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Fornication in the Law (or now that I have your attention)

Was talking with co-worker few days ago and was presented the challenge of showing him where fornication was prohibited in the OT/Mosaic Law.He acknowledged that NT clearly prohibits it but that the Law did not.

 

Defining our terms:

Fornication =  sex between an unmarried man and unmarried female with consent of both. Neither are pledged/engaged to each other or anyone else and both are "free" people (ie not slaves).

 

Thought this would not be too hard to find a "thou shalt not" but upon reading Lev 18-20 and the details of the various relations provided there was nothing that would seemingly prohibit this.

 

I could venture to make a case from Genesis and creation but wanted to know if any of the theologians here could point out what I am missing.

 

MikeB

@g1antfan

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Ex 22:16 required marriage for doing so.

Whether that implies a "prohibition" as such, well, go find a semanticist with whom to argue.
Maybe you can't find it because, by definition, having a sexual relationship with someone else in a "fornication" way actually binds them in marriage.  It is consummating a relationship.  Maybe that is why everything is in the context of relationships.  The only way to not be in one is to not be having sex to begin with.  Don't know if this is right, but it is what came to mind when I read your question. :)

Daniel and Karl:

I am not trying to be difficult and think that God's plan for sex is confined to marriage, but found through the discussion that the Law was not clear as was expected...

 

regarding your posts I understand where you are coming from however the actual act of intercourse does not seem to make one married. At least not according to Ex. 22:17. Now the Law certainly encouraged marriage but the father is still allowed to stop the marriage and collect the dowry. I assume that would free both people under the Law to marry someone else.

 

I know that my example precluded this but according to Lev 19 a man is not required to marry a slave woman. The passage clearly does not condone the action but does not require marriage either. I only add it to the discussion because 1) my co-worker and I brought these up and 2) it demonstrates that marriage was not required.


MikeB

 

In reading through Deut 22:13-21, it certainly lays out the norm and expectations that a woman would be a virgin on her wedding day. If she was not she could be stoned to death. This would preclude acts of fornication.

In addition Matt 19:1-12 is Jesus talking to his disciples and answering Pharisees. While it is a NT passage its context would certainly be giving the Jewish understanding of the Law as it relates to marriage/divorce and sex since the church would not have been established yet.

Here a couple of observations:

1. the topic is on divorce and Jesus is explaining that the Law only allowed it because of hard hearts but the intent was for a man and woman to be one flesh and not be separated.

2. this limit on divorce seems to put the disciples into a bit of a tail-spin and they decide to swear off marriage. A good indication that divorce was used very liberally and that the idea of sticking it out during tough times was not common.

3. what is interesting is that Jesus tells the disciples that without marriage they would need to be eunuchs and that very few had that ability. the clear indication here is that fornication was not allowed.

 

MikeB

 

There are a couple of threads on marriage in the archives where this is discussed.  One recent thread wandered into a discussion on the definition of fornication, especially in the NT.

I find it interesting that with all the commands and laws in the OT, including some very specific sexual prohibitions, there is no specific command against premarital sex.

I'm not sure if this plays much part, but something to consider...

The OP defines fornication as :

sex between an unmarried man and unmarried female with consent of both. Neither are pledged/engaged to each other or anyone else and both are "free" people (ie not slaves).

A was wondering, in the culture of the day, how long was a person "not pledged"?  How much time would there be for a post pubescent boy or girl to indulge.  My understanding is that, at the time of Deuteronomy,  girls would have been pledged at a young age with the expectation of offspring. 

I'm thinking This ties into inheritance rights which I'm not very clear on...

Just a thought...

 

Peace

James

James, I think that's a good point. I wonder how much we know for sure about marriage in that culture.  I suspect we tend to take our own culture and, without realizing it, overlay it on the ANE culture.  I've heard estimates of Mary being barely a teenager at Jesus' birth.  So, you're right, not much time for fooling around.

Not sure what you mean about inheritance rights.

Dave,

To tell you the truth I'm not to sure waht I mean about inheritance rights either (maybe another "overlaying" error)...

But - I'm assuming that upon the death of a Father there is inheritance of some sort.  I know I've heard/read some different things about how property (real) was passed on but not enough to be sure how it worked in that society. 

That said, I am assuming that heirs i.e. offspring as soon as possible was highly desired.

 

And yes I've heard that Mary was as young as 14 when she was betrothed to Joseph. 

In any case I'd say it's safe to assume that especially girls were married off as soon as possible. 

 

Peace

James

JRKH

How much time would there be for a post pubescent boy or girl to indulge. ... In any case I'd say it's safe to assume that especially girls were married off as soon as possible.

Interesting, but surely there would be cases where girls might be older than mid-late teens before they are married. And you would have the case of widowed men and women. Either way does not really answer the question.

 

Dave Z:

There are a couple of threads on marriage in the archives where this is discussed.  One recent thread wandered into a discussion on the definition of fornication, especially in the NT.

 

Thanks, took a look at them. Here are the two I found that seemed to relate to things here:

Several comments in Quick can someone define marriage tried to define marriage as "automatic" once two people have consummated it regardless of ceremony/pledge. Have to agree with the those in that forum that argued for marriage is not just the consummation. It requires an entering into a covenant with witnesses, hence the need for a certificate of divorce to dissolve it. You can't undo the consummation but you can the covenant.

 

And here in the Nature of Sexual Sin I like what Rey had to say regarding what we communicate about God and our idolatrous hearts in fornication.

  • So fornication winds up being wrong not only because God wouldn't do it, nor because God commanded not to do it, but because what it says about him when we do it. It's not so much a sexual practice over and against a non-sexual God (which doesn't say anything about his nature, by the way) but rather a sexual practice which illustrates the idolatrous mindset. Covetousness isn't sinful because it's merely a violation of loving our neighbor--it is idolatry. Situationally speaking, imagine the horror of any member of the Godhead acting not-in-accord with the other members. It would be disjointed, horrid, and flatly un-God. So, a human being doing the same is speaking things against God via His activity.

Dave Z:

 

I find it interesting that with all the commands and laws in the OT, including some very specific sexual prohibitions, there is no specific command against premarital sex.

 

That observation is what started this thread. ;)

 

MikeB

Did some looking for articles laying out the Jewish marriage customs

 

1. The Shiddukhin - arrangements preliminary to betrothal

2. The ketubah  - "marriage contract"

3. The Mohar - or Bridal Payment

4. The Mikveh - or Ritual Immersion

5. The eyrusin - Betrothal. The period is also called - kiddushim (set apart)

6. The Matan - or Bridal Gift

7. The Nissuin - Marriage Itself

 

Not sure how much time (if any) was between 2,3 and 4 (the start of the betrothal). The betrothal would be much more formal/binding then an engagement period in our culture since it would require a divorce to break.


Does anyone have additional information regarding the Jewish marriage process?

 

How should this information on the marriage ceremony be used to deal with the question raised in the OP?

 

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