From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

It may be taken for granted that the wine of the Bible was fermented, and therefore, when taken in excess, intoxicating. Unfermented wine is a modern concept. The ancients had not that knowledge of antiseptic precautions which would have enabled them to preserve the juice of the grape in an unfermented state. It was the inebriating property of wine that constituted the sting of the calumny with which the sanctimonious tried to injure our Lord Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος, οἰνοπότης ( Matthew 11:19,  Luke 7:34). There would have been no scandal in His habitually partaking of a beverage which was never harmful. Christ bade men take heed lest their hearts should be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness (κραιπάλῃ καὶ μέθῃ  Luke 21:34), but He evidently regarded it as possible to draw the line between the use and the abuse of wine. He was not a Nazirite, Rechabite, or Essene. A Palestinian movement against wine and strong drink might conceivably have been begun by the Baptist ( Luke 1:15), but not by Christ. His religion was not in its essence a system of ascetic negations; it was much more than one of the ‘creeds which deny and restrain.’ In His time and country, drunkenness, however pernicious in individual cases, could not be regarded as one of the deadly national sins.

‘Orientals are not inclined to intemperance. The warm climate very quickly makes it a cause of discomfort and disease’ (Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs , 1898, p. 46). Moreover, ‘the wines of Palestine may be assumed on the whole not to have exceeded the strength of an ordinary claret’ (A. R. S. Kennedy, Encyclopaedia Biblica iv. 5319).

It was Gentile rather than Jewish wine-drinking habits that Apostolic Christianity had to combat, and Bacchus (Dionysus) was notoriously one of the most powerful of the gods of Greece and Home. The apostles did not fight against the social customs of pagan nations with a new legalism. It was not the Christian but the Judaizer or the Gnostic who repeated the parrot-cry, ‘Handle not, taste not, touch not.’ Christianity goes to work in a wholly different manner. It relies on the power of great positive truths. It creates a passion for high things which deadens the taste for low things. Its distinction is that it makes every man a legislator to himself. The inordinate use of wine and strong drink becomes morally impossible for a Christian, not because there is an external law which forbids it, but because his own enlightened conscience condemns it. St. Paul does not say to the Roman Christians, ‘Let us walk lawfully, not in revelling and drunkenness,’ but ‘Let us walk becomingly’ (εὐσχημόνως,  Romans 13:13). This means that there is a beautiful new σχῆμα, or ideal of conduct, of which every man becomes enamoured when he accepts the Christ in whom it is embodied. Thereafter he feels, with a shuddering repulsion, how ill it would become him to walk in ‘revelling and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness.’ He abjures the thought of being at once spiritual and sensual. Having put on the Lord Jesus Christ, he cannot continue to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts.

It is true that the moral verdicts of the Christian are not always immediate and sure. ‘Manifest are the works of the flesh,’ wrote St. Paul, naming among them ‘drunkenness’ (μέθαι,  Galatians 5:19;  Galatians 5:21), but they were far from being so manifest to all his converts. The Christian conscience needed to be educated, the spiritual taste to be cultivated. At Corinth the ἀγάπη, or love-feast, which ended in the Lord’s Supper, all too readily degenerated into something not very unlike the banquets in the idol-temples. ‘One is hungry, and another is drunken’ (μεθύει,  1 Corinthians 11:21). ‘Paul paints the scene in strong colours; but who would be warranted in saying that the reality fell at all short of the description?’ (Meyer, Com. in loc. ). It has always been one of the enchantments of Bacchus and Comus to make their devotees glory in their shame, so that they

‘Not once perceive their foul disfigurement,

Bat boast themselves more comely than before’

(Milton, Comus , 74f.).

That this is true of the vulgar and of the educated alike, both in pagan and in Christian times, is attested not only by a thousand drinking-songs but by the orgies of the ‘Symposium’ and the ‘Noctes Ambrosiamae.’ Yet even Omar Khayyam, after all his praise of the Vine, is obliged to confess that he has ‘drowned his glory in a shallow cup’; and, in the light of Christianity, drunkenness stands condemned as a sin against the body which is a ‘member of Christ.’

