Many of the verses about the vineyard, wine and drunkenness found in Mark or Luke were mentioned first in Matthew. They have already been discussed in Lessons 1 and 2. Jesus’teaching about New Wine in Old Bottles is also found in Matthew, but since Luke gives the incident in more detail, it is discussed in this lesson.
Matthew 9:17, New wine in old bottles. Also found in, Mark 2:22. Luke 5:37-39,
See Lesson 3.
Matthew 21:33, Vineyard, winepress, See Lesson 1. Also found in Mark 12:1, Luke
Matthew 26:26 – 29, The Lord's Supper, See Lesson 2. Also found in Mark 14:23-
25, Luke 22:15-18
Matthew 11:18,19, Behold . . . a glutton and a drunkard, See Lesson 1. Also found
in Luke 7:33-35
Matthew 24:49, Eat, drink and be drunken, See Lesson 1. Also found in Luke 12:45
Mark and Luke refer to drinking or wine in other instances from those mentioned in Matthew, and those verses, as well as New Wine in Old Bottles, are in this lesson.
I. OINOS AT THE CROSS
Mark 15:23: And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh; but He received
This drink was offered to Jesus at His crucifixion. Myrrh is a fragrant, bitter tasting gum resin that oozes out of several species of shrubby desert trees. According to tradition, wine mixed with myrrh was offered to prisoners prior to execution to ease pain by dulling the senses. Jesus refused to drink it.
II. NO WINE OR STRONG DRINK: JOHN THE BAPTIST
Luke 1:15: For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine
(oinos) nor strong drink (sikera); and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from
his mother's womb.
Most Bible commentators take Luke 1:15 as proof that John the Baptist was a Nazarite from his mother's womb. In the Old Testament, Numbers 6:1 – 4, God told the Nazarites they should not drink yayin and shekar. Together yayin and shekar usually mean intoxicating wine. In Greek the words are oinos and sikera. The word sikera comes from the Hebrew shekar; it is used only this one time in the New Testament.
In Days of Praise, June 17, 1993, Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute of Creation Research wrote,
. . . The example of John the Baptist is worth considering. The angel Gabriel testified
that he would be “great in the sight of the Lord” and then added that he would
“drink neither wine nor strong drink,” implying a connection between the two. Indeed,
Christ called John the greatest man who had ever lived up to that time (Matthew 11:11) .
. . .Then the very same verse says that John would “be filled with the Holy Ghost, even
from his mother's womb,” and he is the only man of whom that was ever said. Again
there seems to be a connection, for no one could simultaneously drink wine or strong
drink and also be filled with the Spirit.
Nazarites like John abstained totally from intoxicating wine. But more than that, they obeyed God’s command to abstain from any product of the grapevine, including grape juice, fresh grapes and raisins.
III. NEW WINE, OINOS NEOS, IN OLD WINESKINS
Jesus’ parable of the wineskins in all three gospels where it appears, Matthew, Mark and Luke, has a companion parable about a piece of cloth. In Luke 5:36, Jesus says no man sews a piece of new cloth on a worn and threadbare garment because he knows the new will pull the old to pieces. Then He goes on to say that no man puts new wine in old wineskins either, because the old wineskins will burst.
Jesus is teaching that His Gospel, like the new cloth or the new wine, is too good to be put into the worn out garment or the old wineskin of the old Jewish law system taught by the Pharisees. The Gospel breaks up the old system.
Luke 5:37,38: And no man putteth new wine, oinos neos, into old wineskins; else the
new wine will burst the wineskins, and be spilled and the wineskins shall perish. But new
wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
Oinos, we know, can mean either fermented wine or grape juice. Neos means new in respect of time. Oinos neos in this teaching of Jesus is grape juice. These words used together are found only in this parable in the New Testament (Luke 5:37,38, Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22).
Why Not Put Grape Juice in Old Wineskins?
