Journey of a Sister Extract: The Bible & Sex

black woman with bible

Extract from Year One: The Bible & Sex

Suzanne felt like she was always sinning, and this just left her in a perpetual state of ‘unworthiness’.  She just couldn’t seem to stay on the straight and narrow path!  Her spirit was willing, but her flesh was weak.  Suzanne didn’t understand why God would give her sexual desires then command her to ignore them until she got married.  What if she ended up being one of the sisters in the church who didn’t get married, since there weren’t enough men to go around?  She wondered why God hadn’t just programmed her to only desire sex after she got married!  But whenever she asked God directly about this, he always remained silent. So despite her weakness Suzanne continued going to church, paying her tithes, studying her bible, and seeking to discover her purpose in life.  She would normally wake up by 6am to pray, read her bible and exercise before the boys got up at 7.30am.

It was only through having children of her own that Suzanne really began to understand God’s Unconditional Love for her.  There seemed to be nothing she could do to make God stop loving her.  No matter what she did, he always did something to prove he still loved her, much like a spiritual Father.  As such, he would give her instructions on how to live her life, but if she chose to do her own thing and ‘fell’, he would just pick her up, dust her off, and stand her back on her feet again.  And that’s how she developed her relationship with God; his strength really was made perfect through her weakness.

Yet the more Suzanne studied the bible, the more questions arose for her.  Lately she had found her Self questioning many of the stories, and wondering whether it was possible to live by all its laws.  She especially questioned the ‘no sex before marriage’ rule:

“Who created the institution of marriage, God or man?” she pondered.

She couldn’t find any stories in the bible of a couple going to a church to get married, or signing a register.  In most instances, the man simply approached the father of the woman he wanted to marry, and if the father agreed to the union, he would pay him a dowry, or work for the father to pay the price of his bride.  A feast or ceremony would be held for family and friends to join in the celebration, and then the father would take him into the room (or tent) to get to ‘know’ his wife.  Sometimes it would be months between the time the marriage was agreed, to when he would actually get to consummate the marriage. And there was no honeymoon.

Suzanne started with the first couple mentioned in the bible; how did Adam and Eve get married?  It simply stated that Adam ‘knew’ his wife, so what did the word ‘knew’ mean?  Suzanne dug deeper and discovered that the Hebrew word for ‘knew’ was ‘Yada’ which has several meanings, but in the context of ‘Adam knew his wife, and she conceived…’ seemed to indicate a very intimate type of knowledge!  They had sex.  Was there a church or priest to marry them first?  Did churches or registry offices even exist in those days?

Suzanne wondered if, in God’s eyes, the very act of having sex with someone means you are married to them? It appeared not, since having a strictly sexual relationship with someone didn’t mean you were experiencing ‘Yada’.  This type of Yada meant ‘total dedication to a person in order to engage them with love and affection’.

Suzanne found other instances in the bible where the word ‘yada’ was used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse; In Genesis 4:17 Cain ‘knew’ his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch. Genesis 24:16 described a virgin who had not ‘known’ a man, and in the genocide of Numbers 31:17-18, all women who had ‘known’ a man were murdered, while the young virgins were captured and turned into sex slaves.  Even in Genesis 19: 5-8, the sexual perversion of sodomy (anal sex) translated from Hebrew into the word ‘know’.

The Old Testament was full of sexual encounters outside of marriage.

Multiple wives, concubines and one-off sexual encounters, including sex with prostitutes was the norm, but wasn’t considered ‘immoral’.

Even King Solomon, a man renowned for his great wisdom and insight which led him to great riches, fell for the charms of the beautiful, dark-skinned Queen of Sheba and impregnated her before she returned to her native land.  They never married. He also had 700 wives and ‘other women’.

Still, Suzanne accepted the teaching that fornication is a sin.  So she decided to find out what the root meaning of the word ‘fornication’ was.

Since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, her study to discover the origins of the word fornicate led her to the Greek language.

The Greek word for fornication was ‘porneia’ which meant ‘to prostitute’.

Suzanne suspected that this might also be where the term ‘porn’ originated from, since they both related to the sex industry. ‘Porneia’ was the activity of porné, or prostitutes, and literally meant ‘whoredom’.  Anyone who sold their body for money (or goods) was called a whore, or harlot.  But what did all this have to do with ‘sex before marriage’?

