Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses book review

Richard Bauckham is professor emeritus at the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, in New Testament studies. He is senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and a fellow of the both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has written many books involving the New Testament. This review of his most recently published book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, is intended to very briefly present a few of the key concepts described therein.

From the beginning
If the Gospel accounts contain eyewitness testimony, how much of the material is directly attributable to specified individuals? Are these accounts a collection of events witnessed by different people over the span of Jesus’ ministry? Richard Bauckham describes a literary device utilized by biographical writers of that time period which particularly identifies one or more individuals who were present throughout the duration of the events written in the account. For example, Mark specifically mentions Peter very early in his account (Mark 1:16). Hellenistic historiography commonly used a phrase identifying “eyewitnesses from the beginning” (p.118). This is a claim that eyewitnesses had been present throughout the entirety of the events described. Philo of Byblos, writing about the same time as Luke, used language that was very similar to Luke’s Gospel:  “from the first” and Plutarch wrote that he recounted “everything from the beginning” (p.120). Luke’s Gospel claims his account was “handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2). And, when Jesus spoke with the disciples after his resurrection of the coming Holy Spirit, He then said:  “You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).

A similar related device used by Mark and John is termed the Inclusio by Bauckham, meaning that an eyewitness – in these cases, a disciple of Jesus – was present at or near the start of Jesus’ ministry as well as present at the end. This person is specifically named in the earliest portion of these books, then again near the end, indicating that this person was a participating eyewitness for the entire duration of the events and, therefore, is a reliable witness. For example, Mark first mentions Simon Peter in Chapter 1, verse 16, immediately after Jesus’ baptism by John as one of the first two disciples called with his brother Andrew. After more than 20 specific references to Peter, Mark then bookends his eyewitness testimony with a reference in the last chapter after the resurrection when the angel at the tomb told the women to “go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.’” (Mark 16:7) Luke also made sure that Simon Peter was the first and last disciple to be individually named in his Gospel (4:38, 24:34). This technique of eyewitness testimony was also used by non-Christian writer Lucian in his biography of Alexander written around 180 AD. Lucian wrote with the purpose of exposing Alexander as a charlatan (p.132). Early in the account, he mentioned Rutilianus as Alexander’s most prominent follower, specifically referenced him about a dozen more times, then again at the end, indicating that he was present essentially throughout the time span of the writing. And, neo-Platonist philosopher Porphyry wrote a biography of his teacher Plotinus about 30 years after the death of Plotinus, which is at least as much as the time period between Jesus’ death and Mark’s writing. Porphyry wrote of Amelius, a close follower of Plotinus, in the first section of his account, over 20 more times specifically, then again at the end. Porphyry also includes himself throughout much of that span, using the same literary convention of eyewitness testimony, according to Richard Bauckham.

Eyewitness Memory
We are typically confident of our own memories, but frequently skeptical of those of others. The reliability of eyewitness testimony presented as evidence in court is frequently questioned. And, many psychological studies have been conducted concerning the accuracy of recollective memories. To answer the questions regarding which types of events are best remembered, as well as which sort of memories are more likely to be reliable, Bauckham lists the following factors as important considerations:
1.    Unique or unusual event. Studies have confirmed – as have our own personal experiences – that these are more likely to be remembered than typical, repeated events. We remember those which are out of the ordinary. Closely connected to this is the unexpectedness of the event (p. 331) and Jesus was the master of doing or saying the unexpected.
2.    Salient or consequential – those which are more important to us or more significant. The many landmark events witnessed by Jesus’ disciples would have been of huge personal significance and, in many cases, the most memorable events of their lives.
3.    Personal emotional involvement. Intense emotions can be related to positive or negative events. The gospel eyewitnesses were not detached observers, but intimately involved participants. On several occasions, they feared for their lives (Mark 4:38 and John 20:19). On others, they were very distraught (Luke 22:62).
4.    Irrelevant detail. If one or more persons involved in an event recall details which are not directly related to the main event, this lends itself to trustworthiness of the account. The paucity of irrelevant details in the gospel narratives does not contradict their reliability since these have likely been honed for ease of remembering.
5.    Dating.  Recollected memories often “exclude absolute time information from most events” (p.333). Alternatively, typical memories include information related to location, actions, persons, emotions, and thoughts. While we may remember the time of day (e.g., morning, night, etc.), the date is not recalled unless it is significant for some other reason, such as birthday, holiday, or anniversary.
6.    Frequent rehearsal. Other than #1 above, this is probably the most significant factor in the New Testament accounts. The retelling of an event, particularly in the presence of other eyewitnesses, further solidifies it in the memory. Events surrounding the life of Jesus were certainly retold by eyewitnesses many, many times. 

