Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Alcohol and the Bible
The general contours of biblical teaching are that wine is a blessing from YEHOVAH God, something to be enjoyed. But like any good gift from YEHOVAH God, it can be abused: in some cases, abuse involves addiction and drunkenness. In this case alcohol should be avoided; but to say the Bible condemns alcohol is totally false.
by HOIM Staff
Drinking alcohol is one of those issues which is, and will continue to be, controversial. Six hundred or more Biblical references and centuries of Christian tradition seem not to have not yet provided a clear answer.
As a whole, the mainstream Christian Church appears to send out mixed messages about alcohol. Some Christians think the only way to solve the problems of alcoholism is by total abstention (not drinking at all under any circumstances). Others believe that occasional and moderate drinking is a pleasant and harmless way of relaxing and enjoying the company of one’s friends. All Christians agree, however, that too much alcohol can lead to tragic consequences. They therefore try to be self-disciplined and self-controlled whether or not they are total abstainers.
There is no Eleventh Commandment saying "Thou shalt not drink" in the Bible. However, there are strong statements throughout the Bible about not getting drunk.
In a recent email, a visitor to the Biblical Studies Foundation web site asked, “Could you help explain whether the Bible promotes drinking alcohol or whether it condemns it.”
This is obviously a concern to many Christians -- and for good reason! With the rampant abuse of alcohol in this country, resulting in shattered lives and tens of thousands of deaths each year, any person with a conscience should be deeply concerned about this issue. However, caution is also needed in a different direction: too often Christians have moral outrage because of abuses of one of YEHOVAH God’s gifts -- outrage that leads to a condemnation of those who are not abusers.
Things that once were issues are often now regarded as normal activities. For example, when my grandmother and grandfather were dating, her parents were concerned about this young man because he liked to go to football games. That was taboo for them. Some Christians have condemned others for wearing make-up, going to the opera. Christians, it seems, have an incredible ability to invent rules and regulations. It’s endemic to human nature -- but it’s also a modern, unvarnished form of Pharisaism.
Our attitude toward alcohol may well be conditioned by our culture more than we realize. Since the days of Prohibition, many believers have simply assumed that partaking of alcoholic beverages was sinful. What is interesting is that in many other countries God-fearing Christians see no problem with alcoholic beverages. (When I was on sabbatical in England, for example, I heard the pastor at an evangelical church use an illustration which involved alcohol in a positive light. He was speaking about our attitude toward little disasters -- such as when one brings home the groceries and the one sack that had the Sherry in it falls to the ground and the Sherry bottle breaks! The very casualness of this illustration put in bold relief the difference in attitude between many American Christians and many European Christians regarding alcoholic beverages. If a pastor in the States were to use the same illustration, most churches would censure him for it if not outright sack him.)
One question we must wrestle with is this: If there is a sub-cultural Christian prohibition that goes beyond scripture, are we obligated to follow it? Should we even endorse it? Ignore it? Fight against it? As we all know, there are numerous Christian taboos that go beyond scripture, depending on when and where one lives. Perhaps this one can be seen as paradigmatic for how to treat the others.
At all points, we must seek to be biblical. This requires resisting the temptation to go beyond what the Bible restricts. As I began to look into this topic, I was actually quite amazed at the biblical writers’ attitude toward alcohol. I had expected it to be far more negative than it really was. One lesson I have learned from this is that although I think that I am being biblical, often my tradition and Christian subculture shape my thinking more than I realize.
Preliminary Framework: Grey Areas
A word should be said about grey areas to begin with. Some Christians view grey areas as those moral zones in which one believer has the right to brow-beat another. Thus, if one believer thinks it is wrong for another to go to football games, the first believer has the right to exercise judgment on the second. This "sin-sniffing" delves into all areas, and the things that get lumped into this cauldron of evil deeds are quite numerous: attending the opera, playing cards, attending any kind of motion pictures, owning a television, listening to rock or country-western or even Mozart, investing in the stock market, reading mystery novels, spouses having separate checking accounts, women wearing slacks, etc.
What all these areas have in common is that they are not discussed in scripture. Thus, if one wants to label them as evil, he either has to do some rather ingenious interpretation of the Bible or else simply appeal to one’s conscience as the standard by which others are to be measured.
