Divine Inspiration (What the Bible Has to Say for Itself)

The Good Book

The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time. It’s estimated that roughly a billion copies have been sold. That’s probably not entirely accurate. And it doesn’t consider the millions of free electronic editions available to the masses. Ironically, the Bible is more accessible thanks to the internet than ever. Yet, biblical illiteracy increases with each passing decade. Regardless, millions of people have a Bible on a shelf or hidden away in some forgotten drawer. Others treasure their Bible like gold and read it with sacred reverence. Grab ten people off the street, and you’ll get ten opinions about the Bible. However, if it’s not the whole Word of God, then it cannot be a good book.

All or Nothing

C.S. Lewis famously said that Jesus Christ was either “Lord, liar or lunatic.” Similarly, the Bible makes claims about itself incompatible with the idea of being just a good book of wisdom. The Bible is either the Divinely inspired Word of God or the silly ramblings of misguided delusional men. It’s either entirely true or the longest-running, best-coordinated con job in recorded history. Essentially, the Bible is an all-or-nothing proposition. If it’s genuinely from God, half-hearted attention will never suffice. And if it’s not, it’s the worst form of manipulative evil. No viewpoints in-between those two options are logical or possible.

Divine Blessings

Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” Regardless of race, denomination, or background, if you ask any Christian if they would like to have Divine blessings, they will answer, “yes.” And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find large portions of them hearing and obeying the entirety of God’s Word. Most Christians have their candy stick verses or their preconceived dogmas. Sadly, most Christians ignore, overlook, or gloss over large portions of Scripture that seem extreme or inconveniently counter-cultural. Sometimes, they miss so many vital doctrines that their salvation is jeopardized. Others might slip into Heaven, but they miss tremendous blessings that otherwise would have been poured into their lives. Complete obedience to God’s Word is the key to accessing Divine blessings. There is no shortcut or substitute.

What Does the Bible Have to Say for Itself?

As I mentioned earlier, the Bible is either entirely true or a complete lie. But it’s impossible to remain intellectually honest without acknowledging the miraculous continuity of the Bible. Don’t forget that the Bible was written over a period of nearly 2,000 years by forty authors writing from three continents, and it maintains perfect uniformity of message. All sixty-six books comprising the Bible are united in perfect harmony and point exclusively to Jesus Christ, the true Author. Unlike the famed futurist Nostradamus, the Bible’s fulfilled prophecies are precise and uncanny. Scripture’s flawless internal consistency defies natural explanation. But rather than talking about the Bible, let’s take a close look at what the Bible has to say for itself.

The Bible Lays Claim to Divine Origins

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Biblical authors were consistent in claiming that their words were not theirs. Holy men of old viewed themselves as vessels filled by God. They emptied themselves of the words poured into them by the Holy Ghost. If the Bible is not God’s divinely inspired Word, it is a fraudulent document filled with dribble. Of course, I believe the evidence proves (including my life interactions with it) that the Bible is true. However, the claims Scripture makes about itself are so radical that they demand complete acceptance or total rejection. Anything in between complete acceptance or total rejection is an intellectual cop-out. Partial approval or shallow half-hearted nods of respect aren’t compatible with the very nature of the Bible. In our culture plagued with near psychosomatic commitment issues, the biblical insistence upon total adherence is difficult to digest. However, it is the essence and the reality of what the Holy Writ requires.

The Bible Lays Claim to Perfection

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7).

It could help to rephrase this claim in more understandable terms. The Bible lays claim to moral perfection. If Scripture is the divine Word of God, and if it is true that God is supremely just, then anything prescribed in His book is perfectly righteous. God’s Word sets the standard of right and wrong, good or bad, and so on. Therefore, even if our human sensibility is offended or confused, it does not make God’s Word imperfect. Humanity is corrupted by sin and does not easily comprehend genuine justice. We don’t perceive evil as precisely as we should. Meaning we are reliant upon the Bible to reveal moral Truths to us. Without the authoritative Word of God, humanity is left to its own misguided inward moral compass. Our understanding of good and evil has been tampered with by sin and by the sins of our fathers. We hide God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) to replace our broken compass with God’s flawless GPS.

The Bible Lays Claim to Sanctifying Truth

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17).

Without falling off a theological cliff, sanctification can be described as the process of being made holy. So how can one become holy? By living according to God’s Truth. And that Truth is contained in the Bible. Obedience to God’s Word is the only path to holiness. Anything less falls short of sanctification. All other versions of morality, although containing measures of truth, are not the Truth. Therefore, they fail to make one morally pure in the eyes of the Lord. It’s prudent to remember that God’s holiness is His most biblically acclaimed attribute. Our call to be sanctified through the Word is no insignificant thing. It isn’t just theological jargon or intellectual banter. It is a God-given imperative to be taken seriously.

The Bible Lays Claim to Flawlessness

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5).

The word “pure” in the above Scripture comes from the Hebrew word yastsib, which means “true.”[i] However, in the more profound sense of the word here, it means “certain” or “reliable.”[ii] The distinction is important because God’s words aren’t just true at the moment they’re given. They are eternally reliable. This alludes to the prophetic surety of God’s Word. And to Its literal reliability in the past, present, and future. The Bible is eternally true. Its Truth doesn’t morph, degrade, or rescind. So, when the Bible speaks of the past, we can trust that it is true regardless of what current science might say. When the Bible tells of the future, we can believe it shall be so without reservation. When so-called modern “facts” contradict Scripture, rest assured that Scripture will stand vindicated.

The Bible Lays Claim to Vitality

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Admittedly, despite the King James Version being the best English translation, it sometimes creates embarrassing moments for the modern reader. I can’t tell you how many years I took the word “quick” to mean that the Word of God is a fast-moving sword. And while it is true that the Word can and does often move quickly in a person’s life, “quick” is an Old English word for “alive.” The Holy Bible is living. As we interact with the Word, the Spirit of God moves in us and upon us. The Word doesn’t change but progressively reveals things to us as we interact. That’s why you can read the same verse a thousand times, and one day, you comprehend something that previously seemed mundane. As we humbly submit ourselves to the Word, it changes us from the inside out.

The Bible Lays Claim to Salvific Exclusivity

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:13-17).

The Bible is crystal clear in the claim that it holds the exclusive plan of salvation for humankind. No other book, creed, faith, or culture has access to eternal salvation with God in Heaven. Universalism is the deceiver currently working to deceive the very elect. It might be tempting to buy the lie that many paths lead to God. For some, that sounds tolerant and exceedingly loving. However, it is not possible to believe the Bible and hold to universalism at the same time.

Furthermore, for those who like to deny the relevance of the Old Testament in the New Testament era: When Paul declares that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” the New Testament was not yet completed or in circulation among the Church. The apostle was referring to the Old Testament. Indeed, the theological relevance of the Old Testament was affirmed by the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. All of whom referred back to the Old Testament in their preaching, teaching, and correspondence.

The Bible Lays Claim to Unbridled Power

Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9).

Undoubtedly the apostle Paul was a mighty man of God. He walked in power and authority. Yet, he was still just a man. He suffered unending trials and tribulations. Paul was aware that his multiple incarcerations might cause some to doubt the power of God’s Word. He quickly reminded fearful believers that while we might be bound, the Word of God is never bound. God’s Word bristles with unbridled power even in the darkest of times. It’s working even when we can’t see it. It’s moving even when we can’t feel it. There is no thwarting or diminishing the Word of the Lord. A particular comfort comes when we understand that our weaknesses and sufferings cannot bind the work of the Word.


[i] “יציב,” Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance paragraph 3620.

[ii] “י,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament 1613.

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

The cultural tattoo fad shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, tattoos are becoming more popular each year. I’m pushing up against forty, which means I remember when tattoos were rare in law-abiding circles. Most Christians were united in their stance against tattoos. It certainly wasn’t a controversial subject or a topic of hot debate among professing Christians. I don’t claim to understand exactly when, why, or how the shift towards accepting tats began. I have a specific memory of seeing a reasonably well-known “prophet” on YouTube with tattoo sleeves coiling down his arms and ringing up his neck and onto parts of his face. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was still naïve enough at the time to be shocked.

Since then, a slew of “name brand” preachers have given cheeky pro-tat arguments on social media. Typically, their statements are flippant, funny, theologically thin, and arrogant. What they lack in character, they make up for in charisma, making them popular and convincing to many people. So, with the ever-increasing popularity of tattoos and all the theological misinformation floating around, I felt it was time to weigh in with why I (and many others) remain firmly against tats. However, I want to be clear for those who already have tattoos – that sin and all other sins can be placed under the blood of Jesus. And, while I’m all for conviction, this article is not intended to instigate condemnation against the forgiven. That said, the following are seven biblical reasons why tattoos violate God’s standards of holiness for men and women, and then I’ll answer a few common questions relating to tattoos.

God’s Clear Command in Leviticus 19:28

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:28).

Never slash (cut) your body to mourn the dead, and never get a tattoo. I am the Lord [God’s Word Translation] (Leviticus 19:28).

I consider tattoos to be a watershed issue of holiness. And by that, I mean it’s challenging to find a holiness standard more clearly articulated than “…never get a tattoo. I am the Lord.” We don’t have any Scriptures against meth or cocaine, yet we understand the principles of God’s Word to be in opposition to illicit drugs. But here, we have a clear and straightforward command directly from the Lord, and still, people find a way to wriggle around it. I’ve found that if someone can read this command and still not care about tattoos, there is very little else they will take seriously regarding holiness of lifestyle. If you can ignore one Scripture, you can easily ignore others.

Perhaps it would help to examine why God gave this command. First, “Both cutting and tattooing the body were done by the heathen.”[1] And secondly, “Tattooing was probably practiced in ancient Egypt… Any voluntary disfigurement of the person was in itself an outrage upon God’s workmanship and might well form the subject of a law.”[2] We are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) and significantly altering His design is an affront to His artistry. The Holman Old Testament Commentary clarifies the principles of holiness outlined in Leviticus 19:28 even further, “They were not to disfigure their bodies in any manner or adorn their bodies with tattoos.”[3] So, here we see that any bodily disfigurement and vanity of adornment are connected to this holiness standard. The IVP Old Testament Commentary agrees, “The Israelite law may prohibit this practice since it involves a self-imposed alteration of God’s creation, unlike circumcision, which is commanded by God.”[4]

Usually, pro-tat preachers give the feeble excuse that the Old Testament moratorium against tattoos is exclusively about getting a specific kind of tattoo. For example, they might say something like, “As long as you don’t get a tattoo of a false god, you’re fine.” While it is true that pagans often used tattoos to express allegiance to a particular false god, it’s far from the only reason pagans tattooed themselves. If that’s the only reason God forbids tattoos, He could and would have made that clear. Also, using that logic, God should have said something like, “If you do get a tattoo, make sure it shows allegiance to Me.” God’s previous and often repeated commands from Exodus 20:3-5 already forbids anything associated with idolatry or false gods:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God…

I think God covered it thoroughly in the above Scriptures. No Hebrew in their right mind would read that and think, “Ah, but surely a Baal tat would be ok.” No. Leviticus 19:28 means something more profound than that. This leads us to the second and more misleading claim people typically use to justify tattoos. Because the context of the first portion of Leviticus 19:28 deals with mourning the dead, pro-tat folks might say, “Tattoos are fine; just don’t get a tattoo to mourn dead friends or family members.” The King James Version does make this exegetical error easy to make. However, even the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (hardly a shining bastion of conservative theology) states, “Unlike the first part of the verse, tattoos are not associated with mourning rites.” [5] Ironically, scores of Christians tattoo the names of dead friends and family members on their bodies in mourning and remembrance. Which further illustrates the sad pervasiveness of biblical ignorance or blatant disregard for biblical authority over modern lifestyles. 

