Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 


123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

The Bible Wine Question.


The Bible Wine Question.

James Dodson


Dunlop Moore D.D.,

Pastor of New Brighton Presbyterian Church, Pennsylvania.

From The Presbyterian Review, II (1881), 80–113.

WINE is spoken of in Scripture as a blessing and a curse; it is approved and condemned; it is allowed and interdicted; it is exhibited as possessing seemingly opposite influences, as productive of good and bad effects; it symbolizes consolation and vengeance, joy and woe. It is contended by a recent class of writers on Temperance, that the same wine could not be characterized in terms so diverse, and that to make the Bible logically consistent throughout, and free from contradictions, we must assume that two different kinds of wine are referred to in it, the one unfermented and the other fermented, the expressions of approval pertaining to the one, and those of disapproval belonging to the other.[1]

This is the great argument in support of a doctrine unknown to the Church of God in former ages. No old commentator, whether Patristic, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, ever thought of making this distinction of the wines of the Bible. Dr. G. W. Samson, indeed, in his recent work entitled “The Divine Law as to Wines,” tells us (p. 235) that Luther “saw unfermented wine in the cup of both the ancient Jewish and the primitive Church”; and that “in his religious writings Luther was as earnest as any modern advocate for abstinence as temperance.” Such assertions, however, can only delude the ignorant, and they expose their author to the ridicule of all who have any acquaintance with Luther and his writings. We speak advisedly in testifying that we have never seen a genuine quotation from a Christian author who wrote before the present century in which it was maintained or hinted at that the wine spoken of with approval in Scripture is the unfermented juice of the grape. The history of the doctrine of Unfermented Bible Wine cannot be carried back beyond a few decades; and this fact furnishes a préjugé légitime against it. A holy apostle or prophet would have been needed for the revelation of such a mystery which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men.

But we proceed to test the argument, which we have briefly but fairly stated, in favor of the division of the wines of the Bible into two kinds, fermented and unfermented. We challenge the assumption on which it rests. It is not true that the same thing cannot have contrary effects ascribed to it, or cannot be spoken of in terms both of approval and reprobation. He must be an unreflecting reader of Scripture who cannot detect the weakness of this argument. It would prove too much. A few examples will best show the unsoundness of its underlying principle. We read in the Epistle of James 3:6, 8: “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” “The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” There are no such exceedingly strong and seemingly unqualified denunciations uttered against wine in the Bible as these spoken against the tongue. How are we to reconcile them with what we know of the tongue as an organ of unspeakable benefit to man? Shall we say that there are two kinds of human tongues essentially different in their substance or organic structure? So we must say, if the chief argument for two different kinds of Bible wine is valid. But the principle of that argument no one would think of making an application of in the case of the tongue. Every one would be satisfied with the explanation that the tongue can be pronounced a blessing or a curse according to its use or abuse. Why should we not harmonize in the same way seemingly opposite statements respecting the influence and effects of wine?

We read, again, in 1 Cor. 8:1: “Knowledge puffeth up.” Here knowledge is set forth as causing pride, as producing a sinful feeling. But knowledge is elsewhere described in Scripture as an excellent thing which we are bound to acquire. Shall we resolve this apparent contradiction by saying that two different kinds of knowledge must be meant, and that the knowledge which puffeth up is quite diverse from that which edifieth? This we dare not say. The knowledge which puffeth up is knowledge of which no man should be destitute: it is the knowledge of the vanity of idols (see verse 4), the knowledge that an idol is nothing in the world. This knowledge is not a thing bad in itself. Yet the apostle’s affirmation runs: “Knowledge puffeth up.” What does this mean? Simply that the most indispensable knowledge can be an occasion of pride. So the best wine can be abused. Riches, too, are described as both a blessing and a snare. Let the reader compare what is said in the Bible respecting wealth with what is said in it respecting wine, and he will see that some people, to be consistent, should put away wealth as essentially an accursed thing (1 Tim. 6:9, 10).

We read in 1 Cor. 7:1: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Yet a man who would condemn marriage as sinful would deny the faith (1 Tim. 4:3). The same marriage can be spoken of with approval or disapproval according to the circumstances under which it is entered into. In the early Church people might abstain from marriage, or flesh, or wine, and were even encouraged to do so; but the man who would pronounce any of them sinful or an abomination was liable to be excommunicated.[2]

But illustrations multiply of this usage. The New Testament teaches us: “God is love”; and “Our God is a consuming fire.” Shall we affirm that the same God is not meant in both passages? Or, again, shall we like some ancient heretics (the same, by the way, who condemned the use of wine as sinful), conclude that the God of the New Testament and that of the Old are different Beings, because God is presented under various aspects in the two revelations? We might draw this conclusion if we should reason as certain persons do on the wine of the Bible.

Christ is described in both the Old Testament and the New as “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” Should we be justified in arguing that this description is incompatible with His being the Saviour of the world, and that one and the same being cannot sustain these seemingly opposite characters? This style of ratiocination has actually been pursued by some of the later Jewish Rabbis, who have contended that there must be two different Messiahs. Their reasoning is analogous to that by which the doctrine of two kinds of Bible wine is maintained.

Shall we furnish other examples? It may be useful to do so in order to demolish utterly a specious fallacy by which multitudes have been deceived. The same lion is the appropriate symbol of the devil and of Christ his Destroyer. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven”; “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” The Lord Jesus is the speaker in both cases. The man would be laughed at who would think of maintaining that different kinds of leaven must be denoted by Him in these instances. The same leaven is the symbol of both good and evil. And why should not wine also be capable of a similar two-fold symbolical use?

In the Talmud the four cups of wine used in the Passover are expressly declared to symbolize opposite things, or both blessings and curses. The Gemarists tell us that they answer to the four cups of vengeance that the holy blessed God will make the nations of the world drink, and also symbolize the four cups of consolation which the Lord will make Israel drink (Lightfoot’s Works, Vol. I., p. 961).

That the same wine can produce good and bad effects, that it can be set forth as a tremendous evil and also as a thing most beneficial to man, is evident from what Pliny has written about it. In his “Natural History” (Lib. xvi. c. xxviii.) he gives such a vivid account of the mischief wrought by wine, that Dr. Samson (“The Divine Law as to Wines,” p. 144) calls it “one of the most eloquent of total abstinence appeals ever penned or uttered.” But we turn to book xxiii., chap. xxii. of the same “Natural History,” and we find Pliny extolling the virtues of that wine which he had exhibited as occasioning such sad results. Dr. Samson (“Divine Law,” p. 145) thinks it necessary to make Pliny speak of “some saying” that wine was so beneficial to the human system, as if Pliny’s own judgment were different. But here we have only another illustration of the untrustworthiness of certain writers when they profess to quote authors that they suppose their readers are not likely to consult.

Having seen that the same wine, like many other things, can be designated both a blessing and a curse, and that abusus optimi pessimus, let us look particularly at the passages of Scripture commonly referred to as evincing that the wine which God warns against is essentially different from the wine whose use is sanctioned. We turn first to Prov. 20:1, “Wine (yayin) is a mocker, strong drink (shekhar) is raging; and whosoever is deceived (or reels) thereby is not wise.” Here it will be observed that it is to yayin and shekhar in general that these evil influences are ascribed. The idea of a kind of yayin that could not be called “a mocker,” or of a kind of shekhar that might not be called “raging,” does not seem to have been suggested to the sacred writer. And, indeed, no ancient moralist, sacred or profane, in treating of intemperance, has ever given the world to understand that there was a kind of wine which could not lead astray, and which could be used without danger. In denouncing wine, they make no exception in favor of a non-intoxicating wine, and this fact shows that such a wine was not present to their minds. But is wine always and essentially a mocker? Did that wine prove a mocker which Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, brought to David, that “such as were faint in the wilderness might drink”? (2 Sam. 16:2). This wine was certainly alcoholic, for its effect is said to be distinct from that of summer fruits. It must then have been of a stimulating, restorative nature, to accomplish the purpose for which it was given. It would, indeed, be an outrageous assertion to affirm that wine proves a mocker to all who use it. It is such only to those who are deceived by it. The tongue is not always “an unruly evil.” Knowledge does not always and necessarily “puff up.” And wine is not always and necessarily “a mocker.” A passage from Plato (De legibus, lib. iv.) may help some to understand how the same wine could be “raging,” and yet yield “a good and temperate drink.” Here is how he writes:

“It is not easy to conceive that a city must be tempered after the manner of a mixing bowl (κρατήρ), in which raging (μαινόμενος) wine having been poured boils; but it, being chastised by another sober God, and having formed good fellowship, makes a good and temperate drink.” (ἀγαθὸν πῶμα καὶ μέτριον ἀπεργάζεται).