We all can see the ludicrousness of such a stance when it comes to grey zones that are inoffensive to me. But when there is something that I have found offensive, the natural tendency is for me to make sure everyone else around me abides by the same rules.
One of the hallmarks of modern American "Christianity" is its preoccupation with a "formula faith." Tremendously popular are conferences that address conflicts between parents and youth and how to resolve them. One well-known such conference turns (occasionally) good advice into hundreds of rules that can suffocate one’s walk with YEHOVAH God. We are enamored of the "How to" books that work for others and perhaps may work for us. All too often, once a person has found a tailor-made Bible-reading schedule, or a tailor-made pattern of prayer or diet or method of raising children or love-making technique, he writes a book about it and proclaims its universal applicability and even its normativeness. The reason such sells? Because legalism is endemic to human nature.
We can package such as "practical Christianity" or "a wise and godly lifestyle" or "principles to live by," but at bottom when such advice goes beyond the scriptures and turns into more than advice, it is legalism. Such a preoccupation with legalism is seen in church membership requirements, missionary and pastoral ordination bodies, and Bible college/seminary codes of conduct. Take a look at a catalog of almost any evangelical institute of higher learning. You will notice that all too often the code of conduct section will spend an inordinate amount of space making grey areas taboo while spending almost no space articulating what the Bible declares to be sinful behavior.
Church historian M. James Sawyer recently spoke at the western regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on Sola Scriptura in the Protestant tradition. In his lecture he noted the irony of the modern milieu:
Among contemporary denominations we find statements such as that of the [denomination’s name withheld], who in their licensing and ordination questionnaire asks candidates if they agree that the Bible is the "only and infallible rule of faith and practice" for the believer. (The questionnaire on the very next line asks the candidate if he agrees to abstain from the use of alcohol in all forms.)
The point we are trying to make here is twofold: (1) Christians tend to compile rules and regulations that go beyond what is written in the Bible; and (2) when such grey zones are considered evil, those who do not abide by such rules are often viewed as "the weaker brother." In reality, the weaker brother in scripture is the one who has too many scruples, not too few (cf. Romans 14)! It is a tragic irony that as one matures in the faith, all too often his life collects more and more oppressive chains of legalism. As much as there may well be good reasons for one to personally hold to certain convictions,  we must be very careful about extending such beyond ourselves. 
The Biblical Data
Wine and other Alcoholic Beverages in the Bible
No small measure of ink has been spilled in an attempt to blot out the Bible’s embarrassing oenophilia; The Temperance Bible-Commentary (1868) is but one example of the volumes that have been written (and are probably still being written) to correct this perceived flaw. These writings generally go to great and tedious lengths to demonstrate that wherever the Bible reads “wine,” we are to understand it to mean “grape juice,” or, bizarrely, “raisin paste” (which sounds more like a cookie filling, or a laxative, than a beverage), or else to argue that when the Bible mentions “wine,” it’s referring to something so diluted as to be essentially non-intoxicating.
The following are some roughly random notes on wine and other alcoholic beverages in the Bible. Even a casual look at the scriptures reveals a much different perspective than what most modern American "Christians" have about this topic.
In general, we can say that the Bible neither condemns drinking per se nor promotes it. Drinking alcoholic beverages is one of those grey areas that is a matter of one’s personal conscience. But there is more in scripture than just this individualistic approach.
Isn’t it Really Grape Juice?
Some take the words for wine to mean "grape juice." If this were so, then why would there be prohibitions against drunkenness? One cannot get drunk on grape juice. Further, the Messiah’s first miracle was changing the water into wine at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. He made between 120 and 180 gallons of wine! Even if this had been grape juice, it would soon turn to wine because the fermentation process would immediately begin. But it most certainly was not grape juice: the head waiter in John 2:10 said, “Every man sets out the good wine first, then after the guests have drunk freely, the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” The verb translated "drunk freely" is almost always used of getting drunk (and is so translated in the NRSV here).
Also, the original Greek word used here is oinos, and it always means the fermented juice of the grape -- nothing else. Yeshua was here only carrying out the principle YEHOVAH God gave through Solomon: "A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry" (Ecclesiastes 10:19). If properly used, wine is an aid to relaxation and affability at a special occasion.
