).
Hebrew wives were property. The Tenth Commandment states, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17).
The New Testament affirms a new and improved regard for the fairer sex. Jesus’ treatment of women was gentler and kinder than what was customary during that time period. Paul instructed husbands and wives to submit to each other, while maintaining the husband as the head of the wife (Eph 5:21-22).
There is no gender discrimination in respect to one’s status as a Christian (Gal 3:28).
For Old Testament Hebrews, having a large family was a great blessing. Remaining childless was a woman’s reproach. The mandate to be fruitful and multiply was not taken lightly. Having as many offspring as possible was an act of obedience, while remaining unmarried was evading one’s responsibility.
Standing in sharp contrast to this, the New Testament commends bachelors (1Co 7:38).
Paul’s appraisal of marriage
The Bible refers to marriage as honorable (Heb 13:4).
Even so, it is unbiblical to elevate marriage as the ultimate state. Paul even went so far as to say it is better to stay single (1Co 7:38).
A common argument, which attempts to discredit Paul, goes something like this: “Times have changed. Granted, singles may have been better off then, but not today. Persecution was ferocious in early Christian times. Besides, Paul erroneously predicted Jesus would return at any moment.”
There are problems with this appraisal. First, although early Christians did experience distress, that’s not unique. Times have always been stressful for Christians. Right now, more Christians are being persecuted than ever before. Approximately every three minutes somewhere in the world today, a believer is martyred for the sake of Christ. According to a report by David C. Barrett:
More than 160,000 believers were martyred in 1996, and countless others were subjected to unimaginable horrors. And the persecution appears to be escalating.
According to an article in Newsweek:
…in the 20th century alone, there were many times more martyrs¾especially under Hitler and Stalin¾than all the victims of the Caesars combined.
Paul’s point has not lost its validity.
Second, if it was good to remain single then because of Christ’s imminent return, wouldn’t it be even better to remain single now since the Second Coming is even closer?
Paul was not delusional. Believers of all ages are warned repeatedly in Scripture to always be prepared for the imminent return of Christ. That’s good advice, considering it’s impossible to predict with accuracy the timing of Christ’s return (Mt 24:36).
Either Paul’s words are reliable and given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit¾or¾they should not be a part of the canon of Scripture.
According to Roy B. Zuck:
Although Paul did refer to the present distress in 1 Corinthians 7:26, there is no reason to assume that he was referring to the great distress of Luke 21:23 preceding the Lord’s Second Coming. Paul used the same term elsewhere in reference to his distress in places like 2 Corinthians 6:4, and also 1 Thessalonians 3:7.
According to both Zuck and Calvin, Paul’s advice is as appropriate today for many Christians as it was back then. One reason is, singles have a distinct advantage in serving the Lord (1Co 7:32). Paul’s advice will continue to be pertinent into the future. Marriage will not exist in the ultimate eternal state¾the New Heaven and Earth (Mt 22:30).
Regardless of whether times are good or bad, the single state is preferable for many.
Why did God institute marriage?
Paul said, “He who marries does good, but he who does not marry does better” (1Co 7:38). Since it is preferable to be single, why did God institute marriage?
This next statement may come as a shocker¾The institution of marriage became a necessary restraint as a consequence of the Fall. It’s not that marriage is a necessary evil. But marriage became a necessity because of evil.
In a fallen world populated by a fallen humanity, marriage is a necessary institution. However, in a perfect world populated by sinless people, there is no reason for marriage to exist. The main reason Paul gave for a man to marry is as a safeguard from sexual immorality. “It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1Co 7:1-2). Sexual immorality will not exist in tomorrow’s perfect world¾ i.e. Heaven/ the New Heaven and Earth.
Marriage has a domino effect. Man marries woman, which results in sexual union, which results in the propagation of offspring. Propagation means labor pains for the wife. To provide food, clothing, and shelter, the husband must work hard and long to make ends meet. Husbands rule wives, wives rule children, children grow up, marry, and raise children of their own. People die, while others are born. Voila’¾the population is replenished, the cycle continues.