We are not here remarking on Plato’s strong metaphorical speech, which has been censured by critics.[3] We have quoted this place because it shows that the very wine which was called “raging” could be properly used, could be rendered, as Plato testifies, “a good and temperate drink.”

We will next consider the passage Prov. 23:29–35. Our attention is to be specially directed to verse 31, which has been often misunderstood and misapplied: “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” Here is a specimen of the reasoning from this passage employed by those who maintain that our Saviour used only unfermented wine: “Jesus is on trial, charged with drinking fermented and intoxicating liquor, and charged with contradicting Himself point-blank, so as to impeach His integrity, namely, in saying, ‘Look not upon the wine when it is red,’ and yet in commanding His disciples all to drink of it. He is charged with immorality in saying that ‘wine is good,’ and that it is a ‘mocker.’ ” This extract is from “The Wines of the Bible,” by the Rev. C. H. Fowler, D.D., pp. 14, 15. It is only a bold outspoken statement of what is implied in the language of less irreverent and reckless advocates of the same theory.

Our best reply will be to present the most exact and literal translation of the passage, and to set forth the interpretation which it naturally suggests. We address ourselves here to those who understand the Hebrew language. “See not wine that it is red (or shows itself red), that it gives its eye,[4] or color, or appearance in the cup, goes straight.” In the first clause, “See not wine that it is red” (אַל־תֵּרֶא יַיִז כִּי וגו), the construction is like that in Gen. 1:4, “God saw the light that it was good.” The first mark of this dangerous wine against which a warning is uttered, is that it is red. It is well known that the inhabitants of Palestine held red wine in the highest esteem. It was most appropriately called “the blood of the grape.” Then, wine of a beautiful bright color, or attractive appearance, a wine that gave its color in the cup, was admired by a connoisseur. But what about the last mark of this insidious wine, יִתְהַלֵּךְ בְּמֵישָׁרִים, “goes straight”? We have a like expression in Solomon’s Song (7:9, in Hebrew 5:10), where regarding “the best wine” it is said הלך למישׁרים, which is rendered in our English Bible “that goeth down sweetly”; in the margin, “straightly.” “The roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved that goeth down sweetly,” etc. This is the meaning of the phrase in Prov. 23:31, as the best interpreters allow. It is an attractive property, a characteristic of the best wine that it goeth (down) straightly, or smoothly, or sweetly. Three recognized excellencies of the best wine are, then, here mentioned: it is red, looks well in the cup, and goes down smoothly; and the warning is to the effect that the person addressed is not to fix his eyes on these tempting properties of the best wine lest he should be overcome by them. But if we follow the Authorized Version, the meaning, of course, cannot be that all men, physicians included, are absolutely forbidden to look at wine at all; but the person specially addressed is warned against looking at wine when it possesses the admired properties of being red, inviting, and going down smoothly. Notwithstanding these admitted excellencies, it at last bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder those that tarry long at it, as the preceding context suggests. It is not every one who uses wine that is “as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea,” etc. Such effects can only arise from immoderate drinking, can only be the consequence of tarrying long at the wine. We could make sad havoc of the Bible, if we should detach a direction or part of a direction from its connection, and treat it as an absolute command. Take such directions as: “Look not every man on his own things” (Phil. 2:4), or, “Drink no longer water” (1 Tim. 5:23), and urge the strict literal fulfilment of them; and the absurdity of so construing them would be apparent to every one. Or consider the second verse of this chapter of Proverbs, or some of the injunctions in the Sermon on the Mount.

The same exercise of common sense is required in interpreting instructions which we find in profane authors. Take one or two illustrations from the Apocrypha: “Gaze not on a maid, that thou fall not by those things that are precious in her. Look not round about thee in the streets of the city. Turn away thine eye from a beautiful woman” (Ecclus. 10:5, 7, 8). Who imagines that an ordinary Roman Catholic should think that such precepts, which come to him with the authority of sacred Scripture, bind him never to look on a maid, or on a beautiful woman? He would be incapable of choosing a comely wife if he should feel under obligation to follow these directions rigidly as absolute rules from which he could not deviate without sin. There is wisdom and propriety in the injunction: “Look not round about thee in the streets of the city.” It warns against a real danger; but it might be unduly pressed by some precisian, so as to deprive travellers of the pleasure and advantage of surveying the cities which they visit.

We have learned then from comparing Prov. 23:31, with Canticles 7:9 (10), that it was the wine which Scripture calls the best, and not a bad wine, against which the warning is uttered in the former place. The best wine, red wine, that went down smoothly, was dangerous, and could intoxicate; and thus we see that this verse, which has been supposed to lend support to the doctrine that unfermented, unintoxicating wine, is the good wine of the Bible, really overturns the whole theory; since it shows that wine possessing the most admired properties, the wine which the Bible pronounces the best, was fraught with danger.

The distinction made by the old commentators and moralists between the use and abuse of wine is now condemned by a class of very confident writers and speakers, as entirely unsanctioned by the Bible. Even a writer, who is more guarded in his language than most of his brethren that entertain the notion that unfermented grape juice is the only good wine of Scripture, can make this statement:

“There is no threatening or prohibition or visitation of judgment, as I remember, based on the discrimination between an excessive use and a limited or temperate use (as it is called) of intoxicants.” (Bib. Sac., April, 1880, p. 318).

As we must be brief, let us confine our attention to evidence drawn from the New Testament. The most express warning recorded in the Gospels against intemperance is the following: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness,” etc. (Luke 21:34). Christ bids His followers to be careful that they be not weighed down by κραιπάλη and μέθη, “by debauch and drunkenness,” as we find the words rendered in the “Temperance Bible Commentary,” by Lees and Burns. It is not needful for our purpose to distinguish carefully between the two expressions, which together denote actual intoxication and its effect. If our Lord had intended that abstinence from common wine should be the law of His kingdom, could He have deemed it sufficient to admonish His disciples to guard against being overcome by debauch and drunkenness?

Christ himself drank wine, the wine from which John the Baptist abstained; the wine which is classed with sikera (Luke 1:15). He tells us that His drinking wine brought on Him a railing accusation of the men of His generation (Luke 7:33, 34). They assumed as a thing well understood, that the wine which Jesus drank had the quality of ordinary wine. In the absence of any indication to the contrary every reader of the New Testament is warranted to make the same assumption, and has till recent times made it unchallenged. No early Christian writer ever hints that the wine which our Lord drank was a wine incapable of producing intoxication. Indeed, we are not aware that any one before the present century has expressed this view. Since, therefore, Jesus himself drank the common wine of Palestine; since He furnished wine οἶνος to others (John 2); since He was content to warn His disciples against drunkenness and debauch, and since He instituted the Holy Supper in wine on which unworthy communicants could get drunk (1 Cor. 11:21), we are compelled to admit that He did discriminate between an excessive and a temperate use of wine that could intoxicate.

The most direct and general prohibition in regard to wine contained in the New Testament is found in Eph. 5:18: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” In the “Temperance Bible Commentary” we are told:

“The rendering ‘excess’ is very tame; and, being a mere repetition of the idea contained in ‘drunk,’ is a platitude unworthy of inspiration.”

It would have been well if, before uttering this harsh criticism, the authors of the Commentary had taken the trouble to ascertain what the translators of the Authorized Version meant by “excess” in this place Richardson’s “English Dictionary” supplies this information: “Excess is applied to immoderate and intemperate conduct, or to riotousness, prodigality, profusion.” Excess is here equivalent to dissoluteness (comp. Matt. 23:25). On the injunction, “Be not drunk with wine,” Meyer has this comment: “Which is opposed to the allowed taking of wine.” The form of the prohibition implies the lawfulness of a temperate use of wine. But the reply is made:

“The objection that since the apostle says, ‘Be not drunk with wine,’ he virtually sanctions a use of wine short of drunkenness, is one of those superficial inferences in which uneducated or prejudiced minds delight. It is surely possible in our day for a Christian missionary to condemn and forbid intemperance by opium without approving of the use of the drug in any degree” (Temp. Bib. Com., p. 354).

But we ask, Did ever a Christian missionary living among opium-eaters, and anxious to reclaim them, give advice in these terms: “Be not surcharged with opium”? Advice conveyed in such language would certainly be understood as sanctioning a moderate use of opium, and as forbidding only excessive indulgence in the drug. We venture to affirm that among people who are absolutely forbidden the use of wine, such as Buddhists, Mohammedans, and orthodox Hindus, a precept such as, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is dissoluteness,” is never heard. A parallel to this injunction would, we are sure, be sought for in vain in their ethical writings.

