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Allegory of chastity by Hans Memling.

Chastity is sexual behavior of a man or woman acceptable to the ethical norms and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion.

In the western world, the term has become closely associated (and is often used interchangeably) with sexual abstinence, especially before marriage. However, the term remains applicable to persons in all states, single or married, clerical or lay, and has implications beyond sexual temperance.

In Catholic morality, chastity is placed opposite the deadly sin of lust, and is classified as one of seven virtues. The moderation of sexual desires is required to be virtuous. Reason, will and desire can harmoniously work together to do what is good.



The words "chaste" and "chastity" stem from the Latin adjective castus meaning "pure". The words entered the English language around the middle of the 13th century; at that time they meant slightly different things. "Chaste" meant "virtuous or pure from unlawful sexual intercourse" (referring to extramarital sex),[1][2] while "chastity" meant "virginity".[3][2] It was not until the late 16th century that the two words came to have the same basic meaning as a related adjective and noun.[1][2]

In Abrahamic religions

In Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious beliefs, acts of sexual nature are restricted to the context of marriage. For unmarried persons therefore, chastity is identified with sexual abstinence. Sexual acts outside or apart from marriage, such as adultery, fornication and prostitution, are considered sinful.

In the context of marriage, the spouses commit to a lifelong relationship which excludes the possibility of sexual intimacy with other persons. Chastity therefore requires marital fidelity. Within marriage, several practices are variedly considered unchaste, such as sexual intimacy during or shortly after menstruation or childbirth.

After marriage, a third form of chastity, often called "vidual chastity", is expected of a woman while she is in mourning for her late husband. For example, Jeremy Taylor defined 5 rules in Holy Living (1650), including abstaining from marrying "so long as she is with child by her former husband" and "within the year of mourning".[4]

The particular ethical system may not prescribe each of these. For example, within the scope of Christian ethic, Roman Catholics view sex within marriage as chaste, but prohibit the use of artificial contraception as an offense against chastity, seeing contraception as contrary to God's will and design of human sexuality. Many Anglican churches allow for artificial contraception, seeing the restriction of family size as possibly not contrary to God's will. A stricter view is held by the Shakers, who prohibit marriage (and indeed sexual intercourse under any circumstances) as a violation of chastity.

Some Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have set up various rules regarding clerical celibacy, while others, such as Lutheran and Anglican churches, allow clergy to marry or even favour it.

In Christian traditions, celibacy is required of monastics—monks, nuns and friars—even in a rare system of double cloisters, in which husbands could enter the (men's) monastery while their wives entered a (women's) sister monastery.

Vows of chastity can also be taken by laypersons, either as part of an organised religious life (such as Roman Catholic Beguines and Beghards) or on an individual basis, as a voluntary act of devotion and/or as part of an ascetic lifestyle, often devoted to contemplation. The voluntary aspect has led it to being included among the counsels of perfection.

Eastern religions

Hinduism: Hinduism's view on premarital sex is rooted in its concept of the stages of life. The first of these stages, known as brahmacharya, roughly translates as chastity. Celibacy is considered the appropriate behavior for both male and female students during this stage, which precedes the stage of the married householder. Many Sadhus (Hindu monks) are also celibate as part of their ascetic discipline. .In classical Hinduism, sexual intercourse was seen as a sacred act of procreation- within marriage.

Jainism: Although the Digambara followers of Jainism are celibate monks, most Jains belong to the Shvetambara sect, which allows spouses and children. The general Jain code of ethics requires that one do no harm to any living being in thought, action, or word. Adultery is clearly a violation of a moral agreement with one's spouse, and therefore forbidden, and fornication too is seen as a violation of the state of chastity.

Buddhism: The teachings of Buddhism include the noble eightfold path, involving a prohibition against sexual misconduct. All Theravada and most Mahayana Buddhist orders of monks and nuns are expected to be celibate, and the violation of this state is considered to produce very negative karmic consequences. The Vajrayana orders allow exceptions to this rule as an upaya (skill in means) in achieving higher stages of enlightenment.

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also chastity


Proper noun




  1. (rare) A female given name from the virtue chastity.


  • 1990 Frank Zappa, Peter Occhiogrosso, The Real Frank Zappa Book, Simon&Schuster, ISBN 0671705725, page 247:
    Since she was saddled with that awful name, Chastity Bono has given her parents much grief over it. "It helps to get into a show or something, but most of the time it's a pain," she told McCall's. The girl blames mama Cher who was inspired by a movie.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Purity in regard to the relations of sex, implied in the commandment, "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev 19:2). The ancient Semitic religions gave a prominent place to the adoration of those powers in nature which either fertilize or produce; the worship of the sexual was prominent in their cults; and ritual prostitution was a recognized and wide-spread institution (Kalisch, commentary to Lev 1:312, 358-361; ii. 430). The gods were male and female; sexual intercourse was part of the rites at the shrines of Baal and Astarte in Phenicia and at similar sanctuaries elsewhere. This unchastity in the religious institutions naturally affected the relations of social life; and sexual purity was regarded as of little moment. Possibly in no way were the religious and domestic institutions of Israel more markedly differentiated from those of the surrounding peoples than by the stress laid upon the virtue of chastity. The conception of the God of Israel as the Holy One meant, first of all, purity—purity in worship, and hence also in life.

