Posted by: Christopher Ryan | Mon 19 Dec, 2011

The History of Christmas and it’s Traditions

The History of Christmas
 and it’s Traditions


Have you ever found yourself in a rut?  I sometimes find myself in a situation that I feel like I’m doing the same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.  I found myself wondering if I have ever stopped and questioned why I do what I do.  Have I always just gone with it?  Is it because it’s what’s always been done, because it’s just the way things are, because it’s tradition, or maybe it’s because it’s what society accepts.  Whatever the reason, I think we need to slow down our busy lives in this fast pace world, and look at ourselves and what really matters.  This is what brings me to our current topic of Christmas.  Why do we choose to celebrate Christmas?  What’s it all about?  Where did it originate?  Why do we have Christmas trees?  Why do we give gifts?  Where did Santa Claus come from?  Where did the mistletoe come from?  What’s the big deal about “Happy Holidays” and “Merry X-mas”? 

All of these things we participate in, or hear about, year after year but do we really know its origins or even why it is that we do it?  I’d say most of us don’t and that’s what I’m bound and determined to find out.  I believe we should know what we believe and why we believe it, because if not, then we are just going to do it because it’s accepted, or because everyone else is doing it and then it will end up losing its meaning.  Just because something is accepted doesn’t mean that it’s right.  Who knows, we might be practicing witchcraft or devil worship and not even realize it.  That’s kind of a wild thought but it is very much possible.  I hope we all learn something about one of the most popular holidays in the world.


Christmas, as we know it, is on the 25th of December and it is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  We typically celebrate Jesus’ birth with Christmas trees, decorating, exchanging gifts, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.  However, most people don’t know that most of these same things were celebrated at the end of December long before the birth of Christ.  So, that leads us to ask do we really do these things to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior or do we use His birth as an excuse to be able to do these things?  Hmm, that’s an interesting thought.  So what’s the real history behind our Christmas traditions?

Ancient Mesopotamia and Rome

In ancient Mesopotamia nearly 4000 years ago they celebrated each New Year with a 12-day festival, called Zagmuth. The Mesopotamians, who believed in many gods, held this festival in support of their chief god, Marduk, because they believed that he battled the monsters of chaos at the beginning of each winter. This is where the 12 days of Christmas is believed to have been originated.  The ancient Romans held a celebration in honor of their god Saturn. The festival, which they called Saturnalia, began in mid-December and lasted until the first of January (Yule, or the Winter Solstice). The Romans decorated their homes with garland and trees with candles. During which they would visit each other’s homes and hold great feasts. One of the theories of how the tradition of giving Christmas gifts came about was from the Roman practice of exchanging gifts between family and neighbors during this festival to promote good luck.


In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21 through January (the winter solstice) in honor of their god Thor. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs (Yule logs), which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. Some believe that the tradition of singing carols began when people in Scandinavia would sing celebration songs around this log.  The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. 

Early Europeans and Germany

Centuries before Jesus was born early Europeans celebrated the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.  The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they wouldn’t have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.  In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the winter holiday/ solstice. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish.

How Christmas came to be

So we’re starting to see where the earliest of origins are starting to take shape for our Christmas traditions.  This leads me to what we all say is the reason for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ!  It is a very big myth that Jesus was born on December 25th, 1AD.  Most experts believe He was born between 3 and 4 AD.  Just an interesting side note I want to throw in here is that most people believe BC is Before Christ and AD is After Death.  If you believe this then let me ask you a question.  If BC is Before Christ and if after He died is AD and Jesus lived for 33 years, then what is the 33 year period between Before Christ (BC) and After Death (AD)?  BC is in fact Before Christ however AD is not After Death.  AD in Latin is “Anno Domini” which means “In the year of our Lord.”  However, I digress.  Along with Jesus not being born in 1 AD He also was not born on December 25th.  No one actually knows the date or even month that Christ was born with absolute certainty however there are several theories.  Experts have given various dates including back in November, some say in March, and even some as far out as September.  I personally think it was in March but that’s me.  If your pastor, teacher, professor, or educator tells you any different then I’m wrong their right.  It’s just my educated guess but I can tell you it wasn’t December 25th 1 AD. 

Something else that I think is important to mention is that Christmas or I should say the birth of Jesus was not originally celebrated by all of Christianity.  In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.  The term Christmas didn’t even come about until over a millennium later.  The word Christmas in Old English is “Cristes Maesse” meaning the “Mass of Christ” and it was first found in 1038 AD.   So how did Jesus’ birthday come to be celebrated on the 25th of December?  Well, by the time the Roman Empire legalized Christianity in the 4th century, as discussed earlier, most other countries and religions were celebrating their gods during the winter solstice.  So Pope Julius in 350 AD declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on December 25th from then on.  But the truth is that December 25th, or really late December, was celebrated for many pagan gods long before it was ever associated with Jesus.  The Pope was trying to make it as easy as possible for pagans to convert to Catholicism.  However, the new holiday didn’t take off with believers at first. The widespread celebration of December 25th by believers didn’t get going until 378. It apparently then dropped in 381 and then came back in 400 AD (5th Century). 

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to cancel Christmas. Charles II was restored to the throne by popular demand and he brought back the popular holiday.  The pilgrims were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. However Captain John Smith in the Jamestown settlement reported that Christmas was to be enjoyed by all.  After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.  In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution.  Now that you know how Christmas came about let us go into some of our current traditions like the Christmas tree, gift giving, Santa Claus, mistletoe, and some controversies like saying happy holidays and Merry X-mas. 

Christmas Trees

The Christmas tree has virtually become the symbol of Christmas across the United States and the world.  In America it’s tradition for many to put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  For some it’s popular to wait until the first of December; some just put one up whenever they get a chance but most Americans do celebrate Christmas by having a Christmas tree.  Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.  But how did the tradition begin?

Pagan Trees

Many Pagan cultures used to cut boughs of evergreen trees in December, move them into the home or temple, and decorate them.  Many modern-day Pagans still do during Yule. This was to recognize the winter solstice. As the solstice approached, they noticed that the days were gradually getting shorter; many feared that the sun would eventually disappear forever, and everyone would freeze. But, even though deciduous trees, bushes, and crops died or hibernated for the winter, the evergreen trees remained green. They seemed to have magical powers that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter.  The ancient Egyptians, whom didn’t have evergreens, used the palm tree to symbolize resurrection.  They decorated their houses with a tree and its branches during the solstice. 

The ancient Roman Pagans decorated their trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus (a fertility god). They also placed 12 candles on the tree in honor of their sun god.  Their Saturnalia festival started on December 17th and often lasted until a few days after the Solstice. In Northern Europe, the ancient Germans tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honor of their god Woden. Trees were viewed as symbolizing eternal life. This is the pagan god after which Wednesday was named. The trees joined holly, mistletoe, the wassail bowl, and the Yule log as symbols of the season. All predated Christianity.

Modern Christmas Trees

The tradition began in the 16th century in Germany. St Boniface went there to try to convert the people to Christianity. While walking in the woods he found pagans worshipping their gods and spirits around an oak tree. One story tells they were actually sacrificing a child to their gods. Since this angered him, he immediately chopped down the tree. Tradition says that after he chopped the tree down a pine tree sprung up in its place. St Boniface saw this as a sign and the tradition of the Christmas tree began.  The German people were the first ones to use a tree at Christmas. They used roses, apples, nuts, berries and candles to decorate the trees. It was the Protestants that first adopted the Christmas tree as part of the celebration of Christmas.

