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 gemsinisrael.com; 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. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Common Wine in the Bible

I’ve heard it said or implied many times. The only drink they had in Bible times was fermented wine. The water was unsafe, so they had to drink intoxicating wine. Since they had no refrigeration they had no way to keep it from fermenting.

But think about it - if that were true, men, women, and children would have been falling down drunk 24 hours a day. Even drinkers today also drink un-intoxicating drinks.

Like today, ancient folks had many different kinds of drinks (Nehemiah 5:18). Those drinks were usually generically called “wine” (yayin, tirosh, oinos). Some wine was fermented, some unfermented, some of a very low alcohol content, all were usually mixed with two to four parts water.

Even their intoxicating drink was no comparison to the much greater alcoholic content of today’s liquor. They did not know the process of distillation used today. Of course they could still get drunk on that lower alcoholic content wine, but they had to work at it to do so. And that was expensive.

Since we don’t know how to preserve unfermented wine (or grape juice) without modern day refrigeration, we assume they didn’t know how either. That is a false assumption. We project our ignorance onto them. However, they knew and used several ways to preserve unfermented wine. They could even keep fresh grapes for months.

Some quick examples:

Shireh 
“Concentrating grape juice down by heating is still used to make the popular shireh of modern Iran and was known to the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia as well as the Greeks and Romans. It enables fruit to be preserved, and, diluted with water, it produces a refreshing, nonalcoholic beverage.” -Ancient Wine: The Search For The Origins Of Viniculture by Patrick E. McGovern, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2003; p. 54.
This book is very pro fermented wine. But notice it reveals a common way today, and in ancient times, to preserve wine in an unfermented condition.

Common Wine Was Without Alcohol 
“Fermented wine was the least common [drink in Bible times] and the percentage of alcohol was small. New wines were wholly without alcohol and were easily preserved in this condition for several months. There were also wines in which, by boiling or by drugs, the process of fermentation was prevented and alcohol excluded. These were mixed with water and constituted the most common drink of the land.” -Dr. Lyman Abbott (1835-1922), Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, p. 973.  Abbott was a Congregational minister, scholar, editor, and author.

Wine Often Was Simple Fruit Syrup & Water 
“It should never be forgotten that when reading the Bible and the classic pagan writers of ‘Wine,’ we are seldom dealing with the strongly intoxicating and loaded liquids to which that name is alone attached in the English language, but usually with beverages such as above described. They were as harmless and sober as our own Teas, Coffees, and Cocoas. Had they not been so, the ancient populations would have been perpetually in a more or less state of drunkenness…These facts should never be forgotten when we read of ‘Wine’ there, - for it was simple fruit syrup, except where especially stated to be of the intoxicating kinds.” -Ferrar Fenton of England, The Bible and Wine.
By age 28, Fenton had acquired a working knowledge of 25 classical, Oriental, and modern languages. Fenton produced one of the first modern English translations of the Bible.

So don’t just assume that every time the Bible says “wine” it is referring to strong alcoholic wine.

Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. -Proverbs 3:9-10

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, July 21, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
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. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Biblical Principles Condemn Alcohol

The previous article, Alcohol Condemned in the Bible, looked at direct biblical commands to not drink beverage alcohol. Biblical principles also condemn alcohol.

1. The Bible says those deceived by wine are not wise (Proverbs 20:1). We are commanded to be wise (Ephesians 5:15; etc.).

2. The Bible teaches us to guard our influence and not lead others astray. You may be able to hold your liquor. There are still at least two problems with that. First, you are supporting an evil industry that has brought untold heartache to the world. Second, someone else will look at you and say, “That is the best man I know. If he can drink, then so can I.” And that may be someone whose life will be ruined by drink.

3. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Alcohol destroys that body.

4. The Bible says you are to love God with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Our minds are altered and damaged by alcohol. Beverage alcohol is a recreational, mind altering drug. Every drink kills brain cells and dulls your judgment. When it comes to beverage alcohol, its very use is abuse. We should love and serve God with clear minds.

5. The law of love, as A. T. Robertson called it, teaches us not to drink (Romans 14:19, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:9).

6. Scripture proclaims believers in Jesus Christ to be kings (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). Kings are not to drink lest they pervert justice (Proverbs 31:4-5).

7. God commended the Rechabites for not drinking wine (Jeremiah 35).

8. Don’t abuse your Christian liberty (1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:23).

9. The Bible often gives the appalling results of alcohol. It tells of Noah, Lot, and others getting drunk and the terrible consequences.

10. Is it biblical for a believer to support the alcohol industry that has wrecked so many homes and lives?

11. Drinking is expensive. By not drinking you can save a lot of money that you can use for more noble purposes.

12. Biblical wisdom and truth would compel us to recognize the incredible damage alcohol does to society. Alcohol contributes greatly to traffic accidents and deaths, unwanted pregnancies, fetal alcohol syndrome, the spread of sexually transmitted disease, all types of criminal behavior, cirrhosis of the liver, destruction of brain cells, cancer, addiction, breakup of homes, and on and on.

