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The First Epistle to the Corinthians states "Flee from sexual immorality" and lists adulterers and "those who are sexually immoral"/practicing-fornicators in a list of "wrongdoers who... The Apostolic Decree of the Council of Jerusalem also includes a prohibition of fornication.

Throughout history, most theologians have argued that any and all forms of premarital sex are immoral.

By contrast, a teleological view interprets porneia, aselgeia and akatharsia in terms of the quality of the relationship (how well it reflects God's glory and Christian notions of a committed, virtuous relationship.) The debate also turns on the definition of the two Greek words moicheia (μοιχεία, adultery) and porneia (el:πορνεία, with meaning of prostitution, from which the word pornography is derived).

The first word is restricted to contexts involving sexual betrayal of a spouse; however, the second word is used as a generic term for illegitimate sexual activity, although many scholars hold that the Septuagint uses "porneia" to refer specifically to male temple prostitution.

Wright notes "If a Corinthian were to say, 'Because I'm a Corinthian, I have always had a string of girl-friends I sleep with, that's part of our culture,' Paul would respond, 'Not now you're a Christian you don't.'...

In modern usage, the term is often replaced with a more judgment-neutral term like extramarital sex.

In the late 4th century, the Latin Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Greek texts, translated the term as fornicati, fornicatus, fornicata, and fornicatae.

In other words, Witte claims that the Bible excludes premarital sex from its list of unlawful sexual relations (Leviticus 18) though Leviticus 18 is not the only such list, nor does Leviticus 18 claim to be exhaustive being devoted largely to forms of incest.

Some of the debate arises from the question of which theological approach is being applied.

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