In England the Royal family adopted the celebration of Christmas with a tree around 1840.  The Royal family not only used lights to decorate the tree but also used candy, gingerbread men, and fruit. Later the common people joined in.  In America, a Christmas tree hadn’t been used until Germans immigrated in the early 1800s and brought the tradition with them. Americans at first thought using a Christmas tree was a pagan tradition and didn’t want the tree as part of the Christmas celebration, but by the end of the 1800’s most Americas followed suit.

As tradition goes the wood of the tree symbolized the cross that Christ died on for our sins.  The green tree represents new life that you have with Jesus when you accept Him as your Savior.  The lights symbolize the birth of Christ and the fact that Jesus is the light of the world.  The trees were originally decorated with candles and a cloth was put down under the tree to catch the wax; but with the invention of electricity we now use electrical lights but we kept the tradition of keeping the tree skirt.  Red ornaments represent the blood Jesus shed for our sins.  Apples were used to remind us of the sin of Adam and Eve and our sinful nature.  The Christmas tree is usually topped with an angel to represent the angels that were there when Jesus was born to worship Him as the Son of God.  Often a star is used to top the tree and it symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem that guided the wise men, or the magi, to baby Jesus.

Gift Giving

You can’t talk about gift giving without talking about good ole St. Nick, Saint Nicholas, or better yet Santa Clause.  Nicholas was in fact a real person; he was born late in the 3rd century and was raised to be a devout Christian.  His parents were wealthy but died at a young age in an epidemic.  He used his inheritance to help the needy, sick, and the suffering.  Nicholas later became the bishop of Myra and became known for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. He was eventually imprisoned and tortured for his faith. When Constantine became emperor of Rome, he allowed Nicholas to go free. Constantine became a Christian and convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. Nicholas was a delegate to the council. He is especially noted for his love of children and for his generosity.  He died on December 6, 343 AD in Myra and the anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.

About 200 years after his death, Nicholas started being recognized and honored in very significant ways.  His sainthood has no specific date but was recognized by several local churches and quickly spread though out the world and is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Nicholas was known for his generosity and often gave money and toys to the needy.  He was always alert to others needs; and gave in secret but expected nothing in return for himself.

He is the patron saint of sailors in Sicily, Greece, and Russia, as well as the patron saint of children. The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive.  In 16th century Holland, Dutch children would place their wooden shoes by the hearth, a brick- or stone-lined fireplace, in hopes that they would be filled with a treat. The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas as Sint Nikolaas, which became corrupted to Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, and finally, in Anglican, to Santa Claus. In 1822, Clement C. Moore composed his famous poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which was later published as “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore is credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man wearing a red suit. However, his authorship is controversial. Some scholars suggest that it was Henry Livingston Jr. who wrote the poem.

Some say it was this man’s generosity that spiked the gift giving at Christmas time and others say, as mentioned before; it was the ancient Roman festival Saturnalia.  They practiced giving family and neighbors gifts for good luck.  Some even say that we give gifts at Christmas because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.  We repeat the tradition of giving gifts to everyone.  I personally think it was a combination of all three. The ancient Roman’s tradition, Saint Nicholas’ generous efforts, along with the gifts that were brought to Jesus in the manger that came together for our current tradition but that’s my opinion. 


Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. They would gather this evergreen plant that is parasitic upon other trees and used it to decorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healing powers for everything from female infertility to poison ingestion. Scandinavians also thought of mistletoe as a plant of peace and harmony. They associated mistletoe with Frigga, their goddess of love. That’s most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came from.  The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because of its pagan origins. The church fathers suggested the use of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmas greenery.

Happy Holidays

In recent years (from 1990 on) people have gradually started saying “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas.”  A lot, if not most, probably believe they are referring to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Many believe they are trying to keep from saying Christmas for “religious freedom” or political reasons.  For some, that is very possible.  However I’d also like to point out that there are several other religious/cultural celebrations during this time of year as well.  There is Christmas, Hanukkah, Rohatsu, Kwanzaa, and Yule.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and it’s on December 25th each year.  Hanukkah in Hebrew means “dedication.”  The holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the current calendar.  Rohatsu is Japanese for “eighth day of the twelfth month.” December 8 has come to be the day Japanese Buddhists observe the enlightenment of the Buddha. 

Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States honoring universal African-American heritage and culture, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. It features activities such as lighting a candle holder with seven candles and culminates in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–1967.  Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday nor is it meant to replace Christmas.  Yule is the Winter Solstice which is (around December 22) the longest night of the year.  It is a Pagan holiday, when the return of the sun is celebrated, as the days are about to get longer. At this time, there is a battle between the Holly King & Oak King, in which the Oak, representing lighter times, will win.  Also in the Celtic/Druidic calendar, this would be the Nameless Day. This is the day in between the old year and the New Year in the Druidic tree calendar, represented by mistletoe.  Yule is still celebrated today mainly by witches and wiccans.

Since there are so many different religious/cultural holidays during the time of Christmas I personally do not mind someone interchanging “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.”  Sometimes I interchange them myself but that’s me.  The problem I have is when people and/or stores will only say “Happy Holidays” and refuse to say “Merry Christmas.”  I have some friends that get irritated at people saying “Happy Holidays.”  They have voiced their opinion and said they prefer Merry Christmas because they believe in Christ and He is the “reason for the season.”  They do have respect for the other religions though; they’ll say “Happy Hanukah” to their Jewish friends, “Happy Kwanza” to their African American friends, and so on.  This would actually be more accurate however to generalize them all by periodically saying Happy Holidays I have no problem with, but like I said that’s me. 

Merry X-Mas

The advertisement of “Merry X-Mas” has got to be one of the most controversial Christmas topics in a while.  Let me try to clear this up.  The argument by children of God is that X is an unknown factor and they are trying to take Christ out of Christmas.  I hear this year after year; let me give you a history/Greek lesson.  First you must understand that the ancient Greeks often used abbreviations, or shorthand, when writing due to lack of writing material.  “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christos,” meaning “Christ.”  Therefor “X” = “Christ.”  The “-mas” part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for “Mass.”  Put them together and you have “Christmas” and as mentioned before it means the “Mass of Christ.” 

Therefor saying that Xmas is a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas” is completely wrong.  The term Xmas was used to refer to the birth of Jesus as an informed abbreviation, not an offensive one. Xmas was a way for Christian scholars to refer to Jesus respectfully in an ancient language not to disrespect His name with a harsh symbol. In fact, variations of “Xmas” date back to 1038 in the year of our Lord.  However, I will say this; there are probably not very many people that know this.  I’m sure there are people out there that use Xmas because it’s become socially acceptable.  Some purposefully do so just to take out Christ but their really not.  We need to be educated on these kinds of things. 

Final Thoughts

Since the birth of Christ was not originally celebrated many, today like back then, argue that it should have never started to begin with.  They argue that the celebration of Easter, or the anniversary of Jesus’ rising from the dead, should be the only thing celebrated.  Many of them say that by celebrating the birth of Jesus, especially during the Winter Solstice, we are taking part in what began as paganism and that we are falling into the snare of Satan himself.  Many especially give warning against the “Christmas Tree,” saying that even scripture speaks against having and using them.

“3For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. 4“They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter. 5“Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.” 6There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is your name in might. 7Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is your due! For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like you. 8But they are altogether stupid and foolish in their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood! 9Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; they are all the work of skilled men.”  Jeremiah 10:3-9 NASB

The problem with this theory is that the context of the passage is on making idols. Jeremiah was not talking about Christmas trees but about making idols from wood, which the people would then bow down and worship. Christmas trees are not idols, nobody worships them. Jeremiah was not condemning Christmas trees but rather idolatry.

