blurry Pornhub computer screen pornography defined

Porneia is not porn. Learn what it is and is not, what you can and can't do, and get all your questions answered. At least the big ones.



"But I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of porneias, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry her who has been divorced commits adultery."


Here’s Matthew 5:32, a well-known verse that talks directly about porneia. "But I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of porneias, causes her to commit adultery." Now, let's insert a description of pornography and see what happens. "But I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of viewing sexually explicit media, causes her to commit adultery."

Really? Is viewing a photo, writing or audio even close to the same thing as having sex with someone? Ladies, is this true? - honestly. Here's the one and only exception Jesus gives to permit a believer to initiate a divorce. Everyone in the crowd obviously knows what he's talking about and it's not vague sexual immorality. It's not listening to steamy romance novels. It's not even masturbating. And it's certainly not gazing at anatomy textbooks or bra and panty ads as you stroll through the women's underwear section. No. Jesus was talking about intercourse.

Porneia in scripture refers specifically to sex with dishonorable women. It should be stated too that what porneia means in this verse is also what it means in all other contexts. At this point, we can safely say the idea that porneia refers to pornography in scripture can be dismissed.

Sexual sin in the Bible seems to involve at least two parties interacting with each other. That said, one exception may be coveting, which can be a related sin, though it’s not necessarily sexual in nature. Based on that precedent, pornography that is one-sided (meaning viewers that have no interaction with those that are viewed), that does not condone specific sexual sins mentioned in the Bible, and is therefore congruent with 1 Corinthians 13:6 would not be sinful.

Defining pornography is a tough one. It can seem nearly impossible, if not completely impossible, to effectively define because what one person thinks is pornographic, to another is mere beauty. Even trying to just clarify the concept is more difficult than you might think. Clearly, the purpose of porn is for inciting lust. But lust in scripture is nothing more than simple, basic desire.

What exactly does constitute pornography? When is it that nudity becomes inappropriate? At what point is it X-rated? Is a beautiful naked female body automatically considered pornographic? Is an image considered porn if it's nudity in a medical book or a painting or a statue? What about photos of a tribesman in a loincloth, naked baby photos, thong swimwear, barely-there underwear or lingerie? It seems like the issue may be more a matter of individual conscience, rather than collectively agreed-upon morality.

Generally speaking, most people probably understand porn to be any media meant to sexually arouse someone. For our purposes, a definition of pornography could be sexually explicit videos, photos, images, writing, or other media created with the intent to incite sexual desire. As you can see, porn covers a very broad range of media that would include the book of Song of Songs in the Bible as well as hard-core pornography. It's a relatively modern term, yet to the surprise of many, it doesn't work to consistently apply it to the concept of porneia found in scripture.

In the New Testament, God uses the word “porneia” to refer to a category of sexual sin, of which most Christians would assume includes pornography. So, what does God actually mean when he speaks of porneia? Well, it doesn't mean porn as we think of it, and it's not vague “sexual immorality” or carte blanche sexual prohibition as most Christians think. The idea of pornography is never actually mentioned or even alluded to in the Bible. No reference of porneia in scripture is ever construed to infer that.

The word "pornography" did develop from the term porneia, but nowhere in the Bible does porneia ever refer to that. In Matthew 5:32, Jesus used the noun porneia to give us the only reason that someone can get a divorce.

Pornography Defined?

We all have our own opinions on porn. But defining what it is and finding what God says about it is not as easy as you may think.

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How about sexual arousal? Is it possibly sinful? No, because God made it, so that makes it a good thing. In fact, it's one of the best things in life. God definitely does not disapprove of it. But is sexual excitement a sin if one is aroused by someone other than a spouse? No again. Otherwise, how would anyone ever become interested in marriage?

People witness others' sin all the time, but does that implicate them as a guilty party? Someone watching certain types of porn is no more guilty of actively sinning than someone watching a murder in a movie or a video game. We see these in our culture all the time. Let's even say it's a dramatization of Jesus being killed. Supposing it were in fact a sin to view porn, viewing a murder then would also have to be a sin because God tells us not to murder, whereas he never once says anything about or even alludes porn. Not once.

God made us able to experience sexual gratification visually any time it's available. It could be with a spouse, images of nudity, or just glancing at a passerby. For men and many women, married or not, visually appreciating the physiques of the opposite sex is normally a God-ordained joy in the course of an otherwise stressful day. If it upsets you to hear that, then you may be insecure or misinformed about who God made men and women to be sexually.

God hard-wired people for sex, and the desire to visually satisfy sexual lust (desire) is legitimate. Although often unrecognized, people have a longing to know and behold the beauty of God, of which sex is a reflection. It's unfortunate, however, that many people just assume viewers of porn are automatically perverts. Ironically, it would seem that when people deny themselves and others of God's beautiful creation or deny the natural desires he’s given them, that it's actually at this point that perversions and "addiction" are afoot.

So, what is God's standard of sexual purity? Is it resisting looking at ladies’ lingerie? What about women in yoga pants at the gym or swimsuit models? Should we not view provocative postures or sex acts? Just where do we draw the line to define porn? Perhaps these questions are not what’s most important.

If you define purity and freedom from sin as not looking at naked women (or men), and you happen to like looking at naked women (or men), then you will fail miserably. One moment you may resist the idea and another you will indulge. Thank God that he does not call looking at beauty a sin!

Pornography, however you define it, is nowhere on God’s list of sexual sins. There is no “problem” of porn as most understand it, nor does fighting a battle to avoid it give you pure desires. In truth, the only answer to the question of God’s standard of purity is Jesus himself. Those he makes pure in heart will know him and see him. He is the one who makes us blameless.


Matthew 5:28 is a notoriously misinterpreted verse with a complicated history, and a reputation of being a marriage killer.

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