Clearly, this cycle of marrying and giving in marriage was a by-product of sin. Death entered the world when Adam sinned (1Co 15:21; Ge 3:19b). Women experience pain in childbirth¾ compliments of Eve (Ge 3:16). Husbands rule over their wives, also thanks to Eve (Ge 3:16b). Why must men put their nose to the grindstone? When Adam disobeyed God and listened to his wife, God cursed the ground (Ge 3:17). Brows sweat, we survive, then BOOM!¾death. Culprit? Sin.
Marriage is a type of slavery
It might also come as a shock to realize that Paul’s attitude towards marriage was very similar to his attitude towards slavery. Quite often, Paul spoke of these two institutions within the same context.
Paul instructs wives to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22). Later, he instructs slaves to obey their masters (6:5). This same principle is found in Colossians 3:18, 22. Paul advises Christian slaves to be content (1Co 7:21). Paul’s advice for married Christians is very similar (1Co 7:27). Hebrews 13:4, which refers to marriage as honorable, is proceeded by a verse that says to remember those in prison.
The Bible speaks of marriage as bondage. Even today, we refer to the “marriage bond.” Paul coupled the two institutions of slavery and marriage together and treated them alike. The only difference¾Paul nowhere argues against slavery, as he did against marriage.
Both Paul and Jesus said those who can renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom should, although both admitted that not everyone had the gift. Both Paul and Jesus confirmed that in the final triumph of the Kingdom of Heaven, the institution of marriage would pass away, replaced with universal unity (1Co 7:29-35).
When will marriage become obsolete?
So, at some point after 1 Corinthians 7:29, marriage was to become obsolete. But exactly when was this dissolution to occur? At the Rapture (for those who believe in the Rapture)? At the Second Coming? When we get to Heaven? During the New Heaven and Earth?
Or maybe¾just maybe¾marriage already is obsolete!
Before branding me the Antichrist, consider the following: Paul says it is good to remain single (1Co 7:27-28), although he makes it abundantly clear that it is not a sin to marry. Paul then says “this world” is “soon” to pass away. And he identifies marriage as an institution of “this world,” scheduled to pass away at the same time “this world” passes away (vv. 29-31).
What did Paul mean by “this world”? How “soon” is “soon”? That depends on one’s view of eschatology. (Eschatology is the study of end time events.)
The term “end of the world” has become synonymous with everything from the Second Coming to the Rapture to Armageddon. Others believe the world will end at the emergence of the New Heaven and Earth or at the conclusion of a thousand-year earthly reign of Christ.
Was Paul referring to an event in his distant future? Is that what he meant by “soon”?
Whatever one’s interpretation is, “the end of the world” was to occur at the same time as “the end of marriage.” Some scholars (preterists) believe the entire Bible was written prior to 70 AD and interpret “the end of the world” as “the end of the Jewish world,” which occurred in 70 AD with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. If 70 AD did mark “the end of the world,” then the institution of marriage also ended in 70 AD.
Respected author R.C. Sproul, a postmillennialist, argues convincingly that the end of the world Paul was referring to ended in 70 AD. To quote Sproul:
Paul declares that the “time is short,” so short that his readers should live in a style befitting an emergency or crisis situation. Calvin and others see this as a compression of time between the first advent of Christ and His still future second advent. This is the interim of the last days.
The problem with this traditional view is the term short. This word can define duration of time or length of space. In both cases it is a relative term. We may ask, “Short compared to what?” Forty years is a short time compared with 2,000 years. Yet 2,000 years is a short time compared to 15 million years. When one announces to people that an event will take place within a short time, however, they would hardly understand that to mean a period of millennia. Surely the Corinthians would not have understood Paul to be urging them to do something because the time is short when in fact it is thousands of years away.
In spite of his powerful argument for 70 AD as the end of the world, for some unexplainable reason, Sproul does not concede that the marriage institution also ended in 70 AD.
