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 Vol. 5, No. 3 

March 2003

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

typewriter Drinking Alcohol
for Pleasure

By Louis Rushmore

Please help me understand the issue of alcohol. You say drinking alcohol for pleasure is condemned in the old testament.  What about Deut. 14:26? Drink fermented drink?! or whatever your heart desires!  In the New Testament- what about 1Cor. 11:21 ? Alcoholic wine is being served at the Lord's Table  not Welch's grape juice. They are drunk!  I would appreciate an explanation of these scriptures. It appears you are putting absolutes where God has not. Thankyou. Helyn Van Huffel

A series of articles relating to the pleasurable consumption of alcohol appear in the Archive of Gospel Gazette Online, one of which is entitled: "Beverage Alcohol, Biblical Considerations" (http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/2000/sep/page11.htm). Sufficient references to biblical passages where 'drinking alcohol for pleasure' is condemned are noted in both testaments of the Bible, along with definitions of original language words (Hebrew and Greek) for alcoholic consumption, plus biblical definitions of words like "drunkenness" to adequately portray the divine disapproval of the pleasurable consumption of alcohol. We are happy, though, to address attempts to find justification for 'drinking alcohol for pleasure' and getting 'drunk' from the following passages: Deuteronomy 14:26 and 1 Corinthians 11:21.

Deuteronomy 14:26

"And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, 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"

The Hebrew word "shekar" appears in Deuteronomy 14:26 for "strong drink." It means, "an intoxicant, i.e. intensely alcoholic liquor"1 or "'to inebriate,' signifies any kind of fermented liquors."2 The same Hebrew word is used numerous times in Old Testament condemnations for consuming alcohol:

"Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations" (Leviticus 10:9).

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1).

"It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted" (Proverbs 31:4-5).

"But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment" (Isaiah 28:7).

It is not reasonable that God both condemns and praises mankind's consumption of inebriating alcohol. What, then, can Deuteronomy 14:26 mean, without contradicting a multitude of passages in both testaments that regulate inebriation out of the child of God's diet?

Most commentators ignore Deuteronomy 14:26 regarding whether the strong drink was consumed by the worshipper. Other commentators disagree as to whether the strong drink was consumed by the worshipper or poured out before the Lord. For instance, the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states of strong drink that it, "...was used in the sacrificial meal as drink offering (Num 28:7), and could be bought with the tithe-money and consumed by the worshipper in the temple (Deut 14:26)," and the McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia agrees, "It was used as a drink-offering in the service of God (Num 28:7), and was, notwithstanding its highly intoxicating property, permitted to the Israelites (Deut 14:26)," as another resource also says: "allowable in sacrif. Meal."3 

On the other hand, others confidently affirm that the strong drink associated with worshipping under Judaism was not consumed by the worshipper.

(Heb. shekar', an intoxicating liquor (Judg. 13:4; Luke 1:15; Isa. 5:11; Micah 2:11) distilled from corn, honey, or dates. The effects of the use of strong drink are referred to in Ps. 107:27; Isa. 24:20; 49:26; 51:1722. Its use prohibited, Prov. 20:1.4

The context in which Deuteronomy 14:26 appears (vss. 22-27) concerns traveling some distance to worship God, bringing tithes, at an appointed place (later, Jerusalem). To facilitate the transportation of the sacrificial animals, etc., the Israelites were permitted to exchange their sacrifices for money, which, upon arrival at the place of worship, they could exchange again for sacrificial animals, etc. Not everything brought or replaced with money was consumed by the worshipper, but some of it was dedicated to the Lord. The drink offering was poured out before the Lord.

"And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering" (Numbers 28:7).

A drink offering was a part of sacrificial offerings to God (Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 15:5).

