Bible on Addiction

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Devastating addictions, fueled by billion dollar industries, include:

  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • smoking
  • gambling
  • pornography

Have liberal translations of the Bible downplayed condemnation of these addictions?

Contents

Alcohol

Alcohol is an addiction that destroys the lives and health of about 10% of the population, and higher percentages among people with genetic predispositions, including some minority ethnic groups. Alcohol also kills tens of thousands of innocent people each year in the form of deadly auto accidents by drunk drivers.

Proverbs 23:31 prohibits the use of wine: "Do not look on the wine when it is red,/When it sparkles in the cup,/When it goes down smoothly." (NASB)

The Bible does not mention "alcohol" or alcoholic "beer" or "booze",[1] but the ESV has 236 references to "wine", about 80% in the Old Testament.

The Greek term (γλευκος or gleukos) is ambiguous but suggests the sweet version (grape juice) rather than the sour version of wine. All the New Testament references could be translated as "grape juice," which was highly valued at the time (and even protected by watchtowers), rather than as "wine". Yet the ESV translates the term as "wine" every single time. Only once in the entire Bible does the ESV refer to grape juice, and that is in its translation of Numbers 6:3 where the original text spells things out as to foreclose any mistranslation: "... and shall not eat any juice of grapes or eat ...."

There is ambiguity, however, as to whether the biblical terms are properly translated as "wine" or "grape juice," as the fermentation (or lack thereof) is typically not clarified in the original text.

Hosea 4:11 is typically translated as a reference to "wine" in criticizing it, but the New Living Translation uses "alcohol" as the English term instead.

Drugs

The biblical word for narcotics or bad drugs is φαρμακεια ("pharmakeia"), which was translated as "sorcery" in the KJV but would be better translated today to mean drug abuse.

Smoking

There are no references to (human) "smoking" or "tobacco" in the Bible, as usage did not occur in any significant way until the 1600s.

Gambling

There are no references to "dice" or "cards" in the Bible. The primary reference to gambling is in the "casting of lots" by the Roman soldiers to see who could take Jesus's clothing as some kind of trophy after the Crucifixion. Most modern English translations do not use the term "gambling" to describe that incident, however.

The Prodigal Son offers the possibility of translating the KJV description of "riotous living" to include "gambling", broadly understood. How else does a young man lose his fortune so quickly?

Pornography

The Old Testament prohibited making an image of human beings, and that would prohibit any pornography also. The term is not used in modern translations of the Bible, but the ESV references various forms of the terms "prostitution" 57 times, "adultery" 71 times, and "lust" 22 times. The penalty for adultery was death, typically strangulation of the woman alone or stoning of both participants, under the Old Testament.

The New Living Translation interprets Hosea 4:11 for a statement that prostitution destroys people's minds, much as modern pornography does.

References

  1. But see Luke 9-16 (Translated) (Chap. 15, Prodigal Son).
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