Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wine in the Bible -- What Does God's Word Really Say? (Pt. 2)

So I asked dh if he knew off the top of his head how the word "wine" is translated in the Bible. He asked, "Oh, is this about that guy who says drinking's a sin?" I filled him in on our SDA friend's argument, and he said, "You don't need to do all that homework. Just tell your friends that guy's research is whacked. He's doing eisogesis. He's made up his mind about alcohol, and he's taking all the text and making it say what he wants it to say." "I know he's being eisogetical," I countered, "but the people I'm discussing this with want some real information. They're reasonable and are willing to be convinced either way, as long as it's biblical."

That, and I forgot to ask any of the pastors/seminary dudes today at church. So in the meantime I'm digging up different stuff online and posting it here with links. (Is that "postilinking" or "linkiposting" -- there's gotta be a blogosphere term for that by now.)

First up, from the Grace to You archives: an excerpt from a series called, "Be Not Drunk with Wine."

2. The religious issue

The thrust of Paul's teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit is religious: he is contrasting paganism with Christianity. Pagans believed that to commune with the gods, you needed to get drunk to reach the highest level of communion. This is part of what are called the "mystery religions," offshoots of the Greek and Roman mythological religious systems. It is not unlike what occurs today. From men like Timothy Leary to Eastern mystics and the occult, people are saying that if you get high on drugs and alcohol, you will reach a greater level of consciousness. Many claim that it is new truth, but is actually derived from ancient pagan religions. During the apostle Paul's ministry, the Ephesian culture was inundated with many pagan religions.

Around Dionysus became centered a religion of ascendancy, where human beings attempted to reach a level of divine consciousness. It was filled with ecstasy, wild music, dancing, and sexual perversion--all induced by drunkenness. With a great conclave of voices the people would call out to Dionysus, "Come thou Savior." Dionysus became known as the god of wine.

So when Paul said "be not drunk with wine," he was not dealing merely with a social problem, but a theological one as well. He was dealing directly with Satan's counterfeit religion. Satan captures minds and bodies through the medium of drunkenness.

b) The Roman counterfeit

The Roman name for Dionysus is Bacchus. He is frequently pictured with nymphs and satyrs. The famous bacchanalian feasts were nothing more than drunken orgies. Among the massive ruins of the ancient Near Eastern city of Baalbek is a temple to Bacchus, the god of wine. It is covered with grapes and vines because that was the thrust of their worship.

Paul was saying to the Ephesian church, "Your background was communing with the gods in a state of drunkenness, but if you want to communicate with the true God, you need to be filled with His Spirit. If you want to be raised to the highest level of consciousness, simply enter the presence of God through the filling of the Holy Spirit."
The Corinthian Christians had problems with meat being offered to idols. They also had problems with the gifts of the Spirit, because the pagan religions had corrupted their meaning. That is why it is impossible to properly interpret 1 Corinthians l2-l4 without understanding the pagan world of New Testament times. Christianity was being counterfeited in the Corinthian church because they were carrying their former pagan practices into the church. They even corrupted one of the most sacred ordinances God has given the church-- Communion.

The Corinthians were so used to communing with the gods through drunkenness that they came to the Lord's Table drunk. Paul told them they couldn't drink the communion cup, which is the cup of the Lord, and the cup of drunkenness, which is the cup of demons (1 Cor. 10:21). Their Communion services were characterized by gluttony and drunkenness (1 Cor. 11:19-22). They were conducting their worship the way they used to do it in paganism.

Paul was contrasting the Satanic counterfeit of worship with true worship. He didn't want anything to come in the way of what the Spirit wanted to do in the lives of the Ephesians.

C. The Context

I believe Paul is dealing with drunkenness as a religious issue because of the context of Ephesians 5:18-21. He contrasts the pagan liturgy of singing, dancing, and wild parties with true Christian liturgy, which involves speaking with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (vv. 19-21).

When Paul said, "Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit," he was making a simple contrast. The Greek word for "excess" is asotia, which refers to uncontrolled dissipation or debauchery. Being controlled by alcohol is opposite to being controlled by the Spirit of God.
Aha! Found it! Part Two's got the info I was looking for. After this excerpt are a whole host of historical citations about the wine used in Bible times. MacArthur actually cites some of the same sources as Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi. Make sure you read the whole thing:
Question #1: Is drinking wine today the same as in Bible times?

