The Purpose of Alcohol

Search the web, or ask around, and you’ll find lots of opinions about whether Christians should drink alchohol. Some people says it’s wrong (ie, sinful), and they have Scripture to reinforce their opinion. Some people say it’s not wrong (ie, not a sin), but still something to be discouraged, and they have Scripture to reinforce their opinion. Others say it’s not wrong to drink, and there is no reason to discourage drinking; it just needs to be done in moderation (ie, don’t get drunk) and may need to be avoided in certain situations (ie, don’t cause a fellow believe to stumble into sin); these also have Scripture to reinforce their position.

I think these arguments, like so many arguments, miss the point by focusing on the action (ie, the “do” or the “don’t”) instead of the purpose (ie, the “why”).

It is my intent, therefore, to take a Biblical look at the purpose of Alcohol.

In order to find passages discussing alcohol and to distinguish between different types of alcohol, let’s first review the different words used for alcohol in the Bible.

yayin (H3196) – Typically translated as “wine” in the Old Testament. Strong’s definition: “from an unused root meaning to effervesce.”

she?ka?r (H7941) – Typically translated as “strong drink” in the Old Testament. Strong’s definition: “an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor.”

ti?yro?sh (H8492) – Typically translated as “new wine” or “sweet wine” in the Old Testament. Wine which has been freshly pressed.

oinos (G3631) – The New Testament equivalent of “yayin.”

sikera (G4608) – The New Testament equivalent of “she?ka?r.”

gleukos (G1098) – The New Testament equivalent of “ti?yro?sh.”

There are a few other words used for various forms of alcohol, but they are used rarely or are minor variations of the words above. These word forms are sufficient to determine the usage of alcohol in the Bible and the intended purpose of alcohol. If it comes to light that a different word provides significant insight, the list will be revised.


Is it okay for a Christian to go to a bar?

Originally posted 3/5/2005 on

I grew up in fundamental evangelical churches, mostly Baptist, and drinking was always discouraged. Especially in the youth group, which I can understand, because teenage drinking is illegal and teens are suspectible to peer pressure. I’m sure a number of people considered alcohol consumption a sin, but I think the general consensus was “technically, we can’t categorically call it a sin, but we frown on anyone who drinks or smokes, and the expectation is that a Christian shouldn’t do it.”

I went to a Christian high school, and if any drinking went on, I wasn’t aware of it. I had my first beer when I was 22, and I went to play pool with a couple of guys I worked with. They got a pitcher of beer, and since I had no moral objection to it, I thought it would be better to share it with them than to raise some artificial wall between us by saying “sorry, I don’t drink.”

The point of this thread was not whether or not it’s okay to drink, but whether a Christian should frequent saloons. The two questions are related, because your answer to the latter depends on what you think about the former, but there is a distinction.

There are two or three verses that are [mis]used more than any others to condemn certain “grey area” activities. 1 Thess. 5:22, “abstain from all appearance of evil,” and Rom 14:21 & 1 Cor. 8:13, the “offends your brother” passages. The argument goes that even if you don’t get drunk, people in bars get drunk, so going to a bar “appears evil” so you shouldn’t do it. Or if another Christian thinks something is wrong, you shouldn’t let them see you do it, because it will offend them. Since you never know who might see you going into a bar, you’re better off not going at all.

The problem is, I Thess 5:22 is not saying “avoid anything that LOOKS like it could be evil, regardless of whether or not it really is.” It’s saying, “avoid anything that IS evil, regardless of how it looks.” The passages in Romans and 1 Corinthians refer to actually causing your brother to sin, not just doing something that they think is wrong. This one still has some merit, because if your brother has a problem with overindulging alcohol, you don’t want to be guilty of leading him into temptation.

I have an occasional beer. It might be at home, it might be at Applebee’s, or it might be at a bar. To me, where I have it is not important. If I go to a bar, it might be because I want to build a relationship with some non-Christian friends, or it might just be me and some Christian friends going to listen to a band who happens to be playing there.

Originally posted 3/3/2005 on

Deut 14:26 (KJV)

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.

wine = yayin: from an unused root meaning to effervesce (ie, fermented)
strong drink = she?ka?r: an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor

As far as I can tell, neither OT nor NT prohibit alcohol.