The misunderstood parable of New and Old Wine

Christ often spoke in parables and sometimes the interpretations are also recorded clearly in the Gospels. In Matthew 9:9-17, Mark 2:14-22 & Luke 5:27-39, Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) spoke another parable to the pharisees, which He did not provide an interpretation afterwards. The “Parable of the New & Old Wine” is often used to say that Yeshua was discarding the Old Mosaic Law, while introducing “A New Law which was built on Truth & Grace”. We will delve into this misunderstood parable and try to understand (with proper context) what Yeshua was really trying to say.

If time permits, I suggest that you also read “Who the pharisees were” which shows how they were not keepers of God’s Law & “Did Christ overule the Old Ten Commandments with 2 New Commandments?” which shows how Yeshua merely quoted the 2 New Commandments from the Old Testament and that He did not introduce a New Law.

For the purpose of this study, we will use the reading from Luke to investigate and understand what Yeshua was trying to say taking proper context into consideration. (I have highlighted the important parts below).

Luk 5:27-39  And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. 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.

Notice how this Parable is connected to a feast made in Levi’s House. Levi, who is also called Matthew in Mat 9:9, follows Yeshua leaving his work which was Tax Collecting, and makes a feast to which Yeshua was invited. Many of Levi’s friends and some who were Tax Collector’s(Publicans) were also present at his house.

The Scribes and Pharisees who kept a close eye on Yeshua all the time, ask Him why He is sharing a meal in the midst of sinners and tax collectors. Yeshua answers them by saying that He came to bring sinners to repentance.

Then they ask Yeshua, why His disciples do not fast often, and pray, like the disciples of the pharisees. To which Yeshua answers by saying that they will fast when He is taken away from them.

Then He goes onto convey the parable which is in question. Before we move onto the Parable, I want you to understand the context behind this parable and why Yeshua said this parable to the Pharisees. (We know that the Pharisees were actually hypocrites and keepers of their own laws and traditions which were against God’s Commandments).

Proper Context
Let us observe the events leading to this parable. Luke 5 starts off with Yeshua asking Peter, James & John to follow Him, which meant becoming His disciples. This was a bold move for a person who was gaining respect throughout Judea as a great Rabbi/Teacher. There would have been so many more well educated people He could have chosen from the Scribes or the Pharisees, but He opted to choose lowly fishermen. In Luke 5:27, Yeshua enrolls a Tax Collector named Levi, next as one of His disciples. First, fishermen and now a Tax Collector – The Pharisees and Scribes would have been furious. Fishermen were “uneducated” while Tax Collectors were “traitors” in the eyes of the Pharisees. This is the background behind this event and the parable of interest.

Yeshua’s choice in disciples were a concern to the Pharisees and they found fault with them saying “Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but yours eat and drink?” This was the reason behind the parable that Yeshua put forward to the people who questioned Him.

Now that we understand that the reason behind the parable was “the question about His disciples”, let’s move on to decipher the parable.

Part I of the Parable
No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.

Part II of the Parable
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it 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, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”

Using proper context, we understood above, that this parable was spoken out as a reply to the questioning which came up regarding Yeshua’s choice of disciples. Using this context we can come to a proper interpretation as follows:
Old Garment/ Old Wineskin = Disciples who have learned Pharisaical TeachingsThe Piece from a New Garment/ New Wine = New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word
New Wineskin = Disciples who are open to learning God’s Word/who have not learned pharisaic ways
Old Wine = Pharisaic Teaching of God’s Word which is God’s Word mixed and changed with their own laws, traditions and teachings

(In the parables given above, “The Old Garment” and “The Old Wineskin” are parallels, meaning they represent the same idea. In the same way, “The Piece from a New Garment” and “The New Wine” are also parallels. The “New Wineskin” is obviously the opposite of the “Old Wineskin” in the same way that the “Old Wine” is the opposite of the “New Wine”.)

Let’s try to read the Parable again with the interpretation given above, to see whether it makes sense in proper context, as an answer to the Pharisees.

