[Eph 5:3 NKJV] (3) But fornication (πορνεία) and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;

"Fornication" is an archaic term, more or less, and very imprecise. What would be a more relevant and precise modern term?





  • What leads to fornication, and the glorification of fornication, should be shunned. But it couldn’t be wrong to use the word, otherwise we shouldn’t have this conversation. Jan 9, 2021 at 2:46
  • My comment was obviously not an attempt to answer your question. Just a neutral statement of clarification of the word you are interested in. A clarification to some, of which you probably are not one of. Besides that, I don’t have any problem with that word being used in today’s language. Jan 9, 2021 at 3:13
  • Most modern versions have "sexual immorality". BDB lists "fornication" as a valid translation, as well as "unlawful sexual intercourse". Are these wrong?
    – Dottard
    Jan 9, 2021 at 4:08
  • @Dottard They don't seem true to the heritage of the word involved.
    – Ruminator
    Jan 9, 2021 at 4:10
  • In fact, "fornication" comes directly from porneia via Grimms law.
    – Dottard
    Jan 9, 2021 at 4:10

2 Answers 2

  1. According to Thomas A Robinson, "Mastering Greek Vocabulary", 2nd revised Ed, Hendrickson Publications, page 47 & 147, πορνεία has come into English (via Latin "fornix") as "Fornication" via Grimm's law.
  2. Strong's Concordance lists the meaning of πορνεία as "fornication"
  3. Thayer lists the meaning of πορνεία as "fornication"
  4. Thayer lists the meaning of πορνεύω as "... commit fornication"
  5. BDAG lists the meaning of πορνεία as, "... fornication" in all three basic meanings.
  6. BDAG also lists the meaning of πορνεύω as "... fornicate" in both basic meanings
  7. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the meaning of Fornicate as, "Voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and woman not married to each other"
  8. Mirriam-Webster English dictionary lists the meaning of Fornication as "sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other".
  9. Several modern versions also translate Eph 5:3 using "fornication" such as NKJV, ASV, DRB, ERV, Weymouth, KJ2000, AKJV, etc. Most modern versions prefer, "sexual immorality" or similar.

Fornication appears to be definitely modern English even if it does have a hint of older style about it; but it is a valid translation of πορνεία.


From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary

FORNICATION (Gk. porneia). Used of illicit sexual intercourse in general (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13,18; 7:2; etc). It is distinguished from "adultery" (Gk. moicheia in Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21). The NIV usually translates porneia as "sexual immorality" and moicheia as "adultery". Jahn (Biblical Archaeology, sec. 158) thus distinguishes between adultery and fornication among nations where polygamy exists: "If a married man has criminal intercourse with a married woman, or with one promised in marriage, or with a widow expecting to be married with a brother-in-law, it is accounted adultery. If he is guilty of such intercourse with a woman who is unmarried it is considered fornication." At the present time adultery is the term used of such an act when the person is married, fornication when unmarried; and fornication may be defined as lewdness of an unmarried person of either sex. Its prohibition rests on the ground that it discourages marriage, leaves the education and care of children insecure, depraved and defiles the mind more than any other vice, and thus makes one unfit for the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9); etc). Our Lord forbids the thoughts that lead to it (cf. Matt. 5:28)

Figurative. The close relationship between Jehovah and Israel is spoken of under the figure of marriage, Israel being the unfaithful wife of the Lord, now rejected but yet to be restored. The church of the NT is a pure virgin espoused to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2) and thus differentiated from the nation of Israel (1 Cor. 10:32). The worship fo idols is naturally mentioned as fornication (Rev. 14:8; 17:2,4; 18:3; 19:2,KJV; NASB, "immorality"; NIV, "adulteries"); as also the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols (Rev. 2:21,KJV; NASB, and NIV, "immorality).

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