I. DR. PATTON'S EXPERIENCE IN 1820
During the 1820's and 1830's, Dr. William Patton, a preacher of the Gospel, studied and wrote about wine in the Bible. Finally, in 1871, he published a book called Bible Wines, the Laws of Fermentation and the Wines of the Ancients. Dr. Patton lived in New York. He saw alcoholic drinks being used everywhere. One Sunday he preached a sermon on Romans 12:2, “Be not conformed to this world,” and he called alcoholic drinks a poison because of what they did to the human body. A few days later some bar owners let him know they would “get him” if he didn't quit.
That same week he happened to see in the newspaper a paragraph written by a local business man. The man urged other employers to look into Walnut Street if they wanted to know what their employees did on Saturday night. After reading the article, Dr. Patton and a dozen other Christian men joined together and on Saturday night they explored that short street from ten to twelve o'clock.
On one side they found 30 bars, 11 dance halls, and counted 210 prostitutes. On the other side they saw 87 prostitutes. Many of the men and women on the street were drunk and all were more or less under the influence of alcohol.Unable to forget what he had seen, Dr. Patton preached another sermon about the alcohol problem. Isaiah 58:1 says, “Cry aloud, and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet.” He asked Christians to cry out against the evil around them. Then he read verses from the Bible against drinking.He soon found out an amazing fact.
Most drinkers and ministers and, of course, the sellers of liquor used the Bible to prove that drinking was all right. He was teaching from the Bible that drinking alcohol was sin; they were teaching from the very same Bible that drinking alcohol was approved by God.Dr. Patton began a systematic study of the Bible on this subject and that is why he wrote the book, Bible Wines. He took every verse in the Bible that talks about wine and found that it would fit under one of three headings. These are the headings:
a) Wine is talked about but nothing is said about it being good or bad “Could it be,” Dr. Patton asked himself, “that the Bible is talking about two kinds of wine?” Since the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew he wanted to know if the exact translation from the Hebrew backed up his point of view. He took his research to a well known Hebrew authority and teacher, Professor Seixas. The Professor told Dr. Patton that his conclusions that the Bible talks about two kinds of wine were just and that the Hebrew Scriptures back up the view of two kinds of wine. Dr. Patton immediately began to teach and preach what the Lord had made clear to him. “From that day to this,” he wrote later, “though strong men and true have combatted them (my teachings), I have never wavered in my convictions.”
b) Wine is said to be the cause of misery and punishment
c) Wine is called a blessing and is an emblem of happiness
II. THE NEED FOR STUDYJesus said to “Search the scriptures.” He also promised in John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Old Testament scriptures in Hebrew were written before Christ was born.1 New Testament scriptures in Greek were written after He returned to heaven. What does God tell us in scripture about wine and what were the customs during the days of the Old and New Testaments? At the time Dr. Patton wrote, he said that most seminary students left school without studying wine in the Bible. In 1979, when Dr. Robert Teachout wrote his doctoral dissertation, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, he said this was a greatly neglected area of research. So we see that what was true a hundred years ago is true again today, only, as Dr. Teachout adds, far more true today.God has led in the research to know and explain the truth about alcoholic wine from the Bible. Dr. Teachout asks us to keep in mind that although his and Dr. Patton's books were written 100 years apart, they are quite similar in design. Dr. Patton was a godly pastor who was a real student of the English Bible. Dr. Teachout is a godly seminary professor who is a Semitic scholar. His earned doctorate is in the field of Old Testament, and he has taught Hebrew and Aramaic for years in three graduate seminaries. Because of his background, Dr. Teachout was highly equipped to do all the necessary original research in the documents of the ancient world, including the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures. “Amazingly,” Dr. Teachout says, “I discovered that so many of Patton's conclusions were very sound despite the fact that his work is over 100 years old.2Dr. Bacchiocchi, a summa cum laude graduate of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, in Wine in the Bible, agrees with both Dr. Patton and Dr. Teachout. After studying the original language, the historical background and the context of the Bible verses about Jesus and wine, he saw clearly that Jesus did not use alcoholic wine. He is surprised, he says, to find that some of the apostles' strongest warnings against drinking alcohol have been “watered down” in different Bible translations to make it easier to approve of moderate drinking. 3
We Should Be on God's Side on the Alcohol Question At the beginning of his book, Dr. Teachout gives the reasons why a careful study about wine in the Bible is so important to us today.4
- a) Alcohol is a leading destroyer of people and property all over the world. Even one drink affects the brain.
- b) The use of alcoholic beverages is an explosive issue in evangelical churches today. Many Christian leaders are giving mixed signals about wine. First they say the Bible does not teach total abstinence (drinking no alcohol) because Jesus made alcoholic wine. Then, second, after teaching that Jesus made alcoholic wine, they say it is wiser to be a total abstainer from any alcoholic beverages because of the problems caused by alcohol. This confused teaching leads many Christians in conservative churches to take up the habit of moderate drinking. These drinkers use the Bible to prove that what they do is right.
- c) Although many Christians do feel that the Bible does teach total abstinence, neither they nor those who argue in favor of alcohol can find much information on wine in the Bible. Most Hebrew, Greek and Latin lexicons (language dictionaries) are incorrect on the subject of wine.5 And often wine has not been considered important enough to study.
