1 Timothy 5:23
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your often infirmities.
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(23) Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.—Those who argue that this Epistle was the artificial composition of an age subsequent to St. Paul’s, and was written in great measure to support the hierarchical development, which, they say, showed itself only in the century after St. Paul’s death, have no little difficulty in accounting for the presence of such a command as this. It can, in fact, only be explained on the supposition that the letter was, in truth, written by St. Paul to Timothy in all freedom and in all love: by the older and more experienced, to the younger and comparatively untried man: by the master to the pupil: by an old and trusted friend, accustomed to speak his whole mind, to one his inferior in years, in rank, in knowledge. No ecclesiastical forger of the second or third century would have dreamed, or, had he dreamed, would have dared to weave into the complicated tapestry of such an Epistle such a charge as “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine—considering thine often infirmities.”

The reminder was, no doubt, suggested by St. Paul’s own words, with which he closed his solemn direction respecting Timothy’s dealings with the accused presbyters, and the care to be used in the laying on of hands: “Keep thyself pure.” That Timothy possessed—as did his master Paul—a feeble body, is clear from the words “thine often infirmities.” He was, above all things, considering his great position in that growing church, to remember “to keep himself pure, but not on that account to observe ascetical abstinence, and so to weaken uselessly the frail, perishable, perhaps ever dying body, in which he must work that great work committed to him in the master’s church. Abstinence from wine was a well-known characteristic feature of the Essene and other Jewish ascetic sects. We know there was frequent intercommunion between Alexandria and Ephesus (see Acts 18:24); and it has even been conjectured that Apollos, who taught publicly at Ephesus, was himself a famous Essene teacher. The practice of these grave and ascetic Jews, many of whom became Christians, no doubt affected not a little the habits and tone of thought of the Ephesian congregations. Hence the necessity of St. Paul’s warning against allowing the bodily power to be weakened through abstinence and extreme asceticism.

5:17-25 Care must be taken that ministers are maintained. And those who are laborious in this work are worthy of double honour and esteem. It is their just due, as much as the reward of the labourer. The apostle charges Timothy solemnly to guard against partiality. We have great need to watch at all times, that we do not partake of other men's sins. Keep thyself pure, not only from doing the like thyself, but from countenancing it, or any way helping to it in others. The apostle also charges Timothy to take care of his health. As we are not to make our bodies masters, so neither slaves; but to use them so that they may be most helpful to us in the service of God. There are secret, and there are open sins: some men's sins are open before-hand, and going before unto judgment; some they follow after. God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make known the counsels of all hearts. Looking forward to the judgment-day, let us all attend to our proper offices, whether in higher or lower stations, studying that the name and doctrine of God may never be blasphemed on our account.Drink no longer water - There has been much difficulty felt in regard to the connection which this advice has with what precedes and what follows. Many have considered the difficulty to be so great that they have supposed that this verse has been displaced, and that it should be introduced in some other connection. The true connection, and the reason for the introduction of the counsel here, seems to me to be this: Paul appears to have been suddenly impressed with the thought - a thought which is very likely to come over a man who is writing on the duties of the ministry - of the arduous nature of the ministerial office. He was giving counsels in regard to an office which required a great amount of labor, care, and anxiety. The labors enjoined were such as to demand all the time; the care and anxiety incident to such a charge would be very likely to prostrate the frame, and to injure the health. Then he remembered that Timothy was yet but a youth; he recalled his feebleness of constitution and his frequent attacks of illness; he recollected the very abstemious habits which he had prescribed for himself, and, in this connection, he urges him to a careful regard for his health, and prescribes the use of a small quantity of wine, mingled with his water, as a suitable medicine in his case. Thus considered, this direction is as worthy to be given by an inspired teacher as it is to counsel a man to pay a proper regard to his health, and not needlessly to throw away his life; compare Matthew 10:23. The phrase, "drink no longer water," is equivalent to, "drink not water only;" see numerous instances in Wetstein. The Greek word here used does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament.

But use a little wine - Mingled with the water - the common method of drinking wine in the East; see Robinson's Bibliotheca Sacra, 1:512, 513.

For thy stomach's sake - It was not for the pleasure to be derived from the use of wine, or because it would produce hilarity or excitement, but solely because it was regarded as necessary for the promotion of health; that is, as a medicine.

