Open Response To Jay Leno, More On Drinking Wine

On The Tonight Show, starring Jay Leno for Wednesday, November 3, 2010, the host made a comment about homosexual marriage. These may not be the precise words he said, but they capture the substance of his thinking: “I’ve been married for thirty years. If two guys want to get married, how does that threaten my marriage?”

This comment is nothing but a “straw man” argument. It assumes that the main objection against homosexual marriage is that it poses a threat to marriage between a male and a female. Possibly this perspective may have been advanced by someone, but whether or not that argument is valid, it is not the rationale that most people would set forth regarding the subject.

The main reason for opposing homosexual marriage is that God created both the male and the female, and He designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. God designed this union between a man and a woman before sin had ever entered into and marred the perfect world God had created. Notice that Genesis 2:24 says that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

The way that God created the first pair is significant. He did not begin with two men or two women as a pattern. He did not give Adam four women and institute polygamy. Neither did He give Eve four men. He did not create five men and five women to form a “hippie” commune. Furthermore, he did not create a backup for Eve in case Adam wanted to divorce her.

The pattern is very simple: one woman for one man for life. And that was the way Adam and Eve lived out their lives. This was—and is—God’s Divine plan today although man has frequently departed from it. But they do so without His authority or blessing, which makes all such variations sin.

One challenge to marriage occurred in the days of Malachi—more than 400 years before Jesus was born. The Israelites, whom God had brought back from captivity, decided to act out of selfish motives. They divorced their wives and married foreign women. God called their actions profaning “the Lord’s holy institution” (Mal. 2:11). A few verses later, Malachi records God as saying that “He hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16).

Jesus would be asked about divorce during His ministry. To show that it was wrong, He appealed to Genesis 2:24 as the pattern which God had established, adding: “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Since marriage is God’s holy institution, only He can authorize two individuals to be married. Under the covenant of Christianity, which all men today live under, Jesus will judge us according to His words (John 12:48). The Father and Jesus only authorize marriage between a qualified man and a qualified woman.

Polygamy is not authorized, nor is group marriage. Neither can a divorced individual marry another (unless the reason for the divorce was fornication on the part of the mate) (Matt. 19:9). Likewise, homosexuals have no authority to marry, either, since they do not fit the Divine pattern established from the beginning of the world. Homosexuality is a choice, or there would not have been young men in Sodom. Men and women still married there and raised families, but the men also desired other men—even visiting strangers (Gen. 19).

From the creation, God put the pleasures of sex within marriage; fornicators and adulterers He will judge (Heb. 13:4). The reason that homosexuals cannot be “married” is that it is a clear denial and rejection of God, who created mankind and destroyed it once because of its excessive wickedness in the Flood. To allow or promote such an atrocity is to openly rebel against God and to profane His holy institution of marriage.

Having left off (previous article—Drinking Wine) with a brief discussion of gleukos, a word which appears only in Acts 2:13, it would be appropriate to point out that there is a similar passage in the Old Testament—namely Isaiah 49:26:

“I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. All flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

This verse, which Ricky referenced, is comparable to Acts 2:13 in that both of them describe something that is not possible—getting drunk on new wine. As already pointed out, sweet or new wine is fresh from the grapes. It is not intoxicating, however, as most lexicons will declare (except ones who are trying to explain the passage rather than define the word).

So, once again, how are we to understand these two verses? Most commentaries do not comment on “Sweet wine” from Isaiah 49:26, but Barnes provides the explanation, and it also works in Acts 2:13. Commenting on the phrase, as with new wine, he wrote:

The Hebrew word…means must, or new wine…. The must, or new wine, was the pure juice which ran after the grapes had been laid in a heap preparatory to pressure…. This had the intoxicating property very slightly, if at all…. It is possible, I think, that there may be an allusion to the fact that it required a large quantity of the must or new wine to produce intoxication. And that the idea here is that a large quantity of blood would be shed (Barnes Notes, Isaiah, 2:216).

This writer’s best friend in high school once made a startling statement. His father worked for Bubble Up, a soft drink company which at that time was a competitor of 7Up. He informed us that it was possible to get drunk on it. “Of course, you would probably have to drink 60 gallons.” Each bottle contained a drop or two of alcohol. This is precisely the case with new or sweet wine. The most it would have in it would be a drop or two of alcohol—so slight that no one would actually be able to tell. Therefore, one would need to quaff great amounts of it in order to get drunk.

