Part I: The Intrusion of Death
Towards The Identity Of The Forbidden
(3) Some Biblical Intimations
He shall separate himself from wine and strong
and shall drink no vinegar of wine,
or vinegar of strong drink,
neither shall he drink any liquor of grape,
nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
All the days of his separation shall he eat
nothing that is made of the vine tree
from the kernels even to the husks.
(Numbers 6:3, 4)
She may not eat of anything that cometh of
neither let her drink wine or strong drink. . .
All that I have commanded let her observe.
There are intimations
in Scripture regarding the nature of the poison. For some, these
intimations carry considerable weight; to others they are merely
far-fetched. It all depends on one's bias.
To the man who is convinced that
evolution is true, the most implausible arguments and the most
unlikely evidence in support of his conviction will suffice to
confirm him in his faith. Our critical faculties are seldom applied
with equal rigor in every direction. The convinced Christian
is just as likely to find confirmation of his faith uncritically,
as the evolutionist does. This is the way our minds
operate. It is well to
recognize the fact because each side is apt to accuse the other
of dishonesty, on precisely the same grounds. It is not possible
for most people to take a middle course and see both points of
view with equal force, and I am not even sure that it is altogether
desirable or healthy. It is conviction that puts a cutting edge
in life, and it seems to me better to be completely convinced
about certain things, even if they are unprovable, than to hold
a totally open mind. A wholly open mind, unoccupied by any structured
convictions, is apt to be vacuous, and a vacuum draws both foul
and healthy air into its void with equal vigour. The difficulty
is to find the balance between having no convictions at all and
therefore being equally receptive to all ideas good and bad alike
(or no ideas), and having a mind so made up that contrary
evidence carries no weight whatever. The situation is complicated
by the fact that whether evidence is contrary or favourable does
not always depend upon the nature of the evidence itself but
the direction of our own bias. It is the set of the mind which
predetermines how we see and even what we see. We see things
not so much as they are, but as we are.
Even if much of what I have
said in the last two or three chapters should turn out to be
a misinterpretation of the evidence, I hope I should be able
to recognize the fact. But it would not in any way shatter my
faith, for it all relates not so much to the fundamentals of
my faith but to the possible links which unify those fundamental
elements into a single organic whole. I think this is a most
important point to keep firmly in mind at all times. That Adam
and Eve were real people and poisoned themselves from a real
fruit (which was forbidden to them) with terrible consequences
for man and the world, consequences that could only be effectively
dealt with by God in Christ, are clearly matters of revelation
‹ as I understand Scripture. I do not believe them because
I can rationalize them in the light of modern knowledge. But
I love to explore these things which I believe, both with the
light of Scripture and with the help of scientific research.
Such findings only enhance exploration: they can never justify
our faith. Faith must always remain faith, this side of heaven.
Let us look,
then, at some of the intimations in Scripture which do seem to
lend some support to the view that the poison of the forbidden
fruit had about it something of the nature of such a poison as
alcohol is, always bearing in mind that if we should be shown
in the end to have been entirely mistaken about its identity,
there is no likelihood of being mistaken about the reality of
the forbidden fruit in the first place, nor the fatal consequences
to mankind of its ingestion by Adam.
2 of 11
There is some evidence for a kind of
unwritten law that the first
mention of a particular
object or the first use of an important word in Scripture often
provides a special insight into its significance thereafter.
The first mention of the grapevine by name is in Genesis 9:20
where it is recorded that Noah planted a vineyard and later became
drunk. The immediate consequence was that he indecently exposed
himself: a secondary effect was the pronouncing of a curse (Genesis
9:20-27). It seems to me a remarkable circumstance that both
Adam and Noah, who stood with respect to mankind in a somewhat
analogous position (cf. Genesis l :28 with Genesis 9:l, for example),
should have become naked in a way that brought shame and a curse.
This might provide some justification for arguing that the same
fruit, or at least a very similar fruit, was involved in both
cases ‹ though not a few commentators have flatly rejected
the idea; as Lange did.
Throughout Scripture nakedness
and the drinking of wine are linked together (cf. Lamentations
4:21; Habakkuk 2:15, etc.). We know how this association comes
about from a physiological point of view. There is, of course,
another interpretation of Adam's and Eve's nakedness. In this
view it is held that they were clothed with some kind of radiance,
a radiance which signified moral purity as well as absolute health.
On the Mount of Transfiguration the Lord Jesus Christ, having
achieved perfect adult manhood, was clothed with light. Moses,
when he came down from communing with God, had a radiant face
(Exodus 34:29,30) which may be a reflection of the same phenomenon.
