Your Bible question was:
> Is it a sin to drink alcoholic beverages?
The Bible condemns drunkenness, the riotous conduct associated with
drinking, as well as the drinking which leads to access (commonly called
"social drinking") - read 1 Pet. 4:3; Gal. 5:21.
The medicinal use of alcohol is allowed, which is very different from social
drinking (1 Tim. 5:23).
Here are some notes on this topic from the BIBLE TRUTHS web site I have
found to be helpful in understanding this subject.
Thanks again for your question.
From: BIBLE TRUTHS: http://www.bibletruths.net/Sermons/BTSO093.htm
Strong Drink, a Major Cause of Grief
Introduction: There is no disputing the fact that the most dangerous,
devastating, and whitewashed drug in the world continues to be alcohol. It
is a marked reflection on our society that we will declare war on other
drugs but the drug of choice, alcohol, is basically ignored and defended.
Many religious people have no problem with strong drink, providing it is not
used to excess. In this study, we shall examine one of the most powerful
biblical texts relative to strong drink: Proverbs 23: 29-35. (See addendum
for additional information regarding Bible "wine.")
I. An exposition of Proverbs 23: 29-35.
A. "Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow?"
a. The Hebrew lemi oi, lemi aboi involves two interjections of pain and
grief (oi, also translated "oh" and aboi, "sorrow").
b. God wants man to be happy (blessed): Jn. 13: 17, I Pet. 3: 10, 11
(notice man's happiness is conditional), Prov. 13: 15, cp. Prov. 23: 21-23.
B. "Who hath contentions?"
a. Strong drink often leads to strife (Prov. 20: 1, keep in mind our
common beer is about as strong as the "strong drink" of the Bible).
C. "Who hath babbling?"
a. The idea of the Hebrew (siach) seems to be "thoughts of regret." The
drinker often complains about his lot in life that is a product of his
decision to drink.
D. "Who hath wounds without cause?"
a. These wounds are not necessary and, doubtless, would have not
occurred, had it not been for the influence of alcohol (revisit
E. "Who hath redness of eyes?"
a. The Authorized Version understands the Hebrew (chakliluth) to refer
to bloodshot eyes. The Hebrew is also capable of meaning "darkness or
dimness of sight." The reference is to the visual physical results when the
stimulant reaches the brain.
2. Verse 30.
A. "They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine."
a. Verse thirty contains the answer to the question raised in verse
b. The Septuagint Version has: "Those who hunt out where carousals are
taking place" (cp. I Pet. 4: 3).
3. Verse 31.
A. "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red.."
a. The Pulpit Commentary observes: "The wine of Palestine was chiefly
'red,' though what we call white wine was not unknown" (Vol. 9, pg. 445).
Liquor often involves a culture. There is the general atmosphere, the
appearance of the substance, and the taste. All of these combined features
offer allurement and often "addiction." The teaching is: do not even come in
visual contact of strong drink!
4. Verse 32.
A. "At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stringeth like an adder."
a. Wine (intoxicating drink, see addendum) is deceiving (cp. Heb. 3:
12-14, 11: 25). The idea of "stringeth like an adder" seems to suggest
puncturing or making a wound (cp. Ps. 140: 3). Hence, strong drink is
compared to the deadly venom of the adder or poisonous snake.
5. Verse 33.
A. "Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter
a. The results of the stimulant are here mentioned. The main result is
intemperance (cp. 2 Pet. 1: 5-11, I Cor. 9: 27). Right and wrong are blurred
under the influence, adultery and a corrupt heart often result (I Cor. 6: 9,
Prov. 4: 23). Some translate the Hebrew with the neuter; hence, "strange
things." However, many scholars prefer "strange women." In the case of
"strange things," the images produced on the brain due to alcohol would be
meant. The Septuagint reads: "When thou eyes shall see a strange woman, then
thy mouth shall speak perverse things."
6. Verse 34.
A. "Yea, thou shalt be as.."
a. This verse describes the unperceived dangers that really surround the
person under the influence. While self-content, he is actually exposed to
dangers of all kinds (cp. I Cor. 10: 12).
7. Verse 35.
A. "They have stricken me.I will seek it again."
a. A better rendering of the original is, "They have strickened me.and I
was not hurt" (ASV). The warnings of pain are silenced due to alcohol. Even
though strong drink has nothing but complication, shame, and misery, there
is little doubt but what the person will return to its momentary vices.
Conclusion: This inspired text that so vividly addresses the matter of
strong drink does not offer any encouragement for a justified social use of
the substance. The warning is: Do not even come in visual contact with the
substance! In view of this plain teaching, it is unbelievable how some
insist that Jesus turned water into strong drink (instead of juice from the
grape) and thus produced a drunken orgy (Jn. 2: 1-11, 10).
Addendum: There is no little amount of confusion about Bible wines
because there is often too little study of the subject. There are basically
three Hebrew words of interest that are translated wine.Tirosh is found 38
times in the Hebrew scriptures. Tirosh is translated "wine" 26 times, "new
wine" 11 times and "sweet wine" once. Tirosh is used of grapes (natural
state, cluster, Judges 9: 13, Isa. 65: 8) and apparently of fermented drink
(Hosea 4: 11, Zech. 9: 17). Yayin is found about 135 times in the Hebrew
text. It is defined as, "Yayin stands for the expressed juice of the grape,
the context sometimes indicating whether the juice had undergone or not the
process of fermentation" (Bible Commentary, Appendix B, pg. 412). Yayin is
used of fermented drink or state (Gen. 9: 21-24) and the unfermented state
(Ps. 104: 15). Shakar is found about 21 times. Shakar is translated "strong
drink" in the King James. Shakar is used of the fermented state (Isa. 29: 9)
and the natural or unfermented condition (Deut. 14: 26). Oinos is the Greek
word that is used for wine in the New Testament. Oinos is found 33 times in
the Greek New Testament. Oinos is used of intoxicating drink (Eph. 5: 18)
and of unfermented juice (Jn. 2: 3).
As you can see, these four words translated wine in the Bible have both
a generic and specific meaning capability, unlike our word wine.
As to the preservation of grape juice, some have erroneously thought
that since they did not have refrigeration, they could not preserve the
juice in its natural state. For this reason, some have exaggerated the use
of fermented drink. They make drinking fermented juice seem common in Bible
days, even though there was (is) an express prohibition against the use of
"strong drink" (Prov. 23: 29-35). The truth of the matter is, the Orientals
had a number of ways of preserving
grape juice. One book that I have found to be very accurate is, "Bible
Wines," by William Patton. Patton lists and documents four methods of
preservation used by people in Bible days. There was boiling (pg. 26-29),
filtration (pg. 34), subsidence (pg. 36) and fumigation (pg. 41 ff).
If you are interested, Bible Wines has been reproduced by the Star
Bible and Tract Company. They are located at: P.O. 13125, Fort Worth, Texas
76118. You can probably order this book (in paper back) at: Religious Supply
Center, 1800 626-5348 or Guardian Book Store, 1 800 428-0121.
Joe R Price
Mt. Baker church of Christ