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The Importance of Religion in Understanding the History of Alcohol

The history of different addictive substances such as alcohol has been riddled with numerous events, ideas, beliefs, and notions. For many centuries, human beings have used alcoholic beverages and substances for various reasons or functions. For instance, some have consumed alcohol as a source of vital nutrients for the body. Some groups believe that alcoholic beverages had powerful analgesic and medicinal properties. The most remarkable fact is that alcohol has remained an important drink that dictates the way people or groups engage in various religious activities and practices. This research paper focuses on the issue of religion to understand the true history of alcoholic beverages. These three periods have been taken into consideration to come up with meaningful arguments: Ancient, Early Christian, and the Middle Ages.

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Importance of Religion in Understanding the History of Alcohol

Human beings have worshiped deities for many years. They have also established numerous faiths and religious groups that tend to dictate their behaviors, norms, values, and social practices. According to many historians, the exact period when the first alcoholic beverage was brewed is not known or documented. However, some historians and archeologists have argued that it must have resulted from an accident several centuries ago. The Bible has been referenced by many analysts and historians since it uses the word “vineyard” in the book of Genesis. This occurs when Noah plants the first vineyard tree on Mount Ararat. This means that wine was a common alcoholic beverage during this period described in the Old Testament (as indicated in the Bible). From this kind of analysis, it is quite clear that a detailed examination of the Ancient Period can present meaningful insights in an attempt to reveal the historical developments revolving around alcoholic beverages.

Ancient Period

Documented evidence has indicated that alcohol was a common substance during this period. To begin with, anthropologists have confirmed that beer was used in many ancient civilizations before bread became staple nutrition. During this age, the Egyptians believed that beer was holy and capable of supporting their goals. As a result, they invented a deity by the name Osiris. This god of beer was worshipped by many people across this country. According to them, Osiris was the one who had invented and blessed this alcoholic drink. Those who drank it believed that they would lead quality lives and achieve their potential. Egyptians also offered wine and beer to most of their gods. This is a clear indication that the historical use of alcohol in ancient Egypt was influenced by the power of religion.

Similar practices were also recorded in Babylon. Historians indicate that the people of this society had a goddess of wine by the year 2,700 BC. They also had several deities who received offerings such as wine and beer. A code is known as the Hammurabi of 1,750 BC also encouraged people to devote their attention to beer. During this period, individuals who consumed alcoholic beverages could not be punished since they had established a positive connection with the gods.

In prehistoric China, alcohol had a religious and social relevance to different people. They believed that the alcoholic beverage would reconnect them with their deities. During ancient times, the Chinese were also observed to offer beer as a sacrifice to their gods. They would do so before going to war or after emerging victorious. They would also offer beer to different deities during ceremonies such as reunions, birth, and marriage. According to them, moderate use of this substance was prescribed or permitted by their gods. This shows that alcohol continued to dictate or influence the nature of religious practice in China.

In ancient Greece, the mead was a common substance that was made from fermented water and honey. The people of this land used this drink whenever engaging in religious celebrations. It was also popularized as an important medical substance. Consequently, the Greeks continued to drink mead every day. They also indicated that the gods only permitted them to drink alcohol in moderation whenever they were tired or stressed.

The Hebrews (followers of Judaism) are also believed to have used alcohol for many years during this period. This alcoholic drink was embraced during religious festivals and even outside the temple. Although there was no direct connection between alcohol use and worship at the time, many people believed that the practice was suitable since it was good for their health. Around 525 BC, the Hebrews made drinking part of their religious practices. For instance, the concept of Sabbath would be supported or recited over a mug of alcohol, such as wine. Consequently, the consumption of alcohol became a common practice inside and outside the temples.

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The Romans became powerful between 150 and 140 BC. During this period, many people in Rome embraced drinking more than any other civilization. By 133 BC, most of the virtues and values that had existed for years, such as frugality and temperance, declined. During the same period, many Romans began to drink heavily. This is the reason why the use of addictive beverages such as alcohol had gained the attention of many people. Consequently, the consumption of alcohol for religious purposes declined significantly. Every individual who embraced this practice made it a way of life.

Early Christian Period

After the birth of Jesus (according to the Bible), Christianity emerged as a strong force that continued to replace existing civilizations and their religious values. As described in the New Testament, Jesus Christ used wine and encouraged people to drink it because it was good for their bodies. However, He guided them to consume it in moderation. At the same time, He was against drinking because it was wrong to follow the values and teachings of Christianity.

As more people continued to embrace this new religion during the time of Jesus Christ, alcohol use became a sacred practice. Some believed that wine was created by the Supreme Being. This means that alcoholic beverages were appropriate and good for them. The Bible also dictates that people were required to abstain from heavy drinking. After the establishment of Christianity across Europe, new groups (such as the Heretical Sects) went a step further to reject the use of alcohol. According to them, drinking was against the teachings of Jesus Christ.

By the end of the 4th century, a new wave had emerged in Europe whereby the Church began to attack the ideas publicized by these heretical sects. The leaders of Christianity during the time indicated that wine was one of the best gifts from God. This means that human beings needed to drink it. The Church went a step further to encourage more followers to consume alcohol in moderation. They asserted that it was inappropriate and sinful for a man to abuse wine. This was the reason why those who could not drink responsibly were encouraged or required to abstain.