It has even been suggested that if man was made in the image
of God, he must have shared God's "clothing," a "garment
of light," as Psalm 104:2 indicates. And the familiar statement
in Psalm 34:5, "they looked unto Him and their faces were
lighted" could conceivably be a reference to the same association
between purity and radiance. In which case Eve's loss of this
garment of light as she approached Adam with some of the forbidden
fruit in her hand, may have been the first intimation that Adam
had of the tragedy which had befallen her.
There is some evidence that living
tissue in health can emit light. Certainly our bodies emit radiation
which we detect only as heat but which some predatory animals,
such as snakes, actually see as colour. There is
a military device used for shooting at the enemy in the dark
which has been appropriately called a "snooperscope."
This device converts heat radiation into light radiation, thus
making people visible in the dark.
In England and on the Continent,
a number of researches have established that the human body has
an aura which can be used for purposes of diagnosis. The physicist,
Stomer von Reichenback, called it the od. The German physicist,
Otto Brueckner, measured it and believed it consisted of ultra-violet
rays. In America, an x-ray specialist, Dr. Walter Kilner, uses
the aura for diagnostic purposes. It
is believed that the
aura is not a form of radioactivity since it would not then be
extinguished by death, and it is doubtful if the human body contains
sufficient radioactive elements to be responsible for it. Some
years ago, three medical men in Italy, Drs. Sambo, Parenzan,
and Contento, in collaboration with Professor Fabiovitali, investigated
a certain Mrs. Anna Monaro whose body was so luminous at times
(and for very short intervals) that "radiation" was
clearly visible to the eye. In a report by an Italian physicist
Dr. Giocondo Protti, it is concluded, "We have proved that
we are dealing with a demonstrated fact of light," and he
adds that observations under controlled conditions "enable
us to conclude (against the most common assumption) that no element
of electricity or radioactivity has any part in causing the phenomenon."
There does not appear to
have been any further research done in connection with this phenomenon,
or at least it has not been reported in the literature with which
I am acquainted, but the work undertaken in Italy and elsewhere
at the time was well substantiated with documentary evidence
in graph form and by cinephotography. It is impossible to say
whether this kind of phenomenon bears any relationship to the
aura which has from time immemorial been associated with spiritual
purity and health, and which lies behind the traditional use
of the halo in sacred paintings.
So we have to be careful, when
speaking of nakedness in connection with Adam and Eve, that we
do not pre-empt entirely new possibilities as to the nature of
the covering which they seem to have surrendered, for our bodies
may yet have preserved some vestiges of a natural garment of
which we have only slight and occasional evidence at the present
time because we have not developed appropriate instruments to
measure it. But it is interesting that in the Bible the body
is viewed as even yet possessing a natural "covering"
This is illustrated, for example, in
the covering which a woman's hair provides for her (1 Corinthians
11:15), and which in a special way a man's hair provided when
he had taken the Nazirite vow. *
Anyone who took
this vow was given the following instructions (Numbers 6:3-6):
He shall separate himself from
wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or
vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of
grape, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
All the days of his separation
shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree from the kernels
[seeds] even to the husks [skins].
All the days of the vow of his
separation shall there no razor
154. Protti, Giocondo, "The Luminous
Woman: The Mystery of Anna Monaro," Illustrated London
News, 19 May, 1934, p.780.
* Incorrectly spelled Nazarite in the Authorized Version.
The word relates to a Hebrew verb meaning to Vow, and
has nothing to do with the village of Nazareth.
come upon his head: until the days be
fulfilled, in which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall
be holy and shall let the locks of his hair of his head grow.
All the days that he separateth
himself unto the Lord he shall come at no dead body.
Here we have
a list of requirements which must be fulfilled together; and
they are explicit. Since we know from 1 Corinthians 11:15 that
hair may have a significance of a natural covering, we have here
a linking together of three things: the "poison" from
the vine, a natural covering, and death. In the Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve took the fruit of a vine, somehow lost a natural
covering, discovered their nakedness for the first time, and
became as good as dead.
In Judges 13ff., we are given a story
which seems to shed light on the same theme. It is the story
of Samson, a man placed under the Nazirite vow (Judges 16:17).
It was not possible for him to demonstrate that he had been dedicated
to the Lord by his parents in this special way merely by testifying
that he had never touched alcohol and that he had never come
near a dead body, for he could not prove this except to those
who knew him well. What was needed was a continuing and manifest
testimony in some form that set him apart from his contemporaries,
even before strangers. Such a public testimonial was his long
hair. The other two elements of his vow could be performed in
secret and constituted more of a private testimony.
