CHRISTIANS & ALCOHOL (PART III)
By Akin Ojumu
In everyday life of people in Bible times, the use of wine was mostly limited to syrup based non-intoxicating wine, i.e., OINOS, which is wine that was so diluted with water its intoxication capacity had been lost. In that era, strong drink, i.e., SIKERA, was reserved for, and associated with, idolatrous pagan rites. It was one of the many psychedelics used by the adherents of pagan cults to stimulate altered state of consciousness and to elevate themselves into transcendent states manifested as euphoria, trances, chants, prophesying, glossolalia (speaking in tongues), body mutilations, and engage in all kinds of sexual orgies and perversions.
“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:3).
So, how do the alcoholic content in beer, modern wine, brandy, and liquor that people drink today compare to the OINOS, i.e., mixed wine, that the people in the Bible drank? Well, let’s do the comparison.
Regular Beer: (e.g., Star Lager, Budweiser, Heineken, Carlsberg, Stella Artois, etc.) has 4 percent alcohol.
Modern Wine: (e.g., Carlo Rossi, Barefoot, Sutter Home, Castillo De Espana, etc.) has 9 to 11 percent alcohol.
Brandy: (e.g., Remy Martin, Hennessy, Martell, Giffard, Barsol Pisco, etc.), which is fortified wine, has 15 to 20 percent alcohol.
Liquor: (e.g., Smirnoff Vodka, Captain Morgan Rum, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, etc.) has 40 percent (if 80 proof) or 50 percent (if 100 proof).
When wine ferments, you typically get between 9 to 11 percent alcohol content from it. If you pour the fermented wine from the Amphorae (i.e., the container for fermented wine in Bible times) into a Krater (i.e. the container for mixing fermented wine with water) and you mix it at, say, 3 parts water 1 part wine (3-to-1 ratio), the alcohol content in the final product mixed with water would be 2.25 to 2.75 percent alcohol, which is still much lower than the alcoholic content in beer, which is 4 percent.
By the way, in order for a beverage to be classified as an alcohol, it must have at least 3.2 percent alcohol content. As stated earlier, people in Bible times mixed their fermented wine at a ratio of between 8 to 12 parts water to 1 part alcohol, which results in zero percent alcohol content.
So, the diluted wine (OINOS) in Bible times was a sub-alcoholic beverage. In order for anyone to get drunk on OINOS, that person must drink cups after cups all day long. And that’s exactly why Paul admonished Timothy, in 1 Timothy 3, to only appoint Bishops and Deacons who are not “Given to wine.” In order words, Timothy was not to appoint as elders people who “linger over wine.” (Proverbs 23:30).
Anybody who drank anything from 15 to 50 percent alcohol in Bible times was considered a Barbarian. Apart from the drunken stupor and all, 15-50 percent alcohol is toxic to body systems and causes all manners of medical maladies. People of Bible times understand these deleterious effects of strong drink, and it’s why its use is discouraged in the Bible.
Quoting Menestheus of Athens in his book titled “Diepnosophistae,” Athenaeus, the Greek rhetorician and grammarian, wrote the following profound statement about wine that’s relevant to this commentary.
“The gods have revealed wine to mortals to be the greatest blessing for those who use it aright, but for those who use it without measure, the reverse. For it gives food to them that take it and strengthen mind and body. In medicine, it is most beneficial. It can be mixed with liquid and drugs, and it brings aid to the wounded. In daily course, it is, to those who mix and drink it moderately, it gives good cheer. If you overstep the bounds, it brings violence. Mix it half and half and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse.”
Here we have Menestheus who, by the way, was the legendary king of Athens during the Trojan War, enunciating the dangers of consuming strong wine (i.e., SIKERA). Even amongst unregenerate and paganistic people of ancient times, drinking unmixed wine was considered brutish.
To be continued next time.