Christians who drink point out that wine was commended in the Bible and assume it is therefore acceptable today. If drinking in biblical times is to be used as the basis for drinking today, the wine today should be the same as the wine used then. This deserves careful analysis.

A. The Biblical Words for Wine

1. Oinos/Yayin

The most common word in the New Testament for wine is the Greek word oinos. It is a general word that simply refers to the fermented juice of the grape. The Old Testament equivalent to the Greek word oinos is yayin, the root of which means to "bubble up" or "boil up." The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia (vol. 12, p. 533) states that yayin, at least in the rabbinic period, was diluted with water.

2. Gleukos/Tirosh

The Greek word gleukos--from which we get the English word glucose, means "new wine." It is used in Acts 2:13 to refer to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. It says they were "full of new wine." Although it was comparatively fresh and not yet fully aged, it was potentially intoxicating. The mockers in in Acts 2:13 were accusing the apostles of being drunk.

The Old Testament word for new wine is tirosh. Hosea 4:11 says "wine [yayin] and new wine [tirosh] take away the heart." Drunkenness is the result of drinking this new wine.

3. Sikera/Shakar

The Old Testament word for strong drink is shakar, a term that eventually became restricted to intoxicants other than wine. According to the 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia, it refers to unmixed wine. The New Testament equivalent is the Greek word sikera.

B. The Historical Data Regarding Wine

1. Unfermented wine

Because of refrigeration problems in ancient times, wine was often boiled until the liquid evaporated, leaving behind a thick, unintoxicating paste that stored well. It was somewhat similar to modern grape jelly. The people would spread it on bread like a jam, and some still do today in the Middle East.
Here's the bottom line:
Pondering the Principles

1.The wine spoken of in Bible times is the not the same as the wine of today. Wine today is not mixed with water and can be very intoxicating. The wine people mostly drank during Bible times was mixed with generous amounts of water and was largely unintoxicating.
I find all this historical stuff fascinating.

Based on just this amount of information, I think it's safe to say that Bacchiocchi and MacArthur are BOTH of the "two wines" theory. The difference between the two is in the application. Bacchiocchi would say that total abstention is required of the modern Christian, while MacArthur would say that avoiding drunkenness is what is required, and total abstention is a matter of conscience. Since we don't water down our wine in modern times, avoiding drunkenness is much more difficult than in "the olden days."

If y'all need any more info, let me know and I'll keep digging.


Peek a Boo said...

yeah, I read that article too :-)
But here's my biggest Q:

if "wine" and "oinos" are **only** fermented wine,
then is Bacchiocchi's definition *research* wrong?
he cites a LOT of sources in his "meaning of wine" section-Biblical and secular-- backing up his claim that "wine" [oinos and yayin]
can be fermented OR unfermented, depending on context. It's especially his
older sources that I'm really interested in, and it's tougher to find online info about about them [but if anyone can point out where to find them, that would help too. i tried googling before, but haven't tried again since --maybe it's been added, eh?]. I'd hate for someone to just say "yeah, his research is wrong" unless they can cite how and where it's wrong, but at the same time i don't want to cite that it's RIGHT unless i have proof, and right now the only "proof" i have is that people haven't flocked to publicly discount it. but like your dh said, i'm hoping people don't practice eisogesis w/ discounting THIS guy's research: don't tell me he's wrong just cuz we've made up our minds already --and THAT's what I've been encountering in trying to discuss this article [as you saw on WTM, lol]

oh, he also mentions how the gleukos syrup could be watered down as "unfermented wine" --kinda like what happens when i get my cokes at the soda fountain, lol. [in his "preservation of grape juice" part]

thanks so much for taking the time to do this!!

forgot i had these others bookmarked too --
a couple of articles that take Bacch's book and put it in easier-to-read format [basically]:

of course, both cite Bacchiocchi :-)

[and hey-- at least your blog site is getting a workout!!]

Nan said...

