“There was no world, no land, no god or heaven or earth outside of their two bodies naked and trembling in the act of love.”
I’ve researched and covered the topic of sex in the Bible a few times throughout my twenties. Whenever my views toward sex morph, I like to revisit what the Bible really says about it. This time, I decided to dive deeper than I have before.
Before I dive in to the research, I want to first lay out what Christians typically believe about sex and what my views are.
Christian views on sex:
• Sexual acts outside of marriage are sinful
• Sex is only good within the context of marriage
And that pretty much covers it. It’s black and white. Not married and having sex? That’s bad. Married and having sex? That’s good.
This black and white description has never been enough for me. It’s the same as teaching abstinence as the only sex education for high schoolers. Not only is it ineffective, but it is not helpful in the least. Who you choose to have sex with, as well as how you approach the act of sex, are very complex.
My views on sex:
• Sex should not be treated casually
• Sex does not define the purity of our hearts
• Sex can be good outside of marriage
• Sex is best within the context of love and commitment (which to me doesn’t have to mean marriage)
So, without further ado, let’s see what the Bible really says about sex.
In the Old Testament, The Oxford Companion to the Bible says, “All sexual behavior that did not produce legitimate Israelite offspring was, in varying degrees, censured or controlled.” Further, premarital virginity only applied to women. There is no indication that men were expected to be virgins at marriage.
During this time, polygyny (one man with multiple wives) was socially and lawfully acceptable for those who had the resources to care for multiple wives, such as kings. Though having numerous wives was discouraged. Concubinage was also socially and legally recognized.
Procreation was the ultimate good and purpose of sex, thus sexual acts that did not lead to this were sinful. The Oxford Companion says, “All sexual behavior that did not contribute to the biblical notion of “the children of Israel” was proscribed. Homosexuality, bestiality, contraception, and masturbation were all prohibited, directly or by inference.”
To get a grasp on Christian sex, we have to start with the many laws on sex, which are mostly found in the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.
“No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.
Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.
Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.
Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.
Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.
Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.
Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.
Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.
Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.
Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.
Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.
Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.
Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion."
These laws were supposedly given directly from God to Moses to give to the people so that they do not “defile” themselves the way that others in the world do. The Oxford Companion explains that this chapter was part of “The Holiness Code,” which includes chapters 17-26. These chapters aimed at “maintaining the ritual purity of God’s people,” because of the idea that God tells them, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” He wanted his people to be “set apart,” holy and different from others in the world.
I would like to point out that nearly all of these laws, except for the first and last one, are directed at rules for men. It makes sense that these instructions would be given to men, because women were considered second class citizens and not properly instructed in Scripture until the New Testament times. They were supposed to learn from their fathers and husbands.
Secondly, women were considered property the property of men. If a man had sexual relations with someone else’s wife, he was dishonoring that man because that woman belonged to him.
Lastly, a lot of these laws make sense to us today, because there are a lot of common sense things you don’t do so that you don’t hurt another person.
More rules are found in Deuteronomy 22:13-30 pertaining to laws around sex and marriage. They include cases such as, “If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin.”
If her parents prove she is a virgin, the man must pay her parents for giving an “Israelite virgin a bad name.” Then he can never divorce her. If no proof of her virginity is found, however, she is to be taken to the door of her father’s house and be stoned to death, because “She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house.”
Verse 22 says, “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.”
If a man sleeps with a woman pledged to marry, both must be stoned to death, “the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife” (v. 24)
In the case of a man raping a woman pledged to be marry, only the man shall die. “This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her” (v. 26-27).
“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives” (v. 28-29).
Lastly, “A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not dishonor his father’s bed” (v. 30).
These laws were in place for several reasons. They protected women from economic poverty, and they protected a man’s lineage. The reason it was important for a woman to be a virgin upon marriage was to ensure that all her children were her husband’s. This ensured that his land and other inheritance would go down to his children.
These laws also protected women, because the worst thing to be during this time was an orphan or a widow. They did not have the protection (whether financial or otherwise) of family, or rather a man. If a woman was raped, it made sense at that time that she should marry her rapist in case she had his children to ensure that she and her children would be cared for. Women had little to no means to provide and care for themselves at that time.
However, it is also important to note that women were far more heavily punished for promiscuity and premarital sex than men, if men were even punished at all. Often times a woman was put to death for her sexual sins, while a man usually had to pay a fine to her family. The only way a man got put to death for sexual sin is if he was dishonoring another man by sleeping with his wife.
