Alcohol…and the Bible? Part III

Part 3: Historical view of alcohol by Christians

Christians for nearly 1800 years drank alcohol as part of normal life and nearly always used wine as communion. It was not until a few protestant churches in the U.S. began moving to a position of moderation in the 1800s and some, bearing out of that movement, moved to abstinence altogether. This idea of drinking being sinful is a new idea that flourished in recent times.

Early Apostolic Church Fathers

According to the early apostolic Church fathers…

  1. Should one abstain from wine? According John’s disciple Ignatius…no:

“Do not altogether abstain from wine and flesh, for these things are not to be viewed with abhorrence, since [the Scripture] saith, “Ye shall eat the good things of the earth.” And again, “Ye shall eat flesh even as herbs.” And again, “Wine maketh glad the heart of man, and oil exhilarates, and bread strengthens him.” But all are to be used with moderation, as being the gifts of God.” Ignatius (Disciple of John), The Epistle Of Ignatius To Hero, A Deacon Of Antioch

  1. Was wine non-alcoholic? They confirm that it was alcoholic, as people could get drunk on it:

“Again, when the Holy Ghost had descended upon the disciples, that they all might prophesy and speak with tongues, and some mocked them, as if drunken with new wine, Peter said that they were not drunken, for it was the third hour of the day;” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 12.

  1. Did they think Jesus drank wine? Yes:

‘”Is not He thy father who hath obtained thee [by generation], and formed thee, and created thee?” At what time, then, did He pour out upon the human race the life-giving seed — that is, the Spirit of the remission of sins, through means of whom we are quickened? Was it not then, when He was eating with men, and drinking wine upon the earth? For it is said, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;”’ Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 31.

Church fathers after this point also affirmed drinking as acceptable. In some cases they did not want children or youth to drink for reasons such as lust due to drinking too much (Clement of Alexandria). But again this would be drunkenness (which is but one form of gluttony), not casual drinking. Clement did admire those who did not drink.

But John Chrysostom, about the time of Augustine and Jerome, argued that certain Bible passages should be used to refute those who say there should be no wine at all! A host of other Christians rightly defended drinking right up to the Reformation. Benedictine monks were permitted to have about 1 gallon (4 liters) of beer per day as their allotment.

Reformation

Through the Reformation, it was obvious that drinking was permitted and encouraged. During the reformation for example:

“As the Protestant Reformation began, the Reformers from Luther and Calvin to Zwingli and Knox strongly supported the enjoyment of wine as a biblical blessing, and indeed Calvin’s annual salary in Geneva included seven barrels of wine. The Lutheran Formula of Concord (1576) and the Reformed Christian confessions of faith also make explicit mention of and assume the use of wine, as does the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith and the Methodist Articles of Religion (1784). In the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (1632), even the radical Anabaptists, who sought to expunge every trace of Catholicism and to rely only on the Bible, also assumed wine was to be used, and despite their reputation as killjoys, the English Puritans were temperate partakers of “God’s good gifts,” including wine and ale.”[1]

Notice how John Calvin as part of his annual salary was given 7 barrels of wine, which comes out to 2 and ¼ liters of wine per day!

Even great commentators and preachers of the past repeatedly and openly preached of alcohol being good such as John Wesley, George Whitfield, Adam Clarke, John Gill, and John Bunyan. These are but a few and their writings clearly reflect a positive attitude of drinking.

On the other sides of the fences, the Oriental churches, the Roman church, and Orthodox churches are well-known for alcoholic beverages.

Modern Moderation and Abstinence Movement (i.e. American Temperance Movement)

It was rare to find early colonial Americans not drinking – even George Washington is known for drinking and his favorite was a porter, which is a dark beer that contains some molasses. Puritans expected people to drink. Few realize today that it was a Baptist minister who developed the formula for bourbon. Even Southern Baptists openly drank until 1896 when they made a declaration of forced abstinence.[2]

The moderation and abstinence movements began with some vague roots to John Wesley who suggested limiting extremely high alcoholic beverages that were distilled (whiskey, vodka, etc.) to medicinal purposes. Though his comments were largely neglected, it was not until Benjamin Rush who in early 1800s argued against these same high alcohol beverages that were distilled could be addicting and the only cure was abstinence (Rush was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, though he staunchly opposed George Washington and wanted him removed from commanding U.S. forces).

During the 1800s in the U.S., there was a shift and this idea grew and spread to the idea that all alcoholic beverages should be abstained. This idea, lead by liberals no less, is not founded in the Bible but fallible minds of men and consequently by 1919, the U.S. began prohibition, which was later repealed in 1933 (although prohibition deceived many church people into buying in to that philosophy, some denominations strictly opposed it publically (others privately) in open civil disobedience (e.g., Lutherans, etc.).

Most other nations do not have these issues, at least not to this degree—unless they were influenced by American churches imposing their view of alcohol on them. And as a result, wine and alcohol are often used – Christian or not. (I’ve been to other places in North America, Europe, South America, and Australia and Christians realize what the Bible says and drink wine at their meals and partake in moderate amounts of alcohol. Even a number of denominations in U.S. still use communion wine and partake in moderate amounts of alcohol as well (e.g., Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.).

Special Note: In the 1800s, we saw the church begin to severely compromise on Genesis rejecting the plain words of Scripture to buy into long ages with gap theory, day age, and theistic evolution. We also saw movements that started rejecting other parts of Scripture such as Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness that reinterpreted the Gospels, etc. Then we saw Ellen White reinterpret the passages on hell to get Annihilationism (Jehovah’s Witnesses borrowed this idea from them), etc. So we need to be careful about some of the theologies that came out of the 1800s where the Bible was being significantly reinterpreted and downgraded as the authority. Even Charles Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers” who made it clear that wine in the Bible was alcoholic[3] moved to a position of abstaining due to peer pressure (and he also bought into secular humanism’s long ages over the Bible’s teaching on the age of the earth too). The issue of alcohol is no different. We need to get back to the Bible to develop scriptural understanding, not theologies that are dependent on man (forms of humanism) and try to mix them with our Christianity.

Doesn’t the Bible say not to get drunk—even once…or it is sin?

Drunkenness is indeed a sin (e.g., Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:21). This would clearly be those who indulge way too far in their drinking time and time again (e.g., dissipation). They are often labeled drunkards (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:10, Deuteronomy 21:20). They have clearly lost control and “teeter and totter” when they walk (e.g., Isaiah 24:20).