13. About one out of nine drinkers becomes a problem drinker. Never take that first drink and I guarantee you will never become an alcoholic. With those odds in mind, would biblical principles allow you to play “Russian Roulette” with your life and the lives of those you love?

14. From the overall teaching of the Bible, do you really believe God condones the recreational use of a mind altering, dangerous drug? Whether it is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs, the answer is obviously, no. In case there is any question, prescription drugs should only be used for medical problems; their recreational, unnecessary use can be just as wrong and dangerous as the recreational use of alcohol.

15. Countless lives have been saved from ruin by teaching abstinence from alcohol. What is the worst that can happen to you by not drinking? Abstinence works every time it is used. Not drinking is safe, and it is wise.

16. Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a serious problem. Jesus said, “whoever commits sin is a slave to sin“ (John 8:34). With beverage alcohol, it is easier to not start, than to start and then struggle to stop. God’s plan A is for us not to sin in the first place (1 John 2:1). As it is, you will have plenty of problems in life. But I can save you from many of the self induced ones. You can save yourself and others a world of heartache by just staying away from alcohol.

When it comes to biblical principles, alcohol is kind of like the issue of slavery. The Bible does not directly say, “Thou shalt not own a slave.” But clear biblical principles certainly teach against slavery. Whether or not you accept that the Bible directly speaks against alcohol, the Bible clearly teaches against it.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. -Proverbs 20:1
At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. -Proverbs 23:32


-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, July 13, AD 2009.

Alcohol Condemned in the Bible
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the book

Monday, July 6, 2009

Alcohol Condemned in the Bible

Today many are saying that while the Bible condemns drunkenness, it never condemns the moderate use of alcohol. They say that good Christians can be biblically free to enjoy a glass of wine, or a beer on the weekends. Well, does the Bible condemn beverage alcohol? Of course it does. It condemns it both directly and indirectly.

The Old Testament tells us not to drink.Proverbs 23:29-35 gives a detailed description of fermented, intoxicating wine and its effects. King Solomon is the divinely inspired writer. And Solomon, the smartest man in the world, said not to even look on that kind of wine (v. 31). What kind of wine? The kind he is describing, the intoxicating kind. Don’t even look at it. That is a direct command against beverage alcohol.

By the way, unfermented wine does not fit the Proverbs 23 description. At the last, non-alcoholic wine does not bite like a serpent and sting like an adder (Proverbs 23:32). That is why God commends some wine (the unfermented kind) and condemns other wine (the fermented, poisonous kind).

There was not a word for “alcohol” in Bible times. So, what did Solomon do? He described an alcoholic drink by its characteristics and effects. Proverbs 20:1 also condemns this kind of wine.

The New Testament tells us not to drink.1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 commands us to be “sober.” It even contrasts drunkenness with sobriety. Any amount of alcohol make us less than sober. Moderately drink, and you will be moderately sober. Alcoholics Anonymous will be glad to explain to you that sober means no alcohol in any amount.

The New Testament (NT) portion of the Bible was originally written in the Greek language. One of the NT Greek words translated sober (or watchful) is “nepho.” W. E. Vine says of nepho, “Signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants.” -Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee; 1997, p. 1057.  Nepho literally means "wineless." 

God’s Word commands us to be sober (nepho) in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8; 2 Timothy 4:5, 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8. Some have curiously argued that nepho has nothing to do with drinking, it simply means sober minded or sound minded. The reply is obvious. How can you be sober minded, how can you have a clear head, when you are drinking in any amount? Sober means sober; therefore it means no intoxicating drugs. “Sober” may not only refer to beverage alcohol, but it certainly includes it. What a contrast to those who brazenly say that God wants Christians to enjoy the “buzz” that is given by alcohol. 

God commands us to be sober, not half sober. The first drink of alcohol ends your sobriety. The first drink of alcohol adversely affects your judgment and your reaction time. A Defensive Driving instructor said, “The first drink affects your judgment. Therefore if you have taken any amount of alcohol, you are unqualified to judge whether you are able to drive.” This instructor freely admitted to drinking. So, even one who was a social drinker, recognized the immediate effect alcohol has on the mind.

How can anyone drink a recreational, intoxicating, mind altering drug and then claim that they are obeying the command of God to be sober? Alcohol has caused untold damage, death, and heartache in this world. Stay away from alcohol like you would stay away from a venomous snake.

Whether or not you agree that the Bible directly condemns alcohol, hang on. Later we will look at the biblical teaching, or biblical principles (and they are numerous) against beverage alcohol.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” -1 Peter 5:8

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor; July 6, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
Biblical Principles Condemn Alcohol
Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the book

See other articles on alcohol in lower right margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels).