Is alcohol permissible for Christians and Jews?
Wine in the Bible is a hot topic among many Christians whether it is forbidden or allowable. The word wine appears over 200 times in the KJV Bible. Overall, what is the Bible’s opinion of wine, and by extension, alcohol?
tiyrowsh — This word is translated “wine” in the KJV and “new wine” in some newer versions. It refers to the initial squeezings of juice from the grape, and is rarely used of fermented wine. Its newness is confirmed by its application as part of the first fruits dedicated to God (Deuteronomy. 14:23) and by its grouping with agricultural products as a victim of drought (Hag. 1:1).
The term itself suggests something non-alcoholic. Only one verse suggests that it may have alcohol
yayin — This word is translated “wine” in most versions. In most contexts we will see that it refers to a clearly alcoholic drink.
Some writers dispute this interpretation, however. Bacchiocchi [Bac.W, 62] argues that yayin “was used to refer to variety of wines,” including the newly pressed juice and fermented, alcoholic wine. He notes that fresh (non-alcoholic) wine before fermenting was called yayin mi-gat, or “wine of the vat,” or from the press, while older and fermented wine was called yayin yashan, or if it was much older, yayin meyushshan or yashan noshan. He therefore concludes that yayin often referred to fresh grape juice.
shekar — this word does not appear often, but is translated in the KJV as “strong drink.” The root of this word comes from a word meaning to be tipsy and is associated with strong alcoholic drink. It appears to have been a product of dates rather than grapes.
A few other words are used for wine, such as the Chaldean chamar in Daniel. But the above three words constitute the overwhelming majority of usages. We will start with the Old Testament:
Genesis. 9:21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
Here and Genesis 9:24 are the first mentions of yayin in the Bible. No explicit moral is drawn from this use of wine, though it implicitly suggests that drunkenness leads to trouble.
Genesis 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
The above and other verses mentions of wine appear in the context of Lot’s daughters making him intentionally drunk for their own purposes. Once again a lesson is drawn implicitly which speaks against wine consumption to the point of drunkeness; there is no comment on consumption prior to that point.
Genesis 27:25, 28 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank….Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine…
The first “wine” here is yayin, but the second is not — this word is tiyrowsh, which as we have noted, is likely non-alcoholic. This word is used for the next mention of wine (“new wine” in the NIV) in Genesis 27:37 as well.
Several references in Numbers and Deuteronomy refer to wine (and once, shekar — Numbers 28:7) again as an offering. Deuteronomy 7:13 refers to tiyrowsh and would therefore be cited improperly as advocating alcoholic indulgence.
Deuteronomy 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household…
This verse mentions both yayin and shekar, and clearly permits its use — whatever it is — within a celebratory religious context. But one cannot get from these permission to go so far as to get drunk.
Leviticus 10:9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:
Critics mention this as an “against” passage. In this passage a directive is given to Aaron and his descendants not to consume wine or “strong drink” before ministering at the tabernacle. This is also the first appearance in the Bible of the term “strong drink” (shekar).
Indeed the warning of Leviticus. 10:9, within the didactic context of ancient law codes, serves as warning enough to avoid intoxication.
Numbers 6:3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
This verse refers to the Nazirites, and forbids the entire range of alcoholic products to them — yayin, shekar, and “liquor”, or mishrah, which appears only here in the OT — unless a specific ceremony is offered (6:20).
Deuteronomy 29:6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
Here again yayin and shekar are both mentioned. Some might read this as advocating teetotalism (alcohol abstinence).
Proverbs 3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Proverbs 9:1-5 Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Proverbs 21:17 He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
Proverbs 23:20-1 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Proverbs 23:29-30 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Proverbs 31:4-6 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
The first cite uses tiyrowsh. Several of the cites above refer to yayin and shekar and describe its consequences. Bacchiocchi [Bac.W, 66] notes 23:29-35 and 20:1 in particular as warnings against yayin as (as he sees it) alcoholic (versus non-alcoholic) yayin.
But Solomon’s warning is specifically directed at those who “tarry long” at yayin (23:30). The Hebrew behind “tarry long” is ‘achar, meaning to procrastinate or loiter.
The warnings that follow may seem to suggest a more direct condemnation of all alcohol:
Proverbs 23:31-5 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
The condition being described here, however, is that of one who has indeed procrastinated at yayin to the point of drunkenness. As such it condemns drunkenness, but not merely yayin.
Isaiah mentions yayin and shekar several times.
Isaiah. 5:11-12 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.
Isailah. 5:22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
This passage refers in particular to those who are “mighty” (the same word describes the “mighty men of old”) to drink wine and points to those who go out of their way to get hold of it and experiment with it. It thereby condemns strong focus on drink.
