PedanticDan  Dansplaining The Bible

September 12, 2006

Don’t Look!

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 3:15 pm

Proverbs 23:31-33 says [NASB]:

Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly;
At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange things, And your mind will utter perverse things.

This passage is interpreted differently by different kinds of prohibitionists. The “all fermented beverages were always forbidden” prohibitionists interpret 23:31 to prohibit looking at all fermented beverages, while the “wine was always diluted in biblical times” prohibitionists interpret it to only prohibit looking at undiluted fermented beverages. I disagree with both.

I don’t think that Proverbs is in the category of “Law”, but is advice for wise living written in the form of poetry. I would agree that it would be foolish to not follow the advice in Proverbs, and that it is just as valid today as it was when it was written. But it is still poetry, and that can present some challenges.

The passage (in the context of verses 29 through 35 ) is talking about the foolishness of alcohol abuse. “Redness of eyes”, “tarry long”, “they beat me, but I did not feel it”, etc. All refer to a level of drinking that goes way beyond any definition of moderate. The message is a warning against drunkenness and alcoholism.

The Hebrew lexicon available at (see the full entry from Gesenius’s Lexicon) describes the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “look”, and it seems to mean more than simply seeing a thing. It carries the idea of looking at something with great pleasure and longing. And in my opinion, the rest of the verse is not describing actual characteristics of wine, but the perceived attributes of wine as viewed by someone who is intoxicated (e.g., wine does not sparkle or go down smoothly unless you’ve had a few). Therefore, I believe that Proverbs 23:31 is saying, “do not long for, desire, or seek intoxication.” That verse is preceded and followed by examples of what intoxication leads to: woe, sorrow, strife, etc.

The passage warns against drunkenness and does not forbid all consumption of alcoholic beverages.

June 28, 2006

Only Barbarians

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 3:55 pm

Once again, I’d like to look at a quote from Robert Stein’s 1975 article. In my last posting, I quoted this: “The ratio of water might vary, but ony barbarians drank it unmixed, and a mixture of wine and water of equals parts was seen as ‘strong drink’ and frowned upon.” This time, I’d like to focus on “only barbarians drank it unmixed.”

I’ve already mentioned that the wine the ancient Greeks drank was concentrated. With this in mind we could say that only barbarians drank the heavy syrup directly. But, the real issue is that we’re talking about the Greek intellectual elite, their definition of barbarian, and their opinions of what these barbarians did or did not do.

The ancient Greek intellectual elite regarded anyone who was not Greek as a barbarian. This alone would suggest we have cause to disregard the ancient Greek view of barbarians. When the ancient Greeks called someone a barbarian, that just means they were not Greek.

Also, at least some of what the Greeks believed about barbarians was mere supposition. They might say, that only barbarians XYZ when, in fact, they had no knowledge of any particular non-Greek society that actually did XYZ.

Finally, the ancient Greek view of acceptible behavior is not necessarily binding on Bible believing christians. For example, Plato is credited with this quote:

Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.

Do prohibitionists really want to base their views on what the ancient Greek intellectuals said about barbarians?

I submit that we have no reason to take notice of what the ancient Greeks believed about barbarians.

June 15, 2006

Wine Distinct From Strong Drink

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 11:14 pm

In Robert Stein’s article mentioned previously, he said “The ratio of water might vary, but only barbarians drank it unmixed, and a mixture of wine and water of equals parts was seen as ‘strong drink’ and frowned upon.” A bit later he says, “In several instances in the Old Testament a distinction is made between ‘wine’ and ‘strong drink.'” This, he suggests, supports the idea that perhaps even in Old Testament times wine was diluted.

He is correct that the Old Testament distinguishes between wine and strong drink. They are clearly two different things, and Stein provides scripture references in which wine and strong drink are mentioned together, establishing that they are, in fact, two different things. The reader is left to conclude that wine is diluted and acceptable; strong drink is not diluted and unacceptable. But in the passages in which both appear in distinction, they are both treated exactly the same. There is no verse that mentions both that gives any hint that one is permitted and the other is not. To make my point I’d like to look at three such passages.

Deuteronomy 14:26

Wine and strong drink are both equally acceptable choices to buy and consume as part of the observance of the tithe. They are distinct, but are equally acceptable beverages.

Leviticus 10:8-9

Again, wine and strong drink are clearly distinct things, but are not treated distinctly in the prohibition. The Levitical priests were forbidden to drink either beverage while serving in the Tent of Meeting. There is no moral distinction at all. Since the prohibition is specifically limited to the Tent of Meeting, it seems logical to conclude that either was an acceptable beverage outside the Tent of Meeting.