Part 1 of Parable No one tears “a piece from a new garment” and puts it on an “old garment”. If he does, he will tear the “new”, and “the piece from the new” will not match the “old”.
Interpretation No one can put “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” into a “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings”. If done, the “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” will go to waste, as it will not match the lifestyle of the “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings”

Part 2 of Parable And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it 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, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”
Interpretation And no one puts “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” into “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings”. If done, “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings” will not be able to contain the “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” and the “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” will go to waste, and the “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings” will be condemned/destroyed(because they rejected the proper teaching). But “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” must be put into “Disciples who are open to learning God’s Word/who have not learned pharisaic ways”. And no one after learning “Pharisaic Teaching of God’s Word which is God’s Word mixed and changed with their own laws, traditions and teachings” desires “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word”, for he says, ‘The “Pharisaic Teaching of God’s Word which is God’s Word mixed and changed with their own laws, traditions and teachings” is good.'”

Using this interpretation we can come to the conclusion that Yeshua was indeed speaking in context, to the pharisees, who were questioning Him about how He was choosing uneducated sinners as disciples. To which Yeshua replied by a parable that showed how it was better for Him to choose “uneducated sinners” over the so called “educated ones learning pharisaic doctrine, which was clearly against God’s Word“. He spoke how He needed to choose new wineskins so that He could pour the “correct teaching of God’s Word” into them, while old wineskins which contained “different teachings” could never hold the correct teaching of God. This was the simple argument He made with this parable, so that the pharisees would not question Him anymore.

Some have interpreted this parable to say the “Old Wine” represents the “Old Mosaic Laws/Commandments” while “New Wine” represents “Grace and Truth”. One who studies the bible will understand that “God’s Word/Commandments are not against Truth, but Truth itself” and that you cannot pit God’s Commandments against Grace and Truth.

I am not, in any way, saying that this is the final and conclusive interpretation of this Parable. But I am offering everyone a chance to look at the parable afresh with proper context according to God’s Word. As I always say, Do not believe anyone. Read it for yourself and check whether what you understand, is in complete agreement with everything written in the Scriptures. For too long, we have been giving ear to people who have taken things out of context and given their own interpretations, that do not gel with God’s Word completely. Test this interpretation with the same critical mentality and may the Holy Spirit, the helper, who is there to help us understand God’s Word, help you in having a closer walk with our Father in heaven.

15 thoughts on “The misunderstood parable of New and Old Wine

  1. Pingback: Call No Man Rabbi? Really? | Endtime Chaverim

  2. Luke

    I praise YHWH for you! Thank you for helping to make this clear. That Old = the Law just did not fit, but I couldn’t imagine another way to think about this parable.

    May God bless this ministry!

  3. two wheels

    Yes, you make good points about the patch and the wine, but Im trying to figure out the context and meaning of after all that, “preferring the old wine?”

    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Brother/Sister,
      The Old Wine in my understanding is Pharisaical Teachings and understanding of God’s Word through the Oral Law as it was in Yeshua’s day. So the people like the pharisees would never change their ways and prefer new wine (Yeshua’s teaching of the Scriptures) when they thought the Old Wine(The Scripture as the pharisees understood through the lens of Oral Torah) was so good and perfect. They were drunk with their additions to God’s Law that they could not change and understand anything new.
      Be a blessing to everyone around you!

      1. Kaitie-Lynn Elia Cohen

        The problem with your interpretation is that Yeshua NEVER rebuked the existence of those traditions, and often did them (sabbath in the Synagogue, wearing the tzitzit and phylactery as they did, etc)… and Paul, His appointed apostle to the gentiles was a Pharisee, who in Acts defends himself against charges of apostasy by saying “I have never violated the law nor our traditions”… So Yeshua/Jesus LIVED them, the Apostles lived them, Paul lived them… yet you’re saying he’s teaching AGAINST them?! THAT would be violating Torah as they were in line from the sages from Sinai to have authority to determine how to live out Torah (Deut 16). If He spoke against this authority He would be in violation of Torah, and would have had charges of this against Him. He did not.
        In fact, some of the signs of His identity COME FROM tradition- raising the dead after 4 days (a prophet or holy man could raise the dead UNTIL the 3rd day passed), healing in the spit of the first born (healing could NOT affect those BORN blind, but G-d alone COULD… thus spit and dust to heal the born-blind man was proving His identity through THEIR understanding, their traditions).

