Thinking on Drinking
a new look at an old question
by Fred P Miller


This study was first developed in 1958 to answer Jehovah's Witnesses who at that time at least, were "mighty to drink wine" and would even justify a shot of old "Grandad." Conversions to the church of Christ were brought about at that time with the material which then was stored away with only a periodic presentation sermonically.

Requests that I review a recent book alleged to advocate Christian's drinking alcoholic beverages (brought also the request that I review this material), material which we believe should constrain Christians to be non drinkers of alcohol. This material then is not developed as a refutation of a recent book but is the revival of material which has been called forth by the appearance of a recent book which advocates consumption of alcoholic beverages by Christians. We have reviewed several books on this subject. We find that all the books thus reviewed advocating Christians drinking alcohol contain about the same kind of errors. These are:

1. The desire by the authors themselves to drink alcohol which prejudges their conclusions.

2. Only scripture verses supporting their own point of view are noted and then only superficially.

3. The books lack a study of Hebrew forms. There are 11 different words translated wine in the King James Bible. Six of them mean non-alcoholic drink. This fact is never cited in prejudiced treatments on "wine."

4. The Greek word "oinos" is a generic word which fact is never noticed by advocates of alcohol. They err by seeing every mention of "oinos" in the New Testament as referring to alcoholic wine.

5. There are very obvious mistakes in logic, i.e. "Noah drank wine and got drunk. Noah was a Godly man. Therefore all Godly men can drink wine and get drunk occasionally." This syllogism carries a poor claim to even mediocre reasoning powers. Not that this writer lays any claim to superior intelligence. On the contrary, he is just an ordinary Christian trying to do God's will.

6. Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8, 10 present the "stumbling block concept" from two very different points of view. Advocates of alcohol rarely, if ever, see the Corinthian point which will be outlined below in detail later.

7. The Biblical historical context of wine-making and drinking is erroneously judged from a twentieth century context. A serious error.

8. Off-hand or even sarcastic rejection of facts is an error. It does not change the facts. For instance the study which Ferrar Fenton made of the mention of wine in the classics and early church literature is valid and not to be lightly disposed of. Sarcasm is not logic. It may be entertaining but such "reasoning" clouds the truth and aids error.

9. It is an error to say that Christian opposition to alcohol creates alcoholics, akin to the error that sin is in the world because the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil was in the garden of Eden; or it is God's fault that sinners will be in Hell because God made Hell.

10. Many arguments are in error because they are based on "straw men" i.e. conclusions no one makes that are brought up simply to be batted down. A false assumption or a statement that does not speak to the point can be a straw man. For instance seeing an alleged "holier than thou" attitude in a non-drinker is a judgmental opinion of another man's heart and even if sustained, has little to do with whether it is right or wrong to drink alcohol. It is a straw man.

We therefore need to know facts: What does the Bible teach about wine and other drinks. Let us find out and then make some conclusions. With difficulties inherent in human nature we intend to do our best to expose every verse and thought that God has put in the Bible on wine and other alcoholic drinks. We do not want to avoid some verses or limit our study to only those verses which seem to support our view.

The present writer does however confess to having been a drinker of alcohol, - not a drunkard, - although drunk on rare occasions it was not a habit in his pre-christian life. When he became a Christian he repented of getting drunk, or tipsy, or happy hearted as sins of the flesh. Never did any preacher lead him to these early conclusions. The Holy Spirit leads His dear children along. Thus as he grew in the Spirit scriptural principles were seen that lead mature Christians not to use their liberty as a cloak for their own lusts, nor do mature Christians seek from wine the feelings available from the Holy Spirit (Eph 5: 18). This writer therefore does write as a non-drinker of alcohol and believes that that is the way that all Christians should live. Let us review the material that led him to those conclusions.

Thinking on Drinking: A New Look at an Old Question.


I n any study about what the Bible teaches about wine it is necessary to research the original language as there are actually 11 Hebrew words which have been translated by the one English word "wine." Each Hebrew word has a different meaning though all are somehow related to the juice of the grape.

Method of search: After noting the differences in meaning it will still be necessary to make a careful search as words may still change their meaning in context. Especially in reading the King James Bible it is necessary to read with understanding when one wants to clearly perceive the subject of "wine".

Neither will a superficial look at a verse do. any more than a mind set in its ways. I remember once as a young preacher in a country church in Missouri, while I was presenting similar material, my lecture was broken into half way through. Some of the older Sunday School teachers said loudly, "We've heard this kind of thing for 20 years and it never did do any good." And it didn't.

Let us approach this study with a more open mind and "search whether these things be so." Let's begin by noticing all the words in the Hebrew Bible that are translated "wine". Then let us see how the words are used in context to see further what they mean. Let us not draw conclusions simply on the definition.


The following definitions may be checked in Gesenius, Strong, Tregelles or any other standard Hebrew Lexicon.

These are taken from Strong and Gesenius.

Means: to effervesce (as fermented) by implication intoxication. - translated wine, banqueting, wine (bibber). Gesenius says it gets its name from a root meaning to effervesce, ferment. It is used 144 times in the O.T. mostly but not always refers to alcoholic wine.

(From yarash, to expel) meaning: "must' or fresh grape juice (as just squeezed out) by implication (as it is to become) fermented wine. -- translated new wine, sweet wine. Used 36 times in the O.T. always means fresh grape juice except for Hos. 3:11 by metonomy.(Gesenius)

An intoxicant, intensely alcoholic liquor: translated strong drink drunk and, strong wine translated 16 times strong drink, one time wine.

from CHemas, to boil, hence ferment, wine (as fermenting) -translated pure, red, wine. Used 7 times as wine including Belshazzar's feast which uses the Aramaic form CHemra' above: for the Hebrew form (CHemer) see Isa. 28:2.

: from Asas to squeeze out juice. meaning: must or fresh grape juice as just trodden out. -translated juice, new wine, sweet wine, Used 5 times in the O.T. 4 times translated wine.

preserved settlings of wine on lees. Translated 2 times wine.

