The Bible and Intoxicating Beverages [The Case for Total Abstinence]

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David G. Shackelford, Ph.D.[1]

April 27, 2008



John 2:1-10

2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

1 Timothy 5:23

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

            These verses and others have been used so often as an excuse for social drinking that virtually no one believes the Bible teaches total abstinence any more.  Yet they never really try to reconcile their position with firm axioms of Scripture that tell us, “Wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).  Proverbs 23:31 tells us that we are not to even look on the cup when it is red, “when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright” and that beverage alcohol bites like a serpent.  One church in town, where I was serving as pastor, purchased a liquor license.  The pastor of that church actually said that Jesus was the first bartender. 

            I would go so far as to say that most evangelicals tend to fall into two camps at this point. Some of the most significant evangelical preachers do not believe a Christian should drink, but also do not believe that abstinence can be soundly defended from Scripture.  The most common principle used by this group is usually drawn from Romans 14:21 that teaches us that we should not do anything that would cause someone else to stumble -- and drinking does.  Many other evangelicals believe that drunkenness is condemned in Scripture, but maintain that moderation is allowed. I respectfully disagree with both positions. Of course, if the only reason that a person has for abstinence is Romans 14:21, that is enough. But evangelicals who deny that the Bible teaches abstinence have no solid biblical base for dealing with the moderate use of beverage alcohol. I believe that the biblical position is quite strong.

            One of the comments that I’ve heard many times through the years is,

“Moderation is the answer.  Drunkenness is excessive and you should never do

anything to excess.  After all, it’s wrong to over-eat.”  Now, gluttony in eating is

definitely a sin. But you see, comparing eating to the drinking of intoxicating

beverages is not valid.  For example, I don’t take my life and the lives of others in my

hands if I drive after I’ve eaten.  And while I’ve heard of people being arrested for

driving drunk, I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested for driving fat.[2]  What I am

saying is that there are some things that are either right or wrong and moderation is

not an issue. The truth is, alcohol is a drug much like heroin and cocaine. We might

as well endorse the moderate use of heroin as the moderate use of beverage alcohol.

I want to say that I believe that the Bible does in fact teach total abstinence—clearly and without compromise.  I believe that I am by far in the minority at this point, but I hold to it strongly.

            There is a major principle of evangelical hermeneutics that comes into play. It is the principle of the analogy of Scripture. If you hold to an interpretation that contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible at any point, it’s wrong.  I know that most today teach that the Bible allows drinking in moderation.  But if you hold to drinking in moderation, you wind up contradicting the Bible at some point somewhere.

            And, of course, one of the biblical arguments is that Jesus turned water into wine. We will deal with that passage presently. But by way of background, I want us to examine some of the biblical terms involved.

A Translation Problem

            I believe that the primary reason for all the confusion is a translation issue. In the original Hebrew and Greek Bibles there are eleven different terms used. Their original meanings include "hard liquor," "fruit juice," "unharvested grapes (still in the cluster)," "grape juice in the press," or  "grape juice freshly taken from the grapes or press."  In our English Bibles, these words, regardless of meaning, are translated as "wine," "new wine," "sweet wine," "liquor" (1x in KJV), or "strong drink."  In English, these phrases only mean intoxicants; or at least they are taken as such. We shall see that, truly, we have lost something in the translations.


Old Testament Terms

            The most significant reason that we have such confusion is that, in the Bible, there are several terms that are translated “wine,” “new wine,” and “strong drink.”  Some of these terms refer to that which is intoxicating, and some of these terms refer to that which is not intoxicating.  However, the only wine that you and I know in our language is intoxicating wine.  In the English language, “wine” only refers to an intoxicant.

            I ran some searches and discovered that there are eight Hebrew words that are

translated “wine,” “new wine,” or “strong drink.”  We’re going to focus our attention

on the three main OT words that are used more than the others because they also

involve the verses on “wine” with which we are most familiar. These three words are

also found in the verses that are almost always used to justify social drinking.[3] 


שֵׁכָר (shekar)[4]

            One OT word that is used is שֵׁכָר ((shekar).  It is the root word from which

we get our word “sugar.”  It is usually translated “strong drink” in the KJV.  From its translation, you can tell that it always refers to an intoxicant.  And almost without exception, its use is condemned in Scripture.  

