Is Sex-Work a Sin? Understanding Prostitution in the Bible

This deep-dive Bible study examines prostitution and its portrayal in the Bible, noting that it was neither condemned nor condoned. It explores various Bible verses that mention prostitution, the symbolism used in relation to sex work, and how its understanding varies within different contexts. The post concludes by discussing a statement by Jesus that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before religious people, prompting reflections on belief and the possibility of being a Christian sex worker.

Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

(Matthew 21:31-32)


Beginning with the book of Genesis, we explore the historical context of prostitution in the bible, which is neither condemned nor condoned – it is simply part of everyday life for men who might see a female dressed as a prostitute and decide to pay.


Then we move into the laws of Moses looking for an indication that prostitution is a sin. There we find out that the people of God are not to be cult prostitutes or to force anyone else into prostitution….along with several very specific rules for priests.


Wisdom literature warns of the dangers of women who act like prostitutes when they are really wives, and aligns with the New Testament teaching about giving into appetites.


Prophets use prostitution to set up a symbolic contrast between the wife of Yah, who is supposed to be sexually exclusive and the prostitute who is available to anyone. Unfortunately, Israel is acting like a prostitute with other nations by seeking intimacy with them instead of with God. The same symbolism reappears in the book of Revelation contrasting the bride of the lamb with the great prostitute.


This is the same kind of contrast that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 6 in the warning about being joined to a prostitute. Each of us gets to choose which desires and loves rule our lives, and there is a good chance this passage is referring to cult prostitutes (worshiping other Gods), or to the Roman legal system.


Finally, we get to Jesus who is always getting into trouble for eating with tax collectors and sinners. I thought that sinners was a dressed-up way of saying prostitutes, but it turns out that the term means “one who misses the mark.” It was used to refer to Gentiles, to sick people, and to social outcasts who missed the mark of what it meant to succeed in society.


The only time Jesus mentions prostitution is in a positive statement – when he says that the tax collectors along with the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before the religious people – but you’ll have to listen to the end to understand the whole context of this teaching.


Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your job is, or how society sees you…what matters is that you choose to walk through life in the love and freedom of relationship with God. Which leads to a question I am leaving with. What does it look like (if it is possible) to be a Christian sex worker?

Leave your thoughts and questions in a comment: I’d love to know what you see going on here!

Sunday (night) School is my first go at a regular LIVE Bible study. I am always craving the chance to study this book with other people – in a way where we really dive into the text and seek to uncover some of it’s deeper secrets.

There is something special about sharing the journey of questioning and discovery with other people. My intention is to hold a space for those who have never had a positive experience of studying the Bible, or those who want to re-awaken their appetite for this fascinating book!

Bring your questions, curiosity, and comments and let’s see where the night takes us…

Be sure to join the next live class at 8pm EST.

Invite me to speak or facilitate a workshop for your local church or Christian student group at www.drkevinjenson.com

I recently published a book on sex and spirituality from a Christian perspective. You can download a free sampler of Sacred not SInful – A New Christian Sexual Ethic at www.sacrednotsinful.com

PS. Here’s the link I promised to the various archetypes of sexual consumers. It’s a conversation between some fascinating teachers and friends of mine. It begins at about the 27 minute mark.


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