: a winevat into which wine drains or in which grapes are crushed, -translated fats (archaic for vats)-presses-press fat-wine (press) Used I time as wine in Deut. 16:13

wine mixed with water or spices translated drink offering -mixed wine. Used 1 time as wine.

potation (i.e. alcoholic liquor) concr. wine; abstr. carousel. -Translated drink, drunken, wine. Used 1 time as wine.

Meaning to bear fruit, a grape, a ripe grape,-wine -Translated I time wine Hos. 3: I meton intox KJV raisin cakes in Revised Version.

from a root meaning to tread out grapes- a wine press translated wine 1 time Neh 13: 15


A. Out of then 11 words translated "wine" five mean non-alcoholic grape juice.

1. Tiyrosh: fresh juice.
2. Yekeb: fresh wine perhaps bubbly but not intoxicating.
3, Anab: meaning the fruit of the grape, not intoxicating.
4, Asiys: juice just trodden out.
5, Gath: the winepress but by metonomy wine, not fermented.

B: Five of the 11 words refer to intoxicants.

1. Shekar: Strong intoxicant. Num. 28:7.
2. Hemar: fermented red wine Dan 5:1, 2, 4
3. Mamsak: wine mixed with water and spices, intoxicating Prov. 23:30.
4. Sobe: wine of carousel Is. 1:22.
5. Shemar: settlings of wine of what is left among the lees.

C. One of the 11 generally means intoxicating wine but with many contextual exceptions.

Yayin is called yayin from the time it is processed when at first it must correspond to Tiyrosh but also during all stages of fermentation, from the time it is freshly pressed to fermentation it is called yayin. It is really used more like the American word cider than the word "wine", which current English speaking people almost always take to mean an alcoholic drink. Cider is cider when it is fresh pressed and even before, i.e. "cider apples" and when it is peppy enough to be more flavorful but not strong with fermentation. The analogy may differ a little when it turns "hard" though it is still called "cider," (it is hardly a delicious drink as it is quite nasty at that stage.) Thus "cider" is a more apt. comparison of the use of Hebrew word Yayin since it (i.e. cider), describes the juice of the apple at all stages. so does "yayin" the juice of the grape at all stages Therefore it will be found in contexts that are both negative and positive, that is approving and disapproving. It is a mixed blessing and often a curse. (only a person seeking to justify intoxication would see Noah awaking from his wine to curse a portion of his posterity or Lot's drunkenness masking the conception of incestuous bastardy (a poor start for the Ammonites and Moabites) as a good context.


A. Yayin:

Places in the Bible where Yayin is used where it means non-intoxicating:

1. Is 16:10 "no one treads out wine in the winepresses." It could not possibly be fermented if it is still in the wine press. Here it is only yayin by intent of what it is to become In the winepress it is only juice and could not be fermented.

2. Jeremiah 40: 10 "Harvest the wine and summer fruit and store it in jars."

3. Jer. 40:12 "They harvested abundance of wine and summer fruit." Here the wine is still in the grape i.e. what is harvested and the juice stored in jars is not fermented. When they harvested the abundance it was not yet fermented so only called wine because that is what it would become. As yet it was grape juice. Thus, in some contexts the word refers to non-intoxicating yayin.

4. Jar. 48:33 "stop the flow of wine from the winepresses."

5. Is. 2:12 (probably to be taken the same way), "corn and wine to fail."

In these contexts the word yayin is used of the end product when speaking of both the ripe fruit and that which flows out of the winepress. It is only yayin by metonomy while in actual fact it is grape juice pressed to make yayin. Thus "yayin" does not always refer to alcoholic wine though that is its general meaning.


The following examples of the use of Yayin are in a negative context, that is, where the word "wine" is spoken of as producing undesirable effects or there are negative prohibitions associated with it. It should here be stated that blessings of wine spoken about in the Bible are never Yayin, always Tiyrosh. With one exception to be later noted.

the word "wine" in each of the following passages is "yayin" in Hebrew:

Noah awoke from his wine, Gen 9:24; Their wine is the poison of dragons, Deut. 32:33; Put away your wine from you, I Sam. 1:14; Amnon's heart was merry with wine, 2 Sa. 13:28; When the wine had gone out of Nabal, 2 Sam. 25:37; The King was merry with wine; Esth. 1:10; The wine of astonishment, Ps. 60:3; Wine of the temptress, Prov. 9:2,5; Wine is a mocker, Prov. 20:1; He that loves wine will not be rich, 21:17; They that tarry long at the wine, 23:30: Look not on the wine when..., 23:31; Not for kings to drink wine, 31:4; Until wine inflame you, Is. 5:11; mighty to drink wine, 5:22; overcome with wine, 28:7; Like a man whom wine hath overcome, Jar. 23:9; made him sick with bottles of wine, Hos. 7:5; Sold a girl for wine, Joel 3:3; drink the wine of the condemned, Amos 2:8; drink wine in bowls, 6:6; The prophet of wine is a people pleaser, Mic. 2:11; Transgress by wine, Hab 2:5; Make a noise as through wine, Zec 9:15.

The point to be driven home here is that yayin is spoken of in negative contexts in a natural way. Tiyrosh, fresh juice, never.- it does not once appear in a negative context (with one exception by metonomy.)


The word "wine" in each of the following is Tiyrosh in Hebrew:

Blessings of.....corn and wine, Gen 27:28; All the best of the wine, Nm. 18:12; (Israel blessed) in a land of corn and wine, Deut. 33:28; Wine which cheers the hearts of God and men, Judges 9: 13; The first fruits of corn and wine, 2Chr.31:5;a land of corn and wine (a blessing), Is.36:17; "I (God) gave her corn and wine," Hos 2:8; (when God blesses the) wine will make the maidens beautiful, Zec. 9: 17; The "tithe of wine" was always Tiyrosh, Deut. 12: 17; 14:23

There were drink offerings of yayin (alcoholic) but these were not drunk by the Priests in the tabernacle as will be seen below. They were poured on the sacrifice or the altar or on the ground. Because the tithe always came from the first fruits of the harvest it is obvious why Tiyrosh was always the tithe. Yayin was not tithed because only the first fruits were tithed and yayin had to be tiyrosh first before it fermented. Thus only tiyrosh was a part of the tithe. Thus it is that Tiyrosh is never spoken of in a negative context! It is always a blessing! Yayin is a mixed blessing, though it rejoices men's hearts it does not rejoice God's heart. Ps. 104:15 speaks of the yayin that rejoices men's hearts (only) while in Judges 9:13 tiyrosh is spoken of as cheering the hearts of God and men. (Not all men to be sure, some must have alcohol added to it.) There is no verse which says that yayin is a blessing (save the mixed one in Ps. 104) in the way that Tiyrosh is a blessing. No verse that says "I gave her corn and yayin." We believe this to be significant.

When the Bible says that God is sending blessings of wine it is always Tiyrosh. When the Bible says that God is withholding blessings of wine it is always Tiyrosh. See Hos 2:8, 9, 22; Joel 1:1 0; 2: 19; 2:24; Is. 24:27; 36: 17 (Never Yayin)! Tiyrosh then generally means grape juice as in Is.65:8 "Tiyrosh is found in the cluster." However there are grape juices that were meant to be made into alcoholic wine so there is one context where tiyrosh may refer to fermented wine as in Hos 3:11 by metonomy but no other example is found in the Bible,- not one they all speak of tiyrosh as the "wine of first fruits" Nu. 18:12; Deut 7:13 "gather in your wine in harvest" Deut 11:14; "Tithe of wine" (fresh pressed as first fruits) Deut 12:17; 14:23; 18:4; "first fruits of wine" 2Chron 31:5; "Wine of increase" 2 Chron 32:28; Neh 5:11, and many other verses.

Thus of these two words. though yayin is said to make men happy it is never spoken of making God happy or as a blessing to or from God, while Tiyrosh is spoken of as a blessing to both God and men. Interesting isn't it? Tiyrosh is grape juice, non alcoholic it cheers God and men.


When God speaks prophetically of the coming age of blessings when there will be overflowing wine and the hills and streams will run down with wine. It is in both cases "asiys." With such wine God promises to bless the future age of Joel 3:19 and Amos 9:13, While in contrast. God says, Jeremiah 13:12, ' Every wine skin shall be full of wine" (yayin). In that place it means that everyone will be drunk as a divine judgement and punishment.


"Oinos" is a generic word

When the Greek translation of the Bible, called the Septuagint, was made about 280 B.C. each and every one of the 11 Hebrew words noted here were translated by one Greek word "oinos". As already noted the KJV followed the same pattern. Since "oinos" is put in the Septuagint for all eleven of the Hebrew words it plainly shows the generic use of the word "oinos." Therefore, it is impossible to say that the word itself, by itself, means alcoholic or non-alcoholic grape juice. It must be made clear by the context it is in. In the King James New Testament the word "wine" translates he Greek word "oinos" in all cases with the one exception of Acts 2: 13. Thus in the New Testament the English word "wine" is always generic. It simply means juice of the grape, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic. An immediate consequence should be seen as to the perception of the word by people prejudiced either in favor of total abstinence or for "social drinking" or "private drinking", - that is that the word "opinion" ought to play a part in a continuing discussion. A dogmatic approach on ones opinion of what a particular translation rendering of the word "oinos" may mean, without taking the text and context into consideration. indicates a prejudged and opinionated conclusion which contains very little merit. You see, it will do little good "to look it up in the Greek" as it is generic in Greek too!

Therefore, if "oinos" means non-alcoholic grape juice in any verse (as it most certainly does in Mt. 9:17, Mk 2:22 Luke 5:37 and most likely does in Rev.6:6; 18:13) that does not mean the word means "non-alcoholic." in every other context. Especially is this so since it is obvious that the same word means intoxicating grape juice in Mt.11:19; Lu. 7:34; Eph 5:18; 2Tim 3:3; 3:8: Tit. 1:7; Tit. 2:3; I Pet. 4:3: Rev. 14:8,10 ( by metonomy) 16:19; 17:2; and 18:3 all of which are negative notices by the way.) All these contexts make it clear that the grape juice is alcoholic and they are negative inferences to the wine and its effects or the act of drinking it. However, since we can not say whether the word "oinos" means either alcoholic or non-alcoholic then we must study further into the contexts where if is used.

We bring our likes and experiences (to any problem and interpret it according to our own background. The wedding feast of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine is a good example. Some people have not seen a wedding (or a funeral for that matter) without the confusion and folly the fool calls joy that is brought on by alcoholic wine. It is hard for such a one to see a non-alcoholic wedding feast at Cana. But we intend to analyze this opinion and show why it is more reasonable to conclude that the "oinos" at Cana refers to non-alcoholic wine which was consumed. For instance, If Jesus went to a wedding feast with many guests, say 200, that would be a big one wouldn't it?, - and say he made 200 gallons of alcoholic wine, all now consumed. What kind of debauch would that have been? In the light of Hab 2:15 it seems probable that Jesus did not supply the potential for "all Hell to break loose."


Beside the negative references to alcoholic wines in the Old Testament which make their use extremely questionable for a Christian whose righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, there are prophetic types and figures in the Old Testament that the spiritually minded man will take find the antitype and substance of in the new Testament.


We actually take it for granted, don't we?, - Egypt represents the life of sinful bondage, the Red Sea experience is baptism, (l Cor.10) "baptized unto Moses" and many of the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness have their antitypes in the New Testament experiences. The journey through the wilderness is the Christian life in type: the manna, the shekina, tabernacle, water from the rock, the rock itself, have fulfillments in the New Testament Christian's life. Even the longing for the flesh pots of Egypt has its antitype in the temptation for a return to the attractions of the world of sin. The Jordan we sing about in song like: "I won't have to cross Jordan alone," or "Will the water be chilly," or, "The crossing must be near," with the promised land on the other side, are figurative thoughts that evoke deep emotions within us because we know there is much more in the type of crossing Jordan or standing on its banks to see the other side than a river in Palestine.

In the light of this type-antitype system: How would you see Deut. 29:6? which says that no wine (yayin) or strong drink was drunk in the wilderness experience at all, none, not a drop! What implications are there for the antitype in the Christian life? Obviously wine (yayin) and strong drink are absent from the Christian life to the one seeing the fulfillment of our journey paralleled in type in the Hebrew Holy Scriptures.


