Jesus drank real wine? If you have been following me for long; you know that I, with the help of Jonathan R. Walton, have been answering kids’ questions about the Bible. Not only is it important to discuss any questions your children may have about the Bible, but it is also important to know the truth and answer them with the truth. One day after church, Hannah came to me and said: “Mommy, Jesus drank beer!” As you probably already know; Hannah does not hold back LOL To her beer and wine are the same. In her mind; this made Jesus a party animal. I scrambled to give her a quick answer then went in search of a deeper answer that is honest. I never want to sugar coat the truth with my children. It is important, when addressing biblical truths to be completely honest; this keeps our children from confusing Bible truths with the fairy tales of the world. Here is what I found:
A minister’s perspective ~ Jonathan R. Walton
From a minister’s perspective, this question is a slippery slope, because answering it from either perspective must be done with some assumption. The Bible does not clearly state if the wine Jesus drank at the Last Supper was “real” wine or grape juice. It doesn’t clearly state whether or not His first miracle was turning water into “real” wine or grape juice. Most of the time, people who want to drink say that in both cases it was real wine, and people who don’t support drinking in any form claim that it would not have been possible for Jesus to condone drinking, so it was definitely only grape juice in both cases. However, neither point can be validated with one hundred percent accuracy.
So with that thought in mind, let me make a couple of statements that are definitely true. First, even if it was “real” wine instead of grape juice, it could not have been real wine like we know it today. The distillation process was not invented until centuries past Jesus’ time period. Grapes could be fermented, but even fermented grapes were much weaker than today’s wines are. With that said, the Bible does indicate that those “weaker” wines were still capable of intoxicating people if they consumed extremely large quantities (see Lot and Noah).
Secondly, the Greek Word used for the “wine” that Jesus made from water is oinos. That word almost always referred to “real” wine (keep in mind, less poignant than today’s wine). However, it did usually refer to fermented wine. It is the same word used in Ephesians 5 when Paul instructed the believers to “be not drunk with oinos (wine) wherein is excess. That wine had to be fermented in order for the possibility of becoming drunk off of it to exist. Added to this is the fact that Jewish culture demanded “real” wine to be present at large celebrations. If it was not present, the people holding the event were dishonored. So in all likelihood, the water was turned into “real” wine at the wedding. However, there is no indication that Jesus partook of the celebration or drank the wine Himself. So to answer did Jesus drink the wine would be presumptuous to answer either way, and the truth is people will answer it according to the view they are trying to defend. Is it preposterous to think Jesus created something that He did not use, I don’t think so. Many of God’s creations are abused by men, made into something for which they were never intended. So to state that He had to drink it just because He made it is not accurate. It is also interesting to note that He did not want to perform this miracle in the first place. The only reason He did so was the persistence of His mother.
Next, did Jesus use “real” wine at the Last Supper, when He did actually drink and commanded the disciples to do so? That answer seems more clear, although one could argue that it is still not definitive. So, I will present the facts. Fact one, this event by Jesus was held at the time of the Passover, which according to Jewish law meant that no leaven could be used. The bread was “unleavened bread,” or bread made without yeast. Yeast was prohibited during the time of these festivities commemorating the night God delivered the Jews from Egypt by killing the firstborn. Yeast is an important part of fermentation, the making of “real” wine. This strongly suggests that the liquid in the cups was actually grape juice. To partake of bread without leaven but drink with leaven would not make sense. Also, all gospel accounts of this event record the same wording of Jesus. He did not use the popular term oikos, which means the “real” wine. Jesus clearly referred to it as the “fruit of the vine,” which is more closely translated as common grape juice. Add to this the fact that Jesus had come to fulfill the priesthood of the Old Testament, becoming the HIGH PRIEST for us all, it is very unlikely that Jesus drank “real” wine, as priests were commanded to abstain from wine by law.
So, if wine was a part of the culture in Jesus’ day, why do many churches forbid it? And what does the Bible really have to say on the matter?
The Bible takes a strong stance on drunkenness, excessive drinking. One cannot accurately conclude that Jewish believers did not drink at all. This seems absurd, given the fact that in several of Paul’s writings to various churches, he strongly admonished them on the subject of excessive drinking.
Galatians 5:19-21 goes so far as to suggest that those who celebrate with drunkenness will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Ephesians 5:18 says to be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but to be filled with the Spirit (suggesting that it’s either one way or the other). Romans 13:13 gives the same admonition, commanding believers to not walk in drunkenness. I Corinthians 6:10 also states that those who participate in drunkenness cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
Many churches forbid drinking as a safety net to protect their members from crossing the line. Wisdom suggests that one not drink strong alcohol because it (can) lead to places that the Bible does clearly state are sinful. People try to justify their drunken habits and “party” lifestyles by suggesting that the Bible supports such activities, but they are sadly mistaken. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, takes a strong stance against the “party” lifestyle. I Peter 4:3 makes it clear that the Bible does not condone establishments or parties where people get together for the purpose of intoxication. Those who live that sort of lifestyle while justifying their actions with a few misguided Bible verses are sadly mistaken. However, on the other side of the coin, one cannot accurately state from a Biblical perspective that any form of social drinking (in moderation) is a sin. Some Christian faiths find that acceptable, while others have chosen to take a stance further back in attempts to protect their members from slipping over the line.
Wisdom would say that whatever your pastor or church authority figure teaches in your local congregation, submit yourself to his teaching on the subject and God will bless you for it.
Until next time, God bless,
Jonathan R Walton
Galatians 5:19-21, I Peter 4:3, I Corinthians 6:10, Romans 13:13, Ephesians 5:18
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