Numbers 5:11-31 also lays out a curse that is placed on an unfaithful wife, whereas there are no such consequences for unfaithful husbands.
Prostitution was also mainly a female profession, because The Oxford Companion explains, “In its primary form, prostitution is an institution of patriarchal society that permits males to enjoy sexual relations outside of marriage while preserving exclusive right of access to their spouses.”
Also important to note is that the Hebrew word for prostitute is zônâ, which is a feminine word with no masculine counterpart. It comes from the word zānâ, which means “promiscuous sexual activity in general and more specifically fornication by an unmarried female.”
All of this is to say that the treatment of sex was different for men and women. Women were by no means allowed to be promiscuous, while men had a lot more freedom and leeway. There was a different standard for men and women, much as there is today, but obviously with different consequences.
A Deeper Examination
So, at this point we’ve established that women are second class citizens, belonging to men, and that certain laws are in place to protect holiness, procreation, and inheritance. However, there are interesting scenarios where these laws play out in ways that the modern Christian wouldn’t typically expect.
One of the laws that hasn’t been discussed yet is levirate marriage, which is explained in Deut 25:5-5, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.”
The Oxford Companion says the purpose of levirate marriage was “to continue a lineage, to protect the alienation of family property, and to provide for the social and economic welfare of widows.” A great example of how this law plays out is found in Genesis 38.
In this story, Judah had three sons, Er, Onan, and Kezib from oldest to youngest. He got a wife for Er, whose name was Tamar. Because Er was wicked in the Lord’s sight, the Lord put him to death, which left Tamar a widow with no children.
In verses 8-10, we see how the levirate marriage was supposed to take place:
“Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.”
Then Judah did something he shouldn’t have. He told Tamar to live in her father’s house until his last son grows up. He told her this with no intention of fulfilling the law, because he was afraid his last son would also die. Tamar went to live with her father and after a long time, Judah’s wife dies.
By this time, Judah’s last son had grown up, but Judah had still not given him to Tamar to produce an heir for his first dead son Er. So, when Judah is going to another town, Tamar tricks him by taking off her mourning clothes and disguising herself with a veil. When Judah sees her, he doesn’t recognize her and thinks she is a prostitute and asks to sleep with her. Tamar is clever in asking to hold his seal, which is a unique identification to sign documents.
Three months later, Judah is told his daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution and is pregnant. He wants to have her put to her death, but she reveals that she is pregnant by the man who owns the seal she’s been holding on to.
When he recognizes the seal as his own, he says, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (v. 26).
I think this story reveals a few fascinating things. First, though Tamar slept with a man who wasn’t her husband (and tricked him to do it), she is called righteous because she was trying to fulfill the law that was meant to protect her dead husband and herself. Though, it was not Er’s brother she became pregnant with, she still fulfilled the law by carrying on a child from her husband’s family, which ended up being her father-in-law.
Second, Judah is in the wrong for not upholding the law by not giving Tamar to his last son, but I think he realizes why she was righteous in their mutual act of sex and he was not. She slept with him to uphold the law, but he slept with her most likely out of lust and impure intentions.
This story, though not the basis for all sexual laws, reveals that the intentions behind sex are more important than the act itself.
Song of Solomon
No study on sex in the Bible would be complete without at least touching on this book. For anyone unfamiliar with this book, to put it simply, it is a song about the beauteous joy of sex. Though its authorship is commonly attributed to Solomon because his name is mentioned in the song, there is actually “no hint of actual author or authors [that] appears in the text,” according to The Oxford Companion.
Other noteworthy features are that its “intense style of poetry belongs to the genre of love lyrics found in ancient Egyptian collections,” whereas certain lyrics link it to other ancient Near Eastern cultures. It is the only book in the Bible that is narrated, at least partly, from a female voice. Nearly fifty of the words used appear nowhere else in the Bible.
There are different interpretations of this song, but the most common one is “that it is a collection of lyrics celebrating human love.” The lyrics work on a literal and symbolic level, and The Oxford Companion explains, “The garden and vineyard are places of nurture, whether for plants or for sexual capacity.”
However the song is read, it has frankly erotic imagery. Many argue that it’s about the joy and beauty of sex within the sanctity of marriage, but there are scholars who argue it’s about premarital sex. For me personally, I don’t really care one way or another. One thing is certain: it’s a beautiful representation of sex that is deeply loving.