In the least, the people at this wedding feast, if not drunk, would certainly be drinking alcohol fairly freely (if not, this verb means something here that is nowhere else attested ). And this makes perfect sense in the context: The reason why a man brings out the poorer wine later is because the good wine has numbed the senses a bit. Grape juice would hardly mask anything. Note also Acts 2:13 -- ”they are full of sweet wine” -- an inaccurate comment made about the apostles when they began speaking in different languages, as though this explained their unusual behavior. The point is: If they were full of grape juice would this comment even have made any sense at all? That would be like saying, “Well, they’re all acting strange and silly because they have had too much orange juice this morning!”
There are other references to alcoholic beverages in the Bible: Several times in the first books of the Bible, wine and strong drink are prohibited to those who take a Nazarite vow (cf. Numbers 6, Judges 13). Even grape juice and fresh and dried grapes (i.e., raisins, as the NIV renders the word) are prohibited to the Nazarite (Numbers 6:3)!  But that restriction is only for those who make this vow. If someone today wants to claim that believers do not have the right to drink alcohol on the analogy of a Nazarite vow (as some today are fond of doing), they also should say that believers ought not to eat Raisin Bran!
Prohibitionists object, saying, "But how do you know that the original Hebrew and Greek words mean fermented wine? Historians say the wine used was nothing more than molasses -- that this grape drink was nonintoxicating and the ordinary drink of people in the Messiah's time."
There are thirteen original Hebrew and Greek words translated "wine" in our English Bible. How can we know which ones mean fermented wine? To find the answer, do not go to Aristotle or Pliny, but go to the Bible itself. By comparing its usage, the Scriptural meaning of wine can be defined.
One of the original Hebrew words for wine is yayin. This word is first used in Genesis 9:21 where Noah "drank of the wine and was drunken," This wine caused drunkenness! Was it just grape juice or was it molasses?
In the New Testament, one original Greek word translated "wine" is oinos. Proof that it is alcoholic is given in the story of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan poured oil and wine on the man's wounds (Luke 10:34), showing that the wine had enough alcoholic content to be used as an antiseptic. Would you pour grape juice or molasses on a wound? The germ-killing qualities of wine are greater than the same proportion of alcohol in water -- and a good natural wine is not as damaging to the flesh as some strong antiseptics are. The Messiah showed that he knew the benefits of wine as an antiseptic when he gave the parable of the good Samaritan. In this case a man had been injured and had a severe wound. The good Samaritan “bandaged his wounds, pouring on [olive] oil and wine [oinos]." The oil softened the flesh; the wine helped kill bacteria.
The Greek word oinos is also used in John 2 where the Messiah turned water into wine by a miracle. This Greek word is also used in Ephesians 5:18, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess."
Paul instructed Timothy about the medicinal and health value of wine when he wrote: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" (I Timothy 5:23).
Again, the Greek word is oinos -- fermented wine, not grape juice!
Was Wine in the Bible Cut With Water?
According to F. S. Fitzsimmonds in his article, "Wine and Strong Drink,” in the New Bible Dictionary, the answer is "no". At least, not in the Old Testament. In the New Testament wine was probably cut with 2 parts water to 1 part wine. Some who oppose the use of wine as a beverage argue that the wine in Scripture was so diluted that it was difficult to become drunk. Scripture itself shows that this is not the case. It appears that the wine in the New Testament, if cut, would have the same alcoholic content as today's beer. (See also, the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible)
For example, the Roman author Pliny the Elder described how you could set Falernian wine on fire, which means it contained at least 30% alcohol (Pliny, Natural History, 14.8). Even if you diluted such a drink with three parts water it would still be more alcoholic than most beers. The grapes were harvested late and, like many ancient wines, left to dry before being fermented to 15 or 16 percent alcohol -- though the Romans cut their wines with water when drinking.
Negative Statements about Wine Indicate that it is not Grape Juice
In his book, What Would Jesus Drink, Brad Whittington breaks down the biblical references of alcohol into three types. In all, there are 247 references to alcohol in Scripture. 40 are negative (warnings about drunkenness, potential dangers of alcohol, etc.), 145 are positive (sign of God's blessing, use in worship, etc.), and 62 are neutral (people falsely accused of being drunk, vows of abstinence, etc.) The Bible is anything but silent on the issue of wine.
