on 1-timothy 5 :23
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine - The whole of this verse seems, to several learned critics and divines, strangely inserted in this place; it might have been, according to them, a note which the apostle inserted in the margin of his letter, on recollecting the precarious state of Timothy's health, and his great abstemiousness and self-denial. I believe the verse to be in its proper place; and, for reasons which I shall adduce, not less necessary than the directions which precede and follow it. But it may be necessary to inquire a little into the reasons of the advice itself. The priests under the Mosaic law, while performing sacred rites, were forbidden to drink wine: Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever through your generations; Leviticus 10:9; Ezekiel 44:21. It was the same with the Egyptian priests. It was forbidden also among the Romans, and particularly to women and young persons. Plato, De Legibus, lib. ii., edit. Bip., vol. viii., page 86, speaks thus: Αρ' ου νομοθετησομεν, πρωτον μεν, τους παιδας μεχρις ετων οκτωκαιδεκα τοπαραπαν οινου μη γευεσται; - μετα δε τουτο, οινου μεν δη γευεσθαι του μετριου, μεχρι τριακοντα ετων· - τετταρακοντα δε επιβαινοντα ετων, εν τοις ξυσσιτιοις ευωχηθεντα, κ. τ. λ. "Shall we not ordain by law, in the first place, that boys shall not, on any account, taste wine till they are eighteen years old? In the next place, we should inform them that wine is to be used moderately till they are thirty years old. But when they have attained the fortieth year, then they may attend feasts; for Bacchus has bestowed wine upon men as a remedy against the austerity of old age, της του γηρως αυστηροτητος εδωρησατο τον οινον φαρμακον, ὡστ' ανηβᾳν ἡμας, και δυσθυμιας ληθην γιγνεσθαι, μαλακωτερον εκ σκληροτερου το της ψυχης ηθος, καθαπερ εις πυρ σιδηρον εντεθεντα, γιγνομενον· that through this we might acquire a second youth, forget sorrow, and the manners of the mind be rendered softer, as iron is softened by the action of the fire." But wine, according to the assertions of some, was given to men as a punishment, that they might be rendered insane: Ὁ δε νυν λεγομενος ὑφ' ἡμων, φαρμακον επι τουναντιον φησιν αιδους μεν ψυχης κτησεως ἑνεκα δεδοσθαι, σωματος δε ὑγιειας τε και ισχυος· page 100. "But we have now said that it is, on the contrary, medicine; and was given that the soul might acquire modesty, and the body health and vigor."
From Athenaeus we learn that the Greeks often mingled their wine with water; sometimes one part of wine to two of water; three parts of water to one of wine; and at other times three parts of water to two of wine. See his Deipnosophistae, lib. ix. "Among the Locrians, if any one was found to have drunk unmixed wine, unless prescribed by a physician, he was punished with death; the laws of Zaleucus so requiring. And among the Romans, no servant, nor free woman, ουτε των ελευθερων οἱ εφηβοι μεχρι τριακοντα ετων, nor youths of quality, drank any wine till they were thirty years of age." Deipnosoph., lib. x. c. 7, p. 429. And it was a maxim among all, that continued water-drinking injured the stomach. Thus Libanius, Epist. 1578. Πεπτωκε και ἡμιν ὁ στομαχος ταις συνεχεσιν ὑδροποσιαις· "Our stomach is weakened by continual water-drinking."
From 1 Timothy 4:12, we learn that Timothy was a young man; but as among the Greeks and Roman the state of youth or adolescence was extended to thirty years, and no respectable young men were permitted to drink wine before that time; allowing that Timothy was about twenty when Paul had him circumcised, which was, according to Calmet, in the year of our Lord 51, and that this epistle was written about a.d. 64 or 65, then Timothy must have been about thirty-five when he received this epistle; and as that was on the borders of adolescence, and as the Scripture generally calls that youth that is not old age, Timothy might be treated as a young man by St. Paul, as in the above text, and might still feel himself under the custom of his country relative to drinking wine, (for his father was a Greek, Acts 16:1), and, through the influence of his Christian profession, still continue to abstain from wine, drinking water only; which must have been very prejudicial to him, his weak state of health considered, the delicacy of his stomach, and the excess of his ecclesiastical labors.
As Timothy's life was of great consequence to the Church of God at Ephesus, it was not unworthy of the Spirit of God to give the direction in the text, and to mingle it immediately with what some have called more solemn and important advice.