The Old Testament Tabernacle is also a type of the church, "the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man." According to Hebrews 8,9;10 the true tabernacle, the church, is the antitype the physical tabernacle. Each priest under the old system approached the tabernacle with a sacrifice on the altar of burnt offering which was consumed. Rom. 12:1, In the Old Testament system.The laver of washing was outside the door of the tabernacle after which the priest entered into the first room where there was the altar (whose anti-type is continual prayer) and the weekly unleavened bread (communion) and the daily trimming of the light (Bible study) these prechristian types of Christian worship there all carried out, separated only by a thin veil from the presence of God where the High Priest has entered with his blood to atone for sins. These types and the applications would be difficult to misapply in the New Testament. What did the priest do with alcoholic drink in the tabernacle?


There is only one mention in the Old Testament of strong drink in the tabernacle. It was then a variety of a drink offering, a sacrifice offered by the priest, but he was not to drink it! It was to be poured out on the ground! Numbers 28:7 "the drink offering is...of fermented drink. Pour out the drink offering to the Lord at the sanctuary." That is, it was poured out before he entered what corresponded to the church. Since the priest in the Old Testament finds his antitype in the New Testament Christian (not in a special order of leaders I Pet 2:5,9 and Rev. 3:6; 5:10) These New Testament passages make it clear that every Christian is a priest. Since every Christian fulfills the type of the Aaronic priest in the tabernacle. What in your opinion is the antitype of the type presented by the Old Testament priest pouring the drink offering out on the ground? The priest did not drink the strong drink, he poured it out! I suggest that we as Christians do the same.


The instructions of what a priest should eat and drink in the tabernacle follow immediately the death of Nadab and Abihu in the same context. Thereby punctuating the importance of following instructions given by God. In Lev 10 there are four warnings underscored by "or you will die." One warning went unheeded and Nadab and Abihu died! Quite a responsibility being a priest! Do you think that the superior priesthood of the true tabernacle has any less responsibilities connected with it?, The second warning was that Aaron and his remaining sons were not to show any anguish at the deaths, "or you will die." 10:6 Third: they were allowed to mourn within limits but not to leave the door of the tabernacle while the anointing oil was upon them, "or you will die" 10:7 The fourth warning we are noting has to do with eating and drinking in the tabernacle with instructions to eat all of the sacrifice apportioned to them either in or out of the tabernacle but here our type system is called upon again. "You and your sons are not to drink wine (yayin) or other fermented drink (shekar) when ever you go into the tent of meeting "OR YOU WILL DIE." Lev. 10:9 and the reason for it, "you must distinguish between the holy and the profane."

Since all Christians are priests in the new system and are therefore the antitype of the old, what is the antitype of the commandment that the priest is not to drink alcoholic beverages in the tabernacle? It is the opinion of this writer that the antitype of the tabernacle can not be a place. John 4:21-24 Neither is it limited to the Sunday morning worship service and certainly not the church leaders only, because all Christians are priests. Therefore since all Christians are priests continually in the spiritual tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man; each Christian must find meaning then in the type of not drinking alcoholic wine or strong drink in !he tabernacle. Is it far fetched to conclude that the Christians (O.T. priest) with a spiritual mind (anointed) will see an application of abstinence from alcoholic drink as a part of their Christian life after baptism? We think not and see no other possible application for these types!


Verses that are often used to show that drinking of alcoholic wine is acceptable show nothing of the kind.


We have already shown that the Greek word "oinos" in the Bible does not always mean alcoholic wine. To us as English speakers the word "oinos" can not be used to make a distinction between alcoholic and non-alcoholic Hebrew words because "oinos" is generic, i.e. it means grape juice in any form, alcoholic or not. We've also noted that every context in the New Testament where the use of "wine" is obviously alcoholic is a generally negative context, that is condemning, forbidding or generally negating its use. This ought to be enough to convince a follower of Christ to abstain from alcohol but we see, unfortunately, that some people don't want to give up alcohol even though they want to retain a religious connection. Micah describes a similar condition in his day saying, "If a man walking in the spirit of falsehood do lie, saying I will prophesy unto you of wine; he shall even be the prophet of this people" Micah 2:11


"Don't fill yourself with wine wherein is excess but fill yourself with the spirit:" Eph 5:18. This verse plainly explains the spiritual "high" that is available to the Christian. This kind of exhilaration can't be drunk from a bottle. In fact the flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The exhilaration that is in the bottle is a fleshly high and therefore will actually inhibit the growth of the Holy Spirit within. Don't put the "high" of wine inside yourself but put the "high" of the Holy Spirit's spiritual experiences of singing and music with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thanksgiving.


A news item in the Daily London Telegraph by the health service correspondent was headed "More than 5 pints a day dangerous." The article went on to say, "Five pints of beer a day or its equivalent in wine or spirits is the maximum that can be drunk without risk to health. The British Medical Association said yesterday. Even then the drink should be taken at intervals throughout the day and the drinker should make strenuous efforts to reduce consumption to not more than 3 pints a day...... taken at intervals throughout the day." (Alcoholism is a frighteningly increasing problem in Britain which has raised great concern from the Health Service.)

The idea of three or four bottles at one sitting is certainly a "dangerous" thing according to those who are more apt than I am to know about health risks. Further evidence along this line is seen in a recent North Sea oil disaster. Not that the cause was drinking. To the contrary, it is evident because of company policy that rules would have to be broken to drink heavily as a recent news item made clear. These rules stated that only two bottles of beer were allowed to men working on off shore oil rigs and that they would be subject to dismissal for hoarding the bottles to be drunk later. They must be consumed when received and not kept for the morrow! Even two bottles would not be allowed during work as it would impair judgement! You do not have to be a Christian to be reasonable when economics initiate business decisions on drinking behavior.