This is what the mockers on the Day of Pentecost were saying when they insisted that the apostles were drunk on new wine—that they had consumed copious amounts of it (gallons), which would have been necessary to ever achieve any level of intoxication. Peter’s answer, in light of this evidence, makes complete sense. He denied that they could be drunk on new wine since it was only 9:00 A.M. in the morning. Much more time would have been required to literally have imbibed such a great quantity.

Jeremiah 35:1-2

Ricky cited several verses and then attempted to make a logical argument concerning them. One of those was Jeremiah 35:1-2:

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”

Ricky’s comment on the verse was this: (Is God Himself causing the Rechabites to stumble?) This is one of those instances where he should have read the rest of the text instead of simply trying to gather verses that he thinks support drinking alcoholic beverages. Had Ricky continued reading, he would have seen that Jeremiah brought bowls of wine and set them before them, encouraging them to drink. They answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father, commanded us, saying, “You shall drink no wine, you and your sons, forever” (v. 6).

God was not tempting the Rechabites to sin; He knew that they faithfully had kept this charge throughout the generations. The point that He made to Israel was that the Rechabites had kept the word of a man, but they did not keep the Word of God, their Creator (v. 14). Only someone who is desperate to prove that God sanctions drinking alcohol would so abuse this passage.

Leviticus 10:9

When Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, they were devoured by fire. God then forbade the priests from drinking wine or intoxicating drink when they went into the tabernacle of meeting. Ricky concluded: (Notice, do not drink STRONG DRINK IN THE TEMPLE. If it was always wrong (in God’s eyes) to drink alcohol (especially strong drink) this is a redundant statement.)

The fact that God offers an extra caution does not mean that it is right to do it otherwise. Paul told Timothy to focus on reading, exhortation, and doctrine until he came (1 Tim. 4:13). Did that imply that Timothy could stop those things after Paul’s visit? When Solomon wrote, “Do not be overly wicked” (Ecc. 7:17), did he mean that wickedness in moderation was all right?

Everyone needs to be careful in his use of the Scriptures and only draw such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence. Earlier in the same passage (Lev. 10: 3), God had said that those who came near Him must regard Him as holy. Does that mean that those who did not come near to Him could display an irreverent attitude toward Him? Such a conclusion is false.

Genesis 14:18

When Abram returned from rescuing Lot, Melchizedek met him with bread and wine [3196]. While this word for wine usually refers to a fermented drink, in Numbers 6:4 it does not. Since the Old Testament provides exceptions to the intoxicating version, then why should it be assumed that in this text the wine is definitely fermented? Yet Ricky absolutely insists on it—and in a rather vulgar manner:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. (Imagine that! The future ‘Jesus’ shows up with maybe a six-pack of beer or a quart of booze.)

Because Melchizedek is a priest of God Most High (who also is holy), we would assume that the wine was unfermented. If the priest had fresh bread for this meal, then it is also likely that he had fresh fruit of the vine. In other words, he could not have traveled far without the bread getting stale or the wine becoming fermented (cf. Joshua 9). Ricky would turn Melchizedek into a “whiskey priest,” as described by Graham Greene in his 1940 novel, The Power and the Glory.

Can it be proven that the wine was non-alcoholic? It cannot be done linguistically, but consider the following rationale. Melchizedek is type of Christ; Jesus is part of the Godhead, Who is eternal. Another member of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, inspired Solomon to write: “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly” (Pr. 23:31). The word translated “wine” in both verses is yayin [3196]. If God does not contradict Himself, then Melchizedek, as a forerunner of Christ, brought the non-intoxicating version of wine to Abram. Now it may be that some are yet not convinced that the wine was non-alcoholic. But then where is the proof that it was? No one can establish that point.

Ecclesiastes 9:7

Ricky calls attention to Ecclesiastes 9:7, which includes the words, “And drink your wine with a merry heart.” He makes no further comments, but a look at the text is instructive. Solomon has classed all individuals as among the living or the dead (Ecc. 9:5). Once a person has departed from this world, they do not have a share in anything that is done under the sun (Ecc. 9:6). Therefore, while under the sun, all should go ahead and eat and drink (Ecc. 9:7), live joyfully with his wife (Ecc. 9:9), and labor with his might (Ecc. 9:10), for none of these things will be done when we depart this world.

