An Exchange on the "Wine" of John 2 

(Social Drinking)


     The following exchange was prompted by a challenge to an article in Bible Truths titled, "Jesus' First Miracle."  The person challenging contended that Jesus turned the water into fermented wine.  This discussion also included the social and recreational use of strong drink that is becoming more common today.  I shall begin this exchange by first supplying the section of the article that precipitated the exchange.  I recommend you read the article in full if you have not done so, before studying the following exchange.  To read the material, simply click on "Jesus' First Miracle."

 "…It is sometimes contended that the "wine" of verse nine is the same as the wine of verse three, except for quality. It is believed that both wines were intoxicating or fermented. Some use the language of the New International Version that reads thus, 'had too much to drink' (vs. 10) to teach that the first wine was definitely fermented. If this is correct, then Jesus not only turned water (pure) into fermented liquid (impure; hence, the miracle would have resulted in degradation), but he would have provided intoxicants (about one hundred additional gallons) for people who had already had too much to drink! Methuo is the Greek word translated 'well drunk' in verse ten. In this setting, I believe methuo simply suggests they had indeed had plenty to drink (accounts for them running out), but does not address the matter of intoxication.

Some, though, insist: 'It says Jesus made wine out of water.' Beloved, the word wine is oinos. The Greek word oinos is generic and does not necessarily mean fermented juice (see Bible Wines, by William Patton, pg. 89). It must also be remembered that even fermented wine in Bible days does not compare to our strong drink in alcoholic content. Again, I stress: If the wine Jesus made had been fermented, he would have not simply been engaging in what some call the temperate and social use of alcohol, but he would have been involved in providing more liquor to people who had already had 'too much to drink.' They would have the sinless Son of God participating and providing for a drunken orgy!

In this vein, some introduce Matthew 11: 18, 19. They understand the statement regarding Jesus, "came eating and drinking" to mean Jesus was a gluttonous and a winebibber. However, there is a point of comparison being made between John the Baptist and Jesus. John had evidently taken the vow of the Nazirite and lived a rugged and mostly isolated life. To the converse, Jesus lived mostly a normal life.


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


One thing I like about you, Jason, is that you are afraid of controversy (tongue in cheek). On a serious note, while I believe you are off on many specific biblical subjects, I appreciate your aggression and willingness to openly discuss and declare your positions. You wrote:

I think this is exactly what is happening here, Don. Willaim is correct. You can't reconcile in your own mind the fact that Jesus would actually make a fermented drink to share with others. Therefore, based upon your own bias in this matter, you declare the word "oinos" to be UNfermented juice in John 2, but FERMENTED juice in other passages. As Jim has pointed out, Don, you offer no valid support for this proclamation. Without support it can onlybe declared your OPINION .... and a rather weak one at that.

Don comments:

Jason, not only do you and I have antithetical theologies, but we share a totally opposite view of what Jesus was, did, and teaches. You have the Son of God supplying alcohol for those at a wedding and "sharing" the drinks with the boys. Shame on you, Jason.

How many on .… (name of the Internet list) accept the kind of Jesus that you would have us imagine? I trust that all reading this post will back off and take a serious look at what Jason is saying. Now, do not get me wrong: While I believe Jason is a false teacher, I rather like Jason.

Notice how much wine Jesus made: six waterpots of stone (Jn. 2: 6). They had the capacity of "two or three firkins apiece." A safe estimate of the total volume of wine that Jesus made would be about one hundred gallons. These people had already "drunk freely" (Jn. 2: 10, ASV) and now Jesus provides about one hundred gallons more. Jason and some of this list would have you believe that Jesus provided about one hundred gallons MORE OF STRONG DRINK to these people who had already "DRUNK FREELY." Imagine such! This is why I charged Jason with believing that Jesus took part in a drunken orgy, a necessary dialectic conclusion to Jason's position.

My friend, Jason, and, beloved, except for the medicinal use, the Jew (Jesus was a Jew, under the Law) was required to not even "look upon" strong drink (Prov. 23: 31). Please consider the prohibition: "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright." The wine here is obviously strong drink (I know this from the description involving fermentation and from the context).

Jason, you have tremendous ability, but you have gotten seriously off track some where along the line. You are headed in a downward spiral and denying many biblical truths in the rush toward total Bible rejection. I say this kindly as your friend, but say it I must. Jason, you are wrong about what you think Jesus did in John 2: provided about one hundred gallons MORE OF STRONG DRINK to these people who had already "DRUNK FREELY."

Jason, if I have misunderstood you, please tell me and I will correct any wrong statement on my part. I shall await your comments to the above.


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


Jason, thank you for your reply to my posts and for the opportunity to answer them. I would like for your readers to consider all your arguments as to why you believe Jesus in his first miracle turned water into intoxicating or fermented drink, provided for others, and also took part in the ingestion in John 2. I would also invite a consideration of my antithetical teaching, compare the two teachings one against the other and with the Bible and then accepting what the Bible teaches.

You have affirmed that drinking fermented drink short of intoxication is acceptable. To the converse, I have maintained that the Bible condemns the social and recreational use of strong drink, except for medicinal applications (Prov. 23: 31; I Tim. 5: 23). Since I am only interested in what the scriptures teach, I shall omit any references you have made to "intelligence," silly arguments," "prejudice," or "sinister motives." I am out to discuss the scriptures, not personalities.

You have addressed my arguments in various posts and have also advanced material that you believe proves fermented drink is allowed and even that teaches God wants the Christians to drink strong drink (it is understand that all my references to "drinking strong drink" when used in a condemned climate will be to the social and recreational use of alcohol).

I wrote regarding Jason's teaching:

"You have the Son of God supplying alcohol for those at a wedding and himself 'sharing' the drinks with the boys. Shame on you, Jason."

Jason responded:

No, Don, the BIBLE has Jesus supplying wine for those at a wedding. If you want to interpret this passage in John 2 as grape juice (non-fermented), that is your choice. However, there is a standing challenge on the table before you TO PROVE that the "oinos" in John 2 MUST be unfermented grape juice ONLY. I would be very, very interested in your PROOF of your theory, Don. You have made the assertion, now you need to substantiate it. And, Don, declaring that unfermented grape juice is the only interpretation that JIVES with your personal view of Jesus (as a teetotaler) is NOT evidence sufficient to validation. You know that as well as I do. Let's have some solid exegesis that PROVES your view of "oinos" is the ONLY possible one for this passage. Just you SAYING so doesn't MAKE it so. The most common usage of "oinos" (as most all scholars will agree) is that it refers to an alcoholic beverage. For you to declare that in THIS passage a less common usage of the word exists, you must PROVE that this less common usage IS CALLED FOR. I don't believe you can do that.

Don answers:

Jason, the commencement of your above statement is lacking stability. You have affirmed that the "wine" of John 2 is fermented. The way you word this post, it sounds as though you believe the "wine" could be the fruit of the vine, yet, you deny this possibility in other posts. Since this post and your attendant arguments involve oinos (the word translated "wine" in John 2), I shall begin my series of posts by engaging in some pertinent word study. There are basically about four original words that are translated "wine" in our English translations, three Hebrew and one Greek: Tirosh; yayin; shakar, and oinos.

There is no little amount of confusion about Bible wines because there is often too little study of the subject. There are basically three Hebrew words of interest that are translated wine. Tirosh is found 38 times in the Hebrew scriptures. Tirosh is translated "wine" 26 times, "new wine" 11 times and "sweet wine" once. Tirosh is used of grapes (natural state, cluster, Judges 9: 13, Isa. 65: 8) and apparently of fermented drink (Hosea 4: 11, Zech. 9: 17). Yayin is found about 135 times in the Hebrew text. It is defined as, "Yayin stands for the expressed juice of the grape, the context sometimes indicating whether the juice had undergone or not the process of fermentation" (Bible Commentary, Appendix B, pg. 412). Yayin is used of fermented drink or state (Gen. 9: 21-24) and the unfermented state (Ps. 104: 15). Shakar is found about 21 times. Shakar is translated "strong drink" in the King James. Shakar is used of the fermented state (Isa. 29: 9) and the natural or unfermented condition (Deut. 14: 26). Oinos is the Greek word that is used for wine in the New Testament. Oinos is found 33 times in the Greek New Testament. Oinos is used of intoxicating drink (Eph. 5: 18) and of unfermented juice (Jn. 2: 3).

Regarding shakar in Deuteronomy 14: 26, many translations do translate shakar "strong drink." However, some have "similar drink" (see the New King James). There is obviously an intended distinction being made between the "wine" and "shakar." The question is, what is the distinction. Is God not only allowing intoxicating drink but actually telling them to go buy it when God considers strong drink something concerning which man is to totally avoid (Prov. 23: 31)?

I believe the harmonious answer to the distinction between "wine" and "shakar" in Deuteronomy 14: 26 is seen in the celebrated scholar Patton's work, Bible Wines, pg.. 62: "Shakar (sometimes written shechar, shekar) signifies sweet drink expressed from fruits other than the grape and drunk in an unfermented or fermented state. It occurs in the Old Testament twenty-three times...." Since God prohibited the unnatural fermentation of juices for simple human intoxication, I must understand shakar in Deuteronomy 14: 26 to simply mean unfermented or sweet juices other than juice from the grape. Deuteronomy 14 26, then, would be a case of shakar being used for sweet juice other than juice from the grape ("similar drink," NKJV).

Jason, as you can see, these four words translated wine in the Bible have both a generic and specific meaning capability, unlike our word wine. Hence, "wine" may mean the pure unfermented juice from the grape or the product of man's devise, the fermented and changed juice from the grape.


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


For me to intelligently comment on the oinos ("wine") of John 2, I must lay a foundation and frame of reference from which to deduce and draw. We have seen that the particular type of "wine" (fermented or unfermented) must be determined by the verse and context in which the word "wine" occurs.

Allow me to say at the very onset that I essentially agree with the celebrated scholar and historian Moses Struat who wrote regarding his treatment and understanding of Bible wines: "My final conclusion is this, viz., that whenever the Scriptures speak of wine as a comfort, a blessing, or a libation to God, and rank it with such articles as corn and oil, they mean, they can mean only such wine as contained no alcohol that could have a mischievous tendency; that wherever they denounce it, and connect it with drunkenness and reveling, they can mean only alcoholic or intoxicating wine" (Nott, London Edition, pg. 49).

It must be remembered (another introductory and basic fact) that fermentation is not the natural and pure state of the fruit of the grape (in the case of strong drink as we know it).

"Fermentation is nothing else but the putrefaction of a substance containing no nitrogen. Ferment, or yeast, is a substance in a state of putrefaction, the atoms of which are in continual motion (Turner's Chemistry, by Liebig). (Kitto, ii., pg. 236.) Jason and the list, this is why Jesus used the "fruit of the vine" (free of "yeast") to symbolize his blood as an element of the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26: 20-29).

Regarding the "wine" of John 2, I quote the celebrated scholar William Patton: "The Greek word is oinos; and it is claimed that therefore the wine was alcoholic and intoxicating. But as oinos is a generic word, and, as such, includes all kinds of wine and all stages of the juice of the grape, and sometimes the clusters and even the vine, is is begging the whole question to assert that it was intoxicating. As the narrative is silent on this point, the character of the wine can only be determined by the attendant circumstances: by the occasion, the material use, the person making the wine, and the moral influence of the miracle....It is pertinent to ask, is it not derogatory to the character of Christ and the teachings of the Bible to suppose that he exerted his miraculous power to least 60 gallons of intoxicating wine? Wine which inspiration had denounced as 'a mocker,' as 'biting like a serpent,' and 'stinging like an adder,' as 'the poison of dragons,' 'the cruel venom of asps,' and which the Holy Ghost had selected as the emblem of the wrath of God Almighty? Is it probable that he gave THAT to the guest after they had used the wine provided by the host, and which, it is claimed, was intoxicating?" (Bible Wines, by William Patton, pg. 89, 90).

Jason, you have accused me of "having had something to drink myself" for even entertaining the view that strong drink is socially and recreationally condemned and that, therefore, the wine of John 2 must be unfermented. Please consider what some others have written about the wine of John 2 (remember fermented drink is not the natural state of the juice of the vine):

St. Augustine, born A. D. 354 wrote: "For he on that marriage day made wine in the six jars which he ordered to be filled with water, he who now makes it every year in the vines...But we cease to wonder at what is done every year; its very frequency makes astonishment to fail" (quoted from Bible Commentary, pg. 305).

Chrysostom, born A. D. 344 said: "Now, indeed, making plain that it is he who changes into wine the water in the vines and the rain drawn up by the roots. He produced instantly at the wedding feast that which is formed in the plant during a long course of time" (Ibid. pg. 305).

Doctor Trench wrote: "he who each year prepares the wine in the grape, causing it to drink up and swell with the moisture of earth and heaven, to transmute this into its own nobler juices, concentrated all those slower processes now into the act of a single moment, and accomplished in an instant what ordinarily he does not accomplish but in months" (Ibid.).

Jason, I submit that in view of the fact that fermentation (alcohol in strong drink) is a product of man and not of nature as such and the teaching to "look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright" (man made process of fermentation) that the wine of John 2 is the pure juice of the grape. As William Patton said:

"Can it be seriously entertained that Christ should, by his miraculous power, make ALCOHOL, an article abundantly proved not to be found in all the ranges of his creation? Can it be believed that he, by making ALCOHOL, sanctions the making of it and the giving of it to his creatures when he, better than all others, knew that it, in the past, had been the cause of the temporal and eternal ruin of myriads, and which, in the ages to come, would plunge myriads upon myriads into the depths of eternal damnation?" (Bible Wines, pg. 92).


