Tertullian said Timothy not drinking would help his stomach (160-220 AD)

Tertullian (c. 160-220 AD) strikingly compared the strong penalty of the Levitical priests to ministers in the Church. ‘For abstinence from wine withal has honourable badges of its own… So true is it, that such as shall have ministered in the Church, being not sober, shall “die”’.

(Tertullian, Fasts, Ch. 9, ‘From Fasts Absolute Tertullian Comes to Partial Ones and Xerophagies’, citing Leviticus 10:9)

Marcion borrowed some of the New Testament’s admonitions against drink, citing Ephesians 5. But on the other hand, Marcion foolishly undermined the reinforcement of Paul’s message by neglecting the Old Testament’s similar admonitions against it. Tertullian (unlike Marcion) affirmed marriage as ‘an honourable estate’ with the Creator’s blessing (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 1, Ch. 29). Meanwhile, Tertullian reminded his opponent Marcion that the Apostle Paul belonged to the same God who strictly prohibited Aaron and his sons from drinking in the holy place.

(Tertullian, ‘Against Marcion’, Book 5, Ch. 18, citing Eph. 5:18-19; Amos 2:12; Lev. 10:9; Isa. 5:11-12)

Tertullian (Fasts, Ch. 9) observed that a habit of abstaining from (intoxicating) wine would have actually been beneficial to Timothy’s stomach (and so Timothy would continue to abstain from it). Evidently, Tertullian understood that Timothy had formerly abstained even from unfermented wine – which type he knew would have benefitted his stomach. Why? Lest partaking of that give Jewish brethren a wrong impression of condoning idolatry. Non-alcoholic wine did not cause drowsiness, nor contribute to stomach problems.

Jewish custom considered even the suspicion that a Gentile may have privately consecrated juice to a false god: ‘When does wine belonging to a gentile become forbidden? When the grapes have been crushed and the wine begins to flow, even though it has not descended into the cistern and is still in the wine press, it is forbidden. For this reason, we do not crush grapes together with a gentile in a wine press, lest he touch it with his hand and offer it as a libation.’

(‘Sefer Kedushah, MaAchalot Assurot’, Ch. 11, Halacha 11)

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