The Bible prohibits alcohol

What does the Bible say about alcohol?

We are repeatedly asked about this topic: What position does the Bible take on alcohol consumption - temperance or abstinence?

Since there are ambiguities among Christians here, let us examine this question more closely.

There are biblical passages that clearly forbid the consumption of wine: "Wine makes mockers and strong drink makes wild; whoever stumbles away from it never becomes wise" (Prov. 20: 1) or: "Fornication, wine and cider take away the mind" ( Hosea 4:11). In the book of Proverbs 29: 20-35, the condition of a drunk is described in great detail as a chilling example.

But there are also texts that seem to recommend wine: "that the wine may delight the human heart" (Psalm 104: 15) or where Paul recommends his disciple Timothy for health reasons: "Use a little wine for the sake of your stomach!" (1 Tim. 5:23). According to these texts, the Bible does not seem - on the surface - to take a clear position on the question of alcohol.

Numerous Christians conclude from this that only excessive consumption of alcohol is forbidden, for example in Galatians 5:21 = drinking and eating as "the works of the elderly" (cf. also 1 Cor. 5:11). But they draw the conclusion for themselves: "I drink moderately but regularly and my drink is harmless!" Proponents of moderate alcohol consumption point out that alcoholic beverages are not generally prohibited in the Bible.

A question of moderation?
After 2. Petr. 1: 6 is one of the Christian virtues also "temperance". This word form in the Luther Bible is easy to mislead. The Greek word in the basic text is translated as follows: celibacy (Elberfelder), self-control (crowd), renunciation (Allioli). That means: One of the Christian virtues is abstinence, the renunciation of harmful things; today we refer to this as "abstinence" when it comes to alcohol.

Who is a "moderate drinker"? It's hard to pinpoint. Every alcoholic has started out as a "moderate drinker" or with the first glass and has lost control at an unknown point in time.

The apostle Paul was a model in Christian abstinence. Like a Greek competitor, he controlled his body and mind (1. Cor. 5: 24-27 =. In this way he was able to achieve high moral achievements. However, the question of alcohol has not yet been clearly clarified).

Do we find the solution in the basic text?
The Bible uses several terms to denote alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages: oinos (Greek) = wine in any form; also the vine. This term is used in the New Testament (cf. 1 Tim. 5:23). This does not distinguish whether fermented or unfermented, the drink in any form.

Tirosch (Hebrew), the alcohol-free grape juice made from grapes. It could be fermented, boiled down or thickened like syrup. Like Pharaoh's cupbearer, it was obtained by squeezing and squeezing grapes (Genesis 40: 8-11)

"The Israelites did not differentiate exactly between unfermented and fermented wine. They preferred to call the former Tirosch, an expression that is usually represented with must, and the latter Kemer or Jamin:" (Marius Th. Nielsen, "The Bible and the Alcohol Question") S 5)

In Isaiah 25: 6 the prophet gives a description of the new earth, paradise, where only "pure wine" is drunk as "there is no yeast in it". In his farewell song, Moses remembered that the Lord led his people and "gave them good grape blood" (Deuteronomy 32:14).

Then there was the shekhar (Hebrew) = strong drink, obtained through fermentation from dates, pomegranates and other things. Shekar is the collective name for all fermented drinks whose juices do not come from the vine. Distillation was still unknown in biblical times. How was shekhar used?

Prov. 31: 6 Strong drink is often mixed with bitter herbs and handed to those condemned to death: "Give shekhar to those who perish and yayin to those who are afflicted!"

Prov. 20: 1 "The yayin makes people loose and the schekhar makes wild!"

Isa. 5:11 "Woe to those who do the shekhar, that the yayin may heat them up!"

So the Bible knows the consumption of alcohol with all its effects very well.

What does the Old Testament say about the consumption of wine?
Viticulture and with it the abuse of wine as an alcoholic beverage began after the flood. The story of Noah's time that the sad consequences of the intoxication of his otherwise good and pious husband made themselves felt in the following generations and that the children had to atone for the sins of their fathers.

