I'm reading what is perhaps the funnest and most authentic Christian memoir ever: Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir

She writes about sex, saying at one point:

But according to American evangelical churchianity, I’d committed a sin worse than murder or genocide or trying to set myself up as a deity. I’d had sex!

She learned this in her church:

Instead he produced two large pieces of cardboard that had been glued together. “Sexual intercourse is made for the covenant of marriage. It is a binding act that unites two into one flesh. But if you engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage—” Pastor Norman yanked the two pieces apart. They shredded into chunks, one side clinging to the other, destroying the cardboard completely. “This is what happens if you have sex outside of marriage.” Well, okay then. Not doing that. He began reciting from his notes. “Sexual intercourse…” His Fargo accent turned the words into a sourball: “SECK-shull INN-turr-course.

The question is, did her pastor get it right?

This question is related to:

But, I have a more focused question. Biblically, is there an example of a person or a clear doctrine wherein what most Americans / people in the West would consider premarital sex is specifically condemned?

Specifically excluded for this question are:

  1. adultery between two people where at least one is married (that seems to be the property crime in Exodus) and
  2. prostitution (which seems to be the focus of 1 Corinthians 6).
  3. Sexual worship, wherein the sex in question is less about "casual intercourse" than in performing some sort of ritual worship

Casual Sex, I would argue, for most modern Westerners is usually a physical act of lust that may occur between unmarried people. I'm just trying to get a handle on that, separated from the case that Bibilically prohibited sex is a contractual and fealty-based matter rather than just two horny teenagers indulging their fleshy desires.

While I am open to an exegesis that would contradict these assumptions, I am looking for a biblical mandate against what I would call "casual sex," meaning an instance where sex occurs without exchange of money or breaking an existing marital contract. In leiu of a strict biblical injunction, what is the earliest condemnation of such a sexual relationship?

  • 2
    Does condemnation of "sexual immorality" in general not count? I assume we're looking for a reason sexual immorality includes casual sex, right?
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 13:35
  • 2
    @Anonymous From the context I think he's aiming to discover whether premarital sex as sin is an explicitly biblical concept or whether this doctrine is built solely on implicit interpretations of the text.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 14:42
  • 2
    You might also need to exclude the idolatry-related sexual intercourse in Numbers 25.
    – user3331
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 16:12
  • 2
    @Paul There was a reason they are called temple prostitutes. The exchange may not have been money, but there was always exchange.
    – user3961
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 16:44
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question because it is essentially a verse search question, which is no longer considered on-topic.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 5:02

4 Answers 4


1 Corinthians 7 (ASV) says:

8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
9 But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

Adding to what @caseyr547 answered, I understand that in verses 7 and 8 the apostle Paul clearly states that any sexual contact between two unmarried couple should be avoided. If continence is not possible, marriage is the only choice besides the circumstances.

So the context of this chapter includes pre and posmarital sex in the concept of fornication.

  • Let him play Playstation so he doesn't do drug doesn't mean that he can not play X box instead.
    – user4234
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 13:32
  • If your interpretation is that "let them marry" is only a "permission to marry", the you need do read the text more carefully, because you will come to conclusion that Paul is saying that marry is only allowed when there is no continency. Paul is giving two options: do not marry and do not have sex with anyone or marry, because if you want to have sex, that it be with you own wife. Jesus say you sin if you just look to a woman that is not your wife, what will be if you touch her?
    – utluiz
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:35
  • Jesus doesn't say you sin if you look at a woman that is not your wife. Jesus say you sin if you look at woman (in general).
    – user4234
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 1:20
  • Also this answer doesn't provide a specific sample of anyone being condemned for having consensual sex.
    – user4234
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 1:29

There's the story in Numbers where Zimri ben Salu who was killed by Pinchas, the grandson of the high priest Aaron, for having relations with Kazbi bas Tzur.

  • Numbers 25 may be referring specifically to sex with foreigners, which was forbidden to avoid idolatry (they "yoked themselves to Baal of Peor", v5). It isn't necessarily have anything to do with the sex itself.
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 18:25
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    @RyanFrame Maybe, but that seems odd considering Moses also married a Midyanite woman, and there never seemed to be any problem with it. To me, the text is not clear that those things were linked in that way. Of course, this is just my interpretation.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 18:48
  • This answer may be correct with 2 problems. 1. The sex may not be consensual. 2. The issue is, as Ryan said, having sex with foreign woman. So this doesn't address the question intent of whether normal consensual sex is punished. If this answer counts, then attempted prosecution of Tamar would count too and so are various consensual sex between adulterous. I think the questioner wants sample of people condemned specifically for having consensual sex and not for eating pork/cursing God/comitting mass murder/adultery while doing it.
    – user4234
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 1:27

1Co 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Gal 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Gal 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Strong's G4202




From G4203; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively idolatry: - fornication.

Outline of Biblical Usage from Blue Letter Bible

1) illicit sexual intercourse

a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.

b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18

c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12

2) metaph. the worship of idols

a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols

Fornication is the word you are looking for, sex outside of marriage between two unmarried couples is fornication the greek word is porneia. Yes fornication will keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God according to Gal 5:19 and 21. It is very serious.

  • 3
    While I agree, I think "fornication" might be translating "porneia" which is a more generic term (from what little I have read/heard). People can be eager to exploit any ambiguity to exclude (or include) personally preferred interpretation, so more specific statements might be helpful in this context.
    – user3331
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 17:04
  • @PaulA.Clayton i added two more sources explaining what porneia is as per your suggestion
    – user4060
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 17:10
  • 1
    @caseyr547 I think Paul is on the right track with my concern - people are always looking for loopholes :) Even in the definition you provide, casual sex between two unmarried people wouldn't necessarily appear even to me as "illicit," unless if you resort to circular reasoning (Casual Sex is illicit, therefore it is fornication, which is clearly wrong). Ultimately, its not me I'm looking to convince :) Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 18:58
  • @AffableGeek illicit in the context means with a harlot and according to the word if you love pleasures like sex your just as much a harlot as if you love money by sex but thats another question really
    – user4060
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 19:05
  • While porneia may mean sexual immorality in greek, Paul may have think of something along something actually prohibited in Torah. In which case you need to show that Torah actually prohibit sex outside marriage in general.
    – user4234
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 13:34

My standard referral on the issue is 1 Corinthians 7:36-37:

But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry.

The huge implication through this passage is that "giving in to his passion" while they are not married is sinful, but marrying instantly makes it no longer a sin. There is some debate over whether the original text refers to a father or a fiancé, but Paul has been talking about romantic relationships for the whole chapter and it would be odd to switch suddenly to fathers and daughters.

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