What Does the Bible Say About Drugs?
Beliefnet's scripture scholar shares biblical views on mental illness, drug use, and the Hail Mary.
Have a scriptural question? Write to Ben Witherington III at columnists@staff.Beliefnet.com.
In this column, Ben Witherington answers questions about the Bible and:
The Hail Mary
Does the Bible prohibit drug use? I've read the passage that says that all animals and plants were created for our use.
Much depends on your definition of drugs. There are, in fact, various places in the Bible where the drinking of wine (clearly an alcoholic beverage in that era; see Proverbs 20:1) is actually encouraged (for example, in Isaiah 55:1). Though wine would often be watered down in antiquity, it was nonetheless clearly potent, and is used in several places as a contrast with the powerful effect the Holy Spirit has on someone (see Acts 2:12-16, with its reference to new wine that can make one drunk contrasted with the effect of the Spirit. See also Ephesians 5:18).
In John 2:1-12, Jesus provides the wine for a wedding. It is clear from the toastmaster's comment ("you've saved the best wine for last") that we are dealing with an alcoholic beverage. The normal procedure in a feast would be to provide the best and most potent wine first, and then the more watered down and less flavorful later as the palate became less discriminating.
There is, however, no endorsement in the Bible to use drugs that have the potential to seriously damage the mind or body. This is why church leaders are to be those not given to too much wine (1 Timothy 3:3,8--not a drunkard, not given to too much wine). There is then condemnation of overindulgence, but not of drinking in moderation.
There is not however any encouragement or endorsement of using drugs which do not constitute food or beverage in any age of human history. In fact, there may well be a prohibition of a particular kind of drug, one which produces abortions: In Galatians 5:20, there is a reference to pharmakeia (from which we get the word pharmacy). This term may, however, refer to the use of drugs in pagan worship ceremonies.