Christianity is a religion of principles, not of rules, and in  Romans 14:21 St. Paul states a principle which justifies any kind and thoughtful man, apart from considerations of personal safety and happiness, in becoming an abstainer. In doing this the Apostle is far from imposing a new yoke of bondage. He does not categorically say to the Christian, ‘Thou shalt not drink wine,’ but he reasons that it is good (καλόν)-it is a beautiful morale -in certain conditions and from certain motives, to abstain. There was evidently a tendency among Christian liberals, who rightly gloried in their free evangelical position, to say, ‘If men will pervert and abuse our example, we cannot help it; the fault is their own, and they must bear the consequences.’ St. Paul, the freest of all, sees a more excellent way, and chooses to walk in it, though he does not exercise his apostolic authority to command others to follow him. What is his own liberty to drink a little wine in comparison with the temporal safety and eternal salvation of thousands who are unable to use the same freedom without stumbling? He cannot-no man can-live merely unto himself, and he would sooner be so far a Nazirite or an Essene than do anything to hurt a brother.

It is noticeable that there was never any organized movement in the Apostolic or post-Apostolic Church against the use of strong drink. Many of the Fathers, following the example of Philo-who wrote a book περὶ μέθης on  Genesis 9:21 -dealt with the subject at length. Clement, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine all preached moderation to every one and abstinence to some. But neither the apostles nor the Fathers ever dreamed of seeking legislation for the prohibition or even the restriction of the sale and use of intoxicating liquors. Since their time two things-the discovery or distilled liquors in the 13th cent., and the trend of civilization northward-have greatly altered the conditions of the problem.

‘Extremists now place all alcohol-containing drinks under the same ban, but fermented liquors are still generally held to be comparatively innocuous; nor can any one deny that there is a difference. It is safe to say that if spirits had never been discovered the history of the question would have been entirely different’ (A. Shadwell, Encyclopaedia Britannica 11 xxvi. 578). ‘The evils which it is desired to check are mach greater in some countries than in others.… The inhabitants of south Europe are much less given to alcoholic excess than those of central Europe, who again are more temperate than those of the north’ ( ib. xvi. 759).

Just where the temptations to drunkenness are greatest, the Apostle’s principle of self-denial for the sake of others is evidently the highest ethic. No drunkard can ‘inherit the Kingdom of God’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:10), and the task of Christian churches and governments is ‘to make it easy for men to do good and difficult for them to do evil.’

Since, however, it is notoriously impossible to make men sober merely by legislation, the main factors in the problem must always be moral and religions. The Apostolic Church found the true solution. The Christians who were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost were mockingly said to be filled with wine (γλεῦκος,  Acts 2:13, perhaps ‘sweet wine’; not ‘new wine,’ as Pentecost took place eight months after the vintage). St. Peter tried to convince the multitude that it was not a sensual but a spiritual intoxication, and St. Paul gives to all Christians the remarkable counsel, ‘Be not drunken with wine, wherein is dissoluteness (ἀσωτία; cf. ἀσώτως in  Luke 15:13), but be filled with the Spirit’ ( Ephesians 5:18). It is presupposed that every man naturally craves some form of exhilaration, loving to have his feelings excited, his imagination fired, his spirit thrilled. And drunkenness is the perversion of a true instinct. It is the fool’s way of drowning care and rising victorious over the ills of life. Intoxication is the tragic parody of inspiration. What every man needs is a spiritual enthusiasm which completely diverts his thoughts from the pursuit of sensuous excitement, on the psychological principle that two conflicting passions cannot dominate the mind at the same time. That enthusiasm is the gift of the Divine Spirit.

The injunction to Timothy to be no longer a water-drinker (μηκέτι ὑδροπότει) but to use a little wine ( 1 Timothy 5:23) is now generally regarded as post-Pauline. It is ‘evidently, in the context in which it stands, not merely a sanitary but quite as much a moral precept, and thus implies that Timothy had himself begun to abjure wine on grounds of personal sanctity’ (F. J. A. Hort, Judaistic Christianity , 1894, p. 144). The words were probably written about the time of the first appearance of the Encratites ( Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics v. 301), who made abstinence from flesh, wine, and marriage the chief part of their religion, seeking salvation not by faith but by asceticism. Water-drinking thus for a time became associated with a dcadly error. This was a situation in which Christians felt it to be their duty to assert their right to use what they regarded as the creature and gift of God ( 1 Timothy 4:4-5). See, further, articleAbstinence.

