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).
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.