            One exception is in a hypothetical situation found in Deuteronomy 14:26:

26 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,

            I remember when I mentioned that  שֵׁכָר((shekar) is condemned, a friend mentioned this verse to me and said that here, drinking is not condemned. Actually, I didn’t have to go do a lot of Hebrew exegetical analysis to work this out.  It has been

wisely said that any text without a context is but a pretext.  And that is surely true in this passage.  All I did was read the context. There are three points I want to make concerning this verse:

1.                  If this allows for drinking alcoholic beverages, then we run afoul of numerous passages of Scripture that are abundantly clear.  So, an interpretation allowing for social drinking is immediately suspect.

2.                  This passage is speaking about the tithe.  If this endorses the drinking of intoxicating beverages, then it also says that we can use God’s tithe for anything our soul lusts after; even my friend admitted that. Yet the Bible is abundantly clear that the tithe belongs to the Lord.

3.                  Again the context clears it up.  Verse 24 of Deuteronomy 14 tells us that this is a hypothetical condition anyway.  Listen to Deuteronomy 14:24:

24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:

25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:

26 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.

            And by the way, the KJV is an excellent translation of the Hebrew text here.  The principle is that if God ever tells you to carry a burden too heavy or to go to a place too far, then you can take your tithe and do all these things.  Also keep in mind that it's not just turning the tithe into money and buying strong drink; it is turning the tithe into money and doing whatsoever your soul lusts after (Deuteronomy14: 26).  Friend, my soul can lust after a lot more than just strong drink.

            What’s the principle?  Is the Lord going to ask us to do something we cannot do?  NO.  Is the Lord going to tell us to go to a place we cannot go?  NO.  Then the point about שֵׁכָר (shekar) in this passage is irrelevant to drinking intoxicants socially.

The only legitimate use for שֵׁכָר ((shekar) in the Bible is as a narcotic.  For example, Proverbs 31:6 contains what amounts to a heavenly prescription from God.: "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine יַיִן (yayin) unto those that be of heavy hearts.”  That is, in times of extreme sorrow, as a doctor today might prescribe or administer a drug, this could be used as a narcotic.  But God makes it clear in the same context that He is not talking about the social use of beverage intoxicants, for He says in the two previous verses:

            4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

Some might object that this context is for kings. However, I would remind you that all of us who name the name of Christ are kings and priests of the Lord God.[5] The idea here is that beverage alcohol is not for the normal course of life; it is not for a social occasion that this strong drink should be used.  Over and over again, when the Bible uses the word שֵׁכָר (shekar), it is condemned.


תִּירֹושׁ (tiyrowsh)[6]

            There is only one use of this word that refers to some kind of intoxicant.  This is found in Hosea 4:11 that says, “Whoredom, wine (יַיִן) and new wine (תִּירֹושׁ) take away the heart.”  Every other time this word only has one basic meaning. This word refers simply to pure grape juice; that is, juice that is squeezed right out of the grape, or it can still be in the grape.  Isaiah 65:8 says, “Thus saith the Lord, as new wine is found in the cluster. . . .”  Here the word is translated “wine,” but it can only mean unfermented grape juice.  After all, this “wine” is still in the cluster – still in the grape.  It is certainly unfermented, and no one can get drunk on that.

            As grape juice, תִּירֹושׁ is commonly used in association with the harvest. Every time the context has to do with the harvest at the end of the planting year, and it speaks of harvesting “wine” the word is always תִּירֹושׁ.  For example, Deuteronomy 7:13 says,

And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine (תִּירֹושׁ), and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

The rationale is simple.  The harvesting of grapes cannot possibly be the harvesting of intoxicating grape juice. 

            This word is also used in the context of drink offerings, but so is יַיִן As to the drink offerings, both these words are used.  As to whether the "wine" used in drink offerings was intoxicating or not is a moot point since the “wine” in the drink offerings was not drunk, but poured out as a libation.

יַיִן (yayin)[7]

This word is also translated “wine” in the KJV and many other versions.  Now, יַיִן is a very generic word that may refer to an intoxicating drink or a non-intoxicating drink.  It simply means “drink.” 

            For example, if you and I were going home from church one day, and I said, “Let’s stop and get a drink,” I would hope you would know that I meant a coke, or tea, or something like that.  But if you were with some other friends who were lost and who just got off work at a factory or office and they said, “Let’s stop and get a drink,” you might think they meant in intoxicant.  The point is that you would have to know the context and know the person.  In other words, ‘drink” is a generic word; it can mean many things.

