When I was growing up I wasn't accustomed to seeing people drink wine or any alchoholic beverage. This doesn't mean I had parents who constantly drilled my mind with a slogan like, "wine is the devil's juice, son." My parents simply taught me Christian character, and this included the character opposite from a drunk or drunkard.
As I got a little older and was able to see a few people in a drunken state, common sense told me that for a person to be in such a state was unlawful according to Yahweh's standards. This was before I really knew or studied anything the Bible stated on the issue.
I remember the first time I read the passage in Scripture (KJV) concerning bishops and deacons; specifically the part of each ministers requirement as it pertained to the consumption of wine.
"A bishop must be blameless ... not given to wine..." [1 Timothy 3:2-3]
"Likewise must the deacons be grave ... not given to much wine..." [1 Timothy 3:8]
My initial thoughts on these admonitions before ever studying the text was that a bishop (overseer) could not have any wine, and a deacon (servant to the overseer) could have a little wine. When I say wine, I mean alchohol or fermented beverage. In reading the word wine here I never once thought that the word implied grape juice.
I'm aware that certain people believe many uses of the word wine in Scripture are a reference to unfermented grape juice. I will not say that the Hebrew and Greek words for wine never refer to grape juice, but I do believe such people are heavily inaccurate in applying such a definition to the majority of the uses of the word wine in Scripture.
Certainly wine in 1 Timothy 3 wouldn't mean grape juice, would it? If that was the case then according to my first understanding a bishop couldn't drink grape juice and a deacon could only have a little grape juice. Does that make any sense at all?
Why in the world would the Creator prohibit grape juice for bishops, and set forth a standard of moderate consumption for deacons? We would also have to wrestle with the fact that if the text does mean this, then the text (in the immediate context) never prohibits bishops or deacons from having fermented wine! Talk about back-firing on some people.
I think most people will be honest enough to say that the verses are dealing with wine, but we needn't stop there. While the King James Version of the text does seem to lend weight to the belief of some - that a bishop can't have any wine, and a deacon only a little - I do not believe this was the original intent of the verses. Examining the Greek text will show this to be accurate.
The phrase "not given to wine" in 1 Timothy 3:3 is taken from one Greek word, paroinos, and does not portray the idea that an overseer must live in total abstinence of wine. The word is defined by Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as "staying near wine, that is a tippling (a topper)" while Thayer's Greek English Lexicon defines the word as "given to wine, drunken." The standard for the deacon in verse 8 is actually taken from three different Greek words (prosecho, polus, oinos) but carries basically the same meaning as the command to the bishop in verse 3. Each command is dealing with an immoderate use of wine by both ministers. Therefore we could translate the verses exactly as the Holman Christian Standard Bible has done:
"An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach ... not addicted to wine..." [1 Timothy 3:2-3]
"Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect ... not drinking alot of wine..." [1 Timothy 3:8]
This poses no problem for the student of Yahweh's word who is truly interested in knowing what Yahweh's will actually is on this issue. For people who hold some kind of "sacred cow" or have on "tradition glasses" no amount of proper exegesis, context, or linguistic argumentation will suffice. Let us love Yahweh's word, and desire to interpret it in a way that is true to its original intent.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.