Thanks for your further researching FOS! :^)
Peek, I do not discount this man's argument largely because I come in believing he's wrong (though that *is* true). My main reason is because I believe that his entire worldview is twisted and wrong and the way that he (because of his religion) has interpreted much of scripture on other issues is also wrong. It gives me very very little reason to trust him because he himself has been deceived in so many *other* ways. I am much more likely to trust theologians (and my own study of the scripture) who have been systematic and have faithfully and rightly divided the word of truth time and again and have proven themselves to be orthodox. Reason #3 is that I find nothing in the scripture that indicates moderate drinking is wrong no matter what the alcohol/water ratio, only drunkeness. As I pointed out in a post, there is even a scripture instructing the Israelites (who were too far off to make it to the place of worship/sacrifice) to change their offerings for money and use the money to purchase anything from food to "strong drink" and to enjoy it and feast.
While I read 1/3 of the man's writing on the site, I am definitely not opposed to reading more. I just didn't have it in me late last night! LOL!
Nan (who is still enjoying the discussion even though she knows where she firmly stands on the issue)

peek a boo said...

i guess i'll hafta come out of the closet and admit:
i don't think the SDA views are *wrong* or twisted --just different :-) Like many Basic Christian Churches have differing views on baptism and communion in general, but i don't think they're all wrong. ok, maybe I *do*, but it's not a wrong that i think their salvation is based upon, lol.
i'm trying to look at his research on its own merit, not on who *he* is.

this has been an interesting discussion so far :-)

peek a boo said...

and NO! i'm not SDA, ftr :-P

Under the Sky said...

This was a very good post, Flock. I appreciate it. I think you have well proven that it is not anti-biblical to moderately drink. I think scripture alone proves it too with no help from Mr. MacArthur, but evidently Peek thinks that my clear presentation of scripture on the WTM boards was only "wrong just cuz we've made up our minds already." I find that kind of thinking to be, frankly, offensive.

If you, Flock, had actually shown that somehow God's word was clearly against moderate drinking (moderate being the key word here and on the boards at the time) then I would have listened to you.(Rather, I would have listened to God's word had it been proven from there.) However, I already knew you wouldn't come up with that so Mr. SDA's "proof" is only proof of his *conviction* and not a biblical command.

Clearly getting drunk is a sin and clearly getting drunk is much easier to do with the wine made today. And clearly we had better be careful--no question about that.

It is unfortunate to me that because I would not "give" to Peek's repeated insistence that we all read her chosen author that she "hopes" those of us who chose not to do what you are doing as practicing eisogesis. In my opinion, he started with already faulty presuppositions about doctrine in general and legalism in their church laws so why would I think his end conclusion would be correct? To make a law when there is none in God's word is to hold yourself as more important than God. So I don't think I am practicing eisogesis, I think I am just choosing to read from authors I know will have sound thinking and sound doctrine and who will not make a law when there is none. MacArthur or any of the theological authors I respect and read may or may not drink. That would not matter to me at all. This was not ever about drinking to me or proving that *I* had the right idea. It is about where authority comes from for a true believer in Christ; where our rule of life comes from. It comes from God's word, not man's wishes.


Nan said...

Well Peek, while I respect *you* I must strongly disagree with your feeling that SDA is either "basic" or "Christian".
But I realize you are more open minded in this area than I am. And I still like you!!! :^)
I read this testimony of someone (who as far as I know did not turn to any other form of Christianity so this doesn't lean towards any other brand or denomination) who grew up in the SDA church. As much as it is anecdotal I found it to be a trustworthy personal reference point of why I used the words "twisted" and "wrong".

Nan said...

Oh! Forgot the link:

Silly Old Mom said...


Thanks for sparking this discussion in the first place. I have learned a whole lot from it. I discovered I was one of those people who assumed ancient wine and modern wine were one and the same. Now I realize they're not, of course.

In all fairness to my dh, he hasn't read the blog yet (I don't think) and I only gave him a thumbnail sketch of the thread. I may have also misquoted him, LOL.