            Many times in the Bible, יַיִן  refers to an intoxicant, but there are times in the Bible when it cannot possibly refer to an intoxicating beverage.  For example, this word is used in 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 (יַיִן) in their presses. . . .”

            Here God uses the word יַיִן to refer to that which could not possibly be intoxicating.  When you step on a grape, squeeze it in a press, or otherwise mash it, the grape juice comes out. It has had no time to ferment and has not gone through a distillation process.  And no one is going to get drunk on grape juice.  It’s called “wine” here, but it certainly is not an intoxicant.  And so, יַיִן sometimes refers to that which is not intoxicating, and sometimes to that which is intoxicating.  And one must examine the context to know which. 

            Now, in Proverbs 20:1, the Bible says, “יַיִן is mocker, strong drink is raging.”  Now when God uses the term here, he uses it in parallel with שֵׁכָר and tells us that this kind of drink is drink that intoxicates.  It deceives you, and “whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."

            Note also Proverbs 23:29-31:

29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

Notice how God contrasts some wines with other wines.  God says here that when wine is in a certain condition leave it alone.  “When it moves itself aright” simply means “when it’s fermented.”  Therefore, there is a time when the stuff called “wine” is not fermented and a time when it is fermented.  But God says when it’s fermented, i.e., an intoxicant, leave it alone.

            So, there is a contrast.  The word תִּירֹושׁ ((((tiyrowsh) almost always means a non-fermented wine; שֵׁכָר (always means “strong drink” and is almost always condemned except for the couple of exceptions mentioned; and יַיִן means that which may be intoxicating or that which is not intoxicating.

New Testament Terms

            Now, when we get to the New Testament, we find a situation similar to that in the Old Testament.  We find only three words that are used in the NT that are translated “wine,” “new wine,” or “strong drink.”  Two of these are only mentioned once.  We’ll deal with them first.

Σίκερα (Sikera)

            This word is translated “strong drink,” and is found only in Luke 1:15:  “For

he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine (οἶνος) nor strong drink (σίκερα) and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.”  The context dictates that this refers to an intoxicating beverage.

Γλεῦκος (Gleukos)


       This word is found only in Acts 2:13 on the day of Pentecost when the disciples were accused of being drunk: “Others mocking said, ‘These men are full of new wine.’”  Some might consider this to be an intoxicant. Others, however, defer to numerous lexicons who acknowledge that γλεῦκος refers exclusively to unfermented grape juice.[8] Agreeing with the lexica not only agrees with scholarship on the subject, but also on the context of Acts 2:13. The critics were mocking; that is, they were being sarcastic, accusing the Christians of becoming intoxicated on soft drinks. This most likely fits the context.

οἶνος[9] (Oinos)

            This is the primary word found in the New Testament that is translated

“wine.”   In every case except the two verses mentioned above, it is the word that is

translated as “wine” or “new wine.”   What we find is that οἶνος  is a very general

term much like יַיִן. It can refer to everything from grape juice to the strong drink that

will put a person “under the table.”  It is also the most common word that is used in

the LXX to translate all three of the Hebrew words mentioned earlier.  Sometimes in

the OT it means an intoxicating beverage and sometimes it does not.  For example, in

Proverbs 3:10, οἶνος translates תִּירֹושׁ and cannot possibly be an intoxicant: “So

shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” 

Wine presses do not burst out with intoxicating beverages.  This has to refer to the

grape juice.  I mention this to demonstrate that when we get to the New Testament,

we can understand that it is a very general term.  A close examination of the context

is required to determine which is intended in Scripture.



John 2:1-10: The Wedding At Cana

                        Now in Cana, we find that when Jesus turned water into something, He turned it into οἶνος, which, again, is a generic term.  But because it is translated “wine,” we assume it refers to that which is intoxicating.  But it does not necessarily meant that, as we have seen.  So, let’s look at the context to determine what is meant.

