Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In discussions I have had in the past over the acceptability of a Christian drinking alcohol I have heard that some 'dry' believers say that the wine in the Bible is not wine as we know it commonly today. It is actually grape juice.

I personally believe that the wine of Jesus' day is the wine that we know.

Is there any Biblical/historical evidence to the contrary, that the wine of the past was non-fermented juice?

share|improve this question
3  
My understanding is that "wine" refers to diluted wine, whereas "strong drink" refers to what we call wine. Distillation was not an available technology, so the strongest available was wine. I will have to find a reference. –  Ray Aug 23 '11 at 19:48
8  
It's clear that some translation/preservation issues exist in some places. For example, during the incident on the Day of Pentecost, when the Apostles spoke in tongues, some Jews mocked them and said "these men are full of new wine." (Meaning, specifically, unfermented grape juice; other translations also use words specific to non-alcoholic drinks.) And yet the clear implication, which is also embodied in the rebuttal to this accusation, is that they were drunk and babbling, so something's wrong somewhere in the text... –  Mason Wheeler Aug 23 '11 at 20:20
1  
Without refrigeration, it's nearly impossible to keep grape juice from fermenting. Put a glass of grape juice on your counter and see how fast (2 - 3 days) it ferments. –  Gilbert Le Blanc Aug 15 '12 at 13:24
    
@Mason Wheeler: Yes, the translation "new wine" is quite erroneous. The Greek word is γλεῦκος, from which we derive our English word "glucose," meaning "sugar," and thus, "sweet." Now, the question is, is γλεῦκος ever used in a context that certainly indicates it is or can be an intoxicating substance? Would you like me to start a new thread? –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 18 '12 at 18:46

11 Answers 11

up vote 38 down vote accepted

First understand people. They will adjust the literal translations of the Bible in order to hear what they want to hear. They will also interpret the words of the Bible based off of their own definitions as defined by their surroundings without truly finding out what those words meant to Jesus.

When the Bible says that Jesus turned water into wine. Then that's what it means. Jesus literally turned water into wine.

Jesus was not opposed to you drinking alcohol, He specifically states that we need to stay sober in all things and to not drink to the point that we become fools. We also have a responsibility to take care of our bodies and not trash them with excessive drink.


1 Samuel 1:13-14, NIV
13Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

It's pretty clear that they had fermented drinks far before Christ came.


And finally to answer your question, here is a verse just for you, straight from God.

1 Timothy 5:23, NIV
23Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

share|improve this answer
25  
I think that last verse from Timothy gives some important temporal context. Some 2000 years ago, pure water was not as ubiquitous as it is today, and illness from contaminated water was likely a far more frequent occurrence than it is in advanced societies today. Wine had the benefit of being less prone to contamination due to the alcohol, "more healthy" than water. –  jrista Aug 23 '11 at 21:15
6  
This is getting away from the original question but the point of mentioning 1 Timothy 5:23 was to show that drinking alcohol is not sinful in itself. To argue otherwise would be to argue that this command in 1 Timothy is sinful. –  Jeff Aug 26 '11 at 22:44
    
@jrista: I'm pretty sure that isn't the only reason for that direction, as I believe there are various studies showing that there are various health benefits to drinking (very) moderate amounts of wine/alcohol. Just my theory, anyway :) –  RCIX Aug 31 '11 at 2:17
    
@RCIX: Sure, there are definitely health benefits to drinking a glass of one every day or two...its loaded with antioxidants. Not that they would have really known that scientifically back then like we do today... I just wanted to point out that there was a fundamental health benefit to drinking fermented alcoholic drinks, given the far more limited ability to purify water 2000+ years ago. –  jrista Aug 31 '11 at 2:38
    
Good points. But, I'd swap in the verse from gmoothart's answer instead of your 2nd, which doesn't necessarily imply, in my opinion, that the "wine" was alcoholic; only that it wasn't water. –  svidgen Dec 18 '12 at 15:54

Back then they didn't have drug stores like we do today. 1st TIMOTHY SAID TO DRINK A LITTLE WINE FOR YOUR STOMACH's sake and your frequent infirmity, nowhere does it say social drinking.

Proverbs 20-1 KJV

wine is a mockery intoxicating drink arouses brawling and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Back in Noah's day once a year they would go to make sacrifices for their sins today; we go to Jesus for in asking for forgiveness of our sins, and then we turn away from them and not continue in them. Once you repent of that sin and you must make every effort to not continue in them.