In my first body paragraph I asked this question “Do we really do these things to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior or do we use His birth as an excuse to be able to do these things?”  This, I believe, is the key question.  Reason being, the reason why we do something is just as important, if not more so, than what we are actually doing.  I’ll give you an example, if you celebrate “Christmas” with a decorated tree, gift giving, and a fire in the back yard and you do it truly (in your heart) for the reason of celebrating the birth of Christ then I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it.  However, if you celebrate by doing the exact same things but do it for other reasons, especially pagan gods, then it’s most defiantly wrong.  It’s your heart and what you mean when you do it that matters.  God knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.  So, what do you do and why do you do it?  That’s what’s important.  I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

God Bless,
Christopher E. Ryan

Posted by: Christopher Ryan | Wed 05 Oct, 2011

What does the Bible say about Alcohol?

What does the Bible say about Alcohol?

Does the Bible promote drinking alcohol or does it condemn it?


Drinking alcohol…  Is it right?  Is it wrong?  Does anyone care?  I will be going into the subject of “alcohol in the Bible.”  This is a very touchy, sensitive, and downright controversial subject in the church today.  I will be going deep into the scriptures and pulling out verses AND entire passages to see what the bible says.  Not only that but I will also be looking at the original Hebrew and Greek words AND how they are used in each of the verses as well as pulling out what was going on in the time period that it was written in to get the correct idea of what the author is actually trying to say.  I will give a clear definition of what the words mean and show how they are accurate in how they are used in the ancient scriptures and prove how it is still applicable today.  Please keep in mind that I am going into this with a clear mind and not judging whether it’s good or bad I’m solely looking into the scriptures and I will give my opinion based on my findings.  You can’t argue with the Word of God.  However, whether you agree or not, feel free to leave me a comment at the end, as long as it is respectful I welcome them all.

Hebrew Words for Wine

Let me begin with laying out the Hebrew words for wine and their meanings.  The most common Hebrew word for wine is yayin, from a root meaning “to boil up,” “to be in a ferment” and it is what we mostly think of when we think of wine, actually being fermented.  The next most common word is tirosh, properly “must”; sometimes rendered as “wine,” “new wine,” or “sweet wine.” It can represent wine at any stage in the fermentation process and in some places it represents wine made from the first drippings of the juice before the winepress was trodden. As such it would be particularly potent. It can certainly be alcoholic, as in Hos 4:11.  The next word is shekar, literally “strong drink”; “denotes any inebriating drink with about 7–10 percent alcoholic content.  Another interesting word is chemer corresponding to the Aramaic word chamar “wine”; the word”conveys the idea of ‘foaming,’ as in the process of fermentation. It is derived from the root hamar, meaning ‘to boil up.’”  The word asis means “sweet wine” or “new wine” which contrary to some popular belief that it means non-alcoholic grape juice, it actually means that was made in the current year and it can (if drank enough) have intoxicating power (meaning you can get drunk off of it). 

Chomets is a vinegar that was made from wine or other fermented beverage and used as a condiment, which means when mixed with water it is an intoxicating drink.  Now the word shemar is kind of tricky to explain.  The textbook definition is “lees or dregs of wine; wine that has been kept on the lees, and therefore old wine” (“if [the wine] were designed to be kept for some time a certain amount of lees was added to give it body”).  Ok, now I know that makes sense to probably no one so let me explain.  Lees
refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of “fining”, to the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and ageing. The yeast deposits in beer brewing are known as trub.  However, yeast deposits from secondary fermentation of beer are referred to as lees.  Hopefully that makes more sense.  Now let’s move on to the word sobhe, which simply means drink, liquor, wine.  The Hebrew words mamsak and mesekh mean “mixed drink,” “mixed wine,” “drink-offering;” the words are literally a mixture of wine and water with spices that increase its alcoholic properties.  Last but defiantly not least mezeg means “mixture”, “mixed wine.”  Now the Hebrew word for grape juice is Mishrah and is used once in the entire bible.  It is found it Numbers 6:3 and we will go over that a little later.

Greek Words for Wine

Unlike the Hebrew language, which has a wide variety of words for alcoholic beverages, there are only five words used in the Greek.  We begin with the most common which is oinos.  Oinos is the common word translated “wine” in the New Testament and it compares to the Hebrew word yayin.  The word gleukos means “sweet wine” (sometimes rendered “new wine”) which can represent anytime in the fermentation process (within the first year).  Sikera is the Greek word for “strong drink.”  Oxos means vinegar or sour wine.  Oxos could be made from grape wine or other fermented beverages.  When it is mixed with water, it was a common, cheap drink of the poor and of the Roman army.  The greek word methusma literally means an intoxicating drink.  Finally, the Greek word for “grape juice” (trux) is not used in the New Testament.

The Bad

Let me begin by stating several verses that look down upon/talk negatively about alcohol.  One of the first verses that come to mind is Proverbs 20:1 “Wine (yayin*) is a mocker, Strong drink (shekar*) is a brawler, and whoever staggers because of them is not wise.”  In 1 Sam 1:14; Prov 23:30; Isa 5:11, 22; 28:1, 7; 29:9; 56:12; Jer 23:9; 51:7; Joel 3:3 the bible clearly condemned drunkenness.  Notice now in the New Testament in Gal 5:19-21 (Works of the flesh… drunkenness [methusma**]); Eph 5:18 (“And be not drunk [methusma**])with wine [Oinos**], wherein is excess…); 1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 2:3 (Pastors, deacons, and older women serving as role models for younger women, “not given (addicted) to wine [Oinos**] or strong drink [Sikera**].”); along with several other passages that use wine or strong drink as examples of not getting drunk because of God’s wrath, immorality, and so on, such as Rev 14:8, 10; 16:19; 17:2; and last but not least 18:3).  All of these speak negatively toward alcohol but more specifically against drunkenness.

The Neutral

While we all know that there are defiantly bad, or negative, verses and statements in the bible, there are also verses that are pretty neutral that speak of people drinking wine.  Let’s take a look at a few of them and we’ll begin in Genesis 14:18 in which refers to Melchizedek as offering wine (yayin*) to Abraham; Nehemiah 2:1 refers to the king drinking wine (yayin*) (Nehemiah was required to taste it first to make sure it was not poisoned); Esther 5:6; 7:1-2 speaks of wine (yayin *) that Esther (the godly Jewess) drank with the king; Job 1:13 refers to righteous Job’s family drinking wine (yayin *); Daniel 10:3 speaks of drinking wine (yayin *) as a blessing after a time of fasting. Some of Jesus’ parables are about wine, wineskins, vineyards (Matt 9:17; 21:33; even John 15 speaks of God the Father as the vinedresser!). Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine (Oinos**) for his stomach’s sake and not just water (1 Tim 5:23).  The same Greek and Hebrew terms that were used to speak of the abuses of wine are used in these passages.

The Good

We have seen how the bible speaks negatively toward alcohol and how it sometimes speaks neutrally about the subject now let’s look at how the bible speaks of alcohol in a positive sense.  The passage of Deut 14:26 (14:22-26 in its context) speaks of tithing but let’s look more closely at it.

“22Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine (tirosh*), and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. 24And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 25Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 26And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine (yayin *), or for strong drink (shekar**), or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, 27And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. 28At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: 29And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.”

