From: Christopher Hutson (
Date: Sat Apr 18 1998 - 19:15:25 EDT


Thanks for your lexical notes on wine in various biblical texts. The
list is helpful, though I must admit that some of your citations do
not seem at all convincing to me.

>(a) that those of biblical times did not always wish to drink
>wine on every occasion when they were thirsty, and that they often
>fresh grape juice. For example, in the cupbearer's dream (Genesis
40:11) he
>"took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharoah's cup, and put the cup
in his
>hand". No question about it: Pharaoh was drinking freshly-squeezed
>juice. The context shows that when the cupbearer saw this in his
dream it
>was what he customarily did. See 40:11, "you will put Pharaoh's cup
in his
>hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer"; which
(40:21) is
>exactly what happened subsequently.

Isn't the point of the dream that the imagery is highly symbolic? If
it were obvious, then why would it be necessary to seek an
interpreter? So I am not certain that this particular text says
anything about a Pharaoh's taste in beverages. In any case, the word
"wine" does not occur, so I'll pass on.

>(b) that grapejuice was preserved for drinking out of season. The
>was to boil off liquid from the juice to bring it to the consistency
>toothpaste, known as "must"; this must was then kept in skins in a
>place until one wanted to have a refreshing drink, when it was mixed
>cold water to the desired consistency. Not only was this drink
>non-alcoholic, but the resultant drink was more resistant to
>(c) that this practice is continued to this day in some areas around

I admit that I know nothing about such practices. This sounds like
primitive pasteurization to me. It certainly sounds plausible, but
I'd like to see the literary evidence for such practices. In
particular, I would like to see where such a writer refers to such
unfermented grape juice concentrate as OINOS.

>In the NIV, TIYROS is translated "grapes" once [Micah 6:15];
>once [Isaiah 65:8]; "new" once; "wine" once; and "new wine" 34 times.
>6:15 reads in the NIV, "you will crush grapes but not drink the
wine:. NRSV
>has "tread grapes". The meaning is, "you will produce grapejuice",
and the
>Hebrew word used is TIYROS. The LXX has, KAI OINON, KAI OU MH PIHTE.
>is, the TIYROS is translated by OINON.

Here I think you are going way too far with the text. First, I would
be wary of putting much weight on any poetic passage, since the nature
of poetry is to stretch words and play with their meanings. Second, I
think you misread Micah 6:15. "You shall tread grapes but not drink
wine" is parallel to "you shall sow, but not reap," and both are
extensions of "I have begun to strike you down, making you desolate
because of your sins" (6:13). The point is that those who sow will
not be around months later to take in the harvest or the harvest will
be stolen from them, so they will be hungry despite their labor and
toil. Likewise, those who tread grapes will not be around months later
to enjoy the wine when it is mature, or the wine will be stolen from
them, so they will be thirsty despite their labor and toil.
Certainly, "wine" here is not a reference to the juice soaking their
toes in the vat.

>Similarly a vine bearing grapes is
>referred to as having wine in Judges 9:13 (also TIYROS, and also
>in the LXX as OINOS).

Similarly, this is poetic imagery. This is obviously not language
that is to be taken literally, unless we believe that trees talk.
Further, the "wine" that the vine "produces" is clearly that which the
grapes become after they are harvested and processed, just as in the
parallel episode, the "oil" that the olive tree "produces" is only oil
after the olives are harvested and processed.

For me, I'll be much better persuaded about by a serious discussion
from a naturalist like Pliny than from any poetry or fable.

>Grapes are described [1 Chronicles 27:27] as "the treasures of the
wine in
>the fields". "Wine" here is YAYIN; in the LXX the passage reads, KAI

I think the point here is that Shimei and Zabdi have assignments that
are correlated. The latter is over the processed wine, while the
former is over the vineyards from which the wine is processed. The
"wine in the fields" here is only a way of designating what these
grapes are intended for. I don't think it in any way implies that the
grapes have "wine" in them while they are on the vine.

Harvesting the crop of grapes
>is described (Jeremiah 40:10, 12) as "to harvest the wine" (NIV),
>the wine" (NRSV); again, YAYIN in the Hebrew, OINOS in the LXX. But
>contain grapejuice not fermented wine.
>When one treads a winepress, what one produces from the grapes is, of
>course, unfermented grapejuice. But what one treads out of the
>what flows out of the winepress, is called YAYIN, "wine" (Isaiah
>Jeremiah 48:33), OINOS in the LXX.

Again, all of this is poetic imagery. You can find similar imagery in
Homer, Od 9.110-111, where the island of the Cyclops is very fertile,
containing "vines which bear wine (OINOS) of the finest grapes." But
this is poetic imagery. Homer certainly meant fermented wine, but he
was playing with the words and painting a vivid picture. This is the
nature of poetry.

I therefore remain skeptical that OINOS means anything other than
"wine," though I am perfectly willing to hear more evidence.



Christopher R. Hutson
          Hood Theological Seminary
          Salisbury, NC 28144

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