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to Christianity SE. When you get a chance, check out our tour page and what makes us different. We're a Q&A site rather than discussion forum, and this doesn't really answer the question asked (though it could answer a question about social drinking - if we don't have one you can ask it then answer). –  Ryan Frame Jan 11 at 17:13

I've heard this debated for many years. Has no one here ever made wine? There is no such thing as unfermented wine, 'new' wine refers to wine that has only been fermented for a short period (about 6 weeks). Being grape growers and vinedressers for centuries, I'm pretty certain the people of Jesus' day were pretty expert winemakers. There are ways to make wine with lower alcohol content (witness todays white zinfandel) but natural fermentation peaks at about 14%, although it can be raised higher by fortifying with sugar.

I do love the Lord Jesus and worship Him forever as God and king. I am a dedicated Bible scholar and believe in the literal interpretation of the bible as the infallible word of God, however I believe this one counts as another one of those 'Christian Fables' that usually start with "well back in those days (fill in the blank).

share|improve this answer

All of you need to understand that the meaning of "wine" itself is very unclear.

Our modern day English Bible translations all stem from Greek translations, and the Greek word for "Wine" is basically any juice that comes from grapes. Therefore, it can be alcoholic, or not. The context of the word is important.

Ultimately, Proverbs tells us not to drink the wine once it ferments and becomes alcoholic. Go to a winery some day and ask the folks there what wine does when it ferments. It moves and changes color, just like Proverbs says.

Also, if any of you think that using an example of someone sinning means its somehow OK to do, you're way off. David had someone killed just so he could have sex with his beautiful wife. Does that mean the Bible preaches murder and adultery? No. The Bible does not promote getting drunk. All of the examples given on this page of people getting intoxicated are simply stories of sin.

Its very clear: The Bible does not want us to drink alcohol.

P.S. By the way folks, if you're having a party, and everyone is drunk from the wine the host provides (ie: not provided by Jesus), then you don't need to make more alcoholic wine. Its entirely possible that Jesus just made some high quality grape juice.

Reference: http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/hebrew-and-greek-words-translated-wine

share|improve this answer
    
I've removed your second post script as it's completely unnecessary and does not add to the answer here. To be quite honest, I'd like to see this give a bit more, you're saying that the translation is incorrect/wrong/misguided, but you're not proving it. You're source looks ok, why not use some quotes from it. A second source (possibly an independent one?) would be good as well. –  wax eagle Dec 18 '12 at 13:53
4  
Why does Paul say that elders are not to be given to "much" wine, then. Does he really intend to say that elders should limit their intake of grape juice? –  Narnian Dec 18 '12 at 15:12

Wine in the Bible may have had alcohol in it, as it was necessary to keep it from spoiling. Proverbs 23:31 does seem to distinguish that some wines had higher alcohol contents than others and it says to avoid that wine:

Proverbs 23:29-31 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 31Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

Also, in Isaiah 65:8, it mentions new wine being found in a cluster, which obviously is not fermented, so it clearly doesn't always have alcohol in it, at least.

Isaiah 65:8 Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.

share|improve this answer
    
Yup, back in the day they had no preservatives. –  leeand00 Aug 31 '11 at 4:36

A lot is made, by Christians opposed to the drinking of wine, of the idea that the same word in NT Greek might have been used to describe unfermented grape juice and alcoholic wine. While it gives an 'out' for the interpreters opposed to wine to interpret all the passages in favour of wine as meaning 'grape juice' while interpreting all the passage opposed to it as 'wine', the very idea actually indicates the insigificance of the problem. If it was really important in the early church that believers abstain from alcohol, the bible writers would certainly have made the distinction clear - otherwise they would be just opening themselves to misinterpretation.

share|improve this answer

Important Question

What purpose could the prohibition against drunkenness possibly have to a group of people who were unable to get drunk?

If the wine wasn't really wine, then how could they get drunk? Noah certainly got drunk and appears to have passed out from wine. This could be the result of wine fermenting faster in the post-flood environment than it did prior to that. Nonetheless, he certainly became drunk on wine.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Genesis 9:20-21

Additionally, there is proverb that prescribes wine and strong drink for those who are in misery. It seems to reach a level of absurity if you think grape juice will help people forget their misery.

Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

It seems that "dry" Christians as you call them are fearful that some people among them (in their church or even their children) will become alcoholics if they don't think any alcohol at all is absolutely sinful.

There is also an issue of "the weaker brother". If you're around a group of devout Christians who believe it's wrong to drink alcohol, it would certainly be wrong for you to do so in their midst and be a stumbling block to them.

Finally, there are those whose consciences bother them about things that aren't sin. Eating meat sacrificed to idols was the issue addressed by Paul. People who came out of idolatry had a genuine problem with that. For that reason, Paul was willing to honor them by his own personal choices, lest he make them stumble. Those who have come from backgrounds where alcohol was a vice often have similar reactions against alcohol. For such people, it is best to honor them and not be a stumbling block to them.

We live as free men--free from the law--yet it is wrong to exercise our freedom to the detriment of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

share|improve this answer
    
Excellent answer. –  Chris Cudmore Nov 10 '11 at 18:15

It is simply impossible to keep the juice from crushed grapes from fermenting without modern refrigeration and pasteurization techniques. So yes, the wine was alcoholic.

There is plenty of textual evidence as well, but this should do:

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! Luke 7:34, Darby

Hard to be accused of being a drunkard if the wine isn't alcoholic!

share|improve this answer
    
Great point (+1), boldly I say (to go along with your answer) that the wine Jesus was drinking had little alcohol and it was just to have some grape drink with his meal or w/e. I doubt he ever got any kind of buzz. The accusations were probably very extreme, as they were trying to find any reason to accuse Him. –  Shredder Feb 3 '12 at 1:57
    
@shredder according to John 6:10 the master of the wedding was shocked that It was "good wine" because it was well into the ceremony and the people were already pretty happy. This does not sound like something with hardly any alcohol. –  ecesurfer Jan 11 at 18:00
    
@ecesurfer Do you mean John 2:10? Where does it say the people were "already pretty happy"? The master tasted it and could tell it was "good wine", which by the way if it is like today is not defined by alcohol content, still it does not say here that Jesus drank any of that wine. –  Shredder Jan 13 at 16:19
    
Thanks I did mean John 2:10. And you would be hard-pressed to find a 'good wine' with 'little alcohol' especially so little to be compared with 'grape drink'. The reason the master seemed shocked is that in Jewish weddings of the time, the celebration would go on for days and if there was no more wine, logic dictates the people drank it all. I'd assume they were pretty happy by that point but that is an assumption. To assume though that Jesus was at the wedding and made the wine yet did not partake seems a bit silly to me. –  ecesurfer Jan 14 at 21:01

I have heard (but cannot at this time back up) that the wine of biblical times did have alcohol. However, the alcohol content was typically much lower than that of wine, liquor, or beer we have today. Stronger stuff was very hard to come by. This is part of what makes Jesus' first miracle so significant. This however, is not the main part of my answer: I just wanted to get that out of the way.

The important thing here is to understand what the bible does say about alcohol, and when you look there it comes down pretty hard, not against alcohol, but against drunkeness, especially in Proverbs. It should be noted, though, that the book of Proverbs is more about truisms than absolute doctrinal decrees. Still, it's more than just "don't be an alcoholic", but also, "don't ever drink to get drunk."

share|improve this answer

Jesus first miracle was to turn water into wine. The guest of the party responds to the host, saying that most people serve bad wine after the guests are drunk:

John 2:10 (NWT)

and said to him: “Every other man puts out the fine wine first, and when people are intoxicated, the inferior. You have reserved the fine wine until now.”

If we go further back in the bible, we see Noah getting drunk on wine directly after getting off the ark:

Genesis 9:20-21 (NWT)

20 Now Noah started off as a farmer and proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 And he began drinking of the wine and became intoxicated, and so he uncovered himself in the midst of his tent.

I don't know about you, but drinking a bunch of grape juice generally doesn't make me run around naked.

It's very safe to say that wine from back then would get you drunk. (And that's not even mentioning the multitude of verses telling you not to get drunk on wine!)

share|improve this answer

Wine (and alcoholic) beverages most certainly are in the Bible - in similar or identical forms to what we'd consider now (possibly excluding complex distillation).

I've recently started a study on the history of alcohol in the Bible, and have found nearly 200 references to the substances.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.