What does the Bible say about pornography? By Jack Kettler
What is pornography? What does the Bible say about it? There has been much said on this topic. This study will serve and an introduction of biblical teachings on this subject. Lexical evidence will be looked at to understand word origins. “…in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that large sections of the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act, including the depiction of virtual child porn, were overly broad and unconstitutional. Free speech advocates and pornographers had challenged the legality of the act, and six of the nine justices sided with them…”
Today pornographers have free reign. The federal courts routinely strike down any attempt to stop even the vilest pornography sites under the auspices of free speech. Culturally, this has been disastrous.
The first question, what is pornography?
Pornography is a noun.
It is printed or pictorial material having the explicit depiction or exhibition of sexual organs, and activity intended to provoke sensual feelings.
The word pornography is composed of two Greek words. The first is porne, meaning “harlot,” which is akin to the word pernanai, meaning, “to sell.” The second word is graphein, meaning, “to write.” (1)
Today most pornography is called “cyberporn,” or Internet pornography, and is found all too easily on the Internet, hence the name.
The Bible does not reference pornography explicitly. However, as will be seen, the viewing of pornography is in conflict with Bible morality.
Second, what does the Bible say about it? Several biblical passages will be surveyed.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery (moicheuó). But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)
Strong’s Concordance 1939. Epithumia
Epithumia: desire, passionate longing, lust
Original Word: ἐπιθυμία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (ep-ee-thoo-mee’-ah)
Definition: desire, passionate longing, lust
Usage: desire, eagerness for, inordinate desire, lust.
The text in Matthew 5 says, “looks at a woman,” which involves the “lust of the eyes” (1John 2:16). The lust of the eyes is the yearning to have those things, which have visual allure. In King David’s case, it was the lust of his eyes that led to adultery (2Samuel 11:2-4).
A standard definition of lust is a powerful sexual desire.
In addition, there is a visual component and attraction involved in the lust of the eyes leading to adultery, which makes this passage relevant to pornography.
Strong’s Concordance 3431. Moicheuó
Moicheuó: to commit adultery
Original Word: μοιχεύω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (moy-khyoo’-o)
Definition: to commit adultery
Usage: I commit adultery (of a man with a married woman, but also of a married man).
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable (atimia) passions (pathos). For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:24-27 ESV)
The reader will note the highlighted text involves pathos (lust), which necessarily involves the lust of the eyes; hence, the visual connection to pornography.
Strong’s Concordance 819. Atimia
Original Word: ἀτιμία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (at-ee-mee’-ah)
Usage: disgrace, dishonor; a dishonorable use.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 3806. Pathos
Inordinate affection, lust.
From the alternate of pascho, properly, suffering (“pathos”), i.e. (subjectively) a passion (especially concupiscence) – (inordinate) affection, lust.
Lust is the result of visual stimuli that are turned into sexual desire. Visual images and lust are inseparable. This understanding is why biblical texts involving lust are relevant to the issue of pornography.
“Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication (porneia). Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1Corinthians 6:15-20 KJV)
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication (porneia), uncleanness (akatharsia), lasciviousness.” (Galatians 5:19 KJV)
Porneia is rendered as sexual immorality in many translations and covers both adultery and fornication. The reader will note the connection to pornography as the word porneia unpacked lexically.
Strong’s Concordance 4202. porneia
Original Word: πορνεία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (por-ni’-ah)
Usage: fornication, whoredom; met: idolatry.
Strong’s Concordance 167. akatharsia
Original Word: ἀκαθαρσία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (ak-ath-ar-see’-ah)
Usage: uncleanness, impurity.
Digging deeper from Vine’s Dictionary. Fornication, Fornicator from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: “Fornication, Fornicator
[A-1, Noun, G4202, porneia]
(a) of illicit sexual intercourse, in John 8:41; Acts 15:20, Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:13, 1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 2:21; Revelation 9:21; in the plural in 1 Corinthians 7:2; in Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9 it stands for, or includes, adultery; it is distinguished from it in Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21;
(b) metaphorically, of “the association of pagan idolatry with doctrines of, and professed adherence to, the Christian faith,” Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:2, Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:3; Revelation 19:2; some suggest this as the sense in Revelation 2:21.
[A-2, Noun, G4205, pornos]
denotes “a man who indulges in fornication, a fornicator,” 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:5, RV; 1 Timothy 1:10, RV; Hebrews 12:16; Hebrews 13:4, RV; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15, RV (AV, “whoremonger”).
