Saturday, February 04, 2006


Matthew 9:15-17 (NIV) "Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

Luke 5:36-39 (NIV) "He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, `The old is better.'"

Of all of Jesus' teachings, these parables have been the ones I have struggled with the most. I have studied these in various translations and paraphrases, searched commentaries, and meditated on these verses for years. Finally, I felt like I understood the text and the meaning of the text in context. As I understood it, Jesus was refuting the Pharisees' concerns that His disciples were not fasting and adhering to the traditional measures of the Law as the Pharisees and John the Baptist's disciples were. Through these parables, Jesus was pointing out to them that He was bringing with Him a new way of relating to God, a new way of understanding what it meant to be in communion with God, and that these new ways could not fit the mold of the old, traditional teachings of the Pharisees. For that reason, His disciples did not fast now, but would in the future, fast in a new way.

The whole intent of the passage, as I understood it, was that a new covenant had come, one that was similar to the old covenant, but so entirely different in form and function that the old ways and old traditions would burst if they tried to contain the liberating message of Christ. Likewise, just as it would not be profitable to try to force His disciples to conform to the old traditions, it would be extremely difficult for those contained by the old traditions to try to capture the new. In short, Jesus was prophesying that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law would reject His new teachings in favor of the old traditions they revered, missing the glorious freedom offered by the new wine. The ultimate meaning, as I understood it, was that the gospel was the new wine and the new wineskin and the old wine and the old wineskin represented the traditional teachings of Judaism.

This understanding served me well and seemed to mesh with all of the other commentaries I studied until this week, when I was left confused and confounded once again. I was reading this passage in the New Interpreter's Study Bible (which I had bought as a required text for a class this summer) and found a completely different interpretation of this passage. In fact, it was exactly the opposite of what I had come to believe and what the other commentaries taught. The NISB interpreted this passage by saying that Jesus was teaching that the old wine was good and that the Pharisees were forcing a new religion onto the ancient purpose of God. The NISB reads, "Unlike Jesus, they have introduced new patterns of religion that are incompatible with the ancient ways of God. Against such a backdrop, Jesus' message may seem innovative, but it is nothing other than the outworking of God's ancient plan."

I can understand this interpretation, but it leaves me confused and concerned. Why is this interpretation from the NISB so far removed from the other commentaries I read and from the understanding that I derived from the text? Which is correct? While they both seem accurate, can they both be true? Is this a case of isogesis versus exegesis?

So, since I am sure there are more astute biblical scholars than I in the blogosphere, I pose this question: How do you exegete and understand these parables? How would you approach this text?

Usually I try to handle these texts like the pastor who was preaching verse-by-verse through the Bible. He preached on verse 16. Then he got to verse 17 and said, "Now, this is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible." Then he skipped it and went to verse 18.


Topher said...

It is the sick that needs a doctor.

An old garment when met with new cloth will not just reject but tear and be worse off with the new cloth.

I don't know if you could assign old or new to Jesus or the pharisees. Because Jesus was ultimately first and that makes the pharisees newer and Jesus was revolutionary at the time making him newer than the law, ultimately.

It is a lesson about what wine needs to be in which wineskin not what wineskin needs to have which wine. People are the wine not wineskin. The tax collectors and sinners would burst and defile fasting and praying. They first must be captivated in the proper wineskin.

Toney said...

The Old Testament Law always pointed man to his need for a Savior and the prophets of old prophesied of the coming of the Perfect One, the Ancient of Days. The Jesus who spoke this double parable is the same Jesus who gave Moses the Law and visited with Abraham in the desert prior to His visit at Sodom and Gomorrah. We learn in the New Testament (the New Covenant) that, that which is Perfect has come. The Law (unperfect in its ability to redeem) was Israel's tutor that brought Him to Christ. When Christ spoke His last words on the cross, "it is finished", He signaled the end of the religious system the Jews had built and the beginning of a New and Living Way to know God, through Christ the Risen Savior! The old system could not in any shape, form or fashion, contain the Life of the Living Christ as He became the High Priest of the newly born and Holy Spirit invigorated Church, His bride.

The old can not contain the new! The old pointed to the new!
The old was a predecessor lending spiritual significance of the new to come! An earthly system was never meant to, nor can it contain the heavenly system the Father envisioned in His Son!

The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and has been here for 2,000 years filling every newly born again man and woman, a heavenly work that cannot be contained or even understood, except by them whom He, the Holy Spirit, has been given.

To Christ be the glory!!!!!

MaureenO said...

I think your original interpretation is correct. Jesus did not want to confuse and confound with His teachings. People who try and make the meanings unusually complex are not doing the Lord's work. Jesus wanted us to understand Him. Thank you for illuminating my understanding of this parable. God is awesome!

Anonymous said...

I read this this morning and it seemed to be less about the meaning of old and new teachings but more about Yeshuas choice in students. check out this page:

Anonymous said...

2 Corinthians 5:17
King James Version (KJV)

I believe that this sums it up.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Christ was/is the new wine, the Holy Lamb of God with a new blood bought covenant. You must die to the old life, and be born again in Him. You cannot tear off a piece of Him and try to patch pieces of your old self, or keep your old sinful ways (old wine skins), and be born again (new wine). You must believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that He is the son of God, to be born again/saved.

A new you (new wine skin) which comes from the renewing of your mind, requires new wine (Jesus). Romans 12:2 (NIV)"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will."

God's Word is simple. Don't be confused by too many translations as they were written by man and usually change the true meaning of the text. Stick with the King James and NIV. I often wonder why we need more than 2-3 translations.

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

When the children of Israel were in captivity in Babylon they probably remembered that two prophets had told them that they were in that state because of wine and strong drink. Out of that probably sprung a law against strong drink (fermented wine) To keep grape juice new, new skins, treated with sulphor and sealed with pitch and honey, had to be used, as the old skins were permeated with ferment (yeast) and the juice began to ferment within hours. The same with old earthern jugs (bottles) It is a picture (sign) of the living Word (Christ)having become flesh put into us humans, totally permeated with sin' the word becomes "old".
The same with a new patch on an old garment; it tears off and makes the old worse; unless we have our sins forgiven (the old demon made homeless: see the preceding miracles in Matthew)it is practically useless just to have a "patch of the new" onto our old selves. (according to the Holy Word ,2 Timothy 2:19, Heaven needs to acknowledge that our humbling and confessing of our sins has been to God's acceptable standard. (That we believed the Word of faith; that Christ died for us; and acted thereon, working out our salvation with "fear and trembling" {and prayer} turning our backs on sin. Becoming a new creature in Christ
That's why Christ's first sign was what it was, it is the foundation of being a true or Biblical Christian.
May God bless these words.
KZN; RSA. Telephone +27 32 481,5783

Anonymous said...

You meditate on the passage for years to get the standard traditional interpretation of this passage?