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definition of lasciviousness in the bible

What is lasciviousness in the Bible? Is it a sin to be lascivious? Lasciviousness is presented as wrong according to the Bible, so Christians must stop being lascivious. Please examine what the word lascivious means in the Bible.

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meaning of lasciviousness

filled with or showing sexual desire : LEWD, LUSTFUL
lascivious acts/thoughts
arrested for lewd and lascivious assault

definition of lasciviousness in the bible

Lasciviousness is a term that is used in the Bible to refer to sexual immorality. The word itself comes from the Latin word lascivia, which means lewdness or lustfulness. It can also be translated as lechery or lustfulness.

Lasciviousness is often used to describe things like adultery, fornication, and having sex before marriage. However, it can also be used to describe things like pornography and prostitution because these practices are considered sinful by many religious groups.

In a world where we’re constantly bombarded by messages that are meant to sell us something, it can be hard to know what’s real and what’s fake.

But there is one thing you can count on: the Bible will always tell you the truth.

So what does it say about lasciviousness?

The word “lascivious” comes from the Latin word lascivia and means “to please.” It’s often used to describe sexual desire or behavior that’s considered inappropriate or immoral.

In the Old Testament, lasciviousness was an offense punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). It was considered sinful because it involved sexual intercourse outside of marriage—and since sex was considered dirty and shameful in those days, it was also seen as an act that would defile God’s name if performed outside of marriage.


1. Looseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; lustfulness.

Who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness. Eph. 4.

2. Tendency to excite lust, and promote irregular indulgences.

The reason pretended by Augustus was, the lasciviousness of his Elegies and his Art of Love.

The English word “lasciviousness” is used six times in the King James version of the Bible. It is found in these passages Mark 7:22, II Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 4:19, I Peter 4:3 and Jude 1:4. In modern translations the word “sensuality” is used in place of lasciviousness.

Lasciviousness is a translation of the Greek word “Aselgeia” found in the original language of the New Testament.

Thayer’s Bible Dictionary defines Aselgeia as:

unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence”

Word origin

from a compound of (1) (as a negative particle) and a presumed selges (of uncertain derivation, but apparently meaning continent)

When we see a circular definition of a word(when it is used to define itself) we have to look deeper.  The key descriptions of Thayer’s definition  are “unbridled” and “excess”.

The key to Aselgeia’s definition is found in it’s word origin:

” from a compound of (1) (as a negative particle) and a presumed selges (of uncertain derivation, but apparently meaning continent)”

So Aselgeia came from two words ‘a’ and ‘seleges’ meaning “incontinent”.

We can then say without making a circular definition that Aselgeia literally means “incontinent” which is defined by Webster’s online dictionary as:

“(1) :  lacking self-restraint (2) :  not being under control

So based on how the word is used in the Bible as well as how it was used in that culture Aselgeia referred to any uncontrolled indulgences of physical pleasures.  We must be very careful of reading English words back on to Greek words.   What I mean is where English words like licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence have to do with lack of control or lack of constraint or obsession they are right in helping us understand the meaning of Aselgeia.  But if they stray from from the lack of control or lack of constraint about some activity then their definition  would not accurately portray what  Aselgeia was.

The meaning of lasciviousness and its modern counterpart sensuality is often associated with sexual addiction and sexual obsession. But in its original sense Aselgeia is not restricted to an overindulgence in sexual pleasure but it also refers to gluttony and drunkenness and could also apply to drug addictions or any type of addiction to some source of physical pleasure.

A drunken college party is a textbook example of Aselgeia.

Aselgeia is also translated in other passages as “wantonness and filth” although “filth” is actually not an accurate translation in the KJV version of II Peter 2:7:

“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked”.

To be fair – “conversation” when the KJV was written meant “behavior or conduct”. So what they were really saying was “filthy conduct”. But “filthy” or “dirty” is not a correct interpretation of Aselgeia. The NASB correctly translates Aselgeia when it renders II Peter 2:7 as:

“and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men” – II Peter 2:7 (NASB)

I understand why the KJV translators translated it as “filthy” because of its context of talking about the homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah.  But we must understand that homosexuality and all sexual perversion involves sensuality – an overindulgence or obsession with any physical pleasure.

While there are several other uses of Aselgeia – I think Mark 7:20-24 is a great place to understand what Aselgeia is in relation to other sins:

“20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.” – Mark 7:20-24 (KJV)

Christ is talking about the wicked desires and imaginations of men’s hearts that lead to wicked actions.

examples of lasciviousness in the bible

From the heart

  1. Mark 7:20-23 For he had said that it is what comes out of the man that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, come forth the evil thoughts, the adulteries, the fornications, the murders, the thefts, the covetousness, the wickedness, the deceit, the lasciviousness, the evil eye, the slander, the pride, the unwiseness: all these evil things come out from within and defile the man.
  2. Proverbs 4:23 Above everything else guard your heart, because from it flow the springs of life.


  1. Galatians 5:17-21 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
  2. Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
  3. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
  4. Ephesians 5:5 You can be sure of this: No one will have a place in the kingdom of Christ and of God who sins sexually, or does evil things, or is greedy. Anyone who is greedy is serving a false god.

Run from all types of sexual immorality and worldly living!

  1. 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 For I am afraid that somehow when I come I will not find you what I wish, and you will find me not what you wish. I am afraid that somehow there may be quarreling, jealousy, intense anger, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. I am afraid that when I come my God may again humble me before you and that I may have to grieve over many who formerly lived in sin and have not repented of their impurity, sexual immorality, and promiscuity that they once practiced.
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 For it is God’s will that you be sanctified: You must abstain from sexual immorality. Each of you must know how to control his own body in a holy and honorable manner, not with passion and lust like the gentiles who do not know God.
  3. Colossians 3:5-8 So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. In your past, evil life you also did these things. But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk.

Your body

  1. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Keep on running away from sexual immorality. Any other sin that a person commits is outside his body, but the person who sins sexually sins against his own body. You know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God, don’t you? You do not belong to yourselves, because you were bought for a price. Therefore, glorify God with your bodies.
  2. 1 Corinthians 6:13 Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food —and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

There are consequences for living like the world.

  1. Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
  2. James 4:4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
  3. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who keeps saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom from heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drove out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn’t we?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!’


  1. 1 Peter 4:2-5 in that he spends the rest of his time on earth concerned about the will of God and not human desires. For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire. You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries. So they are astonished when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness, and they vilify you. They will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.
  2. Ephesians 4:17-19 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
  3. Romans 13:12-13 The night is almost over, and the day is near. Let’s therefore put aside the actions of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let’s behave decently, as people who live in the light of day. No wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, quarreling, or jealousy!

Sodom and Gomorrah

  1. 2 Peter 2:6-9 Later, God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.
  2. Jude 1:7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

False teachers

  1. Jude 1:3-4 Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.
  2. 2 Peter 2:18-19 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
  3. 2 Peter 2:1-2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Turn from your sins!

  1. 2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
  2. Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

Believe in Christ and you shall be saved.

  1. Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

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