Luke 5:39
No man also having drunk old wine straightway desires new: for he said, The old is better.
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(39) No man also having drunk old wine.—This addition is peculiar to St. Luke, and calls accordingly for distinct notice. The interpretation of the imagery is not far to seek. The old wine is the principle—in spiritual things, the religion—that animated the man’s former life. In relation to those immediately addressed, it represented the motive-power of the Law in its rigid and Pharisaic form. The new wine, as in the Notes on the previous parables, is the freer, nobler, life-power of the gospel. It was not to be wondered at that men accustomed to the older system should be unwilling to embrace the new, as thinking it stronger and more potent than they could bear. The words are spoken in a tone of something like a tolerant pity for the prejudices of age and custom.

The old is better.—The better MSS. give simply “the old is good,” the adjective partly implying the sense of “mild.” It is not the same as the “good wine” of the miracle at Cana (John 2:10). It is doubtful, indeed, whether the Jews attached the same value that we do to the mellowed flavour given to wine by age. New or sweet wine, drunk within a year or so of fermentation, would seem to have been the favourite delicacy (Nehemiah 10:39; Proverbs 3:10; Hosea 4:11; Haggai 1:11, et al.), though men of weak constitutions might shrink from its effects, as the Pharisees were shrinking from the freedom of which our Lord set the example. Not altogether without significance, as bearing on this passage, is the fact recorded by St. Luke (Acts 2:13), that the first workings of the Pentecostal gift led men to speak of the disciples as “full of new wine.”

5:27-39 It was a wonder of Christ's grace, that he would call a publican to be his disciple and follower. It was a wonder of his grace, that the call was made so effectual. It was a wonder of his grace, that he came to call sinners to repentance, and to assure them of pardon. It was a wonder of his grace, that he so patiently bore the contradiction of sinners against himself and his disciples. It was a wonder of his grace, that he fixed the services of his disciples according to their strength and standing. The Lord trains up his people gradually for the trials allotted them; we should copy his example in dealing with the weak in faith, or the tempted believer.Having drunk old wine ... - Wine increases its strength and flavor, and its mildness and mellowness, by age, and the old is therefore preferable. They who had tasted such mild and mellow wine would not readily drink the comparatively sour and astringent juice of the grape as it came from the press. The meaning of this proverb in this place seems to be this: You Pharisees wish to draw my disciples to the "austere" and "rigid" duties of the ceremonial law - to fasting and painful rites; but they have come under a milder system. They have tasted the gentle and tender blessings of the gospel; they have no "relish" for your stern and harsh requirements. To insist now on their observing them would be like telling a man who had tasted of good, ripe, and mild wine to partake of that which is sour and unpalatable. At the proper time all the sterner duties of religion will be properly regarded; but "at present," to teach them to fast when they see "no occasion" for it - when they are full of joy at the presence of their Master - would be like putting a piece of new cloth on an old garment, or new wine into old bottles, or drinking unpleasant wine after one had tasted that which was more pleasant. It would be ill-timed, inappropriate, and incongruous. Lu 5:33-39. Fasting.

(See on [1577]Mt 9:14-17.)

The incongruities mentioned in Lu 5:36-38 were intended to illustrate the difference between the genius of the old and new economies, and the danger of mixing up the one with the other. As in the one case supposed, "the rent is made worse," and in the other, "the new wine is spilled," so by a mongrel mixture of the ascetic ritualism of the old with the spiritual freedom of the new economy, both are disfigured and destroyed. The additional parable in Lu 5:39, which is peculiar to Luke, has been variously interpreted. But the "new wine" seems plainly to be the evangelical freedom which Christ was introducing; and the old, the opposite spirit of Judaism: men long accustomed to the latter could not be expected "straightway"—all at once—to take a liking for the former; that is, "These inquiries about the difference between My disciples and the Pharisees," and even John's, are not surprising; they are the effect of a natural revulsion against sudden change, which time will cure; the new wine will itself in time become old, and so acquire all the added charms of antiquity. What lessons does this teach, on the one hand, to those who unreasonably cling to what is getting antiquated; and, on the other, to hasty reformers who have no patience with the timidity of their weaker brethren!