They were to tithe what the Lord had told them to tithe (obviously) and go to wherever God told them to go.  Verses 24-26 are key, If the journey was too far for them to carry the entire tithe (what belonged to God) then they were to sell it (turn it into money) and take the money to where God tells them to go.  Now look at verse “26And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine (yayin)*, or for strong drink  (shekar*), or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God,and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household.” WHAT?!?!  They were to take the tithe, that was God’s, and if the journey was too long they were to sell it and take the money and when they got to where the Lord was sending them they were commanded to buy (with God’s money) whatever they desired, in which specifically included wine (yayin*), yes the alcoholic kind, and if anyone wants to question that it even says “or for wine (yayin*), or for strong drink (shekar*),” the strong drink most defiantly was alcoholic.  Not only that but it even says that they were to “eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice.”  Not only were they to do it but do it with the Lord’s money and they were to rejoice.  The bible couldn’t be any clearer.

Now moving on to other places where God’s Word speaks well of drinking alcohol.  Psalm 4:7 compares joy in the Lord to the abundance of wine (tirosh*); Psalm 104:14-15 says that God is the creator of wine (yayin*) that “makes a man’s heart glad” (see also Hos 2:8); Prov 3:10 honoring the Lord with one’s wealth is rewarded with the blessings of abundant stores of wine (tirosh*); Ecl 9:7 (…drink your wine (yayin*) with a joyful heart…); Song of Solomon (1:2, 4; 4:10; 7:9) repeatedly compares love to wine (all yayin*)  as though good wine were similarly sweet; and Isa 25:6 where the Lord prepares a banquet with “well-aged wines (shemar *)… and fine, well-aged wines” for his people; Jesus himself makes wine (oinos**) John 2:3, 9, 10; 4:46; Paul tells Timothy to drink wine (onios**) for his stomach’s sake in 1 Tim:5:23.

The Nazarene Vow

The Nazarene vow (found in Numbers 6), was a voluntary vow for anyone (man or woman) who wanted to “separate themselves unto the Lord.”  This vow had three absolute restrictions:  1: They could not have wine, strong drink, grape juice, or any fruit from the grape vine (grapes, raisons, or anything that was produced from it); 2.  They could not cut their hair until their vow was complete; and 3.  They could not touch or even be around dead bodies.  There is no specified amount of time that they had to be separated so it is assumed that the individual got to choose their own length of time in the vow but once they chose to make the vow it was extremely strict.

“He shall separate himself from wine (yayin*) and strong drink (shekar*); he shall drink neither vinegar (chomets*) made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice (mishrah*), nor eat fresh grapes or raisins” Numbers 6:3.  The Hebrew word for grape juice here is mishrah* and it is used here and ONLY here in the bible.

Commonly Misused Scripture

There are several verses that I can think of that are commonly misconstrued to mean, or to say, what they do not.  I will go through these in order from the beginning of the bible to the end of the bible.  A short but comprehensive list of the verses that I am specifically referring is as follows:   Proverbs 23:31 (29-34 in context), Habakkuk 2:15 (5-16 in context), and Luke 1:15 (John the Baptist not drinking wine or strong drink).  Please note that there are many more but these are the ones that I feel that I need to touch on for clarification reasons.

Do not look on the wine when it is red

Let us begin with Proverbs 23:31 “31 Do not look on the wine (yayin*) when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly.”  I have heard (and read) it said (and written) that when the bible refers to not even looking at wine and referring to this exact verse that when the bible refers to “when it is red” it is speaking of being fermented or “alcoholic.”  So what they are trying to make this verse say is that we’re not supposed to even look at wine when it is fermented.  Hmm, that’s very interesting.  Now let me point out a couple of flaws in that theory. 

First of all, due to previous verses already shared you know that this is inaccurate.  Secondly, the Greek word for look that is used here is “ra’ah,” which can be interpreted a several different ways and among them are “to gaze” or to “look intently at,” both of which would be more accurate (as we will see when we look at the whole context).  Also, take into consideration that when they say “when it is red” is meant that its fermented, the Greek word used here is “’adam” and it does literally mean “to be red,” “to be rubbed red,” or “dyed red.”  The word ferment is nowhere in there.  Not to mention the word that is being used for wine here is the word yayin* meaning fermented wine.  So if that’s the case why would he be referring to it as being fermented twice?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

Therefore, let us now read the whole context in vv 29-34:
29 Who has woe?  Who has sorrow?  Who has contentions?  Who has complaints?  Who has wounds without cause?  Who has redness of eyes?  30 Those who linger long at the wine (yayin*), Those who go insearch of mixed wine (mamsak*).  31 Do not look on the wine (yayin*) when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; 32At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.  33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things.  34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,  Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

When we look at it in its whole contexts it begins to make a little more sense.  “Those who linger long at wine (yayin*), those who go in search of mixed wine (mamsak*).  Do not look (gaze, or look intently) at the wine (yayin*) when it is red.”  So now I think any sense able person would ask “Then what is the significance in putting “when it’s red” in there?”  And that my friend is an excellent question.  For that answer you have to look at who the people were and what their culture was at the time.  First you have to realize that the people that are being talked about are the Canaanites that are drinking to get drunk.  These verses are obviously warning us of drunkenness.  However in the land of Canaan, red wine was the most esteemed wine and was fully fermented.  Used in the context, the Canaanites were “lingering long after wine” and going “in search of wine.”  So, for the time period the red wine is what they lusted after and for purposes of getting drunk, in which, the bible clearly points out in the next verses (look also under: The Bad) and it is wrong and sinful.  “When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”  They are wanting to wake up just to drink more.

Woe unto him that gives his neighbor drink

Let us also look at Habakkuk 2:15.  When most people quote this verse they quote it like this “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink…” thus making it sound like if you give someone an alcoholic beverage then you are sinning against God.  Look at the whole verse “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness!”  This verse doesn’t even give an alcoholic beverage word in the Greek.  The NKJV does a good job here of saying what the Greek actually says unlike some other versions that like to input wine or some other word.  But it says to “gives him drink…pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk.”  You see the Hebrew word here “shaqah” means to drink, not as in alcohol but “to give to drink, irrigate, drink, water, cause to drink water” but alcohol is inferred by the Greek word “shakar” meaning to become drunk.  So this verse goes along with what the rest of the bible has been saying, that getting drunk is sinful, not drinking in itself.

Drink neither wine or strong drink

Now we are free to move onward to Luke 1:15 in which many quote like “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine (oinos**) nor strong drink (sikera**).  He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The ones that quote this verse take it completely out of context.  They try to make it sound like God is trying to say that we are not to drink wine or strong drink.  Now let’s look at the whole verse “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”  “Even from his mother’s womb?”  Who is this talking about?  Let’s now back up a little bit and read it in its context. 

12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine (oinos **) nor strong drink (sikera**). He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” Luke 1:12-16. 

It goes on to tell of other things that John will do and the conversation continues.  Why is the rest of the story important?  Because it tells us that this is talking about one individual.  It is by no means talking about the entire human race.  Myth busted!  You would be surprised at the amount of people, and even very respected and knowledgeable people, preachers, and even pastors that take/use this verse out of context.

Stumbling Block

The book of Romans (chapter 14 to be more specific) makes it very clear that we are not to be a stumbling block for our brothers and/or sisters in Christ.  We are to build each other up not tear each other down.  It seems, to me anyway, that we instead of building each other up we are finding the little bittiest of things to try to prove people wrong and to make them look bad.  That is wrong and flat out ungodly.  People should be able to look at us and be able to tell that we are different than the world; instead we are to be the light of the world.  I’m not going to quote the entire chapter of Romans 14 but I encourage you to read it.  I will, however, point out a few verses in it.  Romans 14: “1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.”  “10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”  “18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine (oinos **) nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” It is pretty plain to see that God wants us to be at peace with one another and put aside meaningless things like food and drink and focus on winning souls for Him.  “…but not to dispute over doubtful things” Romans 14:1.