Numbers 6:3-20

And yet again, wine and strong drink are clearly distinct things, but both are equally forbidden to the Nazirite during the period of their vow. After the vow is completed, the Nazirite is allowed to resume all the practices that were forbidden during the time of the vow.

In careful study of each passage that distinguishes wine and strong drink as being two different things, we see that they are yet treated equally. Both are capable of producing drunkenness, both require caution, and both can be consumed as beverages with gratitude to the God who made them.

May 30, 2006

Wine Drinking in New Testament Times

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 9:44 pm

Robert Stein’s article Wine Drinking in New Testament Times was published in the June 20, 1975 issue of Christianity Today. Some prohibitionists consider Stein’s article an important source establishing that wine in biblical times was so diluted that it bears little resemblance to modern alcoholic beverages. The article can still be obtained easily through inter-library loan. I had a copy less than a week after submitting my request to my local public library.

“It Bears The Three Parts Well”

The article never mentions that wine in the time and culture discussed was concentrated. The wine was a thick syrup that was too sweet to drink without first diluting it. After dilution it was closer to what we think of as wine today. Although this is not mentioned in the article, it is hinted at by a couple of quotes contained in the article. First, a character from a play by Aristophanes is quoted to say, “Zeus! But it’s sweet and bears the three parts well!” Second, in a discussion about the Talmud the article states “One tractate (Shabbath 77a) states that wine that does not carry three parts of water well is not wine.” Both of these indicate that a concentrated syrup is under discussion. After being diluted three parts water to one part wine it THEN was a drinkable beverage. Before dilution, it was too thick, sweet, and strong. A wine that was not concentrated, or insufficiently concentrated, would not “bear the three parts well.”

Try an experiment. Go to the grocery store and buy one eight ounce can of concentrated orange juice and one half-gallon of ordinary orange juice. Take them home and get down two pitchers. In the left pitcher, mix one can of concentrated orange juice with three cans of water. In the right pitcher, mix one can (using the now empty concentrated orange juice can) of ordinary orange juice with three cans of water. Pour yourself a glass from each pitcher, and take a drink from each. Which one do you think bears the three parts well?

I have other issues with the article which I may address in the future.

May 25, 2006

Twenty To One

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 11:00 pm

Homer’s The Odyssey is referenced by some prohibitionists to show that wine was diluted by as much as twenty parts water to one part wine. This is part of the evidence that wine was so diluted in biblical times that it bore no resemblance to modern wine. This mention of The Odyssey is misleading.

In Book IX of The Odyssey, Ulysses is telling King Alcinous how he bested the Cyclops, Polyphemus. As part of this tale, Ulysses tells of a fabulous wine he was given by a priest of Apollo that was irresistible even when diluted with twenty parts water. Ulysses uses this wine to get Polyphemus drunk, then gouges out the Cyclops’ eye.

Perhaps now would be a good time to point out that The Odyssey is Greek mythology. The wine is just as fictitious as the Cyclops. The wine was made up by Homer as a plot device for the purpose of providing Ulysses with a means to defeat the Cyclops. Homer’s The Odyssey tells us no more about Greek wine drinking practices than the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel and Gretel tells us about German home construction materials.

April 28, 2006

Habakuk 2:15

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 11:00 pm

Sometimes, this is quoted from Habakuk 2:15:

“Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink”

This is presented as prooof that it was even forbidden to give an alcoholic beverage to a neighbor – so clearly, all drinking is sin.

But, if we bother to crack open our Bible and read the entire verse, we would see that it says this:

“Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

When we read the entire verse, instead of hacking out only the introduction to the thought it expresses, we can see that the verse quite cleary decries the practice of getting someone drunk and taking advantage of their helplessness!

April 12, 2006

Not Enough Time

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 9:00 pm

This one’s a hoot:

Jesus must have turned the water into grape juice (NOT wine) because it didn’t have time to ferment! It could not possibly have been wine!

Jesus transformed hydrogen and oxygen atoms into different elements! He circumvented the natural processes for producing grape juice — no seed, soil, cultivation, irrigation, weed control, fertilization, pruning, harvesting, nor grape squeezing — He went from water to grape juice with less effort than it takes me to blink my eyes. By doing his, He revealed Himself as the Creator. Yet, prohibitionists would have us believe that the same almighty Savior has no power to circumvent the natural processes of yeast on sugar.

As we mentioned before, Jesus made bread on two separate occasions. He bypassed all the processes of growing wheat, making flour, producing dough, yeast converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and cooking the bread. This proves that Jesus did, in fact, have power over fermentation and most certainly could have transformed water in to wine.