Accusations were hurled at Jesus while he was here in the earth that are untrue. Let us note some of them. They said that the healings he performed were by the power of Satan. Does this mean that he dabbled in witchcraft and that they merely exaggerated what he was doing? No! they certainly lied about who he was and by whom he cast out demons. They said that he was a Samaritan and that he had a devil. (Jo.8:48) Was there any basis in fact to these accusations? Some said that he was "beside himself," i.e. insane. (Mk. 3:21) Did they mistake a charismatic frenzy for insanity or was it just plain slander? Surely each of these cases was a case of mere slander and outright lies. Some say that the Pharisees accusations that Jesus was a winebibber indicates an exaggeration of his moderate use of alcoholic wine. Several other accusations in this category were made about Jesus. He was accused of being a friend of publicans and sinners. He was accused of being associated with publicans and sinners in their drinking bouts. Matt 11:19, Luke 7:34. When each of these verses are seen in their contexts the accusations are seen to be baseless falsehoods and the slanderers are seen as perpetrators of the same false judgements and false slanders with the intent to injure the moral character of Jesus. They are lies.

I am sure that Jesus knew the O.T. prohibition in Prov. 23:20 "Be not among winebibbers." And he surely did not contradict the word of God but lived in harmony with the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The answer here is quite simple. The Pharisees said that John the Baptist had a devil because he was an ascetic, he dressed, ate, and lived according to Nazarite restrictions. He would therefore eat no grapes, raisins, grape jelly, jam or juice and submitted to other restrictions of diet. Jesus, however, lived like an ordinary man and he had no dietary restrictions on him. They said that John had a devil and that Jesus was a glutton and a winebibber. If, on this false assumption, Jesus drank a little alcoholic wine, is it true that John had a little devil? Isn't it more realistic to see the Pharisees remarks as slander with no basis in fact. Their accusations do not indicate a moderate use of spirits on Jesus part. John ate nothing that came from the grape non-alcoholic or otherwise. They lied about him. He did not have a devil, big or small. They also lied about Jesus, he was not a glutton nor a winebibber. The verses that say that John came neither eating nor drinking while Jesus came both eating and drinking is far afield from the idea that John did not drink alcohol and Jesus did. It has nothing to do with alcohol. John and Jesus were simply both lied about.


The Pharisees complaint (in Mt.9:17) that "your master eats with publicans and sinners" is taken by some to mean that Jesus went with gluttons and winebibbers and shared the same fare and activities with them. A simple reading of the context will show that Jesus was not with the publicans and sinners doing what they did. On the contrary the publicans and sinners were with Jesus doing what Jesus did. Many other sinners through the years like Matthew, found that their association with Jesus changed their lives. Many in that day and in this day still find Jesus and make him their friend, but on his terms, not on theirs. His terms include the putting away of the things of the flesh. Therefore let us see the publicans and sinners in Matthew's house as being with Jesus and not as the Pharisees saw and accused him of having the publican's way of life. Since I met Jesus beside alcohol there are places I don't go, things I don't do, things I don't listen to, things I don't taste anymore! Thank God he took away from me my dependance on habits at the flesh.


Phil 4:5 says, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." Drink that can make you drunk can hardly be used in moderation. Anyone who will occasionally decide that it is a good thing to celebrate with alcohol will confirm that moderation is more than difficult. Occasional celebrants will occasionally get drunk and not be in control of their actions. It is a misuse to apply this verse to alcohol. It would be just as reasonable to apply it to any fleshly excess common to men. Apply it to LSD for instance, as some can be found to do, or to smoking dope which young people often feel the same way about. They only use it with moderation. Or apply it to tobacco or hash, or heroin or speed or similar things. An application like this allows too much and is obviously faulty no matter how logical it may sound. What is moderation in the use of alcoholic drink? Each man is left adrift in the obscure realms of existential opinion where human experience alone is the criterium of truth. I actually read what was presented as a serious attempt to show Christians should drink alcoholic beverages to relieve the tension of life. In spite of this being contrary to the admonition of the Holy Spirit in Eph 5:18. The author advocated up to four bottles of beer every night for the "tired" Christian. Of course most will see this as an extreme not to be found often, but what is to limit "moderate" to four. Another man might consider 5, 8, or 10 bottles moderation and insist on making "his" moderation known to all men!

I suggest we follow the tabernacle type and "pour it on the ground." Make the sacrifice! Find your exhilaration in the Holy Spirit and mark and avoid such foolish advisers who promise liberty while they ensnare the unwary into bondage again.

Further the verse under discussion is misapplied as the word moderation translated so in the KJV is "epieikas" meaning suitableness, appropriateness, it is also translated gentleness and patience. Certainly a non user of alcohol better fits the definitions here than one who consumes a "moderate" four bottles of beer a night or any amount.


Several seemingly irrelevant incidentals take on greater importance under closer examination of this incident. Some of the problems that occupy commentators who seek to unravel the incident at Cana of Galilee are:

1. Does the word "draw out" (Gr. antleo) imply the miracle of turning water to wine took place apart from the water pots mentioned in the text? (antleo means draw out of a deep place)

2. Does the measure of the water pots indicate the measure of the wine offered to the ruler of the feast? (approx. 200 gallons)

3. Can the word "well drunken" (Gr. Methuo) meaning inebriated, be harmonized with a sinless Jesus? (Drunkenness as well as contributing to getting people drunk is sin.)

4. Was the ruler of the feast a part of the wedding party?

5. Did the ruler of the feast refer to the wedding party when he described what often happened at wedding parties in his experience?

6. Did Jesus make a large quantity of wine or a small quantity. Rephrased: Did the servants bear wine from the water source whether in the pots or other wise, or did they dip into the wine which had been water?

7. Did Jesus make more intoxicating beverage, in a large quantity to add to that which had already been consumed, for those who were already intoxicated?

Observations on the text:

The Greek word antleo which is translated "draw Out" means to draw water from the source or out of a deep place. That is implicit in the word.. It is possible that Jesus referred to the pots of water since they are described in detail in the narrative, the number and the measure and their purpose being given. What may be implied however from the word "draw out" (from the well) and bear to the ruler of the feast. In this event (supported by Barnes Wesscott, Moulton and others) the miracle was in the borne vessels and not in the source. It is likely therefore that even if the water was drawn out of the water pots the miracle was in the same measure. That is, not wine in the pots but wine when drawn to the ruler of the feast. There is no reason to suppose that Jesus made so much wine (the approximate measure of the six pots was about 200 gallons) that the bridal couple had enough to stake them to a large dowry through its sale as supposed by some.