Medical Facts

It is no secret that drinking in excess is very harmful for you.  Drunkards have many diseases and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) openly, as they should, warns against them.  We all know that getting drunk messes up your vision, motor skills, and ability to know what you’re doing.  However, many people don’t know that moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer strokes, diabetes, arthritis, enlarged prostate, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), and several major cancers. 

Medical researchers generally describe moderation as one to three drinks per day. It appears that consuming less than about half a drink per day is associated with only very small health benefits. Four or five drinks may be moderate for large individuals but excessive for small or light people. Because of their generally smaller size and other biological differences, the typical woman should generally consume 25 to 30 percent less than the average man. And, of course, recovering alcoholics, those with any adverse reactions to alcohol, and those advised against drinking by their physicians should abstain.

Drinking in moderation has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as a man consuming four drinks on any day with an average of 14 drinks per week. For women, it is consuming three drinks in any one day and an average of seven drinks per week.  A standard alcoholic drink is:  A 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer, a 5-ounce glass of dinner wine, or a shot (one and one-half ounces) of 80 proof liquor or spirits such as vodka, tequila, or rum either straight or in a mixed drink.

Relevant Side Notes

If the bible was to refer to wine as non-alcoholic grape juice then why didn’t it use the word mishrah* like it did in Num 6:3?  Mishrah* literally means juice in Hebrew. The fact is that it doesn’t use that word and wine is referred to as wine is because it is in fact fermented wine.  With that being said the Greek word for grape juice is “trux” and it is not used at all anywhere in the bible.   Some people come up with the argument that when the bible speaks of wine it means “new wine” and that new wine means unfermented grape juice.  This is very inaccurate, sometimes the bible uses the word tirosh*, asis*, or gleukos**.  These words mean: “sweet wine” or is sometimes referred to as “new wine” which even in its contexts means that it is not fully fermented (key word being fully), by being new it means that it is only in its first year of the fermentation process and it can represent wine in any stage of the fermentation process (in the first year).  If the authors wanted to represent juice they would have said mishrah* or trux** and the fact that they didn’t means that they meant what they said, wine.


After reading all the facts (over 200 verses in the bible referring to alcohol and in their context) I conclude that drinking alcohol in itself is not a sin.  Not only is it not a sin it is welcomed.  Wine is a blessing from the Lord, something to be enjoyed. But like any good gift from God, it can be abused.  This abuse is getting drunk and can involve addiction; both of which have dire consequences. However, when we condemn those who are able to enjoy God’s gifts in moderation, as though they were abusers themselves, we are lacking biblical character.  With that being said we must be careful of not becoming a stumbling block for someone who considers and/or thinks drinking is a sin or for someone who has/had a drinking problem.  If they fall into getting drunk because of you then you, along with them, are actually sinning.  It’s kind of a “guilty by association” if you will.  Proof of this, for those of you who want it, is Romans 14:21 “It is good neither to eat flesh (meat), nor to drink wine (oinos**), nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”  If there’s even a chance that it will make someone stumble, make them weak, or even offend them, then don’t do it.  If you’re going to get drunk, or if there is a chance that you’re going to get drunk then don’t do it, BOTTOM LINE! 

The Bible commands self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), soberness (1 Peter 1:13), to not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:1-2), and condemns drunkenness (Romans 13:13).   I say amen to self-control, soberness, non-conformity to this world, and a refusal to get drunk, but all these can be lived out, and yet an alcoholic beverage can be enjoyed in moderation without breaching any one of these commands and while following the rest of the bible as well.  I think James said it best in James 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

These are my thoughts, based on my research, and I welcome yours.  Like I said from the beginning, I just ask that any comments be made respectfully. 

God Bless,
Christopher E. Ryan

*See above, under heading “Hebrew Words for Wine”
**See above, under heading “Greek Words for Wine”

Amendment 1


The Hebrew word tirosh* I said meant (and I quote) [properly “must”; sometimes rendered as “wine,” “new wine,” or “sweet wine.” It can represent wine at any stage in the fermentation process and in some places it represents wine made from the first drippings of the juice before the winepress was trodden. As such it would be particularly potent. It can certainly be alcoholic, as in Hos 4:11.]  Now what I said was not inaccurate however I do believe it was rather misleading.  I kind of made it sound like it was always alcoholic and the truth is that it is not.  However the opposite is also not true.  People try to say that it is just grape juice and isn’t alcoholic at all and that’s not true either.  It can be rendered as fresh, or just squeezed out, juice, it can implicate wine at any stage in the fermentation process (within the first year).  The bible uses this word in several ways as both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. 

Amendment 2

This amendment is not so much of a correction of the contend of this blog but of something that I left out that came in the picture of comment # 5 below and my comment (# 6) about it.  The topic was about it being against the teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention presented in the “Baptist Covenant” or commonly known as the “Church Covenant”.  The Church Covenant (as it’s known as) goes as such:


Church Covenant

Having been led, as we believe by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, and this assembly, most solemnly and joy­fully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.

We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort: to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through allnations.

We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, back­biting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale of, and use of, intoxicating drinks as a beverage; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.

We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and Christian courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.

We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.

Well there are a couple of things we must note about this.  First we must note that we are under the authority of our leaders both church officials and government leaders.   Romans 13:1 says “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”  If this Church Covenant is what they say we must go by then this is what we must go by that’s just the bottom line.  However something that I have recently discovered is that this “Church Covenant” is not a governing publication of the Southern Baptist Convention.  As it turns out the version of the covenant most common among Southern Baptists dates back to 1833, when J. Newton Brown is said to have attached it to his confessional statement which he submitted to the New Hampshire Baptist Convention. He reportedly published the confession and covenant in 1853 under the title “the New Hampshire Confession of Faith.” That larger document served as the model for the first version of the Baptist Faith and Message in 1925.

Now the Baptist Faith and Message is a publication of the Southern Baptist Convention and along with the 1925 version there have been three more updates with the latest version being the year 2000.  I would like to point out that there is no mention of a stance for alcohol in the Southern Baptist Convention or its Baptist Faith and Message.  However, even if there was mention of condemning it, it would not necessarily affect every believer.  You see the Southern Baptist Convention considers each church to be autonomous and self rule.  A Southern Baptist church is about as independent as you can get and still be counted as part of a denomination.  For more on this I refer you to

Keep in mind that all of this is just from the Southern Baptist Convention.  There are 41 State Conventions across the nation that are authority figures that each state has to look at.  Not only State Conventions but as well as associations across each state and country that each individual and state must look at.  If the individual state and association considers each church an autonomous body then you must look at your church’s own Constitution, By Laws, and Church Covenant.  Although many churches adopt the same Church Covenant doesn’t mean they are all the same.  I believe that when an individual becomes a member of a church that church should have a class for them to go over the constitution, bylaws, and the church covenant so everyone knows and are not left wondering.  If it does not go against any of these things then it is not a sin to drink alcohol.  If it does go against the church’s (state convention, association, or church’s) teachings then it is a sin and should be refrained from.

Posted by: Christopher Ryan | Sun 14 Aug, 2011

Iowa Straw Poll Results

Iowa Straw Poll Results

I would first like to apologize for my delay in posting another blog.  I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I’ve been pretty busy here lately.  So without further a due here is my blog post on the Iowa Poll Results.

I personally have not picked my vote for the 2012 Presidential Election.  Up to this point I have said that the Republicans do not have a good candidate and I was not going to vote for President Obama.  Now there is talk that a Democrat may step up and run against Obama.  I would love to see that happen but not sure if it will or not.  I can guarantee you that Obama will have his hands full if the economy doesn’t turn around and soon.  I do, however, believe that he has some hidden tricks up his sleeves that he will try to pull to misguide the American people.