April 5, 2006

Something Rotten

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — Tags: , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 2:23 am

Perhaps my favorite proof that Jesus turned water into grape juice (NOT wine) is this:

Jesus never could have made something dead and rotten!

This argument is based on the mistaken idea that fermentation is a process of death and decay. This might have been understandable 150+ years ago, but now we know that fermentation is actually the result of the life process of yeast. Fermentation serves to preserve much of the nutritional value in fruit juices — i.e., it prevents decay.

But just for fun, let’s go ahead and call fermentatation decay. The interesting thing is that the same process of fermentation that transforms sugar into alcohol makes bread rise. Yeast digests carbohydrates and gives off carbon dioxide and alcohol. That makes wine alcoholic, and creates the little voids in bread that makes it fluffy. Why is that interesting? Because on two different occassions, Jesus made bread to feed a multitude (5,000 the first, and 4,000 the second). That’s right — Jesus made something fermented. In fact, he made something that had been fermented, and then cooked. And if that’s no bad enough, He made dead fish on both occasions as well.

If Jesus would make something dead and something fermented in Matthew 14 to feed 5,000 people, and do it again in Matthew 15 to feed 4,000, why in the world should we believe that He could not have made something fermented in John 2?

March 19, 2006

No Good Reason

Filed under: Booze In The Bible — PedanticDan @ 6:45 pm

This morning, folks attending my church were treated to a bulletin insert that explained why it is wrong for Christians to go to the cinema. Basically, since the author of the article could think of no “good” reason to go to one, it must be sinful to do so.

This argument is frequently put forth by prohibitionists to condemn any practice they dislike, but they typically fail to apply it evenhandedly. There is no good reason to drink coffee, yet many prohibitionists do. There is no good reason to eat cake, yet many prohibitionists do. There is no good reason to eat pie, yet many prohibitionists do. There is no good reason to eat ice cream, yet many prohibitionists do. How can such scandalous behavior be justified as acceptable for a Christian when such things are clearly unnecessary? No one needs coffee, cake, pie, or ice cream, so how can the sincere Christian continue such carnal indulgences?

I think the clearest answer can be found in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 in which God dictates the manner in which His people were to observe the tithe. Those who had to travel too far with their produce were instructed to sell it and bring the money instead. Once they arrived at “the place which the LORD thy God shall choose”, the instruction in Deuteronomy 14:26 was “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” There are others, but this passage establishes that one can worship and bring honor to God by thankfully eating and drinking things that one enjoys simply because one enjoys them. According to Deuteronomy 14:26, the only “good” reason one needs to justify eating cake, pie, or ice cream is that “thy soul desireth” it.

Prohibitionists have no problem understanding the principle when it is something they enjoy. The “no good reason” argument is entirely void of merit.

March 1, 2006


Filed under: Booze In The Bible,Ignore Me — Tags: , , , , , , — PedanticDan @ 9:01 am

When I was in college, many years ago, I studied physics. Somewhere along the way we learned about pulleys.

The purpose of a pulley is to change the direction of a force. Ideally it will do so with very little friction, but the purpose is still nothing more than changing the direction of a force. When you combine multiple pulleys in the right configuration, you effectively trade force for distance in the equation for Work: W = FD (Work equals the Force applied multiplied by the Distance over which the force is applied). The basic principle is that the necessary force goes down as the distance traveled goes up. A collection of pulleys increases the distance (you have to pull more rope) which reduces the required force by the same factor (i.e., four times more rope means 1/4 as much force).

In one pulley-related assignment, there was a problem where one pulley was replaced by a simple iron bar which was assumed to be frictionless. Instead of going around a pulley, the rope went around this frictionless iron bar. Since a pulley changes the direction of a force, and the bar changed the direction of the force, I treated the iron bar as if it where a pulley. The professor marked my answer wrong. When I discussed it with him, he said that since the bar was not a pulley, it did not add to the mechanical advantage of the system. He rejected my reasoning that since the bar changed the direction of the force just like a pulley, and since the bar increased the distance traveled by the rope just like a pulley, then the bar served exactly the same function as a pulley.

Although I got nowhere with that professor, I have since found that my analysis was in fact correct. You can replace a pulley with a metal bar, a metal ring, or even a loop of rope (you can actually make a “block and tackle” arrangement with nothing but rope). As long as the direction of the force is changed with relatively little friction added to the system, the physical principle is the same.

A doctorate does not prove that someone knows what he’s talking about.

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