What is…

Greek: πορνεία —transliteration: porneia —meaning: fornication; sexual immorality; illicit sexual intercourse in general; adultery; unchastity; incest; surrendering (or selling off) sexual purity; whoredom

Hebrew: זָנָה —transliteration: zanah —meaning: to commit fornication; to commit adultery; be a harlot/prostitute

also known as: sexual immorality, immorality, promiscuity


Voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married to each other is a common type of fornication. Adultery is also fornication, as is homosexuality.

“The Greek word for ‘fornication’ (porneia) could include any sexual sin committed after the betrothal contract. …In Biblical usage, ‘fornication’ can mean any sexual congress outside monogamous marriage. It thus includes not only premarital sex, but also adultery, homosexual acts, incest, remarriage after un-Biblical divorce, and sexual acts with animals, all of which are explicitly forbidden in the law as given through Moses (Leviticus 20:10-21). Christ expanded the prohibition against adultery to include even sexual lusting (Matthew 5:28).” —Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.


In every form, fornication is sternly condemned by the Mosaic law among God’s people, the Israelites (Leviticus 21:9; 19:29; Deuteronomy 22:20-11, 23-29; 23:18; Exodus 22:16). (See ADULTERY.)

Fornication is also mentioned many times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Romans 1:29; 1 Cor 5:1, 6:13, 18, 7:2; 10:8; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 1:7; Rev. 2:14, 20-21; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2,4).

Unmarried sex

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Symbolic fornication

The word “fornication” is sometimes used in a symbolic sense in the Bible, for example, meaning a forsaking of God or a following after idols (idolatryIsaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 2:20; Ezek. 16; Hos. 1:2; 2:1-5; Jeremiah 3:8-9).

Article Version: November 8, 2019