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The Truth About Shacking Up and The Bible

Shacking Up In The BibleDisclaimer: This is just the first post in a long series of posts on the subject. This is by no means a definitive statement as I’m always doing research and simply share my thoughts as I do so. This series of posts should be read as if I am simply BRAINSTORMING through written word. This post is where I started my research. To read my final thoughts and conclusions on the subject, please read the following post:

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If you hang around church long enough, you’ll hear older folks talk about “shacking up” but what does it really mean? From what I’ve gathered through debating this issue with older people (preachers included), is that it refers to a man and woman living together. I would also throw in the assumption that people of the opposite sex who live together must be having sex, and that’s considered “shacking up.” While it may not even be true that sex is going on, there are those still willing to spread false witness regardless of the facts.

If you read the welcome page, you know I’m not really one for tradition and old wives tales. The fact is, “shacking up” is not mentioned in the Bible, not once.  I’m not really a stickler for specific wording, so of course the phrase “shacking up” isn’t going to appear within scripture. I’m referring to the concept of “shacking up”.

The Bible does specifically cover marriage (Genesis 2:24), rape (Genesis 34:13), adultery (Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), bestiality (Leviticus 18:23), incest (Deuteronomy 27:20), and prostitution (Leviticus 19:29), but never sex between a consenting, single male and female, where sex is not exchanged for profit. For the sake of what the Bible really says, lets check out the usual suspects.

  1. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” – Exodus 20:14
  2. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28

I’ve heard the second verse used over and over again to support the “shacking up” position of older people in the church. So, lets take a look at the word adultery and see what it really means.

Adultery – voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.

The only way that applies to a single person, is to inform them that having sex with a married person is wrong in God’s eyes. Since we now know what adultery is, lets look at the word fornication, since that seems to be where most congregations get caught up, and most Preachers haven’t bothered to look, because they assume they know what the word means.

Fornication – voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.

Unfortunately, too often in church, we attempt to use English words to define the original Greek and Hebrew. I also found these few verses often used to support the no “shacking up” position.

  1. “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” – Matthew 5:32
  2. “Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” – John 8:41
  3. “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;” – Ephesians 5:3
  4. “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” – Revelation 2:14

Not So Fast, We’re Not Quite Done

Religion and RelationshipLets look at the origin of the word “fornication” and see what happens. The word “fornication” first entered the English language around 1303 A.D. and the original meaning was changed over time to back religious positions, such as the one we are talking about now.

fornix –> fornicatio –> fornication

That is the word’s history in a nutshell, from Latin to English. Both fornix and fornicatio have something in common that that word fornication doesn’t share with them, its actual definition, as it was intended:

fornix/fornicatio – a vault, an arch, vaulted cellar

As you can see, it doesn’t make much sense, that is, until you understand that arch ways and vaults were where prostitutes worked in ancient times. It had no original reference to unmarried, consenting, men and women. Further more, the Bible provides us with another clue as to its true intended use.

  1. “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” – Hebrews 12:16
  2. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.” – Ezekiel 16:15

Maybe I’m slow or maybe I’m taking the verse out of context, or maybe I’m the only one that notices that the word “fornicator” is directly linked to Esau selling something special of his that he was born with, in order to gratify the desire of his flesh (he was hungry). I might be looking too deep or other people aren’t looking deep enough. Lets see what else the Bible says about prostitution.

  1. “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.” – Leviticus 19:29

The reason the Bible talks about “prostitution” or “fornication” so much, is because it was a religious practice of almost every other culture. The Jewish nation was to be set apart (sanctified) for God. On more than one occasion in the Bible, God refers to Israel as an adulterous wife and committing fornication with other gods (Jeremiah 3:1).

If you want to read more on ritual and religious prostitution, click here.

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He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone

If you recognize those words, good for you. They are the words Jesus spoke when the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:7). Quite a few people believe this was Mary Magdalene. If that is true, we have more evidence that it was prostitution that she was guilty of, along with adultery.

Neither of those involve two single, consenting, males or females that aren’t exchanging something of value in return for a sexual encounter. Its also important to note what Jesus says to her:

  1. “She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” – John 8:11

Jesus didn’t raise the issue of the woman’s adultery or assumed prostitution, if it was indeed Mary Magdalene, but He does directly address adultery and possibly prostitution as a sin. He also does not condemn her as many Christians tend to do. Apparently they know more than Christ does.