Anonymous tradition or eyewitness testimony?
The whole argument of the book can be boiled down to the proposition that the Gospel accounts were written by individual authors (not passed on by communities), by named eyewitnesses, who remained the living and active guarantors of the traditions (p. 290). The disciples of Jesus preached throughout the region about what they saw and heard. As they grew older, followers or students learned from the disciples personally and continued the tradition. For example, Polycarp spent much time with John, a firsthand eyewitness, and Irenaeus spent time with Polycarp. Basilides received his teaching from Glaucias, a personal disciple of Peter. Valentinus received traditions from Theudas, a disciple of Paul. So, the Gospel accounts were far from anonymous traditions.
In the 20th century, a widespread assumption among some New Testament scholarship was that the written Gospels had been circulated anonymously in the early church. Like folklore of that time, these were supposed to have been passed down by communities anonymously. However, Bauckham cites several reasons for rejecting this view.
First, evidence shows that at least three books – Luke, John, and Matthew – were not intended to be anonymous. Though the author’s name does not appear specifically in the text, hearers of that time knew the identity of the author. In fact, it was not unusual at that time for the author’s name to not be listed. Much of Lucian’s Life of Demonax, a biographical account, is written in the first person and readers were obviously expected to know he was the author.
Secondly, evidence of the earliest manuscripts, from c. 200 onward, indicates titles of the four canonical Gospels were in the form “Gospel according to …” And, it was standard procedure to mark the scrolls on the exterior with the author’s name and a brief title. Codices were typically marked in several locations on the outside.

Papias – “A living and surviving voice”
One of the earliest church fathers who transmitted the traditions in eyewitness accounts was Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, located not far from Laodicea and Colossae. He completed a major work, Exposition of the Logia of the Lord, in five books, early in the second century. Unfortunately, this work did not survive, but portions were passed down to us through Eusebius in his work, History of the Church. Papias was personally acquainted with the daughters of Philip the evangelist, who were well-known as prophets (Acts 21:8-9). Philip himself spent the last years of his life in Hierapolis and Papias may have also met him personally. Papias wrote of a period of time around 80 A.D. when he made a concerted effort to collect the oral reports of the words and life of Jesus. This was near the time when the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John were in early circulation as well (p.14). Eusebius quotes the prologue to Papias’s work:
     “… I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down well, for the truth of which I vouch … I inquired about the words of the elders – [that is,] what [according to the elders] what Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas, or James, or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3-4).”
A key point here is that Papias, though he was aware of the written Gospel accounts in circulation, valued greatly a “living and surviving voice” to personally tell of eyewitness accounts of Jesus. These were not anonymous traditions spread by word of mouth through multiple retellings by uninformed individuals. The transmission of historical truths by Papias is indicative of the spread of information regarding the life of Jesus – from eyewitnesses who personally described what they saw and heard.