Strictly speaking, no one 'took'
a Nazirite vow: it was normally imposed upon them from birth.
In later rabbinical literature, it is the father, and not the
mother, who places his child under oath. Dedication of a child
to the Lord normally occurred before the child was born. It appears
from Scripture that surprisingly few well-known characters were
dedicated to the Lord in this way for life. The only such
individuals that we know by name were Samson, Samuel, and John
the Baptist; though Jewish tradition adds Absalom by virtue of
his long hair. The vow was not limited to Israel. The Code of
Hammurabi (Section 110) contains several regulatory statements
regarding such people, including prohibition from even entering
a wine shop, much less the drinking of wine. It reminds one
of Eve's cautionary warning to herself, "neither shall ye
In New Testament times we appear
to have reference to a temporary Nazirite vow taken by Paul (Acts
18:18) and shared by other Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 21:23).
Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, XIX, vi, 1) makes it
clear that many Jews adopted the Nazirite vow in his time, and
there may be some connection here with the community of the Essenes.
It has been argued that Samson
cannot have conformed to the requirement of abstinence from the
use of fermented wine since he is
clearly said to have
given feasts to his friends (Judges 14:10). However, devout Moslems
also give feasts to their friends. Yet no devout Moslem will
touch fermented wine in any form. It is therefore quite possible
to think of a feast in which alcoholic beverage plays
no part in the festivities, though "wine" (i.e., the
juice of the grape, unfermented) does indeed play a part. This
is contrary to our cultural traditions, but it certainly suggests
that the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee could have been a
joyous occasion and entirely acceptable to the guests without
any necessity of providing fermented wine.
Now, Samson undoubtedly knew well
enough that his real strength in the Lord depended not so much
on his long hair but on what that long hair represented, i.e.,
a witness to his dedication to the Lord. When he allowed himself
to be stripped of his testimony, even unwittingly, he surrendered
the joy of the Lord's known presence. As the Bible says, "He
wist not that the Lord was departed from him" (Judges 16:20).
It is a familiar story. Samson
was brought low by his subservience to a Philistine woman who
succeeded by effectively destroying his public witness. The loss
of his hair was symbolical: but the loss of his great physical
strength at the same time was sadly real. Deeds which he might
have done effortlessly before, he was now unable to perform.
He found himself in bondage to the enemy and his vision gone:
and he literally ate his bread by the sweat of his brow for he
was put to work grinding flour in the prison house, while his
feet were bound in chains. In all of these ways we see an analogy
with Adam. This is not merely sober history but is remarkable
allegory as well.
But this is by no means all we
may learn from the story. For we find that the experience of
his parents has relevance in the present context also. The promise
of this 'heroic' son was given to his father, Manoah, and to
his mother in Judges 13. What is significant here is the list
of instructions given by the angel to Manoah's wife prior to
the birth of her son. In verse 4 it is written: "Now, therefore,
beware I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink. . .
," a command which is three times reiterated in this one
chapter (verses 4, 7, and 14). Today we have evidence of the
reasonableness of this precaution, for there really is little
doubt that some chemical substances which are harmful do cross
the placental barrier and reach the unborn child. Thalidomide
is a sufficiently tragic reminder of this possibility. (155) In order that the child
might therefore be truly dedicated to the Lord, it was necessary
to protect even the fetus from the contamination which the devotee
himself was later called upon to avoid at all costs throughout
There are some
other intimations. Wine has from the most ancient times been
a symbol for blood, and
155. See Notes at he end of this chapter (page 11).
blood is very widely
used as a symbol for death. There was a time when men offered
a sacrifice to the gods of the sea before launching a new vessel.
Today we simply break a bottle of wine over the bow instead.
The symbol of wine as death was used by our Lord (Luke 22:20),
and this is perhaps the basic implication of the cup which He
was given to drink by his Father (John 18:11). There are passages
in the Word of God in which the juice of the grape is actually
spoken of as blood (cf. Genesis 49:11; Deuteromony 32:14).
Blood is both a sign of life and
a symbol of death; without it we cannot live and within it may
be the very seeds of our dying. As representative of blood, wine
assumed both symbolic roles. The presence of the blood in the
dead body appears to accelerate its corruption. Whatever the
factor may be that thus accelerates corruption, removing the
blood delays the process; and undertakers do this routinely.
The blood of the Lord Jesus was without this corruption by reason
of his unique conception, and accordingly his body did
not see corruption in the tomb (Acts 13:37). Peter hangs an important
"therefore" upon this very fact (verse 38).
