Kyle Harper has argued that by the first century CE, porneia “was the chief vice in a [Jewish] system of sexual morality rooted in conjugal sexuality. For Hellenistic Jews, in a culture where sex with dishonored women, especially prostitutes and slaves, was legal and expected, the term condensed the cultural differences between the observers of the Torah and Gentile depravity” (“Porneia: The Making of a Christian Sexual Norm,” JBL 131 [2012]: 374). Harper argues that for Paul, as for other first-century Jews, porneia encompassed “that wide subset of extramarital sexual activity that was tolerated in Greek culture, the sexual use of dishonored women” (p. 378). I demonstrate, however, that Hellenistic Jewish writers did not use the word porneia to refer to a man's exploitation of slaves he owned. Moreover, while Jewish writers promoted conjugal sexuality, they were tolerant of extramarital sexual relationships between slaveholders and enslaved women. We have no evidence that Paul challenged that sexual norm. This article thus (1) clarifies the parameters of the contested term porneia; (2) contributes to an understanding of the logic of Jewish sexual ethics during the Second Temple period; and (3) locates Paul's silence on the sexual exploitation in the context of first-century Jewish teaching.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.