Had an interesting conversation with a student yesterday afternoon. He's doing the word study for his final exegesis project on the Greek word porneia, which I would generally translate as "sexual immorality." But the student had heard some interesting arguments that porneia only referred to "extreme" sexual sin, not including adultery.
Often there are underlying reasons behind why people work toward certain interpretations--no one is immune (yes, I know, that includes me too). But I have a hunch in this case that the driving force behind this interpretation is so that adultery is not considered a legitimate basis for divorce. Matthew 5 and 19 only mention porneia as a legitimate basis for divorce.
But that is not to say that the arguments aren't interesting. For example, one of the arguments is the fact that in 1 Cor. 6:9, pornoi (sexually immoral people?) are mentioned in addition to moichoi (adulterers)... thus the argument that adultery is different from porneia. Also in Mark 7:21-22, porneiai (sexual immoralities) and moicheiai (adulteries) are both on the list... thus the argument that porneia does not include adultery.
I'm open, but wonder if this is as if someone put "violence" and "murder" in the same list. Certainly murder is violence, but the word violence includes more than murder.
Anyway, one interesting thing that I had never noticed before is the lay of the manuscripts on Romans 1:29. Most modern translations have something like "filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness (poneria), coveteousness, evil..." But some manuscripts in the Western tradition have "evil, sexual immorality (porneia), coveteousness."
As Westcott and Hort so well described, the "church text" (the parent of the King James) "conflates" the two readings. Some copyist, uncertain whether to go with wickedness (poneria) or sexual immorality (porneia) put them both down, so the KJV has both: "fornication (porneia), wickedness (poneria)."
What happened here is pretty clear. One or the other of these was mistaken by some copyist for the other and from then on one manuscript stream had one; another manuscript stream had the other. Then when the text "normalized," both were kept. The reason modern translations go with "wickedness" is because Vaticanus (300's) has it and this manuscript (in the so called "Alexandrian" tradition) seems generally more reliable than the Western tradition.