Don Martin to the list:


Jason thus quoted me and then commented:

Don wrote:  except for the medicinal use, the Jew (Jesus was a Jew, under the Law) was required to not even "look upon" strong drink (Prov. 23: 31).

This is a wresting of Scripture to prove a personal theory, and you should no better than to try such a lame tactic on THIS list. There is no question but what the ABUSE of wine was condemned in Scripture. Those who "look upon" wine with the intent to "linger long at the wine" were in grave danger of falling victim to the abuse of this substance. The Bible warns very strongly against abusing wine (as well as other things). The responsible use of wine, however, is nowhere condemned ... and is even advocated in Scripture. It is this latter that you seem to be forgetting, Don.

Don answers:

Jason, it is true that in the context of Proverbs 23, a text to which you allude above, the matter of drunkenness is being addressed. The bottom line, though, is "look not upon..." (vs. 31). If I do not even "look upon" fermented drink, will I not stay totally away from it? It is also apparent, compared with such verses as you next mention, that the wise man has the social and recreational use of strong drink under consideration and not the medicinal.

Jason wrote:

Just a few chapters later in Proverbs we find wine prescribed for those "whose life is bitter" (31:6). There is a cheering effect to the responsible use of wine. It is GOD who causes the earth to bring forth its abundance so that man "may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man's heart glad" (Psalm 104:14-15). Wine does indeed gladden the heart, Don ... when used responsibly, as God intended. God has NEVER forbidden the drinking of wine (and, yes, this is FERMENTED wine) ... what God has forbidden is the ABUSE of wine. "Go then, eat your bread in happiness, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works" (Eccl. 9:7).

Don remarks:

Jason indiscriminately mentioned verses in which "wine" occurs and concludes that all references refer to strong drink, a product of man. Jason and many of us today have a hard time realizing the value the Jew placed on the rich blood of the grape. They did not have all the rich foods and sweets that we commonly have today. The affluent juice of the grape was indeed a prized matter. However, regarding the putrefied form of wine (fermented drink), the Jew and we are not even to "look upon" Prov. 23: 31). The Book of Wisdom states, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Prov. 20: 1).

Jason believes only the excessive use of alcohol is condemned, that resulting in intoxication. I submit again, however, that the command to "look not upon" clearly shows all social and recreational ingestion of alcohol is forbidden. Alcoholism and inebriation always begins with the "first drink." I have worked with countless individuals whose lives have been ruined by alcohol and in every case there was the proverbial first drink. Jason would counter by saying, "they abused it, this was their problem!" Jason would equate the use of alcohol (strong drink) to substances that have been created by God for man's temperate and controlled use, such as foods, etc. However, God is not the author of fermentation, not in its produced state. God has supplied the grape and its juice, man supplies the process of fermentation to produce strong drink. "Look not thou upon...," either we believe it or we do not. Strong drink has an inherit potential evil that has the ability to take over people's lives, influence them, and blind their judgments. Even small amounts, very small, have been shown to influence the drinker. Many states now have relatively miniscule amounts to determination impairment to the point of not being able to legally operate an automobile.

"If only I had stayed away from it altogether," I have repeatedly heard mothers, fathers, and young people say in tears, people whose lives were forever adversely altered and ruined by alcohol. Yet, Jason envisions Jesus turning water into the devil's drink in his very first miracle and joining in with the people in their drinking!


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


Jason continued to post in defense of Jesus creating alcohol for the people to use in theircelebration of the marriage feast thus:

In Titus 2:3 Paul says that older women are not to be "enslaved to much wine." He didn't tell them they could NOT drink wine. He didn't tell them they had to ABSTAIN. He said they were not to be ENSLAVED (addicted) to MUCH wine. The implication is obvious --- moderate, responsible use of this substance was not condemned. Was this just grape juice Paul was talking about here? How does one become "enslaved" (addicted) to grape juice? Is grape juice such a vicious commodity that it's use had to be regulated by apostolic decree?! A little grape juice is fine, but don't dare drink that second glass of Welch's?!! Does "much grape juice" impair the judgment?

Elders and deacons are also charged not to be "addicted to much wine" (1 Tim. 3:3, 8). Again, it does NOT forbid the drinking of wine .... it forbids addiction to it. The ABUSE of wine is forbidden, not the moderate, responsible USE of wine.