I wouldn't say Bacchiochi's *research* is eisogetical, but even after having read him more closely I do still think he comes to the wrong *conclusion.*

In the passages he cites that are ambiguous, he simply assumes that, to borrow from Inigo Montoya, the word means what he thinks it means. Take the Song of Solomon passage, for example. I think in that case he's clearly being eisogetical. But for the most part he sounds like a long-winded version of MacArthur, although it appears that they differ slightly on the exact definition of the Greek/Hebrew/Latin words for "wine." That is *not* what I thought would be the case when I first read Bacchiocchi a few days ago.

You know, it's funny -- the main reason I've never been tempted to drink alcohol is because of the taste. Blech! It "gladdens the heart" to hear that I would have been able to enjoy nonalcoholic wine had I been an ancient Roman.

I will say this about Bacchiocchi: he is firmly convinced in his conscience that he should abstain from any alcohol. Where I part company from him is in his implicit assertion that what binds his conscience should bind the consciences of all believers. That is the point where, as Kate said, a believer puts himself above God.

My pastor constantly hammers on 1 Cor. 4:6, " not go beyond what stands written." This debate is a good example of that principle. God has obviously said, "Don't get drunk." It is not obvious that He has said, "Never drink a beverage containing any alcohol." We need to go as far as God goes in these matters, and no further.

Romans 14 is such an important passage in this case. Drinking wine is specifically included in Paul's list of disputable things, or non-essentials, which should not be a cause of division in the Body.

Maybe Jesus really did create alcohol-free wine at Cana. It obviously wasn't the syrupy stuff. So either it was a non-alcoholic version, or the watered-down alcoholic version. Is that the point of the passage? No. Sometimes, in our zeal to prove our point, we end up missing THE point.

As for the SDA itself, the denom has enough unorthodox teachings (and dogmatic, legalistic ones at that) that some theologians have classified it as a cult. Walter Martin's "Kingdom of the Cults" has a pretty thorough treatment of the subject.

The only SDA member I knew really well was a girl I discipled at an EV Free church. AFAICT, she is a genuine believer. DH and I threw her for a loop when we started introducing her to the finer points of Calvinist theology, but she was willing to be convinced from Scripture.

Peek a Boo said...

ok, I'm going to clarify this one more time--
Kate, I thought i was very specific about my request to discuss *this article* w/ someone, not the entire issue of wine in the Bible. I've read LOTS of articles and study notes and commentaries about that, and am very familiar w/ *that* POV. Which is why when i sat down to read Mr. B's article w/ a readiness to dfebunk it thoroughly, i found something different from what I expected: this guy has done serious research into the historical impact-- a research that I have *not* seen reciprocated by the majority side.
Your "clear presentation" was stuff I was already famiuliar w/ and stuff that Mr. B addresses in his article. I had hoped that my repeated requests to READ what I wanted to discuss BEFORE trying to comment on it would have been basic courtesy, not offensive. I never asked for *anyone* to "believe" what he is saying-- I'd actually kinda *like* to see someone point out exactly where he's wrong in his research. I never insisted that "everyone HAS to read this!" i simply asked that before you enter *this* discussion that you take the time TO read it.

nan- if i thought his research was dependent upon his faith then I would have discounted it too. However, if his research is correct, then it can shed a lot of light on a major issue that Christians have been dealing with. Just cuz the Big Oil companies sponsor a scientific analysis doesn't mean thier science is always incorrect :-)

while I too have some serious issues w/ the SDA church, I also have some serious issues w/ *many* "Christian" denominations, esp wrt baptism and communion. But when i try to boil it all down to "do they believe in Jesus as their Savior and faith by grace", then i have to set much aside and rely on God's Word to lead me, and to lead them. while this gal's testimony is unfortunate, I'd have to say that from what *I've* read, asked, and seen in the SDA church, hers isn't "typical", and can also add that we've all seen examples of the church twisted into awful experiences, regardless of denomination. but i also know you mentioned taking a break from the boards, so feel free to address this any time in the future :-) Right now I'll try to get back on the topic that SOM is trying to wade through with me-- Mr. B's article.

while I also prefer to look to studied theologians for scriptural understanding, I also know that they are fallible humans. Luther himself had the same problem: "there must be something wrong w/ *me* cuz my Studied Superiors are saying I'm *wrong*....." We are told in Scripture to TEST EVERYTHING, and that's all I'm doing. If the theologians we've come to trust are indeed correct and this guy is whacked, then it won't take long to test Mr. B's article w/ an actual examination, refute it undeniably, and post for all to see. My wonderings are simply based on the fact that I haven't seen anyone *do* that yet.....

