What Kind of Wine Did Jesus Drink?

Many have presumed as the lyrics go “Cause I heard Jesus, He drank wine” that Jesus drank alcoholic wine and even indulged in drinking intoxicating amounts of wine. What kind of wine did Jesus drink? By the reading of scripture in the original language, scholarship presents that Jesus did not drink or make wine like today’s distilled wine. How can this be? Most assume that the word “wine” in the Bible is always alcoholic or equivalent to modern wine. The Bible does clearly show that “wine” could mean alcoholic wine or non-alcoholic grape juice (1 Tim. 3:8, Titus 2:3). What kind of wine did Jesus drink?

Remember the Bible was originally written in other languages, so the meaning and nuances of words are slightly different. Biblical “wine” is grape juice that may or may not be fermented. Both in Hebrew and Greek, the words translated “wine” can refer to non-alcoholic juice or fermented wine. The Hebrew word is yayin, and the Greek is oinos. There are a number of examples of unfermented “wine”. Note the passages and references to non-alcoholic wine throughout the Bible:

  • The blood of the grape is called “wine” (Gen. 49:11-12, Heb. yayin, Deut. 32:14, Heb. chemer).
  • The vineyard is described to consist of “red wine” (Isa. 27:2, Heb. chemer).
  • The grape juice from the grapes of the field is called “wine” (Deut. 11:14, 2 Chron. 31:5, Heb. tirosh, Jer. 40:10, 12, Heb. yayin).
  • Wine is mentioned to be in the grape (Isa. 65:8, Heb. tirosh).
  • The grape juice of the wine-press is called “wine” too (Prov. 3:10, Heb. tirosh, Isa. 16:10, Jer. 48:33, Heb. yayin).

These references clearly show that “wine” can simply refer to grape juice. In reading the Old Testament, many would be surprised that there are 6 different Hebrew words that are translated “wine” for which two words, asis means “sweet grape juice” or “new grape juice” while another word, hemer, simply means “grape juice”. Both words have no reference to alcohol and yet these words are translated “wine”. Therefore, be careful not to assume that the word “wine” means alcoholic wine. [1] [2]

With an honest heart, may God’s grace encourage all believers to reconsider biblical wine. With the previous knowledge, a study of the Scriptures reveal that there is not one positive statement about intoxicating wine or any such drink throughout the Bible. There are positive words about non-alcoholic “wine”, which many people presume to encourage the use of intoxicating wine. Yet, these positive passages of grape juice do not necessitate a reference to alcohol in any way (Gen. 14:18, Num. 15:5-10, Deut. 14:26, Psa. 104:15, Isa. 55:1, Amos 9:14, John 2:1-11, 1 Tim. 5:23).

There are many today professing a faith in Jesus, who look to His drinking of wine to support their excessive drinking. By the grace of God, Christians have been saved from excessive drinking (1 Pet. 4:3). Therefore, be very careful. Jesus’ drinking of wine is presumed to be drinking alcoholic wine according to the occurrence of the word “wine”, Again, grape juice is either alcoholic or nonalcoholic wine throughout the Bible depending on the context. Jesus never drunk distilled wine. Distilling wine had not yet been invented. Actually, Jesus was accused of being a “wine-drinker” from the Greek oinopoteis, because He came freely eating and drinking grape juice unlike John the Baptist, who restricted his eating and drinking (Matt. 11:18-19, Luke 7:33-34). Yet, when we consider the wedding that Jesus attended in Cana, Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, and Jesus’ life, then Jesus’ drinking of wine is not what many think.

What about Jesus turning water to wine? Many are mistaken to think that
Jesus turned water into intoxicating wine at the wedding in Cana, a small town in Galilee (John 2). One would have to assume this “wine”, oinos, was alcoholic when oinos generally means grape juice referring to either alcoholic or non-alcoholic wine. The Scripture infers that the wedding guests “have well drunk” a large amount of oinos, which the Greek word translated “well drunk” is methuo, which literally means filled. This word means drunk for drinking intoxicating wine and filled with nonalcoholic wine (Thayer’s Lexicon).

