Why I am reading Difficult Passages in the Epistles

I have on the sidebar a list of books I am currently reading. There are probably a few others, but these are the ones I am mostly carrying around with me. I just finished Pickering, and have blogged a bit from his ideas. I will be doing some more on that one shortly, The Tragedy of Compromise (and every one of Pickerings books and booklets) should be required reading for every fundamentalist.

One of the other books on my list is a little book I picked up a few years ago. It is called Difficult Passages in the Epistles by Robert H. Stein. Robert Stein is currently a professor at Southern Seminary. At the time he wrote this book, he taught at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. I believe that is a Baptist General Conference school. These schools are evangelical schools that I cannot recommend, although some good work has come out of them.

I ran across Dr. Stein’s book when I was researching the subject of Christians and alcohol. For the record, I am a vehement opponent of the use of alcohol. As my father says, “It is a curse.” Christians should stay away from it as far as possible. They are fools for playing with it.

In my research on the subject, I ran across a number of articles in Bibliotheca Sacra that referenced an article written by Dr. Stein in Christianity Today in 1972. The quotes from the article intrigued me and I searched in vain to find a copy of the article. Some time later, I decided to search Dr. Stein’s name on Google and found the link to his bio on the Southern Seminary faculty. So I wrote to him, asking him if he was the author of the article and indeed he was. He told me that I could also find the article in his book Difficult Passages in the New Testament. At the time, I had trouble finding the book, but I did find two books called Difficult Passages in the Gospels and Difficult Passages in the Epistles. I ordered both, in the hopes that one of them might have the article.

Well, the book on the epistles has the article. It is an excellent treatment of the word oinos, the Greek word for wine and agrees with some of the research I had done in secular writings on the history of wine and alcohol. I highly recommend the book to you for that article alone, but the book is more than that. It is a collection of essays teaching careful hermeneutical (bible interpretation) principles and is well worth the effort.

With respect to the article on wine, Dr. Stein shows that the way the ancients drank and produced wine is very different from today. The alcohol content was generally lower and it was always drunk diluted. Those who try to make arguments for the use of alcohol based on the references in the Bible simply are not using good hermeneutics.


I had planned a more controversial article for today, but I let my notes at church. Maybe tomorrow. I know all five of my readers will be waiting with bated breath!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3