Everything a believer does has spiritual implications. This is especially relevant to the sexual area, which is fundamental to who we are as human beings. The chief drive in nature, after the drive to eat and drink, is the drive to have sex. As a result, corruption in the sexual area not only deeply influences our relationships with people, it deeply influences our relationship with God. Every culture throughout history worshiped idols, whether they were physical graven images or things that provided comfort, security, identity, and hope, in place of God. Pornography is a big idol for many people in the modern world, but its origins are hardly recent.
Today, I’ve transcribed a short clip in which Gary Hewins expounds on the spiritual roots of pornography. In ancient Corinth, temple prostitution commonly accompanied temple worship. Pornography today, Hewins argues, a derivative of the Greek word porneia, is a quintessential idol. It is a form objectifying worship that serves our own corrupt desires and admits of no divine demands or relationship.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.Ecclesiastes 1:9
For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.Jeremiah 2:13
Check out the transcript and video down below!
I’ve often heard it said that prostitution is the oldest profession known to man. I don’t disagree with that in the least. Man’s always been a sexual being, and, for the most part, since the fall of man, he’s been inappropriately pursuing sexual ends, so prostitution doesn’t amaze me in the least.
On top of that, there is a spiritual connection that can help us trace the roots and the history of pornography. The idolatry you see in the Old Testament that pops up again and again and again among the peoples around the Israelites was the practice of worshiping an idol, which was often accompanied by temple prostitutes. That is to say, when a man went to the temple to worship an idol, he would have sex with a woman that was there, hired to be there as part of the temple and the temple worship system.
How convenient for sexually-charged men to combine worship with going to a temple! Fast forward to Corinth, modern-day Corinth in the New Testament, and you’ll find the word porneia. Why is this significant? Well, it’s significant because there in Corinth, which was a word that was associated with Corinthianized, or to be sexually immoral, was the temple of the goddess Aphrodite. This is where we get the word Aphrodisiac [an aphrodisiac is a substance that increases sex-drive]. Aphrodite’s temple employed 1,000 temple prostitutes, so when a man in Corinth would go to a temple to worship, he would have sex with those women at the temple.
Now, what significance does all of this have? Pornography started with the worship of an object, just like it is today. De-personalizing, objectifying an object or an image that men worship that asks nothing of them, connects with them in no way, challenges them in no way, and exists for their pleasure. [Pornography] is the objectification of a woman, not unlike the worship of an idol, a man-made object.
This is where we get the word porneia. And women, in Corinth, in that patriarchal, skewed, sexually-immoral culture, existed on three levels. A wife was there to tend to the house. A concubine was there to tend to the husband, when he felt it was necessary. And the temple prostitute was there when he wanted to worship. Porneia means to have sex outside the context of marriage.
Now why is this applicable to today? Well, it’s applicable because I sit down in my office talking with people who are struggling in their marriage only to find out they came to me [about] why their marriage is falling apart. When the man, or sometimes the women, is engaged in pornographic material, and, for the most part, giving his mind and his heart to an image other than his wife—Jesus called this adultery.
Pornography is a form of adultery. It is the betrayal of one relationship for the sake of another. It is the diminishing of one person in the marriage for the sake of another, and it is making those outside the marriage into a possession for a man’s pleasure.
Porneia. It existed in ancient civilizations in the Old Testament. It existed in New Testament Corinth, and it exists today, only multiplied, only magnified in the culture we live in today. And, if you look close enough, with an objective eye, you can see the results it’s having in culture.
There you have the spiritual roots of pornography.