How does one answer this article which says premarital sex is not a sin?

Hey everyone. I came across this article last night while I was browsing the web and it claims that premarital sex is not a sin. I only read the text preview. The whole document is nearly 2,000 words. This seems to be one of those websites where you can purchase an essay as a way to cheat just so you know. I just simply want to know how Catholics would refute the claims made by this article.–view.asp?id=163282

The one claim that I really don’t understand is where they say “pornei” is mistranslated as fornication by many Bibles. How can we know that it isn’t mistranslated?

Well, first of all, if you got it from a cheater term paper site, it is basically an anonymous person’s opinion. Therefore, they can say whatever they want, and support their idea with other flawed information all day long.

Better to ignore that “essay” and look to the link thistle provided for answers.


I understand that it is just another person’s opinion but still, they do make some points that I would like to know how to counter.


Well I only read the part on the top where they claim it’s not in the Bible.
We don’t take everything from the Bible. Some of from Tradition and Church Fathers, the Magisterium, etc.

But at any rate: The 10 Commandments are certainly in the Bible.
Adultery? Yeah, that’s in there. And it would foolhardy to believe that everyone that had an affair was having it with only other married people. I think people would agree that those who step outside of their marriage do so with available singles. :shrug:

And the ten commandments certainly define and drill down “sins”.

The stoned people in the Bible for sleeping around, as I recall…

You have to sign up for the site to see the whole document. Not interested in more spam mail, or potentially a virus, so… Pfft. If you want to look at the whole thing, you’ll have to risk it yourself and bring it here.

The word “porneia” is broader than “fornication.” But it includes it. Here’s the info from Strong’s:

If you approach the text with an agenda to show that the word means something else, you can twist it to mean anything you like. No fair interpretation, within the context of the Judeo-Christian tradition could yield the position that fornication was not regarded as sinful by the authors of Scripture.

Deuteronomy makes quite clear that sex outside of marriage is wrong. If a man and unbetrothed woman had sex, they were to be married (and the man could not divorce her, this was actually a social law to protect the woman from being put aside and the man remained responsible for providing for her). Now, we put aside the ritual observances of the old law, but the moral law remains, and while we don’t follow the same prescriptions on how to deal with the situations (and more can be said on that), the implication that sex belongs to marriage and is immoral outside of it remains. Anyway, whatever one makes of Deuteronomy, to say that premarital sex is never addressed in the Bible is just silly. It is.

It would be better for you to pull out the specific points—one at a time—you would like to see addressed rather than just post a link to a site where we cannot even read the whole essay and just ask for comments.

Which argument do you find the most troubling and/or convincing?

No one can deny Church teaching. Fornication, sex outside of marriage, is not permitted.


Sirach 9:2-8 seems pretty opposed to premarital sex:

“Do not give yourself to a woman so that she gains mastery over your strength. Do not go to meet a loose woman, lest you fall into her snares. Do not associate with a woman singer, lest you be caught in her intrigues. Do not look intently at a virgin, lest you stumble and incur penalties for her. Do not give yourself to harlots lest you lose your inheritance. Do not look around in the streets of a city, nor wander about in its deserted sections. Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman, and do not look intently at beauty belonging to another; many have been misled by a woman’s beauty, and by it passion is kindled like a fire.”

Regarding the term porneia, it does have more meanings than just “fornication,” and therefore a Catholic can legitimately think it should be translated with a word that captures more of its meaning. Modern translations tend to translate it as “sexual immorality” or “unchastity.” That doesn’t mean fornication gets a free pass. If porneia means unchastity, and if fornication is unchaste, then fornication is a type of porneia.

Thank you. 1975. I was there as the confusion was being promoted more and more.


Thank you everyone for your replies. The main issue I was concerned about was the translation of porneia.

The Church’s sexual moral teaching does not hinge on the translation of porneia in the Bible.

I understand that but how do we know that porneia hasn’t been mistranslated as fornication in some Bibles?

There are at least two possible Catholic responses to the charge that porneia has been mistranslated as fornication.

One possible response is the category argument. It goes like this:

When you condemn a category, you condemn the things in the category. If I told you it was a sin to have furniture, it would logically follow that I don’t think you should own a chair, because a chair is in the category of furniture. Now, the Bible says porneia is a sin. And there is evidence that fornication belongs in the category of porneia. (For one thing, Strong’s Greek Dictionary includes fornication as one of the meanings of porneia. For another, I think that dictionary bases its definitions on the way the words are used in similar documents from the time period.) It follows that fornication is a sin, because the category which includes it is a sin.