But is the off occasion when someone drinks too much a sin or someone who was deceived into getting drunk a sin—like the instance of Noah in Genesis 9; or in the fictional series Anne of Green Gables where young Anne accidentally served her friend Diana wine instead of cordial and put her in a clear state of being drunk? These need to be evaluated biblically, because let’s face it; this is right at that borderline isn’t it? And let’s not rely on human wisdom to give us the answer, but seek the wisdom of God on this delicate topic.

Let’s evaluate the first instance. The first example of this in Scripture is with Noah. Genesis 9 says:

Genesis 9:20-27: 20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” 26 And he said: “Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.”

Righteous Noah (Genesis 6:9) was clearly drunk on wine in this instance. In the privacy of his tent, he became uncovered and Ham looked upon his naked body and bragged about it to his brothers who had to go in and cover him (interestingly, Noah’s wife was not there to cover him, perhaps she died and this was part of the reason for his drunk state?). In today’s vernacular, that would be like seeing your parent naked, taking a video of it, and posting it on the internet!

After Noah awoke and found out what happened, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan as a result of Ham’s actions. Noah surely knew better than to curse Ham, that God had blessed in Genesis 9:1, so he cursed the one who was like Ham but likely much worse. Consider how sin expands in the next generation when it is not dealt with in the previous generation and God will visit this judgment on the next generation (Exodus 34:7). And the Canaanites went down in history among the worse of sinners, being judged severely by Shem’s descendants, specifically Abraham and Lot as well as God who was openly involved:

  1. as Sodom and Gomorrah and the five cities of the plain.
  2. as the judgment by the Israelites for their sins listed in Leviticus 18 as they entered the Promised Land.
  3. as Edom (descendants of Esau) judged the Horites who were Canaanites, specifically out of the Hivites (Deuteronomy 2:4, 5, 12, 22).
  4. as Moab (descendants of Lot) judged those Canaanites at Ar (Deuteronomy 2:9, 29) which was the boundary between the Promised Land and that which has already been given to Moab.

But note that the Bible doesn’t say Noah was sinning here. If so, this curse by Noah would have been done in unrighteousness, which again, is not stated. We need to be careful about saying Noah was sinning here as a one-off drunk state, as the Bible doesn’t say that in this instance.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not advocating that people go get drunk. But we need to be careful about stating something is a sin without Scriptural warrant.

The second example is that of someone who was forced or deceived into getting drunk. With this, consider the case with Lot.

Righteous Lot (2 Peter 2:7) was saved from the judgment on Sodom, by the hand of God by means of sending angels to rescues him and his family. Though in this, he lost relatives, including his wife, and was left with his two daughters. No doubt he was devastated. The account goes:

Genesis 19:30-38: 30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. 31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. 32 “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 34 It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 35 Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.

These conniving daughters made Lot drunk (who was obviously depressed and vulnerable having lost just about everything and his wife), apparently so much so that he didn’t know what was going on! They had sexual relations with their father, in one sense, for a noble action of “preserving the family line”, but in another sense, without consultation of their father or trusting in the hand of God to provide. It is true that if the daughters married other men, Lot’s family line would end—unless he remarried as well and bore a son. Tamar did something similar with her father-in-law Judah as well (Genesis 38). Consider that even the lineage of Christ comes through Ruth, who was of Moab, which are the descendants of Lot with his eldest daughter.

Furthermore, it was not until the time of Moses (later on) that it was forbidden to have sexual relations with close relatives (Leviticus 18). Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12) and Adam and Eve’s children married each other. If anything, there is the sin of lying deception by the daughters and the issue of family marriage.

We could discuss various aspects of this situation for quite some time, but the issue here is: was Lot sinning for being deceptively put into a drunken state by his sly daughters? In modern terms, imagine if someone spiked some punch and people unknowingly got drunk on it: would they be the sinners? Again we need to be careful attributing sin to someone like Lot, when the Bible doesn’t give us that directive here.

What about other one-off events where a person is drunk, after all, the Bible clearly forbade such a one-off event in Ephesians 5:18 (“do not be drunk on wine”)?

Ephesians 5:18 is the one major verse that people use to say a one-off event where someone gets drunk is a sin. In fact in a cordial conversation, one person quoted this verse to me as “Do not be drunk on wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit”. And that sounds great, doesn’t it. In fact, it sounds as though this settles the issue and righteous Noah and Lot were indeed sinning. But let’s read it:

Ephesians 5:14-20: 14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first thing you should notice is that the verse is not “Do not be drunk on wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit”—the person left out a key phrase. It is: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”. There is a clarifying remark about being drunk with wine (“in which is dissipation”).

So what is dissipation? Regarding alcohol, it is: “dissolute way of living, especially excessive drinking of liquor” (Dictionary.com). This passage is not speaking of a one-off event where someone happened to have drank too much, but instead talking about the state of “being drunk” as a lifestyle or way of living. Clearly, this is talking of drunkenness, not a one-off [accidental] event. So this passage was ripped out of context in the conversation.

In fact, this passage goes perfectly with the surrounding context. Paul is writing to the Ephesians about how to live in these evil times (vs. 16) and to walk circumspectly (vs. 15) giving thanks always (vs. 20). This is not referring to a one-off event, but clearly as a habitual lifestyle. It is pointing out the fallacy of a state of getting drunk repeatedly (dissipation), which is indeed drunkenness.

We may too quickly assume that verse 18 rules out the one off mistaken situation where one overdrank as a sinful nature as it is contrasted with being filled with the Holy Spirit. However, such a remedial reading should never be done. Are we to think that we should only be filled with Holy Spirit as a one-off event? By no means! This is speaking of an ongoing lifestyle.

Consider the wedding at Cana:

John 2:1-10: 1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

This was no small amount according to the Scripture, but clearly sufficient amounts being a minimum of 120 gallons of wine to a maximum of 180 gallons of wine – this is about 2520-3960 glasses of wine (based on the standard 6 oz. per glass). This was ready to be served, after the other wine ran out! As you may recall, when Christ turned water into wine the people were already well drunk (vs.10). Can we accuse Christ of wrongdoing here? May it never be!

In a parallel respect, if drinking too much on an off occasion is sin, then so is eating too much (gluttony, Proverbs 23:20-21, Luke 7:33-35) on the off occasion at a meal. I recall sitting with a humble and godly man at a buffet, and yet I listened to him criticize Christians who think it was okay to drink, while he was on his fourth plate of food and gorged himself like few I’ve ever seen. One needs to consider the hypocrisy.

A word of caution

Now, this is not a license to go get drunk—not by any means. The sin is in the intent. If one has the motive to go out and get drunk, I would suggest they have already sinned in their heart (e.g., 1 John 2:17, John 3:19, Matthew 5:28).