Form criticism and names
Form criticism of the Gospels was pioneered and developed by three very influential German scholars around 1920:  Karl Schmidt, Martin Dibelius, and Rudolf Bultmann. These and other similar critics identified the Gospels as folk literature that began as oral traditions of stories surrounding Jesus of Nazareth. As the tales were spread, they were shaped by the needs of each individual community, the Sitz im Leben (“setting in life”) in which they were told. Some examples of the forms these stories took include:  preaching, worship, catechism, and apologetics. One of the identifying factors of form criticism is allegedly increasing detail, such as personal names which may not have been present in the early spread of the stories, but were added later. In the Gospel accounts, this would be evident in comparing the book of Mark, written first, with the other Synoptics – Luke and Matthew – written later. Then, further comparison could be made with John, written last. Bauckham notes that material common to the three Synoptic Gospels show an unambiguous tendency toward the elimination of names, refuting Bultmann’s argument (p.42). For example, Mark names Bartimaeus (10:46), who is mentioned, but unnamed, by Matthew (20:30) and Luke (18:35).  
The Beloved Disciple and the Gospel of John
Bauckham spent two chapters discussing, in some detail, the identity of the writer of the book of John. He believes the author of this Gospel was an eyewitness and a personal disciple of Jesus, putting him in a small minority among contemporary Johannine scholars (p.552). He presents some evidence that the term “disciple” included more than the traditional twelve, such as Luke 6:13, 19:37, and Acts 1:21-23. Bauckham believes the “Beloved Disciple” wrote the Gospel of John, but is not John, son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21), or any of the twelve. He presents evidence that the writer may be a less well-known disciple of Jesus, whom Papias calls John the Elder. The identity is still debated among Biblical scholars and Backham’s contribution is well-researched.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ancient Hebrew writings mention Jesus of Nazareth

If Jesus Christ caused so much trouble in first century Israel, certainly the Jews would have written of Him, right? So, what ancient Semitic writings are extant that mention Jesus of Nazareth? Does the rabbinical literature corroborate Biblical accounts and, if not, why? First, we need to understand the primary source documents from that time period, which are contained in the Talmud.

What is the Talmud?
Briefly, ancient Jews passed down large amounts of Biblical (Old Testament) commentary and tradition from generation to generation. Rabbi Akiba, before his death in A.D. 135, and Rabbi Meir, organized and revised the material. Around A.D. 200, Rabbi Judah completed the project, which became known as the Mishnah (literally “teaching” or “repetition”). This was known as the Tannaitic Period. Commentary on the Mishnah was labeled the Gemaras[1] and was compiled from the third through the sixth centuries, during the Ammoraic Period. Gemara is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “to finish”.

During the Ammoraic Period, two schools existed, one in Babylonia and another in Palestine. From approximately A.D. 350-425, the Mishnah and Gemara were combined in the first school at Jerusalem, called the Palestinian Talmud. The second school, in Babylonia, also included the Mishnah and Gemara, but continued to be compiled until around A.D. 500, so was a larger collection. This became known as the Babylonian Talmud. The word Talmud literally means “learning”.[2] Volumes could be written on this subject, but that will suffice as a short introduction.

Jesus in the Talmud
A highly significant quotation is found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a. Translated into English, it reads:
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”[3]

Yeshu (sometimes, Yeshua) is derived from the Aramaic or Hebrew and translated into English as Jesus. But, someone might question whether this refers to Jesus Christ, because this person was “hanged”, not crucified, as the Bible states. Actually, the New Testament twice refers to Jesus being hanged:  Galatians 3:13 (Greek kremamenos) and Luke 23:39 (Greek kremasthenton). The term “hang” does not strictly refer to the modern notion of hanging by a rope noose around the neck, but can include other methods of attachment to a wooden pole, as evidenced by Paul and Luke’s usage of the term.