The Samartian Woman At The Well

In John 4, we read about a Samaritan woman at the well. I’m not going to recap the entire story, but just make a quick point. Jesus and the woman have a conversation, and He asks her to go get her husband. She tells Him that she doesn’t have a husband, to which Jesus responds:

  1. “For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” – John 4:18

What isn’t written is just as important as what is written. There are a few things not written here.

  1. Jesus didn’t tell her to go and sin no more like he did with the other woman caught in adultery.
  2. There is no mention of her living situation at all.
  3. Jesus doesn’t say anything negative at all about her not being married.

If this subject was going to be made clear anywhere in the Bible, Jesus had prime opportunity to talk about it. Think about it, He started the conversation, and then only complimented her for telling the truth, while ignoring her relationship status. If we go by what is actually printed, the only thing we really know is that she wasn’t yet married to the man she was in the relationship with.

Sex And Dating In Bible Times

Lets assume I’m completely off base with everything above, this point would still be valid: Dating was different in Bible times. You didn’t go out, meet a nice girl, get her number, take her out a few times, and hopefully have sex. There were basically three options for sex in ancient times: Marriage, rape, and prostitution. Marriages were pre-arranged from birth or even before birth in some cases. You could definitely forget about living with an unmarried woman and not being an outcast. Samaritan’s were outcasts anyway, so they weren’t bothered by the social norms.

Prostitution was a big deal in Bible times. Consider how many times there is a reference made to prostitution and fornication:

  • Harlot – 38 times
  • Whore – 13 times
  • Whoredom – 22 times
  • Fornication – 32 times
  • Fornicator – 2 times

Words pertaining to prostitution are mentioned a total 107 times in 66 books of the Bible.

So Can I Live With My Girlfriend/Boyfriend Before We Get Married?

Again, there are a lot of people that might not agree, but I don’t see anything in the Bible that forbids it, but anyone is welcome to point out a verse they think I might have missed. In my opinion, the fact that Jesus completely ignored the subject is reason for me to believe it wasn’t as important as some Christians think it is.

Where the Bible is silent, we should be silent too. Adding things that weren’t said, to the Bible, is definitely a sin, regardless of what someone’s silly tradition teaches (Proverbs 30:6).

Update: Since I first wrote this article in 2009 not one single person has been able to provide a single Biblical reference to living together being against Biblical doctrine.

What About Sex Before Marriage?

I agree with, but never practiced the “no sex before marriage” position. The fact is that the Bible is full of people that had sex outside of marriage. Judah and Lot are just two examples and in both cases, the resulting sons were predecessors to the line of Christ, while other sons born within the covenant of marriage were not related to Christ at all. God had many opportunities to address the subject with clarity, but chose to stay silent on the issue.

I’m a realistic minister that lives here in the real world. Abstinence is the best way to go, but if you’re going to have sex before marriage, make sure you practice safe sex. It’s completely unrealistic to think everyone is going to remain a virgin until marriage. It didn’t happen in the Bible and it doesn’t happen now.

Frequently Asked Questions (updated 02/24/14)

I felt it necessary to add this section because of all the rumors and lies that so called Christians seem to be spreading. If you hear anything that you can’t read for yourself in this article, you’ve been lied to and you should question everything else that the liar tells you.

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” – Proverbs 6:16-19

What is your official position on premarital sex?

My official position is Exodus 22:16 which says the following:

“And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.” – Exodus 22:16

God is not dumb. He clearly says that IF you have premarital sex, you are supposed to marry the person you had premarital sex with. However, like many of the Biblical laws, we as people don’t always follow them to a T. That’s where grace, mercy, and forgiveness comes in.

This verse also doesn’t say, “don’t do it”, which seems to completely contradict the Church’s traditional teaching that the Bible says, “no premarital sex”. When we run into verses like this we are faced with two choices. We can either accept what the Bible actually says or accept what man’s tradition teaches and ignore the Bible. That choice is between you and God.

Does this article condone premarital sex?

The article points out that the Bible says nothing about people living together before being married (shacking up). The story of the woman at the well makes no condemnation of the woman’s living situation, even though many Christians twist scripture to say it does. Read it for yourself. The story only covers her relationship situation, not who she lives with. Jesus said to the woman about her situation, “thou sayest well…” Those that try to use this to justify their false teaching on the issue are adding to the text, which is forbidden by scripture.

“Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” – Proverbs 30:6

I believe that abstinence is the best choice, but I know that it is not the choice that the majority will make. If you decided that you want to have premarital sex, make sure you are safe, and consider the long term consequences such as STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

Do you teach that fornication is not sin?

I’m not sure where this lie came from, but many Christians like to gossip and spread lies, which is unfortunate. I have never taught that fornication is not sin. My entire premise in disputing its meaning was for the church to take a harsher position on IDOLATRY. By idolatry, I’m referring to the fertility ritual known as Easter (bunnies, chicks, eggs, etc.), Christmas (wreaths, trees, yule logs, mistletoe, etc.), and Halloween. These are all pagan elements, born out of idolatry, that have been adopted by most people in church. It’s still paganism, no matter what excuse anyone comes up with.

I have never in the history of the site debated or challenged the teaching that fornication is sin. I only challenged the definition of the word and which sin it is specifically being referred to, based on the Hebrew and Greek definitions. If anyone tells you that I believe anything different, they are lying to you.

Why do you tell people to have safe sex?

The fact is that people have sex. Another fact is that STDs exist. Unwanted pregnancy and abortion also exist. Sure, I could put my head in the sand and say, “don’t have sex until you’re married”, but that’s not really helpful to people who have already had sex or will still choose to have sex outside of marriage. People tend to ignore or completely omit the part above where I said, “abstinence is the best way to go“, and then insert other false accusations of their own, which they will eventually have to answer to God for.

I started having sex in my teens, almost everyone I knew, except for 1 girl, was having sex in their teens. Abstinence Only teachings didn’t work when I was in school and it doesn’t work now. What works is actually educating teens. If the Church doesn’t, their friends will.

When I was in school, there were girls having abortions to hide sex from their parents, who taught no premarital sex. For whatever reason, people in Church are out of touch with reality. The reality is that we become sexual beings with sexual motivations around the ages of 12-14. It’s called puberty. Yet, modern law, influenced by the Church, tells us that we must suppress urges that we don’t understand for 2-4 years (depending on the state), and we are never told why. I’m speaking as someone that experienced this and has friends that experienced the same thing. Telling people not to do it without explaining why just makes them want to do it more.

If your kid goes to public or private school, chances are that sex will take up a large part of their focus. That’s why girls want boyfriends and boys want girlfriends. It becomes all about “hooking up” because that’s what our flesh wants.

The other problem is that we are stuffing 30-50 hormonally charged teens into a confined location for 6 hours per day (school), and then telling them to “just say no” without explanation. It’s a recipe for sexual curiosity and experimentation.

In my opinion, telling people to use protection is better than them aborting a baby to hide a pregnancy or having them go to the clinic to deal with a disease that might be incurable, simply because no one told them to use protection IF they decide to do it.

Why are you going against tradition?

Because it doesn’t add up. The Hebrew and Greek definitions are not the same as the English definitions. The context in which the word “fornication” is used in the Bible doesn’t add up to “sex before marriage.” The translation of the Hebrew and Greek words, compared to what is taught in church doesn’t add up. God’s main focus in the Old Testament wasn’t about sex, it was about idolatry and worshiping false Gods.

After the Catholic Church got a hold of the Bible, the emphasis was taken off of idolatry and graven images, and changed to a focus on sex. The Catholic Church puts an emphasis on celibacy which violates God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply”. That is why the Church is now focused on sex and pays very little attention to idolatry and pagan rituals within the Church walls.

In almost every case, the words translated as “fornication” are translated as other words that reference getting paid for sex in other places in the Bible. The reason false teachers don’t want you to use the Strong’s is because their false teaching falls apart. In Mark 7, Jesus tells us that the traditions of men make the word of God void (paraphrase). People would rather hold onto their tradition than admit that they have been deceived, not by the Bible, but because they were told what to believe instead of reading it for themselves.

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facebook comments:

  • ari says:

    What if I am having sex before marriage? What if I am seriously considering living with my boyfriend of three years before an engagement or marriage? but I believe in the Lord, I pray every day, he knows me and I know him, we converse and I pray to be better but I still come up short. Am I forever shunned from heaven? does the Lord then leave me and forsake me. I am a sinner, I sin constantly. I pray for forgiveness but most days I sin again. it is a constant battle.