Consider the whole wedding and assume that Jesus intentionally made fermented wine consisting of about 10% alcohol. If the wine was alcoholic and these had become drunk, then this wedding feast would have been in a short amount of time although wedding feasts usually last a day and sometimes more (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah). Supposing intoxicating wine, Jesus would have made more intoxicating wine amounting to between 120 to 180 gallons of “the good wine”. If there were 300 people there to drink an additional 150 gallons, these would have already each had much alcoholic wine considering that “the guests have well drunk”. Jesus would have given each guest an additional 64 ounces of alcoholic wine. The average person would have drunk an additional 4-6 drinks of alcoholic wine. This wedding party of 300 would have been poisoned from the toxin of ethyl alcohol, and the guests would had been vomiting and passing out. Then, let us consider a wedding party of 1,000 guests. If 1,000 people drank of 150 gallons of fermented wine that Jesus supposedly made, then the average amount of wine consumed by each person would have been 19.2 ounces of wine in addition to having well drunk. Presuming that this wine contained 10% alcohol, Jesus would have aided 1,000 people in binge drinking having intoxicated the guests with 3 additional drinks after already “have well drunk”. For each guest to have had simply 2 drinks, then the wedding would have had at least 2,400 attendees. Yet, everyone of these would have still felt the intoxicating effects of alcoholic wine.

If Jesus did make a great amount of fermented wine, He would had aided the sin of drunkenness, excessive drinking, and a drinking party, which are all condemned as sins by Christ and His Spirit. If Jesus made intoxicating wine, Jesus would have turned this wedding into be a drinking party, when His Spirit teaches against drinking parties in 1 Peter 4:3. To assume that Jesus made intoxicating wine is to assume that after everyone had drunk all the other intoxicating wine, then they needed more of the better intoxicating wine and Jesus was the man to do it. For those proposing that Jesus made highly intoxicating wine like today’s wine, 16-24 oz. of today’s distilled wine would intoxicate anyone at an alcoholic level of 12-15% according to the CDC. Such intoxicating wine would have been an absurdity at this wedding as much as simply fermented wine. Jesus could not have made intoxicating wine at the wedding feast in Cana.

In the Bible, alcoholic wine was limited in content and is not like wine today. The sugar of grape juice can only ferment to 3% alcohol. For grape juice to exceed 3% alcohol, then yeast must be added. The yeast added to ancient wines produced between 4-10% alcohol. Alcohol kills yeast cells and prevents levels of alcohol from exceeding 10%. Today, wines average 12-15% alcohol due to distilling that was invented centuries after the Bible was completed (UC Davis, International Biblical Encyclopedia, “Bible Study Guide“, “Alcohol in the Church“, Bible Wine, Winemaker Magazine). Today’s wine is not Biblical wine in regards to alcoholic content. Due to distilling, strong drinks like liquor exceed 20% alcohol. When we read the word “wine” in the Bible, it may be simply grape juice or intoxicating wine never exceeding 10%, but certainly not like wine today.

The misuse of the word “wine” has become the means for many to presume that the excessive drinking of  alcohol to some level of intoxication is permissible behavior with God. By the word “wine”, many try to justify the sins of drunkenness and excessive drinking. The Bible warns about the temptations of wine. Solomon wrote by the wisdom of God,

“Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things” (Proverb 23:31-33).

Therefore, “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). The Scriptures are clear about drinking intoxicating drinks. There is not one positive statement about alcohol in the Bible.

The New Testament clearly teaches that Christians are not to walk in drunkenness filling themselves with alcohol. The Greek word translated drunkenness literally means “filling oneself” (Eph. 5:18-19, cf. Rom. 13:13). Christ’s Spirit in Galatians 5:19-21 teaches that such “drunkenness” is a “work of the flesh” and “those who are doing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Christ also reveals in 1 Corinthians 6:10 that drunkards “will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Drunkenness and filling one’s body with intoxicants is a sin. Filling oneself with alcohol is evil being harmful to the sobriety of the Christian conscience embedding in one’s heart (1 John 3:19-21).

Christ’s words and those of His Apostles and prophets urge us to reconsider. First Peter 4:3 says,

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Nations want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness [lit. excessive drinking], orgies, drinking parties [lit. drinkings], and lawless idolatry.”

The word for “drunkenness” here is not the usually word for drunkenness in Greek, but it is oinophlugia made of two words oinos meaning wine and phlugia is to do something in excess. Excessive drinking is a sin. Again, do not overlook the reference here to drinking parties. This is the word potos, which denotes occasions for drinking. This is any occasion where excessive drinking is permitted. This would include more than bars and drinking parties such as out-of-control athletic events and wild house parties turned into occasions of drinking. Christians being followers of Christ must be sober and make no provision to be drunk on any level (1 Thess. 5:8). Christians cannot be a part of events meeting and centered around drinking. Christ had no part with drunkenness and drinking parties, so His followers must not.

