Matthew 9:17
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
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(17) Neither do men put new wine into old bottles.—The bottles are those made of hides partly tanned, and retaining, to a great extent, the form of the living animals. These, as they grew dry with age, became very liable to crack, and were unable to resist the pressure of the fermenting liquor. If the mistake were made, the bottles were marred, and the wine spilt. When we interpret the parable, we see at once that the “new wine” represents the inner, as the garment did the outer, aspect of Christian life, the new energies and gifts of the Spirit, which, as on the day of Pentecost, were likened to new wine (Acts 2:13). In dealing with men, our Lord did not bestow these gifts suddenly, even on His own disciples, any more than He imposed rules of life for which men were not ready. As the action of organised churches has too often reproduced the mistake of sewing the patch of new cloth on the old garment, so in the action of enthusiastic or mystic sects, in the history of Montanism, Quakerism in its earlier stages, the growth of the so-called Catholic and Apostolic Church, which had its origin in the history of Edward Irving, we have that of pouring new wine into old bottles. The teaching of our Lord points in both instances to gradual training, speaking the truth as men are able to bear it; reserving many truths because they “cannot bear them now.”

St. Luke adds, as before, a new aspect of the illustration: “No man having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.” See Note on Luke 5:39.

9:14-17 John was at this time in prison; his circumstances, his character, and the nature of the message he was sent to deliver, led those who were peculiarly attached to him, to keep frequent fasts. Christ referred them to John's testimony of him, Joh 3:29. Though there is no doubt that Jesus and his disciples lived in a spare and frugal manner, it would be improper for his disciples to fast while they had the comfort of his presence. When he is with them, all is well. The presence of the sun makes day, and its absence produces night. Our Lord further reminded them of common rules of prudence. It was not usual to take a piece of rough woolen cloth, which had never been prepared, to join to an old garment, for it would not join well with the soft, old garment, but would tear it further, and the rent would be made worse. Nor would men put new wine into old leathern bottles, which were going to decay, and would be liable to burst from the fermenting of the wine; but putting the new wine into strong, new, skin bottles, both would be preserved. Great caution and prudence are necessary, that young converts may not receive gloomy and forbidding ideas of the service of our Lord; but duties are to be urged as they are able to bear them.Neither do men put new wine ... - The third illustration was taken from wine put into bottles.

Bottles, in Eastern nations, were made, and are still made, of skins of beasts. Generally the skin was taken entire from a sheep or a goat, and, properly prepared, was filled with wine or water. Such bottles are still used, because, in crossing deserts of sand, they have no other conveyances but camels, or other beasts of burden. It would be difficult for them to carry glass bottles or kegs on them. They therefore fill two skins, and fasten them together and lay them across the back of a camel, and thus carry wine or water to a great distance. These bottles were, of course, of different sizes, as the skins of kids, goats, or oxen might be used. Bruce describes particularly a bottle which he saw in Arabia, made in this manner of an ox-skin, which would hold 60 gallons, and two of which were a lead for a camel. By long usage, however, bottles of skins became tender and would be easily ruptured. New wine put into them would ferment, and swell and burst them open. New skins or bottles would yield to the fermenting wine, and be strong enough to hold it from bursting. So, says Christ, there is "fitness" or propriety of things. It is not "fit" that my doctrine should be attached to or connected with the old and corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees. New things should be put together, and made to match.

This account of Eastern bottles may illustrate the following passages in the Bible: The Gibeonites took "wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up," Joshua 9:4. "My belly is ready to burst, like new bottles," Job 32:19. "I am become like a bottle in the smoke," Psalm 119:83; i. e., like a bottle of skin hung up in a tent filled with smoke.

Mt 9:14-17. Discourse on Fasting.

See on [1243]Lu 5:33-39.

Ver. 14-17. Mark hath this same history, almost in the same words, Mark 2:18-22, only he saith that some of the disciples of the Pharisees came with the disciples of John. Luke also hath it varying little, Luke 5:33-38; only he saith, fast often, and make prayers, ( and), the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And he addeth at last, Luke 5:39, No man also having drank old wine, straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better: which I shall consider, it plainly belonging to this history. Mark begins his narration of this history with telling us, And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast; which is implied, though not expressed, by the two other evangelists. For the Pharisees, it is plain enough from the Pharisee’s boast, Luke 18:12, that he fasted twice in the week, John also used his disciples to a severer discipline than Christ did (of which we shall afterward hear more.) It should seem that the Pharisees had a mind to make a division betwixt the followers of John and the followers of Christ, and set on John’s disciples to go and ask an account of this. Hypocrites are always hottest for ritual things, as things most fit to raise a division about. There was no precept of God for any fast, but once in a year, though indeed God left people a liberty to fast oftener, as their circumstances more fitted and called for the duty. The Pharisees had set up themselves a method, and would fain have imposed it on Christ’s disciples; especially considering John’s disciples complied with the practice of frequent fasts, and seemed to suggest as if Christ set up a new and more jovial religion. (As if religion lay only or principally in rituals, as to which God had set no rule). The papists are at this day the Pharisees’ true successors in these arts. Christ answereth them in two particulars:

