New Wine into Old Wineskins
The parables follow the recruitment of Levi as a disciple of Jesus, and appear to be part of a discussion at a banquet held by him (Luke 5:29). The parables are told in response to a question about fasting:
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.
Jesus' response continues with the two short parables. Luke has the more detailed version:
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.
The two parables relate to the relationship between Jesus' teaching and traditional Judaism. According to some interpreters, Jesus here "pits his own, new way against the old way of the Pharisees and their scribes." In the early second century, Marcion, founder of Marcionism, used the passage to justify a "total separation between the religion that Jesus and Paul espoused and that of the Hebrew Scriptures."
Other interpreters see Luke as giving Christianity roots in Jewish antiquity, although "Jesus has brought something new, and the rituals and traditions of official Judaism cannot contain it."
In his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 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, as well as the disciples of John the Baptist do (Calvin also points out that the Pharisees were using it as a way to create a division between Jesus and John). At the first part of the answer he ilustrates through a marriage situation: it would be silly to fast during the event which used to last a week in their culture, specially 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) is the mentality and oral tradition left by the Pharisees which is not in accord to 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 to mix the oral tradition with what Jesus was preaching. But specially the Pharisees, had a taste for it, and it blocked their minds to recognize what Jesus was teaching them.
Based on parallel rabbinic sayings found in Pirkei Avot, one interpreter sees the parable as depicting the difficulty of teaching disciples with prior learning as compared to teaching new, uneducated disciples.
The metaphors in the two parables were drawn from contemporary culture. 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. Similarly, old wineskins had been "stretched to the limit" or become brittle as wine had fermented inside them; using them again therefore risked bursting them.
- Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, Eerdmans, 1997, ISBN 0-8028-2315-7, pp. 248-250.
- James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, Eerdmans, 2002, ISBN 0-85111-778-3, pp. 91-92.
- Joseph B. Tyson, Marcion and Luke-Acts: A defining struggle, University of South Carolina Press, 2006, ISBN 1-57003-650-0, p. 32.
- R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: An introduction and commentary, Eerdmans, 1985, ISBN 0-8028-0063-7, p. 169.
- Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I
- Calvin's Commentary, Volume XVI, Baker: Grand Rapids, 1981, p. 408; also online.
- Lancaster, D. Thomas. "New Wine and Old Wineskins". Beth Immanuel. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
- Lancaster, D. Thomas (2014). Chronicles of the Messiah, Book 2 (2nd ed.). First Fruits of Zion. pp. 381–386. ISBN 978-1-892124-77-7.
- Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Eerdmans, 1999, ISBN 0-8028-3821-9, pp. 300-301.