I’d like to point out that there is a male and female perspective, which enriches the idea that sex is a mutually enjoyable activity for both who are involved. The two characters adore each other and praise each other’s bodies. They want to take in and enjoy one another as much as they can. The whole song is a celebration of sex.
Though there is no mention of the Song of Solomon in the New Testament, it’s still a good jumping point to figure out what a new ministry teaches us about sex.
While the Old Testament primarily contains legalistic views on sex, the New Testament goes to the heart of the matter. The OT focused more on outwardly, like fiscal and property protection, while the NT focuses inwardly. We can learn a lot from Jesus and Paul, but first we have to address one tricky little word.
The Greek word porneia appears 25 times within 24 verses, and is only found in the New Testament. It most often translates to “fornication,” meaning extramarital or illicit sexual intercourse. However, it has many different translations, including, “unchastity, sexual immorality, unfaithful, promiscuous, prostitution, etc.”
Biblehub.com says that porneia is derived from pernaō, which means “to sell off,” specifically “a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity.” It also means “promiscuity of any (every) type.”
In another translation by Biblestudytools.com, its primary definition is unlawful sexual intercourse, such as, “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.; sexual intercourse with close relatives; sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman.” But it also has a metaphorical definition which is “the worship of idols - of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols.”
Clearly, there is a lot of broad use for this one little word. And it is used broadly when applied to different verses in the Bible. Here’s a list of a few examples of how this word is used:
Matthew 5:32 NIV: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
GRK: παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας ποιεῖ αὐτὴν
NAS: for [the] reason of unchastity, makes
KJV: for the cause of fornication, causeth
INT: except on account of sexual immorality causes her
Matthew 15:19 NIV: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
GRK: φόνοι μοιχεῖαι πορνεῖαι κλοπαί ψευδομαρτυρίαι
NAS: adulteries, fornications, thefts,
KJV: adulteries, fornications, thefts,
INT: murders adulteries sexual immorality thefts false witnessings
John 8:41 NIV: ““You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.””
GRK: Ἡμεῖς ἐκ πορνείας οὐ γεγεννήμεθα
NAS: to Him, We were not born of fornication; we have
KJV: born of fornication; we have one
INT: We of sexual immorality not have been born
1 Corinthians 6:13 NIV: “You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
GRK: οὐ τῇ πορνείᾳ ἀλλὰ τῷ
NAS: the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
KJV: [is] not for fornication, but
INT: not for sexual immorality but for the
1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”
GRK: φεύγετε τὴν πορνείαν πᾶν ἁμάρτημα
NAS: Flee immorality. Every [other] sin
KJV: Flee fornication. Every sin
INT: Flee sexual immorality. Every sin
Though these translations definitely have similarities, it’s easy to see how a different translation can skew the interpretation of these verses. I think the easiest way to understand porneia is any unlawful sexual act as described in the Old Testament.
Perhaps the person who has the most to say about sex is Paul. Paul was not one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, but instead was a Jewish Roman citizen Pharisee whose mission it was to exterminate Christians. After his conversion, his new mission was to bring the gospel to gentiles (non-Jewish people).
The Christian Bible Reference Site explains, “There is no specific prohibition in the Bible against sex between an unmarried man and unmarried woman. However, "sexual immorality" is denounced in about 25 passages in the New Testament.” A lot of those denunciations come from Paul, specifically in his letter to Corinth.
Corinth was a port city where the temple of Aphrodite, the love goddess stood. The temple had more than 1,000 prostitutes and sex was part of their worship rituals. It was a city filled with flagrant sexuality, and the church of Corinth was struggling to know what living a Christian life in this city looked like.
Paul has much to say to them regarding sexual immorality, beginning with 1 Cor 5:1, “It is actually reported that there is sexually immorality (porneia) among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.” Leviticus 18:8 explicitly speaks against sleeping with your father’s wife, so this was clearly sinful. Paul calls this porneia.
He continues to condemn sexual immorality in chapter 6, because a mantra for Corinth was, “Everything is permissible for me.” They believed that since Jesus had already saved them, they were free to do whatever they want. Which is why Paul says, “’Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial” and “I will not be mastered by anything” (v. 12). By this he means our bodies should not control us, and we shouldn’t be slave to its every desire.
