An Atheistic Study of The 7Th Commandment Thou Shalt Commit Adultery

August 17, 2013 by Arthur Chappell  
Published in Marriage

We may be guilty of this for even thinking about it. I deliberately left out the word “not” as did a notorious early printing press era edition / translation of the Bible itself.

An Atheistic Study Of The 7th Commandment Thou Shalt Commit Adultery

The Bible obsesses about the evils of adultery. Having sexual activity with someone else’s husband or wife is seen with extreme loathing. The stigma of having committed adultery can stay with the offender for the remainder of his life.

Adultery was not invented by the Commandment. It was already seen as evil in Exodus, as in the incidents of various pharaohs’ seducing Abraham’s wife, Sarah, though Abraham and Sarah know full well that they are entrapping the unwary Egyptian rulers in God’s excuses for their destruction.

Joseph faces two years in prison over false charges of adultery.

After the Commandment is issued, the penalties for adultery grew in severity, and it took only the word of two alleged witnesses to condemn someone as guilty.

Men were entitled to have many wives, which reduced the danger of men committing adultery. Women were more vulnerable to the accusations from the outset. A man caught committing adultery with an unmarried woman could escape the charges by marrying her, as long as her father permitted the wedding. Male adulterers and even rapists had a number of get out of Hell-jail free cards. There were several useful loopholes.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, King of Babylon, and the consequences in his reign and for the nation of Israel later were tragic.

Many of the Proverbs are warnings against the temptations of adultery.

Worship of other gods or any idols, (already the subjects of the first two Commandments) was also defined as spiritual adultery, so believing in other gods becomes an act of adultery in its own right.

A woman discovered through the evidence of her hymen to have indulged in sex before her first wedding night, was seen as promiscuous and treated as adulterous. A rape victim was protected from this providing that she resisted and screamed for help at the time of her assault.  The many perfectly justified modern age cases of women coming forward to report sexual abuses committed in previous years may be justified in temporal secular law, but as far as the Bible is concerned, they are regrettably indefensible. 

Adulterers risked being stoned or pressed to death if caught, and it was the Romans who pressured the Jews to move away from such barbarism. It remains a Biblical decree however. Post Roman laws called for adulterers to be whipped (scourged), a divorce for the married adulterer(s), loss of property, and forced separation for the adulterous partners.

I have not committed adultery (though I welcome the opportunity), though Jesus went so far as to add that even contemplating, and fantasising about sex with someone else’s marital partner was adultery, when the actual physical union did not take place.

St Paul was very embittered about the idea of divorce, and though unable to challenge its legality he argued that it is a last resort and that a divorcee must remain celibate and not remarry if her marriage should fail.


Catholic scholars extend the ban on even thinking of adultery to the use of pornography and erotica. Though the Commandment does not overtly forbid all or any other kinds of fornication, many theologians, especially in the post-Reformation era, take it as read that all kinds of fornication and infidelity are included in the Commandment by association.

An open marriage allowing consensual relations with other partners, wife-swapping and swingers parties, etc, are all seen as breaches of this Commandment.

Many non-religious people still desire their marital partners to be faithful to the marriage itself, so adultery can be as devastating to the irreligious as to he impassioned God-worshipper. In secular life, adultery is a fast track highway to divorce too.

I have not committed adultery unless it is under the Catholic banner of even dreaming of doing so and contemplating it, but there are not many adults, even in the clergy who wouldn’t go to Hell for that one.

Arthur Chappell

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