By Calvin George
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Proverbs 20:1
Much good literature has been written about the evils of intoxicating wine from a social point of view. I sympathize with the reader who may have personally suffered from the devastating impact of this wicked vice. Much has been written about the horrors that alcoholic beverages produce on our highways and in the homes. This study has not been written from a social point of view, because it is simply my humble attempt to expose the plain biblical teaching concerning this matter of vital importance.
An alarming number of those who consider themselves to be evangelical Christians believe that the term wine in the Bible is always and without exception alcoholic and intoxicating wine. Some even serve alcoholic wine in their churches, and they have the audacity to call this event “holy” communion.
Much of the confusion no doubt is due to the definition given in modern dictionaries for the term wine. A typical modern dictionary will affirm that wine is an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of the grape.
The key to understanding this matter is to realize that the word wine in the Bible is generic; in other words, it has different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used. If we resort to the original Hebrew or Greek, we are confronted with the same reality. The term “wine” in Greek appears as paroinos or oinos, both being generic words. In Hebrew it appears as yayin, tiyrosh, shekar, chamar, chemer, cobe or aciyc. All these terms in the original languages can mean the fruit of the vine, (unfermented grape juice), or it can mean alcoholic wine. It all depends upon the context, as we will soon see. There are many words in the Scriptures which are generic. A familiar example would be the word men. At times it refers to the male gender, at other times it is a reference to mankind in general. 1 Tim. 2:4 tells us “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” The context of the verse as well as the chapter indicate clearly that the term men in this case is clearly a reference to all humanity.
Let’s analyze some passages in the Bible that clearly prove that not all references to wine are necessarily alcoholic and intoxicating:
The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Joel 1:10.
It’s impossible for the wine in this verse to represent an alcoholic drink. Once wine is produced and stored in sealed containers, (such as wineskins) it cannot dry up or be affected by a drought.
Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all. Isaiah 65:8
Intoxicating wine in the cluster? Impossible!–especially when you consider the phrase “a blessing is in it.”
And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine… Haggai 1:11
How could a drought affect alcoholic wine? Once alcoholic wine is produced and bottled, the elements cannot affect it. Common sense tells us that the wine in this passage is a reference to the fruit of the vine.
That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. Deut. 11:14
It is not possible to gather alcoholic wine from the land. As has been mentioned earlier, intoxicating wine is not a natural product.
Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape. Deut. 32:14
The grapes in this verse come from the Hebrew word enab, which was translated wine in Hosea 3:1. There can be no doubt that some references to wine in the Bible refer to the “pure blood of the grape” (unfermented grape juice).
And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab; and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting. Jer. 48:33
Winepresses were used to extract juice from the grapes in its natural state and it is impossible for it to be alcoholic. The extracted juice could be sold as natural unfermented grape juice, or later it could go through the lengthy process of vinification to transform it into an alcoholic wine. Here we observe that the non-alcoholic juice found in the winepresses was called wine. It is impossible for the wine mentioned here to be intoxicating. When grapes spoil, the liquid trapped inside becomes acidic; however, it will not become alcoholic until the skin of the grape is ruptured and the liquid inside is exposed to oxygen for several days.
And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease. Isa. 16:10
“Tread out no wine in their presses” is the key here. As we saw earlier, the product being pressed is non-alcoholic.
And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine… Hosea 2:22
Based upon the Spanish translation, the word hear in this passage means respond to. This verse is a prediction of the earth responding to the wine. Common sense concludes that this passage is not speaking about alcoholic wine.
I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. Ecc. 2:3
This passage has to be talking about the fruit of the vine, because we all know that intoxicating wine does not acquaint the heart with wisdom.
A collection of other passages that proves that there was wine without alcoholic content in Bible times:
In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. Isa. 27:2
…and gathered wine and summer fruits very much. Jer. 40:12
…and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof… Amos 9:14
In my research I discovered that the term wine in Hosea 3:1 was translated raisins in the Spanish Bible. This adds to the evidence that wine is a generic term.