See Poole on "Luke 5:33" No man also having drunk old wine,.... "Wine", though not in the text, is rightly supplied by our translators, as it is by the Syriac and Persic versions:

straightway desireth new; new wine:

for he saith, the old is better; old wine is more grateful, more generous, and more reviving to the spirits, than new wine is. This is a proverbial expression, and which Luke only records; which may be applied to natural men, who having drunk the old wine of their carnal lusts and pleasures, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel, and of the grace of God, and of spiritual things, but prefer their old sins and lusts unto them: carnal lusts may be signified by old wine, both for the antiquity of them, being as old as men themselves, and therefore called the old man, and for the gratefulness of them to them; and who may be said to drink of them, as they do drink iniquity like water; which is expressive of their great desire and thirst after it, and delight in it: now whilst they are such, they cannot desire the new wine of the Gospel, which is insipid and ungrateful to them; nor the grace of God, to which their carnal minds are enmity; nor any thing that is evangelical and spiritual, at least, not straightway, or immediately; not until they are regenerated by the Spirit of God, and their taste is changed, but will prefer their old lusts and former course of life unto them: or it may be accommodated to legalists, and men of a "pharisaical spirit", to whom spiritual and evangelical things are very disagreeable: Scribes and Pharisees, who have drank of the old wine of the law, and the traditions of the elders, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel, but prefer the former to it: the ceremonial law may be expressed by old wine, being originally instituted of God, and acceptable to him; and one part of which lay in libations of wine, and was of long standing, but now waxen old, and ready to vanish away; and likewise the traditions of the elders, which were highly pleasing to the Pharisees, and which pretended to great antiquity: and of these they might be said to drink, being inured to them from their youth, and therefore could not like the new dispensation of the Gospel, neither its doctrines, nor its ordinances; but preferred their old laws and traditions to them: or rather this proverb, as used by Christ here, may be considered as intimating the reason why the disciples did not give into the practices of the Pharisees, because they had drank of the old wine of the Gospel; which, as upon some account it may be called new, because of the new dispensation, fresh discovery and clearer revelation of it; in other respects it may be said to be old, being what was prepared and ordained before the world began; and what Adam drank of, in the first hint and promise of the Messiah; and after him Noah, the preacher of righteousness; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the Gospel was preached before; and even Moses, who wrote and testified of Christ; and David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and all the prophets of the former dispensation: and now the disciples having more largely drank of it, under the ministry of Christ, could not easily desire the new wine of the fastings and prayers of the Pharisees, and John's disciples; for the old wine of the Gospel was much better in their esteem, more grateful to the taste, more refreshing to their spirits, and more salutary and healthful, being the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Old wine, with the Jews (h) was wine of three years old, and was always by them preferred to new: so they descant on those words in Deuteronomy 15:16 "because he is well with thee (i), (i.e. the servant,)"

"with thee in food, with thee in drink; for thou shalt not eat bread of fine flour, and he eat bread of bran; or thou drink, , "old wine", and he drink, , "new wine".''

And sometimes they use this distinction of old and new wine proverbially and parabolically, as here (k).

"Rabbi Jose bar Juda, a man of a village in Babylon, used to say, he that learns of young men, to what is he like? to him that eateth unripe grapes, and drinks wine out of the fat: but he; that learns of old men, to what is he like? to him that eats ripe grapes, and drinks, , "old wine"''

signifying, that the knowledge of old men is more solid, and mature, and unmixed, and free from dregs of ignorance, than that of young men: though it follows, that

"Ribbi had used to say, do not look upon the tankard, but on what is in it; for sometimes there is a new tankard full of old wine, and an old one in which there is not so much as new in it:''

signifying, that sometimes young men are full of wisdom and knowledge, when old men are entirely devoid of them.

(h) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 51. 1. & Gloss. in ib. & Bava Bathra, fol. 98. 1. & Maimon. Hilch. Mecira, c. 17. sect. 6. (i) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 22. 1.((k) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 20.

No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
Luke 5:39. The thought in this verse is peculiar to Lk. It seems to be a genial apology for conservatism in religion, with tacit reference to John and his disciples, whom Jesus would always treat with consideration. They loved the old wine of Jewish piety, and did not care for new ways. They found it good (χρηστός), so good that they did not wish even to taste any other, and could therefore make no comparisons. (Hence χρηστὸς preferable to χρηστότερος in T. R.) This saying is every way worthy of Christ, and it was probably one of Lk.’s finds in his pious quest for traditions of the Personal Ministry.