Your third reason is addressed in Mr. B's online chapters.

as for 1 Cor 4:6 --YES! we can't go beyond what is written. But we also need to make sure we have a *true* understanding of what *is* written. Romans 14 could include wine simply because --as Mr. B elaborates --many were abstaining from *any* grape products [thus his appeal to Timothy]. I think that if his research is correct, then his application is simply academic, not ambiguous or eisogetical [ok, that's just a wierd *word* lol]

It's because of my interest in his historical research that I can't say that SOM's post has "proven" anything yet until we can dig into the validity of the sources Mr. B refers to. But i certainly appreciate her willingness [and anyone else's] to address his points :-)

and if anyone wants to email me, you can do so at

Under the Sky said...


You wrote, "Kate, I thought i was very specific about my request to discuss *this article* w/ someone, not the entire issue of wine in the Bible."

To me, that *was* the issue--drinking in the bible as being against God’s commands because that is what the OP’s pastor had told them. In my first comment to you I wrote this:

“Hey, I don't care if you drink or don't drink. That is a personal thing and I would *never* suggest anyone do anything against their conscience. I am just saying that you cannot make a sound argument for total alcohol abstinence from scripture alone.”

That was always my point to her and to you. There is no sound argument for total alcohol abstinence from scripture alone. That does not mean to say that, as Flock has aptly pointed out, that wine then is exactly the same as wine now, but wine is wine, and one could get drunk from watered down wine too because it has alcohol in it. The bible clearly forbids the drinking to excess, but no further. That was always and only my point.

I know there is no way the author can force total abstinence into any *biblical* passage. It does not matter to me what his outside scriptural evidence may be. I just don’t understand why that would even sway a person. Extra-biblical is just that, extra-biblical. I only care about what God’s word has to say as the final arbiter.

You wrote: “I had hoped that my repeated requests to READ what I wanted to discuss BEFORE trying to comment on it would have been basic courtesy, not offensive.”

I was commenting a) to Nan, on the reasons I understood her feelings about questioning this person’s ability to look at anything in a balanced manner when he is already coming from an absolute belief in the wrongness of it and b) nothing he could possibly say or present could change what the bible says.

"i simply asked that before you enter *this* discussion that you take the time TO read it."

Actually, I did not enter the WTM discussion to talk about any particular article, but to identify with Nan in her feelings and agree with her. I also posted to the OP regarding her situation with understanding towards her. I did not feel it was necessary to read it because I was not there to discuss it. You commented underneath my post to Nan with about whether the wine was good for us. “'s not the *alcohol* that makes the wine good for you”

OK. Well, great, but that was never my point. To me, the point was the main subject of alcohol being sinful. That was only and always my main point.

I did not come here to discuss the article, but to enjoy what Flock was sharing. I was not going to even discuss the article *here* until you mentioned in your own comment how unwilling we were (in your mind) to engage a discussion on the boards. I found *that* to be offensive.

Peek, you are always, *of course*, welcome to think, feel, write, in whatever way you wish, but just because people don’t want to read the articles you feel are potentially life-binding, does not mean they are practicing eisogesis.

Warmly written,

Peek a Boo said...

thanks Kate :-)

i actually do NOT think this is life-binding; my only interest is in finding out that "wine" may very well *not* mean the same thing today as it did 2000 years ago. Yes, everyone agrees that there was fermented wine --as there is today. The biggest question comes as :

did Biblical writers understand "wine" to be used generically for any expressed grape juice, whether it was kept from fermenting or allowed to ferment?

If they *did* in fact understand that and we ignore it, we are ignoring a pertinent piece of information in our study of what *scripture* -not man, but scripture- really is saying.

We can research this as Mr. B has done by trying to understand the linguistics [and known factors around preserving grape juice] of the time.