Before mentioning the special laws of the Pentateuch on this subject, attention must be called to the general statement addressed to the people in Lev 18:3-5, which may be considered the basis of the legislation: "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their statutes. My judgments shall ye do, and my statutes shall ye keep, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments: which if a man do he shall live in them: I am the Lord." Hereupon follow the laws of chastity which were to be observed if the people were to avoid the doings of the lands of Egypt and Canaan. These laws of chastity, enumerated in this chapter and in other sections of the Pentateuch, concern (1) the religious and (2) the social-domestic life.


The Religious Life:

Ḳadesh and Ḳedeshah.

The "ḳadesh" and the "ḳedeshah," the male and female prostitutes "consecrated" to the worship of the goddess of fertility, were recognized adjuncts of the Canaanitish cults (1 Kg 14:24, xv. 12, xxii. 47; Amos 2:7; Hos 4:14; Ezek 23:36; see also the Baal-peor incident referred to in Num 25:1-4 and Hos 9:10). This might not be in Israel; for it was "an abomination of the Lord thy God" (Deut 23:18, 19; see also Lev 19:29).

The Social-Domestic Life:

(a) The purity of the maid was safeguarded (Lev 19:29); and, in case of wrong-doing on the part of the man, rectification and indemnification were commanded (Ex 22:15, 16; Deut 22:28, 29). (b) Adultery was most stringently forbidden and punished (Ex 20:14; Lev 18:20, xx. 10). "They shall both of them die . . . the man . . . and the woman; so shalt thou put away evil" (Deut 22:22). A betrothed woman was regarded in the same light as a married woman, and was punished for adultery, as was also the man found with her (Deut 22:23, 24; see, however, verses 25-28 for the modification of the punishment). Here must be mentioned the peculiar institution of the investigation of the Soṭah, the woman suspected by her husband of adultery, as detailed in Num. v. (c) The Forbidden Degrees of consanguinity are set forth in circumstantial detail (Lev 18:8-18; xx. 11, 12, 14, 17, 21; Deut 27:20, 22, 23). (d) No woman was to be approached during the period of her uncleanness (Lev 18:19). See Niddah. (e) The unnatural crimes against chastity, sodomy and pederasty, prevalent in heathendom, were strictly prohibited (Lev 18:22, 23; xx. 13, 15, 16; Deut 27:21).

The sins against chastity were the particular abominations, the commission of which by the former inhabitants had caused the land to become unclean (Lev 18:27). No wrong-doing, excepting idolatry, is more constantly and vehemently forbidden. Four out of the twelve curses which are pronounced in the chapter of curses in the Book of Deuteronomy (xxvii. 20-23) are directed against this vice in one or other of its forms. The Biblical attitude in this matter is perhaps best expressed in the story of Joseph, who, when tempted by Potiphar's wife, refused with the noble words: "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Gen 39:9.) Unchastity was primarily a sin against God, the pure and holy.

In the Historical Books.

In the historical books of the Bible occasional passages indicate how clearly it was understood that chastity was an indispensable virtue. When Shechem, the son of Hamor, defiled Dinah, the sons of Jacob declared it a villainy (A. V., "folly") in Israel which ought not to be committed; and Simeon and Levi slew all the males of Shechem, saying to Jacob, when he rebuked them for their revengeful act: "Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?" (Gen 34:7, 31.) The one misdemeanor of Eli's two wicked sons that is mentioned by name is unchastity (1Sam 2:22). In Amnon's act of violence against Tamar she begs him to desist, "for no such thing ought to be done in Israel" (2 Sam 13:12). Among the sins of Judah in the reign of Rehoboam was that of ritual unchastity (1 Kg 14:24), on account of which calamity came upon the kingdom (see also 2Kg 13:6, xvii. 16, xviii. 4, xx. 1, 3, xxii. 4; 2Chr 28:3, xxxiii. 3, xxxvi. 14). The Prophets laid the greatest stress upon chastity. Their condemnation of unchastity ranks among the most pronounced of their denunciations of the evils prevalent in their days (Amos 2:7; Hos 4:2, 13, 14; Isa 57:3; Jer 9:1; xxiii. 10, 14; xxix. 23; Ezek 16:38; xviii. 6; xxii. 10, 11; xxiii. 48; xxxiii. 26). There is a further indication of the high esteem in which chastity was held in the fact that these prophets, in speaking of the punishment that would befall the people for their sins, mentionthe deflowering of the women by their captors, which evil would not have been considered as so dreadful had not chastity been regarded in the highest light (Isa 13:16; Zech 14:2; Lam. v. 11; see also Amos 7:17).

In the Talmud.

