Title & Purpose

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.

All quotations from the Scriptures will be from the Authorised Version - the best and most accurate English translation of the Scriptures.

Please see sermons down the left hand column of the Blog about why the Authorised Version is the best and most accurate English translation of the Scriptures

and why we reject the many perversions of the Scriptures, including those so beloved of many neo-evangelicals at present such as ESV & NKJV.

Beware of the Errors in The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible! 
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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible justifies drinking alcohol, Part 2

This Blog post is a continuation of a previous article on The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible justifying drinking booze.

The statement in 'The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible' notes, attached to Genesis 9, reads: Beware of the danger of drunkenness. We personally need to be very careful with strong drink. It is a stumbling block to many. Alcoholic drink is not wrong per se, but the Bible does clearly teach that drunkenness makes one unaware of what is happening. We must not misuse our bodies. Drunkennes is often linked to immorality and unseemly behavior. Therefore, respect the civil laws limiting alcohol consumption and guard yourself against ever becomimg intoxicated. [Emphasis mine]

In reading the Study Bible's commentary, in this place, the following points need commenting upon: 
1. "Alcoholic drink is not wrong per se".
2. Readers are to find out and then respect the local civil laws limiting alcohol consumption.
3. A Christian is only to be on their guard against being caught breaking the law on alcohol consumption and drunkenness.
4. This view of alcohol is a suitable subject for teaching at family worship, where children are present.

This Blog post deals with the first of these points:

1. "Alcoholic drink is not wrong per se". This is a most foolish and reckless statement for anyone to make. This statement is questionable on three counts:

(i). The general warnings that the rest of Scripture gives about alcohol
These are not statements only directed at strong drink, or only at drunkenness, but at the imbibing of wine generally. You would be hard pushed to reconcile this statement in 'The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible' with what the Word of God says in the following sample passages:
Leviticus 10:8-11: And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 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: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.

Proverbs 20:1: Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. You don't have to be drunk to be mocked and deceived by wine! One drink impairs your judgement.

Proverbs 23:29-32: Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder;

Proverbs 31:4,5: 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.

Isaiah 5:22: Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink;

Habakkuk 2:15,16: Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD’S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.

We could also add some other New Testament passages such as:
Romans 14:21: It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

Romans 12:9: Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:22: Abstain from all appearance of evil.

In light of these verses how could it be truthfully said that: Alcoholic drink is not wrong per se?

Alcohol consumption, and the alcohol industry, are a present day evil. Alcohol is a drug, a highly addictive substance. It is more abused than any other substance known to man. To make such a wide sweeping statement that: Alcoholic drink is not wrong per se, seems most foolish. In my opinion someone is seeking to justify a predetermined position with such a statement, and/or push an agenda!

As stated by the Free Presbyterian Church of North America, in their booklet entitled: Separated unto the Gospel:
Our country is sinking in an ocean of alcohol. This is the major form of drug addiction in the land. Alcohol is killing its millions. To seek to bear an effective witness to this drink-sodden generation while we ourselves indulge is akin to preaching to a drug addict while we use marijuana, "in moderation" of course! After all, it is nowhere specifically prohibited in Scripture!

Sadly, these words could easily be used to refer to the United Kingdom* as well. [*see end of article]

How can alcohol be described as the major form of drug addiction in the land and to be killing its millions, and then for this Study Bible to say: Alcoholic drink is not wrong per se? Alcoholic drink is a most wicked evil and a blight upon society!

(ii). There is no comparison between the strength of alcohol in the Bible and the strength of alcohol today
We are talking about two entirely different substances. Therefore, the Bible, cannot honestly be used to justify the consumption of alcohol today. Those passages of Scripture which may point to the partaking of alcoholic wine cannot be employed to pass comment upon, or worse still, justify, drinking the booze of today. 

It is wholly wrong to take statements of Scripture which refer to a weak, watered down substance, used in Bible times, and apply those same statements to a substance which today is manifold times stronger in its potency, and seldom ever watered down. To do so is void of logic, and it is being disingenuous. 

The alcohol content of wine in Bible times was weak. The highest achievable alcohol content produced by natural fermentation is around 15%. To make wine, the winemaker needs to crush the grapes, releasing the sugary juice and exposing it to the wild yeasts living on the skin of the grape. Fermentation will continue until all the sugar has been turned into alcohol, or the level of alcohol in the juice reaches around 15%, whichever is sooner. At around 15% alcohol content, the yeasts will die naturally and any left over sugars will remain in the wine. As conventionally grown grapes have little or no wild yeast living on their skin the natural alcohol content will struggle to reach this upper limit. 

