Monday, July 27, 2015

Alcohol 10 - Everybody Knows Jesus Drank

          The battle on the alcohol issue does not lie between those who are drunks and those who are teetotalers. It lies between those who believe a moderate consumption of alcohol is allowable and those who believe in total abstinence.
          We have already examined several of the primary supports used for the moderate position and found them lacking. For instance, moderates say drinking is acceptable as long as the alcohol does not affect you – but this is impossible; Scripture teaches that alcohol does affect you. Moderates say that the only type of wine available in Bible times was alcoholic – this is intellectually ignorant and spiritually lazy. Moderates say that alcohol is spoken of as both good and bad in the Bible – I have shown you that most of the pro-drinking passages reference grape juice and that context reveals whether Scripture is speaking of alcoholic or non-alcoholic wine. In addition, we have seen that the Bible overwhelmingly portrays alcohol in a negative light, and that there are severe consequences to drinking.
          In this post and the next one I want to examine the moderates last great support: drinking alcohol is permissible because Jesus drank and made alcohol.
          He did? Really? I propose He did not and here are my reasons.
          First, there are no scripture passages that say He did. Moderates often reference the Last Supper when Jesus transitioned the Passover into the Lord's Supper. (Life of Christ 166) I am not afraid of the word wine but Scripture does not even use that word in the context of the Last Supper or the Lord's Supper. For instance, Paul said in I Corinthians 11.25, After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. The synoptic Gospels discuss the Last Supper in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. All three of them use this same word cup. If you want to look it up in the original language you will find it has no alcoholic undertones. It simply means a small container.
          Not only that, but each of these passages explicitly use the phrase fruit of the vine. Curious, huh? It is almost like God knew people would use Jesus as an excuse for their own drinking so He was careful to make sure Jesus' actions could not possibly be misunderstood.

          Jesus was offered wine (also referred to as vinegar) on the cross but He turned it down. Jesus made wine (which I will discuss in the next post.) Jesus used wine as an illustration. But not a single one of the 233 references to wine in the Bible discusses Jesus drinking wine. He was, of course, accused of being a winebibber but that holds no weight with me. He was accused of all manner of things He did not do. Let me say it again just so the point does not get missed: there is not a single reference in the Bible that says Jesus drank wine. As I understand Scripture He did - the non-alcoholic variety -  but even that is not explicitly referenced as such. Go ahead. Look. It just is not in there. …which means you might want to stop using it as a support.
          Second, as our High Priest Jesus actually could not drink alcohol. And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put a difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean. (Leviticus 10.8-9) Never mind for the moment that Scripture here calls alcoholic beverages unholy and unclean just notice they were forbidden to the high priest. If the priest were to drink it would send a mixed message to the people to whom he ministered.
          This was not just an idle admonition. A thousand years later in Isaiah's day the priests who violated this proscription were called on it. But they also have erred through wine, 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 judgment. (Isaiah 28.7)
          Some will be inclined to mention that this rule was only applicable when the high priest was on duty. I tend to agree. I also think you will agree that Jesus was never off duty. Others will say He was not a high priest after the order of Aaron. Jesus, though a priest after the order of Melchizedek, fulfills in Hebrews the role of the Aaronic high priest to a T. Such is abundantly clear. Jesus – as our High Priest – has His nature described for us in Hebrews 7.26. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. The High Priest whose name is the Holy One of Israel certainly would not have ingested a beverage Scripture names as unholy and unclean. Jesus could not have imbibed alcohol.

          "Yeah, but everybody knows Jesus drank." Yes. And everybody also "knows" that the only kind of wine available in His day was alcoholic.
          Me? I am just not very impressed by what everybody knows…

Monday, July 20, 2015

Alcohol 9 - Ignorance Is Bliss

          The Scripture alone is authoritative. Such an approach, however, does not prevent us from illustrating, exemplifying, and illuminating the Word of God with historical evidences.
          I am convinced that when the Bible speaks of wine it is sometimes referencing alcoholic wine and at other times it is referencing non-alcoholic wine. To the modern ear such a sentence sounds asinine. After all, wine obviously means alcohol. Furthermore, the long term preservation of fresh grape juice is a relatively new discovery. Thus, it is assumed that there was no capacity in antiquity to preserve juice without fermentation. 
          This assumption is widely used as the basis for a pro-drinking position in modern Christianity. Ergo the Bible speaks both positively and negatively about wine. Since wine is obviously alcoholic it then follows that as long as we control our drinking alcohol is both allowable and enjoyable. In essence, then, Scripture condemns drunkenness but encourages drinking.
          To state it simply such a position is just plain ignorant. Today's post consists of a veritable plethora of quotes from verified historical sources. These quotes reveal that the ancient world knew perfectly well how to preserve juice in an unfermented state, that they did so often, and that they called this product wine. I do not get my biblical position on alcohol from these quotes but these quotes perfectly illustrate the validity of that position.

Herman Boerhave, Elements of Chemistry, 1668
By boiling, the juice of the richest grapes loses all its aptitude for fermentation, and may afterwards be preserved for years without undergoing any further change.

Parkinson, Theatrum Batanicum, 1640
The juice or liquor pressed out of the ripe grapes is called vinum (wine). Of it is made both sapa and defrutum, in English cute, that is to say boiled wine, the latter boiled down to the half, or former to the third part.

William Patton, Bible Wines, 1874
 Archbishop Potter, born AD 1674, in his Greek Antiquities, Edinburgh edition, 1813 says, vol. ii. p. 360, “The Lacedaemonians used to boil their wines upon the fire till the fifth part was consumed; then after four years were expired began to drink them.” He refers to Democritus, a celebrated philosopher, who traveled over the greater part of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and who died in 361 BC, also to Palladus, a Greek physician, as making a similar statement. These ancient authorities called the boiled juice of the grape wine, and the learned archbishop brings forward their testimony without the slightest intimation that the boiled juice was not wine in the judgment of the ancients.
W. G. Brown, who travelled extensively in Africa, Egypt, and Syria from A.D. 1792 to 1798, states that "the wines of Syria are most of them prepared by boiling immediately after they are expressed from the grape, till they are considerably reduced in quantity, when they were put into jars or large bottles and preserved for use." He adds, "There is reason to believe that this mode of boiling was a general practice among the ancients."
Caspar Neuman, M.D., Professor of Chemistry, Berlin, 1759, says: "It is observable that when sweet juices are boiled down to a thick consistence, they not only do not ferment in that state, but are not easily brought into fermentation when diluted with as much water as they had lost in the evaporation, or even with the very individual water that exhaled from them.”
The Rev. Dr. Jacobus, commenting on the wine made by Christ, says: "This wine was not that fermented liquor which passes now under that name. All who know of the wines then used will understand rather the unfermented juice of the grape. The present wines of Jerusalem and Lebanon, as we tasted them, were commonly boiled and sweet, without intoxicating qualities, such as we here get in liquors called wines. The boiling prevents the fermentation. Those were esteemed the best wines which were least strong."
Horace, liber i. ode xviii. line 21, thus wrote: "Hic innocentis pocula Lesbii Duces sub umbra.” Professor Christopher Smart, of Pembroke College, Cambridge, England, more than a hundred years since, when there was no controversy about fermented or unfermented wines, thus translated this passage: "Here shall you quaff, under a shade, cups of unintoxicating wine."
We cannot imagine that Pliny, Columella, Varro, Cato, and others were either cooks or writers of cookbooks, but were intelligent gentlemen moving in the best circles of society. So when they, with minute care, give the recipes for making sweet wine, which will remain so during the year, and the processes were such as to prevent fermentation, we are persuaded that these were esteemed in their day.
Aristotle, 385-322 BC

Aristotle, 384 BC
The wine of Arcadia was so thick that it was necessary to scrape it from the skin bottles in which it was contained, and to dissolve the scrapings in water.

Michael Donovan, Bible Commentary, 1830
In order to preserve their wines to these ages, the Romans concentrated the must or grape-juice, of which they were made, by evaporation, either spontaneous in the air or over a fire, and so much so as to render them thick and syrupy.
Those ancient authors who treat upon domestic manners abound with allusions to this usage. Hot water, tepid water, or cold water was used for the dilution of wine according to the season…Hesiod prescribed, during the summer months, three parts of water to one of wine…Nicochares considers two parts of wine to five of water as the proper proportion…According to Homer, Pramnian and Meronian wines required twenty parts of water to one of wine. Hippocrates considered twenty parts of water to one of the Thracian wine to be the proper beverage...Athenaeus states that the Taeniotic has such a degree of richness or fatness that when mixed with water it seemed gradually to be diluted, much in the same way as Attic honey well mixed.

Benjamin Parsons, Anti-Bacchus, 1840
Horace, born 65 B.C., says "there is no wine sweeter to drink than Lesbian; that it was like nectar, and more resembled ambrosia than wine; that it was perfectly harmless, and would not produce intoxication."
Pliny says "some Roman wines were as thick as honey," also that the "Albanian wine was very sweet or luscious, and that it took the third rank among all the wines:" He also tells of a Spanish wine in his day, called "Inerticulum" - that is, would not intoxicate - from "iners," inert, without force or spirit, more properly termed "justicus sobriani," sober wine, which would not inebriate.
Columella says the Greeks called this unintoxicating wine "Amethyston," from Alpha, negative, and methusis, intoxicate - that is, a wine which would not intoxicate. He adds that it was a good wine, harmless, and called "iners," because it would not affect the nerves, but at the same time it was not deficient in flavor.

John Kitto, The Olive, Vine, and Palm, 1848
The Mishna states that the Jews were in the habit of using boiled wine.
[quoting Pliny] "That wine is produced by care." He then gives the method: "Mergunt earn protinus in aqua cados donec bruma transeat et consuetudo fiat algendi." "They plunge the casks, immediately after they are filled from the vat, into water, until winter has passed away and the wine has acquired the habit of being cold.”

Constantin Volney, Travels in Syria, 1801
The wines are of three sorts, the red, the white, and the yellow. The white, which are the most rare, are so bitter as to be disagreeable; the two others, on the contrary, are too sweet and sugary. This arises from their being boiled, which makes them resemble the baked wines of Provence. The general custom of the country is to reduce the must to two-thirds of its quantity…It is probably that the inhabitants of Lebanon have made no change in their ancient method of making wines.

Alexander Adam, Roman Antiquities, 1791
Virgil, 70-19 BC
[referring to Pliny and Virgil] In order to make wine keep, they used to boil (deconquere) the must down to one-half, when it was called defrutum, to one-third, sapa.
…that the Romans fumigated their wines with the fumes of sulphur; that they also mixed with the mustum, newly pressed juice, yolks of eggs, and other articles containing sulphur. When thus defaecabantur (from defaeco, 'to cleanse from the dregs, to strain through a strainer, refine, purify, defecate'), it was poured (diffusum) into smaller vessels or casks covered over with pitch, and bunged or stopped up.

William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1870
A considerable quantity of must from the best and oldest vines was inspissated by boiling, being then distinguished by the Greeks under the general name Epsuma or Gleuxis, while the Latin writers have various terms, according to the extent to which the evaporation was carried; as Carenum, one-third; defrutum, one-half; and saps, two-thirds.
The sweet, unfermented juice of the grape was termed gleukos by the Greeks and mustum by the Romans - the latter word being properly an adjective signifying new or fresh…A portion of the must was used at once, being drunk fresh…When it was desired to preserve a quantity in the sweet state, an amphora was taken and coated with pitch within and without, it was filled with mustum lixivium, and corked so as to be perfectly airtight. It was then immersed in a tank of cold fresh water, or buried in wet sand, and allowed to remain for six weeks or two months. The contents, after this process, was found to remain unchanged for a year, and hence the name, aeigleukos - that is, `semper mustum,' always sweet.

Alexander Russell, The Natural History of Aleppo, 1851
The inspissated juice of the grape, saps vina, called here dibbs, is brought to the city in skins and sold in the public markets; it has much the appearance of coarse honey, is of a sweet taste, and in great use among the people of all sorts.
Inspissated defined - to thicken, as by evaporation; make or become dense

Eli Smith, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1846
The only form in which the unfermented juice of the grape is preserved is that of dibbs, which may be called grape-molasses.

Henry Homes, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1848
Simple grape-juice, without the addition of any earth to neutralize the acidity, is boiled from four to five hours, so as to reduce it one-fourth the quantity put in. After the boiling, for preserving it cool, and that it be less liable to ferment, it is put into earthen instead of wooden vessels, closely tied over with skin to exclude the aft. It ordinarily has not a particle of intoxicating quality, being used freely by both Mohammedans and Christians. Some which I have had on hand for two years has undergone no change…The manner of making and preserving this unfermented grape-liquor seems to correspond with the recipes and descriptions of certain drinks included by some of the ancients under the appellation of wine.