In verse 13, he goes on to say, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality (porneia), but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” In this way, because our bodies are not our own, we should honor our bodies instead of defiling them.
He goes on to specifically warn against having sex with a prostitute. He says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ himself and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (v. 15-17).
Alright, so a few different things are going on here. Keeping in mind that this was the city where the temple of Aphrodite was, it’s important to note that he was most likely speaking against having sexual encounters with the temple prostitutes, which must have been very common. Farmers would sleep with temple priestesses believing that it would make their fields fertile. Sexual intercourse with a temple priestess or prostitute was essentially cult worship. This meant uniting their bodies, or being “one in spirit,” with them was like committing adultery against Jesus.
Going further, a prostitute would be considered impure, and thus unifying one’s body with them would lead to further impurity. If our bodies belonged to Christ, who is pure, they should not be united with someone who is impure.
Paul commands, “Flee from sexual immorality (porneia). All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually (porneuōn) sins against his own body” (v. 18). Sinning against one’s own body is an important concept, because it drives home the fact that Christianity is just as concerned with the spiritual as it is with the physical.
The Life Application Study Bible explains, “At the heart of Christianity is the story of God himself taking on flesh and blood and coming to live with us, offering both physical healing and spiritual restoration… We cannot commit sin with our bodies without damaging our souls because our bodies and souls are inseparably joined” (pg. 1921).
Next Paul moves on to talking about marriage. It’s important to note how differently marriage and sex were handled during that time. The Christian Bible Reference Site has more insight: “Marriage was neither a civil nor religious event. The fathers of the bride and groom made a marriage contract known as a betrothal. After a year-long betrothal, the man took the woman into his home, and they consummated the marriage with sexual intercourse.”
The Corinthian church had many questions for Paul regarding marriage, including, “is it good to be married?” To better understand why this question was posed, remember the sexual climate this city was in. The new Christians rejected immorality by rejecting sex and marriage altogether, so that even married couples were abstaining from sex, and engaged couples were deciding to not get married so as to avoid having sex. They wrongly thought all sex was immoral and sinful.
Paul’s response to them is found in chapter 7. In verses 1-6, he say, “Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality (porneia), each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command.”
Other translations read, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (NKJV). The Greek word used is haptomai, which translates to touch, or “know carnally.” Here Paul is basically explaining that sex is not bad, and that married couples should not withhold from it, unless it’s for a short time with mutual consent. He also seems to be saying that is sex is not good outside of marriage.
He further adds, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better than to burn with passion” (v. 8-9). These verses can often be mistaken to mean that if you lack sexual self-control, you should get married. That is not what Paul is saying. Marriage is a serious commitment not to be taken lightly.
Here, the context is also important. Only men could seek marriages, while women could only seek remarriage after they were widowed. I think Paul is most likely speaking to those who were engaged to be married. He is probably also broadly speaking to those who don’t desire being single and celibate forever. Mostly, he was trying to correct the thinking that people should avoid getting marriage just so they could avoid having sex.
Paul has a lot more to say about marriage, but lastly I’d like to layout his advice about virginity. He says, “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgement as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are… But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned” (v. 25-28).
The word virgin in Greek is parthenos, which is a feminine noun, meaning that in all likeliness, the word only applied to women. As indicated in the OT section above, only women were expected to be virgins at marriage. It’s also important to note, that because women were married off as soon as they reached child-rearing age, so it was also highly improbable for them to have sex before marriage. Men, on the other hand, married later in life. Since there were definitely less social and legal restrictions against them, it’s very likely many men were not virgins by the time they married.
However, the question that Paul is answering is, again, whether it’s right or wrong to get married. He wishes everyone to be single as he, and devote their life to ministry. But he says it is just as honorable to be single as it is to be married.
Virginity and refraining from sexual relations was something mostly applied to women until Paul talked of the ways men should refrain from going to prostitutes, and that it is not good for a man to “touch” a woman unless he is married to her. He holds men and women to the same standard regarding sexual sin, and evens seems to have more to say towards men than women, which would have been revolutionary at that time.
However, the most revolutionary person who went to the heart of the problem was Jesus.
Jesus never preaches directly about sex. Instead, he preaches on lust, adultery, and divorce.