        Your interpretation ALSO requires that He was REPLACING, not RESTORING the faith. He came to restore people not replace.
        The parable, then, would be better understood as old wineskins which are not flexible and able to grow and handle stress of new learning would burst and be ruined. NEW ones would grow and flex… this was about a NEW heart- being born again- and learning faith as it should be, with new understanding. The OLD WINE IS GOOD… but to grow you must be able to be made new. Aged wine IS good. You don’t throw it out- you WANT wine to age and get better and stronger- just like you want FAITH to. You don’t toss out faith when it’s old. You replace the aged heart that can’t grow with a new one- that CAN.

        He wasn’t condemning the Pharisees lock, stock, and barrel. He lived a very Pharisaic life, the normative Judaism of the day. So did the Apostles, so did Paul. Many believers came from Pharisaic Judaism, including many pharisee teachers (which would cause debates about requirement for conversion, settled in Acts 15 and spoken against as a pre-requisite for salvation by Paul in Galatians). But that they were there to have those debates is evidence they were not the villain they are made out to be. They were sincerely faithful people – misguided in their theology (thinking if enough lived “ritually pure” (only needed for the Temple entry) they could merit Messiah coming- the core of their thinking was this), but not hypocrites or unlearned or adversaries. They were believers often, too.

      2. rameshdesilva Post author

        Dear Kaitie,
        I’m not saying Yeshua is condemning all Pharisees here, but that it was better for Him to have chosen students who were unlearned in their ways rather than educated ones. I believe that is the context. I have mentioned in the post that this is not the definitive explanation and I don’t disagree with most of what you say. Traditions are good as long as they bring us closer to God. The moment they superseded God’s Law, Yeshua called them out (such as in the case of Corban). The traditions or Oral Torah was also not a must, as we see Yeshua defending His disciples against washing of hands. There were many Pharisees who loved Yeshua and believed in Him, so I am not rejecting them or their traditions. But there is a clear divide between Torah and Traditions, and the traditions can never supersede Torah. Breaking a tradition does not equate to breaking Torah as I understand it. I stand with the Karaites on this matter. Traditions are good as long as they lead to Torah.
        Be a blessing to everyone around you!

  4. Shandon Ellis

    One would not be wrong by saying that old wine could be those who held onto the old covenant and couldnt come to accept the work of JESUS.The woman caught in the act of adultrety by religious leaders supposed to have been stoned under the law or old covenant or old wine but under KING JESUS new wine she was shown grace and mercy.One is not wrong in saying old wine represent the old covenant teachings and the new covenant teachings is new wine.Both are wine one is just fresher,newer and more fulfilling.New wine brings new revelation and teaching that still lined up with the old covenant but brings us into a fresher understanding of THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW and what GOD really meant.Im not saying all you said is wrong but NEW WINE can a person new life in CHRIST JESUS,NEW WAY OF THINKING ACCORDING TO THE WOR,NEW GODLY LIFESTYLE,ETC.So many are not wrong in their interpetation of this text.

    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Shandon,
      The only issue with the equation of Wine and Covenant, is that it assumes one Covenant is Old and one is New… and is used to say one is better than the other, when one is based and built on the other. It pits the 2 Covenants against each other, when the Scriptures or the NT writings makes no such claims. Because most of us don’t know to define the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant of Jer 31, we fall into the pit of saying the Old is vanishing/abolished and the like. That is the main reason I believe “teaching” equates better to “wine” rather than “covenant”. And the key fact of the Pharisaical Teachings/Oral Law is also an important key in this parable.
      Be a blessing to everyone around you!

  5. joemenz82

    I definitely agree with you. To some they say that old wineskin is the old testament and new wineskin is the new testament, which is totally misunderstood and misinterpreted.

  6. Daphney

    This teaching and breakdown of of this parable gave me the revelation that I have been trying to understand for many years concerning this parable. Thank you for sharing. Thank God for His laborers.

  7. Wayne

    Beautifully done! I would imagine that some of those in the “religious”ranks must have pondered this parable at great length and we’re left pondering it.

    1. Wayne

      Correction… last few words of my last sentence should have read “and were left pondering it”. Blessings To All.

  8. Michael

    I like this, but it makes me wonder then about Paul. He was definitely old wineskin. I’m wondering if this parable is related to the purpose of fasting and the Spirit in born again bodies?


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