An outstanding example is that of Lot. Lot got drunk and impregnated his daughters:
Lot...dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him...and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us...Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. (Genesis 19:30-36)
Further, the Bible at times speaks very harshly about becoming enslaved to drink or allowing it to control a person, especially to the point of drunkenness. Proverbs 20:1 -- “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” (NASB). Cf. also Proverbs 21:17 (where heavy drinking and gluttony are equally condemned); 1 Samuel 1:14; Isaiah 5:11, 22; 28:1 (drunkenness is condemned); 28:7; 29:9; 56:12; Jeremiah 23:9; 51:7; Joel 3:3. In the New Testament notice: Ephesians 5:18 (“do not get drunk with wine”); 1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7 ([elders and deacons ought not be] “addicted to wine or strong drink”); Titus 2:3 (older women, who would serve as role models to the younger ones, must not be addicted to wine). As well, numerous passages use wine or drunkenness in an analogy about YEHOVAH God’s wrath, immorality, etc. (cf. Revelation 14:8, 10; 16:19; 17:2; 18:3).
The significance of these negative statements is just this: If this were only grape juice, why would excess in drinking it be condemned? If this were only grape juice, why are certain mental effects attributed to it (cf., e.g., Psalm 60:3)? One can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that wine is always grape juice, for then the negative statements in scripture make no sense; those who say that it is only grape juice tend to focus just on the neutral and positive passages, conveniently allowing them to condemn the drinking of real wine at all times.
But even this position is not logical: If the Bible only speaks of grape juice, then it makes no comment about alcoholic wine. And if so, then it does not directly prohibit it. And if we are going to prohibit something that the Bible does not address, why stop at wine? Why don’t we include the ballet, opera, football games, country-western music (actually, I might be in favor of banning this one!), salt water fishing, zippers on clothes, etc. Once legalism infests the soul it doesn’t know where to quit.
Some are confused by certain texts which appear to condemn wine, but in reality condemn only the wrong USE of alcohol.
One of these is Proverbs 20:1: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
The simple explanation is, that wine certainly does mock and deceive many individuals who have not learned the proper, temperate USE of such beverages. Yes, YEHOVAH's way is moderation and temperance -- NOT prohibition! And there is a great difference between these, which so-called "temperance" people seem unable to recognize.
Another text which is often misunderstood is Proverbs 23:29-32. Here is a warning to those who "tarry long" at wine. Of course! One who "tarries long" at wine is a "winebibber," or in modern terminology a "barfly" or an "alcoholic."
Such excessive use of wine is bound to bring harm on the person involved and on others. Therefore, it is breaking the spirit of YEHOVAH's Law and is SIN. But this is no condemnation WHATEVER against the moderate, sensible use of wine, following the Messiah's example.
In sum, is wine the same as grape juice? No, for if it were, the Bible would hardly condemn the abuse of such. Those who argue that the two are identical simply cannot handle the passages that speak about excess.
Neutral and Positive References to Alcoholic Beverages in the Bible
At the same time, there are several neutral, almost casual references to alcoholic beverages -- notice the following:
Genesis 14:18 refers to Melchizedek, a type of the Messiah, as offering wine to Abram: "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: 'blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth...'" Melchizedek here gave wine to Abraham -- the father of the faithful. And again, the original Hebrew word used proves that it was fermented wine -- NOT grape juice. The original word is yayin -- and always means fermented wine.
Nehemiah 2:1 refers to the king drinking wine (Nehemiah was required to taste it first to make sure it was not poisoned): "And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king."
Esther 5:6; 7:1-2 speaks of wine that Esther (the godly Judahite) drank with the king: "At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, 'What is your petition?'" "So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther. And on the second day, at the banquet of wine, the king again said to Esther, 'What is your petition, Queen Esther?'"
Job 1:13 refers to righteous Job’s family drinking wine: "Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house..."
Daniel 10:3 speaks of drinking wine as a blessing after a time of fasting: "I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled."
