Monday, July 27, 2009

Evidence for the Two Wine Theory

“Gather wine and summer fruit and oil.” -Jeremiah 40:10

Does “wine” always mean fermented or intoxicating wine? Do the Bible words for wine always mean intoxicating wine? Of course not, although many say they do.

Some drinkers attempt to prove their case first by asserting all wine is fermented (One Wine Theory). Then, every time the Bible or other literature says “wine” they insist that can only mean the alcoholic stuff. Their theory sounds good until you do some research.

The most common words in the Bible for wine are the Hebrew words “yayin” and “tirosh,” and the Greek word “oinos.” Tirosh usually, some say always, meant unfermented wine. Yayin and oinos were both used to refer to fermented and unfermented wine (Two Wine Theory); and all three words were used interchangeably. For example:

1. Proverbs 3:9-10 refers to fresh, unfermented wine just harvested. The Hebrew word is tirosh. There are several significant points.

First, this is a clear case of un-intoxicating wine in the Bible.

Second, about 200 BC Jewish scholars translated this word “tirosh” into the Greek word “oinos.” They did not even translate it as “new oinos,” just “oinos.” Their translation, the Septuagint (LXX), was used by Jesus and His disciples. The LXX treated the words, yayin, tirosh, and oinos synonymously. Here they used oinos for unfermented wine.

Third, this verse is translated into English with the word “wine,” or “new wine,” even though it is a definite reference to unfermented wine. Why is this significant? It shows that even the modern day English versions use the word “wine” to refer to non-alcoholic wine. So much for those who say there is no such thing as “unfermented wine.”

2. Isaiah 16:10 says, “No treaders will tread out wine (yayin) in the presses.” You tread out unfermented wine, not fermented wine, in the presses. Jewish translators of the LXX translated yayin here, into the Greek word oinos. The modern English versions of the Bible translate yayin in this verse into our word, “wine,” even though it refers to unfermented wine. (See also: Deuteronomy 11:14; Isaiah 65:8; Jeremiah 40:10, 12; 48:33; Joel 2:24)

3. Mark 15:36 refers to vinegar as sour wine (oinos). Wine has three basic stages, non-alcoholic, alcoholic, then it turns to vinegar. So oinos is not just used of alcoholic wine, not just of non-alcoholic wine, but also used of vinegar. Once again, oinos is shown to be a broad word.

By the way, with a little effort, wine can be preserved in any of these three stages.

4. Ancient non-biblical quotations:

A Greek Poet and physician of the 2nd century BC wrote: “Says Nicander: And Cenus having squeezed the juice of the grapes, into hollow cups, called it wine (oinos).”

Aristotle wrote, “that sweet wine (oinos) would not intoxicate.”

“At the time of festivals, he went about, and took wine (oinos) from the fields.” -Athenaeus, Book VI, sect. 89, Voyage of Nymphodorus, the Syracusan; 320 BC. You don’t gather “fermented” wine from the fields.

Many more ancient examples could be given.

5. “The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin words which are rendered ‘wine,’ mean simply the expressed juice of the grape.” -Dr. Adam Clark, quoted in Communion Wine and Bible Temperance by William M. Thayer, 1869; p. 13.

6. Yayin - “what is pressed out, grape juice.” -Dr. Robert Young, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Eerdmans, 1970; p. 1058.
Oinos - “wine, grape juice.” -Dr. Robert Young, ibid; p. 1058.

7. “A host of strong evidence points to the fact that yayin can mean not only [fermented] wine but also grape juice, and that God’s purpose for the vine was for the latter.” -Robert P. Teachout, The Use of “Wine” in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation for Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979; p. 312.

8. “The word yayin was used to indicate fermented or unfermented wine.” -Yael Zisling, Winemaking in Israel. Published by; August / September, 2001.
This is a modern, pro fermented wine site. Notice the quote recognizes both yayin and wine as generic words.

