Questions From Readers
● Why does not the Watchtower Society condemn wine and liquor as the evils they are?—H. J., Pennsylvania.
We have not condemned the drinking of alcoholic beverages because the Bible does not condemn them. How can we do so when the Scriptures show that Jehovah’s servants partook of such? Melchizedek served wine to Abraham. The priests in Israel were permitted to drink wine, except when serving in the tabernacle or temple. It was used in feastings, with God’s approval, and was gratefully accepted as a divine provision. (Gen. 14:18; Lev. 10:9; Ps. 104:14, 15) Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine for use at a wedding, after the supply provided by the host had run out. The very context shows it could not have been grape juice, as some would claim. (John 2:1-11) Jesus ate food and drank wine, and the religious generation of his day accused him of excess, saying, “Look! a man gluttonous and given to drinking wine.” (Matt. 11:19, NW) This charge would never have been lodged against him if it involved unfermented grape juice. Nor does an unfermenting drink cause wineskins to burst.—Luke 5:37-39.
While we cannot endorse total abstinence as a Christian requirement, our Society has straightforwardly published what the Bible does condemn about alcoholic drinks, that is, overindulgence to the point of drunkenness. (Prov. 20:1, AS; Isa. 5:11, 22, Mo) But if we are going to prohibit alcoholic beverages just because some do not know when to stop, and get drunk, then we must also prohibit eating, because some do not know when to stop for their physical good and play the glutton. Why so? Because the Bible ranks gluttony with drunkenness and condemns both. (Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:20, 21) So we harmonize with the Bible and condemn gluttony and drunkenness, but not eating and drinking in moderation. “Use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness,” advised Paul to Timothy. (1 Tim. 5:23, NW) Notice, a “little”, not a lot. Christians may use wine, but “not giving themselves to a lot of wine”. They should exercise control and restraint, and not use it at all when in assembly or in gospel-preaching work. (1 Tim. 3:8; Titus 2:3, NW; Lev. 10:9) Those who cannot restrain themselves and use it in moderation should not use it at all. And certainly a Christian will never use “social pressure” as worldlings do to get others to drink, nor will he drink himself when he is in the presence of a weak one that would be stumbled or offended thereby.—Hab. 2:15; Rom. 14:21.
So Christians will keep the balanced viewpoint of the Bible on this matter, and thereby avoid either extreme.
● Some religionists claim that the wine in the Memorial cup was unfermented grape juice. How can we prove that Christ used real wine on this occasion?—A. L., Arkansas.
Those who adhere to the Temperance or Prohibition Movement insist that Jesus’ words “the fruit of the vine” mean grape juice, and not real fermented juice or wine. But we remember that the harvest of the vineyard occurred in the late summer of the year, whereas the passover of the Jews did not occur until the following spring six months later, and the Jews did not have the means generally to preserve grape juice that long and keep it from fermenting. Jesus used the “fruit of the vine” that was available at the passover season, which was real wine. The history shows that the Jews used real wine at that season, and to this day the Jews follow up their tradition from that time and use fermented grape juice or real wine with alcoholic content.
For further information we refer you to The Watchtower of February 1, 1948, and its article “When and How to Celebrate Memorial”, which in its footnote* on page 40 says: “The wine used by our Lord, to represent his shed blood, we have no doubt was made (as ‘orthodox’ Hebrews still make their Passover wine) without any yeast or leaven being added to the grape juice to hasten fermentation. But nevertheless it was fermented wine; the elements of fermentation inhering in the grape juice, led by slower process to fermentation and clarification, and thus it became ‘wine’ . . . . it is clear to us, that the wine used by our Lord at the Supper, was pure wine (but not simple grape juice, which would not keep without fermentation from fall to spring) and of the same sort mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, an excess of which would make drunk (Eph. 5:18; John 2:10; Luke 5:39), . . . not claiming that our Lord and the apostles used raisin juice or grape juice, but the real wine.”
● Why has the Watchtower Society suddenly approved the use of the word “religion” relative to the worship of Jehovah’s witnesses?—P. L., New York.
We are not trying to make a new language, but we want to use the language we have to the honor of God’s name, and do so with as little confusion as possible in Kingdom preaching. In the English language the word “religion” means the service or adoration of God or a god, as expressed through certain forms of worship. So the religion may be either true or false, depending upon both the god being worshiped and the form or manner of expressing the worship. If we practice the true form of worship of the true God Jehovah, and if we are speaking the English language, then when discussing our worship we may properly use the English words that will so limit our meaning, namely, “true religion.”
The word “religion” is used in the English Bibles in several places. It is used in the King James Version at James 1:26, 27. There James distinguishes between the vain or false religion (Jas 1:26) and the pure or true religion (Jas 1:27), and does so by appropriately qualifying in each instance the same Greek word, thres·keiʹa. The Greek threskeía is equivalent to the Latin religio, both simply meaning “form of worship”, of which there can be a true and a false kind. From the Latin religio comes the English word “religion”. Study over the footnotes in the New World Translation on the texts at Acts 26:5, Colossians 2:18 and James 1:26, 27, to see how they allow for the use of the words “religion” and “religious”. When the Bible uses the term “religion” it is either properly qualified or the context or setting indicates whether it is speaking of the true or the false. Note how the setting shows that at Isaiah 29:13 it is false religion and at 2 Timothy 3:5 it is true religion, reading both texts from the Moffatt translation.
This viewpoint on the use of the word “religion” was not suddenly adopted by the Society. Careful readers of the Society’s publications have noticed that during the past few years when religion was being discussed the publications were careful to limit any condemnation to false religion. Two years ago Awake! quoted Moffatt’s translation of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13, and identified the religion mentioned in that text as being true by inserting this qualification in brackets, as follows: “Though they keep up a form of [true] religion, they will have nothing to do with it as a force.” (September 22, 1949, page 9) So this matter had been under careful study and consideration for a long time, and what was brought out on it at the Theocracy’s Increase Assembly at Yankee Stadium in New York last year was further enlargement and welcome clarification, and not some new idea brought forth suddenly. None should feel upset by the use of the term “religion”. Because we use it does not put us in the class of the tradition-bound false religions, no more than does the calling of ourselves Christians put us in with the false Christians of Christendom.
● Why did the October 15, 1950, Watchtower accent the last syllable of the Greek word for “soul” (psy·cheʹ), whereas the New World Translation Appendix accents the first syllable (psyʹche)? Also, this appendix states that this Greek word occurs 102 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, but the book “Let God Be True” says that it occurs 105 times. Which is right?—Reader in Guatemala.
When The Watchtower of October 15 printed the word psy·cheʹ with the accent on the last syllable it was giving this word according to the Greek accent. You can prove that the Greek accent is on the last syllable by turning to the New World Translation Appendix, page 762, where the Greek word in Greek characters is printed. However, when this appendix uses the word psyʹche, with the accent on the first syllable, then it is giving it the way the word is pronounced in English. You can verify this by going to any fair-sized English dictionary and looking up the word psyche. We printed the accent on the first syllable here to show how the word is generally pronounced in English, as a two-syllable word.
Also, the New World Translation is correct in saying that the word occurs in the Greek text just 102 times, because this translation is based upon the Greek text of Westcott and Hort, of 1881. Where the book “Let God Be True”, page 60, says that the Greek word occurs 105 times, it is discussing the King James Version and the Greek text that the translators used back there in 1611. Because the Westcott and Hort Greek text is more accurate, it makes a difference in the number of times that psyʹche is used, reducing the number to 102.