[B-1, Verb, G4203, porneuo]
“to commit fornication,” is used
(a) literally, Mark 10:19; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:8; Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:20, See
(b) metaphorically, Revelation 17:2; Revelation 18:3, Revelation 18:9.
[B-2, Verb, G1608, ekporneuo]
a strengthened form of No. 1 (ek, used intensively), “to give oneself up to fornication,” implying excessive indulgence, Jude 1:7.” (2)
Easton’s Bible Dictionary states regarding the word porneia:
“…much of the behavior that is fairly acceptable in our culture is exactly what Paul would term ‘porneia.’ Sexual immorality. Like what? Like premarital sex. Like sex outside of marriage. Like pornography. Like prostitution.” (3)
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5 ESV)
Sins associated with pornography can be:
· Sexual nakedness (Genesis 9:21-23)
· Forbidden to uncover nakedness (Leviticus 18:9)
· Adultery (Leviticus 18:20)
· Bestiality (Leviticus 18:23)
· Homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22)
· Incest (Leviticus 18:6-18)
· Rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-29)
· Prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17-18)
Looking at pornography is engaging in sexual immorality and falls under the understanding of the Greek word porneia. Pornography falls under a fundamental category of sin that all humans will experience, “the lust of the eyes” (1John 2:16).
The consequences of viewing pornography can be long-lasting physical and relationship damage similar to the addiction to alcohol.
More importantly than physical damage:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)
From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 1Corinthians 6:9-10: “That by the kingdom of God is here meant the kingdom of glory, the happiness of another life, is plain, because he speaketh in the future tense; this kingdom, he saith,
the unrighteous, that is, those who so live and die,
shall not inherit. If we take the term unrighteous here to be a generical term, the species, or some of the principal species, of which are afterwards enumerated, it signifieth here the same with notoriously wicked men. But if we take it to signify persons guilty of acts of injustice towards themselves or others, it cannot be here understood as a general term, relating to all those species of sinners after enumerated; for so idolaters cannot properly be called unrighteous, but ungodly men.
Be not deceived, (saith the apostle), either by any false teachers, or by the many ill examples of such sinners that you daily have, nor by magistrates’ connivance at these sins.
Neither fornicators; neither such as, being single persons, commit uncleanness with others (for here the apostle distinguisheth these sinners from adulterers, whom he mentioneth afterward).
Nor idolaters, nor such as either worship the creature instead of God, or worship the true God before images.
Nor adulterers, nor such as, being married persons, break their marriage covenant, and commit uncleanness with such as are not their yokefellows.
Nor effeminate persons; nor persons that give up themselves to lasciviousness, burning continually in lusts.
Nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor such as are guilty of the sin of Sodom, a sin not to be named amongst Christians or men.
Nor thieves; nor such as take away the goods of their neighbours clandestinely, or by violence, without their consent or any just authority.
Nor covetous; nor persons who discover themselves excessively to love money, by their endeavours to get it into their hands any way, by oppression, cheating, or defrauding others.
Nor drunkards; nor persons that make drinking their business, and use it excessively, without regard to the law and rules of temperance and sobriety.
Nor revilers; nor persons that use their tongues intemperately, railing at others, and reviling them with reproachful and opprobrious names.
Nor extortioners, nor any such as by violence wring out of people’s hands what is not their due. None of these, not repenting of these sinful courses, and turning from them into a contrary course of life, shall ever come into heaven.” (4)
General Scriptural commands to avoid sexual immorality:
· Make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1)
· Flee fornication (1Corinthians 6:18)
· Thinking on things, which are pure (Philippians 4:8)
· As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7)
· Must make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14)
· Sexual immorality not to be named (Ephesians 5:3)
· Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1Peter 2:11) “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) And “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
For More Study, addiction to porn and its consequences:
How Porn Changes the Brain at https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-changes-the-brain/
This study does not minimize the clear biblical violations of sexual immorality at the heart of porn addiction. Like in alcohol addiction, there are physical consequences (liver damage) that result from the addition.
1. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright 1981 by G. & C. Merriam Co., 888.
2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 455.
3. Matthew George Easton Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Entry on “Fornication,” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary is in the public domain).
4. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, 1Corinthians, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 556.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: THERELIGIONTHATSTARTEDINAHAT.COM