Truth & Error about Bible Wines

15 January 2023 AM –Psalm 86:11 – Wine – Scott Childs
Introduction: Wine is mentioned more than 200 times in the Bible. Many Christians assume that the word “wine” in the Bible always refers to alcoholic wine. They may know that Noah got drunk on wine. They know that Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. They assume that when David’s men were “eating and drinking”, that they were drinking alcoholic wine. They also assume that when Jesus turned water into wine, that He turned it into alcoholic wine. Based on many such assumptions, they conclude that God must approve of moderate drinking of alcohol. However, are assumptions like these based on truth or error?
Actually, the Bible has a lot more to say about the subject than most Christians realise. In this brief series entitled Truth & Error about Bible Wine, I want to dispel error and reveal truth about the wines used in the Bible. Primary sources for this article are “Bible Wines: Laws of fermentation and wines of the ancients.” By William Patton, “Wine in the Bible” by Samuele Bacchiocchi, and “The Juicy Truth of Biblical Wine” by David Gross. See References at the end of the article that I sent you. I encourage you to read those documents.
            In this article, I want us to take several steps to distinguish truth from error regarding Bible wine.
The first step I want us to take to distinguish truth from error is to …
  1. Examine the Words Translated “Wine”
The Bible contains at least 13 words that are translated “wine”. Each has a slightly different meaning.
a.         Old Testament Hebrew Words Not all 11 words
1)         (Leviticus 10:9) H3196 Yayin x134, generic. “Denotes all stages of the juice of the grape.” Dr. Murphy quoted by Patton. “This may be new or old, sweet or sour, fermented or unfermented, intoxicating or unintoxicating.” Professor M. Stuart, quoted by Patton. In the KJV, it is always translated “wine”, except “vine” in Num 6:4 and “banqueting” in Song 2:4. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary states, “Yayin, from a root ‘boil up,’ is the extract from the grape, whether simple grape juice unfermented, or intoxicating wine; related to the Greek oinos.”
2)         (Proverbs 3:10) H8492 Tiyrowsh (Tirosh) x38, freshly pressed grape juice, new wine, or must. Always translated “wine” in KJV. Bible Commentary, p. xxiv.: “Tirosh is not wine at all, but the fruit of the vineyard in its natural condition.” Quoted by Patton
3)         (Deuteronomy 14:26) H7941 Shekar x20, another generic word, always translated “strong drink” in the KJV, except “strong wine” Nu 28:7 and “drunkards” Ps 69:12. “The true original idea of shakar is a liquor obtained from dates or other fruits (grapes excepted), or barley, millet, etc., which were dried, or scorched, and a decoction of them was mixed with honey, aromatics, etc.” Professor M. Stuart quoted by Patton. Shekar “signifies sweet drink expressed from fruits other than the grape, and drunk in an unfermented or fermented state” (Patton, Bible Wines) Fausset adds, “Shekar … including palm wine, pomegranate wine, apple wine, honey wine; our “sugar” may be a cognate word to shekar, syrup.” Fausset’s Bible Dictionary
4)         (Hosea 3:1) H6025 Enab x19, Always translated grapes except in Hosea 3:1 where it is a flagon of wine [raisin cake].
5)         (Amos 9:13) H6071 Aciyc (Ahsis) x5, sweet wine, pressed out juice or new wine. Ahsis “is specially applied to the juice of newly-trodden grapes or other fruit.” Patton
6)         (Hosea 3:1) H809 ‘Ashiyshah (Ashishas) x4, Always translated “flagon” in the KJV. Raisin-cake, used in sacrificial feasts. It “signifies some kind of fruit-cake, probably a cake of pressed grapes or raisins.” Patton
7)         (Isaiah 1:22) H5435 Cobe (Soveh) x3, drink, liquor, wine (KJV – wine, drink, drunkards). “A luscious and probably boiled wine.” Patton
8)         (Proverbs 23:30) H4469 Mamcak (Mesek, Mesech) x2, (mixed wine, drink offering) (Isa 65:11).
b.         New Testament Greek Words
1)         (Romans 14:21) G3631 οἶνος oinos 25x, Generic wine. Always translated wine in the KJV. Stuart says: “In the New Testament we have oinos, which corresponds exactly to the Hebrew yayin.” Quoted by Patton “As both yayin and oinos are generic words, they designate the juice of the grape in all its stages.” Patton The LXX [Septuagint Greek O.T.] uses the word oinos to translate the Hebrew Tirosh 37 of the 38 times it is found. Tirosh is clearly newly pressed grape juice, thus oinos can be as well.
2)         (Acts 2:13) G1098 γλεύκος gleukos 1x, translated “new wine” in the KJV. This is the sweet juice pressed from the grape, sweet wine.
3)         Related Greek terms in the New Testament.
a)         “Fruit of the vine” (Mt 26:29; Mr 14:25; Lu 22:18).
b)         G3943 πάροινος paroinos 2x, “given to wine”
c)         G3632 οἰνοφλυγία oinophlugia 1x, “excess of wine”
c.          How can we tell when Bible “wine” is alcoholic?
1)         Most Bible Dictionaries define “wine” as alcoholic.
2)         Many Christians believe that since the wine Noah and Lot drank was alcoholic, then wine must also be alcoholic all the other times they find it in the Bible.
3)         While this argument may seem logical, the Bible does not consistently use wine that way. Consider these examples.
a)         Though yayin may be alcoholic, clearly that is not always the case. (Numbers 6:4) “All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
b)         Yayin sometimes describes grape juice fresh from a winepress. (Isaiah 16:10) “And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.” This is obviously fresh juice.
c)         We have another use of yayin in Proverbs 23:31. “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” This verse implies that not all wine is red and fermented.
d)         Tirosh (must) is always translated “wine” in the KJV, yet it refers to freshly pressed grape juice. (Proverbs 3:10) “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Mickelson’s Lexicon defines tirosh as “must or fresh grape-juice (as just squeezed out).” Tirosh is clearly not alcoholic.
e)         Oinos is the Greek translation in the LXX (Septuagint) for nearly every Hebrew word that is translated “wine” in English. Again, this confirms that it is a generic word for all forms of grape products.
f)          Oinos in the New Testament was sometimes called “new wine”. (Luke 5:38) “But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.” And the one time Gleukos is used, it depicts fresh grape juice. (Acts 2:13) “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
g)         The Bible uses the word “wine” for all products from the grape vine (e.g., grapes, raisins, fresh juice, preserved juice, fermented juice). The main Bible words for wine, yayin in the O.T. and oinos in the N.T., are generic terms. Only the context and moral intent can reveal the grape product intended.
Conclusion: It would be wrong to say that alcoholic wine did not exist in the Bible. However, it is equally wrong to claim that all wine in the Bible was alcoholic. That simply is not the case.
While these facts alone do not reveal every truth and error about Bible Wines, they do give us a solid foundation for the study of Bible Wines. I encourage you to study the article that I sent you, look up the words, and study it further for yourself.
(Psalms 86:11) “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.” If you sincerely pray this verse as a prayer, I believe God will answer it.
            Lord willing, next week we will build on this foundation.
Song: Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord – 337