In his book “Bible Wines,” Rev. William Patton shares four observations concerning good wine, or in other words, fresh grape juice:
1. This wine is to be presented at the altar as an offering to God
And a several tenth deal of flour mingled with oil for a meat offering unto one lamb; for a burnt offering of a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD. And their drink offerings shall be half an hin of wine unto a bullock, and the third part of an hin unto a ram, and a fourth part of an hin unto a lamb: this is the burnt offering of every month throughout the months of the year. Num. 28:13-14
2. This wine is classed among the blessings, the comforts, the necessaries of life
Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Gen. 27:28
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isa. 55:1
3. This wine is the emblem of spiritual blessings
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16
4. This wine is the emblem of the blood of the atonement, by which is the forgiveness of sins and eternal blessedness
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16
Since people in Bible times did not have access to refrigeration and vacuum-sealing was not yet invented, they learned how to preserve the juice of the grape without it turning into intoxicating wine. It is common knowledge that they would take the juice and boil it down into a thick syrup. This would allow them to preserve it for long periods of time. In order to drink it, they would simply add water to the consistency desired, in much the same way we add water to frozen concentrates.
Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. Deut. 32:33
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Intoxicating wine is not the result of a natural process. The laws of fermentation are fixed facts, operating always in the same way, requiring always and everywhere the same conditions. The following data is taken from William Patton’s book, who cites the article under Domestic Economy in Lardner’s Cyclopedia as his main source:
1. There must be saccharine (sugar) matter and gluten (yeast).
2. The temperature should not be below 50 degrees nor above 70 or 75 degrees.
3. The juice must be of a certain consistence. Thick syrup will not undergo vinous fermentation
4. The quantity of gluten or ferment must also be well regulated. Too much or too little will impede and prevent fermentation
The indispensable conditions for vinous fermentation are the exact proportions of sugar, of gluten or yeast, and of water, with the temperature of the air ranging between 50 and 75 degrees.
The article continues, with the mention of three methods by which all fermentation could be prevented.
1. Grape juice will not ferment when the air is completely excluded.
2. By boiling down the juice, or, in other words, evaporating the water, the substance becomes a syrup, which if very thick will not ferment.
3. If the juice be filtered and deprived of its gluten, or ferment, the production of alcohol will be impossible.
In the same book Dr. Ure, an eminent chemist, gives a strikingly similar 3-point formula for tempering or stopping fermentation:
By those means which render the yeast inoperative, particularly by the oils that contain sulphur, as oil of mustard, as also by the sulphurous and sulphuric acids.
By the separation of the yeast, either by the filter or subsidence.
By lowering the temperature to 45 degrees. If the fermenting mass becomes clear at this temperature and be drawn off from the subsided yeast, it will not ferment again, though it should be heated to the proper pitch.
Please read these verses of warning:
For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. Ps. 75:8
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! Isa. 5:11
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. Isa. 5:14
Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink. Isa. 5:22
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean. Isa. 28:7-8
Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. Hosea 4:11
…and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink. Joel. 3:3
Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied… Hab. 2:5
Be not among winebibbers… Prov. 23:20
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. Prov. 31:4-7
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again. Prov. 23:29
In this passage we find that we are not even to look at wine, let alone drink it. Parents should teach this commandment to their children. When they are confronted with a commercial or an advertisement from the liquor industry, parents should take the opportunity to teach their children to close their eyes, that it is something the Bible tells us we shouldn’t look upon, that the product is abominable, vile and shameful.
Not only is it a sin to look at wine, it is a sin to sell it. This means that there are certain jobs a Christian cannot have, because he will have to compromise in this area. Let’s look at Habakkuk 2:15:
Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
There are those who try to twist this verse around, attempting to claim that it is only a sin to provide someone a drink if our intention is to look upon their nakedness. We already know from Prov. 23:31 that it is a sin to look at wine, so such an argument is futile.