To review a few reasons God forbids tattoos, “Holiness requires Israel not to act like the pagans in any areas of life.”[6] In other words, we are to be inwardly and outwardly separate, distinct, and different from the world’s people. Furthermore, “Leviticus 19:28 forbids the marking of the flesh.”[7] In the end, God doesn’t need a reason that makes sense to us. If God says don’t get a tattoo, the question should be settled regardless of our opinions. If God can’t tell a person how to live, then He is no God at all to that person. Tattoos violate several other holiness principles, which I will take a closer look at below. However, God’s clear command in Leviticus 19:28 is by far the only reason any Christian should need to abstain from tattoos.

Wisdom & Cultural Associations

In 2017 The Journal of Social Psychology released a research paper titled Tattoo or Taboo? Tattoo Stigma and Negative Attitudes Toward Tattooed Individuals. It’s long but fascinating, and I must resist the urge to highlight hundreds of quotes in the paper. I’ll try to use self-control and keep things concise and relevant to the point. This research confirms something I’ve long suspected to be true. Tattoos are socially problematic on several significant tiers. And even if God had no opinion on the matter, wisdom would dictate that Christians should stay away from tats.

The research found that “People view tattooed individuals as possessing a number of negative character attributes, including being less inhibited, less competent, having worse character, being less sociable, and being more sexually promiscuous.”[8] This creates real problems for tattooed people in the workplace. The research states:

Interviews with tattooed persons revealed that many tattooed individuals believed that they could not find employment because their tattoos were visible, suspicions that hiring managers confirm. Indeed, most hiring managers in Timming’s study explicitly stated they would not hire a visibly tattooed candidate, both because it would mar the image of the company and because of their personal dislike of tattoos. Potential customers have also tended to perceive tattooed employees as less capable and as riskier, and less physically appealing.[9]

Complicating things even more, tattooed people often discriminate against other tattooed people for a variety of reasons contained in the quote below:

Tattooed individuals may stigmatize other tattooed individuals if their tattoos are large or unconcealable, such as on the face, hands, or neck, or if their tattoos are seen as overly trendy and lacking authenticity. Thus, the stigmatization of tattooed individuals is not limited to the non-tattooed.[10]

And while the roots of the negative stereotypes might be sexist, the reality is that women with tattoos are viewed in a very undesirable light. Here’s just one tiny blip of what the research found:

In Britain, tattooed women were judged as more promiscuous, heavier drinkers, and as less attractive, and in France, men expected that tattooed women would be more likely to have sex on a first date than non-tattooed women. Studies on American college student participants have also found that women with tattoos are perceived as less attractive, less caring, and less intelligent or less honest and religious, depending on the type of tattoo.[11]

Men don’t escape that harsh judgment either. When the studies lump men into the equation, things are just as dire:

Differences have been found between tattooed and non-tattooed individuals in Big Five personality traits, measures of rebelliousness or needs for uniqueness or distinctive appearance, risk-taking behavior or attitudes, the prevalence of problem drinking, illegal drug use, and uninhibited sexual behavior, and education levels with tattooed individuals generally having less desirable traits, greater risk-taking behavior and rebelliousness, and more deviant behavior.[12]

The debate rages on whether these stereotypes contain any truth. While it’s glaringly apparent that the researchers are biased in defense of tattoos and do their best to mitigate the damage of the findings, they are forced to acknowledge that some of the stereotypes may have a factual basis. For example, “Tattooed participants reported significantly higher quantities and frequencies of drinking behavior than non-tattooed participants.”[13] The findings also indicated that tattooed individuals display a higher tendency to dominate others.[14] Regardless, Christians should exercise wisdom and avoid these negative cultural associations, whether warranted or unwarranted. The workplace problems alone are reason enough for a wise individual to stay away from tats.

Modesty & Vanity

By their nature, tattoos violate the holiness principles of modesty and vanity. Both subjects are worth a long discussion. However, for this conversation, I’m going to assume we already agree that Scripture emphatically opposes vanity and requires modesty of dress and conduct. The entire purpose of a tattoo is to draw attention to a particular portion of the body. Often, tattoos are exhibited on areas of the body that should be covered for modesty’s sake. Furthermore, the desire and willingness to use the body as an attention-grabbing canvas violates the biblical imperatives of meekness, shamefacedness, and humility (Colossians 3:2, 1 Timothy 2:9, Philippians 2:3, James 4:6).

Health Concerns

It amazes me that people have no problem covering their bodies with carcinogen-laced inks in a culture obsessed with finding things that cause cancer. I bought a guitar strap the other day, and the tag had a warning that said, “Some of these materials may cause cancer.” We’re worried about cloth guitar straps but not inking our skin! Many of the same people who ink their bodies are busy making their own “safe” soaps and worrying about the effects of pest control chemicals. There’s a disconcerting mental disconnect on display here.

Penn Medicine released an article called Think Before You Ink: Tattoo Health Risks which raises safety concerns that go largely unreported. Essentially, the ink in tattoos contains definite cancer-causing ingredients. But what I found most interesting was this concern:

In addition to the fear of carcinogens contained in the ink, individuals are also concerned about how these tattoos cover the body. A change in skin pigmentation is one of the earliest signs of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. When the body is “blacked out” with tattoo ink, individuals may not be able to notice these changes right away.[15]

An article in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery says:

Tattoos can cause bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, which could lead to impetigo, erysipelas, and septicemia; Staphylococcus aureus can cause rare toxic shock syndrome; skin and soft tissue infections can be caused by community-acquired methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA); treponema pallidum can cause syphilis; and Mycobacterium leprae which causes leprosy.[16]

Permanent Life Impact

Everyone knows someone these days stuck with an embarrassing tattoo of their ex’s name. Tattoo regret is common and creates a lot of anxiety, humiliation, and distress. That unicorn on a cloud might seem super silly as maturity sets in. That phrase that seemed so profound a few years ago might sound stupid now. Wisdom should inform us that permanently marking our bodies could lead to frustration and mortification later in life. No matter how sure you are now, you can’t be sure that you’ll be sure in the future.

You might say, “But they have tattoo removal procedures now.” Out of curiosity, I investigated that and found a lot of conflicting information. For one thing, it’s not a completely sure thing that every tattoo can be removed entirely. And even if you can remove one, it’s an awful process. Lauren Chan talks about it in a fascinating Glamour article, Tattoo Removal: 14 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Getting It. Lauren writes, “A complete tattoo removal takes a minimum of two and a half years.”[17] By all accounts, the process hurts and costs thousands of dollars to remove a single tattoo. And if that isn’t discouraging enough, the process usually leaves permanent scarring and possibly discoloration. And the common side effects are terrible, according to Lauren Chan.[18] In other words, it’s unrealistic to assume you can wipe away a tattoo later if you decide you don’t like it. I wish you could, but it just doesn’t work that way.

The Body Is God’s Temple, Not Ours

The Bible teaches that we have been “bought with a price,” therefore, we must “glorify God with our bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are God’s temple because His Spirit dwells inside us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Our bodies are meant to be the temple and a sacrifice. We are instructed to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God” Romans 12:1-2). I’m emphasizing this because I hear things like “it’s my body and my choice,” even in Christian circles. But the reality for a believer is that it’s God’s body, and He makes the choices. I don’t get to do anything I want to do with this body I’ve been given. I’ve given my life to Christ, and that includes my body. Tattoos defile our temple with rebellion and render our sacrifice unacceptable to God.

Associations with the Occult, Death & Paganism

Throughout recorded history, tattoos have been intricately associated with occultism, death, mysticism, and paganism. Modern Christians either don’t know this, don’t care, or both. Many Christians no longer believe in the supernatural. To them, demons, witchcraft, and all things associated with it are biblical metaphors for something else. Just like Harry Potter, it isn’t to be taken seriously. They aren’t worried about the dark implications and associations shrouding tattoos. While researching, I noticed a testimonial on a blog by a woman identified as EB. Her real-life experience brings insight into the issue of tattooing that I couldn’t possibly give. Here’s what she had to say:

Prior to becoming a believer, I worked as a tattoo artist and am covered in ink. I spent years in that industry and have more tattoos than you’d care to count. Let me start by saying that the world of tattooing is absolutely and utterly demonic in every conceivable way. While its cultural roots are in paganism, its present life source is pride. I’ve tattooed hundreds, if not thousands, of people, and, without exception, each one of them (including my own and including the “Christian” pieces) were conceived of and carried out for purposes of self-exaltation and boastful individualism.

Up to my conversion, you would never have found me in long sleeves. My tattoos were my identity; without them, I was just. “Normal.” There is nothing the world hates more than normalcy. Almost immediately upon coming to Christ, my long sleeve shirt collection began to grow, and, at the present time, the only short sleeve shirts I have are undershirts that I wear… well, under other shirts. The only thing positive I can say about my tattoos is that they are a shameful and embarrassing reminder of how deep a pit I was pulled from and that it was not by my will but His that I was saved.[19]

From the historical perspective, The Tattoo History Source Book speaks to the twisted religious heritage of tattoos:

“The actual tattooing process, which involved complex ritual and taboos, could only be done by priests and was associated with beliefs which were secrets known only to members of the priestly caste… historically tattooing originated in connection with ancient rites of scarification and bloodletting which were associated with religious practices intended to put the human soul in harmony with supernatural forces and ensure continuity between this life and the next.”[20]

According to Amy Krakow in her chronicle The Total Tattoo Book, “Tattooing has had well-defined roles: Marking a rite of passage at a stage of life, calling the spirits, proudly, defiantly or sneakily showing who you are via body art.”[21]

Here’s another disturbing quote for your consideration:

“The reasons why puncturing the skin should be regarded with some degree of awe are not far to seek, for, in the first place, there is the drawing of blood, which to the savage world over is full of significance as a rejuvenating and immortalizing factor. There is, in addition to the opening of numerous inlets for evil to enter.”[22]

If you think the spiritual aspect of tattooing is a thing of the past… think again. One quick Google search into tattoo insiders revealed the current tat trends include “astrology inspired ink, religious tribal art, spiritual tattoos, specifically mandala, hamza, and lotus designs that are deeply associated with healing, balance, growth, rebirth, and positive energies.”[23] One popular tattooer described the hot new trend of abstract expression art “that allows us to free ourselves from the mental blocks placed around what we know to be right or wrong.”[24] Honestly, the past and current tattoo connections with humanistic, hedonistic, and demonist practices are so prevalent that it would take a large book to document all of it. I’m convinced that overlooking these things would take willful blindness or intentional complacency.

The Divine Tattoo (Common Questions & Objections Answered)

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me (Isaiah 49:16).

