- CRITTER TALK
I love a challenge.
First off, a disclaimer; every source I could locate AGREED that the terms for “wine” in the original languages in most cases make obvious reference to fermented, and therefore alcoholic, grape juice. In the instances where such blunt indication is absent, there appears no indication that it could be otherwise. As several authorities point out, no method of storing unfermented juice was known. The stated effects throughout the Bible make it impossible to logically and rationally interpret it as being anything but alcoholic and capable of intoxication.
“Intemperance was common enough, and the Bible contains a number of unfavorable references to excessive drinking. Wine is praised; it rejoices God and men (Judges 9:13); it gladdens the heart of men (Psalms 104:15); it gladdens life (Exodus 10:19); it makes the heart exult (Zechariah 10:7); it cheers the spirits of the depressed (Proverbs 31:6) . . . The attitude of Jesus toward wine, like that of the entire Bible, is neutral, praising its use and finding fault in its intemperate use. Certainly the production of wine at Cana (John 2:1-11) scarcely supports any belief that Jesus or the primitive Church regarded the use of wine as sinful in itself.”(Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.,1965).
SO, let us see what the Bible has for us in better detail. First, Noah got drunk on grape juice (Genesis 9:21),and so did Lot (Genesis 19:32-35). In John 2:11, the already-mentioned miracle at Cana is recounted. In accordance with Jewish custom, they were drinking REAL wine. It was a joyful occasion with probably several hundred people attending, so Jesus helped when the wine supply became prematurely exhausted. The product HAD to be fermented, for if it had been mere grape juice, there would have been complaints rather than superb compliments. “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry” says Ecclesiastes 10:19 with the Hebrew word requiring a fermented product! On Jesus’ last Passover (Last Supper), which occurred in the Spring, he passed around wine for him and his disciples to drink. Since this was six to seven months after the grape harvest and since there was no way to preserve grape juice, this HAD to be fermented. (The actual phrase is “fruit of the vine,” but, as pointed out by The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, this expression was “employed by the Jews from time immemorial for the wine partaken of on sacred occasions, as at the Passover and on the evening of the Sabbath. The Greeks also used the term as a synonym of wine which was capable of intoxication.”)
There are negative passages about wine. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1). There are certainly problems attached to over-indulgence. The admonition here is that one not be deceived by wine and use it too much. This applies to almost anything.
The references to the “wine of the wrath of God,” and “the wine of the fierceness of His wrath,” and “the wine of her fornication” (Revelation 14:10, 16:19, 17:2, and similar references) merely use wine as a pictorial vehicle. They in no way condemn the moderate use of wine any more than similar word pictures condemn other things. If such “unfavorable” references of this type constituted such a message, a Christian would then sin by: wearing a cloak (1Thessalonians 2:5, 1Peter 2:6), drinking water (Numbers 19:9, 13, 20-21; 1Kings 22:27; 2Chronicles 18:26; Jeremiah 8:14, 9:15, 23:15), using an oven or heat or fire (Deuteronomy 29:24, 32:22; Psalms 21:9; Jeremiah 15:14, 17:14; Ezekiel 22:31, 38:19), eating bread (Deuteronomy 16:3; 1 Kings 22:27; 2 Chronicles 18:26; Proverbs 4:17, 20:17, 31:27; Isaiah 30:20), or take a shower (Ezekiel 13:13)!
So? The Good things about wine? God made this drink possible to help man REJOICE!: “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great . . . And (God makes) WINE that makes glad the heart of man, . . .” (Psalm 104:1, 15). Wine can help the depressed and those near death to cope: “Give STRONG DRINK to him who is perishing, and WINE to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” (Proverbs 31:6-7). Apostle Paul tells Timothy to drink WINE for its health benefits: “No longer drink only water, but use a little WINE for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” (1Timothy 5:23). God offers man FREE WINE: “‘Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy WINE and milk without money and without price.’ ” (Isaiah 55:1). God will soon prepare a feast for His people which includes .: “And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of WINES on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined WINES on the lees.” (Isaiah 25:6).
The proper relationship between alcohol and Christians is really quite plain. It is merely a matter of moderation. As Paul told Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine . . . .” When he wrote to the Ephesians he specified, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess . . . .” He said to not get drunk, but he did not say to totally abstain from wine. What is absent is just as important as what is present. “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5).
Christians and alcohol CAN mix and, when celebrating Christ’s death, the fermented fruit of the vine is an integral and even vital ingredient. Paul again makes this point clear in 1Corinthians 11:20-29 by outlining the aspects of the Passover service and making special mention of the proper spirit of this solemn celebration and admonishing against overeating and drunkenness. Abstinence is NOT taught by the Bible, but neither is drunkenness. Moderation is the key.
So! Eat, drink and be merry! It is the thing to do. Just remember moderation is the key.