When the expression "Sexual Immorality" appears in bible translations (Namely, when Paul uses that word/phrase 1 Corinthians) — to whose morals is it referring?

  • The morals of the body of the church (or community)?
  • The morals of the society (Your nations/generation's beliefs)?
  • Your own personal morals?

What is the actual word in Greek that is being translated? What is an in depth definition of that word?


1 Answer 1


The most word used is "porneia" (πορνεία), and according to Strong's means "illicit sexual intercourse" - particularly fornication, or sexual intercourse outside marriage. This of course is the real point here - Paul isn't slamming sexual desire and intercourse as a bad thing - look at Song of Solomon. What he is warning against is sex in the absence of the covenant and institution God anointed to accompany it.

This leads into the more general entry in Strong's - "idolatry" - because that's what it is - it's taking something without taking it how God intended it.

So to the question of "whose" morals - it's quite clearly God's morality - the only morality that matters. Hopefully, that lines up with the body of the church - but it needn't and often doesn't align with the morals of society. Romans 1 clearly condemns homosexuality despite the fact that it was rampant and accepted in the culture.

The point is, "sexual immorality" is not a relative term. A lust-ridden man can't justify his pornographic addiction because according to his terms, "sexual immorality" is "actual" sex. It's on God's terms. Always.

  • Great answer! So when you refer to marriage (i.e. when you said, "What he is warning against is sex in the absence of the covenant and institution God anointed to accompany it.") What exactly do you mean? For example, what about before marital ceremonies existed (when there were only few people on Earth). Jun 4, 2013 at 5:16
  • 2
    Marital ceremonies always existed, from the very beginning of Creation. God started off the world with one man and one woman, and Genesis 2:24 says "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Jun 4, 2013 at 5:36

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