If one drinks a little and on an off occasion someone spikes them with something harder, a wedding, or they have just enough to put them over the edge, we still need to be cautious about calling that a sin. If over drinking becomes a habit or repetitive, then of course, it is drunkenness or dissipation and sinful and those need to be confronted and corrected gently.

But an even bigger caution is this: for if we call something sin that is not; are we not sinning? For we would be sinning by saying God says something is wrong that He didn’t say. We would be guilty of adding to the Word of God (Proverbs 30:6). So we need to be extra careful about stating something is a sin that the Scripture does not say is a sin.

Conclusion

 If someone wishes to abstain, then so be it. If someone wants to drink, then so be it. The relatively new idea of abstinence should not be forced on anyone but remain a personal decision unto the Lord. But considering the Bible permits drinking and Christians have recognized this for many years, one should not force abstinence on Christians, and it may turn out to be a hindrance to one’s witness of unbelievers as well.

One should exercise caution about claiming that alcohol is sinful otherwise fruit (which does have minute amounts of alcohol inherently in them) must be avoided at all costs. So the issue really comes down to how much alcohol is permissible and how much is not. The answer lies in moderation.

Though some opt not to drink, and for right reasons and such is a commendable position, e.g., there are some who cannot control themselves (i.e., get violent or can’t recognize their limits and habitually over drink, etc.), so they refrain from drinking altogether. Others do not like the taste (though I doubt they have tasted many drinks to see); in rare cases, some are allergic; and so on. However, such personal positions do not yield that drinking is a sin.

The Bible often mentions alcoholic wine and other fermented drinks (Proverbs 20:1, Leviticus 10:9, Numbers 6:3, Deuteronomy 29:6, Luke 1:15, etc.) and nowhere in Scripture is drinking alcohol said to be sinful. Many times it was even encouraged. So taking a position that it is sinful is not wise, biblically. It leads toward Jesus Christ being a sinner. If Christ was a sinner, then Christ cannot be God, as God cannot sin and everyone would still be dead in his or her sins.

By no means is this response meant to advocate drinking, especially if one doesn’t want to. But it serves to educate what the Bible teaches on the subject and also serves to show that forcing an abstinent view on others is incorrect (Romans 14:16).

Cite this article: D. Abrahams, Alcohol…and the Bible?, Part III, Biblical Authority Ministries, January 28, 2016, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/alcohol-and-the-bible-part-iii/.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_alcohol References to original sources appear in the Wiki article which are usually more reliable than Wikipedia itself.

[2] Hailey, David J. “Beverage Alcohol and the Christian Faith,” Search (Winter 1992).

[3] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, 1877, p. 437

Advertisements
Alcohol…and the Bible? Part III

Alcohol…and the Bible? Part II

 

Part 2: Getting into the Debate Points

With the history behind us and the Bible clearly discussing alcoholic drinks many times, now we need to get to the crux. From a big picture, there are differing church perspectives on the issue of drinking alcohol. These positions (in a nutshell) are:

  1. Drinking alcohol is a sin
  2. Drinking alcohol is not a sin
    1. But one should abstain
    2. But one should not abstain

Regardless of these positions, each view holds that drinking in excess (i.e., drunkenness) is sinful. Many Scriptures attest to this (e.g., Ephesians 5:18, Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:21, 1 Peter 4:3) but this is not the issue between the positions. And even someone who gets drunk will usually be the first to tell you that it wasn’t a good idea the morning after!

There is also the issue of a one-off event where one gets drunk, intentionally or not…is it sin? For example, if someone spikes the punch bowl and someone gets drunk as a result! To look at these various views, we will look at common claims that have been presented by Christians of these various positions.

Answering common claims from both sides biblically

To my experience, adherents for each position, when pressed, rightly admits that there is no direct passage stating that drinking alcohol (e.g., wine, etc.) is sinful. Any claims of drinking being a sin come from loose interpretations of passages in the Bible.

But as we dive into this topic, let’s first evaluate some common claims. Let’s check their validity against the Bible and their relationship to theology:

Claim: Wine in the Bible was non-alcoholic. False, otherwise how could Noah or Lot get drunk on non-alcoholic wine (Genesis 9 and 19)? Throughout the Bible, wine was a substance that could lead to one getting drunk (John 2:10, 1 Samuel 1:13-14, Proverbs 20:1, etc.), so this claim is without merit. Even the terminology between “wine” and “grape juice” was rather nebulous.

Claim: It is sin to make wine and other alcoholic beverages. False, otherwise Jesus was a sinner in John 2 when making wine at Cana…yet Christ was without sin.

Claim: The wine that Jesus made was non-alcoholic. False. John 2:10 says: And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

They ran out of wine, which showed that there was not enough wine. So anyone would have noticed if grape juice was suddenly served, being exceptionally sweet and without fermentation. If it was merely grape juice, then they would have noticed and said it was inferior and perhaps would have thought it to be a joke but in fact said the opposite. Aged wine is superior and the price at retailers reflects this!

Claim: Alcohol kills brain cells. False; when used in moderation. Studies have revealed that moderate uses actually stimulate the brain to function better and be more cognitive.[1] In massive amounts, alcohol would kill brain cells; but this also occurs with other substances taken in too high of quantities, including water.

Claim: It is a sin to give an alcoholic beverage to someone. False, otherwise Israelites were sinning when offering wine to God through the Levites as a drink offering (Exodus 29:40). Christ gave wine to the people of Cana. Again, Jesus was without sin.

Claim: Communion wine was non-alcoholic. False; because Paul chastised those who were getting drunk on it in 1 Corinthians 11:21 for having too much. He also chastised those who were showing up and using the Lord’s Supper as a means to get a free meal!

Claim: Jesus never drank alcohol. False, Luke 7:33-34 says: “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber [drunkard as some translations say], a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

There is a direct contrast between John not drinking wine or any other fermented drink (Luke 1:15) and Jesus drinking wine. This is obviously referring to alcoholic wine as one comment is “name-calling” for Jesus being a “winebibber”. Also it refers to Luke 1:15 where it specifically says fermented drink. These verses simply do not make sense if it were non-alcoholic.

Consider also Jesus at the wedding in Cana, it seems far-fetched that Jesus never partook in the wine He created at the wedding. Christ also drank sour wine on the Cross.   

Claim: Drinking alcohol leads to bad things. True, it can – so can eating or talking! In fact, the Bible commands to not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). See also Proverbs 20:1 and so on. This shows that one should not get drunk (as the Bible clearly teaches) and alcoholic drinks should not be taken in abundance – especially not on a regular basis, which is dissipation and drunkenness! In the same way, someone should not eat too much food; as they would be a glutton—is that any reason to forbid food? The Bible talks extensively about the dangers of the tongue—does that mean that one should refrain from talking?