- d) The grape is a very important subject in the Bible. God talks about the vine when He says He will bless His people. He mentions the grape and its products in all the Old Testament books except Jonah. In both the Old and New Testaments God uses marriage to picture His love for His people. But He also uses the vine to picture this love. Psalm 80:8 – 11, says God is the husbandman or caretaker of the vine. The vine is Israel. John 15 tells us Jesus is the vine; we who believe in Him are the branches and the Father is the caretaker.
- e) Drinking intoxicating beverages leads to drunkenness. The Bible always calls drunkenness sin. We must avoid anything the Bible calls sin if we want to live a godly life.
Dr. Bacchiocchi's View of the Present Need for Study Churches, says Dr. Bacchiocchi, that once fought to pass the Prohibition Amendment have abandoned their stand for total abstinence. Now they say God approves of alcoholic drink so the kind of beverage you drink doesn't matter. It's just the amount that is important. “A majority of the 100 million drinkers in America ( 185 million in 2005) are churchgoers who have been taught that the Bible sanctions (approves) a moderate use of alcoholic beverages.”6 People who believe the Bible approves the moderate use of alcohol cannot call drinking sin. If it is not sin, a moral problem, then it is only a health problem – a sickness or a bad habit that damages one's physical body. Christian conviction about drinking must be rooted in the fact “. . . that drinking is . . . a transgression of a God-given principle to ensure our health and holiness.”7
All Fermented Drinks Contain Ethyl Alcohol The Bible warns us not to drink fermented wine. That does not mean we can drink beer, wine coolers, alcoholic cocktails or whiskey. These drinks, like the fermented wine the Bible condemns, contain ethyl alcohol. The Bible names intoxicating wine because that was the ethyl alcohol problem drink in ancient Israel.
Why Is There Doubt about What the Bible Says? Dr. Teachout quotes two Bible verses to clearly show us the problem we face in the study about wine. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” But Psalm 104, beginning from verse one tells us about the greatness of God. Then in verse 10, we read about the wonderful blessings God gives. And verse 15 says, “And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.” These verses, Proverbs 20:1 and Psalm 104:15, give two ideas. God hates wine; God thinks wine is wonderful. How can wine be both evil and good? There are two possible answers to the problem. One is to believe that all wine is alcoholic and that it is good if it is drunk in moderation. The other is to study the Bible to see that the word wine has two meanings.8
III. THE MEANING OF THE WORD WINEYayin (pronounced yine, like wine) is one of many Hebrew words for wine. It is the word most often used in the Old Testament. Noah got drunk on yayin (Genesis 9:21). Those who believe all wine in the Bible is intoxicating, say, “As Noah and others got drunk with yayin (wine), yayin must in every text mean fermented liquor.” They add, “The juice of the grape when called wine . . . was always intoxicating.”9
A century ago, as Dr. Patton listened to sweeping statements claiming that all Bible wine was intoxicating, he found some quotes that showed that unfermented juice was called wine too.
a) Dr. Ure in Bible Commentary 37 says, “Juice before it ferments is called in common language, new wine.” b) In a Latin dictionary, dated 1678, new wine was called “must,” shut up and not permitted to work (ferment). Still another book talked about sweet wine which has not yet worked. Dr. Noah Webster (1758 -1843) defined wine in two ways: some wine is fermented juice, and some wine is pressed from the grape but not fermented. c) In Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Dr. Patton found the statement, “. . . wine was preserved in the state of must by placing it in jars or bottles, and then burying it in the earth.” Like Dr. Patton, Dr. Bacchiocchi studied many dictionaries and reference books. Because most modern dictionaries, unlike older ones, say the word wine means only intoxicating drink, people today believe all wine is intoxicating. But the 1955 Funk & Wagnall's New “Standard”Dictionary of the English Language says that wine is “the fermented juice of the grape: in loose language the juice of the grape whether fermented or not.” The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, 1971, calls unfermented “must” wine. “Must,” it says, is “wine or juice pressed from the grapes but not fermented.”10 When the King James Bible was written in 1611, dictionaries said the word wine meant both unfermented and fermented juice. (The Hebrew word yayin, the Latin word vinum, and the Greek word oinos also mean both unfermented and fermented wine.) Today, with most English dictionaries changed, and our minds set on the idea that all wine is intoxicating, we really need to write “fermented” or “unfermented” above the word wine every time we see it in the Bible.
- Parts of Ezra and Daniel were written in Aramaic. The Old Testament was translated into Greek several centuries before Christ was born. The translation was called the Septuagint.
- Notes from Dr. Teachout as he reviewed this study course, July, 1990.
- Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, Biblical Perspective, Berrien Springs, Michigan, 1989, p.22.
- Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, pp.6-14, and Wine, the Biblical Imperative: Total Abstinence, 1986, pp.5-9.
- Dr. Robert Teachout, Wine, The Biblical Imperative: Total Abstinence, 1986, p.18.
- Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p.19.
- Ibid., p.42.
- Teachout, Wine . . ., pp.14,15.
- Dr. William Patton, Bible Wines, Sane Press, Oklahoma City, p.14.
- Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p.56.