There seems to be no doubt that the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2 is cited more often than other Scripture passages in failed attempts to justify the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
10 Reasons why Jesus could not have turned water into alcoholic wine
In his booklet “What the Bible teaches about drinking wine”, Bruce Lackey shares ten reasons why it is impossible for Christ to have consumed alcoholic beverages or turned water into intoxicating wine in the wedding in Canaan. I list them here, in an edited format:
1. Because of his holy nature
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Heb. 7:26
The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Jn. 7:46
2. He would not contradict Scripture
Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink… Hab. 2:15
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. Mat. 5:17
3. The Bible forbids the consumption of alcoholic wine by priests
Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses. Lev. 10:9-11
Christ is our High Priest:
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Heb. 2:17
4. The Bible also forbids the consumption of alcoholic wine by kings and princes
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Prov. 31:4
Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) and King of Kings (Rev. 19:16). In Matthew 27:11, he declared himself king of the Jews.
5. Christ did not come to mock or deceive people
Proverbs 20:1 tells us that wine does exactly that, and even more in Proverbs 23:29-35.
6. He did not come to send people to hell
Isaiah 5:11-14 tells that hell had to be enlarged because of the consumption of alcoholic wine. No, Jesus did not come to send people to hell. Note the words of John 3:17: For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
7. Christ did not come to be a stumbling block to anyone.
Romans 14:21 indicates that he that drinks wine does that exactly. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
8. The miracle of converting water to wine does not require that it be alcoholic
Many insist that the wine was alcoholic, on the basis of verse 10, which says, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” They would say that, in those days, it was common to serve the best alcoholic wine at first, saving the worst until later, when men’s taste had been dulled by much drinking. But the point is just the opposite here! These people could definitely recognize that the wine which Jesus made was much better than what they had been served at first. This could not have been possible, if they were already on their way to becoming intoxicated! The fact is, neither the wine which they had at first, nor that which Christ made, was alcoholic.
Let’s not forget that Christ is the one who performed this miracle. Considering that he had supernatural power, he could have created grape juice that was more tasty (if an alcoholic wine can be described as such) than the finest and most expensive wines in the world, and more tasty than any grape juice or beverage ever created by man. –CG
9. The Lord would not have received the glory from making drunk people drunker
Verse 11 is most important when it states that, by this miracle, Jesus “manifested his glory.” Verse 10 indicates that the people had drunk quite a bit of whatever kind of wine they were drinking. If it had been alcoholic, they would have been intoxicated, or nearly so. Had Christ made alcoholic wine, he would have made drunk people drunker, or almost-drunk people completely drunk! Such a deed would certainly not have manifested any glory to him!
10. Making drunk people drunker would not have caused his disciples to believe more strongly on him
Verse 11 tells us that, as a result of what he did in turning the water into wine, “his disciples believed on him.” John 1:41 shows that they had already believed on him as Messiah; this was a deepening of their faith and a proof that they had not been wrong. Would making drunk people drunker inspire such faith? The opposite would be more likely! They were not looking for a Messiah who would pass out free booze! Thus, because of the description of this miracle and its result, we can not conclude otherwise than that this wine was non-alcoholic.
Christ was opposed to alcoholic wine to such an extent that he took vinegar (Jn. 19:29-30) instead of alcoholic wine as he was dying on the cross. Mark 15:23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. It was not because of a lack of thirst, for in John 19:28 Jesus cried out “I thirst.” Certainly it is reasonable to conclude that he rejected the wine because of it’s alcoholic content.
I Cor. 11
Occasionally I hear of Baptists and evangelical groups that serve alcoholic wine during the Lord’s Supper. There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that the cup our Lord served to his disciples during the last supper was alcoholic wine. 1 Corinthians 11 makes reference to the cup, not wine. Matthew 26:29, referring to the Lord’s Supper, tells us “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The “fruit of the vine” never means intoxicating wine in the Bible. It represents the pure state of the juice that the grape produces without having been perverted by the process of manufacturing alcoholic wine.