Claim: Drinking alcohol has health benefits. True. The Bible doesn’t give many details on this, but it does give some. If we turn to 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul instructs Timothy to drink a little wine to help his stomach problems. Recent research in the last 50 years or so has revealed that red wine and dark beer has significant health benefits, mostly for the heart among other health benefits.

Claim: New wine was non-alcoholic. False. Otherwise, it was not wine. It only takes a short time (hours to days) to turn grape juice into wine. Yeast quickly converts sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide. As time progresses, the yeast breaks down longer chain alcohols and other by-products that sometimes form as intermediates in the brewing process. This makes older wines better (fewer long-chains alcohol strains). But this does not negate that new wine is non-alcoholic. Furthermore, fruits and their juice inherently have a traces of alcohol in them when they are growing, so the issue should not be that new wine or even juice had no alcohol, but instead, how much.

Claim: The Bible says to “not drink wine” in Leviticus 10:9 and Numbers 6:3. This is misleading. In Leviticus 10:9, Levite priests were forbidden to drink wine in the Tabernacle of Meetings. So this isn’t for everyone or even for Levite priests when in different instances. In other situations, they received the drink offerings in Exodus 29:40 to which they partook). But, this is a good reason people should not be drinking on the job, since the Levite Priests were not to be drinking on the job either.

The next passage (Numbers 6:3) is speaking of those taking Nazirite vows. They abstain from wine and even non-alcoholic grape products. But note that they are permitted to drink wine when the vow is complete (Numbers 6:20). Other fermented drinks, such as grain alcohol (e.g., malted barley) or mead (honey alcohol), were not forbidden here.

Claim: No place in Scripture gives wine a positive light. False, Ecclesiastes 9:7 says “Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works.” Psalm 104:15 points out that wine can make the heart glad. Amos 9:14 says to drinking wine from your own vineyard is a blessing.   And Isaiah 55:1 encourages the purchase of wine. Also, consider 1 Corinthians 10:31 where one is to drink to the glory of God. Another passage is when Paul instructed Timothy to drink wine in 1 Timothy 5:23! There are many more. I suggest doing a study on wine in the Bible to search for all of them.

Claim: Drinking is a sin against the conscience as per 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. Let’s view the entire passage to the get the context here:

7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. 9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

This particular passage is not speaking of wine or alcohol, but instead speaking of food sacrificed to idols (false gods). During the time of Paul, there were many so-called “gods” and people regularly sacrificed to them and feasted on the animals (an aberration of true sacrifice). Such false “gods” are not real and have no power and Paul rightly states in verse 8 that it is not sinful to eat, because of the sheer fact that those false “gods” don’t really exist.

But if one eats in plain view of a new Christian whom they know is weak in that area, then they may think that the sacrifice really is for this other “god”. So that person is sinning by deceiving the weak Christian into thinking it is acceptable to “pay homage” to this false “god”.

But what does this have to do with drinking alcohol? Alcohol is not sacrificed to false “gods”, at least not to my knowledge today, nor do I know people who struggle with alcohol being sacrificed as a drink offering to false gods.

Claim: Drinking alcohol is a stumbling block for non-Christians coming to know the Lord. After some extensive searching online (research beginning in 2007 as well as more searching since then) to see what the top reasons why people, from their own mouths, resisted Christianity, I found:

  1. Hypocrisy in the church over millions of years/evolution, when the Bible does teach it
  2. God is silent, inert, and hidden
  3. No evidence
  4. Origins and Evolution (Creation not true)
  5. Christianity is intolerant
  6. Christians being hostile (Genocidal)
  7. Christianity is the enemy of moral progress
  8. God is a jerk
  9. Jesus is a liar
  10. Jesus was not real
  11. Because Christians don’t believe the Bible is true
  12. The Biblical God is not fit to worship
  13. God sends people to hell
  14. God is not just
  15. God neglects
  16. It requires blind faith
  17. God creates evil
  18. Because no miracles have proven to me
  19. Christian morality is flawed
  20. The Bible is not God’s Word
  21. Bible is full of errors
  22. Bible supports slavery
  23. There is no archaeology for the Bible
  24. Adam and Eve didn’t exist
  25. Christianity borrowed from other religions
  26. I couldn’t listen to boring Christian music
  27. Books of the Bible are not the right books
  28. God is irrational

(As a note, many of these things are misconceptions, e.g., the Bible doesn’t have errors, but people, taking things out of context, misinterpreting things, etc. which mistakenly led people to falsely conclude there are contradictions). Not one person mentioned alcohol as a stumbling block. These answers were repeated over and over again in various forms and often times, there was more than one reason given. Yet none of these came up as stumbling blocks for the gospel after I checked about 50 pages in Google, from non-Christians own mouths.

I tried to find where drinking was a reason for someone not coming to Christ, to my surprise, I found the opposite. One result was that a person didn’t want to become a Christian because Christians had told him drinking was sin and one must be abstinent and when he checked this against the Bible, he found the opposite. So he wanted nothing to with Christianity because they “lied to him”.

One person said, “A religion that bans drinking is more about control that it is about God.”

Since the time of this initial research, I met an individual on a float trip down a river who told me he had walked away from the faith when his church leadership said drinking was a sin and he knew better when looking at the Bible. He said their hypocrisy caused him to walk away from the faith.

It appears that even making the claim that drinking is wrong, is more of a stumbling block to non-Christians coming to know the Lord.

Since 2007, the book Already Gone and Ready to Return by Ken Ham, Britt Beamer of America’s Research Group, et. al., asked kids who grew up in conservative churches why they walked away from Christianity and not one out of 1,000 said that it was due to someone drinking, but hypocrisy in the church was the biggest factor, especially over issues of millions of years and evolution, when the Bible doesn’t teach it.

Claim: Drinking alcohol is a stumbling block for Christians as per Romans 14. Paul in Romans 14:1-23 again addresses food being a stumbling block (this time for the Jews who were new Christians). Christians were set free from the strict regulations in the Law (e.g., sacrifice which Christ covered for example) and many new believers, who were Jewish converts, were still struggling with what could be eaten. Jesus (in Mark 7:14) and Paul makes the case that all foods are now clean and can be eaten (v. 20), but again for the sake of the weak and new Christians, one should not intentionally put a stumbling block ahead of them. At the end of this section, Paul concludes:

19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

In this passage, it is evil to eat meat with offense (v. 20) to others who may be coming out of Jewish heritage or even later movements like Islam (e.g., where pork is also forbidden) and this may be a weakness to them.

