Recent studies of the term πορνεία have proliferated; however, the meaning and the consequently appropriate translation of this term remain elusive. Glosses like “(sexual) immorality” and “fornication” have long been recognized as deficient if not misleading. Scholarly examinations have been plagued by two persistent weaknesses: (1) definitions have proceeded largely synchronically, and (2) scholars have presumed that the term indicates disoriented action. Thus, scholars have attempted to identify which sexual acts are included under the rubric πορνεία (e.g., sex work, homosexuality, pre- or extramarital sex). This article offers greater clarity as it pertains to Paul’s deployment of this term. First, I provide a diachronic analysis that demonstrates shifts in prejudices and stigmas surrounding sex work resulting in a metonymous relationship between sex work and lack of self-control. Second, I argue that, for Paul, πορνεία, as his term of choice for sex work, connotes inordinate sexual desire—even within marriage—as evidenced by his correlation of πορνεία and ἀκρασία (“lack of self-control”).

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