In one passage of Scripture (Proverbs
23:31,32) the action of fermented wine is linked with the action
of the serpent. "Look not thou upon the wine when it is
red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goeth down [too] easily.
In the end it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."
In this passage, the word serpent, in the original Hebrew,
is the same word as is similarly translated in Genesis 3:1.
And this brings us to a further
point. Throughout Scripture leaven evidently stands for the same
basic cause of corruption and death. All types of Christ in the
Old Testament as the Bread of Life of which man is to
partake, involve unleavened bread. Leaven was allowed in certain
offerings (Leviticus 7:13 and elsewhere), but it was not for
eating even as fermented wine was permitted for certain drink
offerings which were merely poured out before the Lord and not
drunk (Exodus 29:40). The Lord's body which we are to eat and
his blood which we are to drink as a memorial (John 6:54-56)
are symbolized by bread without leaven and by wine without alcohol.
Indeed, at the time of the Passover, leaven was not even to be
found in the house on pain of death (Exodus 12:15,19,39; 23:18;
Deuteronomy 16:3,4). Although it is customary in certain of the
older denominations to use fermented wine in the Communion Service,
it does not seem to me likely that if the bread of that service
was to be unleavened, the wine of that service should be fermented.
The very fact that at the time of the Passover such a rigid exclusion
of leaven was commanded seems to me to require that we assume
the same thing for the wine, for the
ferment in both cases
In the literature of the time of
our Lord, leaven was always an evil thing. In the Talmud it is
Rabbi Alexander, when he had
concluded his prayers, said, "Lord of the Universe, it is
clearly manifest before Thee that it is our will to do Thy will.
What hinders that we do not do Thy will?
The leaven which is in the mass."
A glossary at
this passage adds the explanation of the last sentence, "the
evil which is in the heart." Thus leaven was associated
with spiritual or moral evil. Plutarch says, "Leaven itself
is born from corruption and corrupts the mass in which it is
mixed."† The Latin word
fermentum was synonymous with our word "corruption,"
and from it we derive the more familiar term, fermentation. Interestingly,
it is largely the yeast which is introduced into bread that gives
it its taste ‹ especially when it is fresh ‹ and the
temptation of bakers to add more in order to increase sales by
making their bread more tasty, led in time to the passing of
a law specifying that the content of alcohol in fresh bread should
not be in excess of 0.5%. I have seen it stated with some authority
that fresh bread may actually have as much as 3% alcohol.
Chemically speaking, ferment and yeast
are the same substance: but yeast or leaven is more correctly
applied to solids, while ferment is applied to both liquids and
solids. Fermentation is, in effect, a substance in a state of
putrefaction. In the East the lees of wine are sometimes used
as yeast, thus demonstrating that basically their action upon
any body into which they have been introduced is the same. It
is surprising that God should make it so very explicit that no
leaven was to accompany any blood sacrifice (Exodus 23:18; 34:25).
It may also be worth mentioning that the Hebrew root of the word
for leaven means "to be agitated." This is the
very antithesis of the Hebrew concept of health which is synonymous
with the word for peace (shalom). Priests were strictly
forbidden in Leviticus 10:9 and 10 to drink wine or strong drink
when they went into the service of God, as it says, "lest
Thus we seem
to be led to the conclusion that whatever may have been the exact
nature of the forbidden fruit, it was similar to a vine in so
far as it contained the requisites for the production of something
* Babylonian Beracoth, 17.1.
† Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae, CXIX, 6.
like alcohol. In the
present circumstances our bodies are already poisoned by generations
of forebears who have made fermented wine and leavened bread.
Thus the addition of alcohol, in bread for example, is not likely
to cause any further significant damage. In Scripture we have
a few occasions where it may even have been prescribed for its
medicinal value, as in 1 Timothy 5:23 although it is not certain
that fermented wine was involved here. Recently, experiments
conducted by Dr. Jack Konowalchuk and J. I. Speirs of the Bureau
of Microbiological Hazards in Ottawa, Canada, have shed an interesting
light on how Paul's instructions to Timothy may have been fully
It has been found that wine can
inactivate intestinal viruses. It appears that soldiers in ancient
Egypt always drank a wine and water mixture when fighting abroad
and it was decided to investigate why this kept them free of
many stomach ailments. It was discovered that if the mixture
was right, they were protected against a number of viruses, including
polio virus. And grape juice was more effective than wine! (156)
As we have already noted, the juice
of the grape can be, and was, readily enough preserved without
fermentation, and it seems to me highly probable that such unfermented
juice would be the beverage at the marriage in Cana of Galilee
(John 2:1f). That the new wine which the Lord created was at
once recognized by the master of ceremonies as of superior "vintage"
by its taste need not at all require us to assume that it was
fermented. At least forty distinctly flavoured grape juices are
bottled by different companies in Switzerland, each of which
can be identified as to its source and quality by the connoisseur.
