Biblical Adultery: How Often is it Discussed and What Does it Mean?

Discover the shocking truth! Find out how many times adultery is mentioned in the Bible and uncover its deep meaning.

Last Updated:
March 7, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

What does the Bible specifically state about adultery?

The Bible steadfastly promulgates the prohibition against adultery. The commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" resides as an unequivocal warning in Exodus 20:14, the second book of the Hebrew Bible. This stern code contrasts sexual immorality and holds it as a grave transgression. Adultery, while specifically involving a breach of marriage vows, is frequently interpreted as more expansively reprehending different forms of sexual sin.

Renowned biblical commentator Matthew Henry, for instance, interprets the injunction against adultery as a prohibition encompassing all forms of sexual immorality. This perspective underscores the vast implications of the term "adultery," emphasizing that it extends beyond the confines of marital infidelity to cover aspects of moral depravity and lascivious conduct.

The gravity attached to adultery is further amplified by figures such as the Apostle Paul, who warns of the dire consequences facing adulterers. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, he states that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God, emphasizing both the earthly repercussions of immorality and its eternal punishments.

Jesus Christ, in the Gospel of Matthew (5:27-28), intensifies the understanding of adultery by articulating it as not just the physical act but also the perceptual one. Here, He states that anyone who lustfully looks at another individual has already committed adultery within their heart, broadening the scope of the prohibition to include even the fleeting infringements within one's mind.

  • Adultery is resolutely prohibited in the Bible with the warning, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" found in Exodus 20:14.
  • Some biblical interpretations, including that of Matthew Henry, understand the commandment against adultery to generally prohibit sexual immorality.
  • The Apostle Paul warns that those engaging in adultery will face severe consequences, stating they will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Jesus expands the definition of adultery beyond physical acts to include lustful thoughts and desires.

What does the Bible say about the consequences of adultery?

In the solemn text of the scriptures, it is clear that transgressions, especially those of the magnitude of adultery, carry grave consequences. The Bible provides insight into the divine judgment that befalls upon those who commit adulterous acts. The stern stipulation found within the walls of Leviticus 20:10 sets a harsh precedent, pronouncing death upon the adulterers. Nonetheless, this is interpretative within the scope of Mosaic Law and indicates the gravity of the sin rather than endorsing capital punishment in contemporary societies.

However, punishment for adultery is not merely limited to earthly matters. Through his writings in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the ever-vigilant Apostle Paul issues a stern warning concerning the metaphysical repercussions of such an act. He unequivocally asserts that individuals who commit adultery will not inherit the kingdom of God as they quench the sanctity of marriage, which according to the scripture, is a divine covenant ordained by God Himself.

Beyond this, Proverbs 6:28-33 and Hebrews 13:4 serve as further biblical prescripts about the consequences of adultery. The former highlights the self-destructive nature of this act, likening it to a man walking on hot coals who will inevitably get burned. The latter emphasizes the sanctity of marital bonds and warns that God will judge the adulterers. These texts collectively underscore the dire physical, spiritual, and societal consequences accompanying adultery within the framework of biblical teachings.

While the Bible may seem ruthless in its judgment, this severity is a testament to its premium on marital faithfulness. It impresses not just the sinfulness of the act but its ramifications on the individual, their spousal relationship, and the wider community. The focus is thus not only on the punitive aspect but also on the preventive nature of these teachings.

  • According to the Bible, the severity of judgment towards adultery is an affirmation of the high value placed on marital fidelity.
  • Scriptures aim to impress upon their audience the profound repercussions adultery has not only on the sinner but also on their partner, as well as the broader community.
  • The Biblical stance against adultery is not focused purely on punishment, but also emphasizes prevention by teaching about marital faithfulness and integrity.
  • These teachings offer comprehensive insights into adulterous actions’ moral, spiritual, and social implications.

Is there a difference between adultery and fornication according to the Bible?

In grappling with the intricacies of biblical text, we find that the Bible indeed distinguishes between the sins of adultery and fornication. However, these terms are often wrongly perceived to be synonymous. Both are sexual sins, however, biblical definitions separate the conduct and context of these actions.

Adultery, subjectively defined as sexual intercourse between a man and a married woman who is not his lawful wife, emerges as a severe violation point of the Covenant of Marriage, as established in Leviticus 20:10. It is subsumed within the boundaries of the Seventh Commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Exodus 20:14), tattooing indelible sin on the adulterer.

On the other hand, fornication is a more catch-all term, traditionally applied to denote any form of unlawful sexual behavior. In the original Greek text, the words ‘porneia’ from which 'fornication' is derived encapsulates a range of sexual transgressions, including incest, homosexuality, prostitution, and all manner of illicit sexual conduct outside marital bounds.