Don answers:

So many who have been responsible for ruined lives have thought, reasoned, and taught as has Jason. It is an irrefutable fact that the Bible condemns drunkenness (Eph. 5: 18). However, I also maintain the Bible teaches abstinence from strong drink. Just because there are verses that condemn the excess of strong drink, one cannot inferentially conclude that moderate drinking is permissible. Scholar Patton in his classic work Bible Wines addresses the reasoning that deacons are allowed some strong drink because of the language, "not given to much wine" (I Tim. 3: 8). Hear him: "To argue that, forbidding much wine, Paul approves of the use of some wine, and of any and every sort, is to adopt a mode of interpretation dangerous and wholly inconsistent with common usage" (Bible Wines, pg. 115).

In the case of the language pertaining to elders and the command, "Not given to wine," Patton observes: "The Greek is mee paroinon: mee, a negative particle, not; paroinon, compounded of para, preposition governing the genitive (of, from, on the part of), the dative (at, by, near, at, next to); and oinos, wine. Literally, not at, by, near, or with wine. This look considerably like total abstinence" (Ibid. pg. 111). For sure, Paul is saying that the prospective elder or bishop is not to be under the influence of strong drink (see different translations pertaining to "no brawler...not quarrelsome over wine..."). Both I Timothy 3: 3 and 3: 8 are seen in a total context in which Paul's friend Timothy had a stomach problem, but Paul had to order Timothy to medicinally use what appears to be sedative drink (I Tim. 5: 23). Even in this circumstance (medicinal use), Paul warns Timothy to use, "...a little wine...." Notwithstanding, Jason would have Christians imbibing of liquor socially and recreationally, just as long as they do not become drunk.

Where is the Christian going to procure strong drink such as whiskey? Also, where is he going to socially drink his liquor, is he allowed to go to the local bar, just as long as he does not become drunk? Keep in mind also, the strong drink of the Bible does not even begin to compare with our strong drinks (alcoholic content). Their strong drink was about like our beer, as best we can determine. Yet, the warning is "Look not thou upon upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright" (Prov. 23: 31). Why will not Jason acknowledge the teaching and enjoined practice of Proverbs 23: 31? Yes, the context is drunkenness, but the teaching to "look not upon" means stay totally away as far as the social and so called recreational use of alcohol is concerned. The only "moderate and responsible use" of fermented drink or alcohol is medicinal and then only "a little."


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


Jason has chastised and ridiculed me for teaching abstinence relative to strong drink. Jason has contended that Jesus' first miracle involved the Son of God turning water into alcoholic or fermented drink (about 80 gallons of it) for the people in a circumstance where the wine already provided had been consumed (Jn. 2: 1-10). Jason has then said that strong drink today is allowed and even encouraged by God as long as one does not become drunk. Jason has not explained how and where the Christian is allowed to socially drink his strong drink (in the local bar...).

Jason again argues for the use of strong drink:

Paul points out that some brethren might be made to "stumble" in their faith if they saw other drinking wine (perhaps assuming these others were NOT drinking responsibly). Thus, Paul says "it is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles" (Rom. 14:21). Was the eating of meat, or the drinking of wine, or several other things Paul could have listed here, WRONG? Of course not. There was nothing about any of these that was wrong in and of themselves. What was wrong was to cause a brother to stumble by what you had the liberty to pursue with a grateful heart. We have to be sensitive to the weak among us.

However, the message is clear in the Romans 14 passage --- drinking of wine ITSELF is not sinful, nor is it forbidden. The abuse of it is (and that abuse may include practicing one's freedom in such a way as to harm another's weak faith). Don, how does drinking unfermented grape juice cause a brother to stumble in regard to his faith? Would you answer that question for me?

Don answers:

Jason does what he has done anteriorly: he assumes the mentioned "wine" to be fermented. The particulars mentioned in Romans 14 were not wrong within themselves (Rom. 14: 14). There is so much that we are not told about the exact prevailing situation addressed in Romans 14. We know that the "observes special days" and the "meats" had no attendant evil association, but in the setting they could. To force the "wine" into being that the Bible says, "Look thou not upon," then, is totally inconsistent and incongruous with what Paul is teaching and the provided examples (see Rom. 14: 2-6, 21). I personally believe the issue involved asceticism and vegetarianism. I know Jason will mock this idea and count it as implausible, however, I maintain that it is an explanation that harmonized the text, context, remote context, and everything said on the subject. Jason's view that the "wine" of Romans 14 is intoxicating drink is unthinkable. Not only would the Christian be allowed to consume alcoholic drinks, but others would not be allowed to say anything to him about it, in the discussed circumstances of Romans 14 (vs. 1).

Jason asked, "Don, how does drinking unfermented grape juice cause a brother to stumble in regard to his faith?"

I am not even sure I know how "meat" and the observance of "certain days" could cause another to sin. However, Paul said that they could.