Granted, forbidding to marry is a doctrine of demons (1Ti 4:3). Nevertheless, Paul warned that getting married can cause Christians to become easily distracted by the cares of this world (1Co 7:32-34). Luther declared marriage was not a sacrament, but a “worldly thing.”
To summarize Paul’s teachings, there are advantages and disadvantages to being married. The disadvantages outweigh the advantages in many cases. Although marriage is honorable, it is an institution that will soon pass away. And depending on one’s view of eschatology, marriage may already be obsolete.
Which came first¾marriage or the Fall?
At what point did God institute marriage¾before or after The Fall? That depends on how we define marriage. According to Webster’s Dictionary, marry means “to unite in a close and usually permanent relation.” Since to “marry” can mean to “unite,” it is not entirely inaccurate to say God designed men and women to marry. In Hebrew, becoming one flesh means becoming one entity¾united intimately in body, mind, and spirit. The position of this book is that God always did intend and always will intend for men and women to be sexually united as one flesh (Ge 2:24). So in one sense, God did intend men and women to be married prior to The Fall. But God did not intend for sex to be used for procreation until after The Fall. And God did not intend a woman to become the exclusive possession of one man until after The Fall when mankind acquired procreative powers.
To marry or not to marry¾that is the question
God said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Ge 2:18). Paul, however, said it was better not to marry (1Co 7:38). Do these statements contradict? If they do, then the Bible cannot be the inerrant Word of God.
There is a simple explanation. It is not good for a man to be alone¾never was, never will be. However, a New Testament Christian man does not have to confine himself to the exclusive institution of marriage just to enjoy intimate companionship with a woman.
God designed men to have intimate fellowship with women. But it was not God’s original intention for one woman to be the exclusive possession of one man. Therefore, we must conclude that marriage is a result of The Fall. In other words, it always was and always will be part of God’s design for a men and women to unite as one flesh (marry). But the institution of marriage, which makes a woman the exclusive possession of one man, was a necessary restraint imposed upon mankind as a direct result of Adam’s sin.
Death & divorce
Divorce means, “to separate.” Death also means, “to separate.” Both divorce and death are results of sin. It was never part of God’s original design for men and women to be separated. It was always God’s intention for men and women to be united.
Why there is no marriage in Heaven
If God favors marriage, then why is there no marriage in Heaven? The answer goes back to The Fall. Sin separates us from God (Isa 59:2). Because of sin, God drove Adam and Eve from Eden (Ge 3:24). This lush paradise was no longer theirs to enjoy. Sin separated man from the garden, the Tree of Life, all the other trees in the garden, and worst of all, God Himself.
Marriage separates a woman from all men but one¾her husband. This separation became necessary because of sin. It will not be necessary in Heaven.
Husbands and wives are united in marriage until either divorce or death separates them. When spouses reunite in Heaven, in one sense of the word they will be married because they will be reunited. Yet, in another sense, they will not be married because no woman in Heaven will be the exclusive possession of any one man (with the exception of Christ, the God-man).
Our marriage to Christ¾literal or analogous?
Numerous Scriptures refer to Jesus as a bridegroom and the church as His bride. Yet, few believe those references should be taken literally¾therefore reducing them to analogies.
But what is an analogy? According to The American Heritage Dictionary, an analogy is a “correspondence in some respects between things otherwise dissimilar.”
If I say a man is a pig, I mean he has one or more characteristics in common with a pig. I do not mean he has a curly tail and oinks. I do not mean he is literally a pig. I’m comparing him to a pig. It’s an analogy.
When we say Jesus is a lamb, we do not mean He is literally a lamb. We mean He sacrificed His life in a way similar to the way a lamb was sacrificed. His death atoned for our sins in a way similar to the way a lamb atoned for sins under the Judaic sacrificial system. It’s an analogy.
But how can Jesus’ marriage to His church be an analogy? That’s like saying a tall man is short, but it’s only an analogy. We sometimes call a fat person “Slim” or a tall person “Shorty,” but when we do, it’s meant as a joke. It’s impossible to be a fat skinny person or a tall short person. Those are oxymorons.