People often use this verse to argue that God has a cosmically divine tattoo. And so, the reasoning goes, if God can get a tattoo, I can too. But that kind of thinking is wrong on several levels. First, we don’t get to do everything God gets to do. For example, we aren’t allowed to seek revenge or vengeance. Yet, God said of Himself, “vengeance is mine” (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35, Hebrews 10:30, Leviticus 19:18). Secondly, people citing this verse are assuming the word translated in the King James Version as “graven” literally means “tattoo.” However, the Hebrew word used here is “chaqaq,” which means “to cut in.”[25] The illusion of something being “graven” on God’s palms is more closely connected to the symbolism of the divine engraving of the Ten Commandments into stone (Exodus 321:18). Or it might even be seen as a metaphor foreshadowing the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. But even if “graven” were meant to conjure up the image of tattoos on God’s palms, it still wouldn’t validate tattoos for us. Why? Because regardless of how you translate the verse, the imagery is a figurative illustration meant to drive a point home. God doesn’t have arms or hands, for that matter. Furthermore, God doesn’t need a string around his finger or a post-it note reminding Him to love us.

Jesus’ Cosmic Thigh Tattoo (Common Questions & Objections Answered)

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, And Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).

This objection is even less plausible than the last one. Not only would Jesus not have a tattoo because it is forbidden in God’s Word (Leviticus 28:19), but neither would He immodestly expose His thigh (Isaiah 47:2-3). It’s offensive when people twist Scripture to their agenda. It’s a ridiculous and untenable leap from the word “written” to “tattooed.” There isn’t one shred of evidence that Revelation 19:16 hints at a cosmic tattoo on Jesus’ thigh. Admittedly, the King James’ translation is a little clunky here, which might cause some to wonder if the name is written on Jesus’ vesture and leg. Interestingly, out of the fifty or so English translations I checked; the Contemporary English Version was the most accurate (the CEV is not a paraphrase), “On the part of the robe that covered his thigh was written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).

The Forbidden Haircut (Common Questions & Objections Answered)

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard (Leviticus 19:27).

One of the silliest and more childish arguments used to justify the Christian tattoo goes something like: “Hey man, do you get a haircut or trim your beard? God condemned getting a haircut or trimming your beard in the verse before forbidding the tattoo. Dude, the tattoo is the same as getting a haircut.” God wasn’t condemning haircuts or beard trims, but He was expressly forbidding hairstyles and beard styles that mimicked their pagan neighbors. The IVP Commentary offers the most thorough and compelling explanation of Leviticus 19:27 I’ve seen thus far:

The prohibition against trimming the “sides of your head” or the “edges of your beard” uses the same terminology as Leviticus 19:9-10, which deals with the harvesting of fields. In both cases an offering is involved—one to the poor and the other to God. The law’s placement here immediately after the prohibition against divination suggests that the restriction on cutting the hair is based on the Canaanite practice of making an offering of hair to propitiate the spirits of the dead (see Deuteronomy 14:1). Hammurabi‘s code penalizes false witnesses by having half the person’s hair cut off. The Middle Assyrian code allows a debt slave’s master to pull out his or her hair as punishment (see Nehemiah 13:25). Both laws suggest that shame is attached to the loss of hair. There is a Phoenician inscription from the ninth century B.C. reporting the dedication of shaven hair by an individual in fulfillment of a vow made to the goddess Astarte. In ancient thinking, hair (along with blood) was one of the main representatives of a person’s life essence. As such, it was often an ingredient in sympathetic magic. This is evident, for instance, in the practice of sending along a lock of a presumed prophet’s hair when his prophecies were sent to the king of Mari. The hair would be used in divination to determine whether the prophet’s message would be accepted as valid.[26]

This is the New Testament (Common Questions & Objections Answered)

Many Christians confronted with Leviticus 19:28 are quick to point out that they aren’t bound by any of those pesky Old Testament laws. Of course, this is a theologically illiterate argument. Unfortunately, theological ignorance is the norm in modern Christianity. What did Jesus do when confronted by Lucifer’s temptations in the wilderness? He quoted moral commandments from the OId Testament (Matthew 4:1-11). While it’s true that the Old Testament’s ceremonial laws don’t bind New Testament Christians, we’re still bound to every moral law of God. For example, did you know that bestiality is only forbidden in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:23, Leviticus 20:15-16)? Does that mean that God now, under the New Covenant, approves of bestiality? It’s also worth looking at Leviticus 19:29, which is the verse right after the tattoo verse:

Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness (Leviticus 19:29).

This is the only place in the entire Bible where God directly forbids someone to prostitute their daughter. Would that still be a sin, or is it just an outdated Old Testament rule? Many other moral laws are only forbidden in the Old Testament, such as the human sacrifice of children. Nowhere in the New Testament is this forbidden. It’s only the moral laws we don’t like that we write off as irrelevant and antiquated. The Matthew Henry Commentary sums up how Christians should view Leviticus 19 in general, “Some ceremonial precepts there are in this chapter, but most of them are moral. Most of these precepts are binding on us, for they are expositions of most of the ten commandments.”[27]


[1]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, eds. The Ryrie Study Bible. Expanded, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), paragraph 2041.
[2]Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 4789.
[3]Glen S. Martin, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Max Anders, vol. 2 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2002), 224.
[4]John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 134.
[5]John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 2017.
[6]Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 2740.
[7]TDNT (Abridged), s.v. “στίγμα,” 1086.
[8] Kristin A Broussard & Helen C Harton, Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals, The Journal of Social Psychology, 2018.
[9] Kristin A Broussard & Helen C Harton, Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals, The Journal of Social Psychology, 2018.
[10] Kristin A Broussard & Helen C Harton, Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals, The Journal of Social Psychology, 2018.
[11] Kristin A Broussard & Helen C Harton, Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals, The Journal of Social Psychology, 2018.
[12] Kristin A Broussard & Helen C Harton, Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals, The Journal of Social Psychology, 2018.
[13] Kristin A Broussard & Helen C Harton, Tattoo or taboo? Tattoo stigma and negative attitudes toward tattooed individuals, The Journal of Social Psychology, 2018.
[14] Note: One thing that makes this research paper interesting is its extensive references to previous areas of research on the subject.
[15] Think Before You Ink: Tattoo Health Risks, http://www.penmedicine.org, Penn Medicine, July 17, 2018, https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2018/july/tattoo-health-risks
[16] 5 Dangerous Health Risks of Tattoos, www.news24.com, News 24, May 4, 2018, https://www.news24.com/health24/medical/skin/about-skin/5-dangerous-health-risks-of-tattoos-20180504
[17] Tattoo Removal: 14 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Getting It, www.glamour.com, Glamour, Lauren Chan, September 7, 2022, https://www.glamour.com/story/tattoo-removal-cost-what-is-it-like
[18] Tattoo Removal: 14 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Getting It, www.glamour.com, Glamour, Lauren Chan, September 7, 2022, https://www.glamour.com/story/tattoo-removal-cost-what-is-it-like
[19] Tattoos: Pagan Demonism, Shamanism, Baal Worship & Occult Mysticism, www.5ptsalt.wordpress.com, 5 Pt. Salt, Joel Taylor, October 29, 2011, https://5ptsalt.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/tattoos-pagan-demonism-shamanism-baal-worship-occult-mysticism/
[20] Steve Gilbert, The Tattoo History Source Book, (Juno Books, 2001).
[21] Amy Krakow, Total Tattoo Book, (Grand Central Publishing, 1994).
[22] Wilfrid Dyson Hambly, The History of Tattooing, (Dover Publications, 2009).
[23] 7 Major Tattoo Trends You’re About to See Everywhere, www.bustle.com, Bustle, Carolyn Steber, February 2022, https://www.bustle.com/style/tattoo-trends-2022
[24] 7 Major Tattoo Trends You’re About to See Everywhere, www.bustle.com, Bustle, Carolyn Steber, February 2022, https://www.bustle.com/style/tattoo-trends-2022
[25] Strong’s Hebrew Concordance, 2710. חָקַק (chaqaq), www.biblehub.com, Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/2710.htm
[26]John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 130.
[27] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Thomas Nelson), 2003.

Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

Generally, it seems Bible-affirming Christians agree that drinking to the point of drunkenness is sinful. However, total abstinence of alcoholic beverages is viewed by the majority of the “Christian” world as puritanical and antiquated. There’s lots of talk about moderation and Christian liberty combined with distortions and contortions of biblical passages cited by the moderate drinking crowd. Others, like myself, are firmly planted on the side of complete alcoholic self-denial.

The Three Paths to Alcoholic Abstinence

There are essentially three paths leading to complete alcoholic abstinence. Path one, personal experiences, history, hurt, conflict, danger, abuse, and heartache associated with drinking either due to their addiction or the habits of someone close to them. These real-life experiences are deeply ingrained and hard to argue against because they are so compelling. Typically, I find this to be the most common path leading people to take an unwavering stance against drinking. Path two, a practical and moral approach against alcohol by observing the destruction it causes from a distance and recognizing that far more evil than good is associated with its use. Path three begins with a biblical grounding and proper application of biblical absolutes and principles, leading to a doctrine of total alcoholic abstinence.

Each of these paths are good, but without the inclusion of path three (right biblical doctrine), we are merely giving great advice rather than a true spiritual direction. That’s not to say anecdotal experiences, opinions, testimonies, observations, and innate moral wisdom aren’t powerful. Those things are essential and persuasive. This article will include those arguments against alcohol as well. However, there seems to be so much biblical illiteracy and confusion on this subject. It’s becoming far more crucial for the Church to recenter the focus of our anti-alcohol stance firmly around the Bible. If we could learn to merge these three powerful paths, it would forge a highway for people to access easily. So, we’ll walk down these three paths and culminate with a hard look at what the Bible has to say about the subject.

Practical Objections to Alcohol

Millions of people worldwide abstain from alcohol without any Scriptural grounding or religious affiliation because they’ve seen the dangers it poses. It’s not hard to pick on alcohol because it leaves a wake of devastation everywhere it goes. Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States, coming after tobacco. A person who succumbs to excessive alcohol use loses a potential of thirty years of life. As many as forty percent of all the hospital beds across the country are used to treat health conditions that develop from alcoholism.The epidemic is so bad that seventeen percent of men in the general population and eight percent of women will meet the criteria for alcoholism in their lifetime.

And those stats are only a reflection of individuals who obtained treatment. Many millions more suffer from alcohol-related issues and never receive any diagnosis or treatment. Many statistics indicate (and I’ve perused them, so you don’t have to do the tedious work) that roughly fifty-six percent of Americans suffer from alcohol dependence. Another subset under that stat may not be physically dependent, but their drinking has long-lasting social consequences on their health, family, friendships, and productivity. Drinking is a proven contributor to suicide. Many drink to forget, but in the end, it only worsens their problems. The vast majority of rapes in the U.S. involve alcohol. Thirty percent of all driving fatalities each year are directly related to alcohol. The U.S. spends 199 billion dollars per year, trying in vain to stop this problem. This list could go on and on (you can read all the links at the end of this article if you’re interested).