Plutarch, AD 45-120
Plutarch, Symposium, 60
Wine is rendered old or feeble in strength when it is frequently filtered. The strength or spirit being thus excluded, the wine neither inflames the brain nor infests the mind and the passions, and is much more pleasant to drink.
The most useful wine has all its force or strength broken by the filter.

Samuel Lee, Dr. Lee’s Works, 1783
Captain Treat, in 1845, wrote: "When on the south coast of Italy, last Christmas, I enquired particularly about the wines in common use, and found that those esteemed the best were sweet and unintoxicating. The boiled juice of the grape is in common use in Sicily. The Calabrians keep their intoxicating and unintoxicating wines in separate apartments. The bottles were generally marked. From enquiries, I found that unfermented wines were esteemed the most. It was drunk mixed with water. Great pains were taken in the vintage season to have a good stock of it laid by. The grape-juice was filtered two or three times, and then bottled, and some put in casks and buried in the earth - some kept in water (to prevent fermentation).”
Captain Treat says, "The unfermented wine is esteemed the most in the south of Italy, and wine is drunk mixed with water."

Columella, De Re Rustica, circa 50
That your must may always be as sweet as when it is new, thus proceed: Before you apply the press to the fruit, take the newest must from the lake, put into a new amphora, bung it up, and cover it very carefully with pitch, lest any water should enter; then immerse it in a cistern or pond of pure cold water, and allow no part of the amphora to remain above the surface. After forty days, take it out, and it will remain sweet for a year.

Frederic Millet, Gardener’s Dictionary, 1731
The way to preserve new wine, in the state of must; is to put it up in very strong but small casks, firmly closed on all sides, by which means it will be kept from fermenting. But if it should happen to fall into fermentation, the only way to stop it is by the fumes of sulphur.

Alexander Henderson, This History of Ancient and Modern Wines, 1824
[commenting on the boiled wine preferred by Virgil] The use of this inspissated juice became general.

Columella, AD 4-70
          So what do these quotes reveal? Three things… First, that unfermented beverages existed and were commonly drunk millennia before the modern nineteenth century process of pasteurization. Second, they achieved this mainly by boiling the juice and storing it in an airtight environment. Third, these were also called wine.
          …but go ahead. Keep maintaining that no such thing existed in Jesus' day. Force  your twenty first century definition of the word wine on a two thousand year old Bible. And then go quaff your alcoholic beverages with a clear conscience.
          There is a phrase for that: ignorance is bliss.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Alcohol 8 - The Fallacy of Fermentation Only

          There are two basic Christian positions on alcohol. One says that it should be completely avoided. The other says that it can be consumed in moderation as long as you do not get drunk. One of the most frequently cited supports for the latter is the idea that the only kind of wine available in Jesus' day was alcoholic wine.
          I have spoken with literally dozens of people who hold a moderate consumption position and almost all of them use this as a foundational reason for their position. Just last week, for instance, someone made this statement on my facebook page:

In biblical days there was no such thing as grape juice. Fresh crushed grapes have natural yeast and immediately begins to ferment. So all juice had some alcohol, the longer it sat the more alcoholic it became. The only reason we have grape juice is because of pasteurization, which didn't exist until 1795.

