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Ernest Fedoseev
Ernest Fedoseev

Parable Of The Patch And Wine Skins Verse

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.' (Luke 5:36-39)

Parable Of The Patch And Wine Skins Verse


It seems that the Master's profound observations concerning old wineskins, torn coats and new patches leave them speechless. They don't ask him any more questions, but perhaps that was only because, like the rest of us, they have no idea what Yeshua was talking about.

Expositors have been scratching chins and nodding heads for a long time over the double parable of Luke 5:36-39. [Also Matt 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22] The meaning of the parable is seemingly obvious. The new garment is the Gospel/Grace/Kingdom/Church and the old garment is the Old Covenant/Law/Judaism. No one tears a new garment to patch an old one. Grace and law do not mix.

Similarly, the new wine is the Gospel/Grace/Kingdom/Church and the old wineskin is the Old Covenant/Law/Judaism. Just as the new wine would burst the old skins and be spilled, so too the New Covenant Gospel of the Church Kingdom would be wasted if it was poured into the Old Covenant, Mosaic, legalistic religion of Judaism.

In almost unanimous consent interpreters and commentators have agreed that the old wine, old wineskins and the old coat are all symbols of Judaism and Law whereas the new wine and the new coat are symbols of Christianity and Grace. [Bruce, 1983; Lachs 1987; Lange; Lenski 1961; Meyer; Stein, 1992; Synge.] The unanimity of this interpretation of Yeshua's words has been so normative to Christian thinking that the term "Old Wine" is figuratively used to refer to Judaism in Christian writings.

As Kee aptly observes (1970), this "traditional interpretation of the double parable can be summed up in one word: incompatibility. It is supposed to teach that the Old and the New are incompatible, that Judaism is incompatible with Christianity." The old is worn and obsolete. The Church must be a new and separate movement, not a patch attempting to prolong the institutions of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant has erased and replaced the Old. This meaning of the double parable seems obvious. Or perhaps not.

Another serious problem with the incompatibility interpretation is the closing line of Luke 5:39, "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good.'"[Or "the old is better."] This troublesome verse is found only in Luke's version of the double parable, and even then the Western version of the text omits it. It creates a serious problem for the incompatibility interpretation because it seems to reverse the value assigned to the new wine. If the Gospel is represented by the new wine, then the statement and even the entire metaphor is ridiculous in Yeshua's mouth. It is "as if Yeshua was comparing Judaism to good claret and the Gospel to cheap plonk." [Mead, 1988]

Flusser however contends that Luke preserves the original form. He is followed by Young (1995). The New Wine, bursting the skins and tearing the garment, should then be read as the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The old skins must be preserved: the old garment must be patched because they represent old Israel. This attractive and highly innovative explanation accounts for 5:39 and gets past the anachronistic problems of the traditional interpretations, but it forces itself against statements like 5:38 and does not fit the context. Even Good points out that it is not in concert with Matthew and Mark's versions.

Stern tries to reconcile the parables by going in several directions. He suggests that Yeshua meant for us to patch up Judaism by pre-shrinking the cloth of Messianic faith to fit the old coat of Judaism. Then he suggests that the new wineskins are actually the old wineskins, which have been reconditioned in order to receive the new wine. Hence the "new wineskins" should be read as renewed wineskins. While his interpretations are creative, they continue to operate under the premise of incompatibility and stretch the reader beyond the point of believability. In addition, they certainly don't give answers to the question of Luke 5:39 or to the context in which the parables are given.

The context in which the double parable occurs is a narrative relating how Yeshua chose his disciples. All of chapter five and the first 16 verses of chapter six string together several stories which deal with the calling and selection of the disciples. Luke 5:1-11 records the story of the first miraculous catch of fish during which Yeshua invites James, John, Peter (and by inference Andrew) to become his disciples. The pericope concludes in Luke 5:11 with the fishermen leaving their boats, their nets and the miraculous catch to follow Yeshua. The narrative then turns aside to relate two short healing stories (Luke 5:17-26), but returns to the calling of the disciples with the call of Levi in Luke 5:27 and 28. Like the fishermen, Levi leaves everything and follows Yeshua.

