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.


  1. You are wrong.


    IFB doesn't allow you to be right.

    That'll leave a mark.

  2. Here is a review of the book you use, "Bible Wines and Laws of Fermentation and Wines of the Ancients (Paperback)"

    "Embarrassingly poor scholarship"

    "In 1841, forty years before Patton's work, John Maclean, a Presbyterian Minister, published two reviews of the pro-abstinence essays, "Bacchus" (Grindrod) and "Anti-Bacchus" (Parsons), in the Princeton Review. Maclean exposed the authors' poor scholarship and misrepresentations of the ancient evidence. (Search for "Bacchus and Anti-Bacchus" at [Making of America Journal].) Maclean was also a supporter of the temperance cause, but he protested "against the perversion of scripture and of fact which is found in these and like publications." Here he elegantly articulates his outrage:

    [But when they invade the sanctuary of God, and teach for doctrine the commandments of men; when they wrest the scriptures, and make them speak a language at variance with the truth when they assume positions opposed to the precepts of Christ, and to the peace of his church; when, in reference to wine, which the Saviour made the symbol of his shed blood, in the most sacred rite of his holy religion, they assert that it is a thing condemned of God and injurious to men, and use the language of the Judaizing teachers in the ancient church, "touch not, taste not, handle not,"* when Christ has commanded all his disciples to drink of it in remembrance of him, we cannot consent to let such sentiments pass with¬out somewhat of the rebuke which they so richly deserve. (April 1841, p.267)]

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Speaking of Presbyterians and Princeton you might want to examine "The Biblical Approach to Alcohol." Stephen Reynolds holds a Ph. D. from Princeton and wrote a book just ten years that comes to largely the same conclusion as Patton.

      ...or did you think I only read dead guys about this?

    3. We may want to do some actual study outside your bias.

      Oh yeah, Ignorance is bliss.

      Carry on.

  3. Patton in "Bible Wines" forges ahead (obvlious of Maclean?) often citing "Bacchus" and "Anti-Bacchus", repeating many of the above mistakes made by Grindrod and Parsons. I have made a careful review of the Latin sources (Pliny, Columella, Cato and Varro) and must agree with Maclean. Patton, like his predecessors, cherry picks where the source speaks seemingly supportive of his thesis. But he ignores or subverts the passages which clearly refute his so-called "two-wine" theory. I submit three exhibits:

    (1) Pliny's "Natural Histories", Book XIV, line 83:

    [Medium inter dulcia vinumque est quod Graeci aigleucos vocant, hoc est semper mustum. Id evenit cura, quoniam fervere prohibetur--sic appellant musti in vina transitum.] "Intermediate between the dulcia and wine is what the Greeks call "aigleucos", that is, "ever must". Its production requires care, since it is not permitted to ferment, which is what they call the transition of must into wines."

    Pliny then describes that suppressing (or slowing) fermentation takes place by submerging the not-yet-fermenting must in a frigid stream or pool until winter. But here is the significance of this passage: Fermentation marks the transition of must into wines. That which is called wine and generally understood to be [real] wine is fermented. Pliny only mentions this fact as an aside, since it was critical to point out the necessity for sealing and deep cooling the must BEFORE it begins to ferment.

  4. Maclean cites many such examples. Here are two from Columella and Varro on the very same point:

    (2) Columella, Book XII, XXV, line 4 - (making Greek wine flavored with sea water):

    [Mustum autem antequam de lacu tollas, vasa rore marino vel lauro vel myrto suffumigato, et large replete, ut in effervescendo vinum se bene purget.] "But before you take the must from the vat, fumigate the vessels with rosemary, laurel, or myrtle, and fill the vessels full, that in fermenting, the wine may purge itself well."

    Here as well Calumella preserves the distinction between must and wine (fermentation). And clearly Greek wine is in fact fermented contrary to numerous assertions by Patton.

  5. (3) Varro (on Rural Economy), Book I, LXV, line 1:

    [Quod mustum conditur in dolium, ut habeamus vinum, non promovendum dum fervet, neque etiamdum processit ita, ut sit vinum factum.] "The must that is put into a dolium, in order that we have wine, should not be drawn while it is fermenting, and has not yet advanced so far as to have been converted into wine."

    Can there be any doubt in the usage of the term "wine" by Pliny, Columella and Varro that wine meant the fermented juice of the grape?

    Maclean concludes:

    "That in treating of wines, these writers have mentioned modes of preserving the juice of the grape other than by fermenting it, we without the least hesitation admit; and that this unfermented juice, whether inspissated (thickened by boiling) or not, was sometimes used as a drink, we do not question; but we do maintain that the common and almost universal acceptation of vinum, the Latin term for wine is the fermented juice of the grape, and that when the term is applied to any other preparation of grape juice it is connected with some word qualifying the import of vinum.... The same remark may be made of the Greek term oinos, corresponding to the Latin vinum, and the English wine; and there is not a particle more of ambiguity in the use of the Greek oinos, than there is in the use of the Latin vinum, or of the English term wine." ("Bacchus and Anti-Bacchus", Princeton Review, April 1841, p.292)

    Patton's errors are legion, the product of embarrassingly poor scholarship dictated by his abstentionist bias. It is sad that he continues to be cited even today by "like publications."