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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Sept. 8, 2007

  • 2007 Sep 08

Drinking, Alcohol and Believers

Conclusion from September 7th





Is alcoholism a disease?  

No.  It’s a chosen sin that leads to physical deterioration and dependence. 

In the USA, there are 20 million alcoholics, of which over 3 million are teens! The costs to society are staggering. 

Prov. Journal Sun.  4/30/89 – 

                Drugs - $59.7 billion per year

                Mental Illness – 72.7 billion per year

                  Alcoholism – 116.6 billion per year 

                        In loss of work

                        In direct deaths


Plus – 100-200 thousand deaths per year from crimes, accidents and medical results 

And – 5000 birth defects per year 

Alcohol is dreadful.  It is an escape, a false road to happiness.  God says 1 Pet. 5:7, Cast cares on Him not on a bottle. 

Quickly – What about controversy? 

Not drunken, just drinking- Can Christians drink?      

There is a big controversy in the church today about this whole matter of drinking wine.  Some Christians say, “I don’t drink, so you shouldn’t drink.  It’ a sin to drink.”  But then someone will reply, “It’s not a sin to drink.  Jesus drank wine, and they drank wine in the Old and New Testaments – so it’s biblical to drink wine.  I want to be a biblical Christian.”  Others say, “The only time you shouldn’t drink is if it offends a weaker brother.”  While others say, “Christians should never drink.”  The controversy goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. 

So that’s the controversy!  

Is there a clear answer?  Yes, and it is biblical, logical and powerful. 

Not because I said so, or the church said so, but the Bible does not forbid wine.  However, it gives specific guidelines to follow.  To drink you must – 

                        Answer these questions with me – 

1.      Are we talking about the same type of alcoholic beverage? 

Quoting from Mac (Living in the Spirit p. 10) 

A.     The biblical words for wine

1.      OINOS/YAYIN – The most common word in the New Testament for wine is the Greek word oinos.  It is a word that simply refers to the juice of grapes.  In fact, this word was used to refer to the grape as it hung on the vine – “hanging wine.”  The word oinos was a general word and didn’t specify whether the wine was fermented or unfermented.  It just simply referred to the juice of the grape – any kind.  The Old Testament equivalent to oinos is the Hebrew word yayin, and is used 141 times.  The root for the word yayin means to “bubble up” or “boil up.”  According to The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), yayin means “mixed wine.”  This mixing was not with other wine but usually with water.  Sometimes it was mixed with honey, herbs, or myrrh; but even then, it could also be mixed with water.  Even though oinos was a general word for wine, it also predominately has to do with wine mixed with water.

2.      GLEUKOS/TIROSH = new wine or fresh wine still fermenting, just out of the grape, without refrigeration, would ferment very rapidly and was potentially intoxicating.  Now if the wine had just been taken from the grape, it obviously wouldn’t be fermented.  But the word gleukos, or “new wine,” referred to wine that could have been days, weeks, or a few months from absolute freshness – and would still be fermenting.  The Old Testament word for “new wine” is the Hebrew word tirosh.  In Hosea 4:11 it says that “new wine” (tirosh) could create drunkenness.  So, “new wine,” tirosh or gleukos, could create drunkenness.

3.      SIKERA/SHAKAR – Shakar is the Old Testament Hebrew word for “strong drink” and means “unmixed.”  The equivalent Greek word in the New Testament is sikera.

  So – There are various biblical words and they can mean fermented and unfermented.  They are used often interchangeably in the 256 biblical references to wine. 

Now, let’s go to the further study of what they drank then.  To prepare you to not the historical data – let me say wine then does not always equal wine/alcohol today!  Why?

1.      Some wine in OT/NT times was unfermented and unintoxicating! 

Puny (nom historian) syrup – mixed up to 20/1 

Professor Samuel Lee, of Cambridge University, says that yayin or oinos (“mixed wine”) does not refer only to intoxicating liquor made by fermentation, but more often refers to a thick, unintoxicating syrup or jam produced by boiling to make it storable.  Boiling caused evaporation of the liquid.  When the liquid was gone, the fermentation capacity was lost, and a storable type of paste was left.  This was the most common way of storing wine because it was not as bulky as the liquid wine would be. 

