Sustenance Then & Now: The Significance of Bread & Wine from Biblical Times to Today
The Bible is replete with references to wine and food. Bread, in particular, is referenced nearly 500 times throughout the sacred text, while wine was the common drink of the people and was an essential part of worship in both Testaments. Remarkably, while the iconic food-and-beverage pairing were found across dinner tables more than two millennia ago, we still see them in kitchens all over the world today. Here’s a brief look at the significance of bread and wine, from biblical times to today.
Wine in Scripture
Wine, or libation, is described as a sabbatical offering in Leviticus 23. It was given to the Lord as a celebratory offering after defeating the enemies. The Israelites also are described drinking wine throughout verses, and in Isaiah 62:9, the people drink wine in the sanctuary after being blessed by the Lord.
Alcohol in Modern Religion
Today, alcohol consumption is forbidden in several religions, including Islam and Mormonism. In others, it serves a key ceremonial role. For instance, it’s used symbolically to represent the blood of Christ during holy communion. Jewish rituals also implement wine, using it during Shabbat and Passover.
Even in secular circumstances, wine is enjoyed alongside food, and usually as a means of relaxation. Thus, people all across the world still drink wine in many of the same ways as our ancestors did.
The Role of Bread in The Bible
“Give us this day our daily bread,” or Matthew, 6:11, is among the most frequently used Biblical quotes. In the Old Testament, bread symbolized God’s provision for His people. During their journey across the Sinai desert God provided sustenance by bestowing upon them “manna from Heaven,” which the Hebrews ground and baked into cake-like goods. They were told to only eat the manna that was gathered for each day, with the exception of the Sabbath, when twice the usual amount was gathered and it wouldn’t spoil overnight. By miracle, manna gathered on the day of rest was still edible the next day.
The Hebrews had relied upon bread as a staple in their diets, much like many people in Western cultures (and indeed, across the world) do today. Of course, in the New Testament, Jesus uses bread as a metaphor, referring to it as his “body.” The Lord’s words are still seen in practice today: in Christian churches, bread is given to symbolize the body of Christ in the ritual of the Eucharist. In Judaism, the traditional bread challah is served on the Jewish Sabbath and all Jewish holidays (with the exception of Passover, when foods with yeast are forbidden).
Bread, the Sustenance that has Stood the Test of Time
Although there are certainly plenty of mentions of it in the Bible, it’s believed bread originated long before, and was developed by the ancient Egyptians. Since then, bakers throughout history and in all corners of the world have put their own unique spin on it, with gold miners in the U.S. credited for their sourdoughs to Parisian baker Poilâne who first began making his specialty loaves with stone-ground flour in the 1930s.
Indeed, neither bread nor wine appear to be disappearing from restaurants, cafés, or homes any time soon. This is just one example of how modern times bear such striking similarities to those detailed in the Bible. Testaments of Israel tells a story of even more similarities by bringing the modern-day Holy Land to life through photojournalism. Explore this exquisite collection of images paired with Bible verses here.