Regarding Deuteronomy 14:26, then, we conclude that for the Jewish worshipper to consume strong or inebriating drink in worship would not receive divine approval, in consideration of: (1) the ample warnings throughout the Old Testament prohibiting the consumption of intoxicants, except for medicinal purposes, (2) a plausible solution to the disposition of strong drink in worship without its consumption by the worshipper. If unable to convince the delighter in 'drinking alcohol for pleasure" otherwise, then I expect integrity would demand that along with the alcoholic consumption that it be done strictly in Jewish worship, with the accompanying animal sacrifices, etc. characteristic of the context of Deuteronomy. However, even that scenario fails to accomplish the drinker's goal as the Old Testament is not now the law of God by which we order our lives and by which we will be judged one day (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Romans 7:6).

1 Corinthians 11:21

"For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken" (1 Corinthians 11:21).

Though the Greek word for drunken here, "methuei," can and may usually refer to inebriation, it is not always used in that sense and it is sometimes used figuratively. Strong's first definition of the word is to "drink well." The commentator Adam Clarke correctly reads the context in which "drunken" appears regarding the contrast posed in 1 Corinthians 11:21 between the haves and the have-nots. "One was hungry, and the other was drunken, methuei (NT:3184), was filled to the full; this is the sense of the word in many places of Scripture." Even if, as some observe, that the Greek word often means intoxicated, remember the context in which 1 Corinthians 11:21 appears is one of condemnation and correction. A circumstance of condemnation and correction, even if alcohol is present, is hardly divine approval for 'drinking alcohol for pleasure.' If persons delighting in 'drinking alcohol for pleasure' cannot be dissuaded by the overabundance of facts to the contrary, I expect that they will out of integrity confine their alcoholic consumption to worshipping God, and in a manner improved over the condemnation of 1 Corinthians 11.

Interestingly, in both test cases above for 'drinking alcohol for pleasure,' the references pertained to worshiping God, rather than the beer joint, keg party and the ilk. Those intent on 'drinking alcohol for pleasure' demonstrate themselves little encumbered by what the Bible has to say about the subject in the first place!Image

Endnotes

1 Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.) 1994.

2 Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database, (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft) 1996.

3 Whitaker, Richard, Editor, The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.

4 Easton, M. G., M. A. D. D., Easton's Bible Dictionary, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1996.

How Many Persons in the Godhead?

By Louis Rushmore

Image Dear Louis! Some time ago I had an religious experience: I closed my eyes and saw a circle of light and knew: this is God. Later I found out that God can be described by a circle: the Holy Ghost is the spirit of truth (John 15:26), truth is the word of God (John 17:17), the word of God is Jesus (John 1:14), Jesus is God (John 10:30), God is a spirit (John 4:24) and the circle is closed. The light is a symbol for love, since it is written: God is light, God is love. So God is one God. This is opposed to the doctrine of the trinity, which depicts God with a triangle. Interestingly the circle is only described in the Gospel of John, the only Gospel which was written by an apostle and which tells us the most about God. ... It looks like as if I am the only one who knows the meaning of the circle... God bless you ~ Ralf Biermann

Religious experience is not authoritative and does not displace biblical truth! All truth was long ago delivered and there are no more revelations from God beyond what we already have in the Bible. "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints"  (Jude 3, ASV). Not even angels from heaven, should they come with more revelations are to be believed (Galatians 1:6-9), and one's closed-eyes sighting of a circle of light and subsequent interpretation is no more credible or divinely permissible.

Further, mishandling of the Word of God respecting who was and who was not an apostle of Christ (John was, but Matthew was not?) demonstrates a need to acquire a basic Bible knowledge, before purporting to delve into the deep things of the Word of God, or for that matter, before attempting to bring to the attention of his fellow man things of which he alone is aware. Though Mark and Luke were not apostles, John AND MATTHEW were apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). It is presumptuous and highly suspicious that someone alone would stumble on a religious truth today that for 2,000 years was unknown ("a circle of light") to any Bible student and apparently not evident in the Scriptures themselves.

