Temperance Movement Errors
By Curt Wildy
Introduction and Review
I am taking a moment to address what I believe to be the errors of those who hold to total abstinence (temperance). I am taking a stance on wine (fermented and formerly leavened grape juice) not because I want people to drink, or because I feel some need to defend myself, but because I want to defend the blood. As my series on the matter evidences, wine (the fully fermented juice of the grape) is a type of the atoning blood of Christ because the juice of the grape started off pure (typifying Christ as the Lamb without spot or blemish); mixed with the leaven naturally and commonly found on the skin of the grape, when crushed (a picture of our sins being laid on Christ and Him being crushed, bruised, under the wrath of God); began to become something it was not as the sin/leaven killed much of the natural sugars (a picture of Christ being made sin for us and enduring the effects of our sin under divine judgment); the leaven/sin is killed by the wine due to the high alcoholic content resulting from the fermentation process (a picture of Christ putting to death our sins as he endured the “heat, turmoil, and trouble” associated with divine judgment as typified by fermentation); carbon dioxide is created and eventually released during this process (a picture of the vapour of sin being seen no more due to the finished work of Christ as He put our sins away as far as the east is from the west); and the filtration process removes the dregs, the dead leaven and other substances, from the wine (a type of all sin being forever put away as Christ drank the dregs dry on our behalf). What started off as pure grape juice that can be leavened turned into the atoning wine/blood that not only kills the leaven, but cannot be leavened again (so long as the fermentation process was complete; which, in Christ’s case, it was — even unto complete and total divine satisfaction).
As discussed in Part Two of my series on the matter, wine is almost always used in the Bible to indicate an intoxicating drink (when drunk in excess). The very root of at least two of the most important words for wine means to ferment and to effervesce (from the gas released during fermentation). You cannot have words for wine, whose very roots directly relate to fermentation, and whose first use directly pertains to intoxicating drink (see Noah and Lot), and make it plain grape juice whenever it suits one’s (mostly post 1820 A.D.) temperance preferences. Contrary to how many in our day want to view it, no one is going to criticise Jesus for drinking too much plain grape juice. Gluttony is a sin addressed in the Bible… but who ever heard of the sin of drinking too much plain grape juice. Likewise, most anyone who has even looked at winemaking in a cursory fashion knows that the new wine ferments, releases carbon dioxide gas, and thus will break old bottles. This new wine, had to have been alcoholic in nature. To argue otherwise goes against all objective thought on the matter, as well as almost all commentaries written before the mid 1800’s. It was only after the temperance movement started in the 1830’s that the tide of writings started to turn against the majority stance (the moderation stance) held for thousands of years.
William Patton’s “Bible Wines: The Laws of Fermentation and The Wine of the Ancients”
Perhaps the most prominent anti-moderation (pro-abstinence) book around is the “Reverend” William Patton D.D.’s book titled “Bible Wines: The Laws of Fermentation and The Wine of the Ancients.” Please note that this book was published by the “National Temperance Society And Publication House;” the risk of bias should be evident by the name alone. Unlike those who have a strong regional sanctification need to prohibit the moderate consumption of wine, those who see the fully fermented juice of the grape as a type of the atoning blood of Christ see no harm in the moderate and wise consumption of it (so long as it is not knowingly partaken of in front of the weaker brethren, alcoholics, etc.). One partakes of the physical wine wisely and unto God as a type of one partaking of the spiritual wine wisely and unto God.
Nonetheless, returning to Mr. Patton’s book, there is an excellent refutation of it available. If you can get past the rather lengthy (and slightly less than fully edifying) intro, you may want to read Part One and Part Two of John McLean’s refutation of the Bacchus and Anti-Bacchus essays. Mr. Patton’s book , published in 1874, drew heavily from these two essays (they were published decades before his book was). Mr. McLean’s refutation was published in the Princeton Review in April and October 1841; this is over thirty years before Mr. Patton’s book. Mr. Patton was either unaware of, or didn’t care about, these very convincing counter-arguments.
