Does the Bible say we should not drink alcohol anywhere?

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of references to alcohol (primarily wine) in the Bible. The references fall into three categories, having one of the following connotations: neutral, positive, or negative. Countless examples are neutral in the sense that they indicate the commonality of drinking wine at mealtimes with no moral judgment being given for the practice. Many, many positive references use wine as a symbol of abundance and blessing (think here of Jesus’ miracle in changing the water to wine at the wedding at Cana) and sometimes it is specifically called for in rituals and festive celebrations. Jesus is portrayed as being a regular imbiber. The Bible does portray alcohol negatively when it is the cause of drunkenness, overindulgence leading to inappropriate or sinful activity, or abuse. According to Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” There are times when people are advised to abstain (pregnant mothers, particular prophets like Samuel and John the Baptist, and even kings: “It is not for kings to drink wine … or else they will drink and forget what has been decreed, and will pervert the rights of all the afflicted” (Prov 31:4). On the whole, though, the moral thrust is against drunkenness, not alcohol in itself.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.