            Not surprisingly, the second chapter of John does not say anything about anyone getting drunk.  John 2 speaks of men who had “well drunk; that is, when their appetites were satiated.  It was at that point that the governor of the feast observed that it was customary to bring out the “worst” refreshment (John 2:10).  The idea is that one normally serves the best first and then that which is worse.  Listen to John 2:9-10:

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

The reason they would normally bring out the worse last was the people would not be able to tell the difference.  But notice two things:

  1. The people had drunk all the οἶνος in the place (John 2:3), so we know they had a lot to drink. The verb for "well drunk" (μεθυσθῶσιν) used by the governor in v. 10, is often used to describe being drunk. However, Herbert Preisker mentions in his article in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament that “μεθύσκομαι is used with no ethical or religious judgment in John 2:10 in connection with the rule[10] that the poorer wine is served only when the guests have drunk well."[11]
  2. Although they had had a lot of οἶνος to drink, they could still tell the difference between the first and the last, which indicates to me that they had not been drinking intoxicating beverages.
  3. Ancient writers such as Pliny and Plutarch indicate that the "good wine" (καλὸν οἶνον), as observed by the governor in the wedding feast (John 2:10), was actually not fermented.[12]

Now that should not be a surprise to us.  In the light of Proverbs 23:31 which says,  “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright”, I would prefer to compare what Jesus did with the teaching of the Bible and know that Jesus obeyed the Bible in all things.  I know, therefore, that Jesus would not violate the clear teachings of Proverbs by serving an intoxicating beverage.

One man wrote the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about this question, and a spiritual counselor on the Graham team sent a reply:

The wine referred to in John 2:1-11 regarding Jesus’ miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, was not “heavy wine” which was known to be intoxicating . . .  in a report from Yale studies on alcoholism, it was revealed that the normal process of fermentation of the fruit of the vine does not produce a drink with sufficient alcoholic content to bring on drunkenness.

            In other words, this wine was never used for the purpose of getting drunk.  The Yale studies reveal that unless there is a mechanical interference with the normal process, such as the addition of pure alcohol, or other mechanical processes of distillation, it will not produce the kind of wine that is common today.

And incidentally, the Hebrews would have always referred to the kind of wine that is used today as “strong drink.”  But the counselor continues:

            The kind of wine that was used as a table beverage in that day did not produce drunkenness.  This has caused much confusion since many people assume that the Greek word translated into English “wine’ meant a heavy wine, but actually it was not.  Scriptures which refer to “strong drink: and drunkenness are Proverbs 23:29-32; 20:1, and Romans 13:13, . . . [and so forth].[13]

            In my research I found that the οἶνος that was used as the common table beverage started out as grape juice. Depending on the locale, sometimes it was boiled down to a thick syrup – sometimes even a paste – to prevent fermentation and sealed in wineskins. Other times the grapes were preserved in dry sawdust of poplar wood or fir.[14] Pliny mentions that if the grapes were hung from the ceiling or stored in earthenware jars with casks over them the grapes would last all winter.[15] When brought out for use it was usually diluted with water anywhere from 3:1 to 20:1.  Therefore, the normal table beverage was not fermented. But think about this: even it was fermented, when diluted from 3:1 to 20:1, there is no possible way that the οἶνος they served would produce intoxication. In fact, from what we have seen, the vanilla extract in our kitchen cabinets has far more alcoholic content than the οἶνος of Jesus’ day that was served as a table beverage.[16]  It follows that to use this passage as a polemic for social drinking is comparing apples to oranges – we’re not talking about the same thing and it is a terrible abuse and misuse of Scripture for three reasons:

1.         It violates the context of Scripture. These people had drunk a lot of οἶνος, but it had not affected them. But if you drink our "wine" today, I promise that you will be affected.

2.         It violates the practice of the day. Their table beverage was diluted to the point that it could not make one intoxicated even if it had fermented.

3.         It places Jesus in the dubious position of serving intoxicants and encouraging others to drink it, in violation of such Scriptures as Proverbs 20:1, 23:31, Habbakkuk 2:15, and others.

1 Timothy 5:23: A Little Something for Your Stomach's Sake

            These same principles apply to the passage of 1 Timothy 5:23 where Paul told Timothy to take a little something for his stomach’s sake.  Again, the word is οἶνος.  Was it an intoxicant or was it not?  There are three observations I would like to submit for your consideration:

1.                  This use in 1Timothy has a medicinal purpose.  Social drinking or moderate drinking does not.  For a person to use this as an excuse for social drinking violates the context of Scripture and is totally inappropriate.

2.                  There is nothing that demands that this must refer to an intoxicating beverage.  Where does the context imply that this οἶνος is an intoxicant?  Nowhere.  The only reason people assume that is because of the way English versions translate it (wine).