For anyone unfamiliar with the ministry of Jesus, he was truly revolutionary in many ways. Jesus consistently looked into the heart of people. He looked past facades of people who thought they were righteous and saw what was on the inside. He befriended the outsiders and the lowest of the low who no one else would go near. He elevated the status of women, children, immigrants, slaves, and everyone who lived on the margins of society. Keeping this in mind, this is why Jesus’s words on lust, adultery, and divorce were so refreshing.
When he preaches about lust, it is one of the first times that men are condemned for lust in the Bible. In the Old Testament, there are countless instances where male promiscuity is acceptable, or at least without consequence. The story of Judah and Tamar comes to mind, because whereas she acted out of lawful duty, Judah most likely slept with her out of lust.
Matthew 15:27-28 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Jesus tells men that what they are doing is not okay. He goes beyond giving them another law of “thou shalt not,” and instead dives into the root of the problem. It was unlawful for a man or woman to commit adultery, yet more socially acceptable for a man to get the services of a prostitute, which would’ve only happened because he had a lust for women who were not his wife. Before Jesus said this to men, only women were condemned for their sexual promiscuity.
Jesus understood that lust wasn’t a law issue, it was a heart one. Lust is sinful because it allows others to become sexual objects. Which is to say, it causes us to use others for our own gratification as if they were less than human. When Judah sought to sleep with Tamar who he thought was a prostitute, he wanted to use her for one purpose. She was not a person to him. Lust makes others disposable to us. This is what I think Jesus was advocating against.
Jesus also did not take adultery or divorce lightly. In Mark 10:2, some Pharisees ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” They asked this because during this time there was debate about what reasons a man could divorce his wife.
Old Deuteronomic law left it vague explaining a man can leave his wife if she “becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her” (Deut 24:1). Some interpreted this as meaning anything displeasing could be as small as bad cooking, but others argued divorce could only happen because of serious sexual misconduct.
The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by asking him about this, but as always, he answers in a very unexpected way and goes straight to the heart of the issue. He says, “At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (v. 6-9)
Jesus basically says that divorce shouldn’t be a thing at all. That when two people are married, they become one flesh, which is to say they are bonded like family, as close as brother and sister.
Jesus adds to his disciples, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (v. 11-12). This statement was revolutionary because it “puts wives on an equal basis within marriage” (Oxford).
Which brings us to adultery. When Jesus says these words, he is speaking against the Jewish ideology that “blamed women for divorce and adultery” (Oxford). Because women were considered second class citizens, with less rights and social status as men, they fell victim to the consequences of divorce and adultery far more than men. By stating that both men and women can cause the other to commit adultery, Jesus is putting them on equal footing.
So what does divorce and adultery have to do with Jesus’ views on sex? Jesus made it so that the act of sex within marriage, and even within adultery, is between two equal individuals. One is not lower or less than the other. One should not be condemned more for sexual promiscuity than the other. Both men and women fall victim to sexual immorality and the consequences of both should be treated the same way.
Sex is required for a marriage to be consummated, just as it is required to commit adultery. I think he understood how unifying the act of sex could be when done right, and how damaging when done wrong.
Bringing it all together
I think the Bible is very clear on promiscuity being sinful, and I fully understand why. If we look back at the sexual laws of the OT, then there is a clear pattern that arises. These laws were written to combat lust, disrespect, and dishonoring someone else. Jesus takes this a huge step forward.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he repeatedly gives dignity to the low and humanizes those who are seen and treated as less than human. I think the same applies for sex. That’s why lust is so harmful, because it devalues and dehumanizes the other person. They are an object to fulfill your own desires. Nearly all sexual sins can fall into this category. Adultery is probably specifically addressed because not only are you hurting and dishonoring more than one person involved, but you’re breaking a sacred vow.
I think the most Biblical view of sex I’ve gathered is this: Sex should be an act that humanizes the other person involved.
Do I personally think this can only happen within the context of marriage? No. I think that loving and committed couples can and have shown this kind of sex outside of marriage. Should it happen best within marriage? Yes. Sex within marriage should be the place where you value and humanize your partner the most.
I wish that the Christian church would teach more about sex than just “waiting.” It should teach that sex is about equality. Sex should be approached already seeing the inherent worth, dignity, and respect the other person deserves. No one is less than, no one is objectified, no one is being used. When two people come together treating sex in this way, then it is beautiful.
Life Application Study Bible
The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan