Gap theories: trying to squeeeeeeze evolutionary time into the Genesis 1

Ever met someone who said there were millions of years between Mary and Jesus? Probably not! For the Christian who believes in long ages (evolutionary time), it would be absurd to insert millions of years between two people in a genealogy. Yet, we have genealogical lists that connect Adam to Christ (e.g., Luke 3).

Most Christians who mix their Christianity with an old earth place the millions of years prior to Adam. The idea of millions of years doesn’t come from the Bible, but from the religion of humanism (think atheism, naturalism, secularism where man is the authority instead of God).

Millions of years are built on the idea that there was no global Flood in Noah’s day. Instead, rock layers [from the Flood] were reinterpreted as evidence of long ages. These fossil layers contain immense amounts of recorded death.

Typically, old-earth Christians take the pretended long ages [from the religion of humanism] and insert them somewhere prior to Adam. Creation Week has been a divisive point in Christianity ever since the idea of millions of years became popular in the 1800s. Via many strange interpretations, old earth Christians put millions of years into Genesis 1.

Some of these models are theistic evolution, framework hypothesis, day-age, gap theory, and so on.[1] From here, let’s touch upon various gap theories.

Gap Theories

  1. Pre-time gap. This view adds a gap of long ages before God created in Genesis 1:1. The pre-time gap fails for a number of reasons, such as having death before sin. Death is the punishment for sin and cannot have rightly existed until Adam’s sin in Genesis 3 (e.g., Genesis 1:29-30, Genesis 2:17, 3:17-19, Romans 5:12, etc.).

The first recorded death of animals came as a direct result of human sin in Genesis 3:21. Fossil layers occurred after Adam sinned—such as the global Flood of Noah’s day (and since of course).

Adam’s actions ruined God’s very good (Genesis 1:31) and perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4) creation. This is why we need a Savior to save us from sin and death—and why we need a new heavens and new earth since this one is cursed (e.g., Genesis 3, Romans 8, Revelation 21-22).

Furthermore, pre-time gap demotes God Word as the authority because of its allowance of man’s ideas about millions of years to supersede God’s Word. Another problem is, how can one have millions of years of time prior to the creation of time? It is illogical.

2.Ruin-reconstruction gap. This is the most popular gap idea. It adds long ages between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers popularized this view in the early 1800s as a response to long ages that were becoming popular. Scofield and Dake Study Bibles promote this idea. It is often associated with Satan’s fall and subsequent flood.

There are numerous problems associated with this gap discussed elsewhere. [2] But in short, many of the same problems with pre-time gap are problems with ruin-reconstruction gap too. God created everything and said it was “very good”. Thus, death, sin, and Satan’s fall (things that are not good) cannot occur until after this declaration at the end of Creation Week.

Most gap theorists believe Satan rebels between Genesis 1:1–2 (or otherwise in the first three verses of Scripture). Consider the theological problem of Satan, who in his sinful state, would be called “very good” in Genesis 1:31. This would make an evil Satan very good. In fact, this would make sin very good! Satan’s fall into sin occured after this declaration in Genesis 1:31.

3. Modified gap/precreation chaos gap. This gap adds long ages between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3, and it is primarily addressed in The Proceedings of International Conference on Creation.[3] Its refutation includes the same problems previously discussed in the first two gaps. The main difference is the placement of the gap.

4. Soft gap. This gap is also between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3, but unlike previous views, it has no catastrophic events or destruction of a previous state. It proposes that God created the universe (including stars) and left it for long periods of time in an effort to get starlight to earth.

Oddly, this view has a young earth and an old universe. The problem is that stars were created after the proposed gap (day 4), and it is unnecessary to make accommodations for long ages to solve the so-called starlight problem. Getting distant starlight to earth is not a problem for an all-powerful God. It is only a problem in a naturalistic view.

5. Late gap. This gap is between chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis. It is one of the only models that place long ages in the genealogies. Late gappists believe that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden for long ages before sin.

This view has problems too. It doesn’t account for the fossil layers that are full of death (where the presumed millions of years are), if Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden for long ages before sin.

Moreover, Adam and Eve were told by God to be “fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 1:28. If they waited for long ages to do so, they would have been disobeying God’s Word (sinning). In addition, there is the problem of Adam only living 930 years as recorded in Genesis 5:5.

In summary, when someone tries to put a large gap of time in the Scriptures when it is not warranted by the text, beware. This should throw up a red flag to any Christian who stands on the authority of Scripture.

 

Reference this article: B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, September 21, 2016, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/gap-theories-trying-to-squeeeeeeze-evolutionary-time-into-the-genesis-1/.

[1] See Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle, Old-Earth Creationism on Trial, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2008.

[2] K. Ham, “What About the Gap & Ruin-Reconstruction Theories?” in The New Answers Book, K. Ham, gen. ed. (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006).

[3] Andrew Snelling, ed., Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism (Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research, 2008), “A Critique of the Precreation Chaos Gap Theory,” by John Zoschke.

Gap theories: trying to squeeeeeeze evolutionary time into the Genesis 1

Long or short sojourn by chronological derivation strictly via the biblical text

Preliminary Remarks

Titus 3:9 

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.[1]

There is a major dispute among Christians regarding the genealogical data over how long the Israelites were in Egypt. It is hard to believe that people spend so much time on a chronological dispute, but in recent years, I’ve been pushed into this debate several times. My preference is to avoid spending any significant amount of time to the subject. My hope is not to get caught up in this debate any longer than necessary.

And lastly by observation, the debate often entails people referring to other people’s opinions (e.g., Jones, Roshi, Cassuto, Ussher, Josephus, or a specific commentator, archaeologist, professor, Christian leader, etc.) as an authority on this issue to settle the alleged problem; so I’m not going to do that. I am going to stick strictly with what God says on the subject and leave the opinions aside of historians, scholars, commentators, archaeologists, professors, and so on. This is not to neglect their value, but it is to avoid muddying the waters.

The fact is we have people on both sides of this debate who are experts in their field. But God is the greatest expert and it is His Word that is to be counted above all. This doesn’t neglect that various ancient texts of Scripture will be used, but people like Josephus, Jack Riggs, John Gill, Adam Clarke, Paul J. Ray Jr., etc. will not be used as an end-all-be-all argument or refer to their comments as a final authority. Even discussing what all their opinions are would turn this into an extensive book to tell you what different people have held to for thousands of years. But they all boil down to two camps – a long or short sojourn.

Let’s clarify on a misconception right up front. Both camps have the same length of sojourn—430 years. The difference is where was that sojourn? Was it in Egypt only or was it in Egypt and Canaan. Those who hold to a “long” sojourn has 430 years strictly in Egypt where the time in Canaan was not seen as part of the sojourning. Those adhering to the “short” sojourn count the 430 years as the total duration of sojourning in both Egypt and Canaan.

Hence, those who have a “long sojourn” have an overall longer duration from Abraham to the Exodus (time in Canaan + 430 years in Egypt = total time) and the short sojourners have a shorter total duration time (time in Egypt and Canaan = 430 years).

What is the debate over?

As mentioned, this sojourn question is arguably the most hotly debated chronological issue in biblical chronology. In short, it is over the issue of “how long was Israel in Egypt?” prior to the Exodus. So the debate is: was Israel in Egypt for 430 years (long sojourn)[2] or was there 430 years from the point when the promise was given to Abraham to when the Law was given (where the actual time in Egypt would have only been 210 years; short sojourn)? This comes from looking at passages like:

Exodus 12:40-41

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Galatians 3:16-18

16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

This is a big deal because it looks like an insurmountable biblical contradiction on the surface. This is another point that makes this a hot discussion point on each side of the debate as biblical Christians readily affirm the Bible has no legitimate contradictions—whether they believe in a long or short sojourn. So this needs to be dealt with to get a proper understanding of what is going on. Let’s look at some relevant passages to get started and follow what is going on chronologically.

The Promise

When was the promise first given to Abraham? It was given in Genesis 12 when Abraham was 75 (Genesis 12:4).

Genesis 12:1-7

1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

According to Paul in Galatians, this begins the countdown for the 430 years. Paul mentioned that the total sojourn from the Promise (between Abraham and Christ, His Seed) to the Exodus (when the law was given) was 430 years[3]:

Galatians 3:16-18

16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The Promise Reiterated and expanded to Abraham in Genesis 15 and 17

Genesis 15:13-16

13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

14 “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

15 “Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.

16 “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

At this stage the promise is reiterated, but several years have passed (about 10 years for Genesis 15). However, the promise is expanded and its final reiteration to Abraham per Genesis 17:21-26 is about 24 years after the initial promise. In Genesis 15, we find that Abraham’s descendants, obviously through the child of promise[4] (Isaac; and could not rightly begin until the child of promise was born), will be persecuted or oppressed for 400 years.[5]

Abraham did not have the child of promise yet and so this couldn’t be a possibility until Abraham was 100 years old—when Isaac was born (25 years after the initial promise given in Genesis 12). When Abraham was 99 years old, the promise was reiterated to him in Genesis 17 (the whole chapter) and the following year, Sarah gave birth in her old age to Isaac.

Note that Isaac’s birth was 25 years after the promise was first given to Abraham. Yet the reiterated promise was that Abraham’s descendants would be oppressed or persecuted for 400 years. So the oppression could not be possible until Abraham has the child of promise. Furthermore, does this mean that every moment of every year the descendants of Abraham will be oppressed for that 400 years? By no means! It gives an overall boundary of the first persecution to the last persecution in question.

When was the first time, according to the Bible, that one of Abraham’s descendants was oppressed and persecuted? The first persecution came to Abraham’s descendant Isaac by the half-Egyptian Ishmael in Genesis 21:8-9 and Galatians 4:28-30 when Isaac was weaned in his very early years. It was enough of a persecution in the eyes of Sarah and Abraham that the Lord affirmed to Abraham to do as Sarah wanted and banish the child and his mother from them!

This was the first affliction by one of Egyptian heritage to Abraham’s descendants of promise. Recall that Ishmael did not live under the promise and is an outsider to the promise and was treated as an outsider to the promise and the descendants of promise. The Lord made this clear when Abraham plead to have Ishmael be the child of promise (Genesis 17:18-19).

Isaac’s weaning stage would be about 30 years after the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12.[6] This would put Isaac at about age 4-5, depending on what time of the year he was born and what time of the year he was weaned.[7] So there is 400 years to go when the oppression ends. Stephen, in the New Testament (Acts), testified to Israel’s High Priest about Abraham saying:

Acts 7:6-7

6 “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.

7 ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’

Clearly this is discussing the reiteration of the promise when the Lord reveals to Abraham that his descendants will be in bondage or persecuted, which was not stated in the original promise (Genesis 12) but in the reiteration of the promise in Genesis 15 and 17. So Stephen was perfectly accurate to state 400 years of oppression at this stage and is extremely accurate, being 30 years after the original promise beginning with Isaac’s persecution by the half-Egyptian, Hagar’s son Ishmael.

So the time markers given in Scripture for these events are spot on without contradiction at this stage. Some Christians have remarked that Genesis 15 and Stephen were actually rounding off the 430 years to merely be 400 but that is not the case after carefully considering what the text says and what the text doesn’t say.

Both Genesis 15 and Stephen were being extremely precise as to how long the persecution of Abraham’s descendants would be, neither the time in Egypt nor the total time of sojourn. Perhaps there was confusion because both ended at the same time, with the Exodus. But a close examination of the text shows great precision.

4th Generation

We also learn in the reiterated promise that in the fourth generation of being strangers in a land not their own (Egypt) they will return to Canaan (which would be their own possession). Clearly, Canaan was not in mind as that fourth generation would be the eldest of the generations to return to Canaan from the nation in question.

Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel) was the first in Egypt (being the precursor to the whole nation’s arrival). So the sons of Jacob make their way to Egypt through Joseph and survive. Here are some genealogical lists as given in Scripture:

Table 1 Genealogical Data according to the Bible

Judah’s line (e.g., Luke 3) Joseph’s line (Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27) Levi’s line (Exodus 6:16-20, with ages)
1 Abraham Abraham Abraham
2 Isaac Isaac Isaac
3 Israel (Jacob) Israel (Jacob) Israel (Jacob)
4 Judah Joseph Levi (137)
5 Perez Ephraim Kohath (133) and Jochebed
6 Hezron Ephraim child (e.g., Shuthelah) Amram (137)
7 Ram Ephraim’s grandchild (e.g., Bered) Moses (120)
8 Amminadab Ephraim’s great grandchild (e.g., Tahath) Gershom and Eliezer

If we begin with Joseph and his brother’s as the first counted generation in Egypt, then the fourth generation would be Ram, Ephraim’s grandchild (Bered), and Moses.

However, if it is counted from Joseph’s and his brother’s children, who spent much (if not all) of their life in Egypt, as opposed to Canaan, then the fourth generation would be counted from Perez, Ephraim, and Kohath to Amminidab, Ephraim’s great grandchild (Tahath) and Gershom and Eliezer. Although time-wise, it makes sense that Ephraim’s great grandchild and Moses were all living at about the same time—there is nothing wrong with people of multiple generations co-living.

Moses’s generation underwent persecution of having the baby boys killed and thrown into the Nile, when he was a newborn—this was after Pharaoh had ordered the midwives to kill the baby boys, which failed. Although, that means that the generations still alive (e.g., Moses’s father Amram, grandfather Kohath or Tahath whose father was Bered, and grandfather Shultelah and great grandfather Ephraim) were also affected by this oppression. The affliction included being both (1) slaves and (2) watching the persecution and murder of their descendants.

This later count for the fourth generation makes good sense because the promise given to Abraham was that the fourth generation would come into Canaan (Genesis 15:16), not just exit Egypt and the older generation (which included Moses’s generation) was left to die in the wilderness due to their disobedience to God (Numbers 14:34). So we know which generation entered into Canaan so we merely count backwards for four generations (bolded in the table above).

Now let us keep something in mind. The first generation to be able to return to Canaan was to be the fourth generation. But does that mean that the kids of the fourth generation (the fifth generation) didn’t come into the Canaan (the Promised Land)? Of course they did too—they all came at once! What this limitation is that the earliest generation to return to Canaan was the fourth, but their subsequent descendants, who were contemporaneous with them, were also obliged to come as well.

Well how many generations was that? It likely varied extensively. Moses, living like the Egyptians for 40 years, had no children yet. But the Israelites were growing under the Lord’s increase immensely. So there could have been many contemporaneous generations after this fourth generation. We know of Joshua’s genealogy, and he was contemporaneous with Moses, yet younger. His lineage is revealed in 1 Chronicles 7:22-27 as:

Then Ephraim [1 Gen] their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah [2 Gen], because tragedy had come upon his house. Now his daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah; and Rephah [3 Gen] was his son, as well as Resheph, and Telah [4 Gen] his son, Tahan [5 Gen] his son, Laadan [6 Gen] his son, Ammihud 7 Gen] his son, Elishama [8 Gen] his son, Nun [9 Gen] his son, and Joshua [10 Gen] his son.

Joshua was the 10th generation from Joseph (having his son Ephraim as the first generation). So Joshua, who was contemporaneous with Moses and yet was the 10th generation, led the 4th generation and their descendants into conquest of the Promised Land.

Keep in mind that Joseph met his great grandchild through Ephraim and his grandchildren through Manasseh. But more descendants were coming rapidly even after Joseph died. But Joseph and some of his great grandchildren were at one point contemporaneous. So the Israelites hadn’t entered into slavery and bondage in Egypt yet as that occurred later when a pharaoh came to power when Joseph (and his brothers) was no longer alive (Exodus 1:6-8). And Moses was 80 at the time of the Plagues and Exodus (Exodus 7:7) so keep this information in mind and yet he was 40 when he first became a father in Midian.

Now let’s pause—as everything seems to be moving in perfect harmony at this stage with the chronology and following what is occurring (e.g., the fourth generation (with their descendants will come to Canaan). I say this as a precursor. This next verse is the one that seems to throw a huge “monkey wrench” into the situation.

Living in Egypt 430 years?

Exodus 12:40-41 (Time of the Sojourn from the Promise to release from Bondage)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Arriving at Exodus 12, it seem a new limitation is suddenly thrown into the mix that was unexpected. It seems as though the text just switched to say the children of Israel were in Egypt for 430 years! So what gives? I want the readers to know that it is this passage alone that seems to introduce the alleged conflict.

So what do many Christians do? Many Christians take this verse as the accurate one and try to reinterpret each of the other verses we have already discussed. This view holds that the Israelites were in Egypt a full 430 years. Again, this is called the “long sojourn”.

How do some try to get around this?

Maybe this verse is accurate and Paul isn’t so precise?

In other words, long sojourners take the time from Joseph and his brothers in Egypt until the Exodus to be 430 years and then add extra time on to that to go back to the Promise.[8] This would be over 600 years from the time of the promise to Abraham and the giving of the Law. Of course, this causes problems with Paul’s clear statement Galatians 3:16-18 that it was 430 years from the promise given to Abraham to giving of the Law during the Exodus.

Defending this view, I have heard several Christians suggest that the promise to Abraham was not meant to be counted from Abraham but instead from Judah, whom they argued was the seed in Galatians 3 and quoted the beginning of Galatians 3:16 (“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made….”).

They assumed that the promise was to be counted from Abraham’s descendant (seed) Judah (who went to Egypt) in trying to put the 430 years that Paul mentioned [from the Promise to the Exodus (giving of the law)] strictly into Egypt.

These Christian brothers assumed that the last reiteration of the promise was to Judah (Genesis 46:2–4), therefore, the seed in Galatians was actually Judah, not Christ. Now I am going to be bold here—these types of mental gymnastics are uncalled for and make a mockery of the Scriptures.

There is only one seed in Galatians 3 and that is Christ and Paul made that perfectly clear in Galatians 3:16 if the entire verse is read [Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ].

The reason for this argument for the seed to be Judah was to try to get 430 years from one of Jacob’s sons who went to Egypt to the time of the Exodus. So the whole reason was predicated on the fact they were trying to fit 430 years of time in Egypt for the Israelites. Of course that means that the Promise to Abraham that the fourth generation in the land not their own (Egypt) would leave and come to Canaan, was purely false too.

Consider one more aspect. If we begin oppression in Egypt with Judah, then this is a problem, as Judah was not oppressed. Oppression did occur until after Judah and his younger brother Joseph had died. So this option is simply not possible.

Gaps in the genealogies?

Another problem also arises for the long sojourn position. The ages of Levi’s descendants and his children down to Moses cannot even come close to 430 years once they are raised and have children (Moses was over 40 when he had his first child with Zipporrah in Midian).

Table 2 From Kohath to Gershom and Eliezer

1st Kohath (max age 133)
2nd Amram (max age 137)
3rd Moses (120) (at age 40 he had his first son)
4th Gershom and Eliezer (Generation that entered Canaan)

But this generational problem is much worse than initially recognized. If some Christians argue that the Israelites were in oppression by Egypt for 400 years (rounding) or 430 years specifically, then that timeframe could not be counted until after Joseph died. So there would be 430 years from the first oppression in Egypt (which began with Moses’s generation) until the Exodus. This is impossible since Moses came out of the Exodus and he only lived 120 years!

But the generational problem gets even worse than this! Other Christians, many of whom I greatly respect by the way, readily try to assert that there were gaps in the genealogies of the Israelites listed in Egypt. For example, one scholar supporting the long sojourn reports:

“The name Amram of vs. 20 may be a conflation of the name of the Amram who was the head of one of the third-generation families of Levi, with the name of a later Amram who was the father of Moses and Aaron. There was a tendency among the Levites to name their sons after their forefathers (cf. 1 Chr 6:7–13; Lk 1:5, 59–61). Thus, several generations appear to have been telescoped here, with Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, probably being at least the grandson of the original Amram, if not even a later descendant.”[9]

So the solution is to allegedly have more than one Amram and have gaps in the genealogies. This is hugely problematic! First, it would no longer be the fourth generation that would be exiting Egypt and coming into Canaan, it would also mean Paul was in error in Galatians 3 for 430 years from the promise to Abraham to the giving of the law in the Exodus. But it also causes problems with other passages. Considers Moses mother for example.

Moses’ mother was Jochebed. We often think of Moses’ mother actions when she put him in basket (ark) and floated him in the Nile and Pharaoh’s daughter found him (Exodus 2:1-10). But we know more about her as well—her genealogical data. The Bible says:

Exodus 6:20

Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were one hundred and thirty-seven.

Numbers 26:59

The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.

Moses father, Amram married his aunt Jochebed. She was the daughter of Levi (see also Exodus 2:1). Levi was the son of Jacob. This means that Levi was both Moses’ grandfather and great grandfather!

If one argues, then that there were other Levi’s as well in the same lineage, then it makes part of the biblical text meaningless. The Bible went to the effort of making it clear that Jochebed was born in Egypt, in contrast to the possibility that she may have been born elsewhere (e.g., the land of Canaan where Levi originally fathered three of her brothers [Gershon, Kohath, and Merari] per Genesis 46:7-11). If she were a born of a later Levi, supposedly after a long time in Egypt, then why would this text be necessary?

Look also to Moses’ brother Aaron. Who was Aaron’s wife? The Bible reveals:

Exodus 6:23

Aaron took to himself Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon, as wife; and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

As a reminder, Judah’s lineage to Amminidab is:

Judah’s line (e.g., Luke 3)
Abraham
Isaac
Israel (Jacob)
Judah
(1) Perez
(2) Hezron
(3) Ram
(4) Amminadab

Elisheba was Amminadab’s daughter (5th Generation) and was the sister of Nahshon (5th Generation). Nahshon was the leader of the forces of Judah for the conquest (Numbers 2:3) and is the lineage of Christ down to Boaz and finally David (Ruth 4:18-22, Luke 3:32-38).

Knowing this, there is no way there are large numbers of genealogical gaps between “alleged Amram’s” or “alleged Levi’s”. There was one Amram, one Levi and the genealogy of Moses’ mother refutes this idea of multiple Amram’s, multiple Levi’s and multiple gaps in the Bible’s genealogies.

If there are gaps in the genealogies between Levi’s (e.g., Joseph’s) generation to Moses’s generation at the Exodus 430 years later, then that could be 10-11 generations (at a 40 year slow generation time), 14-15 generations (at a 30 year medium generation time) up to 28-29 generations (at a 15 year fast generation time; see Genesis 17:2).

Since only two names are given in the Bible between Levi and Moses (Kohath and Amram), then there could be a minimum of 8-9 or maximum of 26-27 missing names within the long sojourn reckoning! If there are 8-27 missing generation here, then what does they say about Luke 3:23-38 which gives a continuous line from Jesus Christ to Adam, without these alleged missing generations [Judah (to Egypt), Perez (to Egypt), Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon (leader at the Exodus)]?

So if we take this tact (called the long sojourn) with the Israelites in oppression for 400-430 years in Egypt, we begin to introduce significant problems and conflicts elsewhere in the text of Scripture. The actual solution to properly understand Exodus 12:40-41, though, is much simpler and doesn’t damage the text.

The Ancient Text: Solving the Problem

Now let’s look at this relevant passage in more detail and look at the ancient textual witness. There are textual variants for Exodus 12:40 when we consult other ancient texts. The Masoretic text and the Samaritan Pentateuch were Hebrew texts (Hebrew and Samaritan Hebrew) and the Septuagint (LXX) was an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Here is how they read:

Exodus 12:40-41

Masoretic (Hebrew text)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel “who lived in Egypt” was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Samaritan Pentateuch (Hebrew text)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel “and of their fathers who lived in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt” was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Septuagint (Ancient Greek text)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

As you can see from the verse variants in question, there is an issue over where these 430 years is to occur. It was both Egypt and Canaan according to the other ancient witnesses of the Old Testament. When looking at the ancient text, they are actually mixed—some say just Egypt others say Egypt and Canaan (or vice versa; Canaan and Egypt)—but which is to be preferred? The one that solves the problem and doesn’t introduce conflicts elsewhere of course.

Table 3 Ancient Greek and Hebrew Text Traditions

Ancient text Date of copies Language Egypt Only Egypt and Canaan/Canaan and Egypt
1 LXX (Septuagint) 200 B.C. – A.D. 400 Greek Some copies Some Copies
2 Masoretic A.D. 500-900 Hebrew All MSS
3 Samaritan Pentateuch, A.D. 1100-1200 (earliest copies) A.D. 1100 –1200 Hebrew (Samaritan dialect) All MSS
4 Dead Sea Scrolls (4 QExod), 250 B.C.-A.D 70, Hebrew 250 B.C. – A.D. 70 Hebrew One copy
5 Letter to the Galatians by Paul A.D 1st Century – A.D. 400[10] Greek All copies (from promise to Abraham to the Exodus) which includes both Canaan and Egypt)

So texts either gained information or lost it during transmission here. Keep in mind that it is easier for a copyist to lose text, than to come up with it, especially when that is not what they are supposed to be doing! From a big picture, the texts that have both Egypt and Canaan are preferred, not just for this reason, but because it solves the problem.

This sheds immense light on the issue. 430 years, was not just the time in Egypt, but also Canaan. Abraham received the promise, while being called into Canaan. This solves the alleged contradiction entirely! In fact, this solves the entire dilemma.

There was 430 years of sojourning in Egypt and Canaan from the Promise in Genesis 12, which includes Abraham, to the giving of the Law at the Exodus. There was 400 years of mistreatment to Abraham’s descendants beginning with Ishmael (the half Egyptian) toward Isaac until the last persecution during the Exodus (again with the Egyptians).

The statements in the text are actually accurate and extremely precise. This puts the time of the Israelites in Egypt at 210 years specifically. This is called the “short sojourn” and there is no contradiction and no problem—even with Moses, Paul, Stephen, and so on. There are no generational problems and timeline conflicts.

But there is more. The land of sojourning was also included the land of Promise according to other passages in the narrative.[11]

“I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8).

“May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham” (Genesis 28:4).

“I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned (Exodus 6:4).

If there was any question whether the sojourning included Canaan—the Bible solves it when we interpret Scripture (e.g., Exodus 12:40) with Scripture (e.g., Genesis 17:8, 28:4, and Exodus 6:4). Canaan was considered part of the sojourning of Abraham and his descendants! Even Jacob recognized his own sojourning was not strictly in Egypt. He said:

So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning” (Genesis 47:9).

Jacob only lived a total 17 years in Egypt, and yet he recognized his own portion of the sojourning as being 130 years of duration so far (Jacob died 17 years later at 147 in Egypt per Genesis 47:28).

Objection: why does it state…“children of Israel” in Exodus 12:40?

Recall that Exodus 12:40-41 says:

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel “and of their fathers who lived in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt” was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

If the 430 years of sojourn was meant to be counted from Abraham to the Exodus, why does it say “children of Israel”? Abraham is not among the children of Israel. Doesn’t this prove that the children of Israel were in Egypt for exactly 430 years?

The answer to this is actually revealed in the context. But first, some variant texts have “and of their fathers”, which does include Abraham—and Jacob again recognized that he was part of the sojourn (Genesis 47:9). Regardless though, the context reveals that we are discussing the end of the sojourn, “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years” and who this now pertains to, which is the children of Israel. Why is this significant?

Abraham had a lot of descendants. For example there were the:

  • Ishmaelites (children of Ishmael) of Abraham and Hagar
  • Midainites (children of Midian) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Zimramites (children of of Zimram) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Jokshanites (children of Jokshan) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Medanites (children of Medan) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Ishbakites (children of Ishbak) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Shuhites (children of Shuah) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Edomites (children of Esau) of Abraham and Sarah through Isaac and Rebekah
  • Israelites (children of Jacob/Israel) of Abraham and Sarah through Isaac and Rebekah

This passage delineates whom the children of promise were (children of Israel) and that the end of the 430 years has finally come to the descendants of promise. This excluded these other descendants of Abraham. These others (Ishmaelites, Edomites, Midianites, etc.) were also descendants of Abraham, but not of promise that was through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel.

So now, at the very end of the sojourn, we find confirmation of who the descendants are at the end of this 430-year sojourn beginning with Abraham. After all, the Midianites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, and so on were never strangers in a land not their own[12], nor oppressed and afflicted for 400 years, and were not brought out of a nation that was then judged. We know without question [due to this verse] exactly who it was—the children of Israel. They were the ones on the back end of the promise and none of the other descendants of Abraham.

The main objection!

The main objection I’ve found is summed up in this question: how could there be 603,550 males over twenty years of age in Numbers 1:1-3; 2:32 in just a few generations? Hence, long sojourners again appeal to an actual 430 years strictly in Egypt under oppression to get such numbers basing it on natural population growth variation we have in the world today.

In modern estimations, the world’s population doubles about every 35-39 years. In the 1960’s, it was peaking about 35 years[13] but due to factors like immense abortion and negative growth rates in some countries, the rate has slightly slowed to about 39 years currently[14]. We know that Abraham’s progeny who went to Egypt was 66 people and with Joseph’s family it makes about 70 (Genesis 46:26-27). Here is a chart of doublings that have to occur to get the required number of people to make 603,550 males per the book of Numbers.

Table 4 Doublings

Number of doublings People beginning with 70
1 140
2 280
3 560
4 1120
5 2240
6 4480
7 8960
8 17,920
9 35,840
10 71,680
11 143,360
12 286,720
13 573,440
14 1,146,880
15 2,293,760

So 14-15 doubling times would be required to get the numbers if about half are males at age of counting. The long sojourner would argue that it is more feasible with 430 years strictly in Egypt. Using 14 doublings, this would make [430/14] = ~31 years per doubling which is comparable, but a little faster than, the current world growth range which again varies from 35-39 years currently. So it is argued that this is a confirmation of the 430 years, as opposed to 210-215 years, of sojourn strictly in Egypt buy the short sojourners.

However, this conclusion is without warrant. Consider the Lord’s prophetic promise to Abraham and then Isaac.

Genesis 13:16

“And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.

Genesis 22:17

“Blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

Genesis 26:4

“And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

And this came true. God is the one responsible for multiplying Abraham’s descendants and this exceeding increase came to Israel. And the Egyptians recognized this and wanted to do something about this population explosion occurring with the Israelites—hence enslaving them and trying to kill their baby boys in an effort to control them!

Exodus 1:7

But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Exodus 1:12

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel.

Exodus 1:20

Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty.

Now is this increase a problem? No. It is not a problem for an all-powerful God to make the promise and keep it. There is no problem for God to make the Israelites as numerous as He promised. It would only be a problem if God hadn’t kept his promise, but that did not occur.

This would only be a problem if we allege that God had no part and that the increase of Israelites could only be done by human means. That is, by naturalistic means. But this population growth is no problem whatsoever for God as the promise was fulfilled. After the Exodus the Lord comments:

The LORD your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude (Deuteronomy 1:10).

So if 210 years are in mind for the sojourn in Egypt, then what would the doubling rate be? Using 14 doublings, this would make [210/14] = 15 years per doubling which is obviously faster than the current world growth range which again is 35-39 years. You would easily be able to see the increases as the hand of the Lord with this figure! But is it possible?

Yes it is. In fact, the current population growth rate (as of 2015) of the country of Afghanistan is faster than this at 14.8 years![15] It is not at all impossible but clearly within the bounds of national growth rates observed today. Yes it is exceedingly faster, but this is exactly what the Lord declared He would do with the Israelites.

So this is actually a much better confirmation of what was occurring because unlike the slightly faster growth rate (~31 year doubling), the Israelites really were growing rapidly (~15 years doubling) as God promised. Joshua was in the 10th generation, while 4th generation was still alive (and much of the 3rd generation was still alive too) so this is reasonable and expected here. Having multiple generations as contemporaneous is not a problem. So this overall population objection to a short sojourn is really not a big deal.

Conclusions

The long sojourn introduces biblical conflicts whether genealogically, generationally, chronologically, or neglects that God rapidly multiplied the Israelites. It further causes disruptions of clear passages like Paul’s boundary conditions of 430 years from the promise to Abraham to the giving of the Law and that Canaan was included as the part of the land of sojourn.

The short sojourn makes sense of the biblical data when taking into account the variant ancient readings that mention that the sojourn included Egypt and Canaan. Any alleged problems disappear when looked at biblically and logically.

Now as a side note, readers should be aware that long and short sojourners are not enemies. We are brothers and though we do not agree with one another, this is not a reason to “go start a new church” over the issue. So keep this in mind on this chronological debate.

Table 5 Summary Timeline

Countdown (years; when applicable) Event Notes Reference
430 Initial Promise, Sojourn begins Abraham, 75 years old Genesis 12:1-7
420 Reiteration of the Promise Abraham, 85 years old Genesis 15:13-15
419 Ishmael born (half-Egyptian) Abraham, 86 years old Genesis 16:16
406 Final reiteration of the promise to Abraham Abraham 99 years old Genesis 17
405 Isaac, child of promise born Abraham, 100 years old Genesis 17:19-21; 21:3-5
400 Isaac, child of promise first persecuted by Ishmael, the half-Egyptian; Ishmael and Hagar (his Egyptian mother) are banished as a result;

BEGINNING OF PERSECUTION OF ABRAHAM’S DESCENDANTS

Isaac weaning age (which is very young)[16] perhaps 4-5 years old making Abraham 105 years old Genesis 21:8-14
340 Jacob and Esau born Isaac was 60 Genesis 25:26
Esau sells his birthright to Jacob
330 Abraham dies Abraham, 175 years old Genesis 25:7-10
Jacob renamed Israel Genesis 32:28
Israel has 12 sons (Levi, Joseph, Judah, etc.; Benjamin last) Genesis 29-30; 35:16 (Benjamin)
249 Joseph born Jacob/Israel, 91 year old Genesis 37:3[17]
232 Joseph sold into slavery; finally to Egypt Joseph 17 years old Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:2
220 Isaac dies Isaac, 180 years old; Jacob/Israel, 120 years old

Joseph 29 years old

Genesis 35:28
219 Joseph in position of power in Egypt Joseph, 30 years old Genesis 41:41 Genesis 41:46
219-212 Seven years of Plenty Joseph, 37 years old Genesis 41:47
210 Israelites into Egypt (2 years into the 7 years of famine) Jacob, 130 years old

Joseph, 39 years old

Genesis 45:9-46:7; 45:6-11
193 Jacob dies in Egypt Jacob, 147 years old; after 17 years in Egypt

Joseph, 56 years old

Genesis 47:28
Levi fathers Kohath (born in Canaan per Genesis 46:7-11) Ephraim fathers Shuthelah (possibly before coming to Egypt?)

 

Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27; Exodus 6:16-20
Levi fathers Jochebed who was born in Egypt Shuthelah fathers Bered Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27; Exodus 6:16-20
Kohath fathers Amram Bered fathers Tahath

 

Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27; Exodus 6:16-20
139 Joseph (and his brothers) had died Joseph, 110 year old Genesis 50:26
Pharaoh enslaves the Israelites Exodus 1:8-14
81?-80 Persecution of baby boys in Egypt Just before and after the birth of Moses Exodus 1:15-22
80 Moses born to Amram Moses, 0 years old Exodus 2:1-10
40 Moses flees Egypt Moses (40 years old) Exodus 2:15
0 10 plagues Moses 80 years old Exodus 7:7 (beginning)
0 Exodus from Egypt/Giving of the Law Moses, 80 years old; Last persecution of Israelites by Egypt Exodus; Exodus 20
+40 Fourth generation was the first permitted to enter into Canaan (with their descendants of course) Moses died 120 years old; Joshua leads the fourth generation and their descendants into Canaan Numbers 14:34, Deuteronomy 1:35; 2:14;
+45 7 Canaanite tribes destroyed and land distributed; about 450 years after the promise given to the fathers (plural meaning at least Abraham and Isaac) and this is 450 years after Isaac was born Caleb was 85 now (40 when he spied out the land, 40 years after the wandering, and 5 more years after conquest and now the land distribution) Joshua 13:1-7, 14:7, Act 13:16-19
+480 Solomon is in his 4th year as king Temple began to be built; Okay—so this one is for fun! 1 Kings 6:1

Cite this Article: B Hodge, Long or short sojourn by chronological derivation strictly via the biblical text, Biblical Authority Ministries, July 15, 2016,https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/long-or-short-sojourn-by-chronological-derivation-strictly-via-the-biblical-text/.

[1] All Scripture is taken from the NKJV or the NAS unless otherwise mentioned.

[2] 430 years is a minimum in this view as many hold that 400 (rounding) or 430 years (exact) was their specific time in oppression, hence the 430 doesn’t begin to count until after Joseph dies and the oppression begins.

[3] The reason I start with Paul here is that there are no variant texts of the numbers given in the Galatians passage.

[4] Otherwise, Ishmael and the sons with Keturah would also be consider sons of promise as would their descendants, but they are not.

[5] Thus, it cannot be in reference to Abraham’s descendants through Hagar or Keturah.

[6] In Jewish tradition, weaning was often between 18 months and 5 years old. It usually involved a child who had their teeth and could eat normal foods without the fear of problems. It was essentially beyond the fragile time when young children had high infant mortality rates and thus seen as a time to celebrate such an accomplishment. For more please see: What was the significance of weaning a child in the Bible (Genesis 21:8)?, Got Questions Ministries, 2015, http://www.gotquestions.org/weaning-child-Bible.html.

[7] If Isaac was born at the end of one year and weaned at the beginning of another year, that could only be just over 3 years of actual duration while encompassing a 5 year time lapse.

[8] Others insert the 430 years after Joseph’s death because that was when the oppression begins which adds 430 years between Joseph and Moses. Also the overall time would be more than 700-800 years from the promise to Abraham to the Exodus.

[9] Paul J. Ray, The Duration of the Israelite Sojourn In Egypt, Associates for Biblical research, January 5, 2012, http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/01/05/The-Duration-of-the-Israelite-Sojourn-In-Egypt.aspx.

[10] By A.D. 400 Koine Greek (biblical Greek), was essentially became a dead language.

[11] Moses knew what a sojourn was as he also partook one in Midian (Exodus 2:22).

[12] They often intermarried with the local pagan tribes and became part of the land.

[13] Population Growth Rates, About.com, 2015, http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/populationgrow.htm.

[14] Silvio Famularo, Where have all the people gone? Creation, 31(2):18-19, March 2009.

[15] Population Growth Rates, About.com, 2015, http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/populationgrow.htm.

[16] 1 Samuel 1:23-24

[17] Calculations further based on Genesis 35:28, Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:2

Genesis 41:41, Genesis 41:46, Genesis 41:47, Genesis 45:6-46:7, Genesis 47:28.