The authors of the “Temperance Commentary,” in defiance of the usus loquendi and the Lexicons, will not give to μεθύσκεσθε its proper meaning of “be drunk.” But if we adopt their rendering, “be surcharged,” the inference is plain, that to be surcharged with the well-known drink called wine (οἶνος) in Ephesus necessarily involved dissoluteness. The common wine of Ephesus, therefore, must have been intoxicating. This being clear, mark how this determines the nature of the wine prescribed to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23), and of the wine which deacons should not drink to excess (“not given to much wine,” 1 Tim. 3:8). Timothy was living and laboring in Ephesus when he received Paul’s Epistle (1 Tim. 1:3). He practiced abstinence from the wine which was drunk by the Ephesians around him, and drank only water. When, then, Paul, without specifying any particular kind of wine, gives him the direction, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities,” must not the wine prescribed be such as the Ephesians got drunk on, the very wine from which Timothy had thought it incumbent on him entirely to abstain? This wine could be used to advantage if taken sparingly, and even frequently; for Timothy’s “often infirmities” demanded not a rare, but a frequent, though careful use of it.

But we have other evidence to show the nature of the wine which Timothy was directed to use. Timothy suffered from an affection of the stomach. Now in speaking of must, or unfermented grape-juice, Pliny tells us that every kind of it is useless for the stomach (mustum omne stomacho inutile, xxiii. 18). On the other hand, in that same 23d book of his “Natural History,” Pliny affirms that vinum, wine, as distinguished from must, is the sole remedy for relieving those who suffer from disease in the stomach.[5] Wine is the only hope of such invalids. This point he sets down as undoubted (Cardiacorum morbo unicam spem in vino esse certum est). Celsus, too, agrees with Pliny in representing diseases of the stomach as cured by wine (iii. 19). It is a fact, moreover, that the best modern physicians cure many cases of dyspepsia by light fermented wines. Paul, then, could not have prescribed must, or unfermented grape-juice, to Timothy for his stomach’s sake; for Pliny, expressing the general opinion of his age (the first century), decidedly declares that every kind of must was useless for the stomach; while the virtue of wine, as distinguished from must, in diseases of the stomach, he affirms to be a matter of certainty (Certum est). Hippocrates, too, makes must, which our friends delight to call “unfermented wine,” to be worse than useless for one who suffers in the stomach: Γλεῦκος φυσᾶ καὶ ὑπάγει, καὶ ἐκταράσσεται ζέον ἐν τῇ κοιλίῃ. We might quote Dioscorides to the same effect. Alas, we say, for Timothy’s poor sickly stomach, if it had to receive frequently a draught that would, as Hippocrates in this passage testifies, cause flatulency, looseness, and perturbation of the bowels! We might adduce Pirke Aboth, Cap. iv. 21, and Ecclus. 9:10, to prove that the ancient Jews had an equally unfavorable opinion of wine that had not been allowed to complete its fermentation. But we have Christ himself testifying (Luke 5:39), that the universal judgment of men preferred old wine to new: “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better.” Here is Dr. Rich’s comment on this passage (Bib. Sac., July, 1880, p. 404), “ ‘The old,’ say they, ‘is better.’ This was not the judgment of Christ respecting the superiority of old, fermented wines, but of drunkards whose habit it had been to drink them.” It is melancholy to read such a gloss. Christ does not say, “No drunkard having drunk old wine,” etc., but, “no one” (οὐδείς). And He does not speak of those “whose habit it had been to drink old, fermented wines”; for He uses the aorist participle πιών, which does not mark a habit. When will those who undertake to interpret Scripture learn that their business is not to put on it a meaning that would please themselves, but to exhibit what it was really written to teach? The wine, then, which Timothy was instructed to use sparingly, and which was unquestionably the good, wholesome, approved wine of the Bible, was certainly wine which could intoxicate, if immoderately indulged in.

In 1 Tim. 3:8, the rule is laid down that deacons must be men “not given to much wine” (μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας). These deacons were living in Ephesus (1:3); and we have learned from Eph. 5:18, the effect of drinking much of what went under the name of wine in that city. Timothy, the invalid, was encouraged to use a little of it; but one given to much of it was pronounced unworthy to be a deacon. How needless it would be to state as a qualification of such an officer, “not given to much unfermented grape-juice, which is perfectly harmless”! We have here again an exemplication of the “abuse theory.” It was the theory of Paul.

In verse 3 of the same chapter (1 Tim. 3) it is said that a bishop must be “not given to wine” (μὴ πάροινον). Dr. Rich tells us (Bib. Sac., July, 1880, p. 410), that this requires on the part of a bishop “entire abstinence from all varieties of wine.” On those ignorant of Greek such an assertion might impose, but on none else. We turn to Passow, the highest authority in Greek Lexicography, and we find him classing πάροινος and παροίνιος as synonymous, and thus defining them when used of men: trunken, in der Trunkenheit uebermuethig, frech, ausgelassen. Μὴ πάροινος must mean either “not drunken,” or, according to the marginal rendering of the English Bible, “not ready to quarrel and offer wrong, as one in wine.” Every scholar knows that according to Greek usage a man might, like the Greeks universally, or like Nehemiah (Neh. 5:18), partake moderately of every variety of wine without being πάροινος. And who does not see that since πάροινος in the third verse certainly bears relation to intoxicating wine, the wine referred to in the eighth verse must be of a like nature?

We have in Titus 2:3 the rule laid down that aged women should be “not given to much wine,” or not in bondage to it, (μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ δεδουλωμένας). In the religions in which drinking of all intoxicants is interdicted, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Mohammedanism, there is never mention made of the degree or extent to which wine may not be indulged in. It is absolutely prohibited. Their law is: “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” But to such an ordinance of the world Christians are not in subjection, and they dare not submit to it as a law imposed on them by human authority (Col. 2:20, 21: comp. ver. 16). What the Christian may feel bound to do on the ground of expediency in certain circumstances of society, or for self-discipline, or in applying the law of love, is another question which we have not now to consider.

We can explain why aged women[6] are singled out, as if peculiarly liable to be addicted to excess of wine, by the fact that physicians, both ancient and modern, have recommended to those advanced in years the use of wine which they would withhold from the young.

We have here a word to say on the expression “intoxicating wine.” Some persons are accustomed to display their ingenuity on it by saying that a little of such wine intoxicates a little, and a great deal of it intoxicates much; and since it is wrong to be even a little intoxicated, it must be wrong to use this wine at all. But the effect produced by a little genuine wine is not intoxication, but exhilaration (Ps. 104:15). These two conditions are essentially different, and not simply varied in degree; though which of them shall be produced depends on the quantity of wine drunk. A little quinine will simply improve the appetite; a larger dose will affect the whole system in an unpleasant way, and act as a febrifuge [i.e., a medicine used to reduce fever]; a still larger dose will so stupefy a man that he will be blind and deaf for a time. We say, therefore, that quinine is stupefying, since this is its influence when taken in large quantity. But we are not permitted to say that a little dose of quinine produces a little stupefaction. Excessive exercise tires a man out, and renders him incapable of bodily or mental effort. But we are not justified in concluding from this effect of excessive exercise, that a little exercise tires a man out a little, and renders him to some small degree incapable of bodily or mental effort. The very contrary is the effect produced by a little exercise. All real wine, all wine properly so called, will intoxicate, as all real water will drown. But neither is it the proper legitimate use of wine to make drunk, nor is it that of water to drown; and abusus non tollit usum. If, for the purpose of exciting among the unreflecting a prejudice against the proper element in the Lord’s Supper, injudicious friends of temperance will persist in calling it “intoxicating wine,” they ought in consistency to be careful always to characterize the element employed in the sacrament of Baptism as “drowning water.” It would be a good idea to agitate for a water that could not drown for use in the administration of Baptism!

If we can show that not only some kinds of yayin, but every kind of it known in Palestine might be lawfully partaken of by the pious Israelites, then the distinction of the wines of the Bible into fermented or sinful, and unfermented or approved is palpably without foundation. We might establish our point by adducing Deut. 14:26, but this place has to be afterward taken up in connection with another question. Nothing could be clearer than its testimony. But we turn now to the fifth chapter of the book of Nehemiah, verses. 18, 19:

“Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox, and six choice sheep: also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine; yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon the people. Think upon me, my God, for good according to all that I have done for this people.”

