Re: Porneia

From: John Albu (
Date: Thu Apr 11 1996 - 10:24:06 EDT

On Wed, 10 Apr 1996, Dr. Dan Chandler wrote:

> In your opinion, what is the most appropriate translation of the word
> PORNEIA? Would it be a narrow translation referring to fornication only, or
> more of a blanket term encompassing immoral things- i.e. "immorality". This
> comes with a long story that I won't bore you with, but if you have the
> expertise to deal with this, I would appreciate your assistance.

        This subject was covered in Appendix 5A, published in "New World
Translation of the Holy Scriptures With References," by by Watchtower
Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York, 1984, p. 1576. Herewith I am
posting the entire article.
                5A "Fornication"-Every Kind of Unlawful Sexual Intercourse

                Mt 5:32 Gr., por·nei'a; Lat., for·ni·ca'ti·o

        The Greek word por·nei'a covers a broad meaning. Bauer, p. 693,
says under the word por·nei'a that it means "prostitution, unchastity,
fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse."

        Commenting on Jesus' words in Mt 5:32 and 19:9, TDNT, Vol. VI,
p. 592, says that "por·nei'a refers to extra-marital intercourse."
Therefore, the Scriptures use the term por·nei'a in connection with
married persons. The same dictionary, on p. 594, in connection with
Eph 5:3, 5, says that Paul "realises that not every one has the gift of
continence, 1 C. 7:7. As a protection against the evil of fornication the
[single] man who does not have [continence] should take the divinely
prescribed way of a lawful marriage, 1 C. 7:2." Hence, the Scriptures use
the term por·nei'a also in connection with unmarried persons engaging in
unlawful sex relations and practices.-See 1Co 6:9.

        B. F. Westcott, coeditor of the Westcott and Hort Greek text, in
his work, "Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians," London and New York,
1906, p. 76, comments on the various meanings of por·nei'a in the
Scriptures in a note on Eph 5:3, saying: "This is a general term for all
unlawful intercourse, (I) adultery: Hos. ii. 2, 4 (LXX.); Matt. v. 32;
xix. 9; (2) unlawful marriage, I Cor. v. I; (3) fornication, the common
sense as here [Eph 5:3]." By "the common sense" evidently reference is
made to the modern, limited, sense involving only unmarried persons.

        In addition to this literal meaning, in certain places in the
Christian Greek Scriptures por·nei'a has a symbolic meaning. Concerning
this meaning ZorellGr, col. 1106, says under por·nei'a: "apostasy from
the true faith, committed either entirely or partially, defection from
the one true God Jahve to foreign gods [4Ki 9:22; Jer 32:9; Ho 6:10 etc.;
for God's union with his people was considered like a kind of spiritual
matrimony]: Re 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2." (Brackets his; 4Ki in LXX
corresponds to 2Ki in M.)

        In the Greek text por·nei'a occurs in the following 25 places:
Mt 5:32; 15:19; 19:9; Mr 7:21; Joh 8:41; Ac 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1Co 5:1, 1;
6:13, 18; 7:2; 2Co 12:21; Ga 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1Th 4:3; Re 2:21;
9:21; 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2.

        The related verb por·neu'o, rendered in NW as "practice fornication"
or "commit fornication," occurs in the following eight places: 1Co 6:18;
10:8, 8; Re 2:14, 20; 17:2; 18:3, 9.

        The related verb ek·por·neu'o, rendered in NW as "commit fornication
excessively," occurs once, in Jude 7.-Compare Jg 2:17 ftn.

        The related noun por'ne, rendered in NW as "harlot," occurs in the
following 12 places: Mt 21:31, 32; Lu 15:30; 1Co 6:15, 16; Heb 11:31; Jas
2:25; Re 17:1, 5, 15, 16; 19:2.

        The related noun por'nos, rendered in NW as "fornicator," occurs in
the following ten places: 1Co 5:9, 10, 11; 6:9; Eph 5:5; 1Ti 1:10; Heb
12:16; 13:4; Re 21:8; 22:15. LS, p. 1450, defines this word as meaning
"catamite, sodomite, fornicator, idolater."

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