Did Jesus use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper? Many have justified excessive drinking and drunkenness by how many churches have made alcoholic wine a part of the “Eucharist”, the Lord’s Supper. Did Jesus use highly alcoholic wine when He instituted the Lord’s Supper? No, He did not even use the word “wine”. See, alcoholic wine has no reference in Scripture to the Lord’s Supper. The Greek word for “wine” is never used in Scripture to describe any part of the Lord’s Supper. People have again presumed that Jesus used alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper for their own purposes. Jesus mentioned the specific content of the cup containing “the fruit of the grapevine”. On top of all of this, Jesus used unleavened bread because it was the time of the Passover when all leaven was thrown out. It is absurd to think that God meant that Israel throw out the yeast, the bread with yeast, but leave the grape juice fermented by leaven (Exo. 13:6-7). Throwing out the yeast included that all of Israel threw out leavened grape juice, which is intoxicating wine. Since “fruit of the grapevine” was unleavened in the Lord’s Supper, then the only possible fermentation would be between 0-3%. If one assumed this to be alcoholic wine, then the highest level of alcohol could only reach 3%. When Jesus used “the fruit of the grapevine”, then this cup would have been nonalcoholic or never exceeded 3% alcohol. The intent of the cup of the Lord was not to intoxicate.

The wine that Jesus drank cannot be assumed to be intoxicating or any more than grape juice with no more than 3% alcohol. Jesus neither encouraged drunkenness nor is He recorded to have used intoxicating wine. Many need to reconsider their position on drinking alcohol based upon Jesus. If anyone has been using Jesus to justify excessive drinking, drunkenness, and drinking events, then let that person hear this plea to rethink their views according to the words and life of Christ. The reality is that the Bible does not support the drinking of intoxicants. By God’s grace, Christians are forgiven to no longer continue doing what they have been forgiven for doing.


Of Wine and Wineskins

Wine in the Lord’s Supper?

Is Drinking a Sin in the Bible?

Reconsider Being Biblically Drunk

About Scott Shifferd Jr.

Minister, Dean Road church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Christ, Church of Christ and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

313 Responses to What Kind of Wine Did Jesus Drink?

  1. Dunamis,

    why is disagreeing with someone and stating why intelligently called “attacking?”

    I have studied this issue inside out and backwards and I can honestly say it seems clear the wine was alcoholic. Drinking of wine in the bible is never condemned, but drunkenness is, just in like manner that sex is never forbidden, only when outside the parameters God has set, as in adultery. One cogent example in the NT concerning wine is when Paul tells Timothy to take some for his stomach. There is no reason to believe grape juice was what he was referring to. If you study you will find it has no medicinal effects for a sour stomach, in fact it might even make one worse, HOWEVER, it is widely known historically that alcoholic wine was considered to have had medicinal effects in ancient times, like during the time of the apostles. What reasonable conclusion can we derive then? It seems obvious. Again, Paul didn’t say elders should not drink, he said they should not be “given to too much wine.” If this was such a clear case that you and the teetotalers advocate we could expect Paul to have said, “No drinking.” but he didn’t.

    What is clear to me is that people are basing their understanding based upon the bias of tradition, of this county, their denomination or otherwise. Let’s let scripture decide the truth rather than what we have been taught by those with traditions at stake. Study the issue honestly and see what the word has to say.

    • I very much agree with your conclusion, and I can accept fellowship with despite minor disagreements in the body of your comment.

      The questions to be faced are: Is all biblical wine alcoholic? If not, how can we tell the difference?

      • Well, first we have to look at the original language and then the context. The word used here, “oinos” was the normal word Greeks would have used to mean alcoholic wine. In this context it was a wedding feast. and at a normal Jewish wedding, the custom of the time would have consisted of using fermented wine. And the text gives us no reason to believe otherwise, in fact, it gives us other clues that support it being alcoholic, “you saved the best for last.” They saved the best grape juice for last at a 7 day wedding feast? The people of those times were grape juice conissuers? no, that makes no sense logically, historically or otherwise.

        Here’s a link that further explains it: http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-water-wine.html

        • Anita says:

          Remember Jesus is Holy, His mother is pure, the wine He made was amazingly good. This wine was different from ordinary man made wine. Jesus’s wine was a miracle. Do you think Jesus would make wine that would get the guest ugly drunk? Drunks would have ruined the reception. The wine probably gave the guest joy (being a gift from Jesus), but did not let them get drunk. That is what I think.

          • No offense, but it doesn’t really matter what you think. the bible is not about what we think and then can inject into the text. Jesus fed 5000 people with fish and loaves so much that there was food left over, yet gluttony is a sin. How is that any different? Or when Jesus told Peter to get a sword then admonished him for using it exactly as it was designed to be used? We live in a world where we are free to make choices. People could drink the wine and get drunk, or enjoy it responsibly. That’s how God’s creation operates.

