Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
Alcohol And The Christian
I. Three incompatible statements to consider:
1. "There's nothing wrong with getting drunk as long as you don't hurt anyone."
2. "The Bible Condemns drunkenness but not drinking."
3. "People would be better off if they did not drink at all."
II. Which, if any, of these three statements is correct?  Before we answer this question let's consider some basic information.

III. The statistics concerning alcohol are overwhelming.

A. The mind numbing truth.

1. Some Basic facts:
Alcohol is America's #1 drug.
It is the third leading cause of death.
100 - 130 million adults drink.
9 - 15 million problem drinkers.
10% of those who drink are problem drinkers.
50 - 60% of the children of alcoholics will become alcoholics.
76% of the children in Tea Totaling homes are abstainers.
50% of murders involve alcohol.
33% of all suicides involve alcohol.
60% of child abuse involves alcohol.
50% of all auto fatalities.
10% of all drivers on a week end are impaired.
500,000 are injured every year.
There were 1,790,500 DWI arrests in 1988.
50,000 - 60,000 total deaths are related to alcohol each year.
Fewer American Soldiers died during the Vietnam Conflict than die each year as a result of Alcohol use.
It is the #1 cause of death for teens.
Alcohol related expenses are four times greater than the tax revenue generated by alcohol.
2. Alcohol's grim toll--according to the Detroit Free Press:
Every 20th alcoholic is a pre-teen
Alcohol damages 100% of the body's organs.
America sees alcohol used or advertised on television every 6 seconds.
40% of all hospital admissions is alcohol related.
50% of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol.
20% of all divorces are caused by alcoholism.
33% of all Michigan suicides involve alcohol.
64% of all murders in America are committed under the influence of alcohol.
60% of all child abuse involves alcohol.
1000%?--Alcoholics outnumber drug addicts 10 to 1.
3. According To Harvard nutritionists Jean Mayer the grain used in distilling alcohol would feed 20 million starving people each year.

4. According to the Health and Human Services Dept. of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism our annual alcohol-related expenses total $68,617,579,000.00 per year.

Loss of Production $31,523,959,000
Health & Medical $20,448,841,000
Vehicle Accidents 8,250,160,000
Violent Crime 4,590,556,000
Social Response 3,113,844,000
Fire Losses 690,189,000

5. What other problems are you aware of that are caused by

6. Surely we can recognize that alcohol is a dangerous

B. The Bible and the thirteen words translated "wine."
1. In the ancient world, the word "wine" did not
automatically indicate the presence of alcohol

2. Hebrew words:

1. YAYIN, is found 141 time in the OT. It is a
generic word for the product of the grape vine.
Context determines whether it is alcoholic or
2. SHAKAR, is found 23 times in the OT. It is usually
translated "strong drink" in the KJV. This word
does not refer to "hard liquor" since distillation
was not invented until centuries after the Bible
was completed. It referred to liquor obtained from
dates or other fruits (with the exception of
grapes), or barley, millet, etc., which were
dried, or scorched, and a concoction of them was
mixed with honey, aromatic etc. This drink could
be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic.
3. Greek words:
1. GLEUKOS, is found in Acts 2:13. It means sweet
wine. The word was used in sarcasm against the
2. OINOS, is found 33 times in the NT. It is a
generic word that refers to the juice of the grape
vine. The context determines whether it refers to
alcoholic wine or not.
4. The fact that the juice in the grape was often called
oinos proves that it can refer to non-alcoholic juice.
1. Anacreon (500 B.C.) said, "Only males tread the grapes, setting free wine (oinos)." This is clearly non-alcoholic.
2. Varro spoke of "gathering wine."
3. Cato referred to, "hanging wine."
4. spoke of, "unintoxicating wint."
5. Celus said "Gather the berries of the myrtle, and from them express wine."
6. Ovid, "And scarce can the grapes contain the wine they have within."
7. Ibycus, "And newborn clusters teem with wine, beneath the shadowy foliage of the vine."
5. Oinos can exist on three states.
1. New, fresh, or sweet.
2. Fermented but non-alcoholic
3. Fermented and alcoholic.
6. The ancients had several ways of preserving grape
1. fermentation.
2. Boiling it down to a molasses like consistency to
be reconstituted later with water.
3. Filtering out the gluten.
4. Sealing out the oxygen and storing it in water or
burying it in the ground.
C. Is Alcohol Use Sinful???? Some Biblical references to consider.
1. The Case of Noah: Compare Genesis 6:9 to Genesis 9:20-23.
1. Can an argument against social drinking be made from this passage?
2. The Old Testament's view of drunkards is reflected in Isa. 28:1,7-8; Prov. 20:1; 23:29-32.

