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Issue and Interchange

Gentry's Concluding Remarks

I would urge the reader to reread the wide array of evidence for the righteous consumption of alcoholic wine in my first installment. Notice I employ a great many Scriptures and references to the consensus of reputable lexicons and translations to support my view. Reynolds, however, employs only a few verses (primarily Prov. 23:29ff and Is. 16:10) and admits to presenting "innovations...based on sound principle" in an attempt to "discover long hidden truths." His case is that weak.

Despite Reynolds, the wine of the Bible was alcoholic: People could be intoxicated by it (Gen.9:21; I Sam. 1:14; Is. 28:1; Jer. 23:9). Believers were urged not to linger long over it (Prov. 23:30; Is. 5:11, 22; 28:1, 7; I Tim. 23:3,8; Tit. 1:7; 2:3). Priests were forbidden wine when engaging in sacerdotal activities (Lev. 10:9; Ex. 44:21), because it was alcoholic and could accidentally endanger worship (cf. Lev. 10:1-3). Even our Lord freely made (John 2:9, 10, cf. Luke 5:39) and partook of alcoholic wine, which led the Pharisees to falsely call Him a drunkard (Luke 7:33-35).

The Scriptures even allude to the allowed fermentation of wine "on the lees" and in wine bottles (Job 32:19; Prov. 3:10; Is. 25:6; Jer. 48:11; Zeph. 1:12; Matt. 9:17; Luke 7:37). Consequently, the preferred wine of Scripture is aged, i.e., fermented (e.g., Is. 25:6; Luke 5:39). In fact, Scripture allows the partaking of "all sorts of wines" (Neh. 5:18[1] ) when taken in moderation -- for the Bible resolutely condemns all inordinate imbibing which leads to drunkenness (Gen. 19:32; Prov. 23:29-35; Jer. 13:13-14; Ez. 23:28, 33; Hos. 4:11; Matt. 24:29; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Rom. 13:13; I Cor. 5:11; 6:10; Gal. 5:19,21; Eph. 5:18).

A Survey of Reynold's Latest Misinterpretations

Reynolds argues that Proverbs 20:1 and Hosea 7:5 forbid wine use by calling wine a "mocker" and "poisonous." He adds that "no suggestion is made in these passages that if used in moderation it is an approved drink"! But:

(1) The whole Bible is our ethical guide, and in many places it forbids immoderate use. I agree with Reynolds that "God only needs to command once and after that...He expects to be obeyed."[2] Use of wine must be in moderation, whether expressed in every context or not, because of the total Scripture.

(2) Proverbs 20:1 says: "wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise" (NASV). The word translated "intoxicated" is the Hebrew shagah ("swerve, meander, reel"). It indicates being under the influence of wine, as in Isaiah 28:7. Wine leads to mockery and brawling when foolish men are intoxicated by it. Elsewhere wine is a blessing for the righteous (Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:14, 15; Eccl. 9:7; Is 25:6; 55:1; Amos 9:13-15). Despite Reynolds, the very verse itself makes a clear "suggestion" of "moderation" (the same is true of Hos. 7:5).

(3) If the statement "wine is a mocker" prohibits wine, then "knowledge makes arrogant" does the same for knowledge (I Cor. 8:1)! The negative and positive statements regarding the same thing should not surprise us, for good things can be abused, as are sex (Rom. 13:13), food (Prov. 23:20-21), and wealth (I Tim. 6:9-11). But each of these is good (Heb. 13:4; Ps. 104:14-15; Job 42:10).

In Proverbs 23:29-35, Reynolds tries unconvincingly to divorce verses 29-30 from 31-35. He does so on the basis of shift from a plural address ("those") to a singular ("you," i.e. "my son," cf. 23:15; 19, 26; 24:13, 21).

Any unbiased reading of the text, however, clearly shows that verses 29-30 are quite relevant to the instruction in verses 31-15. In verse 20 the writer warns (in the singular!) of the danger of being with immoderate drinkers; such will lead to "poverty" (v.21). Then he warns later about those (plural) who "linger long" (v.29) over wine: such will be led to "woe" (vv.29-30, cf. v. 21).

Then the reader (singular, Heb.) is warned of that type of wine consumption that comes from running with "heavy drinkers." The writer rhetorically asks, "Who has woe?" He answers, "Those who linger long at the wine." Consequently, after such long lingering he warns his reader (singular): "at the last" (i.e., after inordinate long lingering, v. 32) wine bites, stings, and distorts (vv. 32-35). The root of the word "at the last" (Heb., achar, v. 32a) is the very one that appears in "linger long" in v. 30! The individual (singular) to whom he speaks must recognize that, and he must not be drawn to lingering long over wine (cf. Is. 5:11, 22).

Conclusion

It is clear that the Scripture allows a moderate, wise partaking of alcoholic beverages. It is just as evident that the Bible prohibits abusive consumption. There should be no confusion or "hidden truth" regarding the word here. All is very clear: "In all things moderation!" Let me close with three Scripture citations.

"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man" (Ps. 104:14-15).

"Thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul desires, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household" (Deut. 14:26).

"And the LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all people on this mountain; an banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine" (Is. 25:6).


[1] Remember that one allowed alcoholic beveratge is shekar ("strong drink"), which is a noun related to the verb for shakar ("drunk") and also to shikkar ("drunkard") and shikkaron ("drunkennes"). See Deut. 14:26 and Num 28:7.

[2] He misunderstands my argument when he makes this statement, however. See my earlier context to which he refers.


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