Although God still tolerated alcohol consumption in the OT, it was his goal to completely free his people from alcohol.

The priests as spiritual models should avoid alcohol (Leviticus 10: 8-11, Ezek. 44:21) so that they could distinguish between holy and unholy, clean and unclean and teach Israel educationally.

There was also a special group within the people of Israel, the NASIRANS, consecrated people, who abstained from drinking any wine, including grapes, raisins, and grape juice (Judges 13: 3-7). On the threshold from OT to NT, the consecrated John the Baptist worked as the forerunner of Christ. An angel announced his birth to his father Zacharias with the words: "He will not drink wine and strong drinks!" (Luke 1:15).

But Israel's history also reveals shining examples of abstinence in other ways: Immediately before the Babylonian captivity at the time of King Josiah lived the ethnic group of the Rechabites, who, according to their ancestors' wish, abstained from wine (Jer. 35: 1-11). That is why the Lord promised the Rechabites tales. You could call it the oldest abstinence movement.

Daniel and his friends who were prisoners at the royal court in Babylon refused to eat unclean food and drink wine and they were rewarded by God with mental and physical performance! (cf. Dan. 1: 3-20).

For the kings of Israel there was the counsel of abstinence (Prov. 31-4-5) - We have to ask ourselves how many wrong decisions and unfair judgments have been made in the course of history by people in positions of responsibility because they were under the influence of alcohol !

Did the people of Israel keep divine counsels?
During their forty years of wandering through the desert, the Israelites were brought up in simple laying and obedience to God's commandments. During this time they did not enjoy wine or fermented drink (shekhar) and this too was part of divine education. As a result of this period of abstinence, the Bible reports: "... and there was no infirm one among their tribes" (Psalm 105: 37).

Unfortunately, Israel's early abstinence was soon lost. Already in the time of the judge the sacrificial meals degenerated into feasts, so that the priest Eli mistakenly admonished the praying Hanna: "How long do you want to be drunk? Give the wine of yours that you have drunk!" (1st Saturday 1:14)

In Isaiah's day, the Jewish priests and leaders looked to the morning to drink wine and forgot the Lord's work and the responsibilities of their people. In this context, God issued a judgment on it. Again and again God's prophets had to raise their voices against drunkenness and immorality (cf. Hos.: 11). Nevertheless, we can assume that the problem of alcohol addiction in ancient Israel was nowhere near as bad as it is today.

What does it mean when we read the very general term "wine" in the Bible?
In the New Testament, the Greek word "oinos" is used for wine. At the time of the Greeks and Romans, the word "wine" had a broad meaning, namely all products that came from the vine, fermented or unfermented. "Oinos" (Latin Vinum) does not necessarily mean a fermented drink; only the respective text section makes it clear what is meant.

The ancient peoples had a number of methods of preventing so-called wine from becoming alcoholic. They immediately sealed freshly squeezed grape juice airtight and stored it in a cool place. If yeast germs penetrated the sweet must through the contact with air, they boiled the must and rendered the yeast germs harmless. They could also make wines that were not heady and always stayed sweet.

It was only recently that the word "wine" began to be limited to fermented grape juice. Many Bible translators do not differentiate sufficiently here.

How does the New Testament judge the use of alcoholic beverages?
Jesus Christ followed the abstinent John the Baptist. He was not bound by a vow like a Nazarite, so he drank of the vine. Therefore, he was slandered by his enemies as a "wine drinker". (Matt. 1: 18 + 19)., Although he refused alcoholic beverages. We see this from Mark 15:23. When he was walking and thirsting on the cross, he was offered fermented wine, but he refused it.