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


Jason quoted me and then wrote:

Don Martin wrote:  How many on…(name of list) accept the kind of Jesus that you would have us imagine?

My guess is: Almost every one of them!!! I doubt you would find over a handful of people on this list of 744 persons that would agree with your view that the wine of John 2 was simply grape juice. I feel rather confident that virtually everyone on this list would agree that it was fermented wine. I would also guess that virtually everyone on this list would think you had lost your mind for suggesting that this would then cause Jesus to be facilitating a drunken orgy. That is nonsense, and frankly I'm amazed that you would even suggest such a ludicrous conclusion. However, I'm going to put a survey (poll) question to this effect on the list and just see what kind of response we get. OK?

Don responds:

It is alarming when one is made aware of the positions certain preachers in the "church of Christ" hold. It is also very disturbing when we realize the number of professing Christians who believe as Jason that God has no problem with Christians socially and recreationally drinking strong drink. Jason has never told us how this strong drink is procured or where one goes to socially drink alcoholic beverages, perhaps the local bar?

I have conceded that the scriptures condemn drunkenness (Eph. 5: 18). I have also acknowledged that one verse I use to teach total social and recreational abstinence is found in the setting of drunkenness (Prov. 23: 31). However, how does one become drunk? One becomes drunk by imbibing incrementally until one has reached the state of intoxication. Our strong drinks today (extremely more power than the strong drinks of Bible days) effect alcoholic influence with the presence of just a little fermented substance, depending on various conditions as to how much, how fast, and how little alcohol. Fermented drink is not natural (the argument that fermentation is found naturally in nature is not a valid argument). Man does not commonly need fermented drink as he does food and water.

I have frankly been a little shocked that Jason has defended and advocated the social and recreational use of alcohol. The history of the drug alcohol is rich with ruined lives, degradation, and shame. I recall one of the last times that I saw my father before he and my mother divorced, I was about five years old (my father used alcohol but was not a given to drunkenness). I heard a noise in the kitchen and I walked in to see my mother bleeding on the floor and my father taking the few dollars she had for food for us to purchase himself more of the good stuff Jesus created and provided, according to Jason.

Beloved, man needs the ability to clearly think and make judgements (Tit. 2: 6). Alcohol, even in the smaller quantities, distorts and interferes with lucid thinking.

We think of the abuser of alcohol as simply being the drunk wallowing in the ditch with vomit covering his cloths and face. However, the disastrous influence of alcohol is often witnessed with those who are able to walk, talk, and think, albeit in a distorted fashion. "But they have erred through wine," wrote the prophet, "and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgement" (Isa. 28: 7).

Preachers and members believing that they can moderately use alcohol in a social way are not new. I received a call from a church about 25 years ago wanting to know if I could come for a meeting beginning the next Sunday. "What happened with the preacher scheduled to hold the meeting," asked I. "We heard he advocated social drinking and then we found out he did his social drinking in the local bar," answered they. Again, Jason has not commented on where the Christian can drink only that the Christian may socially consume strong drink and that God even wants the Christian to ingest alcoholic beverages.

I do thank Jason for the opportunity to respond on this list. I also thank Jason for being open and honest about his positions. I extend equal gratitude to all of you who have taken the time to follow this exchange between Jason and me. Yes, there are many verses that the proponent of social drinking can twist and pervert. However, they all, when properly studied, harmonize with, "Look thou not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright" (Prov. 23: 31). This timeless teaching not only precludes drunkenness, but eliminates THE VERY OPPORTUNITY FOR DRUNKENNESS.


Don Martin to Joseph C. and the list:


Joseph, I do thank you for your interest and your post in which you stated that the text in Proverbs 23 is only condemning intoxication.

I have repeatedly conceded that Proverbs 23: 29-35 is addressing those "who tarry long at the wine" (vs. 29). All the classic signs of intoxication are present, babbling, numbness to pain, ,etc. (vs. 29, 35). We do not disagree on this point.

Joseph, the point I have emphasized regarding the resident moral teaching of Proverbs 23 is that to prevent, obviate, and eliminate drunkenness the writer teaches that even the circumstance that leads to drunkenness is to be shunned. What is this circumstance? "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright" (vs. 23). Hence, total abstinence. This is precisely what I have taught: stay totally away from strong drink as far as social and so called recreational use is concerned.

In addition to knowing what the scriptures teach about the devastating drug of alcohol, I saw first hand the ravages wrought by alcohol (I am not talking about drunkenness). After I became a Christian, I had old friends from the world to look me up and beg for help in attempting to restore their marriages, etc. A common denominator in the destruction of their lives and happiness was the drug alcohol. After I became a minister and then an elder, I have continued to see the terrible fruits of alcohol. I am presently working with a young husband/father who drinks. He is never drunk, in fact, his wife never even knows when he is drinking. However, this drug is destroying their lives.

