“Not Given to Much Wine”

A favorite passage that is used to support the moderate use of alcoholic beverages is 1 Timothy 3:8. One of the qualifications for the office of a Deacon is “not given to much wine.” It appears the wine is not condemned but the quantity of wine consumed. However, abstinence from alcoholic beverages is required of the Eldership (1 Tim. 3:2-3; Tit. 1:7). Is this a sanction of intoxicating wine for Deacons as long as they never become Elders?

It certainly makes no sense to permit drinking of some alcohol for an office where deacons should be aspiring to become Elders. Under the Old Law, priests were not even permitted to be present in the tabernacle if they have drunk an intoxicating drink. If they were inebriated in the temple the penalty was death (Lev. 10:9). The purpose for that statute was to provide the people with the ability to distinguish between the holy and the unholy (Lev. 10:10). Using the same reasoning, it seems strange to think that someone in the position of a Deacon would have to be considered unholy if the consumption of alcohol is permitted at all. Given that all Christians are priests under the New Law, the distinction between the holy and the unholy should still be recognized by one’s use of alcohol.

It could also be easily argued that Paul is setting up a double standard if this phrase is an endorsement for the consumption of alcohol. Yet, Paul begins the qualification for Deacons with the acknowledgment that the qualifications between the two offices are similar. He says, Likewise deacons must be…” (1 Tim. 3:8). Since the Bible would never contradict itself, the phrase under consideration obviously does not sanction the use of alcohol.

Samuele Bacchiocchi, in his book entitled, Wine in the Bible, illustrates the absurdity of assuming this phrase condones the drinking of alcohol as follows. “If you are a bishop, you must abstain (nephalios) from wine and not even be near wine (me paroinon – 1 Tim. 3:2-3). If you are a deacon, you may drink wine moderately (me oino pollo – vs. 8). If you are a woman, presumably a deaconess, you must abstain (nephalious – vs. 11) from wine. If you are an aged man, you must abstain (nephalious – Titus 2:2) from wine. If you are an aged woman, you must drink moderately (me oino pollo – Titus 2:3). Now what would happen if a woman happened to be both aged and a deaconess? Would she be abstinent one day and moderate the next?” (Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p. 250)

The absurdity can also be illustrated by evaluating other similar phrases found elsewhere in the Bible. The most striking passage is Ecclesiastes 7:17. It reads, “Do not be overly wicked…” (NKJV). Does that mean it is all right to be moderately wicked? When Paul said, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…” (Rom. 6:12), does he imply that sin is acceptable as long as it doesn’t control us? When Paul wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world…” (Rom. 12:2), does that mean a little worldliness is acceptable provided conformance hasn’t been reached? Surely, Peter wasn’t implying that the Christians were riotous when he wrote, “Wherein, they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot…” (1 Pet. 4:4; KJV).

The literal translation of the phrase directly from Greek is “not wine to much being addicted” (Marshall, The Interlinear Greek – English New Testament, p.825). The New American Standard Version of the Bible translates it as “not addicted to much wine.” Obviously any amount of addiction is too much. Therefore, we can tell that the phrase in question is using a loose form of speech. The phrase should not be understood as permission to drink but as a prohibition against being intoxicated with any amount of wine.

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

 

Water into Wine

Many well-meaning people will point to the miracle where Jesus turns water into wine as their justification to drink alcoholic beverages (Jn. 2:1-11).   They correctly conclude that Christ would not have made wine if He did not approve of its consumption.  However, they err by assuming the wine which Jesus made was fermented.

The generic Greek word for wine (oinos) does not imply either a fermented nor unfermented beverage.  We have already covered this point in many passages in others articles on wine.  We have also emphasized the necessity to determine the meaning of the word wine by considering the context in which the word is found.  The key to determining the inebriating effects of the wine Jesus made from water is found in this manner.

The master of the wedding feast makes an observation that the wine made by Jesus was “good” as compared to the wine being drank which he describes as inferior (Jn. 2:10).  In order to appreciate his statement, we need to know what people in the first century consider good wine versus inferior wine.  Albert Barnes in his New Testament commentary has an excellent discourse on the nature of the good wine.