Suzanne reminded herself what she was meant to be finding; the root meaning of the word ‘fornication’.

So she visited her local library to study Greek bible concordances in her search for ‘the Truth’.

She discovered that Greek-speaking Jews and the apostle Paul (who used the term ‘sexual immorality’ extensively) used porneia as a universal term for all sexual sin prohibited by the Law of God, as set out in Leviticus 18.  Incest was big on God’s list, as was adultery, sleeping with a woman while on her monthly cycle, idol worship (Molech was a fire god whose worship included child sacrifice, swearing in the name of the Lord, astrology and temple prostitution), blaspheming the name of God, homosexuality, and bestiality (sex with animals). No mention of sex before marriage.

‘Sexual immorality’ in the New Testament also referred to sacred or cult prostitution in idolatry. In those days there were ‘sacred prostitutes’ who had devoted their life and body to a ‘god’. Some people believed that by having sex with a temple prostitute they could join with that idol, which made sex with the prostitute a religious experience.  This pagan worship is what Paul was warning against. This, he said, is the only sin that a believer can commit against his own body; no sin is as harmful as this, because sexual union with a temple prostitute invited demonic entrance which then had the potential to drive out the indwelling Holy Spirit; the person then became possessed by an unclean spirit.

Suzanne came to the conclusion that ‘fornication’ did not mean ‘sex before marriage’.

‘Does this mean sex before marriage is okay?’ she wondered. ‘In an ideal world, yes we should marry young and spend the rest of our lives together, but the world hasn’t been ideal since Genesis chapter 3!’

Now it made sense why God hadn’t answered her question “why aren’t You angry with me for having my two sons out of wedlock?”  The answer was already written in his Word.

Suzanne also discovered that the word ‘woman’ translated into ‘wife’ in both Hebrew and Greek.  So when Jesus had said ‘any man who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart’, he was talking about married women. This made sense to her, since adultery is unfaithfulness in marriage.

According to some customs in the Old Testament, a woman’s virginity didn’t belong to her, it belonged to her father.  It was then transferred to her betrothed husband once he had paid the dowry.  She had no rights where her sexuality was concerned. If it was discovered that she wasn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she risked being stoned to death.  At the same time, men were permitted to have multiple wives (preferably virgins), sex outside of their marriage, and could write the woman a ‘certificate of divorce’ and send her out of the house, whereas she couldn’t divorce him.

Did Jesus come to liberate women?  While the New Testament was said to do away with a lot of the old customs, people seemed much more sexually liberated in the Old Testament than in the New.  In Paul’s quest to do away with sexual immorality, he succeeded in repressing their sexuality; sex before marriage now became ‘immoral’ in The Gospel According to Paul.

This repression of sexual energy was not healthy, and had been the cause of much sexual deviancy in the church, Suzanne considered.

There were even stories that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife (Mary ‘My Darling’).  She was one of his closest followers, and the first person he showed himself to upon his resurrection.

The bible depicting Jesus as a celibate man who never married is supposed to show Christians that it can be done.  But wasn’t it God’s will for man and woman to be together, to be fruitful and multiply the earth?

As far as Suzanne was concerned, the ‘white wedding’ was a man-made concept: walking down the aisle with ‘a veil over your eyes’, exchanging rings, signing a register (or contract), the wedding reception and honeymoon – were all creations of man, not ‘of God’.  ‘So is it possible for God to be at the centre of a union if the couple hadn’t gone through that process, and does a marriage certificate guarantee that God has blessed the union?’  Suzanne wondered how many couples in church were currently going through ‘hell’ in their marriage.  Some sisters had done the ‘right thing’ and waited until they got married to have sex, only to realize that the man they had married was not as godly as he portrayed himself to be.  Still, they put on a brave face when they came to church and acted as if everything was okay.  There were many married couples who weren’t experiencing ‘yada’ in their relationship, but who stayed together out of religious obligation.

Since Suzanne had concluded that the ‘white wedding’ was a man-made concept, she wanted to find out what God’s idea of marriage was.

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