The Biblical Sanction For Wine -- By: Horace Bumstead

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 038:149 (Jan 1881)
Article: The Biblical Sanction For Wine
Author: Horace Bumstead


The Biblical Sanction For Wine

Rev. Horace Bumstead

Dean Alford asserted that his commentary was conducted on the principle “of honestly endeavoring to ascertain the sense of the sacred text without regard to any preconceived systems, and fearless of any possible consequences.” Let us humbly endeavor to approach the subject at the head of this Article in the spirit of the scholarly and saintly dean.

I propose to consider, first, the nature of the wine sanctioned in the Bible; second, the manner in which the Bible gives its sanction to this wine; third, the limitations which the Bible places upon the sanction; and, fourth, the perpetuity of the sanction as thus limited.

I. The Nature Of The Wine Sanctioned

It is generally admitted that the Bible sanctions the use of some beverage called wine. During the last half century

the idea has been conspicuously advocated by certain friends of reform in England and in this country that the wine sanctioned in the Bible was unfermented, and so free from alcohol. The voluminous arguments offered in support of this theory may be grouped in three divisions: the physiological, the historical, and the linguistic. These will be noticed in order.

1. The Physiological Argument for the alleged Unfermented Wine

This argument asserts that alcohol is essentially a poison, unfit to be introduced into the human system, except possibly as a medicine; that it is not a food in any proper sense of the word, and that the character of God would preclude him from sanctioning a poisonous or innutritious beverage.

The argument contains a fallacy which has been exposed again and again. Admitting that alcohol is a poison and not a food, it by no means follows that beverages which contain it as an ingredient are poisonous or innutritious. It has been many times pointed out that some of our commonest articles of food contain poisons. Dr. George M. Beard of New York, well known as a popular writer upon physiological and social topics, remarks: “Phosphorus is one of the most virulent of poisons, but it is found in fish and meat; and partly for this reason is it that fish and meat are good diet for brain-workers.....To say that any substance is in general a poison gives, then, no clue to the question whether it does or does not serve a purpose in the animal economy.” 1 Dr. Willard Parker of New York, an eminent physician and philanthropist, says: “It has been said on the one side that alcohol is a poison, and on the other that wine used in moderation is healthful. But the two assertions are not inconsistent; for the character and effect of substanc...

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