“We should not be deceived by the phrase “good wine.” We often use the phrase to denote that it is good in proportion to its strength and its power to intoxicate; but no such sense is to be attached to the word here.  Pliny, Plutarch, and Horace describe wine as good, or mention that as the best wine, which was harmless or innocent–poculo vini innocentis. The most useful wine — utilissimum vinum— was that which had little strength; and the most wholesome wine– saluberrimum vinum— was that which had not been adulterated by “the addition of anything to the must or juice.” Pliny expressly says that a “good wine” was one that was destitute of spirit (lib. iv. c. 13). It should not be assumed, therefore, that the “good wine” was stronger than the other: it is rather to be presumed that it was milder. The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. It was not brandied wine, nor drugged wine, nor wine compounded of various substances, such as we drink in this land. The common wine drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape. We use the word wine now to denote the kind of liquid which passes under that name in this country–always containing a considerable portion of alcohol –not only the alcohol produced by fermentation, but alcohol added to keep it or make it stronger. But we have no right to take that sense of the word, and go with it to the interpretation of the Scriptures. We should endeavor to place ourselves in the exact circumstances of those times, ascertain precisely what idea the word would convey to those who used it then, and apply that sense to the word in the interpretation of the Bible; and there is not the slightest evidence that the word so used would have conveyed any idea but that of the pure juice of the grape, nor the slightest circumstance mentioned in this account that would not be fully met by such a supposition.”[i]

The wine that Jesus made was good because it did not ferment.  The fermentation process converts the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol.  If there is no sugar, the flavor is not good.  It is believed that this wedding feast took place months after the vintage.  Fresh grape juice would not be available during this season.  It appears the inferior wine was likely grape juice that was reconstituted with water from must.  However, the wine Jesus provides must have been fresh grape juice.

The Greek word that was used to describe the goodness of the wine that Jesus made is quite revealing.  The common Greek word for good is agathos.  However, the word used by the master of the feast was kalosKalos carries the idea of moral goodness.  The master of the feast was not only talking about the good flavor of the wine; he was also stating the moral goodness of the beverage.  He is implying the wine is non-intoxicating.

Further, it is ludicrous to think that Jesus would in any way encourage or facilitate the means by which people could sin.  Jesus was well aware of the condemnation given to the drinking of intoxicating wine in the Old Law (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35).  He would tempt no one with sin (Jas. 1:13; Matt. 6:13).  However, He made enough wine to get the whole wedding party drunk if it were fermented.  Nor should we overlook the fact that wedding parties had many small children that also drank from the same wine.

[i] Albert Barnes’ Commentary on the Bible.
 
By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Accuracy in Translation

If a person were to study the subject of wine from most any English translation of the Bible, that person might come away with an idea that the Bible condones a moderate use of alcohol.  The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness (Lk. 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3).  Yet, certain passages sound like they approve of the consumption of intoxicating beverages (Deut. 14:26; Prov. 31:6; Hos. 4:11; Lk. 5:37-39; 7:33-35; Jn. 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:21-22; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:8; 5:23) while other passages condemn the very use of intoxicating wine (Lev. 10:8-11; Judg. 13:3-4; Prov. 31:4-5; 23:31; 20:1; 1 Tim. 3:2-3).  It appears that the use of alcoholic beverages are not clearly condemned or clearly condoned consistently throughout the Bible.

This problem can be traced back to the earliest English translations of the Bible.  Accuracy in translation was often sacrificed for more palatable words.  The King James translators; in particular, were more interested in producing a version that everyone would accept than producing a version that was consistent.  They purposely published a version that would not appear biased toward any particular doctrine.

The most blatant example of this is the creation of the English word “baptism.”   The Greek word means immersion.  However, the earliest English translation of the New Testament was produced by a Catholic priest named John Wycliffe.  Wycliffe along with the Catholic Church practiced sprinkling rather than immersion.  The transliterated Greek word for “baptisma” became a new English word that had no definition except what was consequently created.  Hence, the English word baptism includes in its definition dipping, sprinkling, pouring or washing.

The English word “wine” serves as another example of inconsistent translation.  There are at least 13 different Hebrew and Greek words that have been translated into the single English word “wine.”  Surely, the English language is not so limited that the translators couldn’t differentiate 13 different words.  This discrepancy is not acceptable especially when we consider how the King James Version of the Bible avoided uniformity in the translation.

