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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
Immorality, Sexual
Greek - gross immorality, indulged in gross immorality
Greek - immorality, sexual immorality
Hebrew - immorality

Any illicit sexual activity outside of marriage. Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament the word has a figurative meaning as well, referring to idolatry or unfaithfulness to God.

In the Old Testament zanah regularly refers to wrongful heterosexual intercourse, primarily in regard to women (Judges 19:2; Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 4:13). The noun “harlot” or “whore” is derived from the same stem (Genesis 34:31; Joshua 2:1-3; Proverbs 23:27; Hosea 4:13-14). In a figurative sense, zanah refers to Israel's unfaithfulness to God (2 Chronicles 21:11; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 3:1-5; Ezekiel 16:26-28). In addition, the sinfulness of Tyre (Isaiah 23:17) and Nineveh (Nahum 3:4) are portrayed in this manner.

In Paul's letters, porneia and/or related words refer to an incestuous relationship (1 Corinthians 5:1), sexual relations with a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:12-20), and various forms of unchastity both heterosexual and homosexual (Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Immorality is a sin against God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). In the Gospels, the term, on occasion, is related to adultery (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9) and in Revelation may refer to harlotry or prostitution (Revelation 2:14,Revelation 2:20). The word “harlot” or “whore” is derived from the same root (Revelation 19:2). In Acts, the Apostolic Council requires that Gentiles avoid porneia (Acts 15:20,Acts 15:29). Porneia, and related words also have a figurative meaning of unfaithfulness to God (Matthew 12:39; John 8:41; Revelation 2:21; Revelation 9:21; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 19:2). See Adultery; Sex, Teaching on.

Donald E. Cook

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'IMMORALITY'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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