So, just to say they drank so I can isn’t valid.  Now, what about #2? 

2.      Fermented Wine 

Come back in three weeks. 

#1 – What was it they drank in Bible times?  

           In Bible time, there were two kinds of wine available: 

1.      unintoxicating

2.      intoxicating 

On the first type, this was

-         fresh grape juice

-         boiled grape paste 

Prof. Samuel Lee of Cambridge wrote, “Mixed wine in ancient times was either intoxicating wine mixed with spices or more often a thick, unintoxicating syrup or jam produced by boiling to make it possible to be stored

But, the presence of intoxicating wine is everywhere in the scriptures.  That’s why it is referred to 256 times.  199 times positive, 57 times negative 

Now, a recent survey showed:

            81 % of Roman Catholics drink

            64 % of Protestants drink 

We know drunkenness “anytime that the alcohol takes over the faculties of a person.” 

The point is wine today is not necessarily the same as wine consumed in Bible times.  Let’s look at fermented wine.

1.      Usually diluted with water 

Christianity Today, (6/20/75) Robert Stein

The liquid wine which was used on a daily basis would be stored in large jugs called amphorae.  From the amphora, they would draw out the pure unmixed wine and pour it into large bowls called kraters, where it was mixed with water.  From these kraters, it would be then poured into the kylix, or cups.  They never served wine directly from the amphora to the kylix without first being mixed with water in the krater.  In otherwords, they didn’t serve unmixed wine.  And according to history, the mixture could be anywhere from 20:1 to 3:1

2.      Only uncivilized people drank it straight – 

Unmixed was barbaric – Drinking unmixed wine was looked upon, even by unsaved people, as barbarian.  Robert Stein in his article quotes Mnesitheus of Athens as quoted by Athenaeus: “The gods have revealed wine to mortals, to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse.  For it gives food to them that take it and strength in mind and body.  In medicine it is most beneficial; it can be mixed with liquid and drugs and it brings aid to the wounded.  In daily intercourse, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds, it brings violence.  Mix it half and half, and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse.” 

Now quoting Mac – “walking in the Spirit”

So, as a beverage, wine was always thought of as a mixed drink.  The ratio of water might vary, but only barbarians drank it unmixed.  Even a 1:1 mixture was considered to be “strong drink” and was frowned upon.  The point is this: unmixed wine was unacceptable to that culture.


Even as we move away from the New Testament church period and into early church period we find, in a volume called the Apostolic Tradition, the fact that they also followed the custom of serving only mixed wine – either from a syrup or a liquid base. 

So what is the answer to “What was it they drank in Bible times?” 

1.      Sometimes, unfermented grape juice

2.      Often, diluted wine

3.      Barbarians or those acting like it, only full strength wine 

How does our alcohol today compare with wine back then? 

According to the Alcohol Council Information Center: Beer has 4% alcohol, wine has 9-11% alcohol, brandy has 15-20% alcohol, and liquor has between 40-50% alcohol (80-100 proof).  Now, since anybody in biblical times who drank unmixed wine (9-11% alcohol) was definitely considered a barbarian, then we don’t even need to discuss whether or not a Christian should drink hard liquor – that is apparent!  But what was the alcoholic content of the wine that they drank?  Taking the lowest mixture that was acceptable, which was 3:1 (to say nothing of the 5:1, 10:1, 15:1 etc.) combined with the 9-11% alcoholic wine, we come up with a final alcoholic content of 2.25-2.75%.  Now that’s very low.  In fact, by today’s standards something has to be 3.2% alcohol to be classified as an alcoholic beverageSo the wine that they consumed in those days was either completely nonalcoholic (being mixed from a syrup or paste) or was sub-alcoholic according to today’s standards.  This is why the Bible says that elders in the church are not to linger long beside wine (1 Tim. 3:3); because with such a low alcoholic content, it would take a long time to get drunk. 

The answer to question #1 – Are we thinking about the same thing today as what they drank?


So, just to drink wine, beer and stronger because they did is not valid! 










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