Little for the Stomach

Paul also tells Timothy to "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities" (1 Timothy 5:23). It is assumed by many that the wine Paul recommends to Timothy is alcoholic. Yet this is a false assumption for several reasons: First, the word oinos is used, and as we've already learned, it can denote either fermented or unfermented grape juice. In addition, there are historical references attesting to the use of unfermented wine for medicinal purposes in the ancient world. For example, Athenaeus (AD 280) counsels to use unfermented grape juice for stomach disorders.

Timothy must also have been living as a Nazarite, drinking only water. Paul was telling him to use a little grape juice, which has a very soothing effect on the body—indicating that Timothy abstained and needed to be urged to take even a little new wine.

Drinking fermented wine can contribute to stomach ulcers. Paul would never recommend old wine for stomach therapy.

Earlier in the same epistle, Paul instructs Timothy that bishops were to be abstinent (nephaíion) (1 Timothy 3:2-3). The apostle would not have encouraged Timothy to drink alcoholic beverages when he had, earlier in the same letter, forbidden their use by church leaders (1 Timothy 3:8), which leads us into the next topic.

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