Today many scholars (but not all) just repeat what other scholars have said about wine always being intoxicating, without considering the evidence. Many mistakenly believe the ancients had no way of preserving unfermented wine, so they assume it must have all been fermented. But the experts can be wrong. Consider the evidence.

Therefore when the Bible says Jesus made wine (oinos; John 2), don’t just assume it means 14% alcohol content wine. If you assume that, that is not just taking the Bible for what it says; that is your biased opinion.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, July 27, 2009.

PS - Several have asked me to write about the issue of the Bible and alcohol and I have now done so for several posts. It is one of the hot topics of our day, when we have some pastors militantly promoting the idea of social drinking. In the future I will be posting more articles about this subject, but will also be posting on other topics.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or write to: nsbc77562 [at] LWOL [dot] com; or P.O. Box 300, Lake Jackson, TX 77566.

Biblical Principles Condemn Alcohol
Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Other articles in lower right hand margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels).
Ancient Wine and the Bible by David R. Brumbelow due to be published October 1, 2011. It will cover these areas much more extensively. 


  1. David:

    You said--"PS - Several have asked me to write about the issue of the Bible and alcohol and I have now done so for several posts. It is one of the hot topics of our day, when we have some pastors militantly promoting the idea of social drinking."

    Who are these pastors that are militantly promoting the idea of social drinking?

  2. Tom,
    Notice I said “some” pastors. I do not include every pastor who might disagree with me at some point about the alcohol issue.

    While I could easily name some names, at this point I choose not to do so. But I will give some examples of what I’m talking about. They:

    Seem to glory in their “liberty” to drink.
    Brag about their favorite intoxicating drinks.
    Make fun of those who oppose drinking.
    Are mocking and in your face calling those who oppose alcohol legalists, Pharisees, brood of vipers, etc.
    Boast of having a church keg party.
    Say you might as well be against tea or chocolate as to be against beverage alcohol.
    Call the SBC a legalistic denomination for opposing alcohol.
    Angrily oppose the historic stance Southern Baptists have taken for well over 100 years.
    Celebrate a baptism with a martini.
    Say those who oppose alcohol don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.
    Compliment the deacon who makes the best martini.

    Over the last several years blogs have been full of these type comments and name-calling. I’ve seen them and been on the receiving end of some of them. They should be relatively easy to find, although some come back later and erase their comments.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. I think the pastors that you are referring to are the apostles like Paul. He never said that drinking wine was sinful and also was against those who taught abstinence in eating meat, drinking and marriage, preaching liberty. Jesus called the pharisees a brood of vipers for teaching things as law that which wasn't.
    The question is where was the SBC before the 100 years. Let's go back to the 1800s. They were drinking wine in communion as every other church was doing.
    Most of those who allow for wine and drinking do not make light of it and difinitely put forth as the scriptures do that drunkenness is sinful.
    You also have to prove how social drinking is sinful over what, non-social drinking? Does the Bible say that drinking with others is wrong as opposed to drinking alone? It is easy to throw terms around, but not so easy to find scripture that back it up. God directly commented on many things, even unclean animals in the law by type, but He couldn't comment on the sinful nature of a fermemented drink in the law? God is not vague.

  4. Dwight,
    You might be interested in “Ancient Wine and the Bible.” It goes into great detail how ancients could preserve wine in its fermented or unfermented state. Unfermented wine or grape juice was common and they had a choice whether to drink alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks. It also gives many examples of how the Bible and ancient writings refer to both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks as “wine.”

    Ancients did not have a word for alcohol, so they described it by its effects. The way to tell if the wine in the Bible is alcoholic is by the context.

    You might also be interested in a number of other articles here on the subject of wine.

    I don’t believe God was vague in Proverbs 23:29-35 when He described alcoholic wine in great detail, and then said not to even look at it.
    I don’t believe God was vague when He said “Be sober” (1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8). The Greek word for sober literally means “wineless.”
    David R. Brumbelow


What do you think?