The Bible clearly indicates that the cup is a symbol of the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:19 affirms that the blood of Christ is precious, without spot or blemish. Alcoholic wine is not pure and free of contamination. The grape and its juice, something that God made in a pure and natural form, has been fermented, or rather perverted, in the process of vinification, and it cannot be a symbol of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the contrary, it is absurd to compare this liquid devil–of which we have been warned in the Scriptures that we shouldn’t drink, distribute, nor look at–and compare it with the precious redeeming blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! What blasphemy! The word cup in 1 Corinthians 11 is poterion in Greek, which is never translated wine in the Bible.
Notice 1 Corinthians 10:21: Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
1 Timothy 5:23
1 Timothy 5:23 is cited frequently by those who defend the consumption of liquor. It states: Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. We should note that in this verse the apostle Paul is counseling Timothy, who suffers from stomach ailments and infirmities. The first element of his advice is for Timothy to quit drinking water. No doubt this is because much of the water in Bible times was contaminated, because they did not have modern methods for purifying water. This contaminated water was not going to cure him, and may have even been the source of his sickness and stomach problems. The second element of his advice is for him to drink a little wine for health reasons, especially for his stomach problems. Any honest doctor will tell you that alcoholic wine will not cure ailments and is not good for the stomach. Approximately 78% of the content of the grape is water, which is provided naturally by God and is free from contamination. By drinking the pure juice of the grape, Timothy could drink something natural and healthy, and at the same time avoid the obligation of drinking water which could be contaminated.
1 Timothy 3:8
1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine… verse kept me confused for many years. If the wine mentioned here was pure grape juice, why can deacons only drink a little? If the wine mentioned here is intoxicating as could appear at first glance, why can deacons drink some, as long as it is not much?
Is it possible that this passage is referring to a prohibition of many types of wine? In other words, if a deacon already has the custom of drinking unfermented grape juice, he should not add alcoholic wine to his habit?
Another possible interpretation centers on gluttony. Gluttony is a sin mentioned various times in the Scriptures. The dictionary… The context of 1 Tim. 3:8 not only indicates that intoxicating wine is forbidden, but it also forbids excessive alcoholic wine in the form of gluttony also. One of the vices of Bible times was to eat and drink all night long at feasts, which consisted of wasting food and money, an indication of being out of control. It is said that during Bible times various artificial methods were used to promote hunger and thirst in order to continue eating and drinking during feasts. Christ himself was falsely accused of being a glutton in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. The act of drinking excessively–even non-alcoholic beverages–was a prevalent vice in Bible times.
Another matter to consider in interpreting of this passage is the custom of diluting wine with water in ancient times. According to the book Bible Wines, as much as 20 parts water was added to wine, causing it to be so diluted that it was no longer intoxicating. This may explain why deacons could not be given to much wine.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. Mat. 11:19 (see also Luke 7:34).
Here Christ makes mention of a false accusation against himself. As to the latter part of the charge, it does bear some truth, because our Saviour witnessed among the publicans and sinners. But the first slanderous statement he mentions is a lie that was being repeated with the motive of damaging his credibility. The previous verse makes mention of a false charge against John the Baptist, where it is said of him “he hath a devil.” If we are going to believe the rumor that Jesus drank wine based on verse 19, then we also have to believe that John the Baptist was demon possessed, based on the previous verse. How absurd it is for those who attempt to defend their abominable practices to abuse this verse!
How bold and strongly marked is the contrast:
The one the cause of intoxication, of violence, and of woes.
The other the occasion of comfort and peace.
The one the cause of irreligion and self-destruction.
The other the devout offering of piety on the altar of God
The one the symbol of divine wrath
The other the symbol of spiritual blessings
The one the emblem of eternal damnation
The other the emblem of eternal salvation.
The distinction in quality between the good and the bad wine is as clear as that between good and bad men, or good and bad wives, or good and bad spirits; for one is the constant subject of warning, designated poison literally, analogically, and figuratively, while the other is commended as refreshing and innocent, while no alcoholic wine is.