Incidentally, the Jews of Jesus' day were extremely mediocre people when it came to alcohol. Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus, both of whom reprimanded serious sins, ever spoke against drunkenness. Christ heals many sick people, but we never hear that there was an alcoholic in our sense among the numerous people seeking help. Alcoholism need not have been a downright Jewish bad habit back then. But for the last time, Christ foretold this vice and warned people:

"But be careful that your hearts are not burdened with eating and drinking and with daily worries and that this day does not suddenly come upon you like a pitfall;

The situation changed when the gospel went beyond Judaism and came to the Gentiles. The original congregation rejected drunkards and demanded their conversion, which may have cost many a struggle in the Greco-Roman drinking customs (1. Cor. 6: 9-11; Eph. 5: 18 + 19; 1. Petr. 4: 3).

"We have found enough evidence from the pagan authors that the ancient peoples suffered under the curse of alcoholism, although in this respect they are surpassed by the Christian peoples of the present". ("The Bible and Alcohol Question", M. Nielsen) "

What objections are raised today to Christian abstinence?
Claim: Jesus himself made wine at the wedding in Cana!

Response: The text passage is particularly problematic: "and when you have gotten drunk" (Joh. 2:10), which many interpret as drunkenness. But the word "drunk" translated by Luther means something like "drunk full" and has nothing to do with drunkenness. Literally translated this passage means as follows: "Everyone gives the good wine first, and when they have had enough, then the less." (L. Reinhardt, Das Neue Testamen from the standpoint of the early church).

The sinless Son of God in the midst of a tipsy or even drunk wedding party is unimaginable. Jesus, the creator of this world and also of plants, created pure grape juice. During his visit he brought the customary wedding gift among wedding guests to a certain extent.

Claim: Jesus drank alcoholic communion wine.

Response: According to his own words, Jesus drank "from the vine of the vine" (Matt. 26:29), i.e. grape juice, at the Lord's Supper and emphasized that he would only drink from it with his own people on the new earth, which knows a wine, " there is no yeast in it ", that is, unfermented ones. (Isaiah 25: 6).

The pure grape juice is the symbol of the pure blood of Christ that was shed for us.

Alcohol and christian life
In the early Christian community, those responsible, like the priests of the Old Testament, had to set a good example. The apostle Paul desired abstinence from the elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3: 2 + 8); Titus 1: 7; 2: 3). Paul admonished the churches that alcohol consumption and the Holy Ghost do not go well (Ephesians 5:18).

"And do not drink yourselves full of wine, from which a disorderly creature follows,
but let the Spirit fill you. "

According to the Bible, the Christian ideal is "sobriety", that is, a clear, watchful spirit in every situation (1 Thessalonians 5: 5-8).

If we take seriously the apostles' call to sobriety and want to be constantly connected to the Spirit of God, then our minds must be fully functional.

According to the word of the apostle Peter, believers, as God's people, are "royal priests of reconciliation" (1. Petr. 2: 9). We have this office not only once a week during the service, but 365 days a year, i.e. all the time. Now it was already the case for Aaron and his sons that as priests they were not allowed to drink alcohol during their service (Leviticus 10: 9). God justified this prohibition with the fact that in their priestly service they could distinguish exactly what is holy and what is unholy. This commandment from God should be an "eternal order for all your descendants". The service today of reconciling people to God through the gospel is no less sacred than the Old Testament reconciliation service in the tabernacle and later in the temple.

Whoever wants to serve God in a special way must heed his call: "You should be holy, for I am holy, the Lord your God!" (Leviticus 19: 2). Anyone who wants to achieve the holiness and purity desired by God must not do anything that tarnishes his judgment and weakens his willpower. The consumption of alcohol clearly has negative effects on a Christian life: One no longer understands the divine truths so well, because of forgetfulness one cannot memorize the foggy texts, one's self-control diminishes under the influence of alcohol and that can be done

Cause many sins that otherwise would not have happened. Drinking alcohol brings shame to Christian life.

Those who take their Christianity seriously also have a role model function in this world. Quite a few orientate themselves towards pious people and look at their lifestyle. The Bible casts a curse on those who seduce others to drink (Habakkuk 2: 15 + 16).

Children of God live by the standards of heaven, not the manners and customs of this world. With a "No, thank you" to the offered glass of alcohol, we can do better service to God.

(Lecture provided by Mr. Musolff)