The Dragon that Won’t Let Go

What stands out to me from the mountains of data collected is how few people break free from the grip of alcohol. Governments spend billions of dollars a year trying to solve the problems. Thousands of privately funded organizations work admirably to help people stay sober. Yet, the data shows only about ten percent of the people who complete these programs remain sober long term. Human attempts to cure what many scientists call a drinking epidemic have been tepid at best. For example, by classifying alcoholism as a disease but treating the substance itself (the actual alcohol) as harmless, society lulls millions of victims into the clutches of a ruthless dragon called alcohol addiction. Society gives the false impression that drinking is harmless, frivolous, fun, and only problematic for a small minority of “sick” people. Yet, no one begins drinking, hoping, or expecting to be dependent on drinking. By refusing to take the problem seriously and not defining alcohol as the dangerous dragon that won’t let go, society is complicit in the staggering loss of life and potential caused by drinking.

One More Major Practical Objection to Alcohol

You could probably pick out a stranger on the street in five seconds and hear stories about how their family hurts because of alcohol. Massive percentages of parents are missing in action either emotionally, spiritually, or physically because they self-medicate with alcohol. This brings enormous dissonance and disconnection in the lives of children. Even if the children don’t imitate their parents drinking patterns, they live with emotional scars that never seem to heal. Divorce rates are intrinsically tied to drinking. Drinking is a leading cause of marital unfaithfulness, adultery, emotional abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological distancing. The drinker rarely sees themself as the problem. Meaning they project blame on the innocent people around them. Or maybe the drinker has legitimate grievances that people around them care deeply about, but the alcohol fogs their brain and keeps them from finding lasting solutions to their woes. They begin fighting the people who care about them the most. The dragon of drinking causes them to be at odds with God, which moves them further down the rabbit hole of turmoil. In my opinion, these practical moral objections to alcohol are reasons enough to abstain completely.

But Don’t People Drink in the Bible?

The Bible is perplexingly silent on wine or alcohol in the Genesis account from Creation to the Flood. Interestingly, the great evils of Nimrod and the degeneration of humanity after the Fall in the Garden of Eden wasn’t directly linked to rampant alcoholism. Some assume Jesus’ mention of pre-Flood people’s eating, drinking, and giving in marriage (Matthew 24:38, Luke 17:26-28) is a reference to alcoholism. However, when taken literally, the Greek word drinking Jesus used doesn’t necessarily imply drunkenness.[i] Jesus’ overall point about pre-Flood people was their lack of awareness and unwillingness to heed the signs of coming judgment. Indeed, all kinds of wickedness must have been swirling around within the human condition. Still, their most profound problem was their refusal to seek after God. The sinful human tendency to avoid God is still humanity’s most significant problem. Jesus knew complacency would become even more acute in the Last Days (Matthew 24:39-41), so He warned us to avoid the trap of assuming everything will always just be normal.

Noah Gets Drunk

This brings us to the curious situation of Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8) getting drunk (Genesis 9:21). We don’t have many details; Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), drank wine, and became intoxicated (Genesis 9:21). The Bible is commendable in that it never tries to cover up the flawed nature of its heroes. Whether or not Noah intended to get drunk hardly matters in the grand scheme of the story. His drunkenness produced nakedness (Genesis 9:21-22), a condition already marked by God as deeply shameful (Genesis 3:7-11, 21). Ham accidentally discovered his father’s scandalous condition and told his brothers Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:22). When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor and realized what Ham had done to him, he immediately pronounced a curse on the descendants of Ham (Genesis 9:24-25).

The Awful Aftermath of Noah’s Drunkenness

Speculation abounds as to what Ham did to his father to warrant such a harsh judgment.[ii] It’s safe to stick with the context and conclude that Ham took on a demeanor of disrespect towards his father. Rather than respectfully covering Noah’s nakedness and preserving his dignity, Ham gossiped about it to his brothers. Shem and Japheth wisely backed into their father’s tent and covered his shame without looking (Genesis 9:23). Noah’s failure is not a biblical license to excuse drunkenness. Noah was pre-law and pre-revelation, operating as best he could in a brand-new world full of uncertainty. He fell short, and the Bible wisely gives us the first recorded consequences of fermented wine. The Flood didn’t rid the universe of sin. It just gave humanity a fresh start. This tragic episode in Noah’s life story serves as a reminder of human righteousness’s frailty. It’s astounding how relevant Noah’s drunken failure is in today’s world. Wine lowered inhibitions, ushered in shameful nakedness and ripped a family apart. And, thousands of years later, intoxication is doing the same thing but on an epic scale.

It Just Gets Worse

The Bible’s second mention of drunkenness is even more horrific than the first. Lot had just barely escaped the fiery judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-29). He took his two surviving daughters to live in a cave because he feared the surrounding people (Genesis 19:30). His two daughters hatched a disgusting plan to get their father drunk so that they could have incestuous relations with him (Genesis 19:31-35). They desired to have children and preserve their future in some twisted way. Clearly, all those years living in Sodom had warped their morals. Their plan was successful to Lot’s abysmal shame, and from those incestuous children, two of Israel’s most antagonistic tribes were birthed: The Moabites and the Ammonites (Genesis 19:36).

This passage doesn’t explicitly condemn drunkenness or incest; it doesn’t have to. Every Israelite reader would have known these were sins to be avoided because two of Israel’s most troublesome enemies were spawned due to Lot’s drunken actions.[iii] Again, the Bible demonstrates that alcohol is at the center of familial brokenness, terrible judgment, and sexual deviancy. Furthermore, a pattern of generational curses and consequences emerges only nineteen chapters into the Bible directly linked to alcohol. The Bible becomes much more explicit and forceful in its condemnation of alcohol later, but these early chapters give implied warnings about alcohol’s evils. The Bible consistently sheds a negative light on drinking and the fallout surrounding it.

More Unfavorable Mentions

Nabal died of a stroke after insulting David and throwing a drunken party (1 Samuel 25:1-44). His name means “fool,” which fits perfectly with his actions. In one of King David’s vilest moments, he intentionally got Uriah drunk while trying to cover up that he had impregnated the poor man’s wife. When that didn’t work, King David arranged for Uriah to be killed (2 Samuel 11:1-26). Zimri assassinated wicked King Elah of Israel while Elah was drunk, fulfilling the prophecy of Jehu (1 Kings 16:7-14). A pagan king named Ben-Hadad made a strategic blunder in battle while in a drunken state (1 Kings 20:15-21). Interestingly misfortune befalls each of these people from Noah to King Ben-Hadad either while in their drunken stupor or shortly after they woke up.[iv] In my opinion, these stories alone give compelling reasons a wise Christian should avoid alcohol entirely without needing a single explicit biblical command.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Joel

4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten, and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten, and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. 5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth (Joel 1:4-5).

The prophet Joel viewed the locust plague as a manifestation of God’s displeasure due to His people’s sins, and, quite appropriately, he directed his first great caution, “Awake,” to a prominent class of sinners always present in any wicked society, the drunkards. The destruction of all vegetation, including the vineyards, would have interrupted and cut off the supply of intoxicants for years to come. Notably, Joel did not address this class as unfortunates overcome by some innocent disease. The Biblical view of drinking intoxicants and wallowing in drunkenness relates such conditions to wickedness and not to disease. As Shakespeare put it:[v]

O thou invisible spirit of wine, If thou hast no name to be known by, let Us call thee devil.[vi]

Unlike many of the other prophets, Joel did not condemn Israel for idolatry. Earlier in their history, when Joel was prophesying, idolatry was not the great sin in Israel. Joel only mentions one sin, the sin of drunkenness.[vii] It would be a grave error to overlook the gravity of this inference by the prophet Joel. Of course, the subtext is Israel’s spiritual drunken stupor, but their literal drunkenness is the obvious sin. Joel compares the easily visible sin of outward drunkenness to Israel’s spiritual indifference. Even more compelling is the parallel the prophet makes between intoxication and spiritual malpractice. How can intemperate people properly serve a temperate God? Joel pointed out the irony that God sent a plague of locusts cutting off Israel’s ability to remain intoxicated, forcing the people to become sober long enough to reflect on their sins and the resulting judgments of God.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Hosea

Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT).

In this blistering chapter (Hosea 4), God rebuked the Israelites, likening them to literal and figurative prostitutes. God described Israel’s culture as murderous, unfaithful, adulterous, unkind, dishonest, and idolatrous. Then God pinpoints why their society had become so awful because they didn’t have proper knowledge and understanding of God. Then God revealed the root of the problem: Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT). Notice, God did not say drunkenness has robbed My people of understanding. Wine compounds terrible decisions and poor judgment in all its recreational uses, usually resulting in spiritual ignorance and stupidity.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Isaiah

1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! 2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. 3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: But even these reel with wine and stagger from strong drink:

7 The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink; They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while seeing visions, They stagger when pronouncing judgment. 8 For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, so that there is no place [that is clean] (Isaiah 28:1-3, 7-8).

Ephraim and Israel are synonymous terms for the ten northern tribes, also called Samaria. The picture here of drunkards is both literal and spiritual. They were in a stupor as far as spiritual understanding was concerned. In this instance, to be spiritually drunk is to be filled with pride.[viii] In this great city of abundance, drunkenness had become the prevailing sin, or rather, the root sin that spawned many other sins. Like the prophet Joel, Isaiah strikes at the source of the problem.

Religious leaders who were supposed to seek God’s word and give it to the people could not blame an ecstatic experience of the Spirit for their condition. They drank of other spirits.[ix] The debauched leaders were consumed by what they consumed. Though no doubt literal as well, the metaphorical “vomit” of cynicism poured out of Jerusalem’s leaders.[x] Spiritual leaders, “so-called” influenced by alcohol, spew out false guidance and lead their followers astray. Like so many other biblical passages, this passage links the consumption of strong drink with sin, bad judgment, spiritual lethargy, pride, misplaced confidence, and dereliction of duty.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Habakkuk

4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. 5 Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people (Habakkuk 2:4-5).

Here the prophet Habakkuk points out the wickedness of the typical Babylonian: He was addicted to alcohol. War was his passion. The prophet described him as a man “who enlargeth his desire as [Hades], and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations.” But wine was his downfall.[xi] Several translations render “transgresseth by wine” as “wine is treacherous” or “wine betrays.” Depicting wine or alcohol in general as a betrayer is a truism that reaches beyond Babylon’s vices. No different from people today; Babylonians drank for pleasure but found pain instead. Drinking aggravated their baser passions, and they became a perverted people. Habakkuk continues this theme a few verses later:

15 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! 16 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 (Habakkuk 2:15-16).

Babylon is now condemned for leading others, her neighbors, into debauchery by causing them to drink intoxicants.[xii] In verse fifteen, drunkenness is connected with immorality (that he can gaze on their naked bodies), and they often go hand in hand.[xiii] Beyond the shame and sin of nakedness, this Scripture’s context suggests that perverse sexual acts accompanied intoxication.[xiv] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the correlation between alcohol, indecency, and sexual immorality. Ancient biblical prophets understood by observation and logic what we know scientifically; alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions and ability to exercise sound judgment. Inebriation leads to inhibition, inhibition often leads to indecency, and indecency often leads to sexual deviancy.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Daniel

1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone (Daniel 5:1-4).

Daniel prophesied during the time of Babylonian captivity when God’s people were essentially well-treated slaves in Babylon. We don’t know why but Belshazzar, king of Babylon, decided to throw a great feast. The Aramaic construction of “whiles he tasted the wine” from the text seems to imply “under the influence of the wine.”[xv] So, when Belshazzar became slightly drunk, he made a foolish decision he wouldn’t otherwise have made. He called for the sacred vessels taken from God’s holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought into the feast. Belshazzar and his entourage desecrated those holy vessels with wine and idolatrous worship. At that very moment, the hand of God wrote on the wall warning of Belshazzar’s judgment, and Belshazzar was assassinated that night (Daniel 5:5-30). Interestingly, Habakkuk condemned the Babylonians for their drunken lifestyle, and just a few years later, Daniel witnessed Babylon’s fall due to a drunken decision made by its king?

We can hardly misunderstand the importance of wine since Daniel mentions wine or drinking in each of the first four verses of chapter five. Daniel specifically links drinking with the pagan worship of gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. The curse of Deuteronomy 32:15 falls on those who practice idolatry.[xvi] And, later, Daniel rails against Belshazzar, saying, “…they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them (Daniel 5:23).” To be clear, Daniel explicitly connects not only Belshazzar’s idolatry but also the drinking of wine in sacred vessels to God’s wrath.

The Biblical Connection Between Alcohol and the Mishandling of Spiritual Things

I’m not taking liberty with the Bible to connect drinking with the mishandling of spiritual things. The story of Belshazzar alone is a great example. However, it’s worth noting that Daniel refused to drink the king’s wine after he was first taken captive by the Babylonians. More precisely, the Bible says, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank (Daniel 1:8)”. Most commentaries recognize two main reasons Daniel refused the king’s meat: 1) Babylonian meat would likely have been offered in sacrifice to false gods. 2) Babylonian meat would likely not be in keeping with Old Testament dietary laws.[xvii] However, the other foods Daniel agreed to eat would also have been dedicated to false gods rendering the first point unlikely.[xviii] Furthermore, accepting the second explanation supposes Daniel believed Babylonian wine was off-limits.

The question naturally emerges, why did Daniel refuse the king’s wine? I believe the answer is twofold, and we begin finding the solution by observing that it was the king’s meat and wine Daniel refused. This understanding leads us to the first of a twofold answer: Daniel avoided the luxurious diet of the king’s table to protect himself from being ensnared by the temptations of the Babylonian culture. He used a distinctive diet to retain his distinctive identity as a Jewish exile and avoid complete assimilation into Babylonian culture (which was the king’s goal with these conquered subjects).[xix] Two, to abstain from the Old Testament prohibition against “strong drink” (which we have already outlined to some degree), Jews customarily diluted wine with water. Some added three parts of water to wine, others six parts, and some as much as ten parts of water to one part of wine. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine.[xx]

In ancient times, wine and strong drink didn’t have the alcohol content associated with modern beverages. Diluting wine with water rendered it down to microscopically small levels of alcohol content. Even drinking the undiluted wine would have required drinking from early morning until night to achieve inebriation (Isaiah 5:11). Without jumping too far ahead into the New Testament, this is why Paul could write without hypocrisy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23)”. Obviously, the wine mentioned by Paul is not meant as a beverage but as a medicine.[xxi] This Scripture no more authorizes drinking alcohol for pleasure than it prohibits the drinking of water. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommended that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was often unintoxicating.[xxii]

Regarding Daniel, he refused the king’s wine out of wisdom and obedience to Scripture. Daniel was set apart for the Lord’s service, and Babylonian wine was contrary to that spiritual calling. Daniel knew that by honoring God and refusing the Babylonian lifestyle, he would be healthier than his pagan captors. By setting himself apart, he invited the favor of God into his life, and it was visible to everyone around him (Daniel 1:15-18). Beyond that, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17)”. Because mind-altering substances didn’t bind Daniel, he was able to handle spiritual things properly. Before you assume I’m stretching Scripture to fit my view, let’s look at the priesthood, the Nazarite vow, and the Rechabites.

The Priesthood & Alcohol

8 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 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 forever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses (Leviticus 10:8-11).

It seems this commandment from God was not random. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, had just offered strange fire before the Lord. God immediately responded by striking them dead with fire (Leviticus 10:1-7). In context, this prohibition suggests that intoxication led Nadab and Abihu to perform their blasphemous act.[xxiii] This commandment was necessitated by humanity’s inability to decipher the difference between “holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean” when under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol dulls the senses and clearly makes someone “blemished.” Only priests in full possession of their faculties could enter the Sanctuary, for anything less was not worthy of God. God requires the very best. Therefore, to be under the influence of alcohol is clearly to be “unclean.” And the uncleanness remains until the total effects of the alcohol have worn off. And if they did enter under the influence of alcohol, they were in danger of immediate death, for it would be seen as a direct insult to the holiness of God. This statute was set as permanent for all time, stressing its seriousness. Paul takes this up concerning Christian worship when he says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18-20)”. A state of intoxication is dishonoring to God. To be in such a condition is to be less than the best for God and excludes us from His presence.[xxiv]

The broader point being made in the Levitical instruction to the priests is that God is holy, and nothing that comes short of that holiness should be permitted into His presence. Nothing ritually unclean could enter the Sanctuary, or it would be defiled.[xxv] Some have speculated that God gave the priests (and, by extension, the rest of us) a license to drink when they were off duty. However, this is not the case. Rather, God forcibly demonstrated the importance of sobriety as an individual draws closer to God’s presence. The stress is on the importance of keeping the Sanctuary and its precincts holy to bring home the holiness of God. It meant that purity would become a daily concern for all the people, both physically and morally.[xxvi]

The idea here is that for anyone to come short of God’s requirements is to be rendered unclean. The priesthood’s duty was to discern, teach, and demonstrate God’s statutes and requirements, both concerning rituals and life. God’s people must always seek to avoid any possible sources of defilement. They, too, must be holy. For us, the question must always be, how can we ensure that we are the best for God? What should we avoid that might make us less than the best? In our case, it is spiritual cleanness that we must encourage and spiritual uncleanness that we must avoid (2 Corinthians 7:1, Mark 7:20-23). And we should be daily concerned that we do so. We must not enter His presence unclean.[xxvii]

This passage in Leviticus (Leviticus 10:8-11) clarifies several straightforward reasons modern Christians should avoid alcohol altogether. First, it demonstrates that God views alcohol as rendering a person unholy and incompatible with His presence. Second, it clarifies that alcohol renders a person unworthy and incapable of handling spiritual things. And thirdly, New Testament saints of God are likened to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost. Understanding the third point is probably the most crucial revelation a person needs to abstain from alcohol completely. So, let’s zero in on what it means for the Bible to liken saints to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost.

New Testament Priesthood, Living Sacrifices & Temples of the Holy Ghost

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God (1 Peter 2:5, NLT).

Paul called the Church a “temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:21) and “a dwelling” (Ephesians 2:22). Believers make up the Church and serve in it, ministering as a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. All believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 4:16, Revelations 1:6) and need no other mediator than Jesus Christ to approach God directly. Priestly service requires holiness (1 Peter 1:16, 22).[xxviii] Not only does God consecrate us as a temple to Himself, in which He dwells and is worshipped, but He also makes us priests. Peter mentions this double honor as a call to holiness and purity. Of the spiritual sacrifices, the first is the offering of ourselves, as Paul says in Romans 12:1. Like the ancient priesthood, we can’t offer anything until we present ourselves unto God as living sacrifices, which is done by denying ourselves.[xxix] As becomes clear in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter evoked Exodus 19:5–6 and Isaiah 61:6, emphasizing that as priests (as well as stones) in this new temple, believers offer spiritual sacrifices, not physical animal sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15).[xxx]

The gravity of what the above Scriptures mean for New Testament believers can’t be overemphasized. Although many try to avoid it, the reality is that God views Spirit-filled Christians as priests, temples, and sacrifices. The holy Spirit of God dwells within us, and His holiness will not mix with unholiness. God’s Spirit will not compete with intoxicating spirits for our time, energy, focus, attention, or adoration. Furthermore, the same timeless (Leviticus 10:9) commandments regarding moral behavior and purity, which applied to the priesthood, pertain to modern believers. That word spiritual, when applied to house and sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), does not mean immaterial (humans are not supernatural persons), but rather influenced or dominated by the Holy Spirit; sharing the character of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11, 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15, 12:1, Galatians 6:1, Colossians 3:16). Christians are a new temple of God operating under the constant influence and power of the Holy Spirit.[xxxi]

The Nazarite Vow & Alcohol

A Nazarite was a person specially dedicated or separated unto God. They can be viewed as lay priests, although they were not necessarily Levites. Like priests, Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine or strong drink of any kind (Numbers 6:4).[xxxii] Nazarites were like standard-bearers to show other people the way. They shone brightly with the special glory of God (Lamentations 4:7).[xxxiii] When the prophet Amos chastised Israel and Judah for their backsliding, he mentioned the Nazarites:

11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? Saith the Lord. 12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not (Amos 2:11-12).

Amos was reminding Israel and Judah that godly prophets and Nazarites were a distinct blessing from God. But instead of honoring and appreciating holy examples, they enticed the Nazarites to drink wine and commanded the prophets to be quiet. Amos considered this a particularly heinous sin for which God would make them “moan” with pain (Amos 2:13). I hope not, but someone might remain convinced that drinking in moderation is not a sin (later, we will examine the difficulty of defining moderation). However, let me give a firm warning: Enticing others to drink alcohol will likely invite the anger of God. If a person remains unconvinced and unconvicted, they should leave the godly convictions of others alone. God always calls us to give deference to firmer and stricter convictions than our beliefs (Romans 14:15-23). Otherwise, we are enticing that person to sin (Romans 14:23).

Although the Nazirite vow is an Old Testament concept, there is a New Testament parallel to the Nazirite vow. Once again, we are connecting back to Romans 12:1-2, where Paul states:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, because of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (ESV).

For Christians, the ancient Nazarite vow symbolizes the need to be separate from this world, a holy people consecrated to God (2 Timothy 1:9). Thankfully, in the New Testament, we are no longer bound by ceremonial and ritualistic laws that have no bearing on our salvation because of the work that Jesus accomplished. However, we are now called and enabled by the Holy Ghost to be even more separated unto God morally in many ways.

15 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

The Rechabites & Alcohol

18 And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; because Ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab, your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever (Jeremiah 35:18-19).

We first read about Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in II Kings 10:15-23 when Jehu, the king of Israel, allied with Jonadab to destroy the followers of Baal. King Jehu knew Jonadab was zealous for God and an influential man. Together they completed what the prophet Elijah had begun. They killed all the worshippers of Baal.[xxxiv] So complete was this destruction that the pagan worship of Baal (which included human sacrifice, sometimes parents sacrificed their children) was wiped out in Israel, and the temple of Baal was torn down and made into a garbage dump.[xxxv]

In great wisdom, Jonadab commanded his family to abstain from wine and strong drink. He instructed them not to buy houses but to dwell in tents. He asked them not to plant vineyards or buy fields. Jonadab set standards to preserve his family both physically and spiritually. Some of his guidelines sound unreasonable to modern ears. But Jonadab wanted to ensure his family would survive the changes that would come to Israel when foreign invaders destroyed the nation. He took measures that permanently set them apart. He was preparing his family for the tragedies the prophets had been warning Israel about for years. Many other families didn’t survive the pagan invasions because they had been “living the good life.” But Jonadab’s family survived because they listened to the wisdom of their father.

