I love that phrase. “The old is better”. Since it’s a proverbial expression, perhaps I can take it out of context and apply it to myself! But let’s be careful, and not take it too far.
Luke 5:39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
Old John Gill writes…. there are multiple was to interpret the passage. I think the second rings true to the context….and who was preferring the “old wine”.
No man also having drunk old wine,…. “Wine”, though not in the text, is rightly supplied by our translators, as it is by the Syriac and Persic versions:
straightway desireth new; new wine:
for he saith, the old is better; old wine is more grateful, more generous, and more reviving to the spirits, than new wine is. This is a proverbial expression, and which Luke only records; which may be applied to natural men, who having drunk the old wine of their carnal lusts and pleasures, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel, and of the grace of God, and of spiritual things, but prefer their old sins and lusts unto them: carnal lusts may be signified by old wine, both for the antiquity of them, being as old as men themselves, and therefore called the old man, and for the gratefulness of them to them; and who may be said to drink of them, as they do drink iniquity like water; which is expressive of their great desire and thirst after it, and delight in it: now whilst they are such, they cannot desire the new wine of the Gospel, which is insipid and ungrateful to them; nor the grace of God, to which their carnal minds are enmity; nor any thing that is evangelical and spiritual, at least, not straightway, or immediately; not until they are regenerated by the Spirit of God, and their taste is changed, but will prefer their old lusts and former course of life unto them: or it may be accommodated to legalists, and men of a “pharisaical spirit”, to whom spiritual and evangelical things are very disagreeable: Scribes and Pharisees, who have drank of the old wine of the law, and the traditions of the elders, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel, but prefer the former to it: the ceremonial law may be expressed by old wine, being originally instituted of God, and acceptable to him; and one part of which lay in libations of wine, and was of long standing, but now waxen old, and ready to vanish away; and likewise the traditions of the elders, which were highly pleasing to the Pharisees, and which pretended to great antiquity: and of these they might be said to drink, being inured to them from their youth, and therefore could not like the new dispensation of the Gospel, neither its doctrines, nor its ordinances; but preferred their old laws and traditions to them: or rather this proverb, as used by Christ here, may be considered as intimating the reason why the disciples did not give into the practices of the Pharisees, because they had drank of the old wine of the Gospel; which, as upon some account it may be called new, because of the new dispensation, fresh discovery and clearer revelation of it; in other respects it may be said to be old, being what was prepared and ordained before the world began; and what Adam drank of, in the first hint and promise of the Messiah; and after him Noah, the preacher of righteousness; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the Gospel was preached before; and even Moses, who wrote and testified of Christ; and David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and all the prophets of the former dispensation: and now the disciples having more largely drank of it, under the ministry of Christ, could not easily desire the new wine of the fastings and prayers of the Pharisees, and John’s disciples; for the old wine of the Gospel was much better in their esteem, more grateful to the taste, more refreshing to their spirits, and more salutary and healthful, being the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Old wine, with the Jews (h) was wine of three years old, and was always by them preferred to new: so they descant on those words in Deu 15:16 “because he is well with thee (i), (i.e. the servant,)”
“with thee in food, with thee in drink; for thou shalt not eat bread of fine flour, and he eat bread of bran; or thou drink, יין ישן, “old wine”, and he drink, יין הדש, “new wine”.”
And sometimes they use this distinction of old and new wine proverbially and parabolically, as here (k).
“Rabbi Jose bar Juda, a man of a village in Babylon, used to say, he that learns of young men, to what is he like? to him that eateth unripe grapes, and drinks wine out of the fat: but he; that learns of old men, to what is he like? to him that eats ripe grapes, and drinks, יין ישן, “old wine””
signifying, that the knowledge of old men is more solid, and mature, and unmixed, and free from dregs of ignorance, than that of young men: though it follows, that
“Ribbi had used to say, do not look upon the tankard, but on what is in it; for sometimes there is a new tankard full of old wine, and an old one in which there is not so much as new in it:”
signifying, that sometimes young men are full of wisdom and knowledge, when old men are entirely devoid of them.
(h) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 51. 1. & Gloss. in ib. & Bava Bathra, fol. 98. 1. & Maimon. Hilch. Mecira, c. 17. sect. 6. (i) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 22. 1. (k) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 20.