Nehemiah was a man who knew his duty; he was conscientious as he was generous; he shrank from no sacrifice in promoting God’s glory and the good of His people; he was zealous in observing the law of God, and in making his countrymen observe it; yet he had on his table store of all sorts of wine for the use of the Jews whom he hospitably entertained (5:17). And Nehemiah could think of his furnishing all this wine as a good deed which God would remember and reward. We know the “royal wine” which Nehemiah, as cupbearer of the Persian monarch, was accustomed to handle. Its effect on King Ahasuerus shows that it could intoxicate (Esther 1:7, 10). This was the wine with which Nehemiah was familiar. Are we to believe, then, that in the store of all sorts of wine, (כָּל־יַיִז לְהַרְבֵּה), “every wine in abundance” of which he speaks, there was not included fermented grape-juice, the drink that is commonly and properly called wine, the wine, too, which he had been wont to serve out to his sovereign? How utterly preposterous must it be to suppose that in this store of wine of all sorts, that drink was wanting which the Bible and the world usually call wine! But should it be conceded that any fermented juice of the grape, or ordinary wine, was on Nehemiah’s table, then the theory is plainly untenable that the unfermented juice of the grape, or non-alcoholic wine, is meant in all cases where wine is allowed in Scripture. The fact is that, if the doctrine of certain persons in regard to the teaching of the Bible on temperance were correct, Nehemiah ought properly to have said that no kind of wine was on his hospitable board, instead of saying as he has done, that every kind of wine was upon it. Some may now be ready to think that Nehemiah must have incurred the woe denounced on “him that giveth his neighbor drink,” etc. (Hab. 2:15). We would merely advise those to whom this place may be suggested, to study it and try to understand its meaning. When they have ascertained the real purport of the prophet’s words, they will not think that they are applicable to Nehemiah.

The advocates of the unfermented wine theory were the first to draw attention to the nature of the wines now in use in Bible-lands, and they have been very bold in affirming that they are unfermented and unintoxicating. How this report originated we need not inquire. It is probable that some natives or residents of Syria may have amused themselves by playing with the credulity of travellers. We can well believe, too, that some Englishmen and Americans, who were familiar only with strong brandied wines, may have been led on tasting the pure wines of Syria to judge them unintoxicating. But the days, when ignorance regarding the real character of the wines of Syria was excusable, are past.

In the year 1878 an esteemed minister of Western Pennsylvania, and a zealous advocate of temperance (the Rev. W. M. Taylor, of Mount Jackson), visited Palestine. Before he set out we requested him to inquire particularly as to the nature of the wine of the country; and when he returned from his travels we asked him about the result of his investigations. He related that when in Jerusalem he consulted Bishop Gobat, the highest authority he could think of applying to. The old bishop laughed when he was questioned on the subject, and stated in reply that he had been thirty years in Palestine, and had never tasted, seen, or heard of an unfermented wine in the country. When our friend was in Beirut he could think of no more competent witness than the President of the Syrian Protestant College, Dr. Daniel Bliss; and Dr. Bliss only confirmed the testimony of Bishop Gobat. Those who have visited Palestine ought to take pains to circulate correct information in regard to its wines. The old misrepresentation is still repeated; and unless it is exposed and contradicted as often as it is put forward, it will continue to exert a misleading influence in the decision of important questions relative to Christian doctrine and duty. There are multitudes of Christian people in America who actually believe that the common wine of Palestine is the unfermented juice of the grape. Indeed, men occupying prominent positions in the Christian Church state this as an unquestionable fact. We have seen the attempt made to demonstrate that grape-juice cannot undergo the vinous fermentation in a climate like that of Palestine! If any one desires to see this pretended proof, he has only to read pp. 15 and 16 of “The Wines of the Bible,” by the Rev. C. H. Fowler, D.D., a pamphlet published by the National Temperance Society, New York. It is amazing that a misrepresentation so gross and manifest should be countenanced by intelligent Christian men.[7]

Some of our readers are doubtless acquainted with a document, signed by some distinguished Syrian missionaries and other excellent witnesses, which, it was expected, would have set forever at rest the question as to the existence of an “unfermented wine” in Bible-lands. But no amount of evidence will satisfy some people. We venture, however, to think that the following statement will be deemed decisive by all reasonable and candid men:

“We, the undersigned, missionaries and residents in Syria, having been repeatedly requested to make a distinct statement on the subject, hereby declare that during the whole time of our residence and travelling in Syria and the Holy Land, we have never seen or heard of an unfermented wine; nor have we found among Jews, Christians, or Mohammedans, any tradition of such a wine having ever existed in the country. Rev. W. M. Thomson, D.D.; Rev. S. H. Calhoun; C. V. A. Van Dyck, D.D.; Rev. James Robertson; Rev. H. H. Jessup; Rev. John Wortabet, M.D.; James Black, Esq.; Michael Meshaka, Doctor; Rev. John Crawford; R. W. Brigstocke, M.D., F.R.C.S., etc.; Rev. Wm. Wright, B.A.[8]

“May, 1875.”

It is painfully instructive to consider the way in which the statements of such men are dealt with by those who ride the hobby of maintaining that the wine spoken of with approval in Scripture must have been unfermented. In the “Divine Law as to Wines,” by G. W. Samson, D.D., former President of Columbian University, Washington, D. C., a work published in 1880 by the National Temperance Society, we have some remarks on the document which has been given above, signed by missionaries and others resident in Syria. “An impartial review of this paper calls attention to the following facts: First, it was a prejudged and formulated statement prepared in Scotland by interested parties, and sent to Syria for ex parte testimony, etc.” (p. 256). We sent this and other extracts from Dr. Samson’s work to the Rev. Wm. Wright, formerly a missionary in Damascus, and now a Secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society. It was Mr. Wright that first made this document known to the public in a speech delivered by him in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in the year 1875. Here is Mr. Wright’s reply to our communication. It bears the date of September 6, 1880, and is written from London:

“I have your note of August 24, 1880, giving extracts from Dr. Samson’s work on ‘The Divine Law as to Wines.’ I am a total abstainer, and I deeply regret to observe that so good a cause should be advocated by the ignoble use of misrepresentation. It is not a fact that the paper which I submitted to the General Assembly was ‘prepared in Scotland by interested parties, and sent to Syria for ex parte testimony.’ The paper was prepared by me in Damascus, and no one knew that I was going to bring the question forward till within a few days of the meeting of the General Assembly. I procured the testimony from the men most competent in the whole world to speak on the subject, for an article; but I found a fitting opportunity at the Assembly to give the subject publicity. The document was not the result of any suggestion from home. The other statements about me are equally wide of the mark, and devoid of accuracy.”

On pages 254–5 of the “Divine Law as to Wines,” we read:

“Rev. Wm. Wright, a Scotch missionary returned from Damascus, had alluded at a meeting of the General Assembly in Scotland, held June, 1875, to a distinction between chamer,[9] intoxicating wine, and sherbets, as unintoxicating wines; which distinction, as we have seen, the general Arabic Lexicon of Freytag and local Arabic vocabularies confirm.”

Those who know Arabic, and will compare Freytag, as we have done, will only be amused when they mark the result of Dr. Samson’s Arabic studies, and they will find therein another illustration of the adage that “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” It is to us unaccountable how he could call Mr. Wright a Scotch missionary, make him speak in a Scotch General Assembly, and present him as a witness in favor of the distinction between intoxicating and unintoxicating wines, as Mr. Wright emphatically declared in the Irish General Assembly of 1875, that he had never seen or heard of an unfermented wine in Syria or the Holy Land.

But Dr. Samson must have the testimony of a missionary in favor of an unfermented wine in use in Eastern lands. So on p. 257 of the “Divine Law,” he actually states that Dr. Justin Perkins describes the fresh juice of the grape as drunk in Persia; whereas Dr. Perkins, as quoted in the Bib. Sacra for January, 1869, p. 167, says of the juice of the grape: “When simply expressed, it is called ‘sweet,’ i.e., sweet liquor. It is not drunk in that state.” Our readers who may desire to see how far Dr. Samson can misrepresent a case, should compare his account of what Dr. Perkins has written with Dr. Perkins’ own statement. Dr. C. V. Van Dyck says:

“There is not, and as far as I can find out, there never was (in Syria) anything like what has been called unfermented wine. The thing is not known in the East.… They could not keep grape-juice or raisin-water unfermented, if they would; it would become either wine or vinegar in a few days, or go into the putrefactive fermentation.” “The native churches, Evangelical, Maronite, Greek, Coptic, and Armenian, all use fermented wine at the Communion They have no other, and have no idea of any other.”

And of the Jews in Syria Dr. Van Dyck testifies: “At the Passover only fermented wine is used” (Bib. Sac., 1869, pp. 170–1).[10]

But the advocates of the unfermented wine theory profess to be able to prove that unfermented wine is a common and favorite beverage in various European countries, and particularly in France and Italy, at the present day. If this were the case, it would not establish the existence of such a drink in Palestine at and before the time of our Saviour’s appearance on the earth. But nothing could be more at variance with fact than the assertions put forward as to the nature of the wines in use in the southern countries of Europe. A statement made by the late venerable Dr. Duff, of Calcutta, has been often quoted, as if it testified to the common use of unfermented wine by the peasantry of the south of France. The statement, as given in his Life (Vol. I., p. 392), runs thus:

“Look at the peasant at his meals in wine-bearing districts! Instead of milk he has before him a basin of the pure, unadulterated ‘blood of the grape.’ In this its native and original state it is a plain, simple, and wholesome liquid, which at every repast becomes to the husbandman what milk is to the shepherd,—not a luxury, but a necessary, not an intoxicating, but a nutritive beverage.”

