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What Does the Bible Say About Drinking Alcohol?

Frequently Asked Questions

Alcohol Use in the Bible

Both beer and wine were known in Biblical times. Wine was made from pomegranates, dates, honey and apples as well as from grapes. The Bible makes it clear that these fermented beverages were intoxicating (Genesis 9:21; Isaiah 29:9; Jeremiah 25:27). However, alcoholic beverages were not distilled in Biblical times, so they were less potent than modern liquors, liqueurs and fortified wines.

Wine had many uses in the Bible:

There is nothing in either the Old or New Testament that opposes the moderate use of alcoholic beverages; they were a staple of everyday life.

On the other hand, there is no commandment in the Bible that we must drink, and many individuals and groups abstained from alcohol (Numbers 6:2-4, Daniel 1:8, Jeremiah 35:1-7, Luke 1:13-15). The apostle Paul warned against using the freedom to drink, or any similar freedom, in a way that would be offensive to others or cause them to stumble into sin (Romans 14:19-22).

Drunkenness

Although moderate use of alcohol is approved in the Bible, drunkenness is strongly opposed in both the Old and New Testaments:

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise. (NAS, Proverbs 20:1)

Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, Nor do they consider the work of His hands. (NAS, Isaiah 5:11-12)

"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (NIV, Luke 21:34)

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (NAS, Romans 13:13)

Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. (NLT, Ephesians 5:18)

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NRSV, Galatians 5:19-21)

Church Doctrine

Many Christian denominations (e.g., Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian (USA), Roman Catholic) approve of moderate and responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages.

In former times, sanitation was poor and water-borne illnesses such as cholera were common. Wine and beer were safer to drink because the alcohol and fermentation process helped to kill dangerous microorganisms. However, alcohol is a drug with great potential for abuse and addiction. In modern times, alcohol is often a factor in traffic deaths, divorce, domestic violence, unemployment, poor health, and other personal, family and social problems. Therefore, some Christian denominations (e.g., Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist, United Methodist) oppose all use of alcohol and advocate total abstinence..

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