F.F. Bruce on Porneia in the Greco-Roman World (Gupta)

FFBruceWhy did Paul have to be so insistent when teaching Gentiles that they had to maintain purity in marriage relationship? Wouldn’t it have been assumed that sleeping around was sinful and that singular commitment to one’s wife was a clear implication of the gospel? F.F. Bruce helps the modern reader put Paul’s context into perspective:

“The general attitude is frequently illustrated by a quotation from Demosthenes’s oration Against Neaera: ‘We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.’ “

(Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians WBC, p. 87)


8 thoughts on “F.F. Bruce on Porneia in the Greco-Roman World (Gupta)

  1. I’m trying to figure out the relationship between the quote and your comment. What Demosthenes describes was not considered adultery in that time and context. Adultery would have been the wife sleeping with a man other than her husband, or the husband sleeping with another man’s wife.

  2. Hi James. Thanks for pointing that out. Actually, I could have said it, but what you are saying is precisely my point. Paul had to teach about what constitutes Porneia (sexual vice) because it would have been understood so differently by Greco-Romans versus Jews. When we wonder (today) why Paul had to teach things that seem obvious to us, it is because it would have been cultural unfamiliar to many Gentiles (for exactly the reasons you point out).

      1. James – because you were not the only person confused by my meaning (see FB), I have edited the post to clarify (i.e., removed language of adultery). But I am publicly crediting you with helping me express this better! Also, wouldn’t it be true that Jews (by and large) would have been taught a stricter view of adultery than pagans? (genuine question)

      1. Yes, on prostitution (the core meaning of porneia) Jews and subsequently Christians were definitely stricter.

        Isn’t the adulteress in Proverbs married to someone else, and that is the problem?

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