Some of the Messiah’s parables are about wine, wineskins, vineyards (cf. Matthew 9:17; 21:33; even John 15 speaks of YEHOVAH God the Father as the vinedresser!). The same Greek and Hebrew terms that were used to speak of the abuses of wine are used in these passages. One cannot argue, therefore, that alcoholic beverages are in themselves proscribed, while grape juice is permitted. The lexical data cannot be so twisted.
There are, as well, positive statements about alcoholic beverages: Deuteronomy 14:26 implies that it is a good thing to drink wine and strong drink to the LORD:
And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (NASB)
Psalm 4:7 compares joy in the LORD to the abundance of wine: "You [YEHOVAH God] have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased."
Psalm 104:14-15 credits YEHOVAH God as the creator of wine that “makes a man’s heart glad” (cf. also Hosea 2:8): "He [YEHOVAH God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man's heart."
Hosea 2:8: "For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold -- which they prepared for Baal."
Honoring YEHOVAH God with one’s wealth is rewarded with the blessings of abundant stores of wine (Proverbs 3:10); love is compared to wine repeatedly in the Song of Songs, as though good wine were similarly sweet (1:2, 4; 4:10; 7:9). YEHOVAH prepares a banquet with “well-aged wines...and fine, well-aged wines” for his people (Isaiah 25:6). Obviously this cannot be grape juice, for aging does nothing but ferment it!
There are many, many examples in the Old Testament where YEHOVAH's servants used wine in a proper way and with YEHOVAH's blessing. Perhaps the most significant one is given in Genesis 14:18. As we have already seen, we read here of Melchizedek -- he "brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God." This seems to be a type of the observance later called the Kiddush -- which many mistakenly call the "Passover" today.
This same Hebrew word is used in Amos 9:14 to show that when YEHOVAH God frees our people from captivity after his arrival at the end of the age and brings them to the land of Palestine, they will "plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof."
So YEHOVAH God -- who also is the same always -- is going to bless His people Israel with good food and wine in His millennial rule with the Messiah!
The lack of wine is viewed as a judgment from YEHOVAH God:
Jeremiah 48:33: "Joy and gladness are taken from the plentiful field and from the land of Moab; I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses; no one will tread [the grapes] with joyous shouting -- not joyous shouting!"
Lamentations 2:12: "They say to their mothers, 'Where is grain and wine?' As they swoon like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out in their mother's bosom."
Hosea 2:9: "Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness."
Joel 1:10: "The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails."
Haggai 2:16: "...since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty."
And, conversely, wine's provision is viewed as a blessing from YEHOVAH God (cf. Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 7:13; 11:14; Joel 2:19, 24; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14). Cf. also Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 31:12; Zechariah 9:17.
Indeed, there was even the Passover tradition that went beyond the biblical teaching: by the time of the first century, every adult was obliged to have four glasses of wine during the Passover celebration. The Messiah and his disciples had wine at the Last Supper.  The fact that the wine of the Passover was a symbol the Messiah used for his blood and for the new covenant implicitly shows that the Messiah’s view of wine was quite different from that of many modern Christians!
What is truly remarkable here are the many positive statements made about wine and alcoholic beverages in the Bible.  Wine is so often connected with the blessings of YEHOVAH God that we are hard-pressed to figure out why so many modern Christians view drink as the worst of all evils. Why, if one didn’t know better, he might think that YEHOVAH actually wanted us to enjoy life! Unfortunately, the only Bible most of our pagan friends will read is the one written on our lives and spoken from our lips. The Bible they know is a book of "Thou shalt nots," and the God they know is a cosmic killjoy.
I think the best balance on this issue can be see in Luke 7:33-34: John the Baptist abstained from drinking wine; the Messiah did not abstain (indeed, the Pharisees called him a drunkard!) Since drinking wine was a national custom in Israel and the Pharisees themselves drank wine, it was not drinking wine they objected to but drunkenness. As usual, their accusations against the Messiah were false. Although certainly not true, it would be difficult for this charge to have been made had the Messiah only drunk grape juice. Both the Messiah and John respected one another -- and both recognized that their individual lifestyles were not universal principles. One man may choose not to drink; another may choose to drink. We ought not condemn another servant of YEHOVAH God for his choice.