When the wine borne by the servants was brought to the ruler of the feast to replenish the failing supply, the manager of the feast (probably a caterer hired for the occasion) called the bride groom to express his surprise.

Several things put his comments in focus. Lets see them before we note his comments. Several things made this feast different.

1. This wedding party had a religious nature. The water pots were for religious purposes of ritual cleansing. This was a religious group.

2. Jesus' mother was intimate enough with the wedding party to know that arrangements were failing.

3. Jesus was an invited guest.

4. Jesus' disciples were invited as guests to this wedding. The manager of this feast was ruling a feast for a group of very religious people. And that this was a different kind of occasion than the ordinary party he usually oversaw is seen in the manager's expression to the bride groom. Freely translated the manager said, "It is the usual procedure at wedding feasts (since that was his job he was in a position to know) that people set out their best wine first and then after people have drunk themselves numb, then the poorer quality is offered." He said, "You have not followed that procedure but have kept what is obviously best till last."

"Drunk themselves numb" is not a hyperbole as the word that the manager used translated "well drunken" means inebriated,--drunk. However the manager's use of the word drunkenness does not refer to the conditions of the wedding at Cana. The manager does say that is what is done by others but as the procedure of presenting the best quality first was not followed neither was the manner of over drinking alcoholic wine followed. The reference is a third person reference and not to those present. (see Barnes, Moulton and others).

If however for sake of developing the argument we suppose that the wedding party was all ready satiated with wine, (inebriated is the word the manager used) and Jesus made what some commentators suppose was between 150 to 200 Gallons of the best, that is to an alcohol lovers taste: the most potent of wines. (people given to moderation, temperance, gentleness, would consider the best to be an invigorating sparkling drink which was gentle and safe and non-intoxicating) the result would have been Jesus' responsibility not theirs. They too would have been accountable shortly if not already. But Habakkuk 2:15 says "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk so that he can gaze on their naked bodies." It is not necessary to see the victims naked to be guilty of the woe. Hab. 2:15 makes it plain that it is a sin to give people drink and to make them drunk. If Jesus gave drunk people more alcoholic drink at Cana then Jesus would be a sinner according to Hab 2:15 and other scriptures. Jesus is not a sinner. He did not make alcoholic wine at Cana of Galilee. The people there were not already drunk and they did not get inebriated later from the miraculous wine of heaven made from water by Jesus.

Some People Want To Conclude That Alcohol was Consumed at Cana For Reasons Motivated By Self Indulgence.

There are some people bent on drinking alcohol. We doubt that they can be convinced otherwise. Some religious denominations are doctrinally committed to drinking alcoholic drinks. We will refer to one book, "Religion and Drink," by (Rev) E.A. Wasson PHD Rector of ST Stephens Episcopal Church Newark, N.J., whose preface claims his book to be the most extensive study in the English language on the subject. All who follow him with their dissertations whether large or small, studious or pitiable, cover about the same ground and fall into the same errors on account of the same prejudged proposition, i.e., "Drink up boys, Jesus approves of it!"

Another error is phrased "Lots of people in the Bible whom we know will be in heaven got drunk so we can too." Could we not therefore conclude that some saints committed fornication or worse like Rahab, Tamar, Judah, Samson and David, so we can too? These follow the same "logic" when they say that Noah, Lot, Judah, David and Solomon, got drunk so we can too and please God while at it! May I say without ironic overtones that I am thankful that such "theologians" are rare in churches of Christ. How ever there are people among us like Mr. Wasson. Those with such similarities should be marked and avoided. They overstate their opponents passion, prejudice, ignorance, injury to others, and they see in their opponents a biased viewpoint, and a desire to retard the TRUTH, while they alone seek the truth. They claim "unassailable conclusions" which are "impeccably logical." But their conclusions are often sarcastic which is hardly logical. Their scope is usually limited, for instance Wassons Book (which does run over 300 pages) treats only two of the eleven Hebrew words in the O.T. translated wine. He comes to the impossible conclusion that Yayin and Tiyrosh are equivalents! We have shown that there are more differences than mere sound of the name of the words. Rather than logic and exegetical study of the scriptures what is more often found is an a unwarranted self assurance supported by preconceptions, false assumptions, limited study, biased conclusions, questionable logic, shallow scholarship, sarcasm, and irony, and an obvious desire to drink alcoholic beverages.


These verses warn us not to get lost in a maze of mere human prohibitions. As the not eating of certain foods or drinking certain drinks or laying restrictions on ourselves which discipline the body but they don't really change the inner man.

The material in these verses is important to the spiritual man and it seems a shame not to enlarge, for several pages, on the real meaning of these verses. Because it is truly possible to abstain from lots of physical things and not do one iota of Holy Spirit growing nor to inhibit the basic sensuality still raging in the man of the flesh. However important it is to make this clear our study here is designed to see if the freedom demanded and taken to drink alcohol is what was in the mind of the apostle in Col 2. If the apostle was saying that you should not make rules against drinking alcoholic beverages for yourself then it is not in harmony with other passages of scripture like Eph. 5:18 and many others. Not drinking alcoholic drinks is no more asceticism or living a spartan lifestyle or an excessive austerity than not dropping acid or not smoking dope, is spartan or austere. It is well said that one could be a non-drinker and still not rid himself of evil fantasies, and basic sensuality. Just like a person can be baptized outwardly with out an inward change. However I suggest that all Christians seek an inward change with water baptism on the outside and at the same time let their repentance include not putting alcohol inside their bodies for several holy reasons already stated in this study. You will gain much more inner strength with the Holy Spirit than with bottled spirit and bottled spirits will inhibit the Holy Spirit according to Eph 5:18. Which says, "Do not fill yourself with wine wherein there is excess, but fill yourself with the Holy Spirit." The person who says that you should find exhilaration in a bottle is countermanding the Holy Spirit.