Five points
From this Talmudic passage, several significant points may be understood. Gary Habermas, Ph.D., Michigan State University, History and Philosophy of Religion, lists these as follows:
1.    The fact of Jesus’ death by crucifixion
2.    The timing of the event, twice mentioned as occurring on the eve of Passover
3.    No witnesses came forward to defend him, and he was killed
4.    Jesus was judged by the Jews to be guilty of “sorcery” and spiritual apostasy
5.    It was publicly announced beforehand that Jesus would be stoned. This was the standard method of execution by the Jews, though not specifically mentioned in the Bible. However, Jesus was threatened with this fate on other occasions (John 8:58-59, 10:31-33, 39)[4] 

So, what significance can we derive for a modern day understanding of the Bible from this passage written from 1,500 to 2,000 years ago? Josh McDowell graduated from Wheaton College and Magna Cum Laude from Talbot Theological Seminary. Concerning this writing, he and Bill Wilson noted:
“This passage is significant because of what it does not deny. First, it does not deny Jewish involvement in Jesus’ death. In fact, it does not even mention the Romans. Rather, it seeks to demonstrate the Jewish authorities carried out the sentencing, but in a just manner. The result is a clear affirmation of the historicity of Jesus and his death. Second, this passage does not deny that Jesus performed miracles. Rather, it tries to explain them away as being accomplished through sorcery or magic. The same response to Jesus’ miracles is reported in Mark 3:22 and Matthew 9:34; 12:24. Once again, there is a clear affirmation of the historicity of Jesus, and this time of his miracles as well.”[5]
Comments in this passage are just about what one would expect of a Jewish rabbinical writer who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.

On the subject of a precise mention of the time period Jesus was sought by the authorities, McDowell proposes the possibility that “The forty days may only be an apologetic device designed to deny that the trial was a speedy one.”[6] The reference to 40 days may be an indicator that the authorities were seeking an opportunity to dispose of this troublemaker from Nazareth. In fact, the Bible mentions this in several places, without providing an exact time frame (John 5:18 and John 11:53-57).

Paul L. Maier, Ph.D., is Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University. His research includes a variety of methodologies involved in manuscript and textual analysis, archaeology, and comparison of sacred and secular sources from the first century A.D. Dr. Maier makes several points regarding the authenticity of this reference:
Four items in this statement strongly support its authenticity as a notice composed before Jesus' arrest: 1) The future tense is used; 2) Stoning was the regular punishment for blasphemy among the Jews whenever the Roman government was not involved; 3) There is no reference whatever to crucifixion; and 4) That Jesus was performing "sorcery"— the extraordinary or miraculous with a negative spin—is quite remarkable. This not only invokes what historians call the "criterion of embarrassment," which proves what is conceded, but accords perfectly with how Jesus' opponents explained away his miraculous healings: performing them with the help of Beelzebub (Luke 11:18).”[7]

The bottom line is this:  The Talmudic reference to Jesus is another in a long line of extra-Biblical documentary records that corroborate information found in the Bible. Many valid reasons exist for the authenticity of the Bible and this is one more piece of evidence showing that the Biblical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth can be trusted.

For those who wish to further research the historicity of Jesus Christ, the books listed in the endnotes of this article by Gary Habermas, as well as Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, are highly recommended.

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1]Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus:  Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MO:  College Press, 1996), 202.
[2]Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, He Walked Among Us:  Evidence for the Historical Jesus (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, 1993), 57-58.
[3]The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III Sanhedrin 43a, p. 281, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, p. 203.
[4]Habermas, 203.
[5]McDowell and Wilson, 64-65.
[6]Ibid., 65.
[7]Paul L. Maier, Did Jesus Really Exist, North American Mission Board, 2007, accessed 19 Jun 2009,

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Every Man's Battle book review

Sexual temptation
How many men struggle with this issue? Aside from those who always give in (no struggle there), nearly “every man” is tempted by attractive women or visual images. It’s no wonder this book has become so popular, selling more than 2.5 million copies. The topic could not be more relevant today, considering the explosion of pornography and use of sexuality to sell everything from beer to movies and television shows. How can men find the motivation and strategies to resist this fast rising flood? This book provides those things for Christian men who desire to overcome this temptation as well as other guys who want to remain faithful to their wives.

Three perimeters
Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker describe the goal as this: Sexual purity when no gratification is obtained from anyone or anything but one’s wife. To accomplish this, they outline where three perimeters which must be established:  eyes, mind, and heart. The eyes must bounce from objects of lust. The mind must evaluate and capture thoughts. The heart must honor and cherish one’s wife. These concepts are explained in more detail in the book. The authors make the point that impurity is not genetic (i.e., “I’m male, so I’ll have impure eyes and an impure mind”), but is a habit. And, if it lives like a habit, it can die like a habit (pp. 105-106). 