If this statement were found in the works of an ancient author who could not be interrogated as to what he meant, it would be vain to plead that it does not necessarily imply that the wine spoken of was unfermented, and absolutely incapable of producing intoxication. But when an unwarranted use was made of Dr. Duff’s account of the wine drunk at their meals by the peasantry of the south of France, he was asked to state explicitly if he meant that the wine so described by him was really unfermented; and he replied in unambiguous terms, that he intended to convey no such idea. A letter from Dr. Duff, correcting the misapprehension, was read before the Irish Presbyterian General Assembly of June, 1875, which Assembly pronounced against the use of so-called unfermented wine in the Communion. Dr. Duff gave the following explanation in regard to the wine, whose use and virtue, as contrasted with the spirituous drinks of Great Britain, he had pointed out:

“On inquiry I found it was the pure juice of the grape, which, as you know, ferments spontaneously when expressed from the husk—fermented, therefore, but still pure, i.e., wholly undrugged or unadulterated with any extraneous matter of any kind. It was also very weak, that is, contained very little spirit, but still enough to preserve it. Being so weak, and so free from all adulterating mixtures, and taken in the manner in which I saw it taken, it was utterly incapable of intoxicating a child, and constituted a wholesome, refreshing beverage, instead of milk, which was not to be had in that quarter. That is the sum and substance of what I wrote, or meant to write. Such a thing as unfermented wine I never heard of in any country.”

We believe Dr. Duff’s explanation of what he “meant to write.” But Dr. Samson thus comments on it (“Divine Law as to Wines,” p. 27): “The first glance-impressions of devoted missionaries, as noble in spirit as Dr. Duff, of Calcutta, are apparently repressed by manifestoes placed before them for their signature.” Dr. Duff is charged, in effect, with suppressing his own conviction, and signing a false statement; and yet he is spoken of as a devoted missionary, and noble in spirit! There was no manifesto placed before Dr. Duff for his signature. He was asked for a simple explanation, and he gave it with such clearness and explicitness as to offend those who found that they could no longer use Dr. Duff s honored name in favor of a baseless theory; and, therefore, they turned round and maligned the great missionary. But will it be believed? Dr. Samson, in another part of his book (p. 255) quotes Dr. Duff as if he still testified in favor of the existence of an unfermented wine, though Dr. S. was well acquainted with Dr. Duff’s emphatic disclaimer of the meaning imputed to his words.

The celebrated Italian preacher, Father Gavazzi, happened to be in the British Isles at a time when the controversy respecting the wine proper to be employed in the Communion was making a noise. What he called the “nonsensicalities” of those who pleaded for the use of an “unfermented wine” at the Lord’s Table, moved the eloquent Italian to write on the subject. The following extract from his article will be considered by most persons sufficient testimony as to what is regarded in Italy as real wine:

“I have indulged in the expression unfermented wine for the sake of argument.… although to me, as an Italian, the expression imports downright nonsense. In fact, wine is only wine by fermentation, and to speak of unfermented wine is to speak of dry water, of nightly sun, of unelectric lightning.” (See Belfast Witness of 14th May, 1875).

Dr. F. R. Lees might get grape-juice preserved according to a recipe as easily in Florence as elsewhere; but such a liquor would not be regarded as proper wine by any Italian; and it is essentially different from the wines which the people of Italy are in the habit of using.

To sum up the result of our inquiry: Whether we visit the lands of the Bible or the wine-producing countries of Europe, we find that the natives understand by wine the fermented juice of the grape. Dr. Eli Smith’s statement respecting the inhabitants of Syria would hold true of the people of the wine countries of Europe (with some half dozen of which we are personally acquainted):

“When inquiring if there exists such a thing as unfermented wine, I have uniformly been met by a stare of surprise. The very idea seems to be regarded as an absurdity.” (Bib. Sac., iii. 388).

The question of modern wines has been disposed of; we have next to examine the truth of the allegation that there were unfermented and unintoxicating wines held in high esteem in ancient times. Appeal is made to various Latin and Greek authors in support of this position. Pliny is most frequently referred to, and statements are often professedly drawn from his “Historia Naturalis” by writers, who, it is plain, cannot have consulted this work to learn what it teaches on this subject. One who is familiar with Pliny can have little inclination to embrace the Unfermented Wine theory. In his “Natural History” he is most careful to distinguish between wine proper—the fermented juice of the grape—and all other drinks. He thus describes the nature of wine—of every liquid that is called by this name: “When drunk, it creates internal heat in the system; when outwardly applied, it refrigerates” (Vino natura est hausto accendendi calore viscera intus, foris infuso refrigerandi. Lib. xiv. 7).[11] A drink that does not produce inward warmth, does not according to Pliny possess the nature of wine. In the same paragraph he tells us that nothing is more useful than wine for strengthening the body, and nothing more hurtful, if used immoderately (Prorsus ut jure dici possit, neque viribus corporis utilius aliud, neque aliud voluptatibus perniciosius, si modus absit). These general statements are applied to whatever was known as wine. Pliny never speaks of wine without meaning what some moderns by a faulty pleonasm call “fermented wine.”

He expressly distinguishes must from wine, and the differentia of wine he specifies as consisting in its having undergone fermentation. Fermentation is described by him as the passage of must into wine (sic—scil. fervere—appellant musti in vina transitum. Lib. xiv. 11). Dr. F. R. Lees ventures to affirm that Pliny has “endeavored to override the popular use of the word ‘wine’ and to fabricate a technical definition of it” (“Prelim. Dis.,” p. xx.) A glance at Pliny’s language shows how strangely Dr. Lees misrepresents the case. So far from attempting to set up a technical definition, Pliny tells us, as it were incidentally, as an obiter dicium, how people universally spoke with reference to this matter (sic appellant). He relates the common, popular use of a word. In book xxiii., when he treats of the medicinal properties of the various kinds of must and of the various kinds of wine, he is careful to speak of them separately, and to describe them as distinct in their nature and in their qualities. The order in discussing subjects there observed by Pliny is first to treat of vines, then of musts, then of wines, and then of vinegar. It may be safely affirmed that Pliny, like Gavazzi, would have regarded the expression, “unfermented wine,” as a contradictio in adjecto, an intolerable solecism, such as “dry water.” It furnishes matter for serious animadversion, when certain writers speak of Pliny as describing an “unfermented wine.” He nowhere employs such an expression. He simply uses the word mustum—must, which is with him essentially different from vinum—wine.

That must and wine were carefully discriminated by the ancients, and that fermentation converted the former into the latter, are points which we could establish by superabundant testimony; but the limits of this Review compel us to be brief. We content ourselves, therefore, with adducing a single passage from Varro (“De Re Rustica,” Lib. i. 65). He could not have written it, if must and wine had been confounded in the common speech of the Romans, and if it had not been universally admitted that by fermentation the one passed into the other:

Quod mustum conditur in dolium ut habeamus vinum non promendum dum fervet, neque etiam cum processit ita, ut sit vinum factum. Si vetus bibere velis, quod non fit antequam accesserit annus, tum, cum fuerit anniculum, prodit.” “The must which is put into a dolium (open tub) that we may have wine, is not to be drawn while it is fermenting, nor even when it has advanced so far as to have become wine. If you wish to drink it old—which it does not become within a year—then, when it is a year old, it comes forth.”

Varro does not set up a technical definition of wine, but he proceeds on the assumption that no one could be ignorant that wine denoted the fermented juice of the grape. Taking it for granted that every one possessed this knowledge, he gives instructions as to the length of time the must should be allowed to remain in the dolium or tub. It is implied in what he has written that everybody knew that must became wine by undergoing fermentation.

Pliny tells us of one way, and only of one way,[12] of preserving must; and, as his description has been laid hold of to prove that he knew of “unfermented wine,” we give the passage in full:

Medium inter dulcia vinumque est, quod Græci aïgleucos vocant, hoc est, semper mustum. Id evenit cura, quoniam fervere prohibetur; sic appellant musti in vina transitum. Ergo mergunt e lacu protinus in aqua cados, donec bruma transeat, et consuetudo fiat algendi,”[13] “Intermediate between the sweets (dulcia) and wine is what the Greeks call aïgleucos—that is, always must. It is the result of care, as it is hindered from fermenting; thus they designate the passage of must into wines. Therefore, the casks taken from the vat are at once immersed in water until the shortest day of the year is passed, and they (the casks full of must) have become accustomed to the cold.”