So one can see from the above that though there are many verses that allow wine, others again warn against it.
Wine in the New Testament
The NT hardly mentions wine at all, and there are only two Greek words of interest:
Oinos — this is the most-used word. In this case, unlike with the OT yayin, GREEK, LATIN, AND ENGLISH GENERIC WORDS.
OINOS. — Biblical scholars are agreed that in the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the word oinos corresponds to the Hebrew word yayin. “In the New Testament we have oinos, which corresponds exactly to the Hebrew yayin.”
As both yayin and oinos are generic words, they designate the juice of the grape in all its stages.
Several times in the Gospels, Jesus (pbuh) refers to oinos in parables; these would make no statement about consumption one way or the other. Texts where Jesus (pbuh) associates with drunkards no more proves that he drank alcoholic wine than his association with prostitutes proves he was a pimp, or his association with Pharisees proves he was a Pharisee.
Accusations of drunkenness by Jesus (Matthew 11:19, etc) are not conclusive as they come from the mouths of adversaries out to discredit Jesus (pbuh), and at any rate would have no relevance either way for moderate consumption.
Oddly enough, oinos is actually not mentioned at the Last Supper; it is assumed that the reference to “blood” parallels fermented wine. What is mentioned is the “fruit of the vine,” which can mean merely grape juice.
Here are some other verses cited as relevant to Jeus not drinking fermented wine or strong drink:
Mark 15:23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
One can see how this might be used to advocate teetotalism.
Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. (cf. 7:33)
John here is subject to a Nazirite vow, which as noted shows the prohibition of strong drink on him. In this verse also is the only NT mention of “strong drink.”
John 2:3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine
This is the one that really gets the pot boiling, since if Jesus (pbuh) produced wine with alcoholic content, this is clear evidence that there is some leeway for consumption of alcohol. Perhaps more persuasive bearing is the theological argument that the miracle of Cana, representing as it did a divine act of creation, indicates that there was no fermentation, because unfermented wine is “the only wine God produces” in nature.
The big question is: did Jesus (pbuh) really turn water into wine? The answer is unequivocally “yes”. But that is not what we generally want to know about this text. We want to know whether Jesus (pbuh) turned water into fermented, alcoholic wine. There are several problems with taking this interpretation:
Many Christians who justify from John 2 the consumption of alcoholic beverages of today are unprepared to take this argument to its logical conclusion. If Jesus (pbuh) did indeed produce alcoholic wine, not only would it be morally right to drink it, it would also be morally right to produce it, sell it, serve it, and even bank a living from it. But this is further than many are prepared to go because that would absolutely and undeniably cause others to stumble.
John 2:6 tells us that Jesus (pbuh) filled 6 stone water pots 20 to 30 gallons each to the brim. That is 120 to 180 gallons of wine. If He truly made alcoholic wine, we’re no longer in the realm of “temperate” consumption and social drinking – it’s a binge.
Then, John 2:10 tells us that Jesus (pbuh) made this wine after they were “well drunk” or had “drunk freely” where they would not have been able to detect poorer wine had it been served afterwards. If we’re to assume, as many do, that this means they were well on their way to being inebriated, then the fact that Jesus (pbuh) prepared 120 – 180 gallons means that He used His first miracle to contribute further to their intoxication (Habakkuk 2:15). Is this consistent with the sinless nature of Jesus (pbuh)?
The view that Jesus (pbuh) turned water into alcoholic wine causes more problem and becomes difficult to prove.
To fully understand we must consider some important facts in order to get to the truth. Jesus (pbuh) said in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
This statement from Jesus (pbuh) tells us that he will not break the laws in the Old Testament which basically state that drunkedness is a sin and one should abstain from being drunk. In order to abstain completely means no drinking of strong drink. The Old Testament contains many verses that talks about this:
Ephesians 5:18 : And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Galatians 5:21: Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:10 : Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Hebrews 10:26 : For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
1 Corinthians 5:11: But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
The list goes on……
Jesus (pbuh) is pure in every respect, I am sure that everyone will agree with this. Jesus (pbuh) stated many times that he speaks and does only what the Father has given him to speak and do. He has stated that his actions are not his own but that of the Father, the one who sent him. Jesus (pbuh) also stated that he did not come to abolish any law but to uphold it. The question is then: did Jesus (pbuh) tell anyone that it is permissible for them to drink strong drink? Definitely not. If Jesus (pbuh) did then turning water into alcoholic or fermented wine (strong drink) would mean that Jesus would be abolishing the law and creating a new law as the guest at the wedding would all become sinners being drunk on the wine that Jesus (pbuh) had provided. This would also make Jesus (pbuh) a sinner in contributing to the guest drunkedness. This would furthermore make Jesus (pbuh) a liar.