Certainly, nothing in the text encourages losing one’s sobriety; if anything, it is just the opposite. Be alive and enjoy life! “Go, eat your bread with joy” is a parallelism with “and drink your wine with a merry heart.” All that is intended is enjoying food and drink—not heading toward inebriation. Further, “Let your garments always be white” may symbolize more than having clean clothes; it could, in a broader sense, refer to being pure, period. But even if not, nothing in the text suggests a drinking party.

Proverbs 21:17

This verse says: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” If this refers to intoxicating wine (and in this case it seems to be doing so), it certainly makes sense. Just because God forbids succumbing to the temptation (23:31) does not mean that all people do. We know, in fact, that people did engage in drink so as to become drunk.

Proverbs 31:6

King Lemuel wrote: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.” So, which one is Ricky—perishing or bitter? Obviously, if he thought he was not entitled to drink alcoholic beverages, he would be bitter indeed. So, maybe…. Seriously, however, this is a text which highlights a contrast. Proverbs 31:4-5 explains why kings and princes are not to drink wine or intoxicating drink. Doing so might cause them to forget the law and pervert justice. They need to be sober to dispense righteous judgment.

If anyone is to be given wine, it should be the one who is perishing—about to die. In this case it might have a medicinal value, such as dulling pain. It was given to those who were about to be crucified for just that reason; Jesus refused it even then (Matt. 27:34). Since this verse is also clearly a parallelism, those who are bitter in heart are probably those in agony over their forthcoming death. Verse 7 adds: “Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” This is simply a continuation of the same idea and still contrasted to the need for kings to be sober.

Considered out of its context, it would be easy for anyone who wants to get drunk to justify himself. “I’m drinking because my life is bitter. My wife left me, I lost my job, and I don’t have any friends. Give me another bottle.” “I’m just a poor man, I can barely afford to pay my rent; I need a little nip or two.” “I’m in misery. My health is bad, and nobody really cares about me. I’m drinking to forget about my lousy life.” If those are the teachings of these verses, few besides the king will ever be sober! So, then, wine is appropriate as a painkiller for those who are near death and suffering. They can forget their suffering, their poverty, their misery, their pain. But others need to be sober and alert.

The passages cited by Ricky do not prove his case even a little bit. The Bible does not teach, “Drink moderately.” Perhaps the reason is that alcohol first goes to the brain and removes the ability to make thoughtful, rational decisions. It does, however, even in the Old Testament, teach not to look on wine at all. Why do people fight so hard to legitimize drinking alcoholic beverages? Is the reason that they are addicted? They will even pervert the Scriptures to legitimize their habit, yet millions live normal and healthy lives without it.

Drinking Wine

In “The Antidote to Drunkenness” of Spiritual Perspectives (10-17-10, scroll down), an examination of Proverbs 23:31 was given. The subject arose from an e-mailer who vociferously attempted to defend his drinking habit—not drunkenness—just a few beers or a few glasses of wine. He insisted that no verse of Scripture ever forbade God’s person from drinking, which is the reason Proverbs 23:31 was called to his attention. No one becomes drunk if they do not take the first drink. Ricky (not his real name) failed to understand or comment intelligently on this verse, as already reported.

He offered several verses and arguments in favor of drinking, and it was obvious that this subject was a hobby with him. What is sad is that someone would waste so much time and energy defending a practice that is not commanded and is not necessary in the first place. Jesus did not command Christians to drink; the practice causes great harm and supports an industry which could not make a profit were it not for those who consume too much. If major companies had to rely on people who only drank lightly or moderately, they would go out of business. Those who are alcoholics, drunks, or binge drinkers keep them solvent.

Most of the Scriptures which Ricky cited were in the Old Testament. Even if the verses did live up to the claims he made for them, it would still not authorize Christians to drink socially because the Israelites lived under a different covenant. God allowed practices under that covenant that are not authorized in the New Testament. One of those was polygamy, which was never God’s ideal plan, according to Jesus (Matt. 19:3-9). God also commanded the Israelites to use instrumental music under the old covenant (2 Chron. 19:25), but He did not repeat this idea in the New. Neither Jesus nor the apostles sang with instrumental accompaniment. None of the churches did, either. In fact, the apostle Paul wrote that brethren are to sing (Col. 3:16), and that is all that our brethren in the first century did.

Numbers 6:1-4, 20

Since the Law of Moses was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), it would not matter if someone found 100 passages to justify drinking under a former covenant. The question would be, “Where and how does Jesus authorize it?”

The first passage that Ricky presented was Numbers 6:1-4. which reads as follows:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.’”

