Temperance & the Bible

A dumb question occurred to me & won’t go away, so I’ll post it here. How did the Christian temperance/prohibition movement of the 19th & 20th centuries reconcile their strictures on the demon Drink with the appearance of wine in the Bible? You know…the Last Supper…turning water into wine… Seems that Jesus wasn’t averse to the occasional drop.

They generally claim it was ‘new wine’ which is grape juice that’s not fermented. I doubt you can keep grape juice unfermented long in the Holy Land. Fundamentalists aren’t exactly the quickest on the uptake, though.


I may be wrong, but I think the main driving force for the temperance movement was the social aspect of drinking in that particular era - the culture of the gin parlour where you either drank excessively or not at all, the idea of moderate drinking just wasn’t there.

Personally, I see no conflict between the bible and the enjoyment of alcoholic drinks, the bible actually recommends it in a couple of places, athough it does warn against slipped morals as a result of drinking too much.

My feelings exactly, Mangetout.

Funny story: The bylaws of my church used to say that anyone who partook of alcoholic beverages could not become a member. I don’t know how long it was on the books, or whether it was at a meeting to update the bylaws and was therefore just a proposal.

But one man stood up and remarked on the fact that, if this condition were to remain a part of the bylaws, then Jesus Christ couldn’t be a member of the church.

It’s not in the bylaws anymore. At least common sense prevailed.

Hm, not sure about that–anecdotal evidence, at least, suggests that lots of temperance fanatics did indeed think any drinking, whatever the context, was wrong. One side of my wife’s family was fanatical about this–e.g. one woman who refused an offer of a medicinal drink of brandy on her deathbed because it would prevent her from entering Heaven’s gate. (Her comment on my citation of Christ’s partaking of the odd drop was “Well, temperance people tend to be Old Testament sorts anyway…” For what it’s worth.)

Well, hardly a unique instance of doublethink in religion, but a particularly entertaining contradiction nonetheless.

But I suppose those are all references to grape juice, too.

Actually, “temperance”, in the sense of “moderation”, has plenty of Biblical support–“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1–but teetotalism or total abstinence doesn’t particularly.

Didn’t Screwtape say the “temperance movement” yanked the true meaning out of that word? Temperence used to be one of the cardinal virtues.