Another good reference you can use to refute Mr. Patton’s book is the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. Although it does not give much detail on the matter, it shows the majority of Rabbinical thought on the subject. Similarly, you may want to simply check with just about any Orthodox Jew you run into since the vast majority of them will affirm the reality that wine made from the fully fermented juice of the grape is not leavened (since the leaven is dead and the dregs removed). In fact, the majority of Orthodox Jews use alcoholic wine during their Pesach (Passover) festivities — and that, uncut with water. Edersheim claims that the Mishnah teaches that the wine was cut with water to reduce the intoxicating effects; however, many Orthodox Jews would clearly disagree.
Moreover, as you review Mr. Patton’s book (if you choose to do so), please note that he did not address the law of first use in the Bible as it pertains to these key words. He surely did not break down, as I have tried to do, the clear relation between the fermentation process and the fiery atonement Christ endured (this relationship being based upon the key words — their definitions and scriptural use).
The Weight Of The Commentary Evidence
Note also that (1) Smith’s Bible Dictionary, (2) Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, (3) Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (4) The Morrish Bible Dictionary, (5) Vine’s Complete Old Testament Expository Dictionary, (6) Richard Watson’s “A Biblical and Theological Dictionary;” (7) The Biblica Encyclopaedia (Cheyne & Black); (8) Matthew Henry’s Commentary; (9) Matthew Poole’s Commentary; (10) Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament; (11) John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible; (12) Jamieson Faussett Brown’s Bible Commentary Critical and Explanatory; (13) The Geneva Bible’s commentary; (14) Robert Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary; (15) Zodhiates’ The Complete Word Study Dictionary (New Testament); and (16) the writings of Luther, Watson, Calvin, Bunyan, Spurgeon, Beebe, and a whole host of other Reformed, Puritan, and (Predestinarian) non-conformist writers (mentioned for historic context) all affirm the reality that wine was generally viewed as the fermented juice of the grape and that moderate and wise consumption of it was not ungodly (in fact, as per Psalm 104, it was a blessing).
To ignore (or discount) the great weight of all such writers, to impugn their motives for writing as they did, and to prefer the debunked works of men like Patton, Parson, and others within the Temperance movement (all of whom had a non-biblical bias against moderate use), is a significant error in my opinion. I prefer to stick with the weight of (1) the biblical word meanings; (2) their context; (3) the law of first use; and (4) the weight of history as evidence by such commentaries and other historical documents (untwisted) as mentioned above.
For a good web source on the subject, see Wine and the Bible: Origin of the “Two Wine Theory”
The point remains that some writings will advocate moderation and others, especially in our day, total abstinence; did God leave it up to the best extra-biblical commentaries to decide? I do not think so. I am convinced that if we abide by the following principles, we will not likely go astray:
- Use multiple available resources to find the consensus/majority definition of the key Greek and Hebrews words;
- Use such resources to review the root words from whence they (and sibling words) derive;
- Review the biblical context wherein the root, derivative, and sibling words are found;
- Follow the the law of first use as a guiding principle;
- Be mindful of the figurative/parabolic nature of the words and their use; and
- Be mindful of eras, especially modern times, when secular and false-religious movements greatly impacted previously held interpretations.
Nonetheless, if you do not wish to drink wine, please don’t. I cannot stress enough that I have no desire to encourage anyone to go out and buy a glass or bottle of wine. I could not care less if anyone drinks or abstains from drinking wine. What I care about is the atoning blood of Christ. He and His great doings must be our constant focus and our doctrines must give all of the glory to Him. This is why I will adamantly and dogmatically defend the clear and evident truth that wine (formerly leavened, fermented grape juice) typifies the atoning blood of our Lord as He was put through the fire (fermentation) of divine judgment and our leaven, our sins, were forever put ‘to death’ and put away – as He drank the cup, even the dregs, of God’s fury and indignation dry.
To the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Great and Mighty Substitute, be the glory — in all things!