WHERE DO WE PLACE OUR GREATEST TRUST: IN SCRIPTURE OR IN OUR TRADITIONS? In looking at this parable of Jesus, I believe this is the real question behind it. For some reason, people in the first century, and even today, believe that they have the right, and even the moral obligation, to add their own views to Scripture, or even to delete Scriptures, whenever they seem opposed to the current beliefs and views of the time. Yet these two acts, of ADDING TO and DELETING FROM the Bible, are explicitly forbidden TWICE by God: “You shall NOT ADD TO the word which I am commanding you, nor TAKE AWAY from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). Therefore, when Jesus condemns human traditions that ADD TO or DELETE FROM God’s commandments, He does so on the authority of Scripture.
PUTTING THE PARABLE BACK INTO CONTEXT
In putting this study back into its historical context, we need to remember that the telling of this parable happens near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He has been calling His disciples, doing some healing and teaching, and have been receiving some criticism for it. For example, before healing the paralytic man, Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven, and then when some Pharisees accused Him of blasphemy, He proves his authority to forgive sin by healing the man. Then He calls Levi (or Matthew), the tax collector, and He has dinner at his house, and He’s accused of eating with publicans and sinners.
It needs to be pointed out here that the criticism that Jesus receives is NOT about Him failing to keep God’s LAW, but the LAW OF THE PHARISEES. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus stands against this man-made LAW, comprised of Pharisaic interpretations, teachings and traditions whenever they invalidate and oppose God’s LAW or commandments. We see it with the Pharisees’ teachings about healing on the Sabbath, with the washing of hands, and with designating something as a “gift,” so one did not have to use it to support and honor one’s parents. But why do we, in the church, tend to agree with the Pharisees and see Jesus as “guilty” of these things, rather than seeing the Pharisees as “guilty” for trying to raise their own “law” up against God’s LAW?
Perhaps, the reason for this is that we don’t know God’s LAW, His commandments, the way that we should, so we just accept what they say to be true. But also, it’s sad to say, that over the centuries, Christianity has likewise followed the example of the Pharisees, and we too have created our own man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions, and just like the Pharisees, we too have also used them to invalidate and replace God’s commandments in our lives and in the lives of others.
We cannot point fingers at the Scribes, Pharisees, and Essenes, when we have a “log in our own eye.” How many times have I heard about the Jesus who celebrates Christmas and Easter, who goes to church on Sunday, teaches Sunday School, and even turns His back on the “old ceremonial law,” the “cold unfeeling law” of the Old Testament, to follow “another law, the law of love” of the New Testament, and yet this Jesus that’s often described in our churches is NOT the biblical Jesus, it is a construct of our own imagination.
I have heard thousands of sermons in my life on the divinity of Jesus, but I have NEVER, EVER heard a sermon in a church about “Jesus the Jew,” and most certainly not about “Jesus, our Jewish Rabbi.” But the Jesus of the Bible is as much Divine, as He is a Jew, and most certainly, a Jewish Rabbi. But we never talk about that part of Him or His life. We ignore it, hoping that people will not notice, or that it will just “go away.” But if we don’t love ALL that Jesus is, how can we really say we love Him at all?
I believe that this study is important for all of us, Jew and Christian alike. We need to be brave enough, and objective enough, to look at our own MAN-MADE INTERPRETATIONS, TEACHINGS AND TRADITIONS, i.e., our own MAN-MADE LAW, regardless if it is Pharisaic or Christian, regardless of how “sacred” these man-made teachings or traditions may be, and we need to ask ourselves, “How would the Jesus of the Bible feel about them? Would He see them as something that we are using to REPLACE the commandments of God? Would He see them as a man–made teaching of our own denominational beliefs, rather than the beliefs and teachings found in God’s Word, in both the OLD and NEW TESTAMENTS? I believe we need to prayerfully consider these questions when going through this study.
A SUMMARY OF THE STUDY SO FAR
In part 1, we discussed how the question on fasting actually had to do with John the Baptist’s disciples’ concern with HOLINESS and the PURITY LAWS, and in part 2, Jesus gives the response of saying that the “new cloth” (the man-made purity laws of the Pharisees and the Essenes) was not strengthening or improving the “old cloth” (God’s instructions, laws, and commandments) but were, in fact, making “the tear” between God and His people “worse.” This now brings us to part 3, the parable about the “NEW WINE and NEW WINESKINS.”