Certainly our marriage to Jesus is not a joke. And to refer to Jesus as a married bachelor is an oxymoron. Yet isn’t it true that most people believe Jesus, who continually referred to Himself as a bridegroom, will literally be a bachelor for all eternity because His marriage to the church is only an analogy? It’s also odd that the same people who believe that our marriage to Jesus is only an analogy also believe that the reason there will not be any sex in Heaven is because we will be married to Jesus. They use this line of reasoning to claim that to have sex with anyone other than Jesus in Heaven would be adultery/ fornication.
Of course, these people would also be abhorred by the notion of Jesus having sex. Somehow, according to them, just being in the presence of God will be so satisfying that we won’t even want sex. But let’s consider how illogical that last statement was. If being in the presence of God is so wonderful that men and women will no longer desire sex, then Adam and Eve must not have had any sexual desires before The Fall because they were in the presence of God before The Fall. The eternal state, also referred to as the New Heaven and Earth, is described in the Bible as a restoration of the conditions that existed in the Garden of Eden (Ac 3:21, Rev 2:7, Rev 21:1).
Some believe that this new universe of the future will be entirely new, with no connection to the old creation. But Isaiah 65:17-25 and Romans 8:21-23 indicate this will be a transfiguration of the old, much like our bodies will be transfigured (1Co 15:35-57). Everything will be new (Rev 21:5), indicating the thoroughness of transfiguration, but the result is redemption and not simply abolition of the old. When God created the heavens and the earth, He said it was good. He did not say it was okay, but it could have been better. The one thing that will be better is that man will no longer be able to sin.
Earthly marriage foreshadows
Heavenly marriage¾not vice versa
The Bible employs types and antitypes, realities and shadows. A shadow points to the real thing. Jesus is the real thing¾the ultimate reality. Jesus is our ultimate High Priest, our ultimate Sabbath rest, and our ultimate once-and-for-all sacrifice. Therefore, Jesus must be our ultimate bridegroom. But, what does that mean?
Our marriage to Jesus is usually explained in nebulous terms. There’s a saying, “If you can’t explain something so that others can understand it, you probably don’t understand it yourself.” Is it possible to understand what our marriage to Jesus will be like?
Paul refers to this as a profound mystery (Eph 5:32)¾ something difficult (but not impossible) to understand. In Ephesians 5:31, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24, “…a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Paul is not referring to Adam and Eve, but to Christ and the church (Eph 5:32).
Adam did not leave his father and mother to be united to his wife. In fact, most ancient Hebrew men did not leave their father and mother. The exact opposite was true. It was the woman who left her father and her mother to be united to her husband and become a part of his family. Jesus, however, did leave His Father and His mother to be united to His wife, the church.
From the beginning, God intended Jesus to be united to humanity. This was the ultimate purpose of marriage. The Fall put this climactic event on the back burner. Sin separated us from God. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This made it possible for all believers to now be reconciled to Jesus as His spotless bride. Those who insist on maintaining a barbed-wire fence around the nuclear family are enemies of God’s ultimate purpose!
Married couples do not need to divorce to marry Jesus¾that would defeat God’s purpose. The unity of all believers is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. The two great commandments are “love your neighbor” and “love God.” It is impossible to love God while hating our neighbor (1Jn 4:20). The two go hand in hand. Loving our fellow man helps us to grow in love towards God and vice versa.
If Christians are united to Christ, then Christians are also united to each other. It is impossible to be united to Christ and separated from His body of believers. Author R.C. Sproul says it like this:
Every individual who is personally united to Christ is at the same time personally united with every other person who is in Christ.
Marriage is a process of uniting two or more people. In a Christian marriage, husbands and wives should strive to become a perfectly harmonious unit. Perfect unity is a continual, ongoing process. In this earthly realm, we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. We await our heavenly home, where everything will be perfect.