As well, Romans 14 is a key passage for gleaning principles about how we ought to conduct ourselves in relation to one another on this issue: weaker brothers ought not to judge those whose freedom in the Messiah allows them to enjoy alcoholic beverages; stronger brothers ought not to disdain weaker brothers for their stance. Whether we drink or not, let us do all things to the glory of YEHOVAH God.
There is much more that could be said about this issue; no doubt many readers will respond critically for what was left out. In later articles I hope to address some questions that arise because of this piece.
This brief article really has no conclusion; rather, this is the first volley in an ongoing discussion. The general contours of biblical teaching are that wine is a blessing from YEHOVAH God, something to be enjoyed. It can help one relax at a meal or rejoice at a social occasion, and it can be a definite aid in building up one's blood and health -- as Paul advised Timothy. It is a thing which glorifies YEHOVAH God when it is used sensibly and moderately.
But like any good gift from YEHOVAH God, it can be abused: in this case, abuse involves addiction and drunkenness. Drunkenness and alcoholism are breaking YEHOVAH's Law and are therefore SIN -- which leads to death! (Romans 6:23.) No drunkard shall inherit YEHOVAH's kingdom (Galatians 5:21). Incidentally, true moderation means drinking a great deal LESS than do many who call themselves "moderate drinkers" today. Overindulgence in drink is NOT to be tampered with! Alcoholism is a growing CURSE in our land today!
But whenever we condemn others who are able to enjoy YEHOVAH’s good gifts in moderation as though they were abusers, we misrepresent biblical Christianity. At bottom, it seems that biblical Christianity has a much different face than what much of modern "Christianity" wears. In many respects, we resemble more the ancient Pharisees than the Messiah’s disciples.
 For example, we all know of some folks whose family history involves alcoholism. Many of these folks rightfully abstain for fear of their own tendencies to abuse alcohol. I have a friend who used to be an alcoholic and now cannot even gargle (since mouthwash usually has a large amount of alcohol) or else he could go into a drinking binge. He recognizes that his own convictions about alcohol are not universally applicable; his friends are sensitive enough not to drink in his presence.
 My views comport with my understanding of what it means to be a New Covenant Christian. Since we have been given the spirit, the spirit guides each one of us. There are, to be sure, laws that must be obeyed (the New Testament alone has over two hundred); but as a New Covenant Christian I recognize both that the overriding principle of these commandments is love and that the undergirding power to keep these commandments is provided by the spirit of YEHOVAH God.
 In the least, the verb μεθύσκω, when used of drinking, always means at least "freely drinking of alcoholic beverages" (once in the LXX it is used metaphorically of being filled with grain [Hosea 14:8], though even here the imagery might involve a metonymy of cause for effect [if so, grain would mean fermented grain]). LSJ give as the first definition of this verb the causative notion of make drunk, intoxicate; for the passive form of the verb the lexicon gives drink freely, get drunk. BAGD gives the following definition: “cause to become intoxicated; in our lit. only pass.…get drunk, become intoxicated…drink freely, become drunk.” The semantic domain lexicon by Louw and Nida (23.37) offers this definition (though they incorrectly parse the verb as coming from μεθύω): “to drink freely, to drink a great deal, to get drunk.” (LN’s definition for the verb μεθύσκω [88.285] is “to become intoxicated, to get drunk”; 1 Thessalonians 5:7 uses both verbs interchangeably: “those who get drunk get drunk at night.”)
 The very fact that the Hebrew text makes a distinction between wine and grape juice implies that when "wine" is spoken of the fermented drink is in view.
 Technically, the Messiah and the disciples had only three ritual cups of wine. The fourth cup, which represented the kingdom, was not drunk. Thus, when the Messiah prayed in the garden, “If it is your will, take this cup from me” he was referring to the symbolism of the third cup -- the cup of redemption by judgment. However, even though they had only three ritual cups, they may well have had more non-ritual wine, for this was allowed.
 "Wine" occurs 236 times in the NASB, 214 times in the NIV, 230 times in the NRSV, and 210 times in the REB. Now, to be sure, not all of these are in positive statements, but neither are the majority in negatives statements. The most common Hebrew word is 134 times in the MT, while the Greek word οἶνος occurs in the New Testament 26 times.
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