I've never met a confirmed user of alcohol who did not know and misuse this verse of scripture, It is not unlike the spirit of evil to keep the phrase "use a little wine" in a facetious way before the mind of the frequenter of the pub. In a like way in England "Courage" is a name of a popular alcoholic drink. It derives its name from the martyrdom of two English preachers in Oxford, -Ridley and Latimer. While dying in the flames Ridley began to come apart with fear. His companion supported him with these words, "Take courage brother Ridley for we light a candle today in Europe such as shall never be put out." Those heroic words were expropriated and debased by the liquor industry. The words "Take Courage" are boldly printed on many English Pubs today. The uttered words "Take Courage brother Ridley" can still be heard as a patron lifts his own pint of personal courage to his lips. So, are the words of this verse of scripture misused and the phrase "use a little wine" abused beyond their purpose. The words of Albert Barnes on this passage may not be out of place here:

"In view of this passage, and as a further explanation of it we may make the following remarks: (1) The use of wine, and of all intoxicating drinks, was solemnly forbidden to the priests under the Mosaic Law when engaged in the performance of their sacred duties Lev x,9,10, The same was the case among the Egyptian priests, Clarke, Comp. Notes on ch, iii, 3, It is not improbable that the same thing would be regarded as proper among those who ministered in holy things under the Christian dispensation, The natural feeling would be, and not improperly, that a Christian minister should not be less holy than a Jewish priest, and especially when it is remembered that the reason of the Jewish law remained the same "that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and clean and unclean," (2,) It is evident from this passage that Timothy usually drank water only, or that in modern language, he was a "tee-totaller, " He was, evidently not in the habit of drinking wine, or he could not have been exhorted to do it. (3.) He must have been a remarkably temperate youth to have required the authority of an apostle to induce him to drink even a little wine. See Doddridge. There are few young men so temperate as to require such an authority to induce them to do it. (4.) The exhortation extended only to a very moderate use of wine. It was not to drink it freely; it was not to drink it at the tables of the rich and the great, or in the social circle; it was not even to drink it by itself; it was to use "a little," mingled with water -for this was the usual method. See Athenaeus Deipmo. lib. ix. x. c.7. (5.) It was not as a common drink, but the exhortation or command extends only to its use as a medicine. All the use which can be legitimately made of this injunction whatever conclusion may be drawn from other precepts -is, that it is proper to use a small quantity of wine for medicinal purposes. (6.) There are many ministers of the gospel, now, alas! to whom under no circumstances could an apostle apply this exhortation - "Drink no longer water only." They would ask, with surprise, what he meant? whether he intended it an irony and for banter -for they need no apostolic command to drink wine. Or if he should address to them the exhortation, "Use a little wine," they could regard it only as a reproof for their usual habit of drinking much. To many, the exhortation would be appropriate, if they thought to use wine at all, only because they are in the habit of using so much, that it would be proper to restrain them to a much smaller quantity. (7.) This whole passage is one of great value to the cause of temperance. Timothy was undoubtedly in the habit of abstaining wholly from the use of wine Paul knew this and he did not reprove him for it He manifestly favored the general habit, and only asked him to depart in some small degree from it, in order that he might restore and preserve his health. So far, and no farther, is it right to apply this language in regard to the use of wine; and the minister who should follow this injunction would be in no danger of disgracing his sacred profession by the debasing and demoralizing sin of intemperance. "The use of wine" pg 1157 notes on N.T. one volume.

There could be only one reason to use this verse I Tim 5:23 to justify drinking a water glass full of wine or four bottles of beer as the equivalent. That idea could certainly not be derived from this verse. To use this verse to justify such an amount may be dishonest, - or worse from the standpoint of sheep using such a guide for a shepherd. Poor Shepherd! Poor Sheep! There is another explanation of this verse which is worth noting. Some cast doubt on the methods or ability available to Biblical people to preserve grape juice. Preservation methods were not unknown and have been described by a number of writers. Just as any sweet syrup like molasses, sorghum or maple syrup is made from dilutants which will naturally ferment unless they are boiled down to a highly concentrated form which is then incapable of fermentation, - Like Honey, it is possible for it to mold but it will not ferment due to the highly concentrated form, - So grape juice was and is able to be boiled down to a concentrated syrup, a "must," which can be simply reconstituted with the addition of water. More than one commentator holds this to be the nature of Paul's advice. The generic use of the word "oinos" would support this position: grape juice is "oinos" whether in the grape or out of the grape, in the bottle or left in the lees, fermented or unfermented, whole, concentrated, or diluted, it is all "oinos!" This writer personally favors this opinion and recommends that any argument from this verse to justify anything more than the tiniest amount of alcohol as a medicine be rejected out of hand as not worthy of serious consideration but an obvious misuse of scripture to justify the works of the flesh and that excessively.


1. Jesus is a stumbling block -I Pet. 2:8.

2. Those who disobey the message stumble at it I Pet. 2:8. So the message becomes a stumbling block to the disobedient.

3. If you put your trust in Him, you will never fall, but if you don't trust Him, He is a rock which caused them to fall. He causes men to stumble-Rom. 9:32 -33.

4. He is at the same time a sanctuary and a stone who causes men to stumble, and makes them fall -Isa. 8:14.

5. God placed stumbling blocks, the fruit of their own plans, before his people -Jer. 6:10, 14. Ro 2:10 -Whoever loves his brother walks in light and has no occasion of stumbling in him. Within the limits of the preceding verses this is so. He will not knowingly allow in his life what he knows fellow humans are stumbling over.

Pot calling the kettle black?

There is a plaintive call that runs something like this: "l feel guilty when I drink alcohol and it makes me view the whole alcohol problem from this guilty position. It actually becomes a stumbling block to me. You don't know how my guilt feelings are multiplied by Christians who say I should not drink." This one affirms that teaching that drinking intoxicants is a sin is a stumbling block and creates guilt-ridden hearts in people who try to drown their guilt feelings in drink. Christians who say drinking beverage alcohol is a sin are guilty of building frustrations and guilt complexes that are worse than alcoholism.

This is certainly a novel idea, and ought to be thoroughly investigated. These charges are made against separated Christian living. The charge is stated in one paper this way:

The drinking of alcohol is taught as a sin in the home. The children grow up and one decides to take a drink -a wedge is driven in family solidarity. The young person feels guilty and rebellious, both sides become defensive and argumentative; all lives are affected adversely.