It is evident from this passage, which we have translated without adding misleading glosses, that must preserved by the process described was held by Pliny to be different from wine. He does not confound the two things. Furthermore, he knew only this one way, that of immersing the casks in cold water, by which must could be preserved from fermenting and becoming wine. Cato and Columella give similar directions about preserving must in the sweet state.[14] But these writers do not talk “of preparing an unintoxicating wine,” and they do not intimate that must, preserved as such in a carefully closed vessel which was kept immersed for a longer or shorter time in cold water, was ever regarded or used as wine. It is an important point that both these authors testify that must could be preserved in this way not longer than a year. Compare Cato, “De Re Rustica,” cxx., and Columella, “De Re Rustica,” Lib. xii. 29. We protest against the misleading statement that Cato and Columella describe in these passages “the mode of preparing unintoxicating wine.”[15] They do not use in them the word vinum, wine, at all, or speak of “preparing” any kind of wine. They tell us how must may be made to remain must all the year, and not how unfermented grape-juice can be converted into “unfermented wine.” Columella, indeed, begins by saying, “mustum ut semper dulce tanquam recens permaneat sic facito. But in what sense he and Pliny must have understood semper is evident from what he states at the close of his directions, “Sic usque in annum dulce permanebit.” “It will thus remain sweet for a year.” If modern chemistry has discovered methods of preserving unfermented grape-juice for a longer time, or so that it improves with age, these methods were not known to the ancients. The name of old wine could in no sense be applied to the little grape-juice which the ancient Greeks and Romans might attempt to preserve for a year from fermentation. This must could not become old, and did not improve by age; and unless it was allowed to ferment, it could not become that old wine which, as our Lord testifies, was by common consent judged superior to new (Luke 5:39); and as long as it remained must, it could not be of benefit to the stomach.

We need not occupy time in discussing the nature of the drink called protropum which is sometimes described as an unfermented wine. Protropum was prepared from the juice that flowed from the grapes by their own pressure one upon another. But this juice was not hindered from fermenting. On the contrary, Pliny expressly tells us that it was allowed to ferment (Hoc protinus diffusum lagenis suis defervere passi, xiv. ii.) Much has been written about defrutum and sapa (in Greek siraeum and hepsema), which were preparations of grape-juice boiled down to some consistency. But we may be permitted to dismiss them by simply quoting what is said of them in Smith’s “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities”:

“These grape jellies, for they were nothing else, were used extensively for giving body to poor wines and making them keep, and entered as ingredients into many drinks” (Art, Vinum).

Similar preparations are still found in France and Italy and Syria, but they are not called wines, nor used as wines. We might as properly call molasses rum, as the Syrian dibs wine. Murina or murrhina is spoken of by Pliny (xiv. 15); but he does not tell us, as is often alleged, that it would not intoxicate. Plautus, as there quoted by Pliny, mentions murrhinam, passum, defrutum, mella together, from which Pliny simply concludes that murrhina was classed not only among wines (vina), but also among sweets (dulcia). Murrhina, as we learn from Festus, was murratum vinum, myrrhed wine. There were two kinds of myrrhed wine: the one was stupefying, the other was a sweet aromatic drink. It is the latter that was sometimes reckoned among the sweets. But passum, also classed, owing to its lusciousness, among the sweets by Plautus, was clearly a fermented liquor; as we cannot doubt after reading the account given of its preparation by Columella.[16] At a certain period of Roman history this fermented passum as well as murrhina, was allowed to Roman women. So, also, was lora, which, while a very weak, poor drink, was fermented. There is no evidence that murrhina was an unfermented drink, though it may have been weak, and, comparatively speaking, unintoxicating.

Reference is frequently made to a wine prepared from the grape called inerticula. This wine is mentioned both by Pliny and Columella. But there was nothing special in the way of preparing this wine. It is not of the wine, but the grape that Pliny says that it alone does not cause intoxication (xiv. 4, 4). And it is not of the wine, but of the grape that he tells us that we ought to call it sober (sobriam). This grape was not widely cultivated. The wine made of it was dull in operation, but it was certainly fermented; for Pliny tells us that it could grow old, which must, or unfermented grape-juice, could not. If the wine prepared from the grape inerticula had not been the result of fermentation, Pliny would have drawn attention to this peculiarity: or, rather, he would not have called the drink wine; since he expressly states that it is by fermentation that mustum becomes vinum, and he is always careful to discriminate between the two. The wine, then, made of this variety of grape, though very weak, must have contained enough of alcohol to preserve it.[17]

The Rev. Wm. M. Thayer, in his book on “Communion Wine” (p. 28), repeating in this as in other things what had been said by others, writes: “Aristotle in his ‘Meteorology’ (l. 4, c. 9), speaking of sweet wine says: ‘It would not intoxicate.’ ” But Mr. Thayer, and those from whom he copies, omit to mention that Aristotle, in the place cited, had just before spoken of this χυμός, juice, as wine only in name and not in reality, and as not like wine. Then follow the words culled out from the passage, “Wherefore also it does not intoxicate.” (Ἔστι δὲ ὀνόματιοἶνος, ἔργῳ δʼ οὐκ ἔστιν· οὐ γὰρ οἰνώδης ὁ χυμός. Διὸ καὶ οὐ μεθύσκει.) Aristotle, then, in this passage testifies that whatever is properly called wine can intoxicate. We may add that Wilson (“Wines of the Bible,” p. 151) adduces proof that the sweet wine, which did not deserve to be called wine, referred to by Aristotle, had undergone a partial fermentation; and that it is only in the comparative sense, and not absolutely, his statement as to its non-intoxicating character is to be taken.

Mr. Thayer, after quoting Aristotle as an authority for a sweet wine that would not intoxicate, immediately adds:

“The same writer says that ‘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,’—a fact which proves that it had not fermented; for, we repeat, fermented wine cannot be thickened by boiling.”

But Aristotle says of this particular wine of Arcadia, that had become so thick, that it was dried up in its skin bottles by the smoke (ὑπὸ τοῦ καπνοῦ). It can be shown by experiment that the watery parts of wine kept in skin bottles, when exposed to the action of smoke, will evaporate, and leave the remaining wine so much the thicker and stronger.

But we will turn for the sake of variety to Dr. C. H. Fowler, who is always decisive, clear, and strong, and “flings at your head conviction in the lump.” “Columella,” he informs us, “contemporary with the apostles, says that in Italy and Greece it was common to boil the wines.” (“Wines of the Bible,” p. 17). And this, we have simply to observe, is still the case with wines that are both fermented and intoxicating, as every one who has paid any attention to this subject should know. Speaking of the wines of the East, the Rev. Henry Homes writes (Bib. Sac. v. 292): “Whether boiled or not, whether sweet or sour, all the known wines are intoxicating.” Again Mr. Homes writes:

“The boiling which some give their ‘must’ to secure a wine that will keep better, should not be confounded with the boiling of the same ‘must’ to make sugar and molasses.”[18]

But let us attend further to Dr. Fowler’s style of adducing testimony. On the same page (17) he states:

“Horace says: ‘There is no wine sweeter to drink than Lesbian; that it was like nectar, and perfectly harmless, and would not produce intoxication.’ This evidence might be extended for hours. They not only preserved the wine unfermented, but even the grapes. Josephus mentions the fortress of Masada, in Palestine, built by Herod. He says: ‘Here was laid up corn in large quantities; here was also wine and oil in abundance, with all kinds of pulse and dates heaped together. These fruits were also fresh and full ripe, and no way inferior to such fruits newly laid in, although they were little short of a hundred years from the laying in of these provisions.’ ”

Dr. Fowler makes this quotation from Josephus (“Jewish War,” Book VII., chap. 8), for the purpose of proving “that they not only preserved the wine unfermented, but even grapes.” But Josephus speaks in the passage neither of unfermented wine nor of grapes; and he attributes the freshness of the stores in Masada after so long a time, not to the art of man, but solely to the climate of the place. Dr. Fowler must have presumed on having very simple, unreflecting readers when he made this quotation from Josephus, and so must Dr. Lees, from whom he copies. But we must not forget the pretended quotation from Horace. Dr. Fowler attaches such importance to it, that on the same page he actually repeats it, using these words:

“Horace, you remember, says: ‘There is no wine sweeter to drink than Lesbian; like nectar, will not produce intoxication.’ ”