In Luke 5:37, Jesus said that fresh juice bursts old wineskins. The first thought that comes to many people’s minds is that the fresh juice must be fermenting and the old goatskin bottle could not hold it but a new one could. Dr. Jimmy L. Albright wrote in 1980 in Wine in the Biblical World that “gas producing fermentation took place . . . within a few hours after the pressing . . . .Freshly made wine was put into new wineskins; old wineskins would burst under pressure.”1
Was fermenting grape juice put into new wineskins because they were strong enough to hold the fermenting juice? No. The truth is that fermenting juice would break the strongest barrel. A new goat skin could not hold fermenting wine.
Jesus was not thinking at all about a fermenting, intoxicating wine but of grapejuice.The oinos neos or new wine Jesus tells about in the parable will not burst the new wineskin. He was simply saying what everyone knew to be true, that grape juice was ordinarily kept without fermenting in new goatskins.
Why could grape juice be kept without fermenting in new wineskins but not in old wineskins? The old skins had gluten or yeast sticking to their sides. This yeast had settled out from the unfermented juice that had previously been in the bottle. The bottle had been opened, and oxygen was now making the yeast active. The old leather bottles could not be cleaned well enough to get rid of the fermenting matter. Grape juice put into the old wineskin would ferment; the gas from the fermentation would burst the wineskin.
The Custom of Preserving Fresh Juice
We know from our past lessons that it was common practice to preserve fresh juice. The people used boiling, settling, filtering or sulphur to prepare the fresh juice they wanted to store. Then they put the juice into a new amphora (bottle) or new wineskin because an old bottle or wineskin could have yeast sticking to its sides. They closed the bottle or wineskin tightly, smeared it with honey or pitch to seal it, and buried it in the ground.
Columella who lived in the times of the Apostles, gave directions for preserving the freshest, sweetest must. This must did not even have to be boiled. First he told his readers to get a new amphora. Next, he went on, “Before the grape-skins are put under the press, take from the vat some of the freshest possible “must” and put it in a new wine-jar, then daub it over and cover it carefully with pitch, that thus no water may be able to get in. Then sink the whole flagon in a pool of cold fresh water so that no part of it is above the surface. Then after forty days take it out of the water. The must will then keep sweet for as much as a year.3 In Columella's recipe the yeast would settle out of the juice.
Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher who lived 400 years before Christ, said the wine of Arcadia was so thick it had to scraped from the skin bottles it was stored in.
Arguments That Try to Prove the New Wine Was Alcoholic
People who believe all wine is alcoholic argue that the new wine in the parable was fermented (alcoholic) before it was bottled.
The argument is not logical to the point made by the parable. That point is that the old wineskins burst. Jesus clearly says in Matthew 9:17, “. . . else the wineskins break and the oinos (grape juice) runneth out.”Fermentation is what breaks the bottle. Why would the old wineskins burst if the fermentation process of turning the sugar into alcohol was finished? Old wineskins could be used for already fermented wine without worry about their bursting.
But maybe, the defenders of alcoholic wine say, the oinos neos was not completely fermented wine, but wine that was far enough along in fermentation that it would not break the new wineskin. The new wineskin would be elastic enough to hold it while the old would burst. This is a weak argument for two reasons. First, wine this close to the end of fermentation could have been stored in old wineskins. The neck opening was big enough to let the remaining fermenting gas out. Second, if the people of that day wanted to ferment their juice, they used large earthenware jars. These jars were called habith in Hebrew and dolium in Latin.2
Jesus Speaks Matter-of-Factly about Unfermented Wine
Jesus’ parable of the wineskins is a picture of Hebrews 8:13; His is the new way of salvation by grace, and the law, although good, was old and “ready to vanish away.”
Ernest Gordon, writing about the parable, says to notice that Jesus identifies new wine altogether with unfermented wine. Fermented wine is given no recognition. It could be put into any kind of wineskin. But new wine is clean and wholesome and demands a clean container.