Natural fermentation was the only process available during Bible times. Therefore, in Bible times, wine was not normally fermented anywhere near this level of 15%, because of the lack of natural yeast on the surface of the grape and also because of the unpleasant taste produced by the bacteria which could not be eliminated. This bacteria turned the sugar into vinegar. 

In reality, much of what might be classed as wine, was not wine in the real sense. Real wine needs to  undergo 'anaerobic fermentation', which involves oxygen and air being shut off to the grape juice. As can be readily understood, this was very difficult to do in normal circumstances, hence the alcohol content was weak, possibly as low as 5% or even less.

Alcoholic wine in the Bible, then, was a substance with a strength of less than 15%, and most likely a lot less, possibly as low as 5% and maybe even lower than this.

For this reason wine in the Bible was mingled with other substances to increase its potency, cf. Proverbs 23:30. This bears testimony to its weak natural state. 

The alcohol in Bible times was also watered down, or 'mingled'. It was the custom, according to Scripture evidence, and Rabbinical writings, to water the wine. Various ratios have been cited. Different ancient writers have given different ratios, ranging from 1 part alcohol - to 20 parts water. Other have given a ratio of 2-5.

Consider Proverbs 9:2,5. Speaking of wisdom personified this portion says: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table; Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. This was a reference to the common practice of diluting wine. It is certainly not referring to the adding of stronger substances to wine for the purposes of becoming drunk. It is worth noticing here that wisdom was associated with watered down, weak alcohol. A lesson indeed for the drinkers of booze today!

In Revelation 14:10 the wrath of God is likened to wine being poured out. However, contrary to the normal practice, God's wrath will be poured out without mixture. The verse reads: The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.

Wine was also mixed with milk in Bible times to create a luxurious drink, cf. Song of Solomon 5:1:… I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

These facts, about wine being diluted, are borne out by noticing that one of the words for a ‘drunkard’ in the Old Testament means 'to drink heavily or largely'. One way of becoming drunk was to imbibe a large quantity of alcohol, and thereby become intoxicated. 

This begs a few questions of those Christians who argue for license to drink today: is this how they consume their alcohol? Is it low in strength to begin with, and even then watered down? Hardly likely!!

Contrast alcohol in Bible times with that of modern times. Alcohol today has a much higher potency. It was around the 12th century, and onward, that Western societies discovered the technique of alcohol distillation. But even then alcohol remained a medication, reserved for the use of physicians and apothecaries. It was not until the 15th century that alcohol was produced for general consumption.

Even wines were soon to boast a higher alcohol content due to another process discovered by one of Napoleon’s minister’s of state. 'Chaptalization' is a way of boosting the level of alcohol in wine by adding sugar to the juice during fermentation. The technique is named after Napoleon's minister for agriculture, a man called Jean Antoine Chaptal, 1756–1832, who is said to have invented the process.

These developments ushered in a massive change in the potency and availability of alcohol. The top level strength of alcohol changed from a maximum of around 15% up to 40% for spirits, and even as high, in some cases, as 75%, today.

How unlike Bible times. The whole character of alcohol today has therefore changed drastically. There is certainly little or no watering of the alcohol of today, as they did in Bible times. The stronger the better is often the maxim! The Alcohol of today is an evil thing! Never mind beginning to consider the evils of the booze industry. It is the one industry that never advertises its best customers! The best customers of the booze industry are sadly lying in the gutter!!!

This is why the Temperance Movement started among Christians. Here is what Rev Thomas Hamilton, in his History of Presbyterianism in Ireland, had to say about the commencement of the Temperance Movement:
The year 1829 saw the birth in Ireland of a movement which has been productive of untold good, not only to her, but to the other two kingdoms. From that year dates the Temperance Reformation. The use of whisky was at this time almost universal, and seemed to be rapidly growing. During the ten years
ending with 1829, the consumption of intoxicating liquors in the three kingdoms doubled. The bottle was everywhere — on the dinner table and the supper table, at the wedding and the wake, at the baptism and the funeral, produced as regularly as the Bible when the minister called to visit a parishioner, kept in the vestry of nearly every church, and applied to before service or after it, or both. In a word, it was supposed to be an absolute necessary of life — as necessary as the staff of life itself. Ministers and people alike drank. The elders drank. Everybody drank. Yet for long no adequate effort was made to put a stop to the terrible evil. 

