Prostitutes and Marriage Beds

Question
The answer Self Abuse says that masturbation is not a sin. But what about verses like 1 Corinthians 6:18 that talk about self-abuse (which used to mean "masturbation")? What about verses like Hebrews 13:4 that talk about keeping the bed pure?
Answer
1 Corinthians 6:18

This vese speaks of prostitution, not masturbation. Prostitution is explicitly identified as the topic of Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 6:15-17. 1 Corinthians 6:18 begins a section on the implications and applications of Paul's doctrine of prostitution.

"Self abuse" is sometimes used as a technical euphemism for masturbation in English, but not in Greek. Also, "self abuse" isn't mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:18. Rather, Paul speaks of "sinning against one's body." The two ideas are not interchangeable. The point Paul is making is that by having sexual relations with a prostitute, a man makes himself of "one flesh" with the prostitute. That is, he creates a mystical physical union between himself and the prostitute. It is this union that is a sin against his body. There is no hint of masturbation.


Hebrews 13:4

Hebrews 13:4 explicitly speaks of keeping the marriage bed pure by avoiding "fornication" and "adultery." Masturbation is neither fornication nor adultery. So, when the book of Hebrews says, "Keep the marriage bed undefiled," it means, "Abstain from sexual relations with people other than your spouse." There is no mention of masturbation, or of any defilement that might arise outside the context of fornication/adultery.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.