Jesus informed the Sadducees that there would be no marriage or giving in marriage once Christians are resurrected (Mt 22:30). Jesus’ point was that no man would have exclusive rights of ownership to any woman. There will no longer be a need for a man to rule over a woman and provide for her through the sweat of his brow. In an earthly marriage, a husband provides for the needs of his wife. In Heaven, God will provide all our needs. Women will no longer bear children. Finally, the curse of man’s Fall will be removed forever. Paradise will be restored.
In the same manner that a woman is subject to her husband in a human marriage, all Christians in Heaven will be subject to their bridegroom, Jesus Christ. When Adam and Eve rejected the rule of God as their Father, they also rejected the rule of Jesus as their Husband. It’s interesting that the word husband means lord. Is it possible to accept Jesus as Lord and reject Him as Husband?
God will ultimately restore Paradise in the New Heaven and Earth (Rev 21:1-7). Meanwhile, Paradise needs to be restored in the church.
When do we marry Jesus?
At what point is a Christian officially married to Jesus? Are Christians married to Jesus now, or at some future event, such as the Rapture or Second Coming? And what about Christians in Heaven¾are they married to Christ now, or are they only engaged?
If our marriage to Jesus is merely an analogy, it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, if our marriage to Christ is authentic, then the timing of that marriage is of utmost importance. The marriage relationship is continually compared to the relationship the church has with Christ. The wife is to submit to her husband as if she were submitting to the Lord. Husbands are the head of their wives in the same way that Christ is the head of the church. Husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church (Eph 5:22-33).
Paul says a Christian who has sex with a prostitute is uniting his body, which is a member of the body of Christ, to that prostitute (1Co 6:15-17). Paul also says that he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit. Both 1 Corinthians 6:16 and Ephesians 5:31 refer back to Genesis 2:24¾a man will leave his father and mother, unite with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. If our marriage to Christ is only figurative, then how is it possible that having sex with a prostitute is joining the body of Christ to a prostitute? If Christ is not really married to the church now, why would Paul refer back to Genesis 2:24?
There’s coming a time when all the saints¾past, present, and future¾will be united with Christ forever in what is referred to as the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7-9). Meanwhile, the salvation process takes place in three stages: justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Although the glorification stage for the entire church is a future event, and although the sanctification process is ongoing throughout one’s Christian life, the justification stage takes place the moment a person becomes a Christian. At the moment an individual says, “I do” to Jesus as Lord and Savior, he becomes a member of the body of Christ and therefore a part of the bride of Christ.
It might be helpful at this point to interject that in biblical times, engaged couples were considered legally married, even though they had not yet consummated the marriage with intercourse. So even though the Wedding Supper of the Lamb has not yet taken place, and even though no one I know of has had intercourse with Jesus, we are still married to Jesus now. Christians were bought with a price in much the same way that an ancient Hebrew man bought his bride from her father.
Paul said that a Christian is united to Christ now (Ro 6:5; Col 1:21-23). If we weren’t married to Christ now, then being united to Christ now as one flesh would be a sin. So, by putting these verses together, here is what we conclude:
Point #1: The relationship between Christ and the church is now a husband and wife relationship. Therefore, husbands are to love their wives as Christ now loves the church.
Point #2: The church is commanded to submit to Christ now. Likewise, wives are now commanded to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. What kind of a relationship was that? In the Old Testament, God refers to the nation of Israel as His wife. In the New Testament, the church is the bride of Christ. The covenant relationship between God and His people has always been a marital relationship; therefore, it’s only logical that God considered Himself married to Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. However, after they sinned, God drove them out of the garden. The Hebrew word for “drove out” is garasl, which can also be translated as “divorced.” When Adam and Eve sinned, God divorced them.
What sin does God consider worthy of divorce? The only lawful reason for divorce is adultery (Mt 5:32). According to the Talmud, Adam and Eve never ate an actual piece of fruit. Instead, their real sin is identified as an act of adultery with Satan and his demons. In other words, Adam and Eve engaged in an orgy with the monarch of Hell and his fallen followers. The forbidden fruit is meant as a metaphor to mask their hideous act of degradation (See 2Co 11:2-3).