A PARABLE ABOUT THE NEW WINE
In this final parable, Jesus tells them,
|Matthew 9:17||Mark 2:22||Luke 5:37-39|
|“Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runs out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
|“And no man puts new wine into old bottles: else the new wine does burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”
|“And no man puts new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine immediately desires new: for he says, “The old is better.”|
All three accounts agree on the following points:
- No man puts new wine into old bottles;
- If new wine is poured into old bottles, then the bottles will break, the wine will run out, and the bottles will perish; and
- New wine should be put into new bottles, so that both are preserved.
However, in Luke’s account of the parable, we have an added detail:
- No man having drunk old wine immediately desires the new wine, for he says, “The old is better.”
Again, just like in part 2, it is imperative that we correctly identify the elements of this parable to correctly understand what Jesus is saying.
TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATION
Traditionally, Christianity has viewed the NEW WINE as representing the GOSPEL OF GRACE, and the OLD BOTTLES (or WINESKINS) as the MOSAIC LAW. For example, consider the following Christian teaching:
And by these very apt illustrations our Lord teaches us that it is a vain thing to attempt to mingle together the spiritual freedom of the gospel with the old ceremonies of the Law. To attempt to engraft the living spiritual energy of the gospel upon the old legal ceremonial now about to pass away, would be as fatal a thing as to piece an old garment with new material, or to put new wine into old wineskins. There is here, therefore, a valuable lesson for the Christian Church, namely, to treat new converts with gentleness and consideration. (“Pulpit Commentary”; https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/2-22.htm)
THE PROBLEM WITH THE INTERPRETATION
The major problem with this traditional interpretation is that it contradicts the parable. In order for their interpretation to be true, the OLD would have to ruin the NEW, but this is NOT what Jesus said in the parable. He said that the NEW ruined the OLD. In both parables, “The Old Garment and the New Patch,” and now this one, the “New Wine and the Bottles,” it is the NEW PATCH and the NEW WINE that ruins the OLD, not the other way around.
SO HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND JESUS’ PARABLE OF THE NEW WINE?
So how do we understand this parable?
- “OLD GARMENT” and “OLD WINE” (implied) represent God’s TORAH;
- The “NEW PATCH” and the “NEW WINE” represent the MAN-MADE TORAH of the Pharisees and the Essenes: their interpretations, teachings, and traditions.
NEW WINE – CAN BREAK NEW BOTTLES?
In my study of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, I discovered that it’s the NEW WINE, which is potentially destructive, NOT only to OLD BOTTLES, but also to NEW BOTTLES, if certain precautions are NOT taken. As Christians, we have this built in bias in thinking that the “NEW” is always BETTER than the “OLD,” but I discovered in the New Testament that there are several times when this is not the case. Instead, the opposite is often the case, the OLD is BETTER than the NEW.
Also, it is important to remember that according to Jesus’ parable, it was NOT the OLD that ruined and destroyed the NEW, but it was the NEW that ruined and destroyed the OLD. And when I did my study of the Scriptures, I came across the following three passages. Now even though I’ve heard many people discuss the parable of the NEW WINE, even from Messianic Jewish teachers, I’ve NEVER heard anyone include these passages in as part of the discussion.
JOSHUA 9: 3-13. In Joshua 9:3-6, the inhabitants of Gibean had heard what Joshua and the Israelites had done to Jericho and Ai, and so they pretend to be ambassadors of inhabitants that lived a long distance from Canaan. They dressed in old shoes, old garments, and carried old dry and moldy bread. And when they came to the Israelite camp at Gilgal, they told Joshua that they had come from a far off country, and they wanted to enter into covenant with them. It is Joshua 9:12, 13 though, that provides us with some interesting insight:
This is our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is moldy: and these BOTTLES of WINE, which we filled, were NEW; and behold, they be RENT [or BURST]: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
Obviously, these men from Gibean are attempting to deceive Joshua into believing that they’ve been on the road for a long time. But what was interesting to me was that the NEW WINE, which they claimed to have poured in the NEW BOTTLES [or NEW WINESKINS] at home had “RENT” [or BURST] due to the alleged long journey, which was not true. They had traveled only a short distance and, yet, the NEW WINE had caused the WINESKINS or “BOTTLES” to “RENT” or BURST. Apparently, we can infer from this reference and Jesus’ parable that NEW WINE can, in fact, cause both OLD and NEW WINESKINS (or BOTTLES) to BURST under the right conditions. This point will be further clarified in the next passage.
JOB 32: 17-20. In this passage, we gain a little more insight into the idea that NEW WINE can, in fact, BURST NEW BOTTLES. The fourth and youngest of Job’s friends, Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, says in his response to Job and his three other older friends,
I said, I will answer also my part, I also will show mine opinion. For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is as WINE which has NO VENT; it is ready to BURST like NEW BOTTLES. I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer. [Emphasis Mine]
Today, we would say, “I’ve got to say something, or I’m simply going to pop.” But what I found interesting here in his response is the reference again to NEW WINE (I’m assuming) causing NEW BOTTLES to BURST, but this time, unlike Joshua 9:3-13, there’s a cause mentioned: there was NO VENT given to the WINE. From these two passages, we learn that NEW WINE can be destructive to both OLD BOTTLES and NEW BOTTLES, if the BOTTLES [or WINESKINS} are not prepared and handled properly. And by Elihu comparing himself to “NEW BOTTLES,” then we can infer that the use of BOTTLES in these passages is used to represent PEOPLE, an inference which is supported by the next passage.
JEREMIAH 13:12-14. And finally, in Jeremiah 13, we again see the use of BOTTLES [or WINESKINS], like in Job 32, to represent PEOPLE:
Therefore you shall speak to them this word: Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Every BOTTLE shall be filled with WINE: and they shall say to you, Do we not certainly know that every BOTTLE shall be filled with WINE? Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will FILL all the INHABITANTS of this land, even the KINGS that sit upon David’s throne, and the PRIESTS, and the PROPHETS, and all the INHABITANTS of Jerusalem, with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, says the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them. (Emphasis Mine)
SUMMARY OF THE THREE PASSAGES
From these three passages we’ve learn the following:
- From both Joshua 9 and Job 32, we learn that NEW WINE can, in fact, cause NEW WINESKINS or BOTTLES to BURST, if proper VENTING is NOT provided.
- From Jeremiah 13, we learn that the word “BOTTLE” without any modifiers is used to represent sinful people (i.e., the Jews of Jeremiah’s day who were about to be punished by God).
- From Job 32, we see the phrase “NEW BOTTLE” being used by Elihu to refer to himself, the youngest of Job’s four friends, perhaps indicating that “NEW BOTTLES” refers to “YOUNG PEOPLE” and “OLD BOTTLES” then refer to “OLD(ER) PEOPLE.”
- However, the image of WINE, in Jeremiah 13, representing “DRUNKENNESS” and “JUDGMENT” does NOT at all fit the context of Jesus’ parable.
SO WHAT DO THE BOTTLES REPRESENT?
Based on this, I would suggest that the OLD BOTTLES represent older mature disciples, and the NEW BOTTLES represent young, inexperienced disciples. And interestingly, I found that this same concept continues, even though in Paul’s epistles, he does not use the same terminology. For example, the NEW BOTTLES, or NEW BELIEVERS, are those who–
- tend to be fleshly, envious and divisive (I Corinthians 3:3);
- are NOT subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7);
- still need the “milk of the word” (the basics) (I Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:12); and
- “are unskilled in the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13).
However, the OLD BOTTLES, or the OLDER, MATURE BELIEVERS are those
- walk after the Spirit and have their mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8: 1, 4),
- are subjected to the law of God (e.g., Romans 2:13-15; 7:22, 25; and inferred from Romans 8:4, 7);
- spend their time with the “strong meat” of God’s Word (the more advanced teachings, which includes the TORAH) (Hebrews 5:14, and is exemplified by the source of content in Hebrews 7-11); and
- “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
OLD WINE DON’T ALWAYS COME FROM OLD BOTTLES
Also in doing my study, I discovered this passage from Job 32, which reveals that OLD WINE, God’s TORAH, HIS WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING, does not always come from OLD BOTTLES. Elihu gives what I thought was some interesting insight into this:
I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach WISDOM. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them UNDERSTANDING. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I will also show my opinion. Behold, I waited for your words; I gave ear to your reasons, while you searched out what to say. Yes, I attended to you, and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words. (Job 32:7-12)
We are supposed to find God’s TORAH, His OLD WINE, in the OLDER, MATURE MEN (“OLD BOTTLES“) of our Communities, those who have spent their lives studying and observing God’s WORD, but unfortunately, as Elihu discovered, at least in Job’s older three friends, this expectation is not always the case. Sometimes, an OLDER PERSON may still have within them NEW WINE, rather than the OLD VINTAGE WINE that one would expect. And just as Elihu found within Job’s three older friends, Jesus found within many of the Scribes and Pharisees of His day.