“The old wineskins,” Gordon goes on, “with their alcoholic lees, represented the Pharisees' corrupt nature. The new wine of the Gospel could not be put into them. They would ferment it…. So by comparing intoxicating wine with degenerate Pharisaism, Christ clearly intimated what his opinion of intoxicating wine was.” 4
In no way in this parable does Jesus praise or commend the use of alcoholic wine. The people Jesus talked to knew there were two kinds of wine and they understood perfectly what Jesus said about new wine in new wineskins. What He said was true. It was common practice to use new wineskins to store fresh juice.
IV. DID JESUS SAY, “THE OLD WINE IS BETTER?”
Luke 5:39: No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith,
The old is better.
Kenneth L. Gentry in The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages, takes Jesus' saying to mean that people everywhere, Jesus included, prefer old (fermented wine) over new (unfermented) wine.5
Everett Tilson thinks this verse is one of the most difficult in the Bible for total abstainers to face. Dr. Bacchiocchi quotes Mr. Tilson,
Without a word of criticism, as if expressing a truism (a well known truth) with which He
himself agrees, Luke records Jesus as saying: “And no one after drinking old wine
desires new.” Why? “The old is good,” He answers (5:39)—though far more likely to be
both fermented and intoxicating.6
New Wine and Old Wine in Verse 39
New wine in Luke 5: 37 and 38, represents Christ’s teaching; it is grape juice. In contrast, old wineskins in Luke 5:37 with their yeast settlings picture fermentation to alcohol. Do these symbolic pictures carry over to verse 39?
Total abstainers Lees and Burns, the authors of The Temperance Bible-Commentary, 1894, teach that the new wine in all these verses, 37, 38 and 39 is grape juice. Even more than that, they also say that the old wine in verse 39 is also grape juice. Jesus then would be saying that old preserved grape juice is better than the juice just out of the press. This is a possible explanation because grape juice does improve with age. Settlings in fresh juice go to the bottom while it is stored.7
Contrary to Lees and Burns, the moderationists claim that the new wine in verses 37, 38, and 39 is alcoholic and the old wine in verse 39 is also alcoholic. They reason that the new wine in verses 37 and 38 is fermented but not fully fermented, and the new wine in verse 39 is fully fermented wine, (a position that does not fit the context of the parable) but it still lacks one step to make it good. It needs to age to get the mellow flavor of old wine. The old wine in verse 39, they claim, is the choice fermented and aged wine.
To get a true picture of the meaning of the new wine and the old wine in verse 39, we must realize that Jesus is continuing in verse 39 to speak on the same topic that He was dealing with in verses 37 and 38—His Gospel in opposition to old and corrupt Judaism.
Jesus gives no sign of a change in meaning for “new wine” in verse 39. Since new wine
representing His teaching is grape juice in verses 37 and 38, it must also be grape juice
in verse 39.
Likewise, as old wineskins representing the corrupt worship of the Pharisees are linked
with alcohol and fermentation in verse 37, so old wine must also picture alcoholic wine in
verse 39. Therefore we would have to agree with the moderationists on the one point
that the old wine in verse 39 is alcoholic. 8
The question then is, “Does Jesus say, as Gentry and Tilson write, that old fermented wine is better than grape juice?”
What Does Christ Mean, “He Says The Old is Better”?
If old wine is fermented wine, what do the words, “The old is better” mean? Who says the old wine is better in verse 39? It is not Jesus, but the drinker of the old wine who says it.
No man having drunk . . . for he saith, The old is better.
Jesus’ statement that alcohol drinkers prefer alcoholic drink to a juice drink is common knowledge, a statement of fact.
Dr. Jack Van Impe in Alcohol, the Beloved Enemy, writes, “Does not Jesus say that the the old wine is better? Not at all. He simply says that one who has been drinking old wine says it is better. This shows the Lord's understanding of the habit-forming effect of beverage alcohol. His statement stands true today. Try to sell grape juice on skid row and you will probably have no takers. Those who drink old wine (intoxicating wine) prefer it. They are hooked on it.9
Jesus’ Teaching In Luke 5:39
It is not true, and never will be true, from the Bible perspective, that fermented old wine is better than grape juice. Jesus does not say it is.