Your sword
When tempted by our own desires and/or Satan, we can counter these in the same manner as Jesus, with the word of God found in the Bible. By memorizing only a small number of key verses we can quickly utter when tempted, say the authors, we can fight off the attacks (p. 141). For example, when a situation arises, we can state as Job did, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:1). Or, we may have this statement of Jesus ready: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

The mustang mind
Arterburn and Stoeker explain the natural male mind as like a free roaming mustang, mating with whomever it can. To be faithful to one wife and true to God, the mustang must be brought into a corral. Some proper mindsets are useful in bringing the mustang under control. Our first line of defense when tempted with another woman may include the realization that “This attraction threatens everything I hold dear” (p. 169). Involvement with another woman will ruin a marriage and family. A second line of defense is to declare, “I have no right to think these things.” I belong to another woman and am bought by God with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). 

Strategies and tactics
Once the decision has been made to choose excellence, specific tactics must be employed to achieve victory. The authors list two key strategies:  bouncing the eyes and starving the eyes. Immediately upon noticing an attractive woman, one must bounce the eyes away. If this strategy is consistently followed for six weeks, the authors state “you can win the war” (p. 125). To help accomplish this, two logical steps include studying oneself to determine weaknesses and defining defenses for these weaknesses (p. 126).

Sometimes men may find themselves in a situation in which a friendship begins to grow with another woman. Rather than waiting to see what might happen, we must prepare with “war game” simulations. What if she makes advances? What if you find yourself alone with her? As Josh McDowell advised teens to decide what to do before getting into the backseat of a car, we plan ahead (p. 173). Starving the eyes is part of the defense perimeter. By eliminating the “junk sex” of looking from one’s life, the “real food” – a wife – will be much more satisfying (p. 134).

The authors also provide some useful advice for women to help their husbands to overcome this addiction:
·         Watch what he watches on television
·         Help him to find the new equilibrium
·         Defuse the seventy-two hour cycle of heightened sexual arousal typical for men
·         Allow him to ogle you a bit
·         Do regular status checkups of the situation

The third and innermost perimeter involves “being consumed with God’s purpose to cherish your wife” (187). This can be difficult if she does not behave in a deserving manner. However, the authors make the admonition:  “If you don’t feel like cherishing, cherish anyway. Your right feelings will arrive soon enough” (198). If a man sees his wife as a precious gift and remembers to follow Christ’s example of demonstrating love before being loved in return, he will be more able to cherish her.

Arterburn and Stoeker provide inspiration and present some strategies to overcome sexual addiction. Additional practical, specific methods are available as well to those presented here. Some examples include:  internet filters, accountability partners, and recovery groups. While every man’s battle is not an all-inclusive, comprehensive guide to overcoming sexual temptation, it is motivating and provides much useful guidance.

The authors
Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Clinics and host of the popular New Life Live national radio program. He has authored more than 40 books and won three Gold Medallion awards. He has degrees from Baylor University and the University of North Texas. 
Fred Stoeker is the founder and chairman of Living True Ministries. He graduated from Stanford University with honors.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Does God approve of pornography?

Is it acceptable for a Christian to look at pornography? Does God approve? If He disapproves, why did He give us such a strong sex drive, particularly men, who are easily aroused by visual stimuli? An estimated $97 billion was spent on pornography worldwide in 2006.  Statistics for internet porn are estimated at about 4.2 million websites, the average age of first exposure 11 years old, and 66% of men in their 20s and 30s report being regular users of pornography.[1] A poll of 1,000 respondents conducted on a Christian website found that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women admitted to being addicted to pornography[2] - and those are the ones who admitted it. One report indicated that 70% of porn is viewed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.[3], frequently on the office computer. Many more similar statistics could be given but, suffice to say, the porn industry is enormous. So many people can’t be wrong, right?