The category argument is true except where there is some reason to make an exception for some member of a category. I would have to see the whole essay to see if he has a reason for making fornication an exception, but I doubt he does, more likely he just asserts it.

Another possible response is the non-sequitur argument, where you demonstrate that the essay’s conclusion does not follow from its premise. (In Latin, “it does not follow” is “non sequitur.”) Here’s how that argument goes:

I admit the premise but deny the conclusion. The essay’s premise is that fornication is a mistranslation of porneia. Its conclusion is that fornication is okay. That conclusion does not follow from that premise even if the premise is granted. This is because fornication can be wrong for other reasons than just based on the word porneia. Fornication goes against natural law, for example, and there are other passages of Scripture that condemn fornication without using the word porneia.

You can believe that fornication is a correct translation of porneia, like in the category argument. Or you can believe fornication is a mistranslation of porneia. The Church does not require us to believe one translation is correct.

Catholic apologist Hubert Richards has an article where he uses the premise that fornication is a mistranslation to defend Catholic doctrine on divorce and remarriage. Here’s one particular line from his article: “The Greek word porneia that is used in Matthew 5 and 9 is in fact both more general and more specific in meaning than the English word ‘fornication.’ In itself it means simply ‘impurity’…and the context must decide what precise impurity is being referred to.” source

You can believe that fornication is a correct translation of porneia, like in the category argument. Or you can believe fornication is a mistranslation of porneia. Either way, the essay’s argument fails.

I hope that helps. Please let me know.

From The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"Offenses against chastity

"2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.

"2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.

“2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.”

Hope this helps,

Thank you. The essay doesn’t claim that fornication isn’t sinful based on the supposed mistranslation of porneia alone, though. It also makes other claims. If you could please read the summary of the essay and post a response, I would appreciate it. The summary on the link I provided in my original post is quite short. It only took me a couple of minutes to read it.

I already know what the teaching of the Catholic Church is and I agree with that teaching. I am just trying to figure out how this article is getting it wrong. Please do not take me to be rude. I am not trying to be rude to you, I promise.

Here’s the whole essay. All I did was look at the page’s code source… Right click, click, copy and paste.

You’ll notice a gross lack of citations and extremely sloppy writing and speeling, among the childish argumentation.


The Bible does not forbid premarital sex. There is no passage of the Bible that references premarital sex as a sin against God. The association between sin and premarital sex is a new Christian idea. The only possible reference to premarital sex being a sin in the Bible is in the New Testament. This premise although, is generally dismissed by theologians because the Greek word pornei, or sexual immorality is commonly incorrectly translated into the English word fornication.

In Biblical times women were the owned property of a man. Men ruled over women and their children. Women had very few, if any, rights, and men often bought women from their families or at an auction, usually at age twelve and a half. The fathers owned the women (daughters, wives, concubines, handmaidens, servants etc.) and if you wanted to have intercourse with one of his properties, then you had to ask his permission.

If a father sold a daughter, he would get more money for her if she was a virgin. Non-virgins were less expensive to buy. If a man purchased a daughter at a virgin price, and she was not, or she did not bleed during intercourse, then he could return her to her father and get his money back.

Most marriages were arranged for financial reasons. Many couples never even met until the day of the marriage. On the day of marriage the proposed husband would give a dowry, or monetary compensation, to the father of a bride. The price of the dowry was different from woman to woman, was determined by the father, and was based on the woman’s beauty, ability to bear children, strength, household skills, and status as a virgin.

In the Old Testament, many verses that people site for being against premarital sex are actual verses against stealing another man’s property.

In Exodus 22:16 - 17, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay the bride-price for her, and she will be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.” According to this, the only reason any wrong was done is because the father of the woman lost money when the man and the woman consented to having premarital sex without her father’s knowledge. This passage showed that through premarital sex, the man is actually stealing from the woman’s father, the difference in value between her as a virgin and her as a nonvirgin. It does not show that premarital sex is wrong.

In Deuteronomy 22:28 - 29 it says, “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.” This shows that forced premarital sex, or rape is also stealing, but unlike the book of exodus, this trespass provides a punishment, as the male rapist not only stole from the woman herself but from the woman’s father as well.

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