Almost three hundred years after Jonadab’s death, the nation of Judah was in great turmoil. Idolatry was everywhere. Jerusalem was about to be captured, destroyed, and plundered by the Babylonians. Suddenly in the middle of all this turmoil, God said to Jeremiah, “Go find the descendants of Jonadab (Jeremiah 35:2).” They gathered the Rechabites together and offered them wine. Astonishingly, three hundred years later, the descendants of Jonadab refused wine and held to their father’s commandments. Jeremiah was using the Rechabites to illustrate faithfulness and obedience to the unfaithful and disobedient people of Judah. He wanted the leaders in Jerusalem to see what genuine dedication looked like. In Jeremiah 35:19, we see perhaps the most extraordinary promise given to a father and a family in the entire Bible. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying, “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever (Jeremiah 35:19).” Meaning, somewhere in our world today, at least one descendent of Jonadab is alive and serving the Lord.

Notice the enormous contrast the Bible spotlights between the families of Noah, Lot, and Jonadab. The involvement of alcohol brought lasting curses on the families of Noah and Lot. The absence of alcohol played a significant role in the physical and spiritual preservation of Jonadab’s family. If nothing else, the Rechabites further underscore the wisdom of complete temperance. The Rechabites’ biblical account gives a template for multi-generational family success: Holiness and separation from the world’s destructive habits and patterns. I am reminded of what Paul wrote:

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).

Proverbs Warnings Against Alcohol

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).

Wine is pictured as a mocker, scoffing at the person foolish enough to drink it. Beer or strong drink is portrayed as a brawler. It not only bullies the drinker but turns him into an aggressive fool.[xxxvi] This verse is the beginning of a long series of warnings against strong drink by Solomon. Wise people, he said, will not be deceived by it. Other proverbs in the series point out that wine leads to poverty (Proverbs 21:17; Proverbs 23:21); it produces sorrow, strife, needless wounds, gossip, and red eyes (Proverbs 23:29–30); however desirable it may seem, it is a deceiver and harms all who drink it (Proverbs 23:31–32); it fills a person’s thoughts with lust and leads to adultery (Proverbs 23:33); and, finally, it is addictive and unpredictable (Proverbs 23:35).[xxxvii] Notice the alcoholic drink itself—not just its damaging effects—is described in disapproving terms—no matter how much or how little is used.[xxxviii]

The Foolishness of the Moderate Drinking Argument

It’s incredibly foolish to take one sip of alcohol! Suppose we go to the airport to board a plane, and as we present our tickets at the gate, we are told that one seat in every eighteen will fall through the floor before the flight is over. Startled, we ask which seats will fall. The attendant says, “We don’t know, but probably more of them are on the left side of the plane.” What person in his right mind would board such a plane? When someone takes his first drink, he is like a person who would board that plane. To embark on such a course is to risk becoming a confirmed drunkard before the journey of life is over. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but it’s worth repeating: If you never taste alcohol, you will never get drunk. Furthermore, if intoxication isn’t the goal, what is the point of drinking alcohol at all?

When the arguments for “moderate drinking” are made, several questions and problems arise. Why drink something so potentially destructive at all? When does intoxication begin? How drunk is too drunk? How do you know the moment before you’ve had too much (especially knowing that alcohol lowers inhibitions and weakens the ability to make wise decisions)? Maybe you’re willing to risk becoming a raging alcoholic, but do you want to gamble with your kids’ lives also? Is sipping a tiny bit of alcohol more important than being a stumbling block to others? Can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ve never drunk to excess? Could you give it up tomorrow if you were convinced drinking is a sin? How do others around you view your drinking habits?

The reality is this. No one starts out planning to be a drunkard. But it happens every single day. Because alcohol is a mocker, it’s like a serpent that strikes unpredictably with lightning speed. Everyone goes through terrible seasons of pain, disappointment, suffering, and discouragement. Sadly, it’s during those seasons many people lean on alcohol instead of the Lord. Many “moderate” drinkers have become full-blown drunkards in seasons of depression. Honestly, the words alcohol and moderation are paradoxical; it’s just not reasonable for an individual to believe they can coexist indefinitely. Ironically, every alcoholic I’ve known whose life was in shambles considered themselves a moderate drinker who had everything under control.

New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Jesus

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34).

Because we don’t know the day or the hour of Jesus’ Second Coming, He warned us to keep a constant watch. Other Scriptures caution us to watch for the signs of His return, but Jesus instructed us to look inward and watch ourselves so that we will be ready and worthy when He returns. The prophets sometimes spoke of judgment as a trap that would catch the unprepared (Isaiah 8:14, Jeremiah 50:24, Ezekiel 12:13), and Jesus employed this exact terminology.[xxxix] Interestingly, The Living Bible provides the best modern translation of Jesus’ words:

Watch out! Don’t let my sudden coming catch you unawares; don’t let me find you living in careless ease, carousing and drinking, and occupied with the problems of this life, like all the rest of the world (Luke 21:34, TLB).

Alcohol, in all its various forms, is incompatible with a lifestyle of readiness for the rapture. Spiritual alertness is vital to the Christian lifestyle. We are like watchmen on the wall looking intently for the Lord’s return. Like soldiers, we are commissioned to prepare others for His return as well. Anything that dulls the senses, or weakens resolve, or misconstrues good judgment conflicts with our mission.

New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Paul & Peter

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober… (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

Some argue that Jesus was condemning drunkenness but not drinking in moderation. However, the apostle Paul understood precisely what Jesus meant, and he mirrored it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. Paul is basically quoting Jesus’ comments from Luke 21:34. The context of this passage is very important and can only be intentionally misconstrued. In verse six, Paul uses the word “sober” in relation to alertness. In verse seven, he references drunkenness, symbolizing lostness. And again, in verse eight, Paul commands us to be “sober.” Paul’s use of the word sober wasn’t symbolic. That’s clear contextually, and because Paul could have utilized other Greek words to signal figurative soberness. However, he twice used the Greek word nepho, which means to abstain from wine.[xl]

The apostle Peter also echoed the words of Jesus from Luke 21:34 in his first letter:

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).

Peter likely remembered Jesus’ injunction to abstain from drinking and his failure to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) while writing, “…be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Peter’s instructions were literal and figurative at the same time. Because you can’t be spiritually sober and physically influenced by spirits. Furthermore, Peter twice used the Greek word nepho (sober), which, as already mentioned, means literally to abstain from wine. 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to be sober and vigilant because the devil is like a lion roaming around seeking to devour us. Peter made a profound connection between alcohol and vulnerability to Satanic attack.

Again, 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to “gird up the loins of our minds” and be “sober.” In the next verse (1 Peter 1:14), he commented that some might have acted differently out of ignorance, but he emphatically warned them not to conform to their former desires. Essentially, he called the Church to a higher level of holiness than the Jews had previously followed. He explains why by quoting the book of Leviticus: But as the One who called you is holy; you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16, HCSB).

Of course, there are numerous New Testament passages strongly condemning drunkenness and demanding temperance. These verses are straightforward and require minimal commentary, so for the sake of time, I’ll list the references for those who might wish to dig into them and leave it at that (1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Galatians 5:21, Titus 1:7-8, 1 Timothy 3:2-3, Titus 2:2-3, 2 Peter 1:6).

Questions Answered: Did Paul Condone Drinking in Moderation?

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Paul’s directives contrast the differences between being under the influence of wine, which leads to reckless actions, and being under the influence of the Spirit, which results in joyful living.[xli] “Did Paul condone drinking wine in moderation?” is a question that understandably comes up over and over again from sincere and insincere people. I’ve already touched on this issue, but it’s such a common question that it deserves extra attention. Regarding Ephesians 5:18, many commentators argue that Paul condoned by omission moderate wine consumption because he only mentions drunkenness. As if staggering, falling down, slobbering drunkenness is the only drunkenness God forbids. However, in this instance, Paul’s consistent denunciations of drinking and calls for sobriety in other passages made it unnecessary for him to be redundant in Ephesians 5:18. Also, the King James Version’s translation of Ephesians 5:18, although accurate, is unfortunately easily misunderstood by modern readers. For example, “…wherein is excess…” sounds to some as if Paul is saying, “getting drunk is excessive but drinking up to the point of excess is fine.” The English Standard Version gives a clearer perspective:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).

Paul didn’t intend to give a new revelation about drinking or drunkenness. Actually, he was building on a concept his readers already understood to signify the importance of being continuously refilled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. But confusion surrounding the Bible’s overall view of alcohol stems from modern readers’ disconnection to ancient times.

Questions Answered: A Little Wine for the Stomach?

Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23).

The above verse is probably the most cited verse used to justify moderate drinking, which is laughable because there are far more troubling passages of Scripture to contend with than Paul’s medical advice to Timothy. And this was medical advice. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommends that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was typically unintoxicating.[xlii]

Paul was certainly not telling Timothy to get drunk; in Paul’s day, most wine was watered down two parts water to every part wine, and wine was not distilled, so the alcohol content was not high. At the same time, before refrigeration and hermetic sealing, any grape juice that had been kept for some months after the last grape vintage included some alcohol content. Would we tell every Christian today with a stomachache to avoid water and go have a watered-down beer? Or was that simply the best remedy available in Paul’s day, in contrast to our own?[xliii] If a pastor advises someone to take NyQuil or go under anesthesia, it does not mean they are recommending recreational drugs or casual alcohol consumption.

Questions Answered: Not Given to Much Wine?

Likewise, must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine… (1 Timothy 3:8).

Some interpret this as saying that deacons must not be habitual drinkers, which might seem to condone moderate alcohol consumption. However, in light of how strongly Paul condemns drunkenness (1 Corinthians 6:10), he probably had a different meaning in mind. Since there were many forms of wine available—both fermented (alcoholic) and unfermented—Paul is more likely advising self-control and warning against the excessive use of unfermented wine. In extremely pagan and self-indulgent cultures like Ephesus, excessive use of even non-alcoholic wine was prevalent. It often led to the use of other wines that were mixed and intoxicating. Essentially, Paul was emphasizing self-control and moderation in all areas of life, even in good things.[xliv] This answer and the previous explanations also apply to Titus 1:7 and Titus 2:3.

Questions Answered: Let Him Drink?

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more (Proverbs 31-4-7).

This passage is a song by Bathsheba written for her son, Solomon. Therefore, these troubling verses (Proverbs 31:6-7) are not to be taken literally. In essence, she seems to be utilizing a condescending figure of speech by comparing the poor’s drunkenness to Solomon’s regality. By contrasting the plight of the poor and dying, Bathsheba exclaims that Solomon should consider himself above such lowly things. Her advice to Solomon is relevant to us as well. We, too, should abstain from judgment perverting influences like strong drink.