Verse 21 shows that it is good not to eat meat, nor wine, nor do anything else that causes one to stumble, be offended, or made weak. Such things of themselves are not sin (v. 22). But again, to refrain from it in view of those who have such a weakness (vs. 20-21) and do not know the teachings in the Bible. But note that those who may be weak about food and eat with doubts about the food are sinning.

So here is what we learn about this passage with a practical example. If someone is Jewish and coming out of Judaism and becomes a Christian, then they are free to eat any meat such as pork (v. 20). However under the law, this was originally forbidden (Leviticus 11:7). Consider if a new Jewish-heritage person becomes a Christian and is unaware that they now live by faith and a Christian decided to eat pork in front of them, knowing they would have trouble with it, this is evil, i.e., “doing it out of spite”.

But also learn that those who get offended are those with weak faith. Hence, they need to be taught the truth of the Bible regarding meat or wine, etc. to help them grow in their faith. So what needs to be done, if one knows someone is weak in an area, is to help teach them why that view is incorrect and so they will not be weak and can grow in their faith.

This is important considering verse 23. If the Christian insists the new Christian who used to be Jewish eat the pork, and they eat with doubts, then that person is sinning without teaching them the truth of the Bible.

As a Christian, we should want no one to sin and encourage no one to sin. To avoid such a sin, one needs to explain how Christ fulfilled the Law and how the Apostles permitted the eating of unclean meats again, so we are now under grace and can live by faith. Hence, one would be free to eat pork, without a guilty conscience to resume the previous freedom of food from a previous rules by God (Genesis 9:3). Once the new Christian realizes this, then they can eat without doubts and not sin. Also, the Christian can eat pork with them, knowing they have no doubts and therefore, his actions are no longer sinful. The same thing could be said of alcohol.

One needs to be careful and not take verse 21 out of this context and use it as a blanket statement to cover anything that someone may cause offense. Consider those Christians who are offended at those who say alcohol is sinful? If this were a blanket statement, then it works both ways. In fact, I’ve met people who were offended at Christians who think alcohol is a sin! Naturally, a Christian should never do anything unbiblical in an effort to avoid offenses to brothers. In other words, I’ve met people who were offended at people who refused to drink!

Let’s face it, people are often offended at many teachings in Scripture—does this mean we should avoid them? No. Christ himself was stumbling block for the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23), but the stumbling block was removed due to preaching and teaching by Paul and Peter and others. This is the key to solving the problem between the two parties: biblical teaching. If a Christian is offended or weak due to seeing another Christian drink alcohol, then that offended Christian needs to be taught the truth of what the Bible teaches. Then they should no longer be as weak and there should be no problem.

Cite this article: D. Abrahams, The Bible and Alcohol? Part II, Biblical Authority Ministries, January 14, 2016, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com.

[1] Dufouil, C. Sex differences in the association between alcohol consumption and cognitive performance. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1997, 146(5), 405-412.

Alcohol…and the Bible? Part II

Alcohol…and the Bible? Part I

 

What should Christians know about the debate?

Part 1: Origin and Biblical History of Alcohol

Introduction

There is a debate; in fact, it is often a heated debate. I am repeatedly asked about alcohol by various Christians; for example, some who use wine as communion and others who use grape juice. So I am pulled into the debate from time to time, even though I tend to avoid it. The Bible gives insight on this issue. So in an effort to be prepared, I have studied the subject to see what the Bible says.

God dictates what is right and wrong and is the absolute authority on every subject, including alcohol. I grew up in churches that were predominantly teetotalers (no drinking at all). And during that time, I rarely knew what the Bible said, but often just trusted what people told me the Bible said. But when I decided to study the subject regarding what the Bible says, it was not only eye-opening but also exciting and yet relaxing to see how God’s Word sets the record straight.

Before I get into the debate about drinking versus no-drinking though, I wanted to address the origin and history of alcohol. There are a lot of secular stories floating around out there, but again, we will see what the Bible says (hence, look at the truth) and what we can learn from it. This will be done in a chronological fashion encompassing aspects from Creation, after the Fall, after the Flood, and results from Babel.

Some basic terminology

Wine, in its broadest sense, could be fruit wines, honey wines, or grain wines.

  • Fruit Wine: Wine made from fruit like apple wine or grape wine. Grape wines are by far the most popular. Some of these can be accepted with other fruits (e.g., passion fruit accents in Moscoto grape wine). Wines are usually 9-16% alcohol by volume (ABV) but can be much higher than this typical range.
  • Honey Wines (Meads and Melomels, which are accented meads): honey based. Melomels are mead with fruit additions. For example, blackberry mead is mead with blackberry accents for flavor. Honey wines usually ranges from 8-18% ABV.
  • Grain Wine or Beer/Biere: malted barley based and sometimes wheat, rice or corn additives: ales (typically top fermented at room temperature) and lagers (typically bottom fermented at cold temperature) or other grain alcohols (rice, wheat, corn, etc.). Beers are usually at 4-6% alcohol by volume (ABV) unless you do it as a double or triple (think of a Doppelbock or Tripelbock style). With some significant extra effort one can get it to 8-12%. Beers are generally low alcohol compared to wines, meads, and especially distilled liquor.
  • Distilled Liquor: these are the strong ones, no less than 20% ABV but can range up to 95% ABV. Heating and evaporating off the alcohol from beer, sugar-based alcohol, or wine and recollecting it by condensing it together in high concentrations make these.[1] These distilled alcohols are not considered wine at all, even though they have their origin in wine.

Biblical origin and history of alcohol

  1. Creation and Alcohol

God created all things during the 6 days of Creation Week (God rested on the seventh day). Now this doesn’t mean that all the people alive today were living during creation week! When it comes to people, animals, or plants, etc., descendants living today go back to these original created kinds. In the case of humanity, that would be Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-47) and Eve (Genesis 3:20) our first parents.

This would have been roughly 6,000 years ago based on the genealogies from Adam to Christ (who was about two thousand years ago) and tack on 5 days before Adam. Hosts of chronologists, from Jews like Josephus to Christians like Ussher, tallied these genealogies up over the past 2,000 years and arrived dates very similar to this. Some places are not straightforward to compute, so the dates vary ever so slightly. Exodus 20:11 give a good reason to believe the creation days are normal-length days, as does Christ in Mark 10:6 when affirming man and woman came at the beginning of creation.