James Strahan.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

 Genesis 9:21  1 Samuel 25:36 1 Kings 16:9-10 1 Kings 20:16 Psalm 69:12 Job 12:25 Psalm 107:27 Jeremiah 25:27 Joel 1:5 Proverbs 23:20-21 Proverbs 26:9 Isaiah 28:1-9 Isaiah 49:26 Isaiah 51:21-22 Jeremiah 25:27-29 Ezekiel 39:17-20

The Jewish leaders tried to discredit Jesus, saying He was a drunkard ( Matthew 11:19 ). Jesus warned that the cares of life may lead to anxiety and drunkenness ( Luke 21:34 ). Paul repeatedly warned against the dangers of drunkenness ( Romans 13:13;  1 Corinthians 5:11;  Galatians 5:21;  1 Thessalonians 5:7 ). Timothy  1 Thessalonians 3:3 and   Titus 1:7 warn church leaders they must not be drunkards. Drunkenness is a pagan custom, not a Christian one (  1 Peter 4:3 ). Drunkards are among these who will not “inherit the kingdom of God” ( 1 Corinthians 6:10 ).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [3]

Is referred to in the Bible both in single instances and as a habit. Its folly is often illustrated,  Psalm 107:27   Isaiah 19:14   24:20   28:7,8 , its guilt denounced,  Isaiah 5:22 , its ill results traced,  1 Samuel 25:36   1 Kings 16:9   20:16 , and its doom shown,  1 Corinthians 6:9,10 . It is produced by wine,  Genesis 9:21   21:33   Jeremiah 23:9   Ephesians 5:18 , as well as by "strong drink,"  1 Samuel 1:13-15   Isaiah 5:11 . Hence the use of these was forbidden to the priests at the altar,  Leviticus 10:9; and all are cautioned to avoid them,  Proverbs 20:1   23:20 . To tempt others to drunkenness is a sin accursed of God,  2 Samuel 11:13   Habakkuk 2:15,16 . Its prevalence in a community is inseparable from the habitual use of any inebriating liquor. Hence the efforts made by the wise and good to secure abstinence from all intoxicating drinks,  1 Corinthians 8:13 . See Wine .

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [4]

Intoxication with strong liquor. It is either actual or habitual; just as it is one thing to be drunk, and another to be a drunkard. The evil of drunkenness appears in the following bad effects:

1. It betrays most constitutions either to extravagance of anger, or sins of lewdness.

2. It disqualifies men for the duties of their station, both by the temporary disorder of their faculties, and at length by a constant incapacity and stupefaction.

3. It is attended with expense, which can often be ill spared.

4. It is sure to occasion uneasiness to the family of the drunkard.

5. It shortens life.

6. It is a most pernicious awful example to others.

7. It is hardly ever cured.

8. It is a violation of God's word,  Proverbs 20:1 .  Ephesians 5:18 . Is. 5: 11.  Romans 13:13 . "The appetite for intoxicating liquor appears to me, " says Paley, "to be almost always acquired. One proof of which is, that it is apt to return only at particular times and places; as after dinner, in the evening, on the market-day, in such a company, at such a tavern." How careful, then, should we be, lest we form habits of this kind, or choose company who are addicted to it; how cautious and circumspect should we act, that we be not found guilty of a sin which degrades human nature, banishes reason, insults God, and exposes us to the greatest evils! Paley's Mor. Phil. vol. 2: ch. 2. Flavel's Works, vol. 2: p. 349; Buck's anecdotes, vol. 1: p. 82, 4rth edition; Lamont's Ser., vol. 1: ser. 15, 16.