So, now onto the Iowa Poll… I watched some on CSPAN and I watched some of the coverage of the poll from Fox News, CNN, and CSNBC.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the different candidates and their views on the issues.  The Results of the actual poll are as follows:

Place    Candidate                  Votes   Percentage

1.  Michele Bachmann     4,823    28.6%

2.  Ron Paul                       4,671     27.7%

 3.  Tim Pawlenty              2,293     13.6%

4.  Rick Santorum            1,657       9.8%

 5.  Herman Cain               1,456       8.6%

 6.  Rick Perry                        718       4.3%

7.  Mitt Romney                   567       3.4%

8.  Newt Gingrich                385       2.3%

9.  Jon Huntsman                  69       0.4%

10.  Thaddeus McCotter          35       0.2%

—   Scattered Write in           162       1.0%

Like previously stated, until now I’ve always said that I don’t believe that the Republicans have a strong candidate.  Here I will tell you that I’m not all that crazy about Michele Bachmann.  I think she’s a little too radical, now don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a good candidate; I just think that she wants too much of a change, almost to the point of being unrealistic.  Yes, there are major changes of direction that are needed but let’s do it in as much of a bi-partisan way as possible.  I think where she is going is a little too unrealistic and too much of a change in too little of a timeframe.


Now, on to Ron Paul, I think Ron Paul is a great legitimate candidate.  I love where he stands on states’ rights and even a lot of domestic issues.  If you haven’t noticed by now I’m a big states’ rights person.  I have a tendency to disagree with Ron Paul on defense issues and international affairs.  The problem with Ron Paul is that I think he is a little too Libertarian for America.  He is, in fact, a Libertarian running as a Republican.  Please note that I do not have a problem with libertarians.

I don’t know hardly anything about Tim Pawlenty and to be completely honest I haven’t really ever considered him a serious candidate.  I’ve heard his name but haven’t considered a serious candidate.  Now that I see him as number three in this poll I should look more seriously at him, so I thought anyway.  Since the poll came out and he saw that he was number three, the former Minnesota Governor has dropped his bid on becoming the next President of the United States of America.  I personally think Tim dropped his bid prematurely.

Mitt Romney is a candidate seeking the Republican Nomination to become the next President of the United States as well.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t cared for Romney in quite a while.  As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney introduced a state healthcare law that has failed miserably.  When later talking about Obama’s Health Care Law compared to his, he failed to own up to his mistake while at the same time criticizing Obama’s Health Care Law.  I think we need a President that will own up to any mistakes that he/she has made both prior to and during their Presidency and I don’t think he would do that.  That’s just my opinion.

Rick Perry came in sixth place in the Iowa Poll with 718 votes which is 4.3% of the total votes that were cast.  At first glance this may not seem very good and to some people may be downright bad.  However when you take into consideration that Perry just announced his candidacy this past Saturday in South Carolina, and the fact that that’s also the same day that the votes were cast in Iowa.  That’s pretty impressive.  When you also take into consideration that Rick Perry’s name was not even on the ballot; that over 700 people physically wrote in Rick Perry’s name, it’s even more impressive.  I personally don’t know much about Rick Perry, although I have heard some, but I haven’t yet made up my mind about him politically.  However from what I do know thus far, I like what I see.  I believe that he will be a force to be reckoned with and will be a powerful candidate in which people will have to take seriously.

Now as far as Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Thaddeus McCotter go, I don’t know much of anything about them.  I have heard of Newt Gingrich before but other than him I haven’t, and probably won’t, take any one of these people serious as candidates.  Not trying to be mean in any way just being honest.  I could be wrong but I don’t see any of them as having a chance against Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, or even Mitt Romney.

I hope to this gives you insight into the Iowa Straw Poll results.  Please note that the results are fact but the rest is what I think about the candidates.  I try to let you know what I think of the candidates but I urge you, DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT!  Go and look up each candidate for yourself.  We need to decide who we want in our White House in 2013-2016.  Do you want what our current President has been offering and giving us?  If so, then by all means vote him back in.  If not, then look at the other candidates and where they stand on the issues and what you believe.  Please make an educated decision and exercise your right to vote.  Many people have given their lives for the right to vote and now many of us either don’t want to or don’t care one way or another.  We need to practice what our forefathers gave their lives for.

God Bless,
Christopher E. Ryan

Posted by: Christopher Ryan | Sun 10 Jul, 2011

I Am Not A Christian

I Am Not A Christian


I bet that title turned some heads. I guarantee you there are going to be people who will automatically think “Well that explains a lot!” without reading any further. I believe in going back to the origins of things instead of just taking them at face value. So, that leads to my next question… What is a “Christian”? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer. So many people say so much stuff about “Christians” and they don’t truly know what one is. I, personally, do not like the term “Christian” and I’ll explain why.

So, that leads me to the question, what is a “Christian” exactly? The online dictionary defines it as:




  1. Of, relating to, or professing Christianity or
    its teachings- the Christian Church having or showing qualities associated with Christians, esp. those of decency, kindness, and fairness


Christians, plural

  1. A person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

With that being said, when most people refer to someone as a “Christian” they are meaning one of a couple of things:

  1. They are meaning that they are religious and/or following some religion that Jesus is involved.
  2. They are meaning that the person goes to church on a regular basis.
  3. That they are a good person and have a basic biblical character.
  4. By most believers a “Christian” is someone who accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior.

What does the bible say about “Christians? The bible mentions the word “Christian” three times. Yea, I was surprised too. Where? I’m glad you asked. It’s found in Acts 11:26; 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. Acts 11:26 says26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Acts 26:28 says “28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.1 Peter 4:16, all NKJV.

My next question would be “What is the history behind it?” Not the history of Christianity but the history of the word “Christian(s).” However, I would like to begin with how the New Testament followers of Christ referred to themselves. They did not refer to themselves as “Christians” but rather as “believers,” the “church,” the “saints,” as the “faithful,” and the “elect.” The term “Christian” came later on and it wasn’t even originated by “Christians.”

The word “Christian” came from the Greek word Christianos. The suffix –ianos was popularly used to specify the slaves of the one whose name with which it was compounded. So “Christianos” literally meant slaves of Christ. Therefor “Christianos,” or “Christian,” was originally a term used by unbelievers to describe the followers of Jesus Christ as slaves. It was meant to be a mockery not, by any means, an honorable title.

In all three occasions where “Christian(s)” is mentioned in the bible (Acts 11:26; 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16) it is used the same way in each. In Acts 11:25-26 “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” New King James Version. Saul and Barnabas taught in Antioch for a year and the believers were so faithful and lived for nothing but Christ and to lift one another up in love that the non-believers mocked them and called them “Christianos,” or “Christians,” in English.

In Acts 26:27-29 “27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” 9 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.New Living Translation (NLT) Paul is in shackles and on trial for his life. King Agrippa knew that Paul was once out persecuting the prophets and at first doesn’t think he’s thinking clearly. After proclaiming that he is thinking with logic and reason the king see’s that he’s truly a changed man. Paul then proceeds to witness to the king asking him if he believes the prophets. Paul has completely changed and he knows that King Agrippa knows that there is something different and that there must be some truth to it. Except he knew what he would look like if he were to become a “Christian” in the sight of the people (yes, the politics of it existed back then as well) and how he would look in front of the other leaders in their presence. Paul was saying that he prayed for all of them to become like he is. Note that he did not say a “Christian” but rather “become the same as I, except for the chains” which is literally to become a follower of Christ and l except for being bound in chains (litterally as one bound in handcuffs accused before a judge).