The conclusion from this passage that Ricky draws is that God knows how to forbid what He does not want done. He has the ability to specify clearly what He will not allow. Of course, God can communicate with human beings, since He made us. However, the fact that He can clarify a point such as this one does not mean that He always does use straightforward language. Jesus spoke in parables for a reason (Matt. 13:13-15).

While God can be absolutely unambiguous when He so desires, He may also provide a principle instead for us to apply (e.g., the authority principle of Colossians 3:17, which states that we can only do or teach what God authorizes). Another principle is Proverbs 23:31, which forbids even looking upon the wine, yet despite such clarity, Ricky has yet to get it—because he refuses to do so. God allows people to choose sin.

The fact that God was careful to spell out what was forbidden to the Nazirites (not drinking anything from grapes or raisins) does not imply that everyone else could or should drink intoxicating wine; the point is that Nazirites exercise extreme caution to avoid even the possibility. That others did not need to be that careful did not grant them a license to drink what they knew to be intoxicating; it just meant that they did not need to be as vigilant as those under a vow.

Ricky also incorrectly states that Numbers 6:20 nullifies what had previously been taught: “Even the Nazirite could eventually drink fermented wine if he chose to.” What would be the purpose of forbidding the Nazirite in no uncertain terms to avoid the fruit of the vine and then tell him it was all right to have alcoholic wine after all? Although a person could be a Nazirite for decades or even all of his life (like John the Baptizer), most people took the vow for a period of time. Verse 13 of the same chapter says: “When the days of separation are fulfilled….” What follows is what occurs at the termination of the vow. After the time had been fulfilled and the appropriate offerings had been made (including his hair), then the Nazirite could drink wine. He may not have had any during the time period of the vow, but he could afterward. Ricky did not read the text carefully.

The word translated “wine” in Numbers 6:20 [3196] is a word that usually means fermented wine, but in some instances it does refer to the unfermented drink. This same word is translated wine three times in Numbers 6:3-4. The two times it appears in verse 3 it is translated “wine,” but in verse 4 the translation is “vine tree” (KJV) or “grapevine” (NKJ), which is obviously not alcoholic (Num. 6:3-4). Therefore, no one can prove conclusively that, when the Nazirite was allowed to consume again the drink that comes from grapes, it was alcoholic.

Deuteronomy 14:24-26

But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

This is a primary passage for Ricky. Consider some of his comments concerning it. Below is the actual size of print he used, and it was bolded in red.

(A verse like this just rips the heart out of an abstainer.)

First of all, this passage is discussing the tithe that is to be given to God, and the reader really ought to consider that the phrase, new wine, is mentioned in verse 23, a verse that Ricky suspiciously did not include the several times he repeated the passage.

And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always (Deut. 14:23).

Now the Bible student has a better concept of the context. Although the King James (as well as the ASV and the ESV) renders tirosh [8492] as “wine,” this Hebrew word is comparable to the Greek gleukos and refers to new or sweet wine. Therefore the New King James (along with the NAS and the NIV, not to mention Young’s Literal Translation) selected “new wine.”

Second, if the journey was too long to carry everything with them, they could exchange their goods for money and use that money to buy what they needed for the offering when they arrived. What they bought with the money was to take the place of the tithe that they were unable to take with them when they began the journey. They were allowed to purchase whatever they wanted—whatever their heart desired—to offer up to God at the appointed place. However, buying whatever their heart desired for this offering excluded any “detestable thing” (Deut. 14:3), and these are defined earlier in this same chapter.

Third, this tithe offering was religious in nature. The journey was for a spiritual purpose. How perverted must one be to think that God was approving of the people to get as inebriated as they desired? Does “whatever your heart desires” include gluttony, intoxication, or lascivious behavior? Obviously the Bible student must understand these words in the context of the offering the people were to give God.

Fourth, the Israelites also offered up drink offerings on various occasions (Ex. 29:40-41; Numbers 28:7-10, 14-15, 24, 31). What was sold was for the purpose of the tithe offering to God, which included the new wine. Therefore, whatever they purchased when they arrived at their destination was also for an offering to God, including the wine and similar drink. The text strongly implies this point, and no one can prove otherwise.

Fifth, the feast of tithing was one that the Israelites participated in (v. 23); therefore, when they bought the new items for the offering, they could buy whatever they wanted to eat of themselves (as long as it was not detestable). What the people themselves drank during this feast is not mentioned in either verse 23 or verse 26. The wine was part of the tithe to be offered.