Paul desired to present the church as a pure virgin to Christ. Paul was concerned that just as the serpent had deceived Eve, the Corinthians also might be led astray. Since Paul described the church’s devotion to Christ as marital faithfulness, this is at least a hint that the sin of Eve may have been marital unfaithfulness.
What if a couple save their virginity for their wedding night and something happens in the interim after the wedding ceremony and before the honeymoon, rendering one of the two parties incapable of having sex for the rest of their life? Does that mean they are not married and should not continue to love each other? Or if a man has sex with a prostitute, does that mean he should marry her? Although sex can be and should be a part of marriage, it does not define whether two people are married. Marriage is defined by a commitment to love. Therefore, although it is true that some of the Old Testament references to the nation of Israel as God’s bride were metaphoric, it was possible for God to literally be married to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, even though He never had sex with the Israelites. And it is also possible for Jesus to literally be married to His church now, even though He has not engaged in intercourse with His wife.
Is Genesis 2:24 an endorsement of marriage?
Genesis 2:24 says, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Although many read this as an endorsement of marriage, this is referring to a union of body and spirit, where a husband and wife become a new entity. Since the Hebrew does not distinguish between body and spirit (unlike the Greek), “flesh” is used instead. In Hebrew, “flesh” refers to a man's entire being. This includes his identity, heart and spirit. This should not be too narrowly interpreted as referring exclusively to the union of only one man to only one woman. Because of the social background in ancient times, interpersonal relationships were also possible within the institution of polygamy (1Sa 1:1-8).
Westermann on Genesis 2:24
Berlin scholar Claus Westermann says, “Genesis 2:24 is an explanation of why men and woman are sexually attracted to each other. Its goal is to explain the existence of humankind as it is today.” Westermann says the expression, “A man shall leave his father and mother, and cling to a wife,” is not, in any way, to be understood as a description of or an endorsement for any institution, such as marriage, either monogamous or polygamous. H. Gunkel, R. Smith, and others agree. Westermann reiterates:
It is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the verse to suppose that there echoes here a memory of the matriarchal state of society. (For literature, see Th. C. Vriezen.) It should be stressed that the drive of the sexes toward each other is not the only element in the institution of marriage as we meet it in the Old Testament, be it monogamy or polygamy. Often it is not even the decisive element. In general, family, social and economic elements are decisive. This is shown by the important part that parents play in the arrangement of the marriage of their children from the patriarchal stories right up to the book of Tobit. The significance of the verse lies in this, that in contrast to the established institutions and partly in opposition to them, it points to the basic power of love between man and woman. 
What does the Bible “REALLY” say about marriage? Marriage is honorable, but it is also a worldly institution which, according to both Paul and Jesus, will no longer exist under ideal circumstances. Marriage became necessary because of the sin of Adam and Eve. On the other hand, since the word marry also means to unite, it always was and always will be God’s intention for Christian men and women to be united. The ultimate marriage union will be fully consummated once all Christian men are perfectly and harmoniously united to all Christian women, and the church in turn is married to Jesus, the ultimate bridegroom.
 Tolson, Jay. No wedding? No ring? No problem. U.S. News & World Report. 03/2013,2000, p. 48.
 Barrett, David C. Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 1997 “International Bulletin of Missionary Research.” January 1997, p. 25.
 Woodward, Kenneth L. with Anne Underwood. Newsweek. “2000 Years of Jesus.” March 29, 1999, p. 63.
 Zuck, Roy B. Vital Biblical Issues. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Resources, 1994, p. 188.
Sproul, R.C. The Last Days According to Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998, pp. 97b-98a.
 Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p.259a.
 Sproul, R.C. Getting the Gospel Right. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, p. 23b.
 Westermann, Claus. Genesis 1-11: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1984, p. 233.