Finally we have the final verse that mentions the word “Christian” in the bible which is 1 Peter 4:14-16 “14 Happy are you if you are insulted because you are Christ’s followers; this means that the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is resting on you.15 If you suffer, it must not be because you are a murderer or a thief or a criminal or a meddler in other people’s affairs.16 However, if you suffer because you are a Christian, don’t be ashamed of it, but thank God that you bear Christ’s name.Good News Translation. If we suffer for the name of Christ then we will be blessed by God. I believe many people try to leave out or ignore verse 15 all together. Just because you suffer doesn’t necessarily its glorified by God. We are not to suffer as a murderer, thief, criminal, or meddle in other people’s affairs. We’re all human and we all make mistakes and God will forgive us if/when we humbly repent but we should not just expect it and try our best to lead faithful lives. However if we suffer as a “Christian,” (from non-believers by being looked down upon, being mocked, and/or physically beaten for following Christ Jesus) then we will be blessed by God.

We live primarily in a nation that practices religious tolerance. Over 90% of the United States believes in God (not necessarily the same God that we believe in but in a God). There are about 9-10% agnostic/atheists. Please note that they are not the same thing. Agnostics believe that we cannot understand God or a higher power. Most, however, believe in a higher power but believe we can’t understand it or that God cannot be proved or disproved.

I am a believer, a follower of Christ, and a part of the church. I do not consider myself to have ever been looked down upon, mocked, or beaten because I believe in Christ. I have however, had conversations with people who said they were not “Christians,” nor did they want to simply because of how most “Christians” are. They (we as followers of Christ) can be very hateful, judgmental, very closed-minded, and just plain rude. You don’t believe me? Why don’t you just ask any waitress/waiter that works on Sunday at lunch time and see what they tell you. It’s about ridiculous how many so-called “Christians” behave themselves and want to proclaim the truth to everyone else but don’t want to live it for themselves.

Many believers consider you a “Christian” when you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. The problem with this theory is
that when people were first called “Christians” at Antioch, they were there for a year studying the scriptures and practicing a Godly lifestyle. Notice also how it says “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” The disciples were called Christians. How does this refer to all believers? They studied and lived it daily. How many of today’s “Christians” do that? I’d venture to say not very many. “15Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.2 Tim 2:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

In conclusion I will say that I believe in God and that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus came and took on the sins of the world so that we can have an eternity in heaven. I will also say that I read and study the bible for myself and don’t rely on anyone else to do it for me. So I am a believer but I can do without the “Christian” title. So many people have a negative attitude towards “Christians” and I don’t want a part of that; and like mentioned before I have never been chastised for being a believer in Christ Jesus. Its one thing for someone to look at your life and call you a “Christian” but I don’t see how someone calling themselvs a “Christian” (by these standards) is being humble before God. It sounds more of a “look at me I’m a Christian.”

Those are my thoughts and I welcome yours.

God Bless,
Christopher E. Ryan

Posted by: Christopher Ryan | Wed 06 Jul, 2011

What Version of the Bible Should I Read?

What Version of the Bible Should I Read?


There has been much talk in recent years about the different bible versions.  Many people have asked what version they should read.  I hope to shine some light on this subject and hope you choose the version that best suits you.  Many people are gun ho on the King James Version and there is nothing wrong with that.  I like the KJV, but I am not a KJV only person by any means.  It is one thing to prefer the KJV but to say it is the only version to read, I believe, is a bit out there.  Here is a little history on the Authorized King James Version Bible.

James I (James the First) came to the throne of England in March 1603.  At this time the established church was very badly divided.  There were Conformists, who were satisfied with things as they were, and were willing to conform to existing usages; and there were Puritans, who wanted a better state of things, and were determined to have it.  Both parties appealed to the king, and the Puritans had great hopes that he would favor their side.  In October King James called for a conference in the  Hampton Court Palace that took place in January 1604, “for hearing and for the determining things pretended to be amiss in the Church.” So far as the objects chiefly sought were concerned, this Conference was a failure, but there began the movement for the version of the English Bible, now so widely accepted.

The leading divines, lawyers and laymen of the Church of England were all present.  Among them was Dr. John Reynolds, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.  On the second day of the conference, Dr. Reynolds suggested to the king, that a new version was desirable, because of the many errors in the version then in use.  That suggestion led to the action the writing of the Authorized King James’ version.

The Churchly party resisted the movement for a time, because they suspected some Puritan mischief to be behind it. On the other hand, the Puritan party pressed immediate action; and the king managed affairs as to please both sides, and finally managed their cooperation. He very much favored the proposition of the Puritans, but at the same time he pronounced the Genevan version to be the worst of all in the English language, and thereby pleased the Conformist party.

Arrangements for this version were completed by the appointment of fifty-four well-educated men, who were also to secure the suggestions of all people that, as the king put it, “our said translation may have the help and furtherance of all our principal learned men within this our kingdom.” This attitude of the king, the removal of their first suspicions, and the undoubted merits of the case, brought an agreeance on the part of those who had at first opposed the movement.  King James’ instructions to the translators were as followed:

  1. The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops’ Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.
  2. The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained, as near as may be, accordingly as they are vulgarly used.
  3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, as the word church, not to be translated congregation.
  4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place and the analogies of faith.
  5. The division of chapters to be altered either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so require.
  6. No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek words, which cannot, without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be expressed, in the text.
  7. Such quotations of places to be marginally set down as shall serve for the fit reference of one Scripture to another.
  8. Every particular man of each company to take the same chapter or chapters; and, having translated or amended them severally by himself where he thinks good, all to meet together to confirm what they have done, and agree for their part what shall stand.
  9. As any one company hath dispatched any one book in this manner, they shall send it to the rest, to be considered of seriously and judiciously; for his Majesty is very careful on this point.
  10. If any company, upon the review of the book so sent, shall doubt or differ upon any places, to send them word thereof, to note the places, and therewithal to send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at the general meeting, which is to be of the chief persons of each company, at the end of the work.
  11. When any place of special obscurity is doubted of, letters to be directed by authority to send to any learned man in the land for his judgment of such a place.
  12. Letters to be sent from every bishop to the rest of his clergy, admonishing them of this translation in hand, and to move and charge as many as, being skillful in the tongues, have taken pains in that kind, to send their particular observations to the company, either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford, according as it was directed before in the king’s letter to the archbishop.
  13. The directors in each company to be the Deans of Westminster and Chester, for Westminster, and the king’s professors in Hebrew and Greek in the two universities.
  14. These translations to be used, when they agree better with the text than the Bishops’ Bible: Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s [Rogers’], Whitchurch’s [Cranmer’s], Geneva.”
  15. By a later rule, “three or four of the most ancient and grave divines, in either of the universities, not employed in translating, to be assigned to be overseers of the translation, for the better observation of the fourth rule.”

The first English language version of the full Bible was John Wycliffe‘s translation of the Vulgate in 1384. Several other English versions followed, and the beloved King James version was published in 1611.  The King James Version, itself, has been updated several times: in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769.

The team of 47 scholars who translated the KJV version did an excellent job. However, the English language has changed a lot in the nearly 400 years since it was published. Many KJV words and phrases, such as Lord of hosts, sabaoth, emerods and concupiscence, would not be meaningful to most people today. Worse, many other KJV words, such as charity, trespass, profit, cousin, and remission, have different primary meanings today than they did in 1611 and could mislead the reader. As a result, many English-speaking people find the KJV is quite difficult to read and understand.