King James Dictionary [5]


1. Intoxication inebriation a state in which a person is overwhelmed or overpowered with spirituous liquors, so that his reason is disordered, and he reels or staggers in walking. Drunkenness renders some persons stupid, others gay, others sullen, others furious.

Let us walk honestly as in the day not in rioting and drunkenness.

2. Habitually ebriety or intoxication. 3. Disorder of the faculties resembling intoxication by liquors inflammation frenzy rage.

Passion is the drunkenness of the mind.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

One of the common sins of mankind. We read of it as early as Noah.  Genesis 9:21 . Its grave character is shown in the N.T. by the drunkard being classed along with fornicators, thieves, idolaters, etc., and the declaration that no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God.  1 Corinthians 5:11;  1 Corinthians 6:10 .

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): ( n.) Disorder of the faculties, resembling intoxication by liquors; inflammation; frenzy; rage.

(2): ( n.) The state of being drunken with, or as with, alcoholic liquor; intoxication; inebriety; - used of the casual state or the habit.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [8]

DRUNKENNESS . See Wine and Strong Drink.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

drunk ´' n - nes ( רוה , rāweh , שׁכּרון , shikkārōn , שׁתי , shethı̄  ; μέθη , méthē ):

I. Its Prevalance

The Bible affords ample proof that excessive drinking of intoxicants was a common vice among the Hebrews, as among other ancient peoples. This is evident not only from individual cases of intoxication, as Noah ( Genesis 9:21 ), Lot ( Genesis 19:33 ,  Genesis 19:15 ), Nabal ( 1 Samuel 25:36 ), Uriah made drunk by David ( 2 Samuel 11:13 ), Amnon ( 2 Samuel 13:28 ), Elah, king of Israel ( 1 Kings 16:9 ), Benhadad, king of Syria, and his confederates ( 1 Kings 20:16 ), Holofernes (Judith 13:2), etc., but also from frequent references to drunkenness as a great social evil. Thus, Amos proclaims judgment on the voluptuous and dissolute rulers of Samaria "that drink wine in (large) bowls" ( Amos 6:6 ), and the wealthy ladies who press their husbands to join them in a carousal ( Amos 4:1 ); he also complains that this form of self-indulgence was practiced even at the expense of the poor and under the guise of religion, at the sacrificial meals ( Amos 2:8; see also  Isaiah 5:11 ,  Isaiah 5:12 ,  Isaiah 5:22;  Isaiah 28:1-8;  Isaiah 56:11 f). Its prevalence is also reflected in many passages in the New Testament (e.g.   Matthew 24:49;  Luke 21:34;  Acts 2:13 ,  Acts 2:15;  Ephesians 5:18;  1 Thessalonians 5:7 ). Paul complains that at Corinth even the love-feast of the Christian church which immediately preceded the celebration of the Eucharist, was sometimes the scene of excessive drinking ( 1 Corinthians 11:21 ). It must, however, be noted that it is almost invariably the well-to-do who are charged with this vice in the Bible. There is no evidence to prove that it prevailed to any considerable extent among the common people. Intoxicants were then an expensive luxury, beyond the reach of the poorer classes. See Drink , Strong .

II. Its Symptoms and Effects

These are most vividly portrayed: (1) some of its physical symptoms ( Job 12:25;  Psalm 107:27;  Proverbs 23:29;  Isaiah 19:14;  Isaiah 28:8;  Isaiah 29:9;  Jeremiah 25:16 ); (2) its mental effects: exhilaration ( Genesis 43:34 ), jollity and mirth (1 Esdras 3:20), forgetfulness (1 Esdras 3:20), loss of understanding and balance of judgment ( Isaiah 28:7;  Hosea 4:11 ); (3) its effects on man's happiness and prosperity: its immediate effect is to make one oblivious of his misery; but ultimately it "biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder," and leads to woe and sorrow ( Proverbs 23:29-32 ) and to poverty ( Proverbs 23:21; compare  Proverbs 21:17; Ecclesiasticus 19:1); hence, wine is called a "mocker" deceiving the unwise ( Proverbs 20:1 ); (4) its moral and spiritual effects: it leads to a maladministration of justice ( Proverbs 31:5;  Isaiah 5:23 ), provokes anger and a contentious, brawling spirit ( Proverbs 20:1;  Proverbs 23:29; 1 Esdras 3:22; Ecclesiasticus 31:26, 29 f), and conduces to a profligate life ( Ephesians 5:18; "riot," literally, profligacy). It is allied with gambling and licentiousness ( Joel 3:3 ), and indecency ( Genesis 9:21 f). Above all, it deadens the spiritual sensibilities, produces a callous indifference to religious influences and destroys all serious thought (  Isaiah 5:12 ).

