Questions From Readers
● At Jesus’ impalement, which garment or garments did the soldiers distribute by casting lots?—D. T., New Zealand.
This question is based on an apparent discrepancy between Matthew’s account and what John says occurred on this occasion. First, Matthew wrote: “When they had impaled him they distributed his outer garments by casting lots.” (Mt 27:35) Mark presented essentially the same information. (Mr 15:24) However, John wrote: “Now when the soldiers had impaled Jesus, they took his outer garments and made four parts, for each soldier a part, and the inner garment. But the inner garment was without a seam . . . Therefore they said to one another: ‘Let us not tear it, but let us determine by lots over it whose it will be.’ This was that the scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They apportioned my outer garments among themselves, and upon my apparel they cast lots.’ And so the soldiers really did these things.”—John 19:23, 24.
From John’s eyewitness account we learn that Jesus had outer garments and an inner garment. John 19:23 informs us that the soldiers made four parts out of his outer garments, each taking a piece; however, John does not tell us how they decided who would get what piece. Finally, John 19:24 reveals that the soldiers cast lots over Jesus’ one-piece inner garment.
The account in Matthew 27:35 does not disclaim the fact that Jesus had an inner garment; nor does it contradict the fact that lots were cast over it. Matthew simply does not mention this particular garment. Rather, he provides details about Jesus’ outer garments, which John says were made into four parts, Matthew adding that they were also distributed by the casting of lots.
By taking into consideration the two Gospels, Matthew and John, we can see that the soldiers cast lots over both the outer garments and the inner one. Instead of contradiction, we have two accounts written by different persons, each providing details that the other does not include, and yet neither one contradicting the other. And, as the later account written by John points out, the casting of lots for the Messiah’s apparel served to fulfill Psalm 22:18. We can draw this correct conclusion from reading either of the inspired books.
● After the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard, began drinking of the wine and became intoxicated. (Gen. 9:20, 21) Since the Bible condemns drunkenness, even saying that drunkards will not inherit God’s kingdom, how should we view Noah’s intoxication?—B. M., U.S.A.
Concerning Noah’s drinking wine to the point of intoxication, Genesis 9:20, 21 states: “Now Noah started off as a farmer and proceeded to plant a vineyard. And he began drinking of the wine and became intoxicated, and so he uncovered himself in the midst of his tent.” Noah, who was over six hundred years old at the time, was evidently completely overtaken by the wine, for the account says: “Finally Noah awoke from his wine.” (Gen. 9:24) Hence, there is no question about his being quite intoxicated.
However, when considering the account at Genesis 9:20-27, one does well to realize that nowhere in His Word did Jehovah God register condemnation of Noah because of this incident. Of course, this does not mean that God winks at drunkenness, for the Bible shows that this is not true. (Prov. 23:20, 21, 29-35; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Yet, in Noah’s case Jehovah may have taken extenuating factors into consideration. The record of this matter in the book of Genesis is brief and the incident is not dealt with elsewhere in the Scriptures. Evidently, though, Noah was unwittingly overtaken as a result of drinking the wine, whether out of weariness or because of a heavy heart or for some other reason, the Bible does not say. For that matter, perhaps under the changed atmospheric conditions that followed the Flood, the wine Noah drank had fermented to greater strength than he realized. Certainly, however, Noah was not a confirmed drunkard. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that he habitually drank wine to the point of intoxication. In fact, the Scriptures do not say that he ever became intoxicated again.
When Bible writers condemned drunkenness or urged persons to avoid it, they never used Noah as a bad example. Also, they made no unfavorable remarks about him because of this unfortunate incident. In fact, the apostle Peter called Noah “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:5) In writing to Hebrew Christians, the apostle Paul said that by his faith Noah “condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” (Heb. 11:7) Paul viewed Noah as one of those making up the great cloud of faithful pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah. (Heb. 12:1) Furthermore, when Jesus Christ compared Noah’s day with “the days of the Son of man,” or his second presence, he made no condemnatory statement regarding Noah.—Luke 17:26, 27.
Therefore, Noah is not to be likened to those who engage in works of the fallen flesh and who may get involved in “drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” (Gal. 5:19-21) Nor should faithful Noah be compared with persons who were once baptized as Christians but who may later make it a practice to become intoxicated. Such confirmed drunkards who are unrepentant have not just been unwittingly overtaken by drinking too much of an intoxicating beverage on one occasion. They are really drunkards and must be disfellowshiped from the clean and upright Christian congregation. The apostle Paul had such individuals in mind when he told the Christians in Corinth: “But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” (1 Cor. 5:11) If they do not repent, such drunkards will never realize the blessings of God’s kingdom.
Suppose that, like Noah, a dedicated Christian today is inadvertently overcome when drinking an alcoholic beverage in the privacy of his own home on one occasion. This never happened to him before and he is determined to exercise care so that it never occurs again. What should he do? Well, he is not a confirmed drunkard. And it is not reasonable to think that because of this one incident he is condemned by God for all time to come, so that he could not possibly gain everlasting life as a gift from Jehovah. (Rom. 6:23) However, such a Christian should express true sorrow concerning this in prayer to Almighty God. He should plead with Jehovah through Christ, seeking God’s merciful forgiveness. (Deut. 4:31; Psalm 51) Then he should be determined to avoid any repetition of this wrong. Yet, if he is still deeply troubled over the matter, such a Christian should avail himself of the spiritual assistance available to him by heeding the words of James 5:13-16.