These two differing definitions demonstrate that while both adultery and fornication constitute grave sins, they are by no means identical. Adultery, by its biblical definition, occurs strictly within a marital context, representing an act of betrayal and violation of marital fidelity. Fornication, in its broader scope, refers to all illicit sexual actions outside the realm of marriage, not necessarily tied to betrayal or deceit. Thus, it becomes increasingly evident that the Bible treats adultery and fornication as distinct sexual sins, each carrying its weight of moral censure.


  • The Bible differentiates between adultery and fornication. Adultery is a violation of marital vows, while fornication refers to any illicit sexual conduct outside of marriage.
  • Both these sins carry distinctive moral censure, reflecting the biblical assertion of upholding the sanctity of marriage and sexual propriety.

Can you find forgiveness in the Bible for committing adultery?

Indeed, while the Bible's teachings emphasize the gravity of adultery, it equally underscores the potency of divine forgiveness. Notably, adultery, like other transgressions, is not an unforgivable sin within the biblical context. Repentance, a profound turning away from sin and towards righteousness, opens the door to divine forgiveness and restoration. Through genuine repentance, an individual can find grace and mercy in the eyes of God, facilitating healing and renewal.

Numerous biblical narratives and teachings capture this unfathomable depth of divine benevolence. To illustrate, in the Gospel of John, the woman caught in adultery is not condemned by Jesus. Instead, she is admonished to go and sin no more, demonstrating God's readiness to provide forgiveness. Furthermore, in 1 John 1:9, the Scripture assures believers that God is faithful and will forgive our sins if we confess and turn away from them.

As a consequence, even in the wake of grievous sins such as adultery, there remains a potent hope for spiritual renewal and restored relationships. However, this necessitates a sincere shift from wrongdoing, a heartfelt repentance, and a commitment to righteousness.


  • The Bible emphasizes that adultery, while a grave transgression, is not beyond the purview of divine forgiveness.
  • Genuine repentance, involving a sincere turning away from sin and a movement towards righteousness, paves the way for forgiveness and spiritual restoration.
  • Biblical narratives and Scriptures, such as the account of the adulterous woman in the Gospel of John and the teachings in 1 John 1:9, demonstrate the depth of divine mercy and the assurance of forgiveness for those who genuinely repent.
  • Therefore, irrespective of the sin’s severity, divine forgiveness remains accessible through genuine repentance.

How does the Bible differentiate between physical and emotional adultery?

In the Bible, not only is physical adultery explicitly condemned but emotional adultery, though less distinctly differentiated, is also strongly criticized. This caution against emotional adultery is primarily found in the teachings of Jesus. Matthew 5:27-28 provides the clearest instance of this differentiation between physical and emotional adultery. In these verses, Jesus Christ explicitly establishes that any man who looks upon a woman with lustful intent has committed adultery in his heart. This emphasizes that not just the act of adultery, but even the emotional desire or lust that precedes it, is considered as a breach of the commandment 'Thou shalt not commit adultery'. So, in essence, both physical and emotional infidelity are equated as forms of adultery.

In Christian teachings, this distinction is pivotal in acknowledging how encompassing the commitment to fidelity in God’s design for marriage is intended. The directive against emotional adultery is not limited to physical actions but broadens the concept to encompass individuals’ thoughts and desires. It calls upon individuals to assert physical fidelity to their spouse and underscores the importance of emotional and mental fidelity.


  • In the Bible, both physical and emotional fidelity are mandated.
  • Jesus Christ taught that lustful thoughts constituted adultery in one's heart, broadening the definition from just a physical act to include emotional engagement.
  • Matthew 5:27-28 typifies this expanded definition of adultery.
  • Christian teachings emphasize that the commitment to fidelity extends to thoughts and desires, beyond just physical actions.

Does the Bible provide any guidance on how to avoid adultery?

Indeed, the Bible does more than merely denouncing adultery. It seeks to guide adherents on how to circumvent this pervasive moral trap. The Scriptures perceive human nature as predisposed to weakness and thus require spiritual fortification against such transgressions as adultery. In this light, the Bible provides counsel and advice that can aid in preventing the commission of this sin.

At the helm of this advisory role is fleeing or deliberately distancing oneself from situations that may lead to adulterous relationships. First Corinthians 6:18 is explicit in instructing the avoidance of sexual immorality. The advice to keep our thoughts captive is arguably derived from 2 Corinthians 10:5, which advocates that one should take every thought captive to obey Christ. This conveys the significance of mental fidelity as a defense against adultery. Keeping ones thoughts captive reinforces the idea that immorality is a journey that begins with an illicit thought, thus the potent weapon of counteracting such thoughts as soon as they spring forth.

