Copyright (c) 2006 Patrick Malcolm
The purpose of writing this article is an attempt to clarify opinions, about whether it is a sin or social offense to drink wine or strong drinks as explained in the Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. Personal opinions are multitudinous on the subject and will not be exercised in the discussion subject except to let the reader judge for himself and form an opinion based on an honest selection of statements from the Bible.
It is well known that birds are attracted toward the alcoholic fermentation of berries on vines and trees. Mankind also has been drawn to the alcoholic process of fermentation of fruits and berries transformed into an aromatic liquid, that when drunk will raise man’s spirits. These drinks are often called ‘Spirits’, because they appear to relax the mind from worldly cares and can lift his spirits to ecstatic levels of enjoyment and detachment. The spirits, when drunk to excess, can cause the drinker to be transformed into drunken behavior.
In the year 154 B.C., the Roman historian, Pliny, wrote that the Roman steam baths in the city of Pompeii were so hot and were supplied from the boiling waters of the volcano, Vesuvius. The bathers would sometimes faint into unconsciousness and after recovering would rush out of the steam room “often still naked, to grab a large vessel of wine and drink down its contents, only to vomit it up again so more could be drunk” (XIV 136)
The defense of many protestant religious and ministers of forbidding wine drinking to Christians is the claim that Jesus drank grape juice, not the fermented wine. It is clear from reading the Scriptures in this article that claim is untrue. Many references are given to show that the Bible translators had an understanding that grape juice, grape wine, and raisins are were all separate products of grape and were translated by different words.
All Scriptural references to wine are not negative, nor prohibitive of drinking wine or strong drink. The Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible basically is anti-wine drinking, but some Old Testament Scriptures approve of drinking wine.
“When you arrive, use the money to buy an ox, a sheep, or some strong drink to feast there before the Lord your God, and rejoice with your household.” Deuteronomy 14:26
“Well, one thing at least is good: it is for a man to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, accept his position in life, and enjoy his work, whatever his job may be, for however long the Lord may let him live” Ecclesiastes 5:8
“So go ahead, eat, drink, and be merry, for it makes no difference to God!” Ecclesiastes 9:7
Wine was given as a reward by God to tithers (financial supporters) of the Hebrew Temple fund, as stated in Proverbs 3:9 “Overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.”
Most Scriptures of the Major Prophet, Isaiah, are negative toward drinking wine except for two Scriptures. This is a bit of evidence for the theory, that there were three Isaiah Prophets whose works were combined into one book.
“Sing and dance and play and feast and drink. Let us drink, eat, and be merry you say: What is the difference, for tomorrow we die” Isaiah 22:13
This particular Scripture from Isaiah may be a prophecy concerning Heavenly feasting and wine drinking in Paradise and the promise of eternal life.
The Lord…”will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world…a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine, and choice beef…he will swallow up death forever.” Isaiah 25:7
Jesus told a parable (story with hidden meanings), that because the Jews would not be willing to give up their embedded religious bias, that in metaphor form, prophecized that the kingdom of Heaven would be taken from the Jews and given to others (Gentiles)
In this parable Jesus told the story of a grape vineyard farmer, who “dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice”, and “At grape picking time, he sent” various men including his only son”, all of whom were murdered by the vineyard tenants. Jesus suggested that the tenants (Hebrews) who murdered the only son (God’s only son, Jesus), the Jews would be cursed and the grape juice vineyard (God’s kingdom) would be given by God to others (Gentiles). Mark 12:1
Perhaps, the strongest suggestion in the Hebrew Scriptures, that wine drinking was permissible was given by Jesus, a Jew himself. The first miracle performed by Jesus was turning water into wine.
Jesus, when pressed by his mother, Mary, with a shortage of wine at the wedding feast, changed six barrels of water each containing 20 to 30 gallons each into the finest wine. John 2:6
There can be no doubt that Jesus drank wine as revealed in the following Scriptures describing the event known as the Last Supper in the upper room, that today is recreated into the sacrament of Communion at Christian churches.
“After supper he gave them another glass of wine, saying, this wine is taken of God’s new agreement to save you.” Luke 22:20
“And he (Jesus) took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it and gave it to them and said, Each one (of you) drink from it, for this is my blood, sealing the new covenant. It is poured out to forgive the sins of multitudes. Mark my words I will not drink this wine again until the day I drink it new and with you (disciples) in my Fathers Kingdom.” Matthew 26:27
Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees because the disciples of John the Baptist fasted, “Why are you wining and dining?” Jesus answered (Luke 5:37) “No one puts new wine in old wine skins (to store) for the new wine bursts the old wine skins, ruining the wine skins and spilling the wine. New wine must be put into new wine skins. But no one drinking the old wine seems to want the fresh and the new. The old ways are best, they say.” Luke 5:33
Jesus said, “But I eat my food and drink my wine, and you say, What a glutton Jesus is! And he drinks! And he has the lowest sort of friends.” Luke 7:14
Jesus said, “For John the Baptist doesn’t even drink wine and often goes without food; and you will say , He’s crazy. And I, the Messiah, feast and drink, and you complain that I am a glutton, and a drinking man, and hang around with the worst sort of sinners.” Matthew 11:18
The book of Timothy suggested that wine may be drunk to relieve digestion problems.
“(By the way this doesn’t mean you should completely give up wine. You ought to take a little sometimes, as medicine for your stomach because you are sick so often)” 1 Timothy 5:23
Jesus, in one of his famous, I AM, statements in the Gospel of John told his disciples, “Yes, I AM the Vine (grapevine) you are the branches. Whosoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing” John 15:5
Continued in Part 2 The translation of the Scriptures in this article comes from The Living Bible