And thine often infirmities - ἀσθενείας astheneias - Weaknesses or sicknesses. The word would include all infirmities of body, but seems to refer here to some attacks of sickness to which Timothy was liable, or to some feebleness of constitution; but beyond this we have no information in regard to the nature of his maladies. In view of this passage, and as a further explanation of it, we may make the following remarks:

(1) The use of wine, and of all intoxicating drinks, was solemnly forbidden to the priests under the Mosaic law, when engaged in the performance of their sacred duties; Leviticus 10:9-10. The same was the case among the Egyptian priests. Clarke; compare notes on 1 Timothy 3:3. It is not improbable that the same thing would be regarded as proper among those who ministered in holy things under the Christian dispensation. The natural feeling would be, and not improperly, that a Christian minister should not be less holy than a Jewish priest, and especially when it is remembered that the reason of the Jewish law remained the same - "that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and clean and unclean."

(2) it is evident from this passage that Timothy usually drank water only, or that, in modern language, he was a "tee-totaller." He was, evidently, not in the habit of drinking wine, or he could not have been exhorted to do it.

(3) he must have been a remarkably temperate youth to have required the authority of an apostle to induce him to drink even a little wine; see Doddridge. There are few young men so temperate as to require such an authority to induce them to do it.

(4) the exhortation extended only to a very moderate use of wine. It was not to drink it freely; it was not to drink it at the tables of the rich and the great, or in the social circle; it was not even to drink it by itself; it was to use "a little," mingled with water - for this was the usual method; see Athaeneus, Deipno. lib. 9: x. 100:7.

(5) it was not as a common drink, but the exhortation or command extends only to its use as a medicine. All the use which can be legitimately made of this injunction - whatever conclusion may be drawn from other precepts - is, that it is proper to use a small quantity of wine for medicinal purposes.

(6) there are many ministers of the gospel, now, alas! to whom under no circumstances could an apostle apply this exhortation - "Drink no longer water only." They would ask, with surprise, what he meant? whether he intended it in irony, and for banter - for they need no apostolic command to drink wine. Or if he should address to them the exhortation, "use a little wine," they could regard it only as a reproof for their usual habit of drinking much. To many, the exhortation would be appropriate, if they ought to use wine at all, only because they are in the habit of using so much that it would be proper to restrain them to a much smaller quantity.

(7) this whole passage is one of great value to the cause of temperance. Timothy was undoubtedly in the habit of abstaining wholly from the use of wine. Paul knew this, and he did not reprove him for it. He manifestly favored the general habit, and only asked him to depart in some small degree from it, in order that he might restore and preserve his health. So far, and no further, is it right to apply this language in regard to the use of wine; and the minister who should follow this injunction would be in no danger of disgracing his sacred profession by the debasing and demoralizing sin of intemperance.

23. no longer—as a habit. This injunction to drink wine occasionally is a modification of the preceding "keep thyself pure." The presbyter and deacon were enjoined to be "not given to wine" (1Ti 3:3, 8). Timothy seems to have had a tendency to undue ascetical strictness on this point (compare Note, see on [2481]1Ti 4:8; compare the Nazarene vow, Nu 6:1-4; John the Baptist, Lu 1:15; Ro 14). Paul therefore modifies the preceding words, "keep thyself pure," virtually saying, "Not that I mean to enjoin that kind of purity which consists in asceticism, nay, be no longer a water-drinker," that is, no longer drink only water, but use a little wine, as much as is needed for thy health. So Ellicott and Wiesinger. Alford thus: Timothy was of a feeble frame (see on [2482]1Co 16:10, 11), and prone to timidity in his duties as overseer where vigorous action was needed; hence Paul exhorts him to take all proper means to raise his bodily condition above these infirmities. God hereby commands believers to use all due means for preserving health, and condemns by anticipation the human traditions which among various sects have denied the use of wine to the faithful. Drink no longer water; not wholly, as many did in those countries, and Timothy probably did, not because he was not able to buy wine, but religiously, as a piece of discipline to keep under the flesh.

But use a little wine; but mix some wine with the water.

For thy stomach’s sake; to help thy digestion.