Long or short sojourn by chronological derivation strictly via the biblical text

“But if two people love each other…” and what God says on the subject of love and lust

Preface

The battle of creation versus evolution defines our modern culture. These are two diametrically opposed beliefs systems about the world. One is based on God’s Word (the Bible) and the other is based on a materialistic (i.e., atheistic) view of the universe (no spiritual beings; everything is material and natural).

Usually when people hear about this war, they think about things like millions of years, natural selection, missing links, and the big bang. But how many people have stopped to consider how this war has infiltrated some of our most basic beliefs about such subjects as “love”? Even the issue of homosexual “love” is tied to this secular belief, but is it biblical love?

Introduction: Cultural Use of “Love”

One way that today’s culture tends to use the term “love” is in the context of homosexuality: “If two people love each other, then they should be able to get married.” Some people say they divorced because “they weren’t in love any more.” In fact, the word “love” is used all time in this secularized culture to mean many different things. But what is love really?

Some today evidently believe that love is a feeling when it comes to relationships such as engagements and marriage. And since feelings come and go, some believe love does too.

But biblical love is not a feeling. It is a choice that God makes (Deuteronomy 7:7, Ephesians 1:4), and we have to have a godly response in that love (consider responsive directives on how to love as given in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 and examples set forth in Song of Solomon). In other words, love comes from God but we can embrace that love to its fullest only through a relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ. This will be discussed more in a moment.

But in a materialistic notion—which is inherent to the secular humanistic belief system involving evolution, things like love, hate, honor, sadness, and so on are simply chemical reactions in the brain to stimulate your body to some survival advantage. So in a humanistic understanding, love is just chemicals responses, no different from hate.

In an evolutionist view, love is really meaningless. Secularists do love people (because the Bible is true), but there is no real meaning or basis for it in the evolutionist worldview. In that view, love is just chemical reactions in the body and is ultimately without meaning.

What Is Love?

Love is a biblical concept. Christ, who is God, is love and He is the very standard of love and the ultimate source of love (1 John 4:7–8). Love is not a feeling but something much deeper and much more rooted in the very Savior Himself. For love comes from God (e.g., Romans 5:5; Deuteronomy 30:6) since He is the absolute standard of love and for us to have love, it must have come from God.

Inherently, love is not material, since God is not material but is instead spiritual or non-material (John 4:24). Love transcends the material world, though God has made us to be able to interact with and show love. When God made man, He made us in His image (Genesis 1:26–27, Genesis 9:6). Take note of the significance here: man is made in the image of a loving God. This is why humans are capable of love in the first place. Rocks, don’t love, people do.[1]

God, Homosexuality, Love, and Lust

There are many kinds of love in the Bible (e.g., brotherly love, love between God and man, love between husband and wife, loving one’s enemies, etc.), but I want to address an issue in which a relationship in our culture between two people of the same sex (e.g., sodomy) is often called love (as in husband-and-wife type of love) but biblically is not love.

A common argument today is that if two men love each other or two women love each other in a romantic sense, they should be allowed to “marry” (i.e., homosexual “marriage”).[2] They want to marry because they are “in love.”[3] This is often hailed in the secular press as “progress” in the discussion of marriage. Such instances are actually digression in marriage (destruction of marriage), not progression (revelation of true marriage) by the way, since marriage is no longer definable in an absolute sense in the secular view.

Furthermore, marriage is a biblical concept as well. Christ, who is God, created the first marriage; He defines it as one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:4–6; Genesis 1:27 and 2:18–24). Sadly, the secularists want to hijack “marriage” and make it their own (keep in mind that they must borrow from the Bible to say marriage even exists). But herein lies a problem.

In the secular evolutionary worldview, there is no basis for defining marriage. Since man is just an animal in the humanistic worldview, and in the animal world we can find the equivalent of rape, sex with multiple short-term partners, polygamy, cannibalism, as well as life-long commitment of a male and female and more, then all those social relationships can be valid for man. Some even seek to justify homosexual human behavior by claiming that even homosexual behavior is seen in the animal world.[4] But note, some animals are also cannibals. So animal behavior is certainly no basis for human behavior.

From a biblical perspective, the last place we would want to seek morality is by looking at cursed animals (Genesis 3:14) living in a sin-cursed world and broken world (Romans 8:22). Instead, God’s Word is the only source of perfect morality.

As noted before, in a secular worldview that includes materialism and evolution, love is ultimately meaningless. Some might say that love is meaningful to them as a way of showing affection, giving pleasure, or producing offspring. However, in the secular worldview, even the concept of “meaning” is not material and shouldn’t be used as though it were something tangible, so even that concept is borrowed from the Bible.

But really, love would be no different from hate, being merely a chemical reaction. So “love” in a secular worldview, could be anything and defined as anything, and hence arbitrary and meaningless. So why would anyone appeal to a secular worldview, if they really believe love and marriage exists? A secular worldview cannot make sense of love and marriage. Appealing to a secular worldview to build a case for the existence of love is self-refuting.

Marriage is a biblical institution as God created a man and a woman, which was the first marriage, in a literal Garden of Eden when reading Genesis in a straightforward and plain fashion.[5] Love comes from the God of the Bible. These are inherent to the biblical worldview but not a secular one. A biblical marriage is between two people—a man and a woman and covenantal with God.

Similarly, many homosexual “marriages” are between two people who are of the same sex, but why only two? Why not three or four (as some are actually doing)? Those who want to have homosexual “marriages” because they are in “love” are really borrowing from the Bible to even begin to make sense of “love” and “marriage.” But why do they only borrow some of the Bible (love and marriage) and reject or ignore the rest of the Bible (such as homosexuality being a sin and the need for repentance)?[6] If one were to be consistent, they should borrow the entire Bible, but by doing this, it introduces some big problems; here is a brief look at some of these inconsistencies.

Biblical View of Homosexuality

First, God’s Word repeatedly condemns homosexual behavior as serious sin (Genesis 19:4–7; Leviticus 18:1, 22; Leviticus 20:1, 13; Judges 19:22–25; Romans 1:22–32, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; 1 Timothy 1:8–11, Jude 1:4–8). Scripture also says that those who are sexually immoral (which includes homosexuality) will not enter into heaven (Revelation 21:8; 22:15) and cannot be counted as the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10) unless they repent and turn from such sin as some did in the first century (1 Corinthians 6:11). So this is indeed a serious sin. But we must quickly add that Romans 1 and other passages cited also condemn many other sins too.

Marriage is Between a Man and a Woman

Second, the Bible repeatedly affirms marriage is between a man and a woman. This is affirmed throughout Scripture and is based on the fact that God made the first two humans as male and female and created the first marriage at the beginning. Jesus, who is God, made this clear in Matthew 19:4–5 and Mark 10:1–12, when he defended marriage by quoting Genesis 1 and 2 as literal history.[7] There are a number of examples in the Old Testament where people violated the created order and took multiple wives, but often in these instances, someone is not really loved in those relationships (e.g., Genesis 29:31, 2 Chronicles 11:21).

Lust, Not Love

Third, love is given from God. Don’t mistake how powerful this last point is. Love comes from God, and God opposes homosexuality, so how can homosexual love be the same love that God gives between a man and a woman?

God explains this further that these unnatural relations—between man and man or woman and woman—are not love, but instead are described in the Bible as “vile passions” and “burning in lust” for one another. These unnatural relations are a distortion and marring of love that is misperceived. Romans 1:24–28 states,

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

This part of Romans is discussing judgment on those who have refused to give glory or be thankful to God. They suppressed the knowledge of God’s invisible attributes and eternal Godhead (as unmistakably seen though His creation per Psalm 97:6 and Romans 1:18–21), but instead they wanted to suppress this knowledge that is understood from creation.[8] So therefore, God gave them over to debased minds and unnatural lust.