Can it be that these blessings and curses refer to the same beverage, and that an intoxicating liquor? Does the trumpet give a certain or an uncertain sound? Can the same thing, in the same state, be good and bad; a symbol of wrath, and a symbol of mercy; a thing to be sought after, and a thing to be avoided? Certainly not. And is the Bible, then, inconsistent in itself? No, certainly not. (Adapted from Bible Wines by William Patton)
Tragic stories in the Bible
We all know the famous story of Noah. But not everyone knows that the last that is written of Noah is a shameful act that damaged his testimony considerably. Let’s read Genesis 9:20-21:
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
Another story with a disastrous ending is that of Lot. Because of having moved to Sodom, his family was exposed to worldly and abominable philosophies. After having escaped Sodom, his daughters committed an extremely abominable act after they managed to get their father drunk. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. Genesis 19:35-36
King Belshazzar lost his kingdom and his life because of wine. Let’s look at the passage that shares this fascinating story:
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand… (v. 23) But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them… Daniel 5:1-5; 23
Here we see that among the reasons given by God for the death of King Belshazzar, is the fact that he had drunk wine (alcoholic, no doubt) out of the vessels that belonged in the temple of the Lord. It is sad to think of churches where they are blaspheming God in a similar manner every time they serve intoxicating wine in the Lord’s table, and at the same time to have the audacity to proclaim that this cup of demons (1 Cor. 10:21) is a symbol of the precious blood of Christ! There’s nothing holy about their “holy communion.”
Upon firmly rejecting the alcoholic wine that King Nebuchadnezzar offered, Daniel set a great example for us to follow.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Daniel 1:8
Are you willing to purpose in your heart–as Daniel did–to not defile yourself with intoxicating wine?
Final Observations concerning alcoholic wine
(By Billy Sunday and others)
Liquor is a coward; it is a thief. It robs you of manhood and leaves you in rags and takes away your friends; it robs your family; it impoverishes your children and brings insanity and suicide. It will take the shirt off your back and it will steal the coffin from a dead child and yank the last crust of bread out of the hand of the starving child. It will send you home bleary-eyed and staggering to your wife and children. It attacks defenseless womanhood and childhood. It will take the virtue from your daughter. It is the dirtiest, most lowdown, damnable business that ever crawled out of the pit of hell. It is an infidel. It has no faith in God; has no religion. It would close every church in the land. It would hang its beer signs on the abandoned altars. It respects the thief and esteems the blasphemer. It fills the prisons and the penitentiaries. It despises heaven, hates love, scorns virtue. It tempts the passions. Its music is the sound of a siren. Its sermons are a collection of lewd, vile stories. It is the moral clearing house for rot and damnation and poverty and insanity.
It is a liar. It promises good cheer and sends sorrow. It promises health and causes disease. It promises prosperity and sends adversity. It promises happiness and sends misery. It sends the husband home with a lie on his lips to his wife. It is God’s worst enemy and the Devil’s best friend. It is waiting with a dirty blanket for the baby to crawl into this world. It is the anarchist of the world and its dirty, red flag is dyed with the blood of women and children. It will take you farther than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. It will cost you more than you want to pay. Liquor is the devil in solution; it is distilled damnation.
Excerpts from letters written by the author
There are verses in the Bible that appear to teach a false doctrine. Some verses require longer, more drawn out explanations than others. For example:
Some verses appear to teach you can lose your salvation.
Some verses appear to teach salvation by works.
Some verses appear to teach that Jesus is not God
Some verses appear to teach that you can be saved through baptism
Some verses related to the above list require detailed explanations, as well as the comparison of Scripture with Scripture. So just because an explanation is lengthy, or contains complicated words does not invalidate it. My experience as a pastor is that the more educated people are not as easily persuaded by simplistic explanations. They like to be presented with mounds of data before drawing their own conclusions.
I made it clear from the beginning that I could not endorse all of Mr. Bacchiocchi’s theology. I will add that I do not agree with every last bit of his logic. But the historical data he uncovered related to the history of wine is quite significant, I believe. More on that later.
I strongly recommend William Patton’s book “Bible Wines,” but I’m afraid that it is out of print.
