Author Topic: Beer in the Bible  (Read 5804 times)

Offline Michael Thompson

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 17
  • Making the world better -- one beer at a time
    • View Profile
Beer in the Bible
« on: October 15, 2010, 11:26:54 AM »
When I was growing up, it was considered sinful for Christians to drink beer, and so, when I dedicated my life to the Lord, I became a teetotaller. However, I noted that the Bible does not condemn drinking per se, but drunkenness and out-of-control intoxication. Solomon in the Proverbs warns against the dangers of mixed drinks and strong liquor. Paul writes to the Ephesians to avoid being drunk with wine, which he describes as "dissipation."

On the other hand, we have a clear example of Jesus turning water into very good wine at a wedding feast, and the same Paul advises Timothy to drink a bit of wine now and then for health reasons. It does not appear that alcohol was considered sinful by the Biblical writers in the same way as my peers in a small Colorado farming community. But beer seems to gain no mention at all.

At least that's what I would have thought before I read a fascinating article in Biblical Archaeology Review for September/October 2010 (Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer? by Michael M. Homan). It would appear that the lack of prominent mentions of beer in the Bible are due far more to the inadequacies of translation than lack of mention by the Bible itself.

In the article, Mr. Homan cites several mentions of beer, brewing and a popular beer culture in ancient times, which are reflected in the Biblical record. He even gives a recipe for ancient beer as brewed in Bible times. Apparently, they made barley into cakes, which were soaked in water and fermented. The similarities to bread-making have obscured the references to beer in most modern translations.

I found especially fascinating his take on the popular quote from Ecclesiastes, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, KJV.

Mr. Homan's take on this passage is:

Quote
Throw your bread upon the face of the water, because in many days you will acquire it. Give a serving to seven and also eight, because you do not know what evil will be upon the land.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1–2)

I believe this is a reference to the cakes of bread used in ancient beer production, as noted earlier. Cast your bread upon the water and it will return as beer. Much like the phrase carpe diem, the author advises making beer and drinking it with friends, because you don’t know what evil might be coming.

I realize not all of the members of this forum are Christians or usually interested in the Bible, but this article is still interesting for its historical value and its commentary on contemporary religion, especially prohibitions against the use of alcohol in any form. Check it out at: http://tinyurl.com/34rtncc

BTW, I've long since made peace with the responsible enjoyment of alcohol and I enjoy brewing and imbibing a large variety of beer, and the occasional whiskey without a worry that it is inconsistent with my Christian testimony. If any of you run across friends or acquaintances who feel as I used to, you might refer them to this article.

Sláinte,

Michael

Offline BrewArk

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 452
  • Rick - Newark, California
    • View Profile
    • BrewArk
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2010, 11:32:26 AM »
If Jesus had been a German instead of a Jew, would he have passed a cup of beer at the last supper?
Beer...Now there's a temporary solution!

Na Zdraví

Offline MDixon

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1012
    • View Profile
    • Mike's Homebrewing Page
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2010, 11:49:41 AM »
I've always questioned how exact the translation of the Bible really is. I did a search regarding the KJV not too long ago. Start reading at 1535 and progress forward, also note how 14 books disappeared over time. http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/

So, my thinking is if people can cut and paste and choose what to include and exclude over time, they can certainly change verbiage or it could be that some things just don't translate well.
It's not a popularity contest, it's beer!

Offline tumarkin

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 620
    • View Profile
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2010, 12:16:53 PM »
So, if you were to 'cast your bread upon the waters' with the intent of making beer...... how would you go about it? Recipe? Techniques? Yeast or Spontaneous?
Mark Tumarkin
Hogtown Brewers
Gainesville, FL

Offline weithman5

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1668
  • naperville, il
    • View Profile
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2010, 12:37:41 PM »
thank you michael :)
and what kind of water would you cast your bread on to, jordan riverish water, med sea water?
Don AHA member

Offline hokerer

  • I spend way too much time on the AHA forum
  • ********
  • Posts: 2634
  • Manassas, VA
    • View Profile
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2010, 12:44:40 PM »
and what kind of water would you cast your bread on to, jordan riverish water, med sea water?

Well, just send a sample of each off to Ward Labs
Joe

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 11688
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2010, 01:20:26 PM »
I want to pint out that we've received some comments about the subject matter of this thread.  The general feeling of the mods and the AHA is that there is interesting info presented here and we're gonna let it go for now.  But please, everyone be careful to keep it on the topic of beer and not religion.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

Offline dcbc

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
    • View Profile
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2010, 02:10:41 PM »
I want to pint out ....

Delightful slip there, Denny.  I want to pint out, too, but can't do so for another hour or so!  :D
I've consumed all of my home brew and still can't relax!  Now what!

