I had considered beginning this study by presenting current statistics relative to virginity. However, I think all would acknowledge that we have observed sweeping changes in both attitudes and practices pertaining to virginity or the converse, the loss of virginity in America and to varying degrees, world-wide. Virginity is often today sadly considered "old fashion" and endemic to the Victorian Age. Our object in this material shall be to clearly establish what the Bible teaches regarding virginity. First, let us offer a basic definition of virginity. "One who has not experienced sexual intercourse" (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 885). A little more involved biblical definition pertains to one of the primary Hebrew words rendered virginity. It says, "From a root meaning ‘separated,’ is a woman living apart; i.e., ‘in her father’s house’ and hence a ‘virgin’" (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 3, 051). Thus, when we speak of virginity in this study, we are not talking about a male or female who has not held hands or kissed one of the opposite gender. Virginity has reference to the state of one who has not, whether male or female, engaged in sexual intercourse (see Addendum 1).
Virginity as a sign of spiritual purity. God’s people of old were called, "O virgin of Israel" (Jere. 31: 21, cp. vs. 13, 4). When we come to the New Testament, we also find a spiritual use of "virgin." Paul wrote thus to the saints at Corinth:
"2: For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11).
Regarding this use of "virgin," let it be clearly understood that the scriptures do not necessarily require all to be physical virgins in order to be saved, albeit "virginity" is often associated with salvation (cp. Rev. 14: 4). These scriptures are referring to spiritual purity and separateness. The scriptures do, though, also use "virgin" with reference to physical virginity. For instance, Philip is said to have had four daughters who were "virgins" (Acts 21: 9). The fact that they were virgins in their circumstance was spiritually complimentary and even spiritual virginity bespeaks of the specialness of physical virginity.
The excellence of virginity is seen relative to Christ and His church. Spiritual virginity is obviously the point in Paul’s language:
"25: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26: That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5, see v. 32, addendum 2).
Just as Jesus only is presented as having "one bride," this one bride is pure and holy (Eph. 4: 4, 2 Cor. 11: 2). In the ideal sense, virginity should characterize all prior to their "marriage night."
Pre-marital sex is condemned. Many today scoff at the idea of pre-marital sexual intercourse being a sin, but the Bible is plain regarding this matter. The sex act is only reserved for and allowed in God ordained marriage (Heb. 13: 4). All other applications and circumstances of sexual intercourse are sin, according to the same just mentioned verse. Pre-marital sexual intercourse is called "fornication" in the scriptures. Fornication is simply illicit or forbidden sexual intercourse.
"1: Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2: Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (I Cor. 7).
Notwithstanding the then prevailing situation that would dissuade marriage, marriage was preferable to fornication and "burning" (I Cor. 7: 26; 9). Joseph of old is an excellent example of sexual purity (Gen. 39: 7-9). Joseph literally did what Paul later said do, "Flee fornication" (I Cor. 6: 18).
The Levitical Priest was to only marry a virgin. The Hebrew scriptures are replete with teaching pertaining to virginity. In the case of the Priest under the Law of Moses we read:
"13: And he shall take a wife in her virginity. 14: A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife: (Lev. 21).
We must not unnecessarily infer from Leviticus 21: 13 that all others with impunity were allowed to do otherwise. However, especially in the case of the spiritual leaders of Israel, they were to marry virgins (see addendum 3).
The case of a man "enticing" a virgin. The Hebrew scriptures provide detailed teaching relative to many matters, matters that are just as applicable today due to their inherent moral nature. One such circumstance involved a man enticing a virgin who was not "engaged" and, thus, robbing her of her virginity.
"16: And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. 17: If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins" (Ex. 22).
"This is Law of Moses teaching and since we are not under the Law of Moses today, we cannot bind or apply such teaching today!," I have been told. Regarding some, I have asked them if they would affirm that a man today, under the age of the gospel, may rob a virgin of her virginity and simply walk away from her, all things equal and understood? I concede that there are features of this foregoing teaching that are obviously endemic and peculiar to the theocratic Law of Moses legal structure. Case in point would be the role of the father, while not to be totally precluded today, and the fine of the "dowry of virgins." I think that due to the little value we place on virginity today, we fail to appreciate the general moral teaching and responsibility resident in Exodus 22: 16, 17 (consider addendum 4). Rather than Exodus 22: 16, 17 being simply "legalistic," I think the teaching takes into account a number of deeper emotional factors; matters such as what the loss of virginity can mean, especially to the female. We answer about five thousand questions each year pertaining to all manner of Bible related subjects, including moral issues. Consider one from "Alice" that I shall abbreviate:
"I am a very religious seventeen year old that has been brought up to believe in God and the Bible. As such, I have greatly valued sexual purity and I have considered my virginity a matter that is holy and to be greatly valued. I met a young man a couple of years ago who I thought had all the qualities of a man I would want to be my husband for life and the father of our children. He told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. Things got out of control the other night and before I knew it, I had lost my virginity. My first mistake was not going by the guidelines that I had put in place to limit heavy petting.
I looked to him for understanding and support. However, immediately after the sex act, I noticed a change in him. He appeared to have lost the respect and love that he had shown toward me. I felt so cheap and dirty. I could not wait to call him the next day to talk, but when we talked, he was cold and withdrawn. Now, he will not return my calls. Mr. Martin, I cannot really describe by feelings. I feel that I have lost a major portion of why I am here: To give my husband on our wedding night my all, including my virginity and continued devotion for life. I am overwhelmed with shame and I have no one to talk to….Shame and disappointment now are so present that I cannot think clearly and I am having a strong emotion that I have never felt before, I just do not want to continue on in my ruined state…! Will God forgive me?"