It is difficult for one who cannot consult Horace to credit what we say. But from a tolerable familiarity with that author, and as the result of a careful examination, we are able to affirm that he nowhere employs the language twice attributed to him. Dr. Fowler, after quoting Horace, truly declares: “This evidence might be extended for hours.” There is no doubt of it, if the writer would only go on inventing evidence. We will state what Horace does say about Lesbian wine, because the greatest importance has been attached to his words. He speaks of it in an amatory ode, which contains highly ornamental, and hyperbolical, and hypocritical expressions, addressed to a woman named Tyndaris, whom the poet would entice to visit him in the country, and to spend some time with him there. She was in the habit of keeping bad company, and had been ill-used by her paramour Cyrus when he was in a drunken fury. That she may not dread such abuse from him, Horace tells her: “Hic innocentis pocula Lesbii Duces sub umbra” (Carm., Lib. i. 17). “Here you will quaff in the shade cups of harmless Lesbian.” This is what Horace says of the Lesbian wine to which he would treat a woman of loose character, if she would come and stay with him a while. He merely calls the Lesbian wine “harmless” or “innocent,” and does not even say that it is “perfectly harmless.” All else is Dr. Fowler’s, a trace of which is not to be found in Horace. If Horace were told of the use made of the expression innocentis Lesbii, innocent Lesbian, how he would laugh at the folly of his critics! He would order them to be dosed with hellebore that they might be brought to their senses. If any one wishes to satisfy his mind in regard to the true character of Lesbian wine, he need only read the close of the ninth epode of Horace (where he calls to his boy to bring him Lesbian and other wines), and he will see that in the view of the poet “innocent Lesbian” possessed the potency which is commonly ascribed to wine. The purpose for which the poet there desires it is to banish care and fear (curam metumque). Clement of Alexandria (“Pædagogus,” bk. II., chap. 2), actually warns Christians against desiring “the pleasant-breathing Lesbian.”

We have now to speak of filtered wines. How often, in our examination of the Unfermented Wine literature, have we met with the statement, made on the alleged authority of Pliny, that “the most useful wine had all its strength broken by the filter!” The Rev. B. Parsons, the author of “Anti-Bacchus,” in another work, entitled “The Wine Question Settled,” thus discourses:

“Pliny tells us that wines were thus filtered to destroy their strength or spirit, and that the wines which had all their strength—not, mind ye, a part, but omnibus viribus, all their strength broken by the filter—were the best wines.”

This extract is given in the “Temperance Bible Commentary” as a true statement of what Pliny wrote. Again, in the same Commentary, in a note, p. 278, we read: “ ‘Wines are rendered old and deprived of all their force by filtering.’—Pliny.” These pretended quotations from Pliny have been repeated by writers and lecturers times without number. But every one, by consulting Pliny (xxiii. 24), can perceive that what he really tells us is, that the wine most useful for all classes, the gentry and the common people, is that which has its strength broken by the filter. We need, then, to modify Mr. Parsons’ forcible way of putting the case, and to say that Pliny tells us that the wines that had, mind ye, not all their strength, but simply their strength broken by the filter, were most useful for all in cases of sickness. Pliny, too, in the passage referred to, makes it evident that the liquor which was filtered had undergone fermentation, and had, in this way, acquired strength, or had passed from must into wine. We do not read in ancient writers of filtered must, but of filtered wine. Modern chemistry, too, has established that the filtering of must would not prevent its fermentation.

“It is not until the fermentation is considerably advanced that the gluten is precipitated in such quantity that it can be so separated by the filter as to prevent entirely the further fermentation of the liquor."[19]

The luxurious revelers that are rebuked in the sixth chapter of Amos, are described in the sixth verse as those “that drink wine in bowls.” The Authorized Version has here a sufficiently correct rendering of the original Hebrew. But in the Septuagint this inaccurate translation is given: οἱ πίνοντες τὸν διυλισμένον οἶνον, “who drink filtered wine.” Certainly the authors of the Greek version must have regarded filtered wine as still possessing some inebriating power, or they could not have represented it as the favorite drink of the sinners that were “at ease in Zion.”

We will now consider a passage of Columella which has been often adduced as a decisive proof that there was a real, good, wholesome wine, known to the Romans, which had not undergone fermentation. It is contained in his work, “De Re Rustica,” xii. 27:

Vinum dulce sic facere oporlet, Uvas legito, in Sole per triduum expandito, quarto die meridiano tempore calidas uvas proculcato, mustum lixivium, hoc est, antequam praelo pressum sit quod in lacum musti fluxerit, tollito; cum deferbuerit in sextarios quinquaginta iridem bene pinsitam nec plus unciae pondere addito, vinum a fæcibus eliquatum diffundito. Hoc vinum erit suave, firmum, corpori salubre.

This passage we thus translate:

“Sweet wine[20] is to be made in this way—Gather the grapes, spread them out in the sun for three days; on the fourth day, at noon, tread the warm grapes; take away the mustum lixivium, that is, the must that has flowed into the vat without being squeezed out by the press. When it has ceased to ferment, add well-pounded iris, not exceeding one ounce in weight to fifty sextarii (of the liquor). Pour off the wine clarified from the fæces. This wine will be sweet, firm, wholesome to the body.”

This was, undoubtedly, a real, fermented wine. It is treated as such in the excellent article Vinum, in Smith’s “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities,” where the verb deferbuerit is understood, as we have taken it, to denote the completion of fermentation. Observe that Columella is telling us in this passage how to make sweet wine, vinum dulce, not how to preserve must in the sweet state. When he elsewhere (xii. 29) describes the way of preserving must from fermenting, he is careful to avoid calling it wine. Note, too, that in the beginning of this passage we find the liquor out of which sweet wine is to be made called twice by the name of mustum. At the close of the passage the name mustum is dropped, and in place of it the designation vinum is used. And, further, observe that the fatal word deferbuerit, which is commonly employed to denote the completion of fermentation, stands between the mustum and the vinum. The liquor that had been before the use of deferbuerit twice denominated mustum, is after its use twice called vinum. That Columella, like Varro and Pliny and the world in general, regarded the process of fermentation as that which converted mustum into vinum, may be seen by consulting Lib. xii. 25. Note, too, that he does not speak of this mustum, out of which vinum dulce is to be made, as needing to be at once removed from the vat, and carefully secluded from the air by being closed up in a sealed vessel (comp. xii. 29), and so put into cold water. But he only directs “take away,” i.e., the liquor from the vat. The word diffundere, which he next employs in ordering a second removal of the liquor, and which we have translated “pour off,” is the usual expression denoting the pouring of the wine out of the dolium or open tub in which it was suffered to ferment, into the smaller vessels or casks (amphoræ or cadi), in which it was sealed up, and kept, that its quality might be improved.[21] No good Latin scholar who had any acquaintance with the writers, “De Re Rustica,” could hesitate in declaring the vinum dulce as above described by Columella to be a fermented liquor. But this wine could not have been fermented, we are told. Why not? The only reason given which we need notice is this one:

“The grapes were spread out to the heat of the sun long enough to thicken the juice to the degree known to prevent fermentation.”

So Dr. Lees assures us in his “Wines, Ancient and Modern.” But is it true that grapes dried in the heat of the sun are thereby prevented from yielding a juice that will ferment? Unfortunately it so happens that the statements which Dr. Lees makes with the greatest positiveness are not rarely discovered to be utterly baseless. This remark applies emphatically to the case in hand. Dr. Lees should have known that grapes can be dried in the sun not only three or four, but even ten days, and yet their juice will yield a genuine fermented wine:

“Grapes were anciently trodden after being exposed on a level floor to the action of the solar rays for TEN days, and were then placed in the shade for five days more, in order to mature the saccharine matter. This practice is still followed in certain cases in one or two of the islands of the Greek Archipelago; at St. Lucar, in Spain; in Italy, at least in Calabria, and in a few of the northeastern departments of France. The fermentation is facilitated greatly by this process.”[22]

So much for Dr. Lees’ assertion that grapes spread out for three days to the heat of the sun would have their juice thickened to the degree known to prevent fermentation. We could disprove this statement by a cloud of witnesses, but let one more testimony suffice:

“The methods of making wine in Lebanon may be reduced to three; (a). The must is fermented without desiccation or boiling. Little is made in this way, and except in cool localities it does not keep well, though ‘possessing rather strong intoxicating powers’; (b). The must is boiled down about four or five per cent., and then fermented; (c). The grapes are dried in the sun from five to ten days, till the stems are dry; they are then pressed, and must, skins, stems, and all, are put into open jars to ferment about a month. This wine keeps better, and will sometimes burn.”[23]

Our readers must pardon us for taking notice of the use made of a phrase found in Herodotus. He tells us (Lib. ii. 37) that οἶνος ἀμπέλινος was given to the Egyptian priests. This simply denotes wine of the vine. But the advocates of the Unfermented Wine theory contend that it must mean fresh grape-juice, or that “unfermented wine” which they scent everywhere. There is, however, nothing in the expression to suggest this meaning. When we read in Scripture that “Noah planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine,” this was surely wine of the vine. If Herodotus had had occasion to speak of it he would have called it οἶνος ἀμπέλινος. The fact is, Herodotus, in employing this designation, which is peculiar to him, wished to distinguish wine of the grape-vine from wine of barley (οἶνος ἐκ κριθέων ii. 77), and palm wine (οἷνος φοινικηϊος ii. 86), of all of which he makes mention in the second book of his History. Herodotus tells us that Cleomenes, King of Sparta, was rendered mad by his having become a drinker of wine unmixed with water (ακρητοπότης vi. 84). This one fact, and we could instance others, if it were necessary, shows that when Herodotus speaks of wine he means a drink that could produce intoxication. We might have omitted this reference to Herodotus, had it not been that Bishop Lowth, in his Notes on Isaiah, chapter 5, speaks of οἶνος ἀμπέλινος as the fresh juice pressed from the grape. This is an obvious inadvertence which he has committed, as we have shown from Herodotus.