What does the Bible say?
Many books in the Bible clearly condemn sexual activity outside of marriage. But, what if someone is only looking? The Bible also warns against lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16) and heart (Proverbs 6:24-25). Jesus stated, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) According to Jesus, looking with desire or lust is also improper. And Job, even though he had no internet, DVDs, or magazines, recognized the potential pitfall of lust involving the eyes (Job 31:1).

But, why?
Certainly it’s wise to obey God even when we don’t know the reason. But, as humans, we are curious and want to know why. This is especially true when the action only involves looking. What if someone never mistreats women or commits any sexual crime, but only views porn – why is that wrong?

Any addiction places us in bondage (Romans 6:16). A Christian should not be involved in any behavior that places us under bondage or may damage our witness to others (Romans 14:21). And, if a particular behavior causes our heart to condemn us, we should avoid that activity (Romans 14:22 and 1 John 3:21).

Lust is a form of covetousness, which is detrimental to all people, not only Christians. One of the Ten Commandments directly addresses this issue:
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17)
Combining this commandment with the admonition for men to have their own wives (1 Corinthians 7:2) and be satisfied with one’s own wife (Proverbs 5:18), lust of the eyes would seem to be illicit (1 Corinthians 7:9). Now, someone may make the point that he does not desire to possess the women in the videos and photos; rather, only to look at them. Besides, these women pose for the camera voluntarily and for money. So, they are not unwilling participants in most cases. (We will set aside for now the argument that a certain percentage of these girls and women are coerced to some degree, possibly through drug addiction.)

A Christian must ask himself whether this behavior is worth missing eternal life, considering Paul’s comment:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, … nor adulterers … nor the covetous …  will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
God is certainly willing to forgive (Psalm 136:1, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 103:3), but we must first admit the behavior is sinful (1 John 1:8-9).

It’s not adultery if I’m not married, right?
Jesus said anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart and adultery applies to those who are married. Would it be correct to say this verse is not applicable to those who are single? Well, the Bible states we should avoid sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:22), which can be committed by those who are not married as well as those who are. In 1 Corinthians 7:9, the Apostle Paul speaks directly to those who are unmarried advising to either exercise self control or marry. This does not sound like Paul is giving free license for singles to engage in any sexual behavior they please.

Using images of women to gratify one’s lust leads to objectification of females. Rather than considering them as valuable persons made in God’s image, women are perceived as objects to satisfy a man’s selfish desires. The fact that women allow themselves to play this role does not change the male perception. Public nudity - other than Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:25) before sin entered the world - is described disparagingly in the Bible (Genesis 9:23, Ezekiel 16:36, Ezekiel 23:18, and others). God’s design and plan is for a woman’s body to be enjoyed by her husband (and vice versa), not shown on the internet or DVDs as an object of desire for the entire world.
(For additional information regarding God’s best plan for our lives, see the article on this website “Does God disapprove of sex?”)

What is the difference between adultery and fornication?
Adultery is distinguished from fornication in the Bible in several passages and both are described as sinful behavior:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19)
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries” (Mark 7:21)
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals …  will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)

The Hebrew word used to indicate adultery in the Old Testament is na’ap (Strong’s 5003), which is more specifically defined as:  “to commit adultery; … adulterer, adulteress; by extension: to be unfaithful to God (by having illicit relations with other gods) … break wedlock”[4] The Greek word moicheuo (Strong’s 3431) is used in most New Testament references, indicating the same basic meaning:  “to commit adultery; … to become an adulterer”[5]

The word “fornicate” in the Greek is πόρνος (pornos, Strong’s # 4205), which is translated as:
“one who is sexually immoral (male or female), in some contexts distinguished from an adulterer (1 Co 6:9):-whoremongers [4], fornicators [3], fornicator [2], whoremonger [1].”[6]
The bottom line is this:  Sexual activity outside of marriage is considered to be sinful in the Bible.