In view of the quite tremendous quantity of wine which would
be involved in six stone vessels, each containing 18 to 27 gallons
apiece, which the Lord commanded to be filled to the brim with
water and which He then turned into wine, I think one must assume
that this was non-alcoholic. Otherwise we have to visualize the
sudden production of between 100 and 175 gallons (or anywhere
up to 700 quarts) of alcoholic beverage being produced by the
Lord in circumstances which would certainly be conducive to widespread
In his Archaeology and Bible
History, Professor Joseph P. Free has an excellent appendix
on wine in the Bible, in which the various Hebrew and Greek words
are analyzed. * I do not think the manufacturers of alcoholic
beverages will find much support from Scripture for their trade.
Above all, it seems to me exceedingly unlikely, if the main thrust
of what we have said in these last three chapters is correct,
156. See Notes at the end of this chapter
that the Lord Himself
would initiate a solemn feast in his own memory involving alcohol
in any form, much less deliberately create a very substantial
quantity of the poison in order to celebrate an occasion which
marked the beginning of a new life for two of his young friends.
If a vine in Eden
was the cause of all our shame and nakedness and of death for
man, it is perhaps not so strange that the Lord should have spoken
of Himself as the true vine (John 15:1).
There are undoubtedly
problems which remain; and I do not consider that I have any
more than opened up certain lines of inquiry. Moreover, I should
like to reiterate the important fact that I have been talking
about the rationale of the fundamentals of our faith and not
about the fundamentals themselves. Whatever may be the fate of
this rationale, it is quite certain that the fundamentals will
remain. Let us then return to a matter of far greater theological
* Free, Joseph P., Archaeology
and Bible History, Wheaton, IIIinois, Scripture Press,
revised, 1962, Appendix 2, p.352.
155. (See page 6) It has been found that vitamins (especially
A, C and thianine), antibodies, products of metabolism, the sulfonamide
compounds and other drugs cross the placental membranes. It has
also been found that penicillin and streptomycin administered
to the mother appear rapidly in human foetal blood. It has been
reported that hormones, narcotics and chemotherapeutic agents
are transmitted across the placental barrier.
In a brief note in the New Scientist
(8 Dec., 1977, p.632) it was recently reported: "The US
Food and Drug Administration wants to have alcoholic drinks labeled
to warn pregnant women that excessive alcohol consumption could
harm their babies. According to one US federal organization,
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, something
like 1500 babies born in the US each year may be mentally or
physically damaged because their mothers drank too much alcohol
when they were pregnant. Dr. Donald Kennedy, the FDA Commissioner,
says that two glasses of wine or one and a half (imperial) pints
of beer a day is an excessive alcohol intake.
Another recent report in New
Scientist (11 Jan., 1979, p.76) indicates that the strictly
poisonous nature of alcohol in human tissue is being increasingly
recognized. Under the somewhat undignified heading "Mother's
ruin is baby's downfall," it is noted that evidence has
now clearly indicated the often severely detrimental effect on
the unborn and newly born of the mother's alcohol intake. The
number of pregnant mothers studied is very substantial and the
evidence confirms experiments with animals that there is a marked
foetal effect of alcohol poisoning via the mother. The effect
of alcohol poisoning appears to be direct and not indirect.
At least 20 different patterns
of drinking can lead to some form of congenital damage. But it
is not yet clear precisely how alcohol disrupts embryonic development,
nor whether it is a poison in its own right or disrupts the flow
of nutrient to the embryo. Whether by direct or indirect action,
its effects on the embryo are "strikingly toxic."
156. (See page 9) Konowalchuk, J. and J. I. Speirs reported
their findings in the Journal of Applied and Environmental
Microbiology, vol.32, 1977, p.757. Polio, herpes simplex,
echo, and coxsackie viruses were all suppressed or inhibited.
Polio virus infectivity was reduced by a factor of 1000 when
incubated at 40C at pH7 for 24 hours with grape juice. Wines
were less effective.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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The authors believe that the amount
of inhibition exercised by the juices is related to the concentration
of tannin-like phenolic compounds present. Inhibitory activity
is confined to the extract from the skin of the grape rather
than the pulp. The mechanism of inhibition probably depends on
the phenolics' ability to bind especially to virus protein, upon
which the ability to infect depends.