From: Ward Powers (
Date: Mon Apr 20 1998 - 00:35:10 EDT

Fellow b-greekers:

At 18:15 98/04/18 EST, Christopher Hutson wrote:
>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 40:12, "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

Indeed. However, what is said in the interpretation is highly significant.
In the verses quoted above (Genesis 40:11-12), Pharaoh's cup in the dream
is still Pharaoh's cup in the interpretation, and the squeezing the grapes
in the dream is answered to in the interpretation by the cupbearer being
told he will do "just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer". I
contend that the normal and reasonable way of understanding these words is
that the cupbearer used to squeeze grapes into the cup to make a drink for
Pharaoh, and then put it into Pharaoh's hand, and that within three days he
will be doing precisely this again. If it were to be taken other than in
this way, then the squeezing of the grapes into Pharaoh's cup in the dream
would be given another meaning in the interpretation - and it is not!

>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.

At this point in my previous post I adduced Genesis 40:11-12 in support of
my statement that in biblical times grapejuice was drunk on occasion as a
beverage. I contend that this is so irrespective of Genesis 40. But I also
contend that Genesis 40 provides an instance of it.


>>That 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.

No, I am not misreading Micah 6:15. I invite you to read it again, and what
I was saying in my previous post about it. In Micah 6:15 the NIV has, "you
will crush grapes but not drink the wine", and the NRSV has "you will tread
grapes but not drink wine": it is the word "GRAPES" (not "wine") upon which
I am focussing. This word (in these versions being translated "grapes") in
the Hebrew is TIYROS, and the verse means "you will crush out grapejuice,
but not drink the wine [i.e. which in process of time would come from the
grapejuice). The "wine" here is YAYIN, but the word "grapes" or
"grapejuice" is TIYROS. There is no way that TIYROS in this verse can be
made to refer to fermented wine, because it is what comes out of the grapes
when pressed, and is being contrasted with the YAYIN. Now in the Greek the
one verb PIEZW, "press" [BAGD p.657, specifically referring to Micah 6:15]
applies to both pressing olives for oil and grapes for grapejuice. This
part of the verse reads, KAI [SU PIESEIS - sense repeated from the previous
reference to olives] OINON, KAI OU MH PIHTE: "and you will press out wine,
and not drink [it]". It is to be noted that the OINON of the LXX translates
the TIYROS in a verse where the TIYROS in indisputably the liquid which is
being pressed out of the grape. If OINON could not be used in Greek for
grapejuice, then the Greek would have read instead, "And you will press out
the XYZ [whatever other word is envisaged as being used for the grapejuice]
and not drink the OINON." But this is not what we have. Instead, in this
verse OINOS refers to the liquid produced at the time of [and by] crushing
or treading the grapes.

Thus both TIYROS and OINOS can be used in reference to grapjuice when it is
pressed or squeezed out.

>>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.

In poetic imagery words do not suddenly lose their normal way of being
used. What you say is true, of course, but that does not take away from the
fact that in this parable the vine is recorded as saying that it is
carrying "wine"; and this verse accords with others which illustrate the
use of TIYROS with reference to the juice in the grape.

>>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.

I acknowledge that you see this passage as referring proleptically to the
future wine to be produced, and so do not accept that "wine" is being used
in reference to what is "in the fields". I differ from you. I see this
verse as stating that the treasures of wine are in the fields at the time
in question; which means that right then the "wine" is in the grapes on the
vines. I hold that this is the normal way of treating the meaning of these
words, and the only reason for not taking them this way is to avoid having
here another instance of YAYIN referring to unfermented wine.

>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.

The passages that I have cited refer to what one treads out of the grapes
in the winepress, and what flows out of the winepress - which it cannot be
disputed is grapejuice - as being YAYIN in the Hebrew, OINOS in the Greek.
To refer to this as "poetic imagery" does not change the fact that this is
the way words are being used. YAYIN and OINOS are being used to refer to

I respectfully reaffirm my conclusion from my examination of the evidence,
which is: that TIYROS, YAYIN, and OINOS are all able to be used in
reference to unfermented wine, and do not always of necessity refer to an
alcoholic beverage. Sometimes the translators themselves use an English
word other than "wine" because they too recognize this as being the case.
But usually these Hebrew and Greek words are translated as "wine" in most
versions. Therefore if we wish to understand the Scriptures aright, we must
(I submit) recognize that "wine" is a general term which can be used in
reference to the product of the vine at any time from when it is juice in
the grape in the field, through to an acknowledged alcoholic beverage. As
always, context is very significant in this matter. Sometimes it will
clearly indicate that one situation or the other is in view. Sometimes the
immediate context itself does not so indicate, in which case we will appeal
to the wider context; or we may have to regard the evidence in a particular
occurrence as inconclusive and accept that there is legitimate room for a
difference of opinion and interpretation between exegetes.

But, in my humble opinion, we are not justified in concluding that every
use of TIYROS or YAYIN in the Hebrew, OINOS in the Greek, or "wine" in an
English version, refers always and only to an alcoholic beverage.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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