Concerning the translation of the King James Version of the Bible: “They said they did not think it right to honor some words by giving them a place forever in the Bible, while they virtually said to other equally good words: Get ye hence and be banished forever.  They quote a “certain great philosopher” who said that those logs were happy which became images and were worshipped, while, other logs as good as they were laid behind the fire to be burned.  So they sought to use as many English words, familiar in speech and commonly understood, as they might, lest they should impoverish the language, and so lose out of use good words.” (McAfee, “The Making of the King James Version; Its Characteristics,” www.bible-researcher.com)

A lack of consistency in favor of diversity in word choice suggests an ill intent when we find, in fact, a lack of diversity in word choice in favor of inconsistency when it comes to the word “wine.”  The intentional inconsistencies in translation of our English Bibles have produced versions that are not truly accurate.  We must be wise to the misleading way many words were used because the translators were purposely trying to prevent disagreements and controversies. In essence, they willingly used “politically correct” terms when the subject matter was in question.

Great care must be taken to insure a proper understanding of the words that were chosen to represent the original text.  For example, the English word “sober” is used to represent two different Greek words in the Bible.  We understand “sober” has three definitions when it is applied to the subject of intoxicating beverages.  It could mean not intoxicated, someone less than drunk or someone who is thinking clearly.  However, only one definition was actually in the mind of the author when he wrote it.  Could the word “sober” ever be defined as less than drunk in any passage of the Bible (Rom. 12:3; 2 Cor. 5:13; 1 Thes.  5:6, 8; 1 Tim. 3:11; Tit. 2:2, 12; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:8)?

Christians are commanded to be sober (1 Thes. 5:6, 8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).  Sobriety occurs in both mind and body.  Someone who is sober in body (not intoxicated) is also sober in mind.  Impaired thinking would not be considered sober even if the impairment did not reach the civil definition of drunk. Obviously, any amount of alcohol impairs a person’s sobriety.

It should also be noted that King James was a heavy drinker, the head of the Church of England and the one who commissioned the King James Version of the Bible.  Was there any motivation to treat the subject of wine delicately by the translators?

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Tirosh and Gleukos

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of “wine,” but unfortunately it does not specify what kind of ”wine” it is talking about. There are several words from different languages that get translated into the word ”wine.”  Yayin and tirosh from the Hebrew, oinos and gleukos from the Greek, and vinum from the Latin are all words that were translated into “wine” in the Bible. The word tirosh and gleukos refers to the grape itself, a newly finished product of grape such as grape juice, boiled grape juice (which is called must), or a cluster of grapes. The other three words have a dual meaning. They can refer to grape juice or to fermented grape juice whereas tirosh and gleukos never refer to an alcoholic substance. Even though by definition tirosh and gleukos cannot mean an alcoholic wine, we are going to look at some verses translated “wine” and prove that they cannot possibly be referring to an alcoholic beverage .

Tirosh

Since the word tirosh has no alcoholic meaning behind it, yet is translated “wine,” it should be pretty easy to see why the verses we are about to look at do not refer to alcoholic “wine.”

The first mention of tirosh is in Genesis 27:28. The verse is talking about Isaac’s blessing to Jacob and says, “Therefore may God give you … plenty of grain and wine.” The typical person who does not want to see that this is clearly grapes or grape juice would jump to the conclusion that God wants us to have plenty of food and alcohol. Besides, God wants us to be happy and alcohol makes me happy, right? If we look at the context of the verse Isaac is blessing Jacob with natural blessings such as grain, dew, and the fatness of the earth. Besides the fact that tirosh doesn’t refer to alcoholic beverages anyway, we can see that Isaac is blessing Jacob with the bounty of the earth which God provides; not something that is fermented and manmade.

Another great example of the word tirosh is found in Isaiah 65:8. It says, “Thus says the LORD: ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster … ‘” How can there be alcoholic “wine” in the cluster of a grape while still on the vine? Once again it is very evident that tirosh, though translated ”wine” does not refer to an alcoholic beverage.

One last look at the word tirosh is found in Deut. 11:13, 14 which talks about gathering ” … in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.” The verse is once again referring to natural God given blessings of rain, grain, oil and grape juice or grapes. It is important to note that grapes and grape juice were a very large part of the Old Testament economy. Wealth was determined by how well your crops and animals did each year. Certainly, it would be a great blessing of the Lord’s to be given plenty of rain which in turn bears grain, grapes, and oil.

Other verses that have the word tirosh in them are Deut. 33 :28; Hos. 2:8; Joel 1:10; 2: 18, 19, Jer. 31:10-12; Micah 6:15; Num. 18:12; and Psalm 4:7. It is important to note that tirosh is never given a negative connotation or is frowned upon in scriptures. This shows God’s approval and blessing in grapes and grape juice.