3.                  There are two things about this verse that indicates that this would NOT be an intoxicant:

a.   Aristotle and Pliny indicate to us that unfermented οἶνος was preferred over fermented οἶνος for medical purposes.[17] Athenaeus states, "Let him take sweet wine, either mixed with water or warmed, especially that kind called protropos (juice coming from the grapes before they are pressed), as being good for the stomach…"[18]

b.   Three medical professionals (two M.D.s and one registered nurse) have related to me, personally, that alcoholic beverages do NOT settle stomach problems; they inflame stomach problems.  They also confirmed to me that this is why a competent doctor will not normally prescribe alcoholic beverages to someone with stomach ulcers, because alcohol inflames stomach ulcers.

The Lord's Supper

            Some people believe that the Lord’s Supper ought to be served with pure wine.  But I would like to submit for your consideration just the opposite; i.e., if it is served with intoxicating wine, one has missed the real meaning. 

1.                  If it was called “wine,” one would still have to determine whether or not an intoxicant is in view.

2.                  Actually, it is never referred to as wine. It is called the "fruit of the vine," or it is called the cup, but it is never called wine.[19]  Josephus lets us know that the phrase "fruit of the vine" may refer to grape juice rather than a fermented wine.[20] This should not surprise us. The natural fruit of the vine is grape juice, not a fermented intoxicant.

            3.         The Lord's Supper, as instituted by our Lord, comes to us from the Passover. We are certain that "fermented wine was in fact excluded by a general (emphasis in original) law [LEAVEN], which appears to have been well understood."[21]  Also in my possession is a translation of a papyrus from the Elephantine Papyri collection. It is A Passover Letter, in which the writer (Hananiah) gives a letter of instruction to Yedaniah and the Judahite garrison at Yeb. This letter deals specifically with the proper way to observe the Passover. In this papyrus, he mentions "drink no intoxicants and anything in which there is leaven."[22] Jesus observed the Passover and fulfilled the meaning of it when he used it at the basis for giving His disciples the Lord's Supper the night before His crucifixion. He was also orthodox in his observation of Moses and the Law.  This means that Jesus would not have used an intoxicant in celebrating the Passover with His disciples.

            In the Lord’s Supper, they had bread.  What kind of bread?  Unleavened bread.  Why unleavened bread? Because there is a principle in the Bible that is always to be observed: the pictures and types in the Bible must accurately portray the truths they represent. 

            For example, if you remember in the Old Testament, Moses had led the people out of Egypt into the wilderness, and they needed water.  God told Moses to strike the rock and water came forth (Exodus 17:6). What did that rock portray?  That rock was a picture of Jesus Christ, smitten for our sins.  How do we know?  The Bible tells us so in 1 Corinthians 10:4.  Not long after that they needed water again.  But this time, God told Moses to speak to the rock.  Why?  Moses' striking the rock the first time was a picture of Jesus being bruised for our iniquities.  And because Jesus only had to die once, the rock only needed to be struck once.  But if you recall, Moses struck the rock a second time, which meant that Jesus would have to die more than once for our iniquities.  In other words, Moses violated the picture that God was trying to portray, and God took it personally.  As judgment, Moses was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land.  God requires that the pictures in the Bible be faithful to the truths they represent.

            Now, let’s get back to the Lord’s Supper and unleavened bread. Because leaven is almost always a picture of sin in the Bible, unleavened bread was to be    used because leavened bread is bread that is fermented.  There is a fermentation that takes place with the yeast.  There is a foreign substance.  In fact, the yeast and fermentation process is a process of decomposition – a rotting process.  In wine that is strong drink, there is also that fermentation process – a process of decomposition – a rotting process.  And to serve rotting bread or rotting grape juice in the Lord’s Supper is a terrible, even offensive, picture of the pure blood and body of Jesus Christ.

            In addition to these things, there is still Romans 14:21: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." Those things which cause someone else to stumble are also out of bounds.



I am convinced that the voice of God condemns the use of strong drink as a social beverage.  You see, the Bible says that wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.  I want someone who is wise to be a deacon, not someone who is unwise. I want someone who is wise to be a SS teacher, not someone who is unwise. I want someone who is wise to be taking care of my children in the nursery, not someone who is unwise.  Part of wisdom means not doing things that are foolish. The Bible is clear that our Lord greatly desires us to be wise. In fact, James 1:5 promises us that if we lack wisdom and desire it, all we have to do is ask – our loving Father will provide in abundance.


Athenaeus, Banquet. 2:24.

Bacciocchi, Samuele. Wine in the Bible: A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages. http:/

Columella. On Agriculture. Trans. E. s. Forster and Edward H. Heffnew. The Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, 12, 10, 3.

Josephus, Antiquities. Trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1960), 2,5,2.