1. He tells them that his disciples were not as yet under such a dispensation as called for fasting.

2. That his disciples were new converts, and to be brought on by degrees to the severer practices of external discipline and godliness. This is the sum of Matthew 9:15-17. This he delivers in metaphorical expressions:

Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall they fast. Your master John hath compared me to a bridegroom, John 3:29. These my disciples are the children of the bride chamber. It is as yet a festival time with them. Fasting is a duty fitted to a day of mourning and affliction. It is not yet a time of mourning for my disciples: yet do not envy them. There will shortly come a time when, as to my bodily presence, I shall be taken from them: then they shall mourn and fast. The second thing he saith he illustrates by two similitudes. First, (saith he), amongst men no discreet person will put in an old garment a new piece of cloth, for they will not agree together; the strength of the new cloth will bear no proportion to the strength of the old, which by wearing is made weak, so as if the garment comes to a stress the rent will be the greater. So as to wine, men do not use to put new wine into old bottles, that through much use are weakened, for fear of breaking the bottles and spilling the wines; but they use to put new wine into new bottles, to proportion the thing containing to the thing contained. My disciples are newly converted. Should I impose upon them the severer exercises of religion, it might discourage them, and be a temptation to them to go back; for, as Luke addeth, No man having drank old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is better. Custom is a great tyrant, and men are not on the sudden brought off from their former practices, but by degrees. This is a portion of Scripture which much commendeth prudence to ministers, both teaching their people as they are able to bear, and also putting them upon duties with respect to their stature and proficiency in the ways of God; especially in such things as are but our free will offerings to God.

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles,.... As in the former parable, our Lord exposes the folly of the Scribes and Pharisees, in their zealous attachment to the traditions of the elders; so in this, he gives a reason why he did not call these persons by his Gospel, who were settled upon the old principle of self-righteousness, but sinners, whom he renews by his Spirit and grace: for by "old bottles" are meant, the Scribes and Pharisees. The allusion is to bottles, made of the skins of beasts, which in time decayed, waxed old, and became unfit for use: such were the wine bottles, old and rent, the Gibeonites brought with them, and showed to Joshua, Joshua 9:4 and to which the Psalmist compares himself, Psalm 119:83 and which the Misnic doctors call and their commentators (o) say, were , "bottles made of skin", or "leather", and so might be rent. Of the use of new and old bottles, take the following hint out of the "Talmud" (p).

"The bottles of the Gentiles, if scraped and "new", they are free for use; if "old", they are forbidden.''

Now the Scribes and Pharisees may be signified by these old bottles, being natural men, no other than as they were born; having never been regenerated, and renewed in the spirit of their minds; in whom the old man was predominant, were mere formal professors of religion, and self-righteous persons: and by "new wine" is meant, either the love and favour of God compared to wine, that is neat and clean, because free from hypocrisy in him, or motives in the creature; to generous wine, for its cheering and reviving effects; and to new wine, not but that it is very ancient, even from everlasting, but, because newly manifested, in the effectual calling and conversion: or the Gospel is signified by wine, for its purity, good flavour, and pleasant taste; for its generous effects, in reviving drooping spirits, refreshing weary persons, and comforting distressed minds; and by new wine, not that it is a new doctrine, an upstart notion, for it is an ancient Gospel, but because newly and more clearly revealed by Christ and his apostles: or the blessings of grace which spring from the love of God, and are manifested in the Gospel, such as pardon of sin, reconciliation and atonement, justifying and sanctifying grace, spiritual joy and peace, and the like. Now as the new wine is not put into old bottles,

else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: so the love of God, the Gospel of the grace of God, and the blessings of it, are not received and retained, nor can they be, by natural men, by self-righteous persons: they do not suit and agree with their old carnal hearts and principles; they slight and reject them, and let them run out, which proves their greater condemnation.

