Question:

I just read your article online about alcohol and the Bible, New Testament Beverages, and wanted to say it is magnificent. I do want to point out something about a loophole you left for the drinker concerning Paul's advice to Timothy about drinking wine. In the Greek bookThe Learned Banqueters and other sources mention medicines made of non-fermented wine and I strongly believe this is what Paul was advising sincein the same instructionshe also stressed that a bishop (such as Timothywas operating often as) needed to be completely alcohol free and so it wouldn't make sense for him to turn around and offer an exception permission to drink that cursed liquid.


Answer:

"No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities" (I Timothy 5:23).

If we conclude that Paul was referring only to a non-alcoholic wine, then we must also conclude that Timothy was avoiding all grape related products, including grape juice. Otherwise, there would be no need to encourage him to change his practice. Using alcohol based medicine is not a loophole that allows the casual use of alcohol.

The argument that Timothy was a bishop at the time the New Testament was written is false. The New Testament refers to him as a young man, but the qualifications of a bishop is an older man who has raised children. "This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. ... one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence" (I Timothy 3:1,4). "If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:6). No where in the New Testament is Timothy referred to as a bishop. He is called a preacher, evangelist, or minister. "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. ... But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (II Timothy 4:2,5). The writings of some early Christians do state that Timothy did eventually become a bishop (or elder) later in life, but it would not have been at this point in Timothy's life.

Besides, I do not find the avoidance of alcohol stated in such absolute terms that an elder using an alcohol based medicine when needed for an ailment would be sinning.

But the real point is that there is nothing in I Timothy 5:23 that makes it a necessary conclusion that Paul is only referring to a non-alcoholic wine. Can a grape juice stomach medicine exist? Perhaps. Is it necessarily what Paul is referring to? We don't know, and thus cannot make any conclusions based on that.

OK. Thanks for the response and thanks for all the information.