Thus, the understanding of wine in the New Testament can only be described as pure grape juice and not strong drink. Our understanding of wine today is that all wine today is strong drink (it will make you drunk) so when the Christian sees the word wine, immediately they jump to the conclusion that it is the same as the wine today which is far from the truth.
In the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he was taken up to heaven on the night of power, the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was given two vessels, one with milk and one with wine. Let us relate that part the seerah;
Then, I was lifted to the Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary), the size of its fruits was like that of water pots, its leaves were like the size of elephants’ ears.
(Jibril) said: This is the Sidrat-ul-Muntaha. Near it were four rivers, two could be seen and two were unseen.
I said: “What are these, Jibril?”
He said, the unseen rivers are those of Paradise.
The seen two (rivers) are the Nile and the Euphrates.
Then, Al-Baytul Ma’amour (The House of Continuous Worship of God by seventy thousand new angel’s everyday) was lifted to me (to see).
Then, (Jibril) brought me two pots with wine and milk.
When I took the milk, Jibril said: “It’s the natural inclination of goodness you chose for yourself and your followers (Ummah).”
Let’s say for instance that both the Prophet Muhammad (pubh) and Jesus (pubh) was given the option of Milk or Wine, would the Christian still say that Jesus (pubh) would have chosen the wine? Of course not, that would immediately show that the Prophet Muhammad (pubh) is more pure than Jesus (pubh). Does the Bible show anyware that Moses (pubh) or Abraham (pubh) were wine drinkers? It cannot be found in the Bible. So why would Jesus (pubh) be any diffirent. If Jesus (pubh) did drink strong drink as the Christian say, then his enemies was quite right in saying that he was a drunked. Would anyone put his faith in a drunked and believe he is a man of God? It would also be a huge insult to say such vile things about this mighty messenger of God.
The wine Jesus (pubh) made was of the highest quality. It was “good wine” John 2:10. Historical writings provide evidence that the best wine of biblical days was nonalcoholic. Pliny the Younger said, “The most useful wine has all its force or strength broken by the filter.” Plutarch said, “Wine is rendered feeble in strength when it is frequently filtered. The strength or spirit thus being excluded, the wine neither inflames the brain nor infests the mind and passions, and is much more pleasant to drink.”
Turning water into unfermented juice of the grape would have been the better miracle for Jesus (pubh) as he breaks no laws. This wedding was right before Passover John 2:13 which was right before the time when the first grapes of the season were about to be harvested; only old wine remained. The reference to
Jesus’ (pubh) wine as “good wine” indicates fresh grape juice before the first harvest and would have been an evident wonder of God when it was tasted this late in the year just before Passover.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
It is a proven fact that drinking alcohol is bad for your health. Alcohol can affect your heart and lungs and other organs. People who are chronic drinkers of alcohol have a higher risk of heart-related issues than people who do not drink.
- high blood pressure.
- irregular heartbeat.
- difficulty pumping blood through the body.
- heart attack.
- heart disease.
- heart failure.
This is clear undeniable proof that drinking is a sin.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We see most often the effects of drinking where husbands beat their wives and children, where people drink and drive and kill innocent people in the process and where families are broken up because of drunkards etc…… So ask yourself, in whose favour is it for people to become drunk and sinful? You are only falling into the trap of Satan who will encourage people as much as possible to do his bidding. We have seen in earlier sections how the Bible writers and translators has changed things in the Bible and added things that simply do not belong in the Bible. Our belief is that any verse that encourage people to consume strong drink cannot be from God. God is all knowing that people will surely abuse alcohol and that alcohol is bad for the body. Why would God encourage such an evil? It is only in Satan’s interest and favour that people should drink and become sinners.
Furthermore, any pastor will tell you that the use of drugs is not permissible. Drugs also cause the same effects of gladdening peoples mind and hearts and making them happy, the same as wine. So why should it not be permissible? On the same account as wine, if people use drugs in moderation then there should be no problem right? Wrong, drugs like wine when used will cause the user to want more and more so that the effects can last.
Finally, it is inconceivable to suggest that Jesus (pubh) provided these Jews with 120 – 180 gallons of substance that the bible says mocks, destroys, leads to poverty, woes, sorrows, contentions, babblings, worries without cause, impairs judgment, inflames passions, and enslaves and is sinful. If Jesus (pubh) did that, He sinned. If He sinned, that disqualifies him from being the unblemished Lamb of God. Is the Christian prepared to take that stance concerning Jesus (pubh) the Messiah? Did the one who spoke so strongly against stumbling blocks Luke 17:1-2 become one Himself?