For those who struggle with that viewpoint, notice that the Hebrew word used for wine in this passage does not necessarily refer to fermented wine (more on that in a moment). I can’t imagine a worse prescription for curing depression (even by modern standards) than drunkenness. Furthermore, why differentiate between strong drink and wine unless there is a substantive difference between the two? I have no issue with the ancient medical practice of giving strong drink to the dying or those in terrible physical agony. Likewise, few Christians would have any problem with cancer patients taking morphine or a strong narcotic for pain. Only the cruelest-hearted would deny the use of medical narcotics to a hospice patient. Such medical practices are a far cry from recreational drug use or drinking.

Questions Answered: Did the Early Church Get Drunk During Communion Services?

For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken (1 Corinthians 11:21).

In addition to the Lord’s Supper, the Early Church held what was referred to as the agape feasts, much like a present-day church fellowship meal (2 Peter 2:13, Jude 1:12). These probably took place in homes where those in the Early Church often met for worship and fellowship. “One remains hungry, another gets drunk” could also be translated, “One remains hungry, another is filled to the full,” since the word “drunk” (Greek methuö) can refer to being intoxicated or to being filled or satisfied without reference to intoxication. The context of this verse clearly relates to the meal in general. When the Corinthians came together for their fellowship meals before eating the Lord’s Supper, some gathered in small groups, separated by social class, and ate separately (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). The poor, who could not contribute much, if any, to the meal, were often ignored and left hungry.

Paul condemned the behavior of those who ignored the poor (1 Corinthians 11:17) for three reasons: One, they were practicing and encouraging division in the Church. Two, they were humiliating members of the Church who were poor and probably coming directly from work without food (1 Corinthians 11:22). Three, some of the rich saints may have brought fermented wine and got intoxicated, which Paul would have considered even more unacceptable. Some interpreters, however, feel that Paul was not referring to an issue of intoxication here, or else he would have severely condemned it as he did elsewhere in the letter (1 Corinthians 6:10). He considered drunkenness not only as an issue of dishonor toward others but also a condition serious enough to cause people to turn from God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:21).[xlv]

Questions Answered: Was Jesus A Winebibber?

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:19).

Glutton and drunkard were insults that denote a rebellious son who deserves to be put to death (Deuteronomy 21:18–21).[xlvi] Jesus compared John the Baptist’s rejection and his own to the behavior of childish brats who would not play either the wedding game or the funeral game (Matthew 11:7-22). Neither John’s ascetic abstinence (compared to mourning or singing a dirge at a funeral) nor Jesus’ enjoyment of food and drink (likened to dancing at a wedding feast) was satisfactory to the Pharisees. John was slandered with the charge of demon possession (Matthew 11:18), and Jesus was smeared as a glutton and drunkard because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. No doubt Jesus did associate with such folk, but the charges of drunkenness and gluttony were unsubstantiated lies, evidently circulated by the Pharisees, who objected to table fellowship with sinners.[xlvii] It’s almost dramatically comical that people use the lies of the Pharisees against Jesus to justify their winebibbing.

Questions Answered: Isn’t Aged Wine Fermented?

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined (Isaiah 25:6, ESV).

This eschatological passage is sometimes used against teetotalers to defend drinking aged (fermented) wine. The context of Isaiah’s prophecy is a victory celebration in Heaven given by the Lord for the saints. Apparently, some people find it easy to believe the Lord will happily get all the saints drunk in Heaven. Interestingly, this is a newer misunderstanding or misconstruing of Scripture, likely due to the English Standard Version’s uptick in popularity. The English Standard Version and many other translations butcher this verse and outlandishly alter its intended meaning by inexplicably adding the descriptors “aged” and “well-aged” to the word wine. Leaving hapless, low-information readers with the impression God approves of fermented wine. So much so that He will personally provide it for His people. One can only wonder if some of these modern translators had a pro-alcohol agenda? The King James Version is accurate although dated:

And in this mountain, shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Isaiah 25:6).

The words “aged” or “well-aged” are not in the Hebrew text. “Lees” is a good King James word meaning dregs or pulp. A banquet of “aged wine” (shemarim) is translated literally as “a banquet of preserves,” which probably refers to luscious grape juice that had been preserved for a long time for a particular purpose.[xlviii] And “refined” (zāqaq) is a Hebrew verb meaning to refine or to purify. The literal meaning of this word is to strain or extract. “Refined” is used about gold (1 Chronicles 28:18), silver (1 Chronicles 29:4, Psalms 12:6), and water (Job 36:27). It is also used regarding the purification of the Levites, comparing it to the refining of gold and silver (Malachi 3:3).[xlix] Interestingly, the prophetic wine Isaiah envisioned will be purified in every sense of the word.

Questions Answered: Did God Ok Strong Drink in the Old Testament

And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

This verse applies to special occasions for worship and thanksgiving by the entire household, including men, women, youth, and little children. The Hebrew word used here for “wine” (yayin) can indicate either fermented grape juice or unfermented grape juice. The Hebrew word for “fermented drink” (shekar) can be rendered “sweet drink.” This clarity removes the difficulty of suggesting that adults and children are commanded to worship God by consuming addicting and intoxicating beverages.[l] The purpose of the worship service was “that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). To properly worship God and learn to revere (regard with respect and honor) Him, we need to be alert and self-controlled (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

We should note that the Levite priests were present at the worship service (Deuteronomy 14:27-29). As we’ve already covered, the priests were absolutely forbidden to have anything to do with strong drink. Breaking that commandment invited the death penalty (Leviticus 10:9). It would be contrary to God’s holy character to commend the free use of intoxicants by the worshipers while in the company of the priests. Also, the nature of the festival was a harvest feast, during which time fresh harvest products would be used (Deuteronomy 14:23). This suggests that new fresh juice (non-alcoholic) was available. In this instance, the New King James Version gives an accurate English translation:

And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

Some conservative scholars think (shekar) is best rendered “strong drink” and that it was fermented but low in alcohol content. Others note that Numbers 28:7 uses this same word for the content of a strong drink offering, indicating perhaps that the strong drink was not drunk by the people but used in a drink offering to the Lord.[li] While those are interesting thoughts, I lean heavily in favor of the viewpoint that the word “strong drink” is mistranslated in the King James Version. The New King James Version gives a much better picture of the original Hebrew wording. Regardless, we can rest assured God was not promoting a drunken worship celebration involving children in honor of His holiness.

Questions Answered: Did Jesus Turn Water into Fermented Wine?

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now (John 2:9-10).

A quick Google search will show there’s a raging debate as to whether the Hebrew word for “wine” (yayin) only refers to wine that has fermented. Of course, pro-drinkers insist wine mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments is always fermented. For example, this is often cited to affirm the belief that Jesus’ first miracle endorsed the use of alcohol by turning water into fermented wine (John 2:1-11). “When men have well drunk” does not mean that they were intoxicated, though it is usually employed in that sense. In this context, it means when they have drunk sufficient, and the keenness of their taste has waned so that they could not readily distinguish the good from that which was worse.[lii]

There are numerous reasons to conclude that Jesus did not contribute to a drunken wedding celebration. Foremost in my mind is the reality that Jesus would not violate His Word: Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken (Habakkuk 2:15). It would have been scandalous to the highest degree had Jesus done such a thing. And not just in pharisaical circles but also among ordinary Jewish people. Furthermore, creating aged (fermented) wine would have been antithetical to the miracle’s message. Jesus demonstrated that His new wine is superior, as is everything tied to the new, Messianic age He was introducing.[liii] This introduction miracle is directly linked to the Feast of Pentecost, where the new wine of the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the Church (Acts 2:1-18). The new fresh superiority of the wine at the wedding feast typified the new fresh superiority of the wine poured out at Pentecost. Ironically, skeptical onlookers at Pentecost also mistook the miracle for drunkenness, and Peter quickly assured them they were intoxicated by the Spirit, not alcohol (Acts 2:13-16).

Questions Answered: Does Yayin Always Mean Fermented Wine?

Those who argue that the Hebrew word yayin (wine) and its Greek equivalent oinos (wine) always refer to fermented wine are forced to ignore several salient Scripture passages. In both cases, the biblical word wine is used interchangeably to describe fresh juice or various levels of fermented juice, depending on the context. Yayin is a generic term used approximately 141 times in the Old Testament which speaks of all sorts of wine (yayin). Sometimes, yayin is applied to all kinds of fermented grape juice. On the other hand, yayin is used for describing the sweet unfermented juice of the grape. It can refer to fresh juice as it is pressed from grapes. Isaiah prophesied, “The treaders shall tread out no wine (yayin) in their presses” (Isaiah 16:10).” Likewise, Jeremiah said, “I have caused wine (yayin) to fall from the presses; none will tread without shouting (Jeremiah 48:33).” Jeremiah even refers to the juice still in the grape as (yayin) in Jeremiah 40:10-12.

Further evidence that yayin at times refers to unfermented juice of the grape is found in Lamentations, where the author describes nursing infants as crying out to their mothers for their everyday food of “corn and wine (Lamentations 2:12).” Also, The Jewish Encyclopedia [1901] states: “Fresh wine before fermentation was called yayin-mi-gat (wine of the vat).”[liv] Fermentation is just another word for corruption. The potato must first rot (corruption) to make vodka. There is no corruption in God’s kingdom! Fermentation, corruption represents sin which is contrary to the holiness of God (Galatians 6:8).

In Conclusion

Deeply welded into our sinful nature is the predisposition to seek confirmation for our preconceived ideas. Just like two thieves could hang next to Jesus and reach completely different conclusions about Him, we are vulnerable to misperceiving Truths hanging all around us. Why can two people read the same Scripture and walk away with opposing views? And why can those two people be wrong at the same time? Often, it’s because they view Scripture through the grimy lens of existing beliefs and confusing distortions.

Simply put, our flesh tends to believe what it wants to believe. That’s why Paul exclaimed that he died daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). A carnal unsubmitted mind will never understand spiritual things. While I do pray, this treatise will persuade someone to walk away from the alcohol. I realize it will take more than mere words formed into arguments to break that yoke. Whether I’m completely right or entirely wrong will make no difference to a person locked into a position or bound by addiction. Perhaps this will strengthen wavering resolve in the hearts of unsure saints. Maybe a leader’s tired hands will be lifted by this work. Hopefully, a sincere-hearted questioner will find food for thought in this resource.

Like so many others, I’ve seen first-hand the wreckage and waste accompanying even so-called moderate drinking. I’ve seen personalities freakishly changed by drink. I’m firmly planted in the category of people who do not need a Bible to be convinced that alcohol is harmful beyond measure and without redeeming value. I realize that for some people, the dilemma isn’t so black and white. Those people look for gray areas and live in the shadows. There’s no long-term warmth or comfort in those shadows. But I chose a long time ago to live in the light.


[i] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “πίνω πίω πόω,” paragraph 4016. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#4016

There are at least six interpretations about the nature of this crime:

1. It was an act of incest between Ham and his mother. This is based on the later use of the phrase father’s nakedness to refer to the mother as translated word for word in the NASB (e.g., Leviticus 18:8). This interpretation sometimes suggests that Canaan was the result of this act of incest.

2. It was an act of homosexuality between Ham and his father. This is based on taking the phrase what his youngest son had done to him (Genesis 9:24) as referring to a physical act.

