Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Clement C. Moore on wine in the Bible

I won't believe in a Temperance Heaven. --Herman Melville
In August 1835 Clement C. Moore wrote a rebuttal of arguments by some Temperance reformers that only non-alcoholic "wine" was approved in scripture. Moore's invited commentary on biblical references to yayin, "wine" and tirosh, "new wine" appeared in The Churchman and was reprinted in The New York American on July 29, 1836 and other newspapers as well, for example the Newark Daily Advertiser (also on July 29, 1836).

Newark [New Jersey] Daily Advertiser - July 29, 1836
 "We publish an essay to-day from the pen of Professor Moore of the Hebrew department of the Episcopal Seminary in New York, on a mooted question of some public interest."
As it turned out, Moore's published rebuttal did not really end the "tirosh and yayin controversy." On September 9, 1836 New York American for the Country duly printed a long reply to Moore by Edwin James, then an editor of the Temperance Recorder. For now I'm most interested in retrieving Moore's essay for the enlarged view it offers of Moore as a moderate advocate for temperance, and for potential illumination on Moore's verse diptych "The Wine Drinker" and "The Water Drinker." These two pieces were published together in Moore's 1844 volume Poems. Manuscript copies of both poems are extant in the collections of the New-York Historical Society.

Below is the text of Moore's scholarly examination of wine in the Bible, transcribed from the New York American. I like this version for the editorial preface that introduces Moore as "the truly amiable, learned and liberal Professor of Hebrew in the Episcopal Theological Seminary." Indenting has been modified in places, hopefully to clarify when Moore is quoting from the Temperance Recorder = TR.
THE TEMPERANCE CAUSE has been injured—it is useless to dissemble the truth—by the misjudging fanaticism of a few zealots, who would push it beyond its legitimate aims. Among the efforts of these intemperate friends of temperance, was the remarkable one of attempting to prove by an ostensibly learned appeal to Hebrew etymologies and synonimies, that fermented wine was every where in the Bible denounced as a curse, and that the only wine recommended or permitted, either in sacrifice or for use, was unfermented, or new, wine.

We have seldom seen more cool, but more complete, demolition inflicted upon elaborate and seemingly erudite error, than in the letter we copy today from the Churchman, written by the truly amiable, learned and liberal Professor of Hebrew in the Episcopal Theological Seminary, C. C. Moore. We think the tirosh and yayin controversy is pretty effectually killed by this excellent compound of common sense and true learning.

[From the Churchman.]

Opinion of Professor Moore on the meaning of the words translated "wine" and "new wine."

New York, Aug.—, 1835.

DEAR SIR,— I have examined, with the aid of Taylor's Hebrew Concordance, not only the texts which you asked me to look at, but every place in the Hebrew Bible where the word yayin or tirosh occurs; and send you the accompanying references, by which you may examine for yourself each passage in which either of the above words is found.

With regard to the assertions made in the essay contained in the number of the Temperance Recorder which you put into my hands, the following remarks are suggested by the investigation which I have made.

I shall make some quotations from the essay in question.
"By habitual we mean the occasional or common use, as a drink—the medicinal and sacred use being wholly out of the question." [TR]
Now, I wish to know why the sacred use is wholly out of the question. The drink-offerings prescribed in the Levitical law are of yayin; and it would be most extraordinary if that should be directed to be used on holy occasions, when the best of every thing should be selected, which is "a subtle, insidious, and most dangerous poison," the habitual use of which "is a sin."
"We would gladly believe that the Scriptures nowhere speak with allowance or approbation of the habitual use of that which chemistry and experience have alike proved to be a poison." [TR]
Philosophical investigation finds out many things with which common use and common sense have no concern. Poison has been discovered in potatoes: phosphorous in every bone; fire in the atmosphere which we breathe; animalculae in the water which we drink, &c., &c., and common sense, without the aid of chemistry, knows that any thing may be rendered noxious by the improper and unrestrained use of it. Nothing, in certain circumstances, is more dangerous, or has produced more violent effects, than cold water. If the assertion, that fermented wine is "a poison," be true, it must be an inconceivably slow one; for we see multitudes living to a good old age, and some to a very advanced period of life, in the constant use of it. Such assertions are really too absurd to deserve serious notice.
"We do not like to suppose that the Bible calls the same substance in one place 'a blessing,' and in another place 'a mocker.'" [TR]
The same "substance," (yayin,) if used in moderation, is among the blessings of Providence, but if used intemperately, may not only be a "mocker," but a curse and a destroyer, like every other blessing which is abused. As well might it be urged that the use of fire is unlawful, because it is a dangerous element, which oftentimes proves very destructive, and is represented in Scripture as an instrument of punishment and token of wrath, employed by the Almighty. As well might all our natural passions be considered sinful. Nothing is more apt to make a man do wrong than anger; and yet God himself is frequently said to be angry.

