What does the Bible Say About Pornography?

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From a very technical standpoint, the word pornography does not appear in the Bible. The Greek root word, however, appears many times in the New Testament, and in every case, it refers to immorality and sexual sin.

The word ‘pornography’ comes to us from the Greek language, a construction from the two roots porneia and graphe. The noun graphe is very familiar to us. It is the word for writing, from which we get our words graph and graphic, and which is attached as a suffix to dozens of English words like photography and calligraphy. The word porneia (the noun) and it’s cognate porneuo (the verb) both refer to immoral sexual relations. The words can refer to the acts of fornication, adultery or prostitution. So, ‘pornography’ refers to the graphic display of sexually immoral acts in writing or with images.

In every case where the words porneia and porneuo appear in the New Testament, they always refer to sexual sin. They never refer to the God-ordained sexual relations that are between a married couple. A few examples of the appearance of these words in Scripture include:


Porneia (the noun)

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matthew 15:19

“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness;” Romans 1:29

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!” 1 Corinthians 5:1

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,” Galatians 5:19


Porneuo (the verb)

“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18 (both words)

“Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;” 1 Corinthians 10:8

“with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” Revelation 17:2 (again, both words)


Asking the question, “What does the Bible say about pornography?” is really a way of asking another question, which is, “Is the viewing of pornography sinful?” Is it immoral?” We can answer this question with the answer to another one: Why do people view it?” At this point the answer is simple and self-evident: people view pornography to engage in sexual sin. The viewing of pornography is for no other purpose than to feed lust and engage in sexual fantasy leading to masturbation. Anyone who argues this is simply deceiving themselves. So, is viewing pornography sinful? Is it immoral? Of course it is.

In his landmark book, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, Pure Life Ministries founder and President Steve Gallagher writes:

“Masturbation …is by its very nature a completely self-centered act. On a routine basis, the person isolates himself and enters into total self-indulgence. This kind of activity represents the very antithesis of the disciplined life Jesus expects from His followers, and is utterly foreign to the Kingdom of God.

Furthermore, masturbation is driven by lust and fantasy. Lust and masturbation are not only wrong in themselves, but, perhaps even worse, they open the door to all kinds of deeper perversions. I cannot begin to count the men I have ministered to over the years who never imagined where their indulgence of lust and masturbation would lead them. Anyone who starts down this road can quickly find himself veering out of control.”

At Pure Life Ministries, we minister to men every day who come to us seeking freedom from bondage to sexual sin. The viewing of pornography has consumed them. It has led them into acts of fornication, adultery and all manner of perversion. It has wrecked their lives, and caused great harm to others. It started with the secret viewing of images, and led eventually to lies, affairs, the destruction of their marriage and the loss of their children. How could anyone doubt that pornography is sinful? It leaves nothing but devastation in its wake.

There is one other thing that the Bible says about sexual sins like pornography. With confession to God and true, deep repentance, it can be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7) The power of His Cross can set the sinner free, and he can be released from sin’s bondage. (Romans 6:5-14) Helping men find freedom (and their wives, healing) is why Pure Life Ministries exists. If you need help, we’re here. Contact us today. 

Jim Lewis is a Biblical Counselor at Pure Life Ministries. He received a B.A. in Religion from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL and both the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Lewis served as a pastor for 30 years.

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