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"whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" --Jesus, Matthew 5:27–28

"In the Bible, incidents of adultery are present almost from the start. The story of Abraham contains several incidents and serve as warnings or stories of sin and forgiveness. Abraham attempts to continue his blood line through his wife's maidservant, with consequences that continue through history. Jacob's family life is complicated with similar incidents."--Sholem Stein

"In support of these two words, insolvency and cuckoldry, the greatest social infamies, bankruptcy and adultery, are found at the level of virtues, since they enjoy compound protection, namely: tacit and negative tutelage of the law, express and positive tutelage of public opinion."

--Manuscripts of Fourier, English translation JWG

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Adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a married woman who is not his spouse. Some legal jurisdictions have defined it as a "crime against marriage", opposed to infidelity. Adultery is typically performed by adults. It has been a common theme in literature, from the earliest myths about Zeus and Hera onwards. Adultery is a sign of an unhappy marriage.


Cultural and religious traditions

Biblical sources

The Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh or Old Testament) prohibits adultery in the seventh of the Ten Commandments (Template:Bibleverse).

Greco-Roman world

A similar rule applied in the old Roman Law. That is, in the Greco-Roman world there were stringent laws against adultery, but these applied to sexual intercourse with a married woman. In the early Roman Law the jus tori belonged to the husband. It was therefore not a crime against the wife for a husband to have sex with a slave or an unmarried woman.

It is well known that the Roman husband often took advantage of his legal immunity. Thus we are told by the historian Spartianus that Verus, the imperial colleague of Marcus Aurelius, did not hesitate to declare to his reproaching wife: "Uxor enim dignitatis nomen est, non voluptatis." ('Wife' connotes rank, not sexual pleasure) (Verus, V).

Later in Roman history, as William E.H. Lecky has shown, the idea that the husband owed a fidelity similar to that demanded of the wife must have gained ground, at least in theory. Lecky gathers from the legal maxim of Ulpian: "It seems most unfair for a man to require from a wife the chastity he does not himself practice".

The lending of wives practiced among some peoples was, as Plutarch tells us, encouraged also by Lycurgus, though from a motive other than that which actuated the practice (Plutarch, Lycurgus, XXIX). The recognized license of the Greek husband may be seen in the following passage of the Oration against Neaera, the author of which is uncertain, though it has been attributed to Demosthenes:

We keep mistresses for our pleasures, concubines for constant attendance, and wives to bear us legitimate children and to be our faithful housekeepers. Yet, because of the wrong done to the husband only, the Athenian lawgiver Solon allowed any man to kill an adulterer whom he had taken in the act. (Plutarch, Solon)


Adultery is considered by many Christians to be immoral and a sin, based primarily on passages like Template:Bibleverse. The sixth commandment (seventh in some translations) ("Thou shalt not commit adultery") is also a basis, but see also Biblical law in Christianity.

Jesus taught that indulgence in adulterous thoughts could be just as harmful to the soul as actual adultery, and it is clear that both carry the same weight of guilt:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew|5:28|NIV

and he also says

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.(Matthew|5:32|NIV)

Some churches have interpreted adultery to include all sexual relationships outside of marriage, regardless of the marital status of the participants.

See also Expounding of the Law#Adultery and Pauline privilege.

Rabbinic Judaism

Though the Torah prescribes the death penalty by stoning for adultery, the legal procedural requirements were very exacting and required the testimony of two witnesses of good character for conviction.

At the civil level, however, Jewish law (halakha) forbids a man to continue living with an adulterous wife, and he is obliged to divorce her. Also, an adulteress is not permitted to marry the adulterer, but, to avoid any doubt as to her status as being free to marry another or that of her children, he must give her a divorce as if they were married.

Also, Jewish law recognizes the "law of the land" in these matters, so that if the law of the land has greater restrictions, then they will also apply.Template:Fact


Zina (زنا) is an Arabic term for extramarital or premarital sex. Islamic law prescribes severe punishments for men and women for the act of Zina. Premarital sex may be punished by up to 100 lashes, while adultery is punished by Rajm (stoning), according to some interpretations of the Islamic law. Punishing by stoning is not mentioned in the Quran, and is based solely upon hadith.

Under Muslim law, adultery and extramarital sex in general is sexual intercourse by a person (whether man or woman) with someone to whom they are not married. Adultery is a violation of the marital contract and one of the major sins condemned by God in the Qur'an:

Qur'anic verses prohibiting adultery include:

"Do not go near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and evil, opening roads (to other evils)."Template:Cite quran
"Say, 'Verily, my Lord has prohibited the shameful deeds, be it open or secret, sins and trespasses against the truth and reason."'Template:Cite quran
"Women impure are for men impure, and men impure are for women impure and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity."Template:Cite quran

Strict Muslim law prescribes severe punishments for extramarital sex by both men and women. Premarital sex is punishable with up to 100 lashes, while adultery is punishable by stoning. The punishment for rape in Islam is the same as the punishment for zina (adultery or fornication), which is stoning if the perpetrator is married, and one hundred lashes and banishment for one year if he is not married. to obtain conviction of zina [consensual premarital sex], the act of sexual penetration must be attested by at least four male Muslim witnesses of good character, with the accused having a right to testify and their testimony given the most weight in the eyes of the judge(s). Also, punishments are reserved to the legal authorities and false accusations are to be punished severely. It has been said that these legal procedural requirements were instituted to make it impossible to obtain conviction.

Islamic Shariah Courts in Nigeria evoked worldwide condemnation and protest and debate recently in sentencing some Muslim women and men to death by stoning (rajm) upon conviction for zina. Perhaps only Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have this law on their books. However, stoning as punishment for sexual sin is not prescribed in the Quran, but is prescribed in the Hadith—oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The only punishment for adultery given in the Quran is one hundred lashes and restriction of future marriage to another adulterer or the partner in the act.

Other historical practices

Historically, adultery was rigorously condemned and punished, usually only as a violation of the husband's rights. Among such peoples the wife was commonly reckoned as the property of her spouse, and adultery was therefore identified with theft. But it was theft of an aggravated kind, as the property which it would spoliate was more highly appraised than other chattels. It is not the seducer alone who suffers.

Severe penalties were imposed on an adulterous wife by her husband. In many instances she was made to endure a bodily mutilation which would, in the mind of the aggrieved husband, prevent her from ever being a temptation to other men again.

If, however, the wronged husband could visit swift and terrible retribution upon the adulterous wife, the latter was allowed no cause against the unfaithful husband; and this discrimination found in the practices of ancient peoples is moreover set forth in nearly all ancient codes of law.

The Laws of Manu of ancient India, for example, said: "though destitute of virtue or seeking pleasure elsewhere, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must be constantly worshiped as a god by a faithful wife"; on the other, hand, "if a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or [her own] excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Adultery" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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