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Booze In The Bible

Twenty To One Revisited

Let’s revisit the claim that wine was diluted to a water-to-wine ratio of Twenty To One.

This ratio comes up in support of the claim that the only use for wine in biblical times was for purifying water. Citing this ratio as support shows not only the absurdity of the claim, but also reveals the low standards for research among prohibitionists.

First, the twenty to one ratio is absurd on it’s face. Wine diluted to that degree would serve no purpose. It would not have any effect on microbes in the water, and would even be insufficient to improve the taste or the appearance of contaminated water. Add to the this the prohibitionist claim that wine in biblical times had significantly less alcohol than modern wine, and the twenty to one ratio becomes impossible to believe.

Second, the claim of twenty to one reveals sloppy research at best. Some don’t even research the claimed ratio to learn its source. Of those who do, some stop at “we know from Homer” and are not the least bit suspicious about Homer’s credentials as a writer of mythology. Of those who look deeper and see that the ratio comes from The Odyssey, few are at all concerned about that book’s status as mythical fiction. If we count those who sought out a copy of The Odyssey to read first-hand the context in which the ratio was found (magic wine used to defeat the Cyclops), there would be virtually no one. How can a man with a Ph.D. not know what The Odyssey is, and not be immediately suspicious of it being cited for historical support?

So, when we see a prohibitionist claim that wine in biblical times was diluted twenty parts water to one part wine, we know two things about that prohibitionist: that he knows nothing about water purification, and he knows even less about history and literature. When I hear about how thorough their research was, I can’t help but laugh.

As soon as they say “twenty to one” their research has lost all credibility.

Categories
Booze In The Bible

Twenty To One

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.