But let us examine whether no positive evidence appear, that this "mocker" is sometimes considered in the Bible as a blessing. Isaiah lv. 1, the prophet exclaims, "Come, buy wine (yayin) and milk, without money and without price." However figurative that language may be, the prophet surely cannot be supposed to offer an invitation to come and get that which is "a poison," "a mocker," &c. &c. Isa. xxiv. the consequences of the curse that was to come, "The new wine (tirosh) mourneth," verse 9, "They shall not drink wine (yayin) with a song." The one who uttered the prediction could not have deemed either "substance" as noxious, since the being deprived of them was among the threatened evils. Micah vi. in God's controversy with his people it is said, verse 15, "Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine (tirosh,) but shall not drink wine, (yayin.)" That is to say, although the must (tirosh) be trodden out, it shall not be used in the state of wine, (yayin.) and this was a curse. Zech. x. 6,7, "And I will strengthen the house of Judah," &c. &c. "and they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as though wine, (yayin.)" The speaker, who is God, certainly does not consider yayin in this place as "a poison."
Among the curses in the 28th of Deuteronomy is the following in verse 39, "Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, (yayin,) nor gather the grapes."

Psalms civ. 15, among the blessings bestowed by God, is "wine, (yayin,) that maketh glad the heart of man."

Genesis xlix.11, Jacob, on his death-bed, says of Judah, "He washed his garments in wine; (yayin;)" and verse 12 "His eyes shall be red with wine, (yayin,) and his teeth white with milk."

Cant. i.4. "We will remember thy love more than wine, (yayin;)" "the upright love thee;" verse 2, "for thy love is better than wine (yayin.)"

Cant. iv. 10, "How much better is thy love than wine, (yayin.)"

Cant. v. 1, "I have drunk my wine, (yayin,) with my milk."

Cant. viii. 2, "I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine, (yayin.)"

Cant. vii. 9, "And the roof thy mouth like the best wine, (yayin.)"

Hosea xiv. 7, God says, I will be as the dew unto Israel, &c., &c. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine (yayin) of Lebanon."

Prov. ix. 1, 2, "Wisdom hath builded her house, &c.; she hath mingled her wine, (yayin.)"

Amos ix. 14, the LORD saith, "I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, &c., and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine (yayin) thereof." And as the reverse of the above blessing, it is said in Zeph. i. 13, "They shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine (yayin) thereof."

I think that the above passages sufficiently show the value of the following "opinion" of the same writer:—
"Our opinion is, that fermented wine is not spoken of in the Bible as a blessing."[TR]

"The word 'wine,' as used in our Bibles, means sometimes grapes, the fruit of the vine, either recent or dried." "That it sometimes means the fruit of the vine eaten as food, is probable from Deut. xii. 17, 'Thou mayest not eat the tithe of thy corn, of the wine, or thy oil,'" &c. [TR]
A very weak reason. The word אכל is used very frequently and extensively for to eat, devour, consume, &c.— As well might we infer from the text quoted, that "oil" means olives. See also Deut. xiv. 26, which might, equally well be adduced to prove that yayin and "strong drink" (shikar) were something eatable. Nonsense!
"The wine here spoken of (Gen. xxvii. 28) was a blessing. Could it be made to appear that it contained one particle of alcohol, we would relinquish the whole temperance reformation, as an impious and fanatical attempt to take away from men that which the Creator gave them as a blessing." [TR]
In Hosea iv. 11, we find these words, "Whoredom and wine, (yayin,) and new wine, (tirosh,) take away the heart." This looks as if there were a particle of alcohol in tirosh, as well as in yayin.
"The united voice of human science and human experience has declared fermented wine to be a subtle, insidious, and most dangerous poison." [TR]
A most bold and groundless assertion. It is "poison," in the use of which hundreds and thousands live to extreme old age; a "poison" which is commanded to be employed in the sacrifices to the Deity, which are enjoined in the Levitical law; a "poison," the use of which is expressly permitted to man in various parts of the Bible, and which is there enumerated among the blessings of Providence.
"Is the wine which Isaac, in his prophetic blessing, prayed to God to give in abundance to his younger son, the same wine which had already produced such disastrous effects in the families of Noah and of Lot?" &c. "We answer, without hesitation, it was not." [TR]
The word used on the occasion referred to (Gen. xxvii 28) is tirosh; but we have seen enough to show that no moral inference can be drawn from the selection of that word. And Isaac himself, just before uttering this prophetic blessing, drank the poisonous and wicked liquor, yayin, verse 25.

