Remember my preference

 

Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part I: The Intrusion of Death

Chapter 12

 

Towards The Identity Of The Forbidden Fruit:
(3) Some Biblical Intimations

 

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 even to the husks.

(Numbers 6:3, 4)

She may not eat of anything that cometh of the vine,
neither let her drink wine or strong drink. . .
All that I have commanded let her observe.
(Judges 13:14)

 

     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

     pg.1 of 11     


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.
    There is some evidence for a kind of unwritten law that the first

     pg 2 of 11      

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

     pg.3 of 11     

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." (154)
      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" of sorts.
    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.

     pg.4 of 11     

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 touch it."
     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

     pg.5 of 11     

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 his life.
     

     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).

     pg.6 of 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

     pg.7 of 11     


ferment in both cases is comparable.
     In the literature of the time of our Lord, leaven was always an evil thing. In the Talmud it is written: *

     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 we die."

     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.

     pg.8 of 11     


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 justified.
     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 drunkenness.
     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 (page 11).

     pg.9 of 11     


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 importance.

* Free, Joseph P., Archaeology and Bible History, Wheaton, IIIinois, Scripture Press, revised, 1962, Appendix 2, p.352.

     pg.10 of 11     


 NOTES

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.
     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.

     pg.11 of 11     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter



Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us