Finally, the Avot interpretation solves the problems raised by Luke 5:39, "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good.'" If the parable is comparing Yeshua's Torah teaching (New Wine) with the Pharisee's Torah teaching (Old Wine) the meaning becomes perfectly clear. Disciples who have already studied Torah under the Pharisaic schools (or under the tutelage of Yochanan) and have learned to interpret according to those traditions and models are unlikely to be interested in a new approach. Those students will be apt to disregard contradictory teaching because they have already formed opinions and made judgments. They will regard the education they have already received as superior.

Yeshua has chosen fishermen and tax collectors precisely because of their lack of formal education. Luke returns to the disciples' lack of formal education in Acts chapter 4 when the Sanhedrin questions Peter and John. In Acts 4:13 Luke writes, "Now as [the Sanhedrin] observed the confidence of Peter and Yochanan and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Yeshua." On that day, when two, poorly educated fishermen stood before the Sanhedrin, they demonstrated the full caliber of their education under Yeshua and vindicated his choice of disciples. New garments, new wineskins and new students.

And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

In his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke,[5] John Calvin says this is part of the larger answer Christ is making to the Pharisees about the fact his disciples did not fast twice a week as they did, and as the disciples of John the Baptist did (Calvin also points out that the Pharisees were using it as a way to create a division between Jesus and John). In the first part of the answer, he illustrates through a marriage situation: it would be ridiculous to fast during the event which used to last a week in their culture, especially when you are with the groom. Christ (which means "messiah") is the groom, so there is no point for them to fast, only to rejoice. Calvin then states that both distinctions (old and new wine and wineskins as well as the old and new garment) are the mentality and oral tradition left by the Pharisees which is not in accord with the proper teachings of the law, as Jesus was preaching. So those who follow Jesus should abandon their old (and bad) views on how they must obey the law, and not the oral tradition with what Jesus was preaching. But especially the Pharisees had a taste for it, and it blocked their minds to recognize what Jesus was teaching them. [6]

The metaphors in the two parables were drawn from contemporary culture.[2] New cloth had not yet shrunk, so that using new cloth to patch older clothing would result in a tear as it began to shrink.[9] Similarly, old wineskins had been "stretched to the limit"[9] or become brittle[2] as wine had fermented inside them; using them again therefore risked bursting them.[9]

Cornelius a Lapide in his great commentary[10] gives the traditional interpretation of this parable, writing that: "Christ shows by a threefold similitude, that His disciples must not fast when He was present. 1. By the parable of the Spouse and the wedding. 2. Of the old and new garment. 3. Of the new wine, and the old bottles of skin. The sense is this: 'As new wine, or must, by the violence of its fermenting spirit, and its heat, bursts the old skins, because they are worn and weak, and so there is a double loss, both of wine and skins; therefore new wine must be poured into new skins, that, being strong, they may be able to bear the force of the must: so in like manner, new austerities and fasts must not be imposed as yet upon My disciples, lest their spirits should be broken, and they depart from Me. But I wait for the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.'"[11]

Luke 5:39Concluding His parable of new wine in old wineskins, Jesus laments what might be human nature's most perverse paradox: "No one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better'" (Luke 5:39). When it comes to physical matters, human nature is all too ready to accept the new. However, in spiritual matters, like Peter's dog returning to its vomit (II Peter 2:22), it all too readily turns away from the new. Rather than accept the plain truth of the gospel of God's Kingdom upon hearing it preached, all too many return to the false doctrines Satan taught the first man, Adam (I Corinthians 15:45-48). Adam and his family have believed those same old lies ever since. Human nature deceives too many into believing, "The old is better." 350c69d7ab


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