Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Prostitution, Ritual
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Perversions of the flesh either accompany or follow idolatry. The children of Israel participated in such abominations after arriving at Mount Sinai. When Moses delayed coming down from the mount, the people built a golden calf, ate, drank, rose to play, and danced (Exodus 32). Some commentators speculate that some were engaging in a type of ritual prostitution.

Later, the idolatrous ceremonies that accompanied the worship of foreign gods in ancient Israel, particularly the worship of Baal and Astarte, commonly involved lewd and sexually explicit behavior. Around the time of Paul, Corinth was known worldwide for the Temple of Diana and its sacred prostitutes. Young, virgin, Corinthian girls were required to serve for a time in the temples as prostitutes before they could marry.

The ancients considered sexual intercourse to be a re-enactment of the fertility cycle in nature, and that such re-enactments pleased the gods. They hoped, then, to be blessed with abundant crops and herds in the coming year. Carnal human nature had no arguments against such "logic," especially when it satisfied its lusts.

God decrees, "Whoever commits any of these abominations [including nakedness and lewdness], the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people" (Leviticus 18:29). God's commandment concerning "uncovering the nakedness" of another, a euphemism for illicit sexual relations, is very specific (verses 6-20). Uncovering another's nakedness defiles the land, and the land will vomit out the inhabitants of nations who practice it (verses 24-28).

The same punishment will be brought upon the descendants of Israel today, as pornography, lewdness, and sexual sins continue to increase. Ezekiel 23:27, 29-30, 35, 47-49 prophesies what will happen to modern Israel:

Thus I will make you cease your lewdness and harlotry brought from the land of Egypt. . . . [The enemy] will deal hatefully with you, take away all you have worked for, and leave you naked and bare. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry. I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols. . . . [T]herefore you shall bear the penalty of your lewdness and your harlotry. . . . [The enemy] shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn their houses with fire. Thus I will cause lewdness to cease from the land, that all women may be taught not to practice your lewdness. They shall repay you for your lewdness, and you shall pay for your idolatrous sins. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God.

Martin G. Collins
The Writing of Prostitutes

In the first century, the city of Ephesus had an environment very similar to our own in modern-day America. It was the crossroads of civilization, politically known as "the Supreme Metropolis of Asia." The Roman governor of the region lived there, and it was the religious center for the worship of the fertility goddess known by the Greeks as Artemis and by the Romans as Diana. Her temple on the outskirts of the city was one of the seven wonders of the world.

Economically, Ephesus was a giant among first-century cities. With its strategic location, it was the chief commercial center of western Asia Minor. Its harbor brought ships from around the Mediterranean, and its two major roads gave ready access to other cities along the coast and inland. Diana's temple, considered sacrosanct throughout the Roman world, became the primary banking institution in Asia Minor.

Morally, however, the city was bankrupt. Just as our nation is inundated with perversion and pornography, Ephesus was controlled by the educated prostitutes affiliated with Diana worship. Part of the cult of Diana was the use of ritual prostitution whereby the devotee became "joined" with the goddess through her priestesses, ensuring her favor throughout the year.

One philosopher, commenting on the moral climate in Ephesus, wrote that the inhabitants of the city were fit only to be drowned. He said that the reason he could never smile or laugh was because he lived amidst such terrible uncleanness.

It was to members of His church who lived among such prosperity and depravity that Christ addresses His first letter among seven in Revelation 2 and 3.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Recapture Your First Love!

Related Topics: Ephesus | Prostitution, Ritual



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