3. It was an act of trespassing by Ham into his father’s tent.

4. It was an act of castration. This view is found in the Talmud, a Jewish collection of rabbinical law, law decisions, and comments on the Laws of Moses. It is seen as a power struggle in the family.

5. It was an act in which Ham attempted to achieve authority over his father by “blackmailing” him with his indecent exposure. Ham, in this view, desired to be head of the family.

6. It was a viewing (accidental or purposeful) in which Ham did not treat his father with respect because he spoke about his condition to his brothers.

The last interpretation seems the most natural, when all the circumstances are considered. Any improper action can be seen as an attempt to embarrass the father and as a result possibly to take leadership from the father. The actions of the brothers Shem and Japheth seem to contrast with the actions of Ham. Since they actually covered Noah’s nakedness, Ham apparently saw and left his father in a compromising position and then gossiped about it. Since Canaan has been mentioned previously (Genesis 9:18, 22) and Noah’s curse on Canaan appears immediate, Canaan is best seen as living at the time of this incident.

[ii]Kenneth O. Gangel and Stephen J. Bramer, Genesis, ed. Max Anders, vol. 1 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2002), 94-95. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#1043

[iii] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 1747. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#1747

[iv] Joe Cathey, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “DRUNKENNESS,” paragraph 4819. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Dictionary#4819

[v] Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Joel 1”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/joel-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

[vi] William Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Sc. 3. Line 285.

[vii] McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 27: Hosea & Joel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

[viii] J. Vernon McGee, Proverbs—Malachi, vol. III of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), paragraph 30067. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#30067

[ix] Trent C. Butler, Isaiah, ed. Max Anders, vol. 15 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2002), 164. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#57819

[x] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 11539. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#11539

[xi] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), 212. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#35650

[xii] David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 27 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 64. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#38672

[xiii] Stephen R. Miller, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, ed. Max Anders, vol. 20 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2004), 63. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#73119

[xiv] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 19110. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#19110

[xv] Eugene Carpenter, “Daniel,” in Ezekiel Daniel, vol. 9 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010), 374. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#77030

[xvi] Kenneth O. Gangel, Daniel, ed. Max Anders, vol. 18 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2001), 132. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#67248

[xvii] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16837

[xix] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 14336. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#14336

[xx] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330-1331. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16838

[xxi] J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians—Revelation, vol. V of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 454. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#60675

[xxii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985

[xxiii] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), paragraph 3077. https://accordance.bible/link/read/MacArthur_Study_Bible#3077

[xxiv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10:9”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxvi] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxvii] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxviii] Roger M. Raymer, 1 Peter (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 2:845. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#30327

[xxix] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 97601. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#97601

[xxx] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 17181. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#17181

[xxxi] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 105. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#59428

[xxxii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 3685. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#3685

[xxxiii] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 5239. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#5239

[xxxiv] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 14458. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#14458

[xxxv] A. H. Sayce, ISBE, s.v. “Baal (1),” paragraph 6416. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ISBE#6416

[xxxvi] Max Anders, Proverbs, ed. Max Anders, vol. 13 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2005), 198. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#49971

[xxxvii] John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs, Volume Two, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), 56. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#24180

[xxxviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 4746. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#4746

[xxxix] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 12568. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#12568

[xl] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “νήφω,” paragraph 3443. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#3443

[xli] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 22602. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#22602

[xlii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985.https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985

[xliii] Craig Keener, The Bible in its Context, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: Oak Tree Software, 2015), 39. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Keener-Context#433

[xliv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11961. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11961

[xlv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 10620. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#10620

[xlvi] Walter J. Harrelson, eds. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), paragraph 15714. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NISB#15714

[xlvii] David L. Turner, “The Gospel of Matthew,” in Matthew Mark, vol. 11 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 162. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#89927

[xlviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 5293. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#5293

[xlix] The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, s.v. “ז,” 301-302. https://accordance.bible/link/read/CWSD-OT#3374

[l] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 1627. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#1627

[li] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, eds. The Ryrie Study Bible. Expanded, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), paragraph 2891. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Ryrie#2891

[lii] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 6497. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Barnes’_Notes_(NT)#6497

[liii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 23006. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#23006

[liv] Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for ‘Wine’. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/w/wine.html. 1901.

Is the King James Bible the Best Translation?

I really enjoyed my conversation with Pastor Steve Waldron about all things pertaining to the King James Bible. We covered questions like: How did we get the Bible? How did we get the King James Bible? Is the King James Bible the best English translation? What about other modern English translations? Can the Bible be trusted as the literal Word of God?

Steve Waldron is a longtime professor of theology at Indiana Bible College, pastor of a revival church in Albany, GA., prolific writer, speaker, thought-leader, podcaster (Biblical Archeology Today with Steve Waldron), and YouTuber (New Life of Albany Church). His approach to biblical topics is always thought provoking and refreshingly introspective.

Steve Waldron Book Recommendations

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God’s Secretaries (The Making Of The King James Bible) – Book Review

 

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If you weren’t convinced that the King James Version of the Bible is the best English translation available you will be after reading God’s Secretaries (The Making of the King James Bible) by Adam Nicolson. At the heart of the “translation-wars”, are the questions of faithfulness to the original documents, understanding of the original languages, and submission to original intent. These are vital questions, especially in light of more modern translations that cut entire scriptures and even chapters from the text. Nicolson does an admirable job of historically demonstrating the faithful mindset that permeated the translation of the world’s most popular Bible. In my opinion, this book is a must-read for anyone who loves the Bible and considers it to be inerrant.

Interestingly, Nicolson is not a preacher, theologian, hermeneutician, or even a student of ancient biblical language. Neither, does he seem to be overwhelmingly pious or religious. In a refreshing way, this adds weight to his conclusions. He seems to offer an unbiased accounting of the historical context without the agenda that would naturally infiltrate the average person who would be inclined to write on such a topic. He is a historian of sorts and a gifted writer. Nicolson is thoroughly British (the 5th baron of Cornock) giving him a fascinating perspective of Jacobean England and the political and religious ideologies that produced the King James Bible.

This is not a boring retelling of the minutia of academic processes that birthed the King James Bible. It is a vivid historical portrait of England beginning in 1602 a full two years before the commissioning of a new and better translation by King James. The book draws you into the tapestry of political intrigue, religious fervor (both sincere and insincere), and the turmoil of the setting that birthed a timeless Bible translation that exudes the majesty of God. You will see as is so often the case with God, that human frailty is no hindrance to the ultimate plan of God in preserving His sacred Word.

“One of the King James Bible’s most consistent driving forces is the idea of majesty. Its method and its voice are far more regal than demotic. Its archaic formulations, its consistent attention to a grand and heavily musical rhythm are the vehicles by which that majesty are infused into the body of the text. Its qualities are those of grace, stateliness, scale, power. There is no desire to please here; only the belief in the enormous and overwhelming Divine authority… The Translators of the Bible clearly believed that the majesty of their translation stemmed from its loyal belief in Divine authority (page 189) .”

Even in Jacobean England, there was great pressure to translate a Bible that condescended into common vernacular and easily accessible language construction. In other words, like today, there were strong influences that wanted to “dumb down” the vocabulary of Scripture. This reasoning was flatly rejected on every level. The overwhelming consensus being that God’s Word is not common, trivial, or mundane. The King James translators were set upon preserving the poetic intensity of Scripture, and portraying the royal language of Divine inspiration.

“The King James Bible is about more than mere sonority or the …heritage-appeal of antique vocabulary and grammar. The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning. Language which is not taut with a sense of its own significance, which is apologetic in its desire to be acceptable to a modern consciousness, language in other words which submits to its audience, rather than instructing, informing, moving, challenging and even entertaining them, is no longer a language which can carry the freight the Bible requires. It has in short, lost all authority. The language of the King James Bible is the language of …patriarchy, of instructed order, of richness as a form of beauty, of authority as a form of good; the New English Bible is motivated by the opposite, an anxiety not to bore or intimidate. It is driven, in other words, by a desire to please and, in that way, is a form of language which has died (pages 153-154).”

Although, as Nicolson, does not try to hide, there were differences and skirmishes between the translators and the overseers, they were all united in the firmly held belief that every word of Scripture is God-breathed. They revered every “jot” and every “tittle” as sacred. This informed every aspect of the translation process giving rise to the masterpiece that is the King James Bible.

“[The King James Bible translators believed] the words of the Bible were the foundation of all understanding, [and that] nothing could be more important than a text that was both accurate and intelligible. Precision in Bible scholarship and in translation was the foundation stone of the Reformation. High fidelity reproduction was a moral as well as technical quality and it was axiomatic that Translators and scholars could approach the text only in a mood of humility and service. ‘He who does not believe one part of it,’ Luther had said, ‘cannot believe any of it. (page 183)’”

Bible historian Gordon Campbell, one of the world’s leading authorities on the King James Bible, has observed:

“The population from which scholars can now be drawn is much larger than in the seventeenth century, but it would be difficult now to bring together a group of more than fifty scholars with the range of languages and knowledge of other disciplines that characterized the KJB Translators. (Bible – The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011)”

Most notable is Nicolson’s spotlighting of the translators secretaryship mindset during the translation process. Over 50 men worked tirelessly from 1604 until it’s publication in 1611 to produce a faithful translation. They did so in a selfless, egoless, and humble fashion which was a direct result of the political and religious atmosphere of the era. That is to say, that a culture which understood kingly royalty in the natural, although far from perfect, was able to capture the kingly majesty and sovereignty of God’s Word. They internalized as a moral code the command from Revelations 22:19 that not one word can be added or taken away from Scripture.

“Those who originally wrote the words of the Bible had been God’s secretaries, as loyal, as self suppressing, as utterly disposed to the uses of the Divine call… self-abnegation in the service of greatness was the ideal… Secretaryship is one of the great shaping forces behind the King James Bible. There is no authorship involved here. Authorship is egotistical, an assumption that you might have something new worth saying. You don’t. Every iota of the Bible counts but without it you count for nothing. The secretary knows that… he does not distort the source of his authority. A secretary, whether of God or of king, is in a position of dependent power. He has no authority independent of his master, but he executes that authority without hesitation or compromise. He is nothing without his master but everything through him. Loyalty is power and submission control. For this reason, biblical translation, like royal service, could only be utterly faithful. Without faithfulness, it became meaningless (page 184).”

Recently, the King James Bible has seen a resurgence of popularity as this article outlines The Most Popular and Fastest Growing Bible Translation Isn’t What You Think It Is. The Washington Post even noticed this trend in an article entitled The Most Popular Bible of the Year Is Probably Not What You Think It Is. Their basic premise is that people are losing confidence in modern translations. Here’s another great article that tries to make sense of this seemingly countercultural rejection of modern translations entitled 10 Reasons Why The KJV Is Still The Most Popular Version. In essence, the King James Bible encapsulates the authoritative sanctity of the Holy Bible. It remains true to the Divine intent and literalness of the original texts. It exemplifies respect for the grandeur of the Author. As our culture has digressed into absurdities like an emoji Bible (The Emoji Bible, Reviewed), the King James Bible stands out from the crowd with increasing gravitas. With all of the swirling debates and controversies, God’s Secretaries brings clarity of thought to the discussion.

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