Dr. Edgar had his attention turned to the matter on this wise. In the summer of 1829 the Rev. Joseph Penny, a young Irish Presbyterian clergyman who had emigrated to the United States from Drumlee, paid a visit to his native country. Among others he called upon Dr. Edgar, and told him of the temperance societies which had been established in America. His hearer saw the thing at once, and with him to see was to act. Opening his parlour window, he emptied out the remains of a gallon of whisky which had been bought for household consumption, and from that hour threw himself with characteristic ardour into the temperance movement. It was not, it is to be observed, total abstinence that he advocated. The temperance pledge of those days merely bound one to abstinence from all distilled liquors.' 

A letter from his pen, advocating the new departure, appeared in the Belfast Newsletter on 14th August, 1829. Some who read it thought it the work of a madman — so monstrous did the proposal to abstain altogether from whisky seem. To do without bread would not have appeared much more ridiculous. But the letter was read, among others, by the Rev. G. W. Carr, New Ross, who called upon Dr. Edgar shortly after, and on August 20th, by his influence, the first temperance society ever established in Europe was organized in New Ross. On the 24th September of the same year a few ministers met in a room at the old Tract Depository in Waring Street, Belfast, and founded the Ulster Temperance Society. 

The first three names subscribed to the pledge taken that day were those of James Morgan, Thomas Hincks, then a curate in Belfast, afterwards archdeacon of Connor, and John Edgar. The last of the three was the apostle of the movement. Letters and publications of all kinds advocating it flowed from his pen — sermons and speeches in multitudes from his lips. Meeting after meeting was arranged, and society after society organized, until an idea, which at first was ridiculed as comical, took deep root in the land, and to-day we see the development and fruit of it in the temperance sentiment which is so widely diffused, in the temperance legislation which has been obtained, and in the alteration in our drinking customs which has been brought about, — blessings great in themselves, and certain to be followed in the near future by others still more signal.

Alcohol, in Bible times, was in short supply. Remember the events in Cana of Galilee, when the Saviour performed His first miracle. The wine was in short supply and quickly ran out.

Therefore, to take Scriptural statements about wine and use them to justify consuming the alcohol available today is risible, if it wasn't so serious an issue. To do so, is neither Scripturally accurate, or logical! If the Word of God gives stark warning against the consumption of the weak alcohol available in Bible times, what kind of stark warnings then must be given of the much stronger booze of today?

(iii). Alcohol consumption today has turned into a gratifying of the desire for pleasure
In Bible times alcohol was used to guard against illness. It may also have been used to kill bacteria in water, although little evidence of this exists. It certainly was used to treat illness. Timothy is an obvious example, cf. 1 Timothy 5:23: Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. Evidently, Timothy was a teetotaller! Why else would Paul be telling him to take some wine for his illness, if he was already a drinker? Even then, Paul told him only to take a 'little wine'!

Alcohol was also given to relieve pain and depression among the dying, cf. Proverbs 31:6,7: Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. Alcohol is a drug and therefore has medicinal purposes. It was given to the dying, as morphine might be today. Why would the wise man in Proverbs give this counsel, if drinking was common place already? His counsel would suggest that it was not a common practice. 

However, there is surely a warning here as well. Consuming any drug, which has mood affecting properties, as alcohol does have, is not a good thing! 

Today, alcohol has turned into a pleasure craze. It is not used today, in the main, for medicinal purposes. It is used, in the main, to gratify pleasure. It is employed for general consumption. It is used to affect the mood, the mind and the manners of individuals. This is not Scriptural, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12: All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Is it right for a Christian to come under the power and influence of such a powerful drug? We are frequently told, today, that one drink affects your judgment when driving. In taking one drink we are coming under the power of something that is a great evil, especially with its present day increased potency. 

To drink for pleasure is to misuse your body. To guard against misusing our bodies is the very point that is made by this Study Bible, but then immediately contradicted by the encouragement to drink, cf. Proverbs 21:17: He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.

Continued in next article…

*As an example of the folly of the Study Bible statement, it is worth considering the cost to society in England alone. The United Kingdom Government Alcohol Strategy claims alcohol-related harm is now estimated to cost England £21 billion annually. This is broken down as: 
National Health Service costs, at about £3.5 billion per year (at 2009–10 costs) 
Alcohol-related crime, at £11 billion per year (at 2010–11 costs) 
Lost productivity due to alcohol, at about £7.3 billion per year (at 2009–10 costs, UK estimate)

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