          • Anita says:

            Free Will. Right?

      • Anita says:

        We are all good Christians who believe and love JESUS!!! Amen.
        Let us not argue about wine or grape juice. All Christians around the World must join together in prayer, know truth, obey the Ten Commandments and HOLY LOVE! Christians are being killed and persecuted by ISIS in other countries. Our government laws are against God’s commandments. Our leaders are weak, without God. We must vote for life in the next election or lose our freedoms. The HOLY ROSARY is our greatest weapon against evil! The miracles from praying the HOLY ROSARY are true. We are in a great spiritual battle between good and evil. Lets fight the GOOD fight, together!

  2. chechipapwiche says:

    Read Luke 7:31-35

  3. What did Paul mean a *little wine for stomach’s sake (1 Ti 5.23)? Why only a little then and why with water?

    • There are a lot of various suppositions about this. I suggest you read the usual commentaries. You might be surprised by what you read, as most seem to hint that drinking wine was not a sin but the focus is on temperance, not on aceticism or total abstinence. Most commentators seem to feel that Timothy took his place as a minister of the gospel very seriously and was careful not to fall into any impropriety. And I suggest we look at this whole issue similarly, not trying to focus on and mince out what is an isn’t sin, but instead on what glorifies God. We know drunkeness doesn’t. But clearly drinking wine is not a sin, either.

      http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/5-23.htm

  4. Josh says:

    I appreciate the read. I was taught and convinced growing up that it was a sin for a Christian to drink alcohol. As I have matured I have begun to question that teaching. I’m not a language scholar but spent some time looking up the Greek words for wine in Luke 7:33-34 referring to John not drinking wine but Jesus doing so and John chapter 2 referring to the wedding. It seems clear that Jesus made and drank “wine” of some type in these passages. Using my concordance it appears the Greek word is oinos or wine with a reference back to the Hebrew word yayin, that means wine (fermented). Incidentally (or not) this is the same word is used for the wine that Noah and Lot got drunk on. It goes against what I have believed but the words seem to demonstrate that the Lord both made for others and drank himself a fermented wine. I have heard strained explanations of how wine doesn’t really mean wine (fermented) but am I missing something from the translation of these specific words?
    Thanks,
    Josh

    • Anita says:

      Sorry to change the subject about wine, but urgent PRAYER is needed now, for the poor Christians being persecuted and martyred over seas. Please pray to STOP abortion. Lets all fight the good fight. Thanks

  5. niki says:

    Just because Jesus made good wine that contained alcohol, it doesn’t mean that everyone finished what was in the barrels. Look at the story of the fish , bread and leftovers. Point wasn’t to encourage gluttony, but rather to show His power and ability to multiply. So the author’s pointing that out wasn’t the greatest example.

  6. Rudy Schellekens says:

    25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose:
    26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
    27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
    28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
    29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

    From Deuteronomy 14. I picked the KJV for no specific reason, other than many people believe it is the only “right” version. But is says the same thing the NIV, ASV, RSV, NASV, NKJV etc. say. The reference to “strong drink” makes it clear that Jews are directed (or allowed) by God to drink “strong” or “fermented” drink. God forbids drunkenness – for obvious reasons (Noah, Lot).
    But to argue that God is against the use of fermented (i.e. alcoholic) is not what this particular passage supports.

  7. Rudy Schellekens says:

    What surprises me, is that this passage is overlooked in most studies on the subject of whether or not God’s children can drink fermented drinks.
    Of course, another case is found in the Nazorite vows – abstain from strong drink. If I am expected to abstain because of a particular vow, that means that those who are not under this vow have no such restriction.
    From a logical perspective, when there is a command against drunkenness, I cannot come to any other conclusion than: The use of fermented liquids is indeed allowed – as long as I am not drunk.
    And yes, I understand the “safety” argument, but that is not a Biblical argument!

    • The safety argument comes from Romans 14:23 applied to context 14:14-23 that references wine, oinos.

      I remember studying Deuteronomy 14:26, but I do not remember my conclusion. Still, there is no positive reference to strong drink. We could ask further about the purposes of this strong drink. These were often alcoholic mixed with other substances. Was this medicinal?

      • Rudy Schellekens says:

        My preferred position is: What does the text say? A question I would ask is, “Does it conflict with any other text on the same subject?” Since there is no further information about the question you asked re. medicinal, and since there is no conflict with any other passage on the same subject, it stands as it is.

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