Offline dbeechum

  • Administrator
  • Brewmaster General
  • *****
  • Posts: 2311
  • Pasadena, CA
    • View Profile
    • Experimental Brewing
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2010, 02:20:50 PM »
A good portion of my day job is dealing with linguistics and understanding how to use and develop rules of language to deal with our company's challenges. To that end, I spend a fair amount of time working with an actual full blooded and degreed up individual with knowledge of how this actually works.

When talking about the hobby, she pointed out something very interesting. There's a whole branch of linguistics that studies the evolution of language and how things have transformed over time. One of the techniques they use to trace language relationships is key words that pretty much appear everywhere and change relatively slowly. Beer is one of those words. Think of it this way.. beer = bier = bierre = biru = pivo, etc.
Drew Beechum - Maltosefalcons.com
- Vote in the AHA GC Election! - http://bit.ly/1aV9GVd  -
-----
Burbling:
Gnome is in the Details
*Experimental Brewing - The Book*
Tap:
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Tupelo Mead
Farmhouse Brett Saison

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 11688
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2010, 02:23:09 PM »
I want to pint out ....

Delightful slip there, Denny.  I want to pint out, too, but can't do so for another hour or so!  :D

I could say it's just because I'm a bad typist, but I like your way better!
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

Offline phillamb168

  • Brewmaster General
  • *******
  • Posts: 2335
  • Lardy, France
    • View Profile
    • My Job
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2010, 02:28:38 PM »
A good portion of my day job is dealing with linguistics and understanding how to use and develop rules of language to deal with our company's challenges. To that end, I spend a fair amount of time working with an actual full blooded and degreed up individual with knowledge of how this actually works.

When talking about the hobby, she pointed out something very interesting. There's a whole branch of linguistics that studies the evolution of language and how things have transformed over time. One of the techniques they use to trace language relationships is key words that pretty much appear everywhere and change relatively slowly. Beer is one of those words. Think of it this way.. beer = bier = bierre = biru = pivo, etc.

Hey, my wife has a Masters in Linguistics! And I've got a doctor in linguini, but that's another story, wokka wokka.

---

Alton Brown or someone equally intelligent said something along the lines of: civilization started because people started cultivating crops, and supposedly those crops were being cultivated specifically for beer-making. I would not be surprised if it turned up somewhere in the Bible.

The casting bread upon the waters thing (and the grain cake thing) is really cool! My wife and I are reading the entire Bible in one year, I'll keep a lookout for further references. Maybe I can even eek out a recipe!

Michael, do you have an Internets link to that article?
I'm on twitter: phillamb168
----
morticaixavier for governing committee!

Offline phillamb168

  • Brewmaster General
  • *******
  • Posts: 2335
  • Lardy, France
    • View Profile
    • My Job
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2010, 02:49:41 PM »
The wife just mentioned that the ancient Egyptians were known to have brewed beer, and the Israelites, having been their slaves, would probably have made their own version according to a similar recipe. Anybody know any Egyptian beer recipes?
I'm on twitter: phillamb168
----
morticaixavier for governing committee!

Online dmtaylor

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 774
    • View Profile
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2010, 02:51:23 PM »
Not entirely beer-related, but Mary freaked out when they ran out of wine at a wedding, and so Jesus' first miracle was making wine out of water.  He's so cool like that -- He's all, "Woman, what do you expect me to do about it?" then He goes and brews 100 gallons of the finest wine in a split second.  My Hero.  Seriously.

Oh, and yeah, I made the Sumerian beer recipe a few years ago, which was in the September 2007 issue of BYO.  It was okay.  Did great in competition.  Can you say, sour fruity bacon?  Cuz that's exactly how it tasted.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2010, 02:56:03 PM by dmtaylor »
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

jaybeerman

  • Guest
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2010, 02:59:08 PM »
1. Thanks for keeping the thread
2. Language, translation(s), beer - all interesting topics
3. The original post is proof that there are people who can reason their way through a complicated matter, Awesome!

Offline dbeechum

  • Administrator
  • Brewmaster General
  • *****
  • Posts: 2311
  • Pasadena, CA
    • View Profile
    • Experimental Brewing
Re: Beer in the Bible
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2010, 03:07:32 PM »
The wife just mentioned that the ancient Egyptians were known to have brewed beer, and the Israelites, having been their slaves, would probably have made their own version according to a similar recipe. Anybody know any Egyptian beer recipes?

The Egyptians weren't just known to brew beer, they were fanatical about it. You know how people were paid in Egypt? Loaves of bread and buckets of beer. Seriously, that's what your salary was. They were really just behind the Sumerians and Babylonians in terms of devotion to brew.

As for recipes, my library is all packed up at the moment, but I did have notes from a series of New Kingdom and Old Kingdom beer recipes that Kirin made a few years back as a piece of research. I'll see what I can do when I unpack.
Drew Beechum - Maltosefalcons.com
- Vote in the AHA GC Election! - http://bit.ly/1aV9GVd  -
-----
Burbling:
Gnome is in the Details
*Experimental Brewing - The Book*
Tap:
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Tupelo Mead
Farmhouse Brett Saison