What Does the Bible Say About Prostitution?

Scripture conveys a powerful message against sexual relations with prostitutes. Despite scripture acknowledging and celebrating figures such as Rahab and the woman who generously anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume, Biblical teachings do not portray prostitution as a profession that honors God, given the explicit Biblical perspectives on sex.

Prostitution has long been referred to as the oldest profession in the book – it’s certainly a popular one in Bible times – both in the Old and New Testaments.

But what does the Bible say about prostitution? Let’s take a look.

Mentions of Prostitution in the Old Testament

Prostitution is nothing new. It’s mentioned many times in the Old Testament, with one of the first mentions being in Genesis 38.

In a disturbing story, Judah, son of Jacob, accidentally impregnates his daughter, who disguised herself as a prostitute to spite him.

“About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned…” 

Once he recognized who she was, Judah says, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.”

Later in Deuteronomy 23, God gives clear instruction to His people: “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.”

Prostituion is also a popular theme in Proverbs:

“For a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men.” (Proverbs 23:27-28)

In addition to repeatedly warning against involvement with a prostitute, Proverbs also uses the prostitute as a strong metaphor for turning away from wisdom and chasing fleshly desires – even if they aren’t necessarily sexual.

So we see prostitution in the story of the Bible from the beginning.

Mentions of Prostitution in the New Testament

In 1 Corinthians 6:15, Paul instructs the Corinthian people not to be sexually involved with a prostitute: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!”

He’s speaking of sexual immorality and the truth that sex is a deeply meaningful act. Sex is not only a physical joining of bodies, but a spiritual joining. And it’s worth noting here that the act of intercourse itself isn’t the only thing that binds us together. Kissing and heavy petting are intimate as well.

Which means sex is a big deal. We shouldn’t take sex lightly – even oral sex or anal sex. Taking a nonchalant stance on sex is at the heart of engaging with a prostitute.

We see Paul and others speak on sexual immorality and sexual promiscuity all throughout the New Testament, making it crystal clear that sexually engaging with a prostitute is immoral and impure. 

But this doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the prostitute.

Grace for the Prostitute

In Luke 7, we find Jesus eating dinner in the home of a pharisee:

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”

This woman may or may not have been a prostitute, but most scholars believe at minimum, she slept around.

One of the Pharisees assumes Jesus doesn’t really understand who this woman was or the terrible things she’s done. In actuality, there’s a good chance Jesus has already encountered this woman and shown her forgiveness and grace.

He responds to this pharisee with a story about a man who had been greatly forgiven, insinuating that perhaps the pharisee didn’t fully understand the depths of his own sin – nor the depths of grace given Him.

Jesus makes it crystal clear that prostitution – or any other lifestlye of sexual promiscuity – does not disqualify someone from receiving saving grace from God, through the life and work of Jesus.

The Bible’s Stance on Prostitution

The Bible repeatedly upholds a high standard of sexuality for Christians. Our bodies are to be viewed as temples where the living God resides through the Holy Spirit. Sex is a deeply intimate act where souls become entwined. We are to take it seriously and flee from impurity and promiscuity – even just dreaming about an encounter with a prostitute is just as serious as committing adultery. Deep pain comes when we treat sex lightly.

Based on this, prostitution isn’t a career the Bible would recommend or endorse. But it’s not too late for the prostitute. There’s an ocean of grace for those who have engaged in prostitution or lived a promiscuous life at the Cross of Jesus.

Leave a Comment