Now interestingly, when I put all of the “OLD” things together on one side of a chart, and then put all of the “NEW” things together on the other side, I was amazed by what I discovered.
|OLD GARMENT||NEW PATCH|
|OLD WINE||NEW WINE|
|OLD BOTTLE||NEW BOTTLE|
|OLDER DISCIPLE||YOUNG DISCIPLE|
|OLDER, MATURE BELIEVER||NEW BELIEVER|
All those on the OLD side represent the things of the Spirit. For example, the OLD GARMENT and OLD WINE both represent the TORAH, which was written by the Holy Spirit, “the finger of God.” THE OLD BOTTLE, THE OLDER DISCIPLE and the OLDER, MATURE BELIEVER are those who have had the TORAH (God’s INSTRUCTIONS and commandments) written upon their hearts by the Holy Spirit as they’ve studied and practiced it.
On the other hand, everything on the NEW side represents the FLESH. For example, the NEW PATCH and the NEW WINE represent the Oral man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions of the Pharisees and the Essenes – the LAW of men – NOT the LAW of God. And the NEW BOTTLE, YOUNG DISCIPLE, and NEW BELIEVER are those who are carnal, envious, divisive, unlearned in the TORAH, the ways of God, and who pursues the things of the flesh, rather than those of the Spirit.
MY INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE
Quite simply, I believe what Jesus is telling us is that when you mix the man-made things of the flesh (the oral traditions and practices of the Pharisees and the Essenes) with the things of God (1) they don’t mix; and (2) you end up destroying the life of disciples, even mature disciples, resulting in them losing what wine they did have. But in most cases, flesh follows flesh, and the flesh will seek to preserve itself by pouring its man-made teachings and traditions into young disciples or new believers, who are usually inexperienced with God’s Word, and who cannot yet distinguish the things of the flesh from the things of the Spirit.
In other words, Jesus here is criticizing the massive efforts of the Pharisees and Essenes in filling God’s people with these false man-made ideas of what it means to “love and obey God.” As Jesus says later on,
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne [carried], and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:4)
It is NOT the NEW WINE of men’s own created law – their interpretations, teachings, and traditions – that we should be “pouring” into people, but the OLD VINTAGE WINE of God’s TORAH, His instructions, teachings, and commandments. But the nature of people then and now is to always chase after every NEW thing.
The NEW WINE of the Pharisees and Essenes were taking God’s people away from God’s calling for them: “To be a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION” (Exodus 19:5; I Peter 2:9). Instead of their man-made “law” taking them to this goal, it was, instead, transforming God’s KINGDOM nation into a RELIGION, a RELIGION molded and shaped by their man-made interpretations, teachings and traditions, now known as Rabbinical Judaism, just as Christianity, another RELIGION, would later likewise do with their own man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions. In either case, a RELIGION is NOT what God wants.
Jesus came to preach “the gospel of the Kingdom” (Luke 4:4) and to die to liberate us from our sins and the power of our sin nature. God wants to bring us back to a Kingdom mentality and perspective, which is what He originally set up and established in His Word. But in our RETURN, we will need to learn to think and respond to God’s KINGDOM as an actual KINGDOM, and Jesus as our KING that God has chosen and established within His KINGDOM. This is not an easy journey, but we must leave the man-made interpretations, teachings and traditions (the NEW WINE) behind, and we must RETURN to what is actually taught within the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
There are many man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions (NEW WINE) that have moved us away from the OLD WINE that’s in God’s TORAH, His Instructions, Teachings, and Commandments. We need to empty ourselves of these NEW WINE man-made counterfeits, and RETURN to God and His WHOLE WORD, and fill our lives with the OLD VINTAGE WINE that He has for us in the Old Testament AND New Testament. Without a WHOLE BIBLE perspective and understanding, we are missing out on all that God has for us.
The only real question is what will we allow the BOTTLES of our lives to be filled up with: the OLD WINE of God’s TWO TORAHS, the Written TORAH of His Word AND the LIVING TORAH, His Son, Jesus Christ, or will we continue to be filled with the NEW WINE of man-made RELIGIOUS counterfeits? The choice is really ours to make. We need to take the LORD’s instruction in Jeremiah 6:16, but instead of responding the way that the ancient children of Israel did, we need to do as God says.
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ANCIENT PATHS, where the GOOD WAY is, and walk in it; and you shall ind rest for your souls, but they said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” (Jeremiah 6:16, Emphasis Mine)