Moreover, the Bible warns against developing emotional attachments outside a marital relationship. It advocates for the devotion of emotional resources to the spouse alone. Avoiding tempting situations is another biblical advice to prevent straying. According to Proverbs 4:23, wisdom is to guard your heart, recognizing the direct correlation between the heart and the life one leads. This biblical perspective is an indication that emotional and physical infidelity can be avoided by focusing one's emotional and mental energies towards the spouse while deliberately avoiding potential threats to fidelity.


  • The Bible advises followers to avoid situations that might lead to adultery, and to keep a strict check on their thoughts as another preventive measure.
  • To maintain fidelity, the Bible advises not to develop emotional attachments outside of marriage, emphasising profound devotedness to one's spouse.
  • Skilfully evading tempting situations is also suggested by the scriptures as a method for preventing the mishap of an extramarital affair.
  • In the view of the Bible, both emotional and physical infidelity can be averted by keeping mental and emotional energies focused on one's spouse.

How are the terms adultery and infidelity used interchangeably in the Bible?

Observers of biblical scripture will note that the terms 'adultery' and 'infidelity' often function synonymously within the text. While the term 'adultery' is readily identified and is emphatically referenced throughout the scripture, 'infidelity' often serves as an umbrella term encompassing a range of marital indiscretions, with adultery as an explicit subset.

A close reading of various biblical passages manifests the erosion of marital vows as one of the central tenets of infidelity. In many respects, the act of adultery – sexual intercourse between a man and a married or betrothed woman who is not his wife, according to Leviticus 20:10 – is an embodiment of this concept. Indeed, the Bible often references 'adultery' to address situations of gross marital misconduct, both in physical and emotional terms, marking it as a grave sin against the divine parameters of marriage.

Yet, where a specific, physical act marks adultery, the Bible points to infidelity as a broader decline in marital faithfulness, which may encompass acts of betrayal, dishonesty, and emotional estrangement alongside physical unfaithfulness. This suggests a significant complexity in the biblical understanding of marital misconduct, proposing that the sin of infidelity is not confined to the act of adultery alone, but is rather a complex conglomerate of betrayals against the sanctity of marriage.


  • The term 'adultery' is more concretely referenced within the Bible, specifically highlighting sexual activity with a married person who is not one's spouse.
  • 'Infidelity', meanwhile, is more nebulous, encapsulating not simply physical acts of sexual unfaithfulness, but a wider array of marital misconduct, including emotional betrayal and dishonesty.
  • While adultery is a specific form of infidelity, not all acts of infidelity equate to adultery as per the biblical understanding.
  • The Bible therefore suggests both a nuanced and multifaceted view of marital unfaithfulness, seeking not merely to condemn the physical act of adultery, but also to promote a wider ideal of perpetual faithfulness within marriage.

What does Jesus say about adultery in the Gospels?

In the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, Jesus addresses the topic of adultery on a few different occasions. He significantly broadens the definition of adultery beyond the physical act itself. In the book of Matthew (5:27-28), Jesus presents an intensified understanding of this commandment: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

This statement signifies a profound shift, as it goes beyond mere surface actions and delves into the realm of thought and intent. Here, Jesus points out that the act of lustfully looking at a non-spousal woman is, in itself, a form of adultery. This reflects His emphasis on the purity of the heart, not just the physical behavior.

In another instance, Jesus reinforces the sanctity of marriage and gives a profound objection to divorce except in cases of sexual immorality. As per the Gospel of Matthew 19:9, "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

So, in essence, Jesus’ teaching encapsulates both aspects of adultery: the physical act (in context of divorce and remarriage) as well as the inner immorality (lustful intent, even without action). Such statements underline the gravity of the issue, indicating that the wrong actions start from the heart before they translate to physical acts.


  • Jesus expanded the definition of adultery to include lustful thoughts or intent, demonstrating that according to Christian teachings, the sin of adultery begins in the heart.
  • He upheld the sanctity of marriage by explicitly stating that divorce, except in cases of sexual immorality, and remarriage is considered adultery.
  • While the penalty for adultery under the Old Testament law was death by stoning, Jesus demonstrated mercy in his teachings, signifying the possibility of forgiveness for repentant sinners.

Does the Bible provide any guidance on healing after adultery has occurred in a marriage?

In the narrative of biblical texts, there exist passages that hint towards the potential of healing and restoration following adultery within a marital union. Navigating the complexities of marital fidelity and forgiveness, an attentive reading of the Bible surfaces instances where it is emphasized that God's immense capacity for forgiveness extends to those consumed by remorse for the act of adultery.

Notable mentions are found in the Book of Hosea, where God tells the prophet Hosea to marry a woman named Gomer, who was later unfaithful. Despite Gomer’s infidelity, God instructs Hosea to take her back, embodying the divine standard of unfathomable forgiveness and mercy.

