Alcohol in the Bible
Alcohol in the Old Testament
Alcohol in the Old Testament is a study of the Hebrew words for wine.
Except for several portions in Aramaic in Ezra and Daniel, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew.
In his doctoral dissertation, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Dr. Robert Teachout, Semitic scholar and seminary professor, compared scripture with scripture as he thoroughly researched the Hebrew words for wine in their context. Dr. Teachout’s work is the primary source of material for the lessons in Book Two.
Characteristics of the word “wine”
The English word Wine is related to Latin Vinum, Greek Oinos and the Hebrew word for wine, Yayin. Dictionaries through the centuries have given two meanings for each of these words: 1. unfermented juice or 2. alcoholic wine.
In the 20th Century, one example of an English dictionary giving two meanings for the word wine is the 1955 Funk & Wagnall’s New Standard Dictionary of the English Language. It says that wine is “the fermented juice of the grape; in loose language the juice of the grape whether fermented or not.” Another example is the 1971 New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language that calls unfermented must wine. “Must,” it tells us, is “wine or juice pressed from the grapes but not fermented.”
Old Testament words for wine
Hebrew has numerous words for wine. Yayin, the most used word, by its context, means fresh juice 71 times and alcoholic drink 70 times. But other words too, as their context shows, sometimes mean grape juice and other times alcoholic wine.
Our great problem with the word wine
We may think God contradicts Himself when in one Bible verse He praises wine as His great blessing to man and in another Bible verse condemns it. The problem lies with us and our study of words. When we understand from the Bible itself that the same word legitimately refers to two different drinks—then we see that God always approves of grape juice and never of alcoholic wine.