Those involved in homosexual activities have been given over to a mind that cannot think properly until they repent and God may grant them understanding (2 Timothy 2:25–26). They cannot see the error of homosexuality nor can they properly assess what love really is so long as their minds are truly darkened, so they misunderstand their lust as a false perception of love.

This is the result of sin. Sin distorts the truth and tarnishes what love really is. As a result, the person is given over to vile passions that are lust, and the person is confused and thinks that lust is love. Such fleshly lusts are not love that comes from God the Father (1 John 2:15–16).

Oh how my heart breaks that such people have never experienced true love that comes from God and they are only left with such vile feelings that they mistake for love. My hope is to see people repent and turn to God and find out what true love really is through Jesus Christ who illuminates their understanding and draws them (John 1:9; John 12:32).

Conclusion

Many in our culture have been turned over to a tarnished view of love, and it is not just in the case of homosexuality but also those who say they no longer love their spouse or think other forms of sexual immorality are “love.” Since we are made in the image of God, we are capable of love, but people pervert their God-given love to their own detriment (Proverbs 17:19; Psalm 52:3–4; Micah 3:2).

Homosexual behavior is sin. As such, Christians should treat homosexual behavior as they treat other sins. They should lovingly show those who practice homosexual behavior that they are sinners who need to repent before an almighty, loving God.

Our hope is to see Christ lifted up (i.e., love God first and foremost; see John 14:21, 15:9–10 and Mark 12:30–31), and to see people humble themselves and repent of their sins, whether homosexuality or any other sins (Luke 13:3). For above all, we want to see people saved from sin to escape the snare they have been trapped in and therefore, experience true love that comes only from God so that they will love God and others in a proper manner (see John 14:21, John 15:9–10 and Mark 12:30–31). Then God may grant them knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25–26).

Cite this article: B Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, July 14, 2016, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2016/07/14/but-if-two-people-love-each-other-and-what-god-says-on-the-subject-of-love-and-lust/.

[1] Pets, like dogs and cats, are not made in the image of a loving God. Pets can be trained to show affection, but that doesn’t mean it is true biblical love; keep in mind that your enemy, your employees, and your computer can be made to show affection, but that doesn’t mean they really love you.

[2] There are a number of examples in the Old Testament where people violated the created order and took multiple wives, but often in these instances, someone is not really loved in those relationships (e.g., Genesis 29:31, 2 Chronicles 11:21).

[3] These are not marriages in any biblical sense, but rather a secular contract with the government for tax purposes and so on. Sadly, this replaces God with the government. A biblical marriage is actually a covenant between a man and a woman and God since God is the one who ultimately unites them (Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9).

[4] See item 5 in http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/08/18/news-to-note-08182012.

[5] Genesis is written as a historical narrative so there is no reason to allegorize it.

[6] I suggest the underlying reason many people do this is because they have elevated their own thoughts and beliefs to supersede God. They have essentially viewed themselves as “the supreme god” and demoted the true, supreme God so they can be in a position to judge what they want to keep from God’s Word and reject what they don’t want. In the end, it is God’s Word that will judge every thought and action (e.g., John 12:48; Hebrews 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5), which is a reminder to all of us to repent of such things and hold to the authority of the Bible as absolute.

[7] The apostle Paul also taught that the marriage relationship of a man and a woman was to be a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:22–32).

[8] “The world was created by the word of God (Gen. 1:3; John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2) and thereby reflects the mind and character of God (Rom. 1:20). Man was created as the image of God (Gen. 1:16-27) and thus cannot escape the face of God. There is no environment where man can flee to escape the revelational presence of God (Ps. 19:1-4) and all people see His glory (Ps. 97:6).” Bahnsen, G., Always Ready, Covenant Media Press, Nacogdoches, TX, 1996, p. 38.

“But if two people love each other…” and what God says on the subject of love and lust

Peterism—a false doctrine that still tries to invade the church

Introduction

So Ken Ham writes something that fires people up. I’m not surprised. But this time it was over Mr. Ham’s stir-fry that stirred some Christians up!

Ken Ham posted about the meal that he was eating at a Chinese restaurant with a picture. It is hard to believe a plate of food would warrant such controversy, considering all the compromise with “millions of years” in the church that Ken Ham repeatedly calls out! Regardless, the picture is reproduced below:

Shrimp

Most comments were quite favorable but there are groups of Christians who were shocked that Mr. Ham would eat something that was “unclean”. They openly rebuked Ken (and anyone else who would eat shrimp, lobster, rabbit, and swine like bacon and ham (not Ken’s relatives!), etc. They would often quote Old Testament passages (e.g., Leviticus 11:9-12, etc.) and leave it at that. But were these rebukes in order?

I’ve heard these “unclean food” arguments too and have been involved in this discussion many times over my years. But I need to warn you up front that this is actually Peterism. It is a dangerous slope and of all the false doctrines floating around during New Testament times, the Bible explicitly calls this one out…publically, no less.

Does the Old Testament call certain foods out as “unclean”? Yes, but that is not the issue.

Now to properly understand the issue, we need to lay the foundation. So bear with me as we dive into the Old Testament passages before we jump into Peterism, which occurs in the New Testament. A few examples of unclean foods are listed in Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11.[1] Without being exhaustive, here are a few verse sets:

  • Deuteronomy 14:1-3 “You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead.” For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. “You shall not eat any detestable thing.
  • Deuteronomy 14:7-10 “Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare (rabbit), and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. “Also the swine (pigs/hogs) is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses. “These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. “And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
  • Leviticus 11:1-12 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: ‘Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud — that you may eat. ‘Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; ‘the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; ‘the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; ‘and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. ‘Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you. ‘These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers — that you may eat. ‘But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. ‘They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. ‘Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales — that shall be an abomination to you.

First thing I want you to note is that these commands were not directed to the Chinese. Nor were they appointed to the people of Peru. In fact, this passage was not pointed gentiles. These commands were given to the chosen and special people—the Israelites—as part of the covenant between God and Israel (Deuteronomy 14:1-3, Leviticus 11:1-2), which came to fruition at the time of Moses. Prior to Moses, the Israelites could partake of swine, rabbit, lobster, and so on.

Genesis 9:3 was in effect for the whole world until the Israelites were called out to have a special sacrificial and clean diet which points to the ultimate sacrifice and ultimate cleanness that is Christ. You need to understand that God does not change, but His rules to man may change at given times for given purposes.

Originally, man was a vegetarian (Genesis 1:29). Then after sin, it change when there was a new covenant at the time of Noah, e.g., Genesis 6:18, 9:9-17, Hosea 6:7. God changed the eating permissions.

Man was first permitted to eat meat after the Flood. Then more food rules came about with an even newer, but pointed, covenant (that we call the “old covenant” or “Old Testament” with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel)). This came into law with the children of Israel at the time of Moses.

New Testament and “unclean” foods

This brings us to an eternal covenant in Christ (e.g., Jeremiah 32:40, Matthew 26:28, Hebrews 13:20). We also call this the “new covenant” or the “New Testament” and it is not a covenant for one group of people but for all. Christ blood was shed for all tribes and nations, not one people group.

As most Christians are aware there is no longer a distinction between Jews and gentiles (Romans 10:12). We are all in the same boat in need of Jesus Christ for salvation. And yes, there were changes with the new covanant. I’m not diving into all those changes, but I am going to point out one big change and it came from mouth of Christ, who is the Word of God.

Jesus made a profound declaration, which seemed to stifle the Jews—even among His own disciples. In the context of clean and unclean, He said:

Mark 7:14-19 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)[2]

So Jesus Christ, who is God, declared all foods clean. Is this too hard for an all-powerful God to make all foods clean? No it is not.

Now I want you to understand a subtly of this. In one sense, it is like we went back to a Genesis 9:3 diet. However, we didn’t exactly do that. We, unlike Genesis 9:3, do not eat clean and unclean foods. It is actually a little different (even though the result is essentially the same).