III. Attitude of the Bible to the Drink Question

Intemperance is condemned in uncompromising terms by the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as by the semi-canonical writings. While total abstinence is not prescribed as a formal and universal rule, broad principles are laid down, especially in the New Testament, which point in that direction.

1. In the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, intemperance is most repugnant to the stern ethical rigorism of the prophets, as well as to the more utilitarian sense of propriety of the "wisdom" writers. As might be expected, the national conscience was but gradually quickened to the evil of immoderate drinking. In the narratives of primitive times, excessive indulgence, or at least indulgence to the point of exhilaration, is mentioned without censure as a natural thing, especially on festive occasions (as in  Genesis 43:34 the Revised Version, margin). But a conscience more sensitive to the sinfulness of overindulgence was gradually developed, and is reflected in the denunciations of the prophets and the warning of the wise men (compare references under I and II, especially   Isaiah 5:11 f,22;   Isaiah 28:1-8;  Proverbs 23:29-33 ). Nowhere is the principle of total abstinence inculcated as a rule applicable to all. In particular cases it was recognized as a duty. Priests while on duty in the sanctuary were to abstain from wine and strong drink ( Leviticus 10:9; compare  Ezekiel 44:21 ). Nazirites were to abstain from all intoxicants during the period of their vows ( Numbers 6:3 f; compare   Amos 2:12 ), yet not on account of the intoxicating qualities of wine, but because they represented the simplicity of the older pastoral life, as against the Canaanite civilization which the vine symbolized (W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel , 84 f). So also the Rechabites abstained from wine ( Jeremiah 35:6 ,  Jeremiah 35:8 ,  Jeremiah 35:14 ) and social conveniences, because they regarded the nomadic life as more conducive to Yahweh-worship than agricultural and town life, with its temptations to Baal-worship. In Daniel and his comrades we have another instance of voluntary abstinence ( Daniel 1:8-16 ). These, however, are isolated instances. Throughout the Old Testament the use of wine appears as practically universal, and its value is recognized as a cheering beverage ( Judges 9:13;  Psalm 104:15;  Proverbs 31:7 ), which enables the sick to forget their pains ( Proverbs 31:6 ). Moderation, however, is strongly inculcated and there are frequent warnings against the temptation and perils of the cup.

2. Deutero-Canonical and Extra-Canonical Writings

In Apocrypha, we have the attitude of prudence and common sense, but the prophetic note of stern denunciation is wanting. The path of wisdom is the golden mean. "Wine is as good as life to men, if thou drink it in its measure;... wine drunk in season and to satisfy is joy of heart, and gladness of soul: wine drunk largely is bitterness of soul, with provocation and conflict" (Ecclesiasticus 31:27-30 the Revised Version (British and American)). A vivid picture of the effects of wine-drinking is given in 1 Esdras. 3:18-24. Stronger teaching on the subject is given in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. The use of wine is permitted to him who can use it temperately, but abstinence is enjoined as the wiser course (Testament to the Twelve Patriarchs, Jud 1:16:3).