Believing that the Bible condones moderate wine drinking can lead to some bizarre theology. Notice this blasphemous example I picked up somewhere on the Internet:
“…Refusing to drink wine is willful disobedience of the Lord’s command, “do this (the Lord’s supper) in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24,25). Grape juice has not had a finished work done in it, but wine has: a clear typification of Christ’s finished work on our behalf…”
As to Lev. 10:9, the priests are warned that they would die if they drank wine (I believe alcoholic, in this case) in the tabernacle. This does not necessarily imply they are allowed to drink alcoholic wine outside the tabernacle. They are simply warned that drinking alcoholic wine in the tabernacle carries with it the highest possible punishment–death. This should serve to impress upon a person how grave it is in God’s sight to drink alcoholic wine, especially in His house.
Because there is a warning of drunkenness as one of the possible results of drinking in one spot within a range of verses on wine, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole passage is warning only about drunkenness.
There are all kinds of verses that condemn wine without mentioning drunkenness even vaguely. See Hab. 2:5, for instance: “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine…”
Unknown to some people, a very small amount of alcohol begins to negatively affect a person, long before he is visibly drunk. I quote this example from the AIM section of the Federal Aviation Regulations:
“Extensive research has provided a number of facts about the hazards of alcoholic consumption and flying. As little as one ounce of liquor, one bottle of beer or four ounces of wine can impair flying skills, with the alcohol consumed in these drinks being detectable in the breath and blood for at least 3 hours. Even after the body completely destroys a moderate amount of alcohol, a pilot can still be severely impaired for many hours by hangover. There is simply no way of increasing the destruction of alcohol or alleviating a hangover. Alcohol also renders a pilot much more susceptible to disorientation and hypoxia. A consistently high alcohol related fatal aircraft accident rate serves to emphasize that alcohol and flying are a potentially lethal combination. The Federal Aviation Regulations prohibit pilots from performing crewmember duties within 8 hours after drinking any alcoholic beverage or while under the influence of alcohol. However, due to the slow destruction of alcohol, a pilot may still be under the influence 8 hours after drinking a moderate amount of alcohol. Therefore, an excellent rule is to allow at least 12 to 24 hours between “bottle and throttle,” depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.”
There you have it. Four ounces (that’s only a couple gulps) of wine impairing flying skills (as it would driving, or anything that requires concentration). A moderate amount of alcohol will not make you noticeably drunk, but you are immediately “under the influence.” Right away it begins to negatively affect your decision-making abilities. A Christian should not be involved in something that leads them to let their moral guard down. We are ordered to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” I Pet. 5:8.
There is evidence that in ancient times some people diluted alcoholic wine with plain water or certain juices (probably to ensure they could not become intoxicated by drinking it). Some may have resorted to this practice when their grape juice accidentally became fermented. The only way you could accumulate enough alcohol in your system to affect you would be by drinking vast quantities of this diluted wine. I believe this is the most logical theory explaining why deacons were ordered to not be “given to much wine.” I can’t document the source of this about drinking diluted wine right now, because I don’t have all my books yet. While I’m at it, I have heard that the carbonated soda water Argentine people commonly add to a small amount of wine is actually to enhance the effect of the alcohol.
This is related to the fact that there are certain foods that are prepared with a small amount of wine. I am told that some people add a little wine to the fruit mix that is commonly served at Christmas time in Argentina. I almost forgot–they sometimes add wine to cakes also. I would not recommend people to add wine to it or any other food (because they would end up having to buy a bottle of wine), but it may not be sinful to eat a meal presented to you that contains a tiny amount of wine in the ingredients. It is presumed that the small amount of wine is sufficiently diluted with the other ingredients and will not even come close to affecting you in any way. I would rather not eat something that included wine in the ingredients, but if I felt I would greatly offend a host, I might partake. This does not mean it’s OK to drink a little wine with your meal. As documented above, as little as 4 ounces of wine can affect you. It is assumed that the amount of diluted wine in foods is very insignificant, and cannot affect you.