All the unclean foods from Genesis 9:3, even those called out specifically in the Old Testament, are now made clean. So we are still eating a clean diet, the difference is that unclean foods of Genesis 9:3 have been made clean. Thus pigs, rabbits, shrimp, lobsters, and so on are now clean foods for all people.

Peter struggles with the new cleanliness in the New Testament

This cleanliness of all foods is demonstrated in the New Testament and Peter struggled with it—not once but twice. Let’s evaluate these instances.

Peter’s first struggle

Acts 10:9-16 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

Peter recounts this to the others in Acts 11.

Acts 11:4-10 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. “When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. “And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ “But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ “But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ “Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

In these passages, it reaffirms that God cleansed unclean foods. Peter misunderstood the situation. He thought that if he ate foods that used to be unclean under Mosaic Law, then they were still unclean. He failed to take Jesus Christ’s words to heart that all foods were now clean and Christians were freed from the regulation of the Law in such a fashion (Galatians 3:8-14). Peter didn’t realize that if he ate foods that were made clean then he would still be eating foods that were only clean!

Of course, the situation is used as a foundational springboard to show that Christ was making gentiles, who were often seen as unclean, clean. One might assert that Peter never ate; thus this doesn’t apply to physically unclean meats, but merely points to the spiritually unclean gentiles who are now made clean. However, this argument fails because if the physical aspects are false, so also would the subsequent spiritual aspect be false that are built on this principle.

Peter’s second struggle and Paul’s open rebuke

Peter should have learned from his mistakes. Like all of us, he can be a little dense sometimes. But who am I to criticize Peter—he walked on water for a while whereas I sink every time! Paul recounts:

Galatians 2:11-13 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

Regarding eating food with gentiles, Peter failed openly this time. What makes it worse was that he was dragging other Christians down with him—some of these Christians were quite prominent! Paul rebuked Peter openly.

Due to Peter’s repeated error, when one neglects that all foods have been made clean, then this is called Peterism. Now Peter relented and went so far as to commend Paul letters as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16)—keep in mind that these letters record the open rebuke to Peter from Paul.

Clarifying the issue

I want to add a point of clarification for this New Testament teaching. Let’s do this with a practical example. Let us imagine a Muslim or a Jew comes to know Christ, like we see daily. Let’s call this person Abraham or Abe for short.

Abe has been involved in his former religious practice for many years where he abstained from pork seeing it as unclean (as is the case in both Islam and Judaism). When he receives Christ as Lord, Abe is no expert on Christian doctrine and beliefs. It is not like Abe suddenly has a PhD in Bible! The point is that he is a new believer and not too well versed in Christian doctrine yet. Though he may be very excited to learn, he just isn’t there yet.

Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Let’s reflect. We were all just like Abe. At one stage in our past, we knew precious little about our Christianity. When I was saved, I was 9 years old. I was a babe or a little child in my theology. I needed milk, not solid food. As I grew in the Scriptures, I went from milk to solid food.

Abe is the same way. Abe came into Christianity as a babe or a child and he needs to be fed milk before solid food. When you wean a baby from a bottle it is not “overnight”. After having 4 children, I understand this principle very well. It takes time.

So Abe becomes a Christian and his faith is still fragile with a weak conscience and needs to gain wisdom from the Scriptures to become strong in his faith. If a Christian brother, let’s call him William, sees Abe and says, “now that he knows the truth about pork, I’m going to eat it in front of him to make sure he understands the error of his old ways.” Naturally, Abe would be shocked and thrown into a state of wondering about his newfound faith. Although unclean things like pork have been made clean, what William did is wrong. His actions were out of spite for our new brother in Christ.

The problem was that Abe didn’t know the truth about how all foods have been made clean by God. He needs to be fed the Scriptures first and have this explained like God did with Peter (three times no less!). So Abe was still under the perception that swine or shrimp were unclean causing him to stumble. The Bible says:

Romans 14:1-3 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

Some who are strong in faith can eat all things, but some, due to weakness, limit themselves to only vegetables, or in the case of Abe was limited even in his meat selection. The Bible talks further about these issues in the New Testament but this should suffice to get the point across. Keep in mind that Paul, a former Jew who argued one should abstain when eating with a weak brother (1 Corinthians 8:10-13), even ate all foods and defended it in saying:

1 Corinthians 10:29b-31 For why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.[3]

The key is to be respectful and train up the weak as Paul did. But a Christian needs to be mindful of believers who have come out of these types of situations, like Abe, so they can gently and lovingly teach the truth.

Thus, they help their weak brother so that they can overcome their former beliefs about certain foods being unclean. Through the use of teaching with Scripture, can the person move from milk to solid food and go from weak in faith to strong in faith. Then they will be stronger in their faith and you will have gained a brother.

But what about alleged later prophets who say they changed the rules to avoid swine again or be vegetarian?

The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

The New Testament text is a result of the Holy Spirit speaking through and by the power of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, who is God. An apostle is like a legal representative (think power of attorney) of someone else. The New Testament exists by Christ’s authority; that is apostolic authority, and thus God’s authority.

Beware of false prophets

Prophets existed in the Old and New Testaments, but Apostles of Christ were given a higher authority even though both were mouthpieces of God. Why is this significant to this discussion?

Simple. Any alleged prophet and their works after the New Testament is a lesser authority than the New Testament. The New Testament is to be used to judge any alleged new revelation, not vice versa. So if a supposed prophet disagrees with the New Testament, you stick with the New Testament teaching and the alleged prophet is viewed as a false prophet.

What do we make of those supposed prophets who once again say swine or shrimp is unclean? The apostles of Christ—the New Testament, must judge their teachings. Being that their proclamations are inconsistent, then they are wrong. It would be a doctrine of demons, thus a false prophet (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Vision and prophecy were sealed up after the New Testament

The Old Testament prophesied that prophecy (no more prophets) would cease upon the destruction of the Temple’s sanctuary, when it would be burned with fire per Psalm 74:3–9. When the sanctuary is destroyed and the things in it with fire and broken down and all the meeting places (e.g., synagogues in Israel) are destroyed, there will no longer be any prophet in the land.

This is confirmed by Daniel 9:24-27 when vision and prophecy shall cease when the Holy City (that is, Jerusalem per Nehemiah 11:1, Isaiah 52:1) and sanctuary (that is, the Temple; e.g., 1 Kings 6:19) are destroyed which occurred in the first century.

Prophets like Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Obadiah still existed when the Babylonians came in and destroyed Solomon’s Temple. Also, the items were largely taken out of the Temple by the Babylonians and were later returned and not destroyed (2 Chronicles 36:7, Ezra 5:14, etc.), which is unlike the destruction in A.D. 70 with the second Temple (Herod’s Temple). The items met their final destruction even to this day.

So vision and prophecy (i.e., new prophets) should no longer be possible after the New Testament was completed.

Concluding remarks

But Peterism still finds its way into churches because some Christians fail to adhere to Christ’s statement that all foods are cleansed. This may be purposeful or simply out of ignorance. Paul states to Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Paul goes so far as to point out that when people command others to abstain from foods (which clearly included creatures by the context), that this is the doctrine of demons and a lie. These are pretty bold words by the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind these are not words of a weak brother either—these are people who knew the teachings and depart from them.

Peterism is a false doctrine and promotion of it warrants the same rebuke that Paul gave to Peter—as Paul boldly did in love for Peter—pointing to the authority of the Bible. The New Testament reigns supreme and is consistent that all foods are now clean. So when eating shrimp, lobster, pork, rabbit, and so forth, they are now classed as clean foods and part of a clean diet. Keep in mind that Christ never went back on His Word on this issue.

Cite this article: B. Hodge, Peterism—a false doctrine that still tries to invade the church, Biblical Authority Ministries, February 11, 2016, https://wordpress.com/post/biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/124.

[1] All passages NKJV unless otherwise denoted.

[2] NAS

[3] NAS

Peterism—a false doctrine that still tries to invade the church

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

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