Yes, I am confident and sure in what I write, I know what the scriptures teach and I have seen for almost fifty years what alcohol does. There must be no defense of the drug, even when the social use is moderate! All the street drugs known to man combined cannot even begin to compare to the destruction wrought by the drug alcohol. Do any doubt this? "You are referring to the abuse of the drug," the resounding retort continues. My friends, it is mighty hard to separate the abuse from moderate use. "I only moderately use cocaine," some protest. What do you say to these people? What you probably say to the moderate cocaine user is the same thing you should say to the moderate alcohol user. These drugs are not necessary and they are dangerous and often deadly, leading to addiction, etc. How can a person ever become addicted to cocaine? It all begins with that first ingestion! I have worked with all kinds of drug addiction and some of the worse that I have seen is alcohol. One reason is that there are so many such as our friend Jason Mullens who adamantly defend the moderate use of alcohol.

No, the Bible does not defend the moderate use of alcohol for social purposes. The Bible often employs the pure and uncorrupted juice of the grape as a symbol of affluence. However, regarding the juice of the grape that has had man to corrupt it and turn it into a tool of the devil (fermentation), the Bible says, "Look thou not upon the wine..."

Joseph, thanks again for your thoughts and for considering my post.


Don Martin to Joseph and the list:


Joseph wrote:

Let me ask you a question about this text. The author says, "Do not look upon the wine WHEN...," and then proceeds to give a list of appearances of the wine. To take this at face value, it means that THERE IS A PARTICULAR TIME or SITUATION in which one is to "not look upon the wine," thus the adverb, "when...". If the author had wished to say what you affirm, it seems he could simply have said, "Do not look upon wine, period." If I tell my wife, "Do not go down this street "when" it is dark," what am I saying to her? Don't ever go down this street? No, I'm implying that there is a danger in a particular circumstance or time. I believe that when the writer says, "Do not look upon the wine "when" it is....," he is specifying a particular circumstance.

Don answers:

Joseph, if I understand your question you are wondering what time and circumstantial state is being mentioned in Proverbs 23: 31. This is a very good question and goes to the very heart of the matter. The state when one is to "look thou not upon the wine" is when "it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright."

Jason and some others have commented that I do not know anything about chemistry. They are right in that I am not that conversant with many aspects of chemistry. I do know that fermentation naturally occurs in nature all the time, but that you will not find 98 proof whiskey that has naturally occurred without man's help (this is what I have affirmed). If I recall my chemistry, about three percent naturally occurring without man's intervention is high (I am not positive about this since I have not refreshed my memory in many years). One does not have to be a chemist, though, to know that strong drink as we know it is not simply a result of nature: man must "make" it. I mention all this to remark that the description of the wine found in Proverbs 23: 31 obviously is describing the state of fermentation. I recall when I was about 12, some of us boys decided we would made some wine. We left out some of the ingredients, but when we went back to check on it, it was moving around and had totally changed its appearance (it was so putrid that not even the bravest of us would taste it). While the alcoholic content of our concoction would not compare with the carefully and professionally prepared and processed strong drink today, it did have a low degree of fermentation.

It is alright to "look upon the wine" as simply the juice of the grape. However, when fermentation has set in, "look thou not upon the wine." Hence, stay away from fermented drink.

The prohibition, "look thou not upon the wine" pertains to a number of matters, but proximity is one. If you do not get around it, you cannot become a victim of it. The drunk and alcoholic (the one being described in Proverbs 23) cannot become a drunk and alcoholic if he "look not...upon the wine when...."

Again, Joseph, thanks for your input and interest. In many respects, I am in agreement with your good post.


Don Martin to Jason Mullens and the list:


Jason wrote:

Jesus said, "Everyone who LOOKS ON a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). If we use Don Martin's "logic" here, we must insist that men be forever forbidden from any intimate contact with women because it just might lead to adultery. Men should not even LOOK UPON a woman because it might lead to adulterous intent. After all, didn't Paul say "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor. 7:1)?  And, furthermore, doesn't adultery BEGIN with that first LOOK. If he never looked at her or touched her, he would never commit adultery with her. Right? So, what is the solution? That's right!!! BAN WOMEN!!!!

Don remarks:

Jason, I fail to appreciate your alleged parallelism between Matthew 5: 28 and Proverbs 23: 31. The Greek grammar of Matthew 5: 28 does not teach the simple seeing of a woman with pure intentions or even admiration. The grammar is describing intent from the outset (such lessons are not seen in "Look thou not upon the wine...." (Prov. 23: 31).