Although the process can be imbued with emotional pain and immense challenges, reconciliation and restoration are inherently possible in Biblically-based beliefs. This, however, requires true repentance from the wrongdoer and an open-hearted acceptance of the repentant by the wronged. The sentiments of forgiveness and restoration are underscored by various scripture verses, illustrating God’s capacity for mercy and the importance of forgiveness and restoration within marital relationships.


  • The Bible implies the potentiality of healing after adultery in a marriage bond.
  • The Book of Hosea presents a metaphor for divine forgiveness and restoration.
  • True repentance and forgiveness play vital roles in achieving reconciliation and healing after committing adultery.
  • Forgiveness is central to Christianity, promoting the healing and reparation of relationships affected by adultery.

How does the Bible's view on adultery influence Christian beliefs today?

The Bible's views on adultery, comprehensively presented in both the Old and New Testaments, have significantly shaped Christian beliefsand principles today. They revolve around the moral norm that adultery is a grave sin, thereby informing Christians about the inherent sanctity and exclusivity of marital relationships.

For instance, the gravity of adultery as represented in the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus 20:10, where adulterers are subject to the penalty of death, has not faded. Instead, its perception has transformed to embody an ethical understanding that any contravention of marital fidelity bears grave emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences. This idea remains deeply imbedded in the collective Christian consciousness, thus underlining the veneration for fidelity.

Saint Paul's stern warning about the gravity of adultery and his declaration that adulterers shall not enter the kingdom of God have also weighed heavily on Christian theology, shaping its ethical discourse on adultery. This has fostered a culture that views adultery as a serious violation of God's commandments.

The New Testament, specifically in Matthew 5:27-28, extends the traditional interpretation of adultery to incorporate not only the physical act, but also illicit mental desires. This view, propagated by Jesus, has led to a broad understanding of adultery among Christians that encompasses even the contemplation of infidelity. Furthermore, this interpretation underscores the importance of purity in thought and action, thus informing Christian beliefs about moral purity and spiritual discipline.


  • Adultery, being considered a grave sin throughout the Bible, has significantly influenced Christian beliefs and norms in the context of marital fidelity.
  • The emphasis on the serious emotional, psychological, and spiritual repercussions of adultery in Christian teachings is deeply rooted in the biblical depictions of adultery in both Old and New Testaments.
  • Saint Paul's strict warnings about the seriousness of adultery and its implications for eternal life have created a profound impact on the Christian ethical discourse on adultery.
  • The extended understanding of adultery beyond physical acts to encompass illicit desires, as propagated by Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28, has significantly influenced Christian beliefs about moral purity and spiritual discipline.

Facts & statistics


Matthew 5:32

Matthew 5:28

John 8:10-11

Matthew 19:18

Frequently asked questions

How does the Bible define adultery?

Adultery, according to the Bible, is a serious offense that corrupts the institution of marriage:

  • It is defined as marital infidelity and spiritual adultery.
  • The Ten Commandments forbid adultery.
  • Divorce and remarriage can be considered forms of adultery.
  • The Bible emphasizes the power of forgiveness in cases of adultery.
  • Faithfulness and its consequences are highlighted in the biblical view of divorce and adultery.

What are the consequences for committing adultery?

  • Committing adultery has serious consequences.
  • Adultery is forbidden in the Ten Commandments and is considered a form of marital infidelity and spiritual adultery.
  • Consequences of adultery include damage to marriages, separation from spouses and God, and potential for eternal death.
  • The Bible offers hope of forgiveness and redemption to those who repent and seek God's grace.
  • It is important to recognize the gravity of the offense of adultery and take steps to restore the relationship with God and spouse.

Is there forgiveness for those who have committed adultery?

  • Adultery can be forgiven.
  • Acknowledging the pain caused is the first step in healing.
  • Seeking forgiveness from God and your spouse is essential.
  • Rebuilding trust requires patience, openness, and a commitment to change.
  • God's unconditional love and grace can restore a marriage.

How does the Bible differentiate between fornication and adultery?

  • From a biblical perspective, fornication and adultery refer to different forms of sexual immorality.
  • Fornication is voluntary sexual intercourse between unmarried individuals, while adultery is conjugal infidelity within a marriage.
  • Both are considered sinful and corrupt the institution of marriage.
  • The Bible often uses these terms interchangeably to symbolize idolatry and spiritual unfaithfulness.
  • It emphasizes the sanctity of marriage and warns against any form of sexual immorality.

What are some Bible verses that specifically address adultery?

  • Adultery is a serious offense in the Bible, as it is seen as a violation of the sacred bond of marriage.
  • Adultery is distinct from fornication, which refers to sexual relations outside of marriage.
  • Exodus 20:14 and Hebrews 13:4 are two biblical verses that address adultery, emphasizing the importance of faithfulness and the severe consequences of infidelity.
  • Adultery is considered a sin with serious consequences, and is not to be taken lightly.
  • All couples should strive to remain faithful to one another to honor the sanctity of marriage.

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