After Judaism realized that Christianity was changing the rules regarding the use of alcohol, it responded with guidelines that would later become the Talmudic rules. These were unique rules and guidelines that dictated how the Hebrews could embrace the use of wine. They were encouraged to drink small quantities of wine on the Sabbath. They were also guided not to engage in idolatry. They needed to behave responsibly after drinking wine. Those who abused this alcoholic beverage were condemned.

In Rome, many people appeared to overuse alcohol than ever before. With wine becoming a common alcoholic beverage in the civilization, more people had access to it. Most of the emperors of Rome from 37 to 69 AD were observed to drink heavily. During the same period, Christianity continued to encourage its followers to drink in moderation. These conflicting forces resulted in a scenario whereby more people continued to interpret the scriptures for themselves, thereby embracing the consumption of wine and other fermented beverages.

This is a clear indication that the Early Christian period played a significant role in dictating the number of people who consumed alcohol. Similarly, emerging guidelines from the Roman Empire and Judaism encouraged more people to drink wine. The practice continued to attract the attention of many people across the region. This behavior would be informed by existing religious teachings and rules. The Hebrews would relate the use of alcohol to religious practices such as worship. This analysis reveals that religion was a crucial force that continued to reshape the historical development of drinking across Europe and beyond.

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Middle Ages

Past studies have indicated that this period lasted for around 1,000 years. The era emerged after the collapse of Rome. During this time, new developments that dictated the behaviors of many people in different parts of the world emerged. One of the practices that were influenced significantly was that of alcohol use or drinking. With new agricultural ideas and knowledge in place, grapevines became common in different parts of Europe. In countries such as Italy, France, and Spain, wine was embraced as the common beverage.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Christianity became popular in Italy and across Europe. The emergence of monasteries led to new technology in winemaking and brewing. This was the case because Catholicism appeared to embrace the use of wine as prescribed in the Bible. Leaders and monks continued to guard the secret and knowledge used to produce wine. During the period, monasteries became the centers (and origins) of high-quality beer. This is the reason why many people appreciated the alcoholic drinks obtained from such places throughout the 12th century. By the 13th century, hops had become common in different parts of Europe. Such flavors would be used to make quality beer. These roles undertaken by monasteries and monks transformed the way alcohol was being brewed in Europe. Many people in the surrounding regions were able to embrace these flavors and use them to make their beverages for domestic consumption.

The use of wine to celebrate mass by the teachings of Jesus Christ encouraged more people to embrace alcohol. By the year 1400, many festivities and celebrations (both religious and non-religious) were characterized by the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This practice led to the establishment of the first brewing industry in England. The people of this nation were pleased since quality wine had become available to them. This development can, therefore, be attributed to the roles undertaken by the Catholic Church and other religious groups during this era. As more people continued to follow different religious teachings, the practice of alcohol use evolved significantly across the European continent.

The occurrence of different disasters and events in Europe led to a new understanding regarding the relationship between mankind and his creator. A good example that has been presented by many scholars is the infamous Black Death. The occurrence of this catastrophic plague in Europe during the mid-fourteenth century forced many religious leaders and scholars to analyze it from a critical perspective. Since this pestilence claimed the lives of many people, different leaders encouraged their followers to change their lifestyles. It was also the right time for them to restore their relationships with the cosmos.

With no idea or knowledge regarding the nature of this occurrence, over 82 percent of all citizens in different communities perished. As a result, many individuals became desperate and unaware of the best way forward. According to some preachers, this plague had emerged as a punishment since many people had begun to drink recklessly. They argued that the malpractice was against God’s teachings. According to the Bible, it was appropriate for human beings to drink wine in moderation and use it for religious pursuits. However, the era of brewing and alcohol consumption encouraged more individuals to go against this law.

Many analysts and researchers argue that the occurrence of this pestilence was regarded by many as a sign of God’s wrath. This was the case because many people had failed to obey His teachings. In some other regions, people consumed alcohol more than ever before. They asserted that the alcoholic beverage would protect them from this deadly disease. Another group of people believed that the consumption of alcohol and wine in moderation would save them from this mysterious illness. The nature of this disease encouraged many people in different parts of Europe (and beyond) to think deeper and focus on the commandments given by God. The ultimate goal was for them to be protected from every disease. This occurrence transformed how different regions embraced the consumption of alcohol.


This discussion has shown that alcohol consumption is a practice that has existed in the world for many centuries. Although it emerged in specific ancient civilizations, the alcoholic drink gained a unique religious significance from the Ancient Period to the Middle Ages. The emerging religious teachings dictated the way people used alcohol. As religious beliefs continued to evolve over the years, the production, availability, and consumption of alcohol changed significantly. In conclusion, individuals who want to have a clear understanding of the historical development of wine and alcohol should focus on it its connection with religion. This is the case because numerous practices and beliefs embraced by different groups informed brewing procedures, alcohol use and consumption, and human behaviors during each of the three periods described above.

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