          I find this reasoning frustrating simply because it is so completely incorrect. I do not mind disagreement based on reasonable difference of opinion about scriptural interpretation. I do mind disagreement based on careless inaccuracies. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not claim to be perfectly correct about everything I assert but – as God is my witness – I work incredibly hard at researching the facts behind what I say. I do my homework. This series alone has cost me seventy five hours of work. That amount of time spent does not make me right but it does make me annoyed with people who make ignorant pronouncements. The average person who holds a moderate consumption position on the basis that the only wine available in Jesus' day was alcoholic is intellectually lazy. They are simply repeating something they have heard someone else say. And they have built their position on sand.
          Two weeks ago I showed you this is untrue via the original language in the Old Testament. (The Blessing of Wine) Last week I showed you this is untrue via the interpretation of context. (Context, Context, ContextThis week I want to show you this is untrue based on the history of fermentation.
          In our day we do not need to make wine. In ancient times they actually did for a variety of reasons. For instance, the scientific laws of medicine were mostly then unknown. This was true in many areas including germ theory and the corresponding importance of sanitation. By the same token, though, the ancients understood well that much of the water available to them would make them sick. Consequently, they only rarely drank straight water unmixed with anything else. In other words, wine was primarily for them a safe way to drink liquids.
          Not only that, but the ancients were limited in their ability to preserve food for lengthy periods of time. They did not have, for instance, access to freezers or knowledge of the process of canning. The preservative power of salt has been known for millennia and they used it extensively. They also used smoking/drying of food for the same reasons. They also discovered that they could decrease the space necessary for long term storage by turning their fruits and grains into liquid. At the same time, without losing nutritional value, they could preserve those foods in an edible condition much longer in this manner as well. For example, olives have longed been pressed and the resulting oil kept preserved for a much longer period than the fresh olives alone could have been kept.
          I freely admit that alcohol accomplished both of these goals. No rational person I know disputes that alcoholic beverages have been made since the dawn of agriculture. Logic, history, and Genesis 9 tell us this. Beer – alcohol made from grain – and wine – alcohol made from fruit – are healthier than unclean water simply because alcohol is already poisoned. Other kinds of germs do not like such a toxic environment. In ancient times alcoholic beverages thus prepared, properly stored, lasted much longer than fresh fruit and grain did.
          I also freely admit that pasteurization was unknown until the nineteenth century. Frenchmen Nicolas Appert (1749-1841) and Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) led the way. American prohibitionist Thomas Bramwell Welch applied their techniques to fresh grape juice in 1869 and his heirs built the corresponding brand we know so well today. 
A juice bar in Disneyland circa 1965
        For this reason it has been long and widely assumed that all fruit preserved in liquid form in ancient times was preserved as alcohol. But widely and long held assumptions are often simply widely and long held ignorance. Pasteurization is not the only valid method of preserving unfermented grape juice else why did the Romans have a law forbidding pregnant women from drinking fermented wine? There must have been an unfermented wine available if it was commanded as the only acceptable choice.         
          Fermentation occurs naturally but no one I know or have ever met drinks what ferments naturally. This is because the process produces beverages that are highly unpredictable and notoriously unsafe. A silo full of corn may smash the bottom layer into mush and time and heat may ferment it but no one I know bottles the resulting corn liquor and sells it at Wal-mart. Without exception, the alcoholic beverages consumed on the planet today are all made in carefully controlled, highly sterilized environments. Consumable alcohol is a man-made process. It involves carefully controlling the temperature and precise amounts of sugar, yeast, and oxygen.
          A process that is now and was then so highly involved developed experts with a knowledge base that could run in more than one direction. And there was a demand for grape juice to be preserved in an unfermented manner. Some preferred it for taste reasons and others preferred to keep their judgment unclouded while drinking. So how did they do it? Specifically in regards to wine how did the ancients preserve grape juice in an unfermented state for long periods of time?
          Sometimes fresh grapes would be pressed and the juice drunk immediately. This was often, though not always, called new wine or sweet wine. Sometimes the grape juice was preserved in a concentrated syrup called "must" or "dibbs". Water would later be added or mixed with this concentrate to form drinkable wine. Sometimes this syrupy, thick concoction was even spread on bread like we would jam. In addition, this must was also sometimes called sweet wine, boiled wine, or even just plain wine.
          But where did this concentrated solution come from? Boiling. And grape juice that is boiled cannot ferment. See Louis Pasteur for modern proof. But people were boiling grape juice millennia before he did.
          Additionally, grape juice will not ferment if it is kept air-tight as oxygen is needed for fermentation. This was difficult to do back then but it was sometimes done by storing the juice in skins or jars literally under water. This had the added benefit of keeping the juice cold which also hinders fermentation. Fresh pressed juice in large amounts was placed into casks and then put under cold, flowing water all winter. Over time the yeast (which had not yet fermented due to the temperature) settled to the bottom of the cask. The resulting sweet/unfermented wine was poured off the top and the now yeast free juice would keep for quite some time without fermentation. Filtering and fumigating the juice with sulphur were also used to delay fermentation.
           I do not mind if people reasonably disagree with my interpretation and application of Scripture. That is actually good for me. I do mind when people hold a position of moderate consumption under the mistaken impression that it was impossible to preserve unfermented grape juice in Jesus' day. In that they are just plain wrong.