And thine often infirmities; in regard of thy weakness and frequent infirmities. Drink no longer water,.... Though it was commendable in him to keep under his body, as the apostle did, by abstemious living, and not pamper the flesh and encourage the lusts of it, and so preserve purity and chastity; yet it was proper that he should take care of his health, that it was not impaired by too much severity, and so he be incapable of doing the work of the Lord. And it seems by this, that his long and only use of water for his drink had been prejudicial to his health: wherefore the following advice was judged proper:

but use a little wine; some, by "a little wine", understand not the quantity, but the quality of the wine; a thin, small, weak wine, or wine mixed with water; and so the Ethiopic version renders the words, "drink no more simple water", (or water only,) "but mix a little wine"; though rather the quantity is intended, and which is mentioned. Not as though there was any danger of Timothy's running into an excess of drinking; but for the sake of others, lest they should abuse such a direction, to indulge themselves in an excessive way; and chiefly to prevent the scoffs of profane persons; who otherwise would have insinuated that the apostle indulged intemperance and excess: whereas this advice to the use of wine, was not for pleasure, and for the satisfying of the flesh, but for health,

for thy stomach's sake; to help digestion, and to remove the disorders which might attend it: the Ethiopic version renders it, "for the pain of the liver", and "for thy perpetual disease"; which last might be a pain in his head, arising from the disorder of his stomach: the last clause we render,

and thine often infirmities; or weaknesses of body, occasioned by hard studies, frequent ministrations, and indefatigable pains and labours he endured in spreading the Gospel of Christ.

{19} Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

(19) The sixth rule: let the elders have consideration for their health, in their diet.

1 Timothy 5:23. Μηκέτι ὑδροπότει κ.τ.λ.] Of course the apostle does not mean to forbid Timothy to drink water at all, but only urges him not to avoid wine altogether. ὑδροποτεῖν does not exactly mean “drink water,” but: “be a water-drinker,” and is only used of a man who makes water his special and exclusive drink; see Winer, p. 464 [E. T. p. 624]. The reason of Timothy’s abstinence from wine is not that he, after the fashion of the Essenes, regarded its enjoyment as something not permitted to him, nor that he subjected himself to an asceticism wrong in nature (Wiesinger); but that, in his zeal for moderation (which is a part of the ἁγνεία), and in order to set an example against excess, he avoided wine, whereby, however, he might appear to favour a false asceticism (so, too, van Oosterzee). If this be kept in view, we cannot overlook the connection of the verse with what precedes. De Wette rightly remarks (following Estius, Grotius, and others) that this exhortation contains a limitation of the previous exhortation, and at the same time a contrast to exaggerated asceticism. As a reason for Timothy’s enjoying some wine, Paul adduces his sickliness. It does not, however, follow, as Matthies thinks, that the apostle made this exhortation only out of concern for Timothy’s health. Had that been the case, we cannot but hold, with Schleiermacher, that the apostle here descends to particulars which strangely interrupt the train of thought, since 1 Timothy 5:24 is clearly attached again to 1 Timothy 5:22.1 Timothy 5:23. μηκέτι ὑδροπότει: An adequate explanation of this seemingly irrelevant direction is that since there is a certain degree of ambiguity in ἁγνός, St. Paul thought it necessary to guard against any possible misunderstanding of Keep thyself pure: “I do not mean you to practice a rigid asceticism; on the contrary, I think that you are likely to injure your health by your complete abstinence from wine; so, be no longer a water-drinker, etc.” So Hort, who thinks that this is “not merely a sanitary but quite as much a moral precept” (Judaistic Christianity, p. 144). This explanation is preferable to that of Paley who regards this as an example of “the negligence of real correspondence … when a man writes as he remembers: when he puts down an article that occurs the moment it occurs, lest he should afterwards forget it” (Horae Paulinae). Similarly Calvin suggested that σεαυτὸνἀσθενείας was a marginal note by St. Paul himself. Alford’s view has not much to commend it, viz., that Timothy’s weakness of character was connected with his constant ill health, and that St. Paul hoped to brace his deputy’s will by a tonic.

For this position of μηκέτι cf. Mark 9:25; Mark 11:14, Luke 8:49, John 5:14; John 8:11, Romans 14:13, Ephesians 4:28; and see note on chap. 1 Timothy 4:14.

διὰ τὸ στόμαχον: Wetstein’s happy quotation from Libanius, Epist. 1578 must not be omitted: πέπτωκε καὶ ἡμῖν ὁ στόμαχος ταῖς συνεχέσιν ὑδροποσίαις.23. Drink no longer water] The form of the verb and its tense require the fuller rendering of R.V., Be no longer a drinker of water. The connexion seems to be; ‘you have, I know, among other means of training and disciplining yourself in “purity,” been a water-drinker; but have the courage of a sanctified common sense; this is not the only way, nor even for you the right way, to your end; if your stomach is out of order and your health much enfeebled, take a little wine as medicine, not as indulgence.’

thine often infirmities] ‘Infirmities’ was a stronger word formerly than now: the Greek word is frequently rendered ‘sickness,’ cf. John 11:3-4, ‘He whom thou lovest is sick,’ ‘this sickness is not unto death,’ ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Two observations may be made on this verse with regard to the question, (1) of temperance, (2) of authorship.