Three passages specifically mention the "Godhead" (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). Several passages teach that there are a plural number of persons in the Godhead, beginning with creation references (Genesis 1:26). A number of passages also teach that there are three persons in the Godhead (Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:4-6). Ephesians 4:3 addresses the subject of "unity" and immediately follows it with the introduction of seven "ones," "body," "Spirit," "hope," "Lord," "faith," "baptism" and "God and Father." In primitive, New Testament Christianity, there is one spiritual body -- the church, one Holy Spirit, one hope, one Lord Jesus Christ, one system of faith, one valid baptism (immersion in water for the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-5) and one God the Father, or seven ones. In the vein in which there is one each "body," "hope," "faith" and "baptism," there likewise is one each "Spirit," "Lord" and "Father" -- three persons in the Godhead. Anyone who can count to seven can also count three persons in the Godhead. Another article in the "Archive" of Gospel Gazette Online that ably teaches about the nature of God can be found at http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/2001/may/page10.htm. Additional references on page 2 of this issue of Gospel Gazette Online adequately prove that the Godhead is composed of three divine persons.Image

Image Image Why the King
James Version?

By Louis Rushmore

Louis, I would like your views on recent translations of the Bible in view of the King James Bible. I struggle with the King James version, It's harder for me to understand. I prefer the New International Version because it is in a language i'm more familier with. I know their are many translations, and i'm not interested in an opinion of each of them individually. I defend that I can study what God says to me in the NIV, and all scripture is God breathed, and I trust that what I read is true. I would like your reason for using the King James for all the scriptures you quote. One more time I would like to give you praise for the work you do for the Lord. ~ Bill Suffel

The King James Version of the Bible is among the reliably translated versions of the Bible available today. The American Standard Version (ASV) and the New King James Version (NKJV) are newer than the KJV and also among the most reliable as well as easily understood translations available today. Every translation of the Bible has its weaknesses (the KJV is no exception) and most of the translations also have their strengths, too (as does the KJV). More reference works and original language resources are keyed to, quote or otherwise explain passages in the KJV than any other translation of the Bible in English; so, from a Bible student's perspective, there is much to be said for studying from the KJV.

For decades, and for the foreseeable future, more people are acquainted with and will continue to be acquainted with the KJV than any other translation. This is largely so because of the longtime availability of this translation (in part due to its wide acceptance over the centuries by scholars and other students of the Word) and because so many people now living began reading the KJV when they first picked up a Bible. Especially quotations from and citations of the KJV in articles within Gospel Gazette Online, or in sermons and in religious articles, do not appear without explanation of the passages under review; so, understanding those quotations and citations does not hinder comprehension. Some of the articles that appear in GGO cite other translations (and original language reference works, too) when it specially helps the reader better understand the message.

There has been no archaeological discovery since the translation of the KJV, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, that changes the content or meaning of passages in the KJV. The parade of modern translations, and there are many newer translations and different ways of packaging older translations, has more to do with salesmanship and marketing than it has to do with scholarship or even readability. For instance, the ASV and NKJV appear in contemporary English, and even the KJV's language has been updated from time to time since it was first translated.

Translating methods and the theological biases of the translators have a lot to do with the reliability or lack thereof of the resulting translation of the Bible. If a translating committee attempts to convey from one language to another (English in our case) as closely as possible what the former reads, the translation will prove very useful. The ASV particularly demonstrates this, as it is a literal translation, as much as a word-for-word translation as possible. If a translating committee's theology dismisses confidence in divine, verbal inspiration or does not view the Bible as the final, absolute authority in religion, the translation will fail to adequately convey the mind of God. The NIV is not particularly strong in this regard, but the ASV, on the other hand, can largely be translated from English back into the Greek, which attests to the faithfulness with which it was translated from the Greek to English in the first place.

It is much better to better understand a reliable translation, even if it takes a little effort and earnest study, than to more easily understand a translation of the Bible that may be a little careless in the translating process. However, one can rather opt for a translation of the Bible that is both reliably translated and easily understood (e.g., ASV, NKJV).

Not all translations are created equal, and there is a difference between the originally God-breathed Word of God and the translations from the original languages of the Bible into other languages (such as English). Bible translations are God-breathed and are the Word of God only to the extent that they are reliably translated.Image

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