We can understand MANY passages of the Bible better when we understand from non-Biblical sources more about the situation. situations in Paul's epistles spring to mind immediately. Theologians have already acknowledged the importance of non-Biblical history in establishing a foundation for understanding of Biblical text.

I have to say i'm a little confused as to why you would listen to Flock's analysis of an article instead of just reading the online chapters themselves [in which he does quite a bit of analysing of scripture *and* history...]

Kate, it was simply the constant dismissal of even *reading* a piece which draws on scripture and history that leaves me scratching my head --how can you *know* he's wrong unless you read it first? your follow up comments in your first post above just add to my wonderment:

"However, I already knew you wouldn't come up with that..."

"In my opinion, he started with already faulty presuppositions about doctrine in general and legalism in their church laws so why would I think his end conclusion would be correct?"

see, it was exactly because I {like you} *didn't* care for so much of what he stood for that I was ready to tear into his chapters. I'm still hoping that someone w/ a bit more knowledge of ancient historical sources can help me validate or refute his research.

Under the Sky said...

Hey, Peek,

This will have to be my last post here because I just don't have the time right now to keep going.

I just want to say that I appreciate your thoughts a lot and you do bring up some valid points. I liked this question:

"did Biblical writers understand "wine" to be used generically for any expressed grape juice, whether it was kept from fermenting or allowed to ferment?"

I am not sure that I can really answer that with anything other than scripture. I was poking around online and found this site:
I found it to be totally fascinating only because it really just put scripture reference after scripture reference with the specific wording right there. In reading one after another, both Old and New Testaments, I think that after reading them all that to suppose that wine was not fermented is a difficult point for anyone to prove. Even I was surprised. :+)

I agree with you here:

"We can understand MANY passages of the Bible better when we understand from non-Biblical sources more about the situation."

This is very true. I know exactly what you are talking about because we have experienced this recently in our reading together here. God is good to preserve some history for us. :+) See! We can see eye to eye on some things! :+)

Your comment here: "I have to say i'm a little confused as to why you would listen to Flock's analysis of an article instead of just reading the online chapters themselves..."

is answered in that I was interested to see what Flock made of it, not what the article was specifically. I honestly had no interest at all in reading his work. I also like to see how people who I "see" regularly on the boards think. It helps me "know" them better, and know how to take their responses sometimes. Don't you read certain people's blogs or stories on the boards with more interest than others? I will admit that I do. Some people are just really interesting to me.

I will also humbly admit that I did not want to read it because you kept pushing the issue and I will also admit that when anyone pushes me, I usually (ashamed to say) push back. So, I apologize for that because that is not very Christian behavior.

I will also say that I hold very little water with anyone who is SDA. It comes from experience I have had and so it carries over here. That may be intolerant of me in some people's minds, but there it is. I have met too many SDA folks who are just WAY over the edge that I truly question their faith. Not that I am the arbiter of that faith, and I am not the one to say if they are or are not true Christians (and I totally know this). I just cannot trust what comes from that perspective because their church has made laws (not wine-related here) that are just not laws in God's word. That just sends red flags for me and I cannot trust it.

Peek, I don't know all things. I am so darn aware of that! Every day I am humbled and every day God shows me how much I depend upon Him for even my very breath. I want to honor Him in all that I do and I don't think I have been particularly humble or even really very teachable so I apologize.

I hope you find the answers that will make it clear to you in whatever way that may be.


peek a boo said...

thanks Kate--
i read the link, but it still doesn't address the definition issue. scripture itself doesn't address the definition of wine except by how God approves of its use and when He doesn't. Why? I appreciate that we can read scripture plainly, but if a word that originally had a couple of meanings [as Flock has found out] is being *assumed* as one meaning, then i think God's Word deserves our effort to understand its complete context, no matter *who* points it out :-)

another reason i'm setting aside Mr. B's bias is because he's included older secular sources on the use of the word "wine" --sources that have nothing to do w/ religion at all.

and once more --if anyone has any light to shed on Mr. B's historical research on the definition of wine, feel free to email me at
and SOM-- take your time-- no hurry, lol.