    I am so thankful for this article, I consider myself to be a Christian and I try my best to live in a Christ-like manner but I come across so many “Christians” that are cold and unforgiving when it comes to “sinners” like me, those people that don’t always do the right thing or make mistakes more often than not.

    November 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm
  • Minister Fortson says:

    You may want to read it and learn what was going on in Corinth. That has no bearing on “shacking up”. If you knew the history of Corinth, you’d know that the main goddess was a sex goddess and swinging and ritual sex were the main issues in the city. Learn the history of the word and stop falling for the nonsense coming out of these preacher’s mouths.

    October 16, 2013 at 10:13 pm
  • sam says:

    Read 1 Corinthians 7:9

    October 16, 2013 at 9:37 pm
  • Shirley Werner says:

    Thank you so very much for this article. And thank you for not just spouting the traditional opinions of the church, but rather delving into the original language and interpreting the literal translation!!! I am a PK, and recently decided to “shack up” with the love of my life. I have been married twice before to abusive men, and after extensive counseling to come to understand why I have previously ended up in those types of relationships, and much life experience and growth, I am in a healthy and loving relationship for the first time in my life. My mother recently learned that I am living with this man, and although she agrees that this man is someone she would have chosen for me all along, she declared how disappointed she was in me, reprimanded me for “living in sin”, and stated she can no longer have a relationship with me because of it. How very sad that, as a minister’s wife her entire adult life, she has believed what she has been programmed to believe, without really knowing why she believes it, or even if it is true. And even sadder still, that she is willing to discard her own daughter because of her erring belief. Thank you again, for seeking TRUTH.

    September 30, 2013 at 10:56 am
  • mary-anne says:

    thank you for this post. i’ve come to understand that we give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to our Heavenly Father, that which is His. I’ve researched the history of Marriage, and learned that Marriage :

    From the early Christian era (30 to 325 CE), marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no uniform religious or other ceremony being required However, bishop Ignatius of Antioch writing around 110 to bishop Polycarp of Smyrna exhorts, “[I]t becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust.”

    In the 12th century women were obligated to take the name of their husbands and starting in the second half of the 16th century parental consent along with the church’s consent was required for marriage.

    “With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties.The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required.This promise was known as the “verbum.” If freely given and made in the present tense (e.g., “I marry you”), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense (“I will marry you”), it would constitute a betrothal. One of the functions of churches from the Middle Ages was to register marriages, which was not obligatory. There was no state involvement in marriage and personal status, with these issues being adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts.”

    –excerpts from wikipedia

    It wasn’t until the Middle ages, that the Vatican decided that they would make the sacrament of Marriage, a legal affair, to act as a middleman for what Our Father honors as Marriage. In other words, If Marriage is made Holy by man, or by Our Father in heaven, who takes very seriously a vow made by any of His children.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm
  • Minister Fortson says:

    Your entire premise is based on nothing more than an assumption. The assumption is that two people living together are sexually interested in each other in the first place. Its possible for a man and woman to live together and have no interest in each other at all. But with that said.

    “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” – James 1:12

    May 27, 2012 at 9:25 am
  • Mark says:

    Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
    Shacking is a bad idea because it tempts you to fornicate…this doesnt directly say “shacking” but anybody serious about living a God pleasing life knows that it is way too risky to shack up…And fact is that spending the night with a person of the opposite sex is temptatious…

    May 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm
  • Minister Fortson says:

    Yes, the word FORNICATION is English and comes from the LATIN. The LATIN is modified from the Greek. I don’t support Heiser’s work since he keeps flip flopping on several issues, so I will not link to his site because new believers may be confused. You miss the entire point of my post. Use the Strong’s and see for yourself that pre-marital sex does not appear as a possible word translation. You also avoided answering why the same word in the Greek is translated as harlot, whore, and prostitute if it only means pre-marital sex.

    In Hebrew, Zanah is also translated as whore, prostitute, and harlot. So either the translators of the KJV are completely wrong or church tradition is wrong. Being a whore, harlot, or prostitute is much different than haing pre-marital sex since married people can sell themselves for sex. You can’t have it both ways.

    February 9, 2011 at 9:51 pm

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