The many admonitions in the Book of Proverbs against unchastity need but be adverted to for proof of the lofty place that the pure life held in the estimation of the wise men of Israel (Prov 5:3-23, vi. 24-33, vii. 5-27, ix. 13-18, xxxi. 3). "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I look upon a maid?" says Job (xxxi. 1). Similar are the injunctions of the later sage Ben Sira (Sir 9:3-9; xix. 2; xxiii. 22-26; xlii. 11), who counseled, "Go not after 'thy lusts'; and restrain thyself from thine appetites" (ib. xviii. 30). The spirit of the Rabbis appears in the advice of Jose ben Johanan, "Prolong not converse with woman" (Abot i. 5). "Follow not after your own eyes, after which ye use to go," etc. (Num 15:39): this means, "Ye shall not cast a lustful glance upon woman." One of the reasons given for the destruction of Jerusalem is the prevalence of "shamelessness," which undoubtedly means unchastity (Shab. 119b). In the days of the terrible persecutions under Hadrian the rabbis advised the people to suffer death rather than be guilty of "idolatry, incest, or bloodshed"; while they considered the transgression of any other commandment permissible if necessary to preserve life (Sanh. 74a; see also Maimonides, "Yad," Yesode ha-Torah, v. 9). As a further example of the attitude of the rabbis of Talmudic times, may be quoted the passage which was given as advice what to do when unchaste thoughts and desires assail: "My son, if that monster [the Yeẓer Hara'] meets you, drag it to the house of study; it will melt if it is of iron; it will break in pieces if it is of stone, as is said in Scripture (Jer 23:29): 'Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?'" (Ḳid. 30b.) The Talmudic term for chastity is (missing hebrew text) . There can be no doubt of the fact that early marriage among the Jews was a strong factor in making them so chaste a people. Even such an unsympathetic and hostile exponent of rabbinic theology as Weber indicates this ("Jüd. Theol." p. 234). The age of eighteen was posited as the proper time for a youth to contract matrimony (Abot v. 21; Ḳid. 29b; Yeb. 62b, 63b; Sanh. 76b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 1, 2). Early marriages continued in vogue among the Jews through medieval times (Abrahams, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," pp. 90, 167). Many enactments were made to safeguard the purity of the people and to insure chastity (Maimonides, "Yad," Issure Biah, xxi.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 21-25).

In one of the sections of the "reasons for the commandments" ("ta'ame miẓwot") in his "Moreh Nebukim," Maimonides gives as the reason for such legislation the following: "The object of these precepts is to diminish sexual intercourse, to restrain as much as possible indulgence in lust, and [to teach] that this enjoyment does not, as foolish people think, include in itself its final cause" ("Moreh Nebukim," iii. 35; see also ibid. 33). In ch. xlix. he treats at length the law concerning forbidden sexual intercourse and that for the promotion of chastity, whose object is "to inculcate the lesson that we ought to limit sexual intercourse hold it in contempt, and only desire it rarely."

In speaking of the reason for the prohibition of intermarriage with a near relative, he expresses it as his opinion that one object of this is "to inculcate chastity in our hearts."

Views of the Philosophers.

Of ethical philosophers who have expressed Jewish thought on this subject, Saadia and Baḥya may be mentioned. The former, in the tenth chapter of his "Emunot we-De'ot," which is the ethical portion of the book, devotes two paragraphs to chastity; the third is "on sexual intercourse," and the fourth "on desire." His teaching concerning intercourse is "that it is not good for man, except for the purpose of producing offspring"; concerning desire, "man shall have no desire except for his wife, that he may love her and she may love him" ("Emunot we-De'ot," ed. Slucki, pp. 150, 151). In his ethical treatise, "The Duties of the Heart," Baḥya has frequent admonitions on the necessity of chastity and the overcoming of evil desires; as, for example, in the fifth division of the work, notably pp. 254, 258 et seq. (ed. Stern, Vienna, 1856). At the close of ch. ix. he quotes with approval and at length the last will and testament of a certain pious man in Israel, addressed to his son, and containing advice for the guidance of life. From this document one sentence may be set down here: "Be not one of those who, sunk in the folly of drunkenness and lust, submit like slaves to the dominance of evil passions; so that they think only of the satisfaction of sensual desires and the indulgence of bestial pleasures" (ib. p. 433). A similar word of advice may be quoted from a letter written by Naḥmanides to his son: "Be especially careful to keep aloof from women. Know that our God hates immorality; and Balaam could in no other way injure Israel than by inciting them to unchastity" (Schechter, "Studies in Judaism," p. 141).

A few further like injunctions from the moral treatises of medieval rabbis may here be given: "Let not the strange god, thy sensual desire, rule over thee; act so that thou hast not cause to blush before thyself; pay no heed to the biddings of desire; sin not and say, I will repent later" (from "Sefer Roḳeaḥ" by R. Eleazer b. Judah of Worms, in Zunz, "Z. G." pp. 132, 134); "Keep thy soul always pure: thou knowest not when thou wilt have to give it up" ("Sefer ha-Middot," fifteenth century, in ib. p. 153).

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
This article needs to be merged with Chastity (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Simple English

Chastity is the sexual behavior of a man or woman which is right and proper according to the moral rules of a culture or religion. It has recently begun to mean sexual abstinence (not having sex at all), especially before marriage.[1] However, it can also be used for all kinds of people (even married people) with more meaning than simply not having sex. The word chastity came from the Latin word castitatem, meaning "purity".[2]


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