1. It was necessary that the work should be done in the Church at Ephesus which the apostle appointed to Timothy.
2. There was no person at Ephesus fit to do this work but Timothy.
3. Timothy could not continue to do it if he followed his present mode of abstemiousness.
4. It was necessary, therefore, that he should receive direction from Divine authority relative to the preservation of his life, and consequently the continuation of his usefulness, as it is not likely that a minor authority would have weighed with him.
on 1-timothy 5 :23
Drink no longer water - There has been much difficulty felt in regard to the connection which this advice has with what precedes and what follows. Many have considered the difficulty to be so great that they have supposed that this verse has been displaced, and that it should be introduced in some other connection. The true connection, and the reason for the introduction of the counsel here, seems to me to be this: Paul appears to have been suddenly impressed with the thought - a thought which is very likely to come over a man who is writing on the duties of the ministry - of the arduous nature of the ministerial office. He was giving counsels in regard to an office which required a great amount of labor, care, and anxiety. The labors enjoined were such as to demand all the time; the care and anxiety incident to such a charge would be very likely to prostrate the frame, and to injure the health. Then he remembered that Timothy was yet but a youth; he recalled his feebleness of constitution and his frequent attacks of illness; he recollected the very abstemious habits which he had prescribed for himself, and, in this connection, he urges him to a careful regard for his health, and prescribes the use of a small quantity of wine, mingled with his water, as a suitable medicine in his case. Thus considered, this direction is as worthy to be given by an inspired teacher as it is to counsel a man to pay a proper regard to his health, and not needlessly to throw away his life; compare Matthew 10:23. The phrase, "drink no longer water," is equivalent to, "drink not water only;" see numerous instances in Wetstein. The Greek word here used does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament.
But use a little wine - Mingled with the water - the common method of drinking wine in the East; see Robinson's Bibliotheca Sacra, 1:512, 513.
For thy stomach's sake - It was not for the pleasure to be derived from the use of wine, or because it would produce hilarity or excitement, but solely because it was regarded as necessary for the promotion of health; that is, as a medicine.
And thine often infirmities - ἀσθενείας astheneias - Weaknesses or sicknesses. The word would include all infirmities of body, but seems to refer here to some attacks of sickness to which Timothy was liable, or to some feebleness of constitution; but beyond this we have no information in regard to the nature of his maladies. In view of this passage, and as a further explanation of it, we may make the following remarks:
(1) The use of wine, and of all intoxicating drinks, was solemnly forbidden to the priests under the Mosaic law, when engaged in the performance of their sacred duties; Leviticus 10:9-10. The same was the case among the Egyptian priests. Clarke; compare notes on 1 Timothy 3:3. It is not improbable that the same thing would be regarded as proper among those who ministered in holy things under the Christian dispensation. The natural feeling would be, and not improperly, that a Christian minister should not be less holy than a Jewish priest, and especially when it is remembered that the reason of the Jewish law remained the same - "that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and clean and unclean."
(2) it is evident from this passage that Timothy usually drank water only, or that, in modern language, he was a "tee-totaller." He was, evidently, not in the habit of drinking wine, or he could not have been exhorted to do it.
(3) he must have been a remarkably temperate youth to have required the authority of an apostle to induce him to drink even a little wine; see Doddridge. There are few young men so temperate as to require such an authority to induce them to do it.
(4) the exhortation extended only to a very moderate use of wine. It was not to drink it freely; it was not to drink it at the tables of the rich and the great, or in the social circle; it was not even to drink it by itself; it was to use "a little," mingled with water - for this was the usual method; see Athaeneus, Deipno. lib. 9: x. 100:7.
(5) it was not as a common drink, but the exhortation or command extends only to its use as a medicine. All the use which can be legitimately made of this injunction - whatever conclusion may be drawn from other precepts - is, that it is proper to use a small quantity of wine for medicinal purposes.
(6) there are many ministers of the gospel, now, alas! to whom under no circumstances could an apostle apply this exhortation - "Drink no longer water only." They would ask, with surprise, what he meant? whether he intended it in irony, and for banter - for they need no apostolic command to drink wine. Or if he should address to them the exhortation, "use a little wine," they could regard it only as a reproof for their usual habit of drinking much. To many, the exhortation would be appropriate, if they ought to use wine at all, only because they are in the habit of using so much that it would be proper to restrain them to a much smaller quantity.
(7) this whole passage is one of great value to the cause of temperance. Timothy was undoubtedly in the habit of abstaining wholly from the use of wine. Paul knew this, and he did not reprove him for it. He manifestly favored the general habit, and only asked him to depart in some small degree from it, in order that he might restore and preserve his health. So far, and no further, is it right to apply this language in regard to the use of wine; and the minister who should follow this injunction would be in no danger of disgracing his sacred profession by the debasing and demoralizing sin of intemperance.
on 1-timothy 5 :23