Did Jesus turn water into alcoholic wine?
Published 9:24 am Friday, December 15, 2017
By TONY HOSS
Q: Did Jesus turn water into alcoholic wine and if He did, then why did He turn water into wine?
A: We cannot properly assume that the word wine in John 2:1-11 refers to an alcoholic beverage without appropriate study of the context and understanding the use of the word (wine) in that period and knowing the customs of the day. Doing so disregards the greater context of scripture and does a great injustice to the possible lessons taught therein. While it is true that sometimes the word wine refers to intoxication beverages in the scriptures, it is also true that the same word can refer to the unfermented juice of the grapes. Consider the following examples from the scriptures. Concerning alcoholic wine Isaiah wrote, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” (Isaiah 5:11). Now concerning the fresh squeezed juice of the grapes Solomon wrote, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
It is easy to understand that what initially comes out of the winepress is not an alcoholic beverage. What comes out of the winepress is grape juice, which must then be processed and fermented to make alcohol. But the Bible describes this fresh juice of the grape as “new wine.” We see this concept in Matthew 9:17 where Matthew wrote, “Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” We should understand that the idea of “new wine” in Matthew is the unfermented type because the process of putting it into bottles is what causes the fermentation and the subsequent stretching of the wineskin. Therefore, wine in the two previous verses must refer to the non-alcoholic beverage.
How can we know whether or not Jesus made alcohol in John 2? Because the word wine could be used to describe a non-alcoholic beverage does not necessarily establish the facts of the case. Without further consideration of the facts we could assume that what Jesus made was alcoholic. But there are other thoughts we must consider determining whether Jesus produced alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink. From the immediate context we notice what the governor of the feast said concerning the quality of the wine. He said 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.” This man, after having “well drunk” of the previous wine was still able to discern the difference between the wine that had formerly been served and the wine that Jesus created. If the wine were alcoholic, then he would not be able to discern the difference at all. Initially alcohol impairs our ability to make proper judgments. But after the ruler of the feast had well drunk he was still able to discern good and bad wine. The indication is that the wine in consideration was nonalcoholic.
We must also consider the context of the entire scriptures. The Bible makes it clear that use of alcohol as a social drink is opposed to the character to Deity. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” The obvious question is whether Jesus (Deity) would violate His own conscience. Obviously, He cannot do so and still possess the quality of God.
In Habakkuk 2:15 we read, “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!” Jesus knew better than anyone the teaching and the context of the Old Testament. We must ask ourselves in an honest and sincere way, “Would Jesus knowingly violate those scriptures to satisfy the festive spirit of His fellow man? If we are honest with ourselves, we know that Jesus could not do something that the Holy Spirit himself had pronounced as a woe. The fact is that Jesus could not cause someone to be drunk with wine and remain sinless. To do such a thing would be inconsistent with Jesus’ purpose on Earth. His purpose is to prevent men from sin not lead them to the point where they will sin. To say Jesus produced alcoholic wine is problematic to those who believe such. It is more consistent to advocate the obvious, Jesus did not produce alcoholic wine but rather non-alcoholic wine.
So much more could be said concerning this passage, but space limits our study. However, enough evidence has been given to establish that Jesus did not produce alcoholic wine for human social consumption.
Tony Hoss is minister of Centerview Church of Christ. To submit a question or for information or study, contact him at 423-737-2287 or CenterviewCOC@comcast.net.