“Wine” Has Not Always Implied Alcohol

by Jeff Belknap
"Wine Defined," Sentry Magazine, December 2002

"whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1).

Today we have a serious problem in our society with drinking alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, it even seems to be a perplexing issue in the body of Christ. There is a great deal of ignorance (lack of knowledge) concerning this subject, as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. For this reason, I have compiled the following truths in hopes of eradicating much of the misunderstanding and deception that prevails throughout this country and abroad. The old saying "Tell a lie long enough, and everyone will eventually believe it" is true with a great number of Bible subjects, and the topic of wine is no exception.

In this compilation, I would like to prove that usage of the word "wine" does not always infer a fermented beverage. It is a generic word (meaning fermented or unfermented), not only in the Old and New Testaments but also in the secular world. Let's begin by acknowledging just a few reputable sources. The following material is just a portion of a list that comes from F. R. Lees' work, The Bible Wine Question.

  1. Aristotle ... new wine "it is wine in name, but not in effect..." (4th century B.C.)
  2. Callixenus ... they "were trampling on the grapes, and the new-wine (gleukos) ran out over the whole road ... " (300 B.C.)
  3. Papias ... "Each grape shall yield five and twenty measures of wine (oinos) .." (90 A.D.)
  4. Babylonian paraphrase on Genesis 27:25 speaks of "wine reserved in its grapes."
  5. The Gemara speaks of "wine preserved in its grapes."
  6. Suidas ... "GLEUKUS ... the droppings of the grapes before being trodden .." (950 A.D.)
  7. Sir Thomas Herbert speaks of wine gotten from wounding the Toddy Tree and catching the juice (1638 A.D.)
  8. John Parkinson under the heading "Vines" says: "The juyce or liquor pressed out of the ripe grape is called VINUM, wine ..." (1640 A.D.)
  9. Henry Southwell speaking of martyrs said that they were "like grapes when pressed, they yield luxuriant wine" (1660 A.D.)
  10. Thomas Blount speaks of must as new-wine, or, "that which is first pressed out of the grape." (1670 A.D.)
  11. Edward Phillips says of must, "wine newly pressed from the grapes (1670 A.D.)
  12. J. W. Gent speaks of "wine-cinder" and "cherrywine." The juice of the cherry is "gently pressed" and makes "a very pleasant wine" (1676 A.D.)
  13. W. Robertson, "Wine; Vinum ... New-Wine; Mustum - New wine that runs out without pressing." (1693 A.D.)
  14. Thomas Sprat speaks of vessels into which is put "cute or unfermented wine." (1702 A.D.)
  15. J. M. Gesner says: "Once for all it must be observed, that the words VINUM (wine), VITIS (vine), UVAE (grape-clusters), and VINEA (vineyard), as kindred terms are sometimes used synonymously ..." and "The juice of apples, pears, pomegranates, and sorbs, was called VINUM." (1730A.D.)
  16. Miller's Gardener's Dictionary: The first time they lower the great beams upon the grapes, they (the French) call the wine that runs out the WINE of Guotte, because it is the finest and most exquisite in the grape ... The wine strains from the press into a puncheon ... Vin Bourra, as they call it, i.e., a new and sweet white wine that has not worked ... " (1748 A.D.)
  17. E. Chambers speaks of, "Sweet wine" which has not yet fermented; wine which is called "Mere-goutte," mother-drop, which is the virgin-wine; Burnt wine is "boiled up with sugar." (1750 A.D.)
  18. Samuel Johnson speaks of Must as "New wine" (1773 A.D.)
  19. John Parkhurst tells of Ovid applying the Latin "merum" to mean "pure wine as it is pressed out of the grapes."
  20. J. F. Schleusner: "OINOS; generally VINUM liquor expressed from grapes whether new or old ... OINOS neos, VINUM novum i.e., must, alias gleukos ... GLEUKOS, properly the liquor which drops from the grape before treading." (1810A.D.)
  21. Gesenius (in the last edition of his lexicon, 1844): "TIROSH, must, of the juice of the grape." (1844 A.D.)
  22. James Donegan: "GLEUKOS; new, unfermented wine, must...SIRAION ... a wine prepared by boiling grapes .." (1826 A.D.)
  23. Noah Webster: "Must, New wine; wine pressed from the grape but not fermented." (1828 A.D.)
  24. S. Lee: "Ahsis; Literally, trodden. New wine; the juice of the grape .." (1830 A.D.)
  25. John Avenarius has: "Ahsis - mustum, which is recently expressed juice. German susz: susur wein." (1588A.D.)
  26. Dr. Ure: "Juice, when newly expressed, and before it has begun to ferment, is called must, and in common language sweet wine." (1836 A.D.)
  27. H. Bullinger speaks of wine running out of the wine-press (1573 A.D.)
  28. Bretschneider: "Oinos neos, mustum. Sept. for ahsis and tirosh. 2 ...Gleukos, mustum. That which drops from the grapes before being trodden. Acts 2:13. Job 32:19 where the Hebrew is yayin." (1840A.D.)
  29. Baron Liebig: "If a flask be filled with grape juice and made air-tight, and then kept for a few hours in boiling water ... the wine does not now ferment." (1844 A.D.)
  30. Encyclopedia Americana (1855): "The juice of the grape, when newly expressed, and before it has begun to ferment, is called must, and, in common language, sweet wine."

Hopefully, these authorities will help offset some of the unqualified statements of others. Just because we (today in America) use the word "wine" to indicate that which is intoxicating doesn't mean that it was always used in that way! Fairness and honesty demand that we understand this topic from their perspective, not ours.


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