As to the Septuagint translators, whose authority is set aside by the writer from whom I have been quoting, it surely is probable that they knew the meaning of Hebrew words quite as well as any modern critics. But when people have a "bias," no authority is apt to be of much weight with them.
"If those learned disputants, who think there is impiety in contending against the use of fermented wine on any occasion, except for medicine, have higher authority than Gesenius for their belief, that the tirosh of the Bible was fermented, intoxicating, alcoholic wine, and that, notwithstanding this, it is every where spoken of as a blessing; while the fermented wine, 'yayin,' is called, as it well deserves to be, 'a mocker,' we beg them to come forward with their authorities and their proofs. We do not quote many authorities, because we are not men of learning; nor do we advance many proofs, because to our minds, a few, so they be unanswerable, are quite enough." [TR]
Now the writer of the above passage, if he be honest and impartial, must be soon convinced of his error, upon his own grounds. That the tirosh of the Bible was a word applied to fermented liquors, appears from Hosea iv. 11, already quoted; and that it is not "every where" spoken of as a blessing, appears from the same place.

The simple truth appears to be this; tirosh is the juice of the grape more recently expressed than yayin; though probably applied to the liquor soon after, as well as before, fermentation. This word tirosh is not unfrequently used when the harvest returns are mentioned, as if to designate new produce, a liquor not old enough to be accurately called yayin; wine not yet put into bottles; bottled wine being always expressed by yayin. And it appears, from the things with which it is enumerated, or from some other circumstance, to be a more recent produce of the grape than yayin. That tirosh was probably a newer liquor than yayin appears from Deut. xiv. 22-26. Here the tithe of wine is called tirosh; but if a long journey is to be performed before the tithes are eaten, the tirosh and other tithes are sold; and, after arriving at the destined place, yayin is to be purchased instead of tirosh. Here we may also observe, that the use of yayin is expressly permitted.

That yayin was in common use, is as evident from the whole tenor of Scripture as that water was drunk. That its use was permitted, is plain from the following passages, viz., Deut. xiv. 26, just referred to; Numb. vi. 26, "And after that, (his offering,) the Nazarite may drink wine, (yayin.)" The drink offerings in the sacrifices show that wine (yayin) is permitted. Amos ix. 14, "And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel"—"and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine (yayin) thereof." And all the passages above quoted to show that yayin was considered a blessing, prove that its use was permitted.
The intemperate use of yayin is reprehended in the Bible; and so is that of flesh, and oil, and sleep.

In none of the passages in which the word tirosh is employed, do I see any thing which points to what may be called its moral qualities, except Hos. Iv. 11; where it is evidently thought to be capable of doing harm like yayin.

The amount of the matter is this. Yayin, which occurs one hundred and forty times, was in common use, as appears from almost every place in which it occurs. Its use was expressly permitted, as is evident from passages above quoted. It is also manifest that it was enumerated among the blessings of Providence, if the plain language of Scripture may be admitted to prove anything contrary to the "bias" of the writer in the Temperance Recorder. And if yayin be a poison, it is most extraordinary that its poisonous quality should have been so lately discovered; as it has been in general use ever since the days of Noah.

Tirosh, which occurs thirty-eight times, is newer liquor than yayin. The word is applied to intoxicating liquor. There is no evidence of its moral qualities being superior to those of yayin; nor of its being permitted to be used in preference to yayin.

And now let me ask, what must be the effect upon the minds of those who are not inclined to respect religion, when they perceive that professors of Christianity make use of Scripture in this way to serve their own views, or to prove the truth of some individual "bias," with the whole current of Scripture authority, when fully examined, directly opposed to them? It is needless to dwell any longer upon this subject. I feel disgusted and offended by such wild attempts at subverting the common sense of mankind.

I examined the subject long ago; but absence from town and other hindrances have prevented me from sending you this communication sooner.

Yours respectfully,

New York American for the Country - July 29, 1836
via GenealogyBank

No comments:

Post a Comment