Deuteronomy 14:23-26 does not in any way “rip the heart out of an abstainer” because it is misapplied. A final point to consider here is that God does not contradict Himself! Ricky and all others who seek to defend their drinking habits will go to any lengths to justify themselves—even to pitting one Scripture against another, which is always an act of desperation.

For example, how often, when we have cited Acts 2:38 (which plainly links repentance and baptism and places them as necessary to obtain the forgiveness of sins), has someone immediately said, “What about the thief on the cross?” What is the purpose of such a statement? The individual who takes this approach is trying to invalidate Acts 2:38. Yet we know that the Bible does not contradict itself. Rather than seek for harmonization, however, some just think they can shout down a verse they do not like. Ricky does not like the plain message of Proverbs 23:31; so he takes Deuteronomy 14:23-26 out of its context to try to contradict Solomon, but of course he fails (just as do those who vainly appeal to the thief).


Much of the e-mail correspondence involved the word geukos, which is used only once in the New Testament—Acts 2:13. “Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine.’” In his initial e-mail, Ricky stated: “The word for wine here (in Acts 2.13) is gleuchos— highly fermented wine.” He later used gleukos, but his incorrect spelling here either indicates that he is not familiar with the Greek or that he had a mental lapse. But more important was this egregious error about the definition of the Greek word. I wrote him back:

You are mistaken. Gleukos, from which “new wine” is translated, according to Thayer, is “must, the sweet juice pressed from the grape.” This is the only time the word appears in the NT. It is derived from glukus, meaning “sweet.” Whoever told you that the word referred to highly fermented wine misled you.

Ricky does not take kindly to correction—even when clearly wrong. He shot back:

The Bible told me about GLEUKOS. (see Acts 2.13) Gary, you’ve got to be more analytical! Why would the Apostles be accused of being drunk IF the “sweet wine” they were accused of drinking could NOT get them drunk?

Does it ‘pay’ for me to carry on a logical ‘discussion’ with you or not? Gary, I am not your old Sunday School teacher! I’m actually one of those radical ‘nut-cases’ who’s spent most of his adult life studying God’s Word.

Notice how the “logical” Ricky did not offer any evidence for his point even though he was provided Thayer’s definition. I pointed out that he was trying to define gleukos by his (mis) understanding of the text—not by a lexicon. So I gave him a better alternative meaning for the text than the one he had. The men were mocking. It was not a serious charge of drunkenness. Below is part of the e-mail.

What the verse actually means is even a worse insult to the apostles. It was morning. Today, a rough equivalent would be for the critics to say: “These men are drunk. They’re so bad, they got drunk on Kool-Aid.” Mockers and comedians use this technique all the time. “Where did you get your license—from a box of Cracker Jacks?”

Ricky ignored the explanation and continued to try to define gleukos by the text (which he does not understand) instead of by a dictionary.

The VERY PEOPLE who accused the Apostles (in Acts) of being drunk USED THIS WORD! DUH! Don’t you think that IF the Apostles were accused of being drunk through the drinking of SWEET WINE, that this SWEET WINE MUST BE ALCOHOLIC? Come on Gary, this is basic high school reasoning.

This went on for a while, and he finally cited some sources, but they did not prove his case. Strong says gleukos [1098]: “akin to 1099; sweet wine, i.e. (prop.) must (fresh juice), but used of the more saccharine (and therefore highly intoxicating) fermented wine—new wine.” Strong defines it correctly at the beginning but then adds speculation about the word—without evidence. Vine also defines it as “sweet, new wine” and “must” but then cites Acts 2:13 and claims that “the accusation shows that it was intoxicant and must have been undergoing fermentation some time.” Like Ricky, Vine and Strong, after giving the proper definition of the word, then try to re-define it according to their interpretation of Acts 2:13, which is faulty.

Wine that is sweet and new is NOT intoxicating, and that is the reason the apostles’ detractors were said to mock them. If someone says, “You’re as blind as a bat,” they do not mean it literally. Neither did the mockers mean the apostles were literally drunk. According to the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (a more thorough source than Strong or Vine) by Timothy and Barbara Freiberg and Neva Miller, gleukos means “strictly (unfermented juice of grapes); hence, sweet new wine (Acts 2:13)” (99).

Ricky did not respond to the challenge to find even one source by any Greek writer where gleukos was used clearly of intoxicating wine. Hmm. Is it possible that he is as blind as a bat?