According to this view, their family break-up is blamed on teaching that drink is a sin. It has become a "stumbling block" to the one wanting to drink. How does this "logic" hold up under investigation. Suppose we use the same logic as in the following:

Fornication is taught as a sin in the home. Children grow up and one decides to live in fornication. A wedge is driven in family solidarity. The young person feels guilty and rebellious. Both sides become defensive and argumentative; all lives are affected adversely.

Is the family break-up to be blamed on the "foolishness" of teaching that fornication is a sin?

Further, in another home, sodomy (homosexuality) is taught to be a sin. A child grows up and decides to try sodomy/homosexuality. A wedge is driven in family solidarity. The young person feels guilty and becomes rebellious. Both sides become defensive and argumentative; all lives are affected adversely.

Is the family break-up to be blamed on teaching that sodomy is a sin?

It is tragic that in today's world there are those who will make just such an existential judgement of those maintaining moral absolutes. However, the Bible teaches that the possibility exists of the Christian becoming just this kind of stumbling block to those who disobey the message of the Gospel. Jesus is exactly this kind of stumbling block (1Pet. 2:8). If you put your trust in Him, He is an unassailable fortress. If you don't trust Him, He will MAKE you fall; He will cause you to stumble (Rom. 9:32,33). Is.8:14 prophesied as much that He would be at the same time a sanctuary and a stone who would cause men to stumble and fall. It is plain that there is a time to be unmovable. Stand with the rock or fall over it!

Even though the rebellious bring on themselves the stumbling because it is God's message they oppose, God takes the responsibility of causing them to stumble as in Jer. 6:10,14, where He says "He places the stumbling block which is the fruit of their plans."

Is the Christian who teaches that drinking alcohol is a sin a stumbling block to the drinker of alcohol? In the light of these scriptures, the answer is yes. But don't move, my Christian friend, let them stumble and fall and grope around with blind eyes living in guilt and rebellion. Let them fall down always until they turn from their rebellion and seek straight paths for their feet. Let them leave selfish pursuits and darkness and walk in the light of sobriety and spiritual power. Let those who drink wine in bowls huddle in their spider-webbed corners until they return to the rock of strength over whom they now stumble.

How then are we to understand 1Jo. 2:10, -Whoever loves his brother walks in light and has no occasion of stumbling in him." Within the limits of the preceding verses this follows. He will not knowingly allow in his life what fellow humans are stumbling over.


The Christians principle of not allowing in my life (limiting my liberty for the sake of others) things which will weaken or destroy their faith is very important. In fact, it is a principle unique to the Christian religion. It does not show up in Eastern meditative religions, Zen-Buddhism, Hinduism, in its varieties which are basically existential, nor is the principle found developed in Judaism or Mohammedism. It is uniquely Christian. Therefore, an important mark of whether you are governed by the Holy Spirit of Jesus or just religious will be the way you apply this principle of Christian living. Two important sections of the Bible deal with this principle...Romans 14 and I Cor.8,10. These two sections deal with the principle from importantly different viewpoints. The difference is essential. You must be able to see the difference to understand your obligations as a Christian.

Things that are indifferent, not evil in themselves.

Romans 14 speaks of things which have no connection with evil and are not intrinsically wrong. There is nothing intrinsically right or wrong about being a vegetarian or a flesh eater. Nor is the observance or non-observance of a day. We have less trouble with this area if we have any maturity at all because we are not called on to total abstinence- only to consider our weak brother and condescend to him. It is much easier to be noble, if only momentarily, than to impose on your self an enduring sacrifice for the sake of others. But with such sacrifices God is well pleased. See Heb. 13:15,16;

Things that are unavoidably connected with social evil

However, I Cor. 8 and 10 are a different side of the same principle, and they teach us that there are some things associated with general social-sins which become stumbling blocks which we must always and forever avoid. These chapters teach us that meat offered to idols may never be eaten once we are aware of the contamination. Idolatry is always wrong. It can never be right, and my liberty is controlled by another man's conscience according to this Christian principle. Meat offered to idols may never be eaten by a Christian under any circumstances even though the meat has undergone no physical change and my mind is clear in the matter. It is just meat, and my belly will dispose of it then out in the draught. No matter: the principle is clear. If a thing is associated with a social evil over which many thousands are clearly stumbling, then the Christian who is mature avoids putting a stumbling block in front of his brother. He will not embolden his weak brother by his (very real) strength though he suffers no spiritual harm himself. Idolatry was a serious social evil and possibilities of eating meat offered to idols real.

In today's world, alcoholism is a serious social sin. Many people are stumbling over alcohol and caught in Satan's web. Over 15,000,000 alcoholics - in the USA alone - not just people who get drunk but fifteen million fellow humans actually lost in the grip of a habitual nightmare.

Alcohol is not alarmist threat. It is a very real, visible threat to the moral strength of the whole western world. It rightly falls in the class of things governed by I Cor. 8,10, i.e., things that are associated unalterably with situations that are evil in themselves. I may be able to drink alcohol and never be caught by habit or succumb to its subtleties. But there is not in every man this strength and shall not him who is weak be emboldened when he sees one with strength drinking alcohol to try the same, and his conscience being weak not being able to differentiate between a little drink and drinking, he for whom Christ died is caught in the morass and through my liberty he suffers loss.

This principle follows with anything sinful in itself that is a general social evil which thousands, yea millions, are stumbling over. Some people try to overdo the principle and say tea or coffee is a stumbling block. But keep your application in the range that the scriptures put it in. Ask yourself. Is it a social evil causing homes to break up? (for example coffee vs alcohol) Are institutions established to care for the human wreckage caused by the social evil? Are evident collapses of moral strength due to this evil? Apparent to everyone, alcoholism is such an evil. If something else comes along in the same class, as the use of drugs has, then it is easy to apply the principle and not puritanically over extend it to things innocent.

On the basis of the millions stumbling, a Christian will come to see his part in the family of God and maturely move toward caring for the souls of others and not seek "self-interest'', i.e., the exhilaration found in a bottle at the expense of the lost who are weak. Holiness calls for abstinence for your brother's abstinence from meat offered to idols and alcohol.

Fred would like to hear your comments or questions. via e-mail.

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