The new wine in the parable is the evangelical freedom that Christ was teaching. The old is the opposite spirit of Judaism. Men long accustomed to the old do not suddenly take a liking for the new. Jesus says that the disciples of the Pharisees prefer the old fermented wine— the false teachings of the Pharisees.
Starting with Luke 5:33, He answers the question about the difference between His disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees. He uses four different illustrations to get His point across. First He gave a parable about a bridegroom. While the bridegroom is with them, wedding guests are rejoicing with him and do not fast.
Next He told the parable of the cloth in verse 36. You can't patch an old piece of clothes with a new patch. It doesn't look right and it may tear. Then he said in verses 37, 38, new wine can't be put in old wineskins.
Finally, in verse 39, He repeated a well known truth—new wine is not popular with anyone used to drinking the old.
All four of these illustrations have one purpose. Jesus wanted to help people see that the old forms of religion seem good until one understands that the new is better.10 He wanted them to choose the new and living way to God through Him.
Luke 5:39 warns against over-estimating the old ways and clinging to them. Only those who refuse to follow Jesus think the old way or old wine is better. This verse does not give anyone reason to say that Jesus prefers old intoxicating wine as the best wine to drink.
V. THE LABORER WORTHY OF HIS HIRE
Luke 10:7: And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give;
for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
Christ is telling his disciples to accept ordinary hospitality.His words do not say, as some claim, that only alcoholic drinks were offered to the disciples and that they could drink. Anyone making this claim has to twist Christ's words.
VI. THE GOOD SAMARITAN
Luke 10:34: And went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine (oinos),
and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him."
The Good Samaritan used a healing ointment made of a mixture of wine and oil on the robbed man's wounds. It was put on the wound, not drunk. Pliny the historian writes about an excellent ointment for wounds made from gleukos (sweet wine) and oil. Columella gave the recipe for it.11
VII. THE RICH FARMER
Luke 12:19: And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many
years; take thine ease. Eat, drink and be merry.
Jesus was telling a parable about a rich man who was not doing God's will. The farmer was covetous and living for self. Christ disapproved of what He was doing.
VIII. THE DAYS OF NOAH
Luke 17:27,28 has the same thought as Matthew 24:38. They did eat, they drank, they
married wives . . . until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came . . .
also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank . . . .
Jesus is talking about the time when He will come again. He compares the people of Noah's day and also Lot's day to our present time. It is a warning to be ready for Him. They ate and drank and went on with their lives, paying no attention to God. Because they were so wicked, God destroyed them.
IX. CHRIST'S WARNING AGAINST ALCOHOL
Luke 21:34: And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged
with surfeiting (dissipation), and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come
upon you unawares."
Surfeiting and dissipation means indulging in pleasure to the point of hurting oneself. One translation of surfeiting and drunkenness is “seizure of the head” or hangover from intoxication. Jesus is giving a warning against intoxicating liquor when He tells us to be looking for His return.
1. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, Biblical Perspective, Berrien Springs, Michigan, 1989, p.145. Dr. Albright wrote his Ph.D. dissertation for Southern Baptist Seminary on Wine in the Biblical World: Its Economic, Social and Religious Implications for New Testament Interpretation, 1980.
2. Ibid., p.146.
3. Ibid., p.147.
4. Ibid. Quote from Ernest Gordon, Christ, the Apostles and Wine, An Exegetical Study, 1947.
5. Ibid., p.148.
8. Ibid., p.149.
9. Dr. Jack Van Impe, Alcohol, the Beloved Enemy, Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980, pp.121,122. 10. Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p.151. 11. Dr. William Patton, Bible Wines, Sane Press, Oklahoma City, p.88.