We now turn to the final part of this study. We take a look at the New Testament Usages of Porneia and Moicheia. Then we reach the conclusion of this study. (The other parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The whole paper can be found here.)

I know that this is a technical look at a small portion of this debate. There are many more arguments to be said from both sides about other texts which matter. But the final argument is only as strong as its parts. If the pillars are weak then the structure is weak. we have been looking at one of those pillars which is important for this debate. That pillar is the Permanence claim that Matthew has a special usage of Porneia and Moicheia which translates into Matthew not giving an exception to divorce. Permanence holders claim that there are signals which suggest that Matthew has that special usage. But we are putting those claims to the test by seeing if those signals correspond to what we see else where in the relevant literature.

Hopefully this has proven useful now or maybe in the future. I have played around with different ways to communicate what I write in larger papers.  Would you, the reader, find it more helpful if I gave summarizes of my finds with a link to the main paper? Or something else? Whatever way is most profitable to you is my aim so your suggestion is welcomed.

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New Testament Usages. Now we turn to the New Testament. What about other authors? Did the way they use the words tell us anything?

When considering the linguistic rules the Permanence holders assert there is nothing that corresponds to it exactly. There is no example of the words happening in close proximity to one another outside the debated passages in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. There is only one place where Moicheia comes in a list with Porneia: Mark 7:22 which is a parallel passage with Matthew 15:19.

The claim is made, however, that the New Testament writers follow the a SM pattern in the use of Porneia and Moicheia as found in Matthew, “even outside the Gospels, pornos (fornicator, one who engages in porneia) is plainly distinguished from moichos (adulterer, one who engages in Moicheia) as two different categories of sinners (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4)”[1] Now we can put this claim to the test.

Porneia is used 25 times in the New Testament. But the question we are exploring is if the word encapsulates adultery in any of its usages? Or does it take a SM usage in every use?

Now for the SM understanding to make sense we have to see it used in every or most cases in the New Testament in an SM way to establish the claim.  This is because language is consistent in its usage. If an author wants to communicate his ideas (Matthew in our case) he will use the language how everybody else is using it. And so when coming to the New Testament are there usages of Porneia consistently pointing to a SM understanding, namely that it never includes adultery?

And since it is a claim about an absolute usage of a word (Matthew has to do it this way) the only thing that is needed to make the claim dubious is to find some examples where the claimed pattern does not work.

Here are several usages of Porneia where the SM understanding does not seem to work,

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality (πορνεία), impurity, sensuality,” (Gal 5:19)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality (πορνείαν), impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col3:5).

But sexual immorality (Πορνεία) and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral (πόρνος) or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph 5:3-5).

According to an SM understanding Paul does not have adultery encapsulated in any of these commands or lists. That seems like a very hard claim to understand. To see Porneia encapsulating adultery makes a lot more sense in reading these lists and commands.

A very interesting point can be made about the Ephesians 5 passage. There is a parallel saying from 1 Corinthians where Paul says close to the same thing,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdomof God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral (πόρνοι), nor idolaters, nor adulterers (μοιχοὶ), nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit thekingdom ofGod (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Paul uses a list of things which characterize those who will not inherit thekingdomofGod. If there is the SM between the sexually immoral person and the adultery why is there no mention of adultery in the Ephesians passage? Is Paul only talking to those who are not in any position to be tempted by adultery or see what adultery is? That does not seem to make sense. However, if Porneia and its different forms and relations can encapsulate adultery then there is no problem.

So what can be gathered from all this? A SM understanding of Porneia is very difficult to read in some usages of Paul and there is no evidence that would support the two linguistic patterns from Permanence holders. From an evidential stand point it seems much better to understand the usage of the word as it has appeared in the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and Apostolic writings.

Conclusion

This has not been a study of every usage of Porneia or Moicheia in the relevant literature. We are, instead, studying the claims made about usages of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew. The claims being that (1) since Matthew uses the terms in close proximity whenever he uses Porneia and (2) those words appear in the same list of vices in 15:19 that they have to take on “Separate Meanings.” We have taken these claims to the relevant literature to test them. Does the close proximal usage mean that Porneia cannot be used to refer to an adulterous act? Does the use of the word within lists mean that they have to take on SM in every other usage? Does an SM use of the words stand up with the other usages within the New Testament?

We have seen very clear usages of Porneia in the LXX, Apocrypha, and Apostolic Fathers where the first claim is proved clearly false. Porneia can be used in the same verse at Moicheia and refer to an adulterous act. To the second point we have seen a few examples which cast high doubt upon this claim in two ways: first, with authors being able to use the terms both distinctly and synonymously within the same work then second, an author using the terms distinctly in a list and then synonymously earlier in his work. Thus, the claim that Matthew “has to” follow a SM is disproven. There are examples which prove that Matthew does not have to.

What does this mean for the discussion?

We do have to say that this does not confirm the traditional evangelical interpretation of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 as giving exceptions. It does give support to the idea that the usages of Porneia and Moicheia in the traditional evangelical interpretation are consistent with what we find elsewhere. But it does not give the final verdict. There might be a possibility that Matthew has a special usage of the words that do not correspond to what we find anywhere else. This would, however, require substantial evidence to validate from within the text itself.

It does, though, remove the only linguistic argument from the Permanence holders for their interpretation of Matthew. The two patterns presented as evidence for the special reading do not hold up under scrutiny. With the evidence presented here there is no linguistic reason to take the Permanence position on Matthew. Nothing with Matthew’s usages of Porneia, Moicheia and Moicheuō should suggest that he has to have a SM usage in mind. This means the argument that Matthew has to be speaking to the betrothal period in 5:32 and 19:9 in the exceptions has no support from the usages of Porneia and Moicheia.


[1] Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 43.

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