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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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BOTTLE.—This is the Authorized Version rendering ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘wine-skin’) of Ἀσκά, which denotes the tanned skins of sheep and goats that are used in the East for holding water, oil, wine, and cheese (see art. ‘Bottle’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible i. 311). In the Gospels the allusion to ‘bottles’ occurs in connexion with a question that had been addressed to Christ with regard to an observed difference between His disciples and those of John the Baptist and the Pharisees (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-38). A certain outward conformity was expected in religious teaching and example, and the absence of fasting among His disciples seemed to create a perplexing and objectionable departure. The interview takes place immediately after the incident of Levi’s feast, when Christ’s eating with publicans and sinners was objected to as lowering the standard of the religious life.

The simile reminds us that the life of institutions as of individuals has a limit. It is sufficient for the wine-skin to have once held and matured and preserved its new wine. The attempt to repeat the act of filling and distension involves the loss of both the wine and the vessel which holds it. The most venerated form was once an innovation on what preceded it, and by the operation of the same law a fresh expansive force will again alter external conditions and create new conformities. Christ claims the entire devotion of His disciples, and while the fasting that was largely a commemoration of the past was suspended during His presence, it would receive in days to come a fresh impulse from His absence.

The important truth taught by the simile of the wine-skin and its contents is emphasized by the twofold fact that religious forces are the most expansive of all, and that their receptive forms often attain to a degree of rigidity which preserves the outward shape after the contents have been withdrawn. With regard to the principle of fasting, the affinity of mind and body that connects sorrow with sighing (Isaiah 35:10) abundantly authorizes the observance under naturally suitable circumstances, but fasting by statute has usually been found to be linked, both as cause and effect, with ecclesiastical segregation and asceticism.

Literature.—Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, p. 295 ff., Galilean Gospel, p. 180 ff.; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race, p. 190 ff.

G. M. Mackie.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bottle'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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