"Alice" was placed on a "suicide watch" list that we keep. I do not know what happened to Alice, as she dropped off from our correspondence. I do know that she was extremely depressed and had become suicidal.
Many after experiencing the loss of their virginity reach the point to where they just do not care any longer about abstinence; hence, promiscuity becomes their lifestyle. Some even enter into prostitution. Rather than entering the "New, liberated class," many experience the loss of pride, dignity, and self-respect. They feel they do not have as much to physically, psychologically, and spiritually offer a prospective mate. While they can certainly obtain God’s forgiveness and move on in life, it will not ever be exactly the same. Those who have the greater quality, often suffer the most, such as "Alice." Males who are after another trophy or want to satisfy a passing physical need, should realize the price that is being paid, especially by the one whom they shall entice.
Case of man discovering that his wife was not a virgin. The express teaching found in the Hebrew scriptures pertaining to a man marrying one whom he later discovered was not a virgin is as follows:
"13: If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14: And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid…20: But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: 21: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you" (Deut. 22).
Again, there are a number of features to the foregoing teaching that are manifestly Law of Moses and could only be executed under that theocracy (moral system involving "civil law"). The obvious is the death penalty. Since the Law of Moses as a system (including the civil) cannot and is not binding today, these features cannot be applied (Col. 2: 14-16). However, universal moral principles found within the Law of Moses did not cease, they are only modified and made more spiritual, if you please, under "the law of Christ" (cp. Gal. 6: 2). The moral, static point involved in Deuteronomy 22: 13-21 is the value placed on virginity and also the desirability of protecting a virgin’s reputation (seen in the deleted portion in the immediately above scripture quotation).
It is, indeed, regrettable that many cultures today do not value virginity. If you are a virgin, remain one and do not be "enticed" ("I love you and want to marry you" sort of persuasion). Your sexual purity is one of the greatest gifts you can offer your husband on your wedding night. Young men, realize that you cannot just rob one of virginity and walk away, you have responsibility. Just think of all the good results the teaching that we have explored would have from lack of venereal disease, illegitimacy, emotional disorders and scars, to sexual purity if universally applied. The requirement of the scriptures is:
"23: And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thes. 5).
Pristine Christianity is not just about the separateness of the soul or spirit; it also involves the body (see the final addendum, number 5). (You might want to consider, "Fornication and Sexual Purity".)
Addendum 1: While we are focusing on "fornication" or sexual intercourse, the converse of virginity, such does not mean that all other sexual expressions and forms are necessarily acceptable to God. For example, while heavy petting may not include actual sexual intercourse, it would be involved in what the Bible calls "lasciviousness" or "licentiousness: (See Gal. 5: 19). Lasciviousness is a "work of the flesh" and all who do such things, "…shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5: 21). Also, sexual intercourse does not "just happen," it is usually the end result of out-of-control petting.
Addendum 2: Jesus and His church, His bride, are presently married in the sense of legitimacy, in keeping with the practice of betrothment in Bible days.
Addendum 3: The doctrine of celibacy in general is not taught in the scriptures. Such, rather, is identified as the, "…doctrine of demons" (I Tim. 4: 1-4).
Addendum 4: Some think that Exodus 22: 16, 17 is the same as the teaching found in Deuteronomy 22: 28, 29. However, I think the latter is pertaining to force or rape, "lay hold on her" as opposed to "entice" (persuade), as in the former. Regarding the applicability of the moral teaching of Exodus 22: 16, 17 today, notice how Paul described sexual intercourse, even with a prostitute as "one body" (I Cor. 6: 16, see context). While I do not believe Paul is saying that sexual intercourse automatically constitutes marriage, even Exodus 22: 16, 17 shows marriage is not automatic, he does show how sexual intercourse is congruous with marriage. Hence, there is a degree of moral mutuality seen in the detailed teaching of Exodus 22: 16, 17 and the general moral teaching seen in the New Testament. Some also attempt to discount all detailed teaching pertaining to virginity found in the Hebrew scriptures by saying that Deuteronomy 22: 28, 29 shows the lack of applicability by teaching that the raped woman who was a virgin is to marry the man. Again, there are characteristics of this teaching that make it Law of Moses. However, it remains that the teaching is indicative of the importance of virginity. Instead of walking away and ignoring that he had robbed her virginity and all the consequences of this act, he would be civilly forced to take her all her days without any recourse as to divorce. Some sociologists have remarked that while such a requirement seems to many, especially women just commenting from afar on the matter, to be totally unfair to the victimized woman, this teaching when fully examined would do more to stop rape than perhaps any other deterrent. For additional consideration of "moral law," consider, "A Study of Moral Law".
Addendum 5: While we have emphasized the preservation of virginity, in the real world, many have already lost their sexual purity. When this is the case, God can and will forgive, as seen (Acts 2: 38; I John 1: 8-10), but you need to realize you are not the same. The chances are temptation will now be greater and you are more vulnerable to sexual desires and the commission of the same. You need to especially avoid situations that have attendant temptation. Remember that real love does not simply seek to selfishly satisfy a momentary sexual desire at the expense of sexual purity and the well being of others, but it desires to protect the one loved and do what is best for them. Sexual passion and love are not to be equated, notwithstanding our too often twisted and shallow American culture.