The recent secular humanistic/naturalistic idea of an old earth has not been part of Christian vocabulary until recent times where Christians have been, sadly, mixing their religion with this humanistic religion. For those who wish to know more about this subject, I highly recommend you visit websites that deal with this in greater detail like http://www.answersingenesis.org and http://www.icr.org.[2]

Back to creative acts in Genesis 1, God created laws of nature by which He upholds all things (Hebrews 1:3) in a consistent fashion. For example, consider Genesis 8:22. With laws in place, the existence of alcohol was now possible as it is simply a set of molecules bonded together. Let me explain what alcohol is for moment.

What is alcohol?

There is a little science in this, but don’t let it scare you. Alcohol comes in various forms and are basically molecules that have OH (one oxygen that is bonded with one hydrogen) that together are bonded to a carbon atom (C) that has three other bonds attached to that carbon. In other words it would look like:

Figure 1 Basic molecular outline of alcohols

Al_1

Figure 2 Methyl alcohol is a common industrial alcohol where the other 3 bonds of carbon attach to hydrogen.

Al2

Figure 3 Ethyl alcohol [C2H5OH]: Ethanol is found in alcoholic beverages, fruit, and are usually made by yeast. It is also used in conjunction with gasoline for engine fuel (E-85 for instance).

Al3

Figure 4 Isopropyl alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol is what is found in rubbing alcohol sometimes dubbed “wood alcohol”. This form of alcohol is poison.

Al4

There are many more and some are longer chains but they still follow the basic format of a C bonded to an OH. Because of their basic molecular structure, they are soluble in water.

In this article series, we are examining and discussing the alcohol chain specifically dealing with alcoholic beverages, ethyl alcohol, but bear in mind that some ethanol cannot be drank (denatured ethanol for example) but that is not for this discussion. So when discussing alcohol, this is what is referred to in the remainder of this book.

Essentially, yeast (small fungi) “eat” sugars and replicate. In this process, the end result produces carbon dioxide (which is good for plants) and alcohol (which is a natural solvent to break down carbon based molecules that are insoluble in water[3]). Also, it is a natural renewable fuel. Yeast provides a process that is essential to keeping a balanced world and thus, it makes sense that yeast was working in a proper fashion in perfect world to produce alcohol.

What day was yeast created (since our primary source of alcohol is yeast)?

The Bible simply does not tell us. Genesis 1:1-2:3 gives the highlights and order of creation week and yeast was not a highlight; that does not mean it was not important. But until recent times, few people studied the various tiny fungi that produce alcohol. It really wasn’t until a French Christian named Louis Pasteur did an in-depth study on the subject in the A.D.1800s.

Usually, Christian commentators logically deduce that various bacteria and fungi associated with the particular creatures were created alongside them during that creation day. For example, water-dependent bacteria would have been created on Day 5 with water creatures. Bacteria or fungi associated with land animals or man (e.g., like those that live in our gut in a symbiotic relationship, i.e., probiotics) would have been created on Day 6 along with man or the animals. Keep in mind that the Bible never calls fungi, bacteria, or even plants as living creature (nephesh chayyah in Hebrew). Animals were living, and humans are living but humans unlike animals were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Regardless, it may be several different days that various fungi (and bacteria) would have been created depending on the type, purpose and with what it was associated. Regardless, it was during creation week and all very good in perfect symbiotic relationships originally of the whole creation (Nehemiah 9:6, Genesis 1:31).

  1. After the Fall

After the fall, things changed. The world went from a perfect state to a world marred with death and suffering due to man’s sin. Man had dominion over the world, so when man fell, so did man’s dominion. In fact, this is the reason Christ later stepped into history to become a man and die for mankind to redeem and save them. It goes back to the fall. This is why we die and why we suffer; our common parents disobeyed God’s command. And a perfectly Holy God must punish sin justly. But a loving God also cared enough to step in die in our place; this is grace.

But as a result, the world was no longer perfect (e.g., thorns and thistles came forth in Genesis 3:18, animals were cursed in Genesis 3:14, etc.). Paul even proclaimed that the whole creation was suffering under this curse (Romans 8:22).[4] This is why we need a new heavens and new earth discussed in Revelation 21 and 22.

Did alcohol come into existence as a result of sin?

The Bible doesn’t say but likely not. What we can be sure of is that there was no longer a perfect symbiotic relationship with things.

It seems perfectly logical to conclude that alcohol was being produced by the natural physiology by which God created fungi prior to sin. Fungi provided a vital role in a perfect creation. It was to break down sugars, e.g., sugars in fruit or grains that fall to ground, and provide CO2 back to the atmosphere for plants to use and nutrients back to the soil.

Did abuse of alcohol begin after sin?

No doubt it was after sin that abuse of alcohol began. Very little information has been revealed to us by God in the Bible about the pre-Flood world. There are only 6 dedicated chapters in Genesis and 2 of those (Genesis 1 and 2) were talking of the pre-Fall world!

Jesus did give a potential hint to it in Luke 7. Consider the phrase “eating and drinking”; it was directly associated with alcoholic beverages as the Jews of Christ’s generation claimed of Christ that He was a “glutton and a winebibber” when He was eating and drinking. In other words, they claimed Christ was a drunk for drinking and this was directly contrasted to John the Baptist, who was not “eating bread and drinking wine” in Luke 7:33-34. And Jesus reveals of the pre-Flood world:

“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark (Matthew 24:38).

This knowledge of fermented drinks was surely common to the pre-Flood world and is likely where Noah attained the knowledge to make wine prior to his incident after the Flood. But there will be more to this in coming sections.

  1. After the Flood

After the Flood, the world had changed again. This time, it was due to destruction of the earth by water (2 Peter 3:5-6) and numerous other factors involved. For example, many Christians believe the continents were shifted at this time and the mountains and ocean basins we have today were formed as a result of the Flood.[5] They even denote that the world’s climate underwent a significant change and caused an Ice Age that followed the Flood and we are still essentially recovering from that as you read this.[6]

Some have suggested that the rearrangement of bacteria and fungi throughout the world at the time of the Flood has caused further problems since these creatures are no longer “stationed properly” as in the previous world, where things were a little closer to the original perfect world. Essentially, bacteria and fungi were now growing and reproducing outside their normal boundaries and that can cause problems. Increased sickness for man and animals are but one result when you ingest bacteria and fungi that are not helpful to you.

In other words, in a pre-Flood and pre-Fall world, some bacteria would have been in a perfect relationship, but now they cause problems in a different environment.

Did Noah know that the wine could get him drunk?

Based on some of the thoughts in the section above, some have suggested that this is when alcoholic beverages first came to be, due to this imbalance. The argument is basically that due to this imbalance, wine is now alcoholic after the Flood and Noah didn’t know it.

