Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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The Host with the Most?
A few posts ago I was maundering on about the rain falling on just and unjust alike, and whether that saying would have had the same connotations in the relatively arid climate where it was coined as it now carries in my own soggier corner of the world. I suppose my next question is rather similar, though more doctrinally central: just how common was it to drink wine in first-century Palestine?

Clearly they had several skinfuls at the Cana wedding, and at the Last Supper too, but those were special occasions. Was it an everyday drink for your ordinary Joe? Or a luxury good? It makes a big difference to the significance of the Eucharist. If wine is the drinking equivalent of bread - the most staple of staples - then that gives it one kind of significance. But if it's seen as something special, that gives it another.

Even if wine flowed freely and cheaply in Jesus's particular time and place, that certainly hasn't always been the case in the cultures to which Christianity has been introduced. It must have been another story in beer-drinking countries such as Egypt and Germany, for example. The same goes for England, where wine was seen as a posh drink until very recent times. Telling an Anglo-Saxon peasant to drink wine in memory of Christ must have conveyed a very different message from telling a first-century Roman to do the same.

Christopher Marlowe is said to have joked that the Eucharist "would have bin much better being administred in a Tobacco pipe" - and after all, why not? One for the alternative historians, perhaps.

I think the concept of wine as a rarer good in at least the English and Welsh sections of these islands stems from the climate change of my very own 17th century. Up to then wine was being produced a good way north and rough wine at least would have been an everyday beverage for all but the very poorest, even if quality stuff was a gentry import. And this also overlooks fruit wines in their various forms.

You forget that Germany is and has been for centuries a major wine producing culture.

Interestingly, the Scottish tradition at the Eucharist is to serve a fortified wine such as port, although I don't know how old the tradition is- Scotland would never have been able to produce wine of its own.

I was thinking more of Germany in the days when Christianity was first introduced there. However, that's a good point about the fruit wines: I wonder how well that sorted with the rather specifically vinicultural imagery in the Bible?

(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-06 07:57 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-06 08:15 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-06 08:16 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-06 08:19 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-06 08:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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Re: Anti-whine poem to memorize by heart

As you may remember, the vineyards of the Mosel made quite an impression on me last autumn.

(Deleted comment)
I suppose my next question is rather similar, though more doctrinally central: just how common was it to drink wine in first-century Palestine?

The concept of kosher wine goes back to Biblical times, so my answer would be "very." Plus first-century Judaea is a Roman province and the Romans were serious about their viticulture, so it's not like only the local culture would have been receptive to the significance. I think of it as a drinking staple of most of the ancient world, obviously remembering the existence of beer. There are ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern vineyards, though, and red wine plays an important role in Egyptian ritual life. It's one of the standard provisions for the afterlife. The Phoenicians are incredibly influential in furthering the spread of wine not just as a traded commodity, but as a technology. [edit] tl;dr I think your ordinary Josephus might have considered the really good stuff a luxury good, but in terms of the ability to come home with a couple of asses' worth of plonk, there would have been lots to choose from.

Edited at 2015-07-06 06:31 pm (UTC)

I think your ordinary Josephus might have considered the really good stuff a luxury good, but in terms of the ability to come home with a couple of asses' worth of plonk, there would have been lots to choose from.

That sounds unnervingly like today. The remark of the host at Cana suggests there may have been wine snobs back then too: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

I have a vague memory from back in my theology-student days, of being told that wine was common in first-century Palestine, and discussing the difference this made to one's conception of the Eucharist. Probably as part of my final-year liturgy module.

I wonder whether the relative rarity of wine contributed to the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic tradition that only the priest received the Eucharist in both kinds. However, this has been illegal in the Church of England since the Sacrament Act of 1547, except in cases of grave emergency. (That was a contribution from my husband the church historian.)

My Nonconformist-mixed-with-Anglican background means that I have received the blood of Christ in the form of Communion wine (vile), non-alcoholic Communion wine (worse, and I once had to drink a full chalice of it), grape juice, Ribena (because the Communion steward was embarrassed to buy grape juice - ?), sherry, and Lindisfarne mead.

Here endeth the spill of random chunks of information!

All random chunks gratefully received! I find it bizarre that one could be embarrassed about buying grape juice (but not Ribena).

Perhaps it's as well that Jesus didn't institute the eat-y part of the process in Marmite soldiers. That would have sorted the sheep from the goats!

(no subject) - joyeuce, 2015-07-06 08:31 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ethelmay, 2015-07-06 09:59 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - joyeuce, 2015-07-07 04:08 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Two of the problems encountered by the Christian Greenland Norse were the need to hunt and export walrus &c to trade for items they couldn't make themselves, including communion wine; and the increasing isolation from the Christian community in Europe, with a lack of ships bringing them, among other things, bishops and wine.

I wonder what the Bishop-Walrus exchange rate was?

Of course, on Lewis they were cannier and combined the two.

(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-06 08:03 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-06 08:15 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2015-07-06 08:24 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-07 04:46 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-06 08:16 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-06 08:19 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-06 08:21 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-07 04:47 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-07 04:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - wellinghall, 2015-07-07 04:48 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-07 04:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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I have often wondered if there is a heresy that holds that Jesus did only mean that we should remember him when eating and drinking.

(no subject) - cmcmck, 2015-07-07 07:10 am (UTC)(Expand)
Imagine a Northern Eucharist! Whisky and oatcake?

Nine

I could live with that!

In addition to all the above, wine is a normal part of Jewish ritual. You certainly drink it every Friday as part of the Sabbath meal and have a blessing over "the fruit of the vine" and as part of every other celebration. Why wouldn't you have some every day?

That does make sense - and was what I'd always assumed until I (foolishly) stopped to ask myself if I actually knew.

I know the Bible pretty well and I don't think anyone ever drinks anything except wine, milk and water. The NT is full of viniculture imagery. "I am the true vine" "old wine in new wineskins" etc. No-one during my theological training ever suggested that wine was ever anything but an everyday beverage.

That seems pretty unanimous. So wine is to drink pretty much what bread is to food - at least for Jesus and his immediate circle - and it seems reasonable to assume that (as well as the specific requirements of the Passover supper) he had that in mind when telling his disciples to remember him when eating/drinking them. But I'd really like to know how that choice has played on people's religious sensibilities in cultures where wine was a rarer, more elite or more expensive drink. The intersection of climate and theology (as in the other post) is quite intriguing to me.

(no subject) - ethelmay, 2015-07-07 05:26 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2015-07-08 06:36 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - poliphilo, 2015-07-07 06:14 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - sue_bursztynski, 2015-07-07 10:59 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - poliphilo, 2015-07-08 08:04 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - sue_bursztynski, 2015-07-09 10:46 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - sue_bursztynski, 2015-07-07 11:06 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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