Paul on prostitution

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20, NRSV)

I wonder how this passage informs the ways Christians talk about prostitution today.

When I read a passage like the one above, I assume that what Paul had to say to the Corinthian church has something to teach us as well. The central point appears to me to be about our bodies and our relationship to Christ. Our bodies are not our own. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Paul finds sex with a prostitute objectionable because it unites one who belongs to Jesus Christ with someone unholy. It almost feels like we are reading Leviticus when we take a moment to look at what Paul is actually saying to the Corinthians.

No where in Paul’s analysis do questions of consent or oppression or power come into play, although that does not mean he would approve of the institution. As with slavery, Paul appears more interested in teaching the church how to live in the light of a institution existence. Whether he would eliminate the institution is not a question he openly addresses in either case. In the case of prostitution, it is a uniting what belongs to God with one who stands in de facto rebellion against God. It does not matter that in certain counties in Nevada prostitution is legal. It does not matter that countries in Europe sex work is a regulated business, as it was in ancient Rome. It does not matter that Hollywood glamorizes the degrading and brutal exploitation of women. What matters is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. We were bought with a price, and we are not now to unite what Christ has bought with the bodies of those who are still enslaved by sin.

That reading may not make much sense in public debate about the rights of sex workers. But it is my best effort to understand Paul’s teaching and how it still speaks to the church today.

6 thoughts on “Paul on prostitution

  1. I think you are confused bout the FACTS of prostitution. First 98% of prostituted people have been coerced, forced, or lied and tricked into it. The average entry age of a prostituted person is 13 years old. These are NOT the heathens you speak about they are clearly victims. The HEATHENS you speak of are the men who prey on these victims and want to pay them to rape them. “In the case of prostitution, it is a uniting what belongs to God with one who stands in de facto rebellion against God” — NOTHING is further from the truth. These 13 year old children stand in de facto rebellion against God? — PLEASE do not teach on this topic until you have become more educated about it, as you seem to have a toward the victims, and feel “sorry” for, or are making excuses for the Johns.
    The church of Corinth stated they “praised God” by having sex and orgies. Paul wanted to be accepted an make a difference. He didn’t take ANY money to preach and acted as one of them. Now we don’t know if that means he became sexual like them or not. I choose to believe he did NOT. He was accepted however and was able to change the the ideology of the church. You have the Prostituted and the Johns put into a box. You see this as clearly a black and white issue. The problem is you have the wrong group of people in the rebellion box. That is where the tricks/Johns belong, not the victims

    1. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

      I agree that prostitution is an evil and sinful practice and the women are being victimized by it. They are victims of sin — coercion, intimidation, etc. They also are sinning, by force but still sinning. I agree that the men who prey on them wicked sinners.

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