Matthew 5: 28 reads: "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Strictly speaking, the grammar is addressing the actions of a married man (with one not his wife) but would apply in principle to a single man (moicheuo, adultery). "Looketh" is the Greek blepon (nominative, singular, masculine, participle, present tense, and active voice). The word and the grammatical posture indicates not a gaze but a contemplative look, a continuous stare. As grammarian W. Robertson Nicoll remarks, "The look is supposed to be not casual but persistent, the desire not involuntary or momentary, but cherished with longing" (The Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 108).

The expression, "to lust after her" is very descriptive of what Jesus is here considering and condemning. "And, again, the 'looketh to lust' must not be interpreted of the casual evil thought which is checked by holy watchfulness, but the gazing with a view to feed that desire (Alford's Greek Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 48). Translator Marshall renders pros epithumesai auton "with a view to desire her" (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament).

The language, "...hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" is understood in two different ways. The common understanding of ede emoicheusen auten en te kardia autou is that the deliberate stare results in adultery having been committed in the heart of the man. Another view is that based on the aorist infinitive, Jesus is actually grammatically saying that the man under consideration BEFORE the act of staring, had committed adultery in his heart (referring to his very essential character, my understanding of the original).

All the above and more is found in the teaching, language, and grammer of Matthew 5: 28. How does, "Look thou not upon the wine..." compare and equate? Yet, Jason's believed parallelism forces him to saddle me with the imposed conclusion: "BAN WOMEN!!!!" "Look thou not upon the wine" is, again, among other things, addressing the very proximity of the person to the strong drink. In common parlance the language would be equivalent to, "do not get around wine when it is fermented." There is, then, no real parallel between Matthew 5: 28 and Proverbs 23: 31.

Is not it amazing at the effort our friend Jason is exerting to avoid the simple teaching of, "Look thou not upon the wine..."? Jason does not get enough out of Matthew 5: 28 but he gets too much out of Proverbs 23: 31.

Please do not think that I have something personally against Jason. I like Jason and I have even defended Jason a couple times on another list. Jason states very plainly his position and while I often do not agree, I appreciate this.


Don Martin to Jason Mullens:


Jason and the list, since we have covered all the basic arguments in favor of the social and recreational use of strong drink, this shall be my last post.

Jason wrote:

The passage, pure and simply, is speaking of ABUSE of wine. The fact that you apparently are blind to that reality, or refuse to see it, is extremely puzzling to me....To Don I would simply say: CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT. This passage in Proverbs has ZERO to do with prohibiting the moderate consumption of wine. Rather, it has to do with EXCESS and ABUSE of wine.

Don comments:

Like Jason, I have had many internet exchanges and about the hardest part of them is knowing when to stop. I think Jason and I are at an impasse. Jason, I fully understand that the context of Proverbs 23: 31 is pertaining to intoxication and even alcoholism. I have granted many times this point. However, I understand the command in verse 31 to, "Look thou not upon the wine..." is the means to avoid intoxication and alcoholism. There are many people who are HOOKED WITH THE VERY FIRST DRINK. They are enslaved and become true alcoholics just because they took that first drink. All intoxication and alcoholism, in a way, BEGAN with the first drink! The prevention to all intoxication and alcoholism is to stay away from fermented drink.

Food, natural and legal sexual desire, etc. all have a proper place. Such desire is part of man's life as set in place by God. However, fermented drink is not needed, is not part of man's natural life, and does not have a place unless it is medically controlled. Hence, not only is alcoholic excess plainly condemned in the scriptures, but the social use in general. Alcohol is a dangerous and strong drug that America is basically ignoring. Alcohol is the main drug that continues to be precipitous to murder, rape, thief, divorce, and all kinds of human suffering and abuse. Jason, you can dismiss all of these facts by simply directing focus to what you have styled as my prejudices, childhood experiences, or whatever. Yet, the facts remain. Cocaine has not ever been the threat that alcohol has. Notwithstanding, the politicians basically ignore and socially promote "the moderate use" of alcohol and, Jason, in all kindness, highly talented preachers such as you defend and argue for the "moderate use of alcohol."

Jason and the list, I have pretty well exhausted all I know and have to say about the social and recreational use of strong drink. I always enjoy exchanging with Jason, I have found Jason to be a formidable and capable opponent. "Do not ever underestimate Jason Mullens," I have told others who lightly dismiss Jason. This does not mean, however, that I do not strongly disagree with you on occasion, and this is one of those occasions.