(1) According to the principles of the Church of England Temperance Society the resolution of total abstinence is taken (as it was by Timothy) by those who see in it a discipline in Christian life, or a help in Christian love, and is expressly guarded by the reservation ‘except under medical advice;’ and the question whether wine and other alcoholic drinks are generally useful in illness is one quite open among C.E.T.S. total abstainers, as among doctors. On a point of medical science St Paul’s lay experience will not be claimed as a final settlement.

(2) The verse is so casually introduced that, as Dr Farrar remarks, ‘though we see at once how it may have occurred to St Paul’s thoughts—since otherwise the former rule might have led to a self-denial still more rigid (Romans 14:2), and even injurious to health—it is far too natural and spontaneous, too entirely disconnected from all that precedes and follows it, to have occurred to any imitator. An imitator, if capable of introducing the natural play of thought to which the precept “keep thyself pure” is due, would have been far more likely to add—and especially in an Epistle which so scrupulously forbids indulgence in wine to all Church officials—“and, in order to promote this purity, take as little wine as possible, or avoid it altogether.” ’1 Timothy 5:23. Σεαυτὸν, thyself) The antithesis is, other men’s. Timothy is admonished, in passing, how he should regulate his own conduct, while he is engaged in regulating the conduct of others; and this parenthesis very elegantly imitates the delay that ought to be allowed to intervene in such matters.—μηκέτι, no longer) A safe admonition, always keeping in view the precept, keep thyself pure.Verse 23. - Be no longer a drinker of for drink no longer, A.V. Be... a drinker of water (ὑδροπότει); here only in the New Testament. It is found in some codices of the LXX. in Daniel 1:12, and also in classical Greek. We learn from hence the interesting fact that Timothy was, in modern parlance, a total abstainer; and we also learn that, in St. Paul's judgment, total abstinence was not to be adhered to if injurious to the health. The epithet, "a little," should not be overlooked. Was Luke, the beloved physician, with St. Paul when he wrote this prescription (see 2 Timothy 4:11)? It is also interesting to have this passing allusion to Timothy's bad health, and this instance of St. Paul's thoughtful consideration for him. Infirmities (ἀσθενείας); in the sense of sicknesses, attacks of illness. Drink no longer water (μηκέτι ὑδροπότει)

The verb N.T.o. olxx. Rend. be no longer a drinker of water. Timothy is not enjoined to abstain from water, but is bidden not to be a water-drinker, entirely abstaining from wine. The kindred noun ὑδροπότης is used by Greek comic writers to denote a mean-spirited person. See Aristoph. Knights, 319.

But use a little wine (ἀλλὰ οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ)

The reverse antithesis appears in Hdt. i. 171, of the Persians: οὐκ οἴνῳ διαχρέονται ἀλλ' ὑδροποτέουσι they do not indulge in wine but are water-drinkers. Comp. Plato, Repub. 561 C, τοτὲ μεν μεθύων - αὖθις δὲ ὑδροποτῶν sometimes he is drunk - then he is for total-abstinence. With a little wine comp. much wine, 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 2:3.

For thy stomach's sake (διὰ στόμαχον)

Στόμαχος N.T.o. olxx. The appearance at this point of this dietetic prescription, if it is nothing more, is sufficiently startling; which has led to some question whether the verse may not have been misplaced. If it belongs here, it can be explained only as a continuation of the thought in 1 Timothy 5:22, to the effect that Timothy is to keep himself pure by not giving aid and comfort to the ascetics, and imperilling his own health by adopting their rules of abstinence. Observe that οἶνος here, as everywhere else, means wine, fermented and capable of intoxicating, and not a sweet syrup made by boiling down grape-juice, and styled by certain modern reformers "unfermented wine." Such a concoction would have tended rather to aggravate than to relieve Timothy's stomachic or other infirmities.

Thine often infirmities (τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας)

This use of often as an adjective appears in earlier English. So Chaucer: "Ofte sythes" or "tymes ofte," many times. Shakespeare: "In which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness" (As you like it, IV. i. 19). And

Ben Jonson:

"The jolly wassal walks the often round."

The Forest, iii.

Even Tennyson:

"Wrench'd or broken limb - an often chance

In those brain-stunning shocks and tourney-falls."


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