With reference to the foregoing parabolic words, drawn from vesture and wine, Hahn truly remarks that they would be naturally suggested through association of ideas by the figure of a wedding feast going before. Bengel hints at the same thought: “parabolam a veste, a vino; inprimis opportunam convivio”.39. having drunk old] This verse is peculiar to St Luke, and is a characteristic of his fondness for all that is most tender and gracious. It is an expression of considerateness towards the inveterate prejudices engendered by custom and system: a kind allowance for the reluctance of the Pharisees and the disciples of John to abandon the old systems to which they had been accustomed. The spirit for which our Lord here (as it were) offers an apology is the deep-rooted human tendency to prefer old habits to new lights, and stereotyped formulae to fresh truths. It is the unprogressive spirit which relies simply on authority, precedent, and tradition, and says, ‘It was good enough for my father, it is good enough for me;’ ‘It will last my time,’ &c. The expression itself seems to have been a Jewish proverb (Nedarim, f. 66. 1).

The old is better] Rather, The old is excellent (chrestos א, B, L, &c.). The reading of the E. V., chrestoteros, is inferior, since the man, having declined to taste the new, can institute no comparison between it and the old. The wine which at the beginning has been set forth to him is good (John 2:10), and he assumes that only ‘that which is worse’ can follow.Luke 5:39. Εὐθέως, straightway) It is by degrees that the dispositions of minds are changed.—ὁ παλαιὸς, the old) Their own old doctrine was more palatable to the Pharisees than the generous (excellent) doctrine of Christ, which they fancied to be new, whereas it was far more ancient than their own: Galatians 3:17 [the covenant—the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul]; 1 John 2:7-8 [no new commandment—but an old commandment—from the beginning]: as to the excellence of the new wine, see Zechariah 9:17 [New wine—shall make cheerful—the maids]: though new, it is at the same time mild and pleasant. Matthew 11:30.Verse 39. - No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. St. Luke alone of the first three evangelists who related in detail this most important reply of Jesus when the disciples of John and the Pharisees came to question him, adds this curious simile. The meaning of the parable-pictures of the new patch being sewn on an old garment, and of new wine being poured into worn-out, decaying wine-skins, was very plain. Pitilessly severe it would ring in the ears of men brought up in the old rabbinic Jewish schools. The two first evangelists, conscious of the truth of their Master's words, were content to leave the stern teaching, which pronounced the old state of things among the religious Jews as utterly worn-out, in all its naked severity. But Paul, under whose guidance we believe Luke wrote his Gospel, with that tender and considerate love which so beautifies the earnest and impassioned nature of the apostle of the Gentiles, knew that Jesus had added a few words to the two seemingly harsh parables; these he bade Luke carefully insert in his narrative. They contain what may be termed an almost playful apology for the slowness and reluctance of the men trained in the rabbinic schools, or even of the pupils of John the Baptist, to accept the new, broad, generous view of truth which he (Jesus) was putting forth - it was an apology for a slowness and reluctance, shading too often into unveiled dislike and open hostility. (What experience Paul and Luke must have had of this hostility!) The Master, in his Divine wisdom, knew how hard it was to forsake long-cherished prejudices. Time must be given, allowance must be made, harsh judgment must be deprecated. These men, trained in the old system, are here compared to guests who, after the banquet, are suddenly asked to change the old wine, mellowed by age, of which they have been drinking, for new sweet wine. This new wine seems, in those days, generally to have been considered preferable, but to men who had been drinking the old, age-softened vintage, the new would seem fiery and even harsh. The Greek word rendered in the Authorized Version "better," in the older authorities is positive instead of comparative. The translation should therefore run," the old is good." The argument would be the same: Why change what we have been drinking for something new? surely the old wine is good? Such passages as Nehemiah 10:35; Proverbs 3:10; Hosea 4:11; Haggai 1:11, bear out the above statement, that in those days, among the Jews of Syria, Palestine, and the adjacent countries, new sweet wine was a favourite beverage among wine-drinkers.

Better (χρηστότερος)

The best texts read χρηστός, good. See on Matthew 11:30.

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