Many have tried to justify the consumption of beverage alcohol based upon the Gospel account of Jesus turning water into wine in the John 2:1-11. Let us begin to answer this question with the Biblical definition of the word wine. In the New Testament, “wine” is translated from the Greek word oinos. This is a generic term for the juice that comes specifically from grapes, either fermented or non-fermented. The entire context of where oinos is used will dictate whether fermented or non-fermented is meant. Just like our English word “cider,” which can be either “hard” (alcoholic) or just plain cider – non-alcoholic, it all depends on how it is used. The same principle is true of “wine” in the Old Testament. Please read the following passages and answer the questions for yourself. 1.) Isaiah 16:10 – What comes directly out of wine presses? Plain grape juice or fermented grape juice? 2.) Isaiah 65:8 – What is found inside a cluster of grapes? Fermented juice or unfermented? 3.) Deuteronomy 11:14 – What is “gathered in” when the grapes are harvested? Grape juice or alcoholic wine?
We have established the fact that the Biblical word “wine” can sometimes be used in a generic sense (either fermented or unfermented), but that still does not answer the question as to whether Jesus made an alcoholic beverage when He turned the water into wine in John Chapter Two. As was noted previously, in order to establish which use of the word applies in a certain passage, the entire context needs to be taken into account – not just the immediate context (same chapter / book), but the broader context must be accounted for. In the Biblical context in which Jesus lived and in which the Wedding Feast at Cana took place, it would be a sin for one who, like Jesus, is a Jew to consume alcohol or to give his neighbor alcohol. (Habakkuk 2:15-16).
We know that Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life – never transgressing a single, solitary commandment under the Law of Moses. 1 Peter 2:22 “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth…” Hebrews 4:15 “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin…” These inspired statements are false if Jesus provided alcohol to the guests of the wedding feast. Neither did Jesus sin here nor did He tempt others to sin. James 1:13 affirms that fact. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” Therefore, we can know assuredly that Jesus did not turn the water into alcohol.
Yet, some make the objection that the immediate context gives the impression that Jesus did provide alcoholic wine. They quote the “governor of the feast” in John 2:10, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now…” It is assumed by some that the phrase “well drunk” refers to the guests being inebriated. That assumption does not consider the possibility that “well drunk” refers to the quantity they had consumed rather than the effect (drunkenness) it had on them. They had apparently consumed enough grape juice that their sense of taste had become dulled. The “governor of the feast” was simply noting the unusual circumstances in which the host had brought out the good quality wine after all of the lesser quality wine had been consumed.