There are problems with this of course. First, grapes have what is called “bloom”. Natural yeast cells are on the grape skin by design and these permeate the grape in small controlled amounts to cause small amounts of alcohol to form inherently. This alcohol is beneficial in that it destroys bacteria that try to get into the grape and cause problems. It is common for many fruits to contain minute amounts of alcohol for this purpose. In fact, this is why things like wine can keep for long periods of time; the alcohol protects it from harmful bacteria. Furthermore, many winemakers use this naturally occurring yeast to ferment their wine. It is not as predictable but still effective.

Second, Noah was likely very aware of what he was drinking. We often overlook a key phrase in the Scriptures (“Noah drank of the wine”). This implies that it was not the first time he drank some, and logically he would have made sufficient amounts to store until the next harvest. One translation even mark this out as “drank some of its wine – NIV”). After all, a vineyard is not a few vines, but entire groves of the vines.

Lastly, recall Jesus statement about eating and drinking prior to the Flood (see Matthew 24:38 and Luke 7:33-34? Was there more naturally occurring fermentation going on after the Flood, I would indeed leave this option open.

Was the knowledge of beer (source: barley/wheat) and mead (source: honey) known in Noah’s day?

The Bible simply does not tell us. Noah lived 350 years after the Flood and was alive for 600 years until the Flood came. If Noah had knowledge about wine making with his vineyard grapes, then there is no reason to assume he didn’t know how to do it with other fruits, grains, and sugars, which is an identical process.

In fact, brewing wine, mead (which is simply honey wine and even easier to make than grape wine), and beer (made from malted grains like barley and wheat) are all very similar. If one can do wine, then they can do the others rather easily. Archaeologically, we have records of ancient Sumerians (early descendants of Noah) making beer (more on this in a moment). So the knowledge was available early post-Flood.

So I would leave open the option that this knowledge was available at the time of Noah–who lived for 350 years after the Flood. It makes more sense that intelligent people who knew how to make wine could do slight deviations to make beer and mead than the common explanation given by the secular world about the origin of beer.

In the secular view, a farmer “who wasn’t so bright” left some grain (e.g., barley) outside and it got rained on and started to germinate then wild yeast started to convert the sugars and the farmer drank some of the fermented beverage as it leaked out. Hence, he got drunk from there, decided to repeat the process. This is but one the variations I’ve heard over the years.

It is a cute story, but that is how mythology gets started. Although, not everyone on the secular side believes the origin of beer came via this type of story. And many have recognized this. It is better to realize that intelligent people can do variations from grape wine to use other ingredients to make beer and mead.

  1. Results from Babel

As people migrated from Babel in the Mesopotamian area to other parts of the world, they took brewing with them. In many cases, they took cultivated crops like grapes or grains with them. But in other instances, people used the native fruits and grains in the place to which they migrated. Obviously, the knowledge of wine making was around before Babel, with Noah. Noah’s sons and grandsons were surely familiar with this process as well. Furthermore, winemaking has been found throughout the world, even in ancient times. Even variations of meads and beer have as well.

For example, people who made it to the Americas used a grain called maize (corn) to make alcohol. In Peru for example, there is an ancient purple corn drink Chicha that had an alcoholic version by chewing the corn and then putting it back out in a container and allowing it to ferment. The fermented version is done differently today.

Others used grains like rice, rye, oats, or fruits like blackberries, raspberries, apples, and so on. In some cases, other sweeteners were used like maple syrup, molasses, and so on. As you can see there were many variations.

What archaeological finds confirm an early use of alcoholic beverages, particularly beer?

There been a host of things found, primarily in written form or pottery images. Naturally, the dates given by the secular side have errors, as they do not follow biblical dating and need to be converted to the biblical timeframe. Their long-age dates will not be used in light of this fact.

Middle East

  1. In the Zagros Mountains at Godin Tepe (today Iran, where Noah’s descendants of Elam and Madai, the Elamites [including the Persians] and Medes respectively, settled after Babel)[7], there was fermentation residue in pottery that had chemical deposits of Calcium Oxalate known as a “beerstone”. Laced in the fermentation vessel, this was evidence of barley brewing specifically. Also at the same location, were wine jars and carbonized barley.[8]
  2. The Hymn of Ninkasi was an ancient song written on clay tablets that included a beer recipe in land of the Sumerians, which is where Nimrod took over after events at the Tower of Babel. Interestingly Ninkasi is the daughter of Enki, Lord Nidimmud, who may well be Nimrod or someone who later sat in royal lineage and title of Nimrod. Ninkasi was elevated to a “godlike” status by later descendants (it was common for pagans to elevate ancestors to the level of “gods”). Though of course, they are not gods at all.[9] Anchor Brewing Company followed the recipe and named the beer Ninkasi.
  3. Ancient pottery found in the tomb of King Midas (yes, he was real, but has been “mythized” too) in modern-day Turkey revealed a beer recipe that Dogfish Head brewery also cloned and now offers it commercially entitled: “Midas Touch”.[10]
  4. Israelites were known for their wine and drink offerings throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis.

Orient

  1. Ancient village of Jiahu in Northern China (some of Noah’s descendants primarily out of Sineus (Sinites) yielded some pottery that had residues that were tested. Based on the residues, a basic beer/mead/wine recipe resulted. It contained grape, honey, and rice and other fruits. One brewery (Dogfish Head) decided to recreate this beverage and named it Chateau Jiahu.[11]

Americas (We already discussed one previously, alcoholic Chicha from corn.)

  1. An ancient brewery in Peru was found aloft a mountaintop that was used to make an alcoholic version of Chicha.[12]
  2. An alcoholic beer made from chocolate was made by the Aztecs called Cocao Wine.

Africa

  1. A large-scale archaeological site was a brewery in ancient Egypt (descendants of Noah’s son Mizraim) at Hierakonpolis near Luxor. The residuals left in the ceramic vats included grapes, dates, and wheat.[13]

Europe

  1. Romans (Rome was founded by Romulus in 748 B.C.) used to ferment fish into a horrible concoction called Garum used in various cuisines along with wine and beer.[14]
  2. Vikings, Germans, British, Scots and other northern European ancients like Celts have evidence of drinking in ancient times. But let’s not be tedious here.

The list could go on, but this should be sufficient to show ancient use of alcoholic beverages after the Tower of Babel events occurred in various parts of the world. Leading a researcher in the area of archaeological and history of beer making, Professor Patrick McGovern (Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia), has researched many of these and more in his books and articles.[15] Although reproductions of some of these are based on residuals at the bottom of fermentation container, we need to keep in mind that several different batches of things could have been brewed and left residual in these containers. So the assumption that each of these was used in one batch is speculative to say the least, but possible and interesting nonetheless.