But they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. By "new bottles" are meant sinners, whom Christ calls by his grace, and the Spirit regenerates and renews, who are made new creatures in Christ; who have new hearts, and new spirits, and new principles of light, life, love, faith, and holiness, implanted in them; who have new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk with, to and in Christ, new hands to work and handle with, and who live a new life and conversation. Now to such as these, the love of God is manifested and shed abroad in their hearts; by these, the Gospel of Christ is truly received and valued, and these enjoy the spiritual blessings of it; and so both the doctrine of the Gospel, and the grace of God, are preserved entire, and these persons saved in the day of Christ.

(o) Jarchi & Bartenora in Misn. Celim, c. 24. sect. 11. & Negaim, c. 11. sect. 11. (p) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 33. 1.

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
Matthew 9:17. The new parable of the wine and wine-skins is introduced, not merely because the Speaker is full of matter, but because it enables Him aptly to show both sides of the question, the twofold application of the principle.—οὐδὲ βάλλουσιν: nobody puts new wine into old skins; νέος applied to wine, καινός to skins (ἀσκοὺς καινούς). νέος is new in time, καινός in quality. That which is new in time does not necessarily deteriorate with age; it may even improve. That which is new in quality always deteriorates with age, like skins or cloth, vide Trench’s Synonyms, lx.—εἰ δὲ μήγε (vide ad Matthew 6:1): two disastrous consequences ensue: skins burst, wine spilt. The reason not stated, assumed to be known. New wine ferments, old skins have lost their toughness and stretchableness. “They have become hard leather and give no more” (Koetsveld, De Gelijkenissen, p. 99). That is the one side—keep the old to the old.—ἀλλὰ βάλλουσισυντηροῦνται: this is the other—the new to the new; new wine in fresh skins, and both are preserved as suiting one another. With reference to the two parables, Schanz remarks that, in the first, the point of comparison is the distinction between part and whole, in the second form and contents are opposed to each other. So after him, Holtzmann in H.C. Weiss takes both parables as explaining the practice of John’s disciples, Holtzmann as giving reasons why Christ’s disciples differed from all others. The truth as above indicated lies between.

17. new wine into old bottles] The Oriental bottles are skins of sheep or goats. Old bottles would crack and leak. This may be regarded as a further illustration of the doctrine taught in the preceding verse. But it is better to give it an individual application. The new wine is the new law, the freedom of Christianity. The new bottles are those fitted to live under that law. The old wine is Judaism, the old bottles those, who trained in Judaism, cannot receive the new law, who say “the old is better” (or “good”), Luke 5:39.

Our Lord’s answer then is threefold, (1) specially as to fasting, (2) as to Christianity in regard to Judaism, (3) as to individuals trained in Judaism.

(1)  This is a joyous time, not a season for fasting, which is a sign of sorrow.

(2)  Christianity is not a sect of Judaism, or to be judged according to rules of Judaism.

(3)  It is not every soul that is capable of receiving the new and spiritual law. The new wine of Christianity requires new vessels to contain it.

Matthew 9:17. Ἀσκοὺς, leather bottles) which were used instead of casks. The old bottles are the Pharisees; the new, the disciples; the wine, the Gospel.—ἀπολοῦνται, will perish) So that they can neither hold that, nor any other wine henceforward.—ἀμφότεροι, both) masculine, as τίς. in ch. Matthew 23:17.

Verse 17. - Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; wine-skins (Revised Version); cf. Job 32:19. (For rabbinic comparisons of the Law to wine, cf. Dr. Taylor, 'Aboth,' 4:29.) Else (Matthew 6:1, note) the bottles (skins, Revised Version) burst. The stress is on "burst;" the thought is therefore not yet of the bottles, but of the fate of the wine. And the wine runneth out (is spilled, Revised Version; ἐκχεῖται), and the bottles (skins, Revised Version) perish. It ruins the vessels in which it is placed (ver. 16, note). But they put new wins into new; fresh (Revised Version); καινούς. The change from νέος of the wine to καινός of the skins is maintained in all three accounts, νέος suggesting the latest vintage, καινός that the skins are absolutely unimpaired (cf. Trench, 'Syn.,' § 60.). Bottles (wine-skins, Revised Version), and both are preserved. Matthew 9:17Bottles (ἀσκούς)

Rev., rightly, wine-skin,, though our word bottle originally carried the true meaning, being a bottle of leather. In Spanish, bota means a leather bottle, a boot, and a butt. In Spain wine is still brought to market in pig-skins. In the East, goat-skins are commonly used, with the rough side inward. When old, they break under the fermentation of the wine.

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