3. In the New Testament

In the New Testament, intemperance is treated as a grave sin. Only once, indeed, does our Lord explicitly condemn drunkenness ( Luke 21:34 ), though it is implicitly condemned in other passages ( Matthew 24:49 =   Luke 12:45 ). The meagerness of the references in our Lord's teaching is probably due to the fact already mentioned, that it was chiefly prevalent among the wealthy, and not among the poorer classes to whom our Lord mainly ministered. The references in Paul's writings are very numerous ( Galatians 5:21;  Ephesians 5:18 , et al.). Temperance and sobriety in all things are everywhere insisted on (e.g.  Acts 24:25;  Galatians 5:23;  2 Peter 1:6 ). A bishop and those holding honorable position in the church should not be addicted to wine ( 1 Timothy 3:2 f;   Titus 1:7 f;   Titus 2:2 f). Yet Jesus and His apostles were not ascetics, and the New Testament gives no rough-and-ready prohibition of strong drink on principle. In contrast with John the Baptist, who was a Nazirite from birth (  Luke 1:15 ), Jesus was called by His enemies a "wine-bibber" ( Matthew 11:19 ). He took part in festivities in which wine was drunk ( John 2:10 ). There are indications that He regarded wine as a source of innocent enjoyment ( Luke 5:38 f;   Luke 17:8 ). To insist on a distinction between intoxicating and unfermented wine is a case of unjustifiable special pleading. It must be borne in mind that the drink question is far more complex and acute in modern than in Biblical times, and that the conditions of the modern world have given rise to problems which were not within the horizon of New Testament writers. The habit of excessive drinking has spread enormously among the common people, owing largely to the cheapening of alcoholic drinks. The fact that the evil exists today in greater proportions may call for a drastic remedy and a special crusade. But rather than defend total abstinence by a false or forced exegesis, it were better to admit that the principle is not formally laid down in the New Testament, while maintaining that there are broad principles enunciated, which in view of modern conditions should lead to voluntary abstinence from all intoxicants. Such principles may be found, e.g. in our Lord's teaching in  Matthew 16:24 f;   Mark 9:42 f, and in the great Pauline passages -   Romans 14:13-21;  1 Corinthians 8:8-13 .

IV. Drunkenness in Metaphor

Drunkenness very frequently supplies Biblical writers with striking metaphors and similes. Thus, it symbolizes intellectual or spiritual perplexity ( Job 12:25;  Isaiah 19:14;  Jeremiah 23:9 ), bewilderment and helplessness under calamity ( Jeremiah 13:13;  Ezekiel 23:33 ). It furnishes a figure for the movements of sailors on board ship in a storm ( Psalm 107:27 ), and for the convulsions of the earth on the day of Yahweh ( Isaiah 24:20 ). Yahweh's "cup of staggering" is a symbol of affliction, the fury of the Lord causing stupor and confusion ( Isaiah 51:17-23; compare  Isaiah 63:6;  Jeremiah 25:15;  Ezekiel 23:33;  Psalm 75:8 ). The sword and the arrow are said to be sodden with drink like a drunkard with wine ( Deuteronomy 32:42;  Jeremiah 46:10 ). In the Apocalypse, Babylon (i.e. Rome) is portrayed under the figure of a "great harlot" who makes kings "drunken with the wine of her fornication"; and who is herself "drunken with the blood of the saints, and ... of the martyrs of Jesus" ( Revelation 17:2 ,  Revelation 17:6 ).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

Denunciations of this vice are contained both in the Old and New Testakment. St. Paul expressly includes drunkards among those who shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. This vice became peculiarly shameless at Rome about the time of the Christian aera. The surrounding nations, too, were drunkards.. Drunken shabits were to afford a presumption against a person accused before the Church courts. Still, the vice flourished among the Christians. Jerome warns the priests never to smell of wine. Revellings and drunkenness were deemed allowable in commemorating the martyrs. The first distinct Church enactment against drunkenness appears in the canons of the Council of Tours. The West, however, seems to have been the chief home of gluttony and drunkenness. A canon of the Council of Autun, A.D. 670, enacted that no gluttonous or drunken priest should touch the sacrament or say the mass under pain of losing his dignity. The Council of Berkhamstead enacted that if a priest be so drunk that he cannot fulfil his office he should be deposed by the bishop. In regard to drunkenness in the Church in Britain, Boniface says: "It is also said in your parishes drunkenness is a too common evil, so that not only do the bishops not forbid it, but themselves, drinking too much, become intoxicated, and compel others to do so, offering them larger beakers." In the Carlovingian period civil penalties or disabilities began to be inflicted for drunkenness. (See Temperance).