But, it’s harmless
It’s true that many men view porn and never abuse women or children. However, many do. Much porn available today involves children and violence. In only one police operation, 1,500 individuals were arrested internationally and in the United States for downloading child porn.[7] That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Almost without exception, those who commit sexual offenses and murder of women are heavily involved in pornography consumption. The California Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Obscenity and Pornography remarked that:  “In interviews with a great many police officers, the Committee was frequently told, ‘I never arrested a child molester who did not have pornography in his possession.’ Also stated in the report: ‘in an investigation of more than 40 cases of child molestation by the Los Angeles Police Department, including interviews with more than 100 victims and suspects, officers found that pornography was a factor in every single case.’”[8] One report found 116,000 daily “child pornography” requests on the internet.[9] While it is true that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, all or almost all of those who go on to abuse children begin by viewing pornographic images.

Isn’t this just normal male behavior?
But seriously, does anyone expect normal men to not look? Besides, God made guys that way – so it’s His fault, right? Telling a guy not to look at an attractive female is like telling a dog not to bark. Using this logic, since people are selfish and prideful by nature, those who behave as such are not morally culpable. Simply because something is in our nature does not give free license to act on it. Most humans are lazy by nature, but we consider it beneath us to remain in that state. All people have a sinful nature, as Paul explains (Romans 7:18), which wars against what we know in our mind is good (Romans 7:23). Paul lists the deeds of the flesh, or human nature:
            “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21a).
One could easily make the argument that, because these are part of our nature, we should be free to act upon them without condemnation. But, Paul goes on to state, “as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (v. 21b)

Brain chemistry
Chemical activity in the brain during pornography usage is nearly identical to that which occurs in drug addiction. Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, M.S., M.D., stated:
“…modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction: Only the delivery system is different, and the sequence of steps. That is why heroin addicts in particular give up sex and routinely compare their ‘rushes’ to ‘orgasms’. The chemistry involved is as follows: Upon viewing or reading the ‘expression’, the pornography addict experiences an irresistible impulse to self-stimulation… Upon achieving climax, the brain releases opioids—chemicals that are the naturally occurring analogs to synthetic opiates such as morphine or heroin.”[10]

Larry and Wendy Maltz, both Licensed Clinical Social Workers with more than 25 years of experience with sexually related issues, have concluded:
“… porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates and area of the brain known as the 'hedonic highway,' or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.”[11]

This article is not intended to advocate political or legislative action; rather, to provide accurate information. The message promoted in society today is that pornography is perfectly acceptable. However, the enemy (Satan) would like to weigh down and entangle Christians (Hebrews 12:1) with foolish and sinful behavior. God has a higher calling and purpose for every one of us (2 Timothy 2:21).  Ephesians 5:3 states, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.”  This is not meant to bring condemnation, but to show that we have a greater purpose as children of God (Galatians 3:26), heirs of God (Romans 8:17), and coworkers with God (2 Corinthians 6:1). To run the race to our full potential, we must throw off every weight that hinders.

(For those who need help in breaking this habit, the book every man’s battle, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, is recommended.)

[Biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.]

[1]Family Safe Media, “Pornography Statistics”, statistics through 2006, accessed 5 June 2009.
[2]The Christian Post, “Porn Addiction Flooding Culture, Church”, June 5, 2007,
[3]The Washington Times, “Porn Corrupts America”, 24 Feb 2009.
[4]James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), p. 1534.
[5]Ibid., 1628.
[6]Ibid., 1638.
[7]International Business Law Services, “The Child Exploitation Section of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement is Resolute to Apprehend Internet Child Pornographers”, April 23, 2007,
[8]Coral Ridge Ministries, “Issues Tearing Our Nation’s Fabric”, updated 13 July 2002, accessed 31 May 2009,
[9]Family Safe Media.
[10]Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and the Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities, 18 Nov 2004,
[11]Wendy and Larry Maltz, The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography (New York, NY:  Harper Collins, 2008), pp. 18-19.