Some people believe the KJV is the most accurate or only authentic version of the Bible. Some believe the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts the KJV translators worked from were faithfully preserved by God or are the most accurate for some other reason. Others say the translators of all later versions were biased or incompetent in one way or another. Still others say the KJV is a literal and accurate translation while later versions were rewritten to suit the biases of the publishers. However, the vast majority of Bible scholars and Christians reject all these objections as being based on faulty facts and reasoning, and they do not consider the KJV to be more accurate or more sacred than other translations.

Recent developments in archaeology and Biblical scholarship have made possible a number of modern, more accurate English translations of the scriptures. These newer versions are translated from the best available ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, rather than from the King James Version or the Latin Vulgate.

Although the newer translations are believed to be more accurate than the KJV, the differences are minor. No significant changes of belief or interpretation would result from the many minor corrections. The main advantage of the modern translations is that they are written in modern English so the reader will not be mystified or misled by the archaic English of the KJV. The mainstream modern Bible versions have been translated by teams of devout Bible scholars who have prayerfully done their very best to convey the true meaning of the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to the modern reader.  These modern translations have been adopted by many churches, both Protestant and Catholic, for use in worship.

It is often pointed out that modern translations omit a few of the verses found in the KJV, and this is sometimes believed to be an attempt to distort the Bible’s teachings. This is known as NU Text and most bibles have footnotes noting them.  However, the reason is that certain verses are not found in the oldest and best Bible manuscripts. Thus, they are omitted to accurately preserve the original Bible text. (The chapter and verse numbers were added to the Bible in the Middle Ages; they were not part of the original Bible manuscripts. Thus, an omitted verse does not mean that something was omitted from the original texts.)

Some of these extra verses were added to certain manuscript copies as margin notes or as prayers for use in public worship. Those manuscripts were then copied and recopied without making it clear that the extra verses were later additions. The most famous example is the doxology, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” that the KJV adds to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13. That phrase is not found is any of the oldest manuscripts of Matthew.

Another objection to some modern versions, such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV), is the use of gender-inclusive language. The issue arises because English lacks a common gender third person singular pronoun. Language that applies equally to men and women in the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts has traditionally been translated as “he” or “him” in English Bibles. However, that can leave the mistaken impression that a verse applies only to men. Such verses have been phrased in some modern translations to accurately convey the gender-inclusive sense of the original manuscripts. The KJV translates John 13:20 as, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” The NRSV changes the “he” to “whoever” to show that the original text applied equally to men and women, but the “him” that applies to God is left as masculine:  “Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

It is also traditional in English to use masculine gender as a generic form to include both sexes. So, Romans 3:28 has traditionally been translated into English as “a man is justified by faith.” However, the original Greek word, anthropos, means “human being” and applies equally to both sexes. So, the NRSV and TNIV have translated this verse as “a person is justified by faith” to accurately reflect the inclusive nature of the original Greek word.

Publishers of gender-inclusive Bibles are quick to point out that these are not “politically correct” or “feminist” Bibles. They have used gender-inclusive language only where it would have been understood that way in the original Hebrew and Greek languages.

Bible Translations:  Here is a list of some excellent modern translations:

Amplified Bible (AB) – first published in 1958, it is the fruit of tens of thousands of hours of research by Dr. Frances Siewert. Beginning with the very literal American Standard Bible, she adds additional words in brackets that help provide the understanding of the meaning of the original language. This has become a very popular “second Bible” for Bible study. It is published by Zondervan.

Contemporary English Version (CEV), is a completely new translation published by the American Bible Society in 1995.  Originally intended as a children’s translation, it uses a very simple, contemporary style. It is independent of traditional translations and freer of “biblical” terms. This is an especially good translation for people who speak English as a second language.

English Standard Version (ESV), an “essentially new literal translation,” follows the tradition of the King James, American Standard Version, and Revised Standard Version. Published in 2001 by Crossway, it was developed by a translation team of more than 100 scholars, with the goal of being very accurate (word for word), and yet very readable. It has become quite popular, as it is more readable than other literal translations.

Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) (TEV), completed in 1976, was translated by Robert G. Bratcher with six other scholars. This very free, though very accurate, translation avoids the use of traditional biblical vocabulary and communicates especially well with youth and the un-churched.  Also, published by the American Bible Society.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is another new word-for-word translation that strives to be both literally accurate and readable. It is not as literal as the ESV or NASB, but is more so than the NIV. The Holman, published by Broadman & Holman in 2003, is the product of nearly 100 scholars.

The Living Bible (LB), completed in 1971, is Kenneth N. Taylor’s paraphrase of the American Standard Version. Easy to read and once immensely popular, it is often criticized for adding too much commentary to the biblical text. It is published by Tyndale House.

The Message (Msg) – Eugene Peterson completed this paraphrase of the entire Bible in 2002. Peterson takes great liberties with words in his attempt to effectively communicate both the original thoughts and tone of the Scripture.  The result is a very earthy, informal language. Published by NavPress.

New American Bible (NAB) – A Catholic translation, the work of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and first published in 1970. It is the version used in the American Catholic lectionary. In 2011 a Revised Edition is being published. The NAB is a more literal translation, especially the 1986 revision of the New Testament.

New American Standard Bible (NASB) – completed in 1971, was produced by 54 conservative Protestant scholars sponsored by the Lockman Foundation. This version is very literal in vocabulary and word order, although the resulting English is quite wooden.  It often is preferred by those who want an English version that reflects the grammar  of the original. An Update was published in 1995 which seeks to use more modern English while preserving the literal nature of the translation.

New International Version (NIV), completed in 1978, was the product of 115 evangelical scholars. Within a decade it became the best-selling English version, a position it still holds! It combines contemporary, literary English with traditional biblical vocabulary.  The NIV is copyrighted by the Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). NOTE: A major revision of the NIV was released in early 2011. While it only changes about 5% of the text of the last edition (1984), the changes are significant, and it almost reads like a new translation. This new revision also includes “gender-neutral” language when referring to people, similar to the NRSV (below).

New King James Version (NKJV), released in 1982, involved 119 contributors. It updates the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty. Although it uses the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original, it indicates where other manuscripts differ. Published by Thomas Nelson.

New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) of 1985 revised and updated the text and notes of the Jerusalem Bible of 1966. That version, based on a French translation, was an elegant, literary rendering (perhaps the most poetic since the KJV). The JB and NJB were projects of Roman Catholic scholars, and the notes reflect a modern, liberal perspective.

New Living Translation (NLT), published in 1996, is the product of 90 Bible scholars from around the world, from various theological backgrounds and denominations. This is a very readable translation, while remaining more faithful to the original texts than the Living Bible (see above). Also, published by Tyndale. An update was published in 2004.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – published in 1989 by the National Council of Churches, revises the Revised Standard Version of 1952. While following the literal tradition of the RSV, the NRSV eliminates much of the archaic language. One distinctive is the use of gender inclusive pronouns to replace male pronouns when the original writers meant both men and women. The NRSV does not change masculine pronouns referring to God, however.

Revised English Bible (REB), completed in 1989, is a thorough revision of the New English Bible. Like the original, it was translated by a committee of British scholars, representing all the major Christian traditions in the United Kingdom. The more archaic language was omitted and a more conservative approach was taken toward some of the difficult passages. Many readers find it to be an excellent translation for personal reading and study, though its British idioms make it less popular in the U.S.  The REV is published by the publishing houses of both Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

I hope this brings some insight into the different versions of the bible.  You should pray and ask God which version you should read.  I personally use the New King James Version for study but I cross-reference many different versions.

 God Bless,
Christopher E. Ryan

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