We have been studying the usage of ancient Greek and Roman authors to ascertain what they understood by the term wine. If any one desires evidence outside of the Canonical Scriptures, as to what the Jews understood by the same term, let him read Ecclesiasticus, 31:25–30, where he will find Jesus, the son of Sirach, the highest uninspired moralist, testifying that the good wine that was as life to a man, and that made the heart glad, was the wine that destroyed many. Philo, too (born b.c. 20, died a.d. 54), in telling us of the ancients, and how they drank wine, as distinguished from the people of his own time, writes: “Knowing, therefore, that the use and enjoyment of wine require much care, they did not drink unmixed wine either in great quantities or at all times, but only in moderation and on fitting occasions” (“About the Planting of Noah,” 39) This passage lets us see that to a Jew, living when our Lord was on earth, whatever was called wine was a source of danger. As the result of our investigations we dare, unhesitatingly, affirm that a Greek, a Roman, and a Jew must have had suggested to them by the mention of the simple, unqualified word wine, a drink which could be abused so as to produce intoxication.

Dunlop Moore.


[1] The difficulty arising from the same wine being in the same place (Prov. 31:4–6), disallowed and prescribed, is got over by simply making the direction “give” (תְּנֹוּ) equivalent to “leave” or “give up”!

[2] Comp. Apostolical Constitutions (which though not genuine, show the sentiment and usage of the third century), Canons 51 and 53. See the original in Hefele’s Conciliengeschichte. Appendix, Vol. I., pp. 479–80, of Clark’s translation.

[3] Longinus De Sublim; § 32. Critics observed that to call water a sober divinity, and the mixing chastisement indicated that the author was not himself actually sober.

[4] On this use of eye, in the sense of color or appearance, comp. Num. 11:7, etc.

[5] On old wine as good for the bowels comp. Bab. Berakh. fol. 51, 1. On new wine from the press as hurtful to the stomach comp. the quotation from the Talmud in Buxtorf Lex. Chald. p. 2126, under קרדיקוס.

[6] Dr. Lees, suo more, indulges in misstatements regarding the wine which females drank to excess. Comp. Wilson (Wines of the Bible, pp. 7–13).

[7] We cannot avoid drawing attention in a note to an extract from this scandalous publication (p. 13): “Jesus Christ is put on trial as a drinking man; for the alcoholic view of wine makes it necessary to say that Jesus is on the side of wine-drinkers. It puts Him on trial again, not for His life, but for infinitely more than life: for honor, and virtue, and integrity, and character, and for all that is of value in His religion.” We do not find in the lecture of Dr. Fowler, as it is published by the National Temperance Society, the still more shocking language which was contained in the lecture as it appeared in full in the New York Christian Advocate, of which Dr. Fowler was editor, in which we were told that if Jesus Christ drunk alcoholic wine He must be “put on trial not as a sot, but as a moderate drinker, who, according to the law of human nature, with so many million illustrations, was possibly saved from becoming an example for sots by being crucified in early manhood.” No one should be content to remain in the slightest doubt as to the real nature of the wine made and drunk by our Lord, for a large number of temperance reformers will be satisfied with nothing less than the distinct acknowledgment that, if our Saviour made or used fermented wine, His character would be thereby compromised, and His religion proved to be false. They construe, too, the intentional substitution of unfermented grape-juice for wine in the Communion as an admission that Christ’s character must be judged imperfect if it could be believed that He used “fermented wine” in instituting the ordinance of the Supper. They who know that Christ used the fermented juice of the grape in that sacrament should beware of sanctioning an innovation that may be justly said to reflect on the conduct of the Lord that bought us, besides being a violation of His solemn command (1 Cor. 11:25).

[8] The character and competence of some of the signers of this declaration are well known in the American churches; one of them, Dr. Jessup, was lately Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly. There is just one way open to objectors of invalidating this testimony, and that is, the distinct specification of those places in Syria where the alleged unfermented wine is now to be met with. If our readers desire any later testimony, they may consult the “Sunday-School World” for 1878, p. 200, where they will find a very clear and emphatic utterance from another excellent authority, Prof. Geo. E. Post, M.D., Beirut, Syria, which only want of room prevents our copying. In the Boston Congregationalist of the 6th September, 1876, the testimony of twelve American missionaries against the existence of unfermented wine in Bible-lands is given in extenso.

[9] This very chamer is mentioned as a noble gift of God, Deut. 32:14! See Hebrew text.

[10] There is no more trustworthy witness on this question than the distinguished translator of the Arabic Bible. Dr. C. V. A. Van Dyck.

[11] We quote from Tauchnitz’s edition of the “Historia Naturalis,” Leipzig. 1830.

[12] There is no mention made by him or by other ancient writers of the employment of sulphur fumigation to prevent grape-juice from fermenting; this is a modern device. The ancients added to their wines pitch, resin, iris, salt, pounded marble, and other strange things, as well as sulphur. But these ingredients are never set forth as used to “destroy the fermenting principle existing as yet undeveloped in the fresh must.” In the place where Pliny refers to the use of sulphur, it is in the preparation of a wine which he distinctly describes as passing through the process of fermentation (xiv. 20). On this subject consult for fuller information Wilson’s “Wines of the Bible,” (p. 94). London: Hamilton, Adams & Co.

[13] Dr. Lawrie (Bib. Sac., xxvi., p. 166) in quoting this passage of Pliny has omitted the que after vinum, and has given the loose and inaccurate translation: “The medium quality among sweet wines is that which the Greeks call ἀειγλεῦκος, i.e., always must.” It is unaccountable how Dr. Lawrie was led to make in his excellent paper a translation so clearly inadmissible. His false rendering really favors the cause of his opponents, and they have no reason to complain of it as an intentional perversion of Pliny’s meaning. It represents him as characterizing preserved must as one of the sweet wines. This he is far from doing.

[14] Chemists decidedly affirm that this process would only partially check fermentation. But partially fermented grape-juice was still called must. Comp. Varro, Lib. 1, 65.

[15] This is Dr. Samson’s language, not that of either Cato or Columella, as the readers of the “Divine Law” would naturally suppose.

[16] Lib. xii. 39. The fermentation is thus indicated: “Deinde post xx. vel xxx. dies cum deferbuerit in alia vasa deliquare, etc.”

[17] In Wilson’s “Wines of the Bible,” pp. 151, 2, 6, illustrations are given of drinks being spoken of as harmless, innocent, and non-intoxicating, which yet were fermented.

[18] The Congregationalist, Sept. 6, 1876.

[19] Berzelius. Traité de Chimie, quoted by Dr. Maclean, Princeton Review, April, 1841, p, 298.

[20] In the English language we call must, or the fresh expressed juice of the grape, sweet wine and new wine, but not wine simply without either of these qualifying epithets. But Columella is speaking here, not of mustum, but of vinum dulce, a manufactured sweet wine, which is made from mustum, but which is not to be confounded with mustum. The ambiguity of the English expression “sweet wine,” which is applied to must and to the various kinds of manufactured sweet wines which are fermented and intoxicating, it is important to bear in mind. When the expressed juice of the grape is partially fermented, and hence intoxicating, it is still customary to call it must, new wine, and sweet wine. In summer weather in a very few hours a considerable quantity of alcohol is formed in the purest grape-juice if exposed to the air. Accordingly, Tirosh, must, or new wine, is treated in the O. T. as an intoxicant (Hos. 4:11); and so is the corresponding Greek word Gleukos in the New Testament (Acts 2:13). In the East, when new wine is abundant, intoxication is still found in its most disgusting forms. See Bib. Sac. for January, 1869, p. 180.

[21] Comp. “The Life of the Greeks and Romans,” by Guhl and Koner, pp. 456–7 of English translation.

[22] Redding “On Wines,” p. 55.

[23] Bib. Sac., January, 1869, p. 168, Abridged from Eli Smith’s “Wines of Mount Lebanon.”