Gleukos

Gleukos is the Greek equivalent to the word tirosh. Unfortunately, it is very rare to find the word gleukos in the New Testament. When the Old Testament was being translated into Greek (known as the Septuagint) they did not translate the Hebrew word tirosh into the equivalent word of gleukos. Instead they translated several uses of the word tirosh into oinos. This fact alone is evidence that you cannot believe the word “wine” in the Bible is always referring to an alcoholic beverage. You need to look at the context of the verse and apply common sense to determine the meaning of the word “wine.”

One example of the Hebrew word tirosh being translated into the Greek word oinos is in Proverbs 3:10 ” … And your vats will overflow with new wine.” The King James Version translates vats into presses. Clearly, we can see that tirosh was the correct word to be used for this verse, and should have been translated gleukos in the Septuagint, since it is referring to a freshly pressed grape.

Other verses that translate the Hebrew word tirosh into the Greek word oinos are Psalms 4:7; Is. 65:8; and Joel 1:10; 2:24.

As mentioned earlier, it is hard to find the Hebrew word tirosh translated into the Greek word gleukos, but it is even harder to find the Hebrew word yayin translated into the Greek word gleukos. One such rare occurrence is in Job 32:19 which reads, “Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins.” The word gleukos is fittingly used here since it is referring to grape juice that has not yet fermented.

Our last look at the word gleukos comes from Acts 2:13, which reads from the NKN as “Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine. ‘” It is Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Peter and other devout men from several places. They were all given a variation of the gift of tongues which allowed them to speak to several men all with different languages and they all heard each other in their own language. Some other men who were there began to mock the group that had received the Holy Spirit saying that they were filled with gleukos? We have previously established that gleukos is the equivalent to tirosh, both which mean grape juice. It is safe to assume that these devout men were well known, and not partakers of alcoholic beverages. The mocking men knew that these devout men did not drink alcoholic beverages, yet these devout men were acting strange to them. So what better sarcastic insult is there but that these devout men were drunk on grape juice? I suppose this argument may not be the best, but one thing is sure, the mocking men accused the devout men of being drunk on grape juice (gleukos).

By Jason Hamilton

The Need for the Study of Wine

          The purpose of this chapter is to discuss whether there is a need to study wine in the Bible.  Some people believe that Jesus turned water into wine; therefore, all wine is good and there is no need for a study.  Others say that they would never participate in wine of any sort, to be better safe than sorry, and so there is no need for study.  Others still, even in the Lord’s church, say that they would not participate in wine because they feel it is wrong, but would not condemn anyone for drinking since there is no real evidence for or against it.  So is there any real reason for studying wine or is one of the previous arguments sufficient?

          Let’s look at some scriptures to determine if the previous mindsets are acceptable.  1 Peter 2:2 talks about new Christians need the milk of the word (a.k.a. the first principles of Christianity).  Should we be content with the milk?  In 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrew 5:12 we are led to believe that we are to all strive for the solid food of God’s word and not be content with the milk.  The previous mindsets come from people content on the understanding that they already have.  The previous mindsets have no desire to move forward in God’s word but are content with the milk.  Hebrew 5:13 says that if we are content with milk then we are unskilled, and a babe in Christ.  Is that what we want to be the rest of our life; an unskilled babe?

Many Christians today are of the third mindset.  They know what they believe but are not grounded enough in God’s word or are too afraid to tell anyone what they believe.  Others, avoid the topic altogether because it is “scary” and controversial.  Is this the mindset that a Christian should have?  In Jeremiah 17:8 and Psalms 1:3 it says blessed is a godly person for they will be like a tree planted by the waters.  It doesn’t matter what kind of trials come in life or how hard the Bible topics.  We should be firm in our beliefs and know our Bibles well enough to stand fast against whatever comes at us.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we should always be ready to give a defense of the hope that is within us.  How can we give a defense without study?

We have no excuse for not being ready.  2 Timothy 4:2 says that we are to be ready in and out of season to teach and convince.  How can we convince people to do right if we ourselves do not study enough to find out the truth about wine in the Bible?  If we are striving to grow and partake of the meat of God’s word then we are no longer a child as depicted in Ephesians 4:14.  We have no excuse for being swayed by the world to ignore what the Bible says about wine.

By Jason Hamilton