Drinking a spoonful or two of wine, whether by itself or diluted might not be sinful if it didn’t affect your decision-making ability, but who drinks only a spoonful of wine? We all agree that intoxication is sin–but how do you define intoxication? My definition of intoxication is the moment in which a person has drank enough to affect their thinking process, even if it’s not obvious to everyone else. And research has shown that as little as 4 ounces of wine negatively affects a person. We are to be influenced by the Holy Spirit, not by wine (Eph. 5:18).
As documented in William Patton’s book, it was quite common for people in Bible times to drink grape juice. There wasn’t much else to drink other than water. There were no soft drinks, no coffee, no tea (?), no Kool-Aid, etc.
If the term “wine” in the Bible is not generic, how come Hosea 3:1 in the KJV says “wine,” when in the Spanish and French Bible it says “raisins”?
There are countless words in the Bible which are generic. I’m not sure what the correct grammatical term for that is in English, but in Spanish it is “palabras polisémicas.” My Greek Lexicon sometimes takes several pages to provide the multiple definitions to just one word. How do you determine the true meaning of a generic word? Context! Context! Context! Always keeping in mind that there are no true contradictions in the Bible. There are paradoxes in the Bible, but no true contradictions (paradoxes appear to be a contradiction on the surface, but upon further investigation, they reveal certain truths but no contradictions). How do you determine who God is in Hebrew, when in Hebrew God is always written in plural, and all letters are in uppercase, with the same word used for heathen gods? The context, of course. There are a few places where the context is blurred, or appears to be rather neutral. Those passages give translators big headaches. Gen. 3:5 and Dan. 3:25 is a case in point. There are differences between the Spanish Bible and the KJV in those verses. The context is not crystal-clear in those verses. There are some verses where wine is mentioned in a neutral or unclear manner. As far as I’m concerned, it’s anyone’s guess which wine is spoken about in those cases. Sometimes translators give up, and they simply transliterate a word that cannot be directly translated into the secondary language. “Raca” comes to mind regarding the KJV, and “hades” in the Spanish.
As to Acts 2:13, the Bible plainly says that people were MOCKING when they said, “these men are full of new wine.” The Spanish Bible has “mosto” instead of new wine. In the Spanish dictionary, as I recall it, mosto is pure grape juice. This proves that even in the NT the term wine is generic. The KJV translators decided on “new wine,” while the Spanish translators settled for “mosto.” Everyone knows that it is impossible for anyone to get drunk on genuine pure grape juice. Therefore, these people who the Bible says were mocking, were trying to be funny when they said that the disciples were drunk on what was apparently grape juice. That is if they had drunk anything at all.
If you are interested in reading more material on wine, Here are some more links. I have not read all of them thoroughly, so I do not necessarily agree with everything.
Wine in the Bible and the Church by G.I. Williamson (Book – out of print)
An Old Testament scholar looks at what the Bible says about drinking alcohol. http://members.tripod.com/srbuckley/health/alcohol2.htm
75 reasons for abstaining http://www.angelfire.com/tx3/lawyue/saywine.htm
In closing, I have some questions for those who say the Bible approves of drinking in moderation. These are not a large collection of silly questions that would be a waste of time to answer. They get to the heart of the matter, and they cry out for answers:
1. Could it be said that in the end, alcohol consumption does more good than harm?
2. Since when does God endorse something that in the end causes more harm than good?
3. If even God approves of alcohol consumption in moderation, shouldn’t children be allowed to drink?
4. What good lies in drinking, other than providing the drinker with momentary pleasure?
5. Why did Christ choose to drink vinegar instead of the wine offered to him on the cross?
6. Is it then OK for a Christian to be a bartender, as long as he doesn’t serve alcohol to those who are on the verge of getting drunk?
7. Would it be OK to use narcotics in moderation (assuming they were legal)?
8. Is not alcohol like a narcotic?
9. Wouldn’t you agree that never taking that first drink is the best way to ensure one never becomes a drunkard?
10. Are there any true contradictions in the Bible?
11. How do you accurately determine the point when one becomes drunk?
12. Is it OK for a Christian to smoke in moderation?
I’m trying to do my part to answer questions and respond to your comments, so please return the courtesy by answering the above questions when you have time.