3. The New Testament's view of drunkards (Gal 5:21; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:10)

4. Question: Does the Bible say thou shalt not drink?

5. Question: Can the Bible prohibit certain behavior in certain situations without issuing a specific, blanket restriction?

6. Question: Can you give examples dealing with other issues?

7. Question: What principle/s from 1 Cor. 6:12-13 would impact our view of Alcohol?

8. Question: How does 1 Cor. 6:19-20 effect the subject?

9. Question: Read Romans 14:21; 1 Cor. 10:24,31-33 and comment on these verses relative to the use of alcohol.

D. Does the fact that Jesus turned the water into wine justify social drinking in moderation?
1. The word translated wine here is oinos. The Context
must determine if it is alcoholic.

2. The Phrase, "best wine" does not necessarily imply
alcoholic wine (John 2:10).

3. Pliny, Plutarch, and Horace state that the best wine
was that which was harmless or innocent. Pliny said
good wine is that which has had its strength broken by
the filter.

4. The common drink of ancient Orientals and Romans was
not alcoholic wine. It was the juice of the wine mixed
with water (hot or cold) and sometimes mixed with
spices (Valerius Maximus, Book II. 1,5; VI. 3; Alulus
Gellius Book X. 23; Pliny XIV. 13).

5. Robert Stein published an article ["Wine-Drinking in
New Testament Times," Christianity Today (June 20,
1975): pp. 923-925]. It documents the facts from Jewish
literature and Greek writers about the wine of Jesus'

6. It was lower in alcohol than today's drinks. It was
usually mixed with water in a ratio of from two to
twenty parts water to one part wine.

7. People who drink wine without mixing it at least a one
to one ratio were considered barbarians who delighted
in "Strong Drink.

8. Drinking such wines, one would have had kidney or
bladder problems long before drunkenness set in.

9. Often wine was mixed with the water because the water
was unsafe.

10. Jewish weddings normally lasted about a week. The
amount of wine made by Jesus was about 150 gallons. Is
this an argument for moderation?

11. Remember that to use this passage to justify drinking
one must be able to prove the oinos was alcoholic.

E. Do Paul's instructions to Timothy justify social drinking (1 Tim. 5:23)?
1. Note that It was not normal for Timothy to drink wine. He had to be told to do so.

2. It was to be a little wine for illness.

3. Canadian Studies done in the 80's demonstrated that wine was beneficial for some stomach ailments and that grape juice was even more beneficial.

4. Prov. 31:6-7.

5. Should the Christian self prescribe alcohol for illness or depression?

F. Do Paul's instructions concerning Elders and Deacons indicate that deacons can drink but Elders cannot (1 Tim. 3:3,8)?
1. The word translated "vigilant" (KJV) and "temperate" (NKJV) in 1 Tim. 3:2&8 literally means, "Not holding wine" (Kittle, V. 4, p. 939)

2. Not "given to wine" Literally means not near, around or holding wine.

3. NOTE that translators have shied away from literal translation of many of the words dealing with alcohol such as this one and the word vigilant. When in doubt the safe course is the literal translation. The fact  that many translators drank alcohol and may have tinted
their translating spectacles.

4. Even if one opts for the more figurative translations of these words, as an excuse for drinking elders, one must still admit that Solomon said not to even "look" at wine that is fermented (Proverbs 23:31).

G. Personal Summary.

1. Summarize your thoughts on the Bible, the Christian and Alcohol


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