A Response by Robert Brow February 2000 (www.brow.on.ca)
The article "Sex and the Single Evangelical" by Lauren F.Winner is based on ignorance of the biblical language-game for marriage. It assumes that one gets married in a legal ceremony (admittedly that is the way the world speaks, and most evangelicals go along with it).
In the Bible there is not a single reference to a judge, priest, rabbi, or minister of any kind performing a marriage ceremony. If a legal contract was required (in millions of cases in the ancient world, say among the Serfs of Europe, there was no such thing) it was settled in a betrothal . In India this was often settled many years before the marriage. The marriage took place when the couple first had sexual interccourse. In that sense Joseph and Mary were legally betrothed, and their marriage began after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:25).
When a couple began a sexual relationship they were viewed as married, regardless of whether there was a ceremony to celebrate it. That is why Paul views an hour with a prostitute as a rudimentary and quickly aborted marriage (1 Corithians 6:16).
That means that in the biblical language-game there is no such thing as pre-marital sex. What the article is talking about is pre-legal marriage sex, which is not in view anywhere in the Bible.
When I counselled Queen's University students who were thinking of beginning sexual intercouse I explained that by having sex together they were establishing a marriage. In that sense some would have a marriage terminated by a divorce each year on the assumption that one day they would have a legal and therefore "proper" marriage.
(for a fuller discussion of this see Robert & Mollie Brow, AdulteryAn
Exploration of Love and Marriage, Appendices A to D, Web Publication