The point is that alcoholic drinks from wine to mead to beer and “everything in between” has been found all over the world. This is good confirmation that the information was known prior to the split at Babel for this technology to spread throughout the world in ancient times. Then as people settled, they used what was in their area to make and ferment beverages.

It is possible that through trade and migrations this process was shared, but that would tend to have similar types and not necessarily the variety we saw in ancient cultures. For example, when Europeans came to America they brought their recipes for beer, etc. to America. In other words, they brewed things similar to the Europeans (e.g., Christian Moerlein in Cincinnati brewed beers similar to German beers), not harnessing maize or chocolate (in recent times, brewers in North America been investigating all sorts of things though). Though I would leave this possibility open and I’m sure this influences alcoholic beverages during later migrations, I would suggest the primary reason for ancient alcohol, was due to the knowledge of brewing, including beer and mead, prior to the dispersion at Babel with Noah’s family.

  1. The Bible and Alcohol

Wine/winepress/winebibber/wine worker is mentioned 215 times in the NKJV. Here are some of these uses (Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek, Strong’s number and what it was often translated as):

Hebrew/Aramaic

tiyrowsh, 08492, New wine

yayin, 03196, Wine

gath, 01660, Winepress

chamar, 02562, Aramaic for wine [Aramaic is a Hebrew language (language of Eber) that carried over from the reign of the Babylonian Empire that was made up of descendants of Abraham’s relatives that originated in Chaldea (think of Ur of the Chaldeans, of which Abraham was called out). After the Empire, the Chaldean form of Hebrew broke into two variations-East Chaldee and West Chaldee. West Chaldee became known as Aramaic since it dominated the land formerly known to Aram, a descendant of Noah. Hence, the language was a trade language due to the influence of the Babylonian Empire and was until it began being replaced by Greek around the time of Christ as the new trade language. Hence Aramaic and Hebrew of the Old Testament have many similarities.]

aciyc, 06071, Sweet wine;

cobe, 05435, Heavy drinking of wine;

tsa‘ah, 06808, Wine worker

yeqeb, 03342, Wine vat, wine press

Greek

Oinos, 3631, wine, winepress

Oxos, 3690, Sour Wine, vinegar mixture

Gleukos, 1098, sweet wine

Paroinos, 3943, given to wine, drunkenness

Other words were also used for alcoholic beverages besides wine such as “drink offering” in Numbers 28:7 (necek) or “strong drink” as in Proverbs 20:1 (shekar) and many others. All this is to say that the Bible does not shy away from the topic and much can be learned from reading these passages in context.

There were quite a few people in the Bible who drank wine, told people to drink, received, and gave wine. Here is a list of some of these people:

Whom? Reference
1 People before the Flood Matthew 11:18-19; 24:38; Luke 7:33-34; 17:27
2 Noah Genesis 9:21-24
3 Abraham Genesis 14:18
4 Melchizedek Genesis 14:18
5 Lot (and daughters) Genesis 19:32-35
6 Job’s sons and daughters Job 1:13
7 Isaac Genesis 27:25-37
8 Jacob Genesis 27:25-37
9 Moses Exodus 29:40
10 Aaron and the Levite Priests Numbers 18:12, Exodus 29:40, Leviticus 23:13, etc. (but there were restrictions, e.g., while working at the Temple (Leviticus 10:9)
11 Nazirites Numbers 6:20
12 Boaz and Ruth Ruth 2:14
13 Jesse and David 1 Samuel 16:20
14 Abigail to David 1 Samuel 25:18-35
15 David 2 Samuel 16:1
16 Solomon Ecclesiastes 2:3, Song of Solomon 1:2-4
17 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach Meshach and Abednego)

 

Daniel 1:5-7
18 Hosea Hosea 2:8-9
19 Jesus Luke 7:33-34; John 2:1-11, John 19:29-30
20 Paul to Timothy 1 Timothy 5:23

Cite this Article:

  1. D. Abrahams, Alcohol and the Bible? Part I: Origin and Biblical History of Alcohol, Biblical Authority Ministries, January 7, 2016, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/alcohol-and-the-bible-part-i/.

To be continued in Part 2

[1] Some claim the Arabs and Greeks knew of this process but it was not until the A.D. 1100s that we evidence of it; but it could have been much early that our records of it. Forbes, Robert James (1948) A short history of the art of distillation, p.89, see also Proverbs 20:1.

[2] New Answers Book 2, Ken Ham, Gen. Ed., Chapter 4 How old is the earth? by Bodie Hodge, Master Book, Green Forest, AK, 2008, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/how-old-is-the-earth.

[3] Jim Clark, ChemGuide, 2003, http://www.chemguide.co.uk/organicprops/alcohols/uses.html

[4] For a good treatment of this subject, I suggest the book How could a loving God…, Ken Ham, Master Books, Green Forest, AK.

[5] New Answers Book 1, Gen. Ed. Ken Ham, Master Books (Green Forest, AK), 2006, pp. 186-197.

[6] New Answers Book 1, Gen. Ed. Ken Ham, Master Books (Green Forest, AK), 2006, pp. 207-219.

[7] Many of the connections of peoples listed here come from Josephus, a Jewish Historian living about 2,000 years ago. See his book The Antiquity of the Jews Book 1, Chapter 6: Nations receive their names from their first inhabitants. 2219-1996 BC. See also Bodie Hodge’s expanded research on this on DVD: The Tower of Babel,

[8] McGovern, P., Barley Beer, Biomolecular Archaeological Museum, http://www.penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology/?page_id=84.

[9] Ancient History Encyclopedia, The Hymn to Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer, http://www.ancient.eu.com/article/222/

[10] Smithsonian website, The Beer Archaeologist, Abigail Tucker, August 2011, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Beer-Archaeologist.html

[11] National Geographic News, John Roach, July 18, 2005, National Geographic Website: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0718_050718_ancientbeer.html and http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0718_050718_ancientbeer_2.html.

[12] Science magazine, Beer of Kings, Mary Beckman, July 30, 2004, http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2004/07/30-02.html.

[13] Heirakonpolis Online, “Explore the City of the Hawk”, http://www.hierakonpolis-online.org/site/brewery.html

[14] Ancient History Website, N.S. Gill, Garum, http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/romanfood/g/garum.htm ; Ussher, J., The Annals of the World, Master Books (Green Forest, AK), translated by Larry and Marion Pierce, 2003, p 76.

[15] Professor Patrick McGovern , http://www.penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology/?page_id=10

Alcohol…and the Bible? Part I