new wine old bottles

New Wine into Old Wineskins

New Wine into Old Wineskins is a saying of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew , Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Luke . The wording is similar in all three gospels except for the additional verses recorded by Luke.

Luke's version reads:

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.” ’ NRSV

In the three synoptic gospels the saying is given immediately after the recruitment of Levi/Matthew to be a follower, and is given as a secondary justification for why Jesus' disciples do not fast, even though those of John the Baptist do ().


The metaphors were drawn from contemporary culture. Wineskins would stretch with new wine being put in as it continues to ferment, and then they would harden. If new wine was put into a hardened wineskin, the continued fermentation risked bursting the skin. Similarly, new cloth would be expected to shrink considerably, so using it to patch already-shrunken cloth would be asking for problems.

Taken together with Jesus' similar statement about not using new cloth to patch old clothing this saying is often interpreted to mean that Jesus' new teaching will not fit within the Jewish religion, or within the religious structures of the time. Many, especially Christians, have interpreted it as Jesus saying he was the start of a new religion separate from Judaism, and from that of John the Baptist, for example see Ignatius of Antioch Magnesians X Some Christians have used it to propose new ways of being Christian or even entirely new forms of Christianity. In the early second century Marcion used it to justify his doctrine of Marcionism.

Others view the phrase in in conflict with these interpretations. The passage says, "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (NASB) Rather than incompatibility of new and old religious structures, it has been suggested that the parable of new and old wineskins is about the nature of teaching and those who are taught. "No one takes a lesson meant for a new student and tries to teach it to an old (already educated) student. If he does, he will fail to teach the new student, and the lesson meant for the new student will be rejected by the old student." See also New Covenant and Christian View of the Law.

Gospel of Thomas

An almost identical saying occurs in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (Thomas 104 combined with Thomas 47). In Thomas it has no narrative context.

Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine. Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil. -Thomas 47:3-4 [Scholars Version]

In terminology that was often used by the gnostics , Jesus is presented as speaking of himself as a bridegroom and his disciples as the wedding guests, arguing that you cannot make wedding guest fast while the bridegroom is with them, only when the bridegroom is taken away. Further justification is then given by arguing that no-one uses part of a new item of clothing to repair an old piece of clothing, because the new will become damaged, and the old will not match the new patch. This is re-enforced by the similar argument that no-one wants to drink new wine immediately after they have tasted wine that has aged; new wine isn't poured into old wineskin because there is a risk of them splitting and so spilling the content; and similarly no-one adds old wine to new wineskin because it would run the risk of ruining the taste.

External links

First Fruits of Zion article: Yeshua's New Wine

New Wine into Old Wineskins
Life of Jesus: Parables
New Testament

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