Kitto, John, ed. The Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature. New York: Ivison & Phinney, 1855.

Liddell, Henry and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.  Revised by Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie.  2 vols.  9th ed.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940.

Moulton, James Hope, and George Milligan.  The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and other non-literary Sources.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949.


Pliny, Natural History. Loeb Clasical Library. Cambridge, Mass., 1961.

Plutarch, Symposaic, 8, 7.


Rogers, Adrain, "The Case for Total Abstinence." Cassette tape. Message preached at Bellevue Baptist Church.

Sachau, von Eduard. Drei aramèaische Papyrusurkunden aus Elephantine [microfiche]. Berlin: Kèonigl. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Kommission bei Georg Reimer, 1908.

Thayer, Joseph Henry. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Logos Bible.


[1]Dr. Shackelford is currently Professor of New Testament and Greek and Chairman of the Department of New Testament and Greek at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Cordova, Tennessee.

[2]Illustration taken from a sermon by Adrian Rogers, Pastor Emeritus of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn., "The Case for Total Abstinence."

[3]Other OT words are עֲנָב (ay-nawb) which refers to dried grapes or raisins; translated “wine” in KJV;  “raisin cakes” in NASB; חֶמֶר (chemer) is translated “a vineyard of red wine” in Is. 27:2, but is referring to the vineyard of grapes, and therefore, not a drinkable “wine.” (עָסִיס (aw-sees), is translated “new wine” in Joel 3:18 (see also Isaiah 49:26 and Amos 9:13).  It means “pressed out juice,” and therefore, could not mean an intoxicant. Another OT word is מִמְסָךְ (mamsawk) and is translated “mixed wine” in Proverbs 23:30. It refers to a mixed beverage.  Its only other use is as a drink offering in Isaiah 65:11.  Yet another word is סׄבֶא (so-beh) and is translated “drink” (KJV) or “liquor” (NAS).  It is also found in Isaiah 1:22 and is translated “wine.”

[4]שֵׁכָר occurs 42 times in 18 forms in the Hebrew OT.

[5]Revelation 1:6.

[6]תִּירֹושׁ occurs 38 times in 5 forms in the Hebrew OT.

[7]יַיִן occurs 141 times in 9 forms in the Hebrew OT.

[8]Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 1968 ed., s.v., γλεῦκος; James H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, s.v., γλεῦκος; Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, s.v., γλεῦκος, et al.

[9]οἶνος is found 34 times in 4 forms.

[10]See Zeitschrift für die nt.liche Wissenschaft und die Kunde des Urchristentums, pp. 248ff.

            [11]Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (Vol. 4, Page 547). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, s.v.,"μέθη, μεθύω, μέθυσος, μεθύσκομαι."

[12]Pliny, Natural History 23, 24, The Loeb Classical Library Cambridge, Mass., 1961). See also Plutarch, Sumposaic, 8, 7. (I am indebted to the painstaking research of many ancient writers by Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi. As I searched out his bibliographies, I found his quotations and references to be very accurate.)

[13]The Billy Graham citation was quoted from a sermon by Adrian Rogers and in another message by Rev. Johnny Hunt, but I have been unable to document the quote.  In Feb. 2004, I put in a request to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association requesting documentation, but have not had a reply. I also searched extensively the archives of Yale University via the Internet, but could find no such study, though it could have been deleted from the archives. Ultimately, I am willing to trust the integrity of the late Dr. Rogers and Rev. Johnny Hunt.

[14]Columella, On Agriculture, trans. E. S. Forster and Edward H. Heffnew, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge Mass. , 1955), 12 ,10, 3.

[15]Pliny, Natural History, trans., H. Rackham, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), 14, 3, 16.

[16]Actually, the vanilla extract in my kitchen cabinet at home is 35%, or 70 Proof.

[17]Samuele Bacciocchi, Wine in the Bible: A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages. 1.html.

[18]Athenaeus, Banquet 2:24.

[19]Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18.

[20]Josephus, Antiquities, trans. by William Whiston (Grand Rapids: Kregel publications, 1960), 2, 5, 2.

[21]John Kitto, ed., The Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature (New York: Ivison & Phinney, 1855), s.v., "Passover" by Frederick R. Lees.

[22]Elephantine Papyri. The Elephantine Papyri were discovered in Elephantine, Egypt in 1907 under the direction of Chief excavator Otto Rubensohn. The MS was written in Aramaic and has been dated to 419 B.C.

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