In Classical and Hellenistic Greek, apart from use by Jewish and Christian authors, πορνεία meant “prostitution.” Different words from the same word group (built on πορν) all had something to do with prostitution. Πόρνη denoted a female prostitute, while πόρνος referred to a male prostitute who might be paid for sex with a man or a woman. Τὸ πορνεῖον referred to a brothel, and some form of the verb πορνεύω referred to one prostituting oneself or someone else. Πορνοτρόφος referred to a pimp. Somewhere along the way, a group of words that in Greek and Latin seem to have originally referred simply to prostitution became in English a word referring, in most people’s usage, to any sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage. But is that all that Paul or other New Testament writers mean when they condemn or warn against πορνεία? In other words, does πορνεία when used by a New Testament writer refer only to “extramarital sex” between a man and a woman, or does it include other activities also? This article suggests that the answer varies depending on whom you ask.

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