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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Immorality

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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 2:14,2:20 ). 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 15:20,15:29 ). 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. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/i/immorality.html. 1991.

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