The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in all measures of sin and passed every test. So, what’s the story on providing “wine” at the wedding at Cana and drinking “wine” at the Last Supper?
Christians consume fermented wine at meals believing it is satisfactory to do so because, after all….didn’t Jesus drink wine too? As long as you don’t do it to excess it should be ok, right?
Is there any such thing as a little sin? The Bible clearly states that drinking fermented drink or even providing fermented drink to another person breaks an ordinance of God.
A closer examination of the scriptures is necessary to actually see what the Bible reports; let’s start at the wedding feast at Cana where Jesus produced His first recorded miracle in the gospels, changing water into “wine”.http://www.learnthebible.org/Default.htm
At the wedding feast the guests drank up all the “wine” and those in charge went to Jesus to see what He could do about it. Jesus complied with their request and provided six firkins, or about 150 gallons, of “wine” by miraculously turning kegs of water to “wine”. Two problems immediately come to bear:
#1: Would Jesus provide alcoholic wine to guests that had already plenty to drink, or “well drunken”, as the King James Version reports, thus be guilty of gluttony, excess and providing “wine” to guests that already had a healthy buzz working?
#2: Would Jesus provide fermented wine thus breaking an Old Testament law, ie: Habakkuk 2:15-Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy battle to him, and maketh him drunken…”?
One critical issue is “wine” in the Old Testament is translated from three Hebrew words: YAYIN-intoxicating fermented wine, Genesis 9:21, TIROSH-fresh grape juice; Proverbs 3:10, and SHAKAR-intoxicating intensely alcoholic strong drink(often referred to other intoxicants other than wine), Numbers 28:7
In the Greek translation of the New Testament, “wine” is used for both fermented and unfermented drink ie: OINOS-general-Matthew 9:17-unfermented drink, Ephesians 5:18-fermented, and GLEUKOS-a sweet wine/fresh juice-Acts 2:13
To settle this dilemma, you first need a firm understanding of the fermentation process and understand a bit of the culture in Jesus’ time.
To make strong alcoholic wine of today (10%-15%), you must add a lot of sugar and yeast to boost the alcoholic content to the wine levels of today. You also need constant temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees to successfully ferment the wine.
Chemical science forbids vinous fermentation when heat exceeds 75 degrees because the juice will assume acetous vinegar status. Since the Middle East is well above 75 degrees even at night, something had to be done to preserve the juice or it would all turn to vinegar.
The alcoholic content of “wine” was much weaker during biblical times and was often watered down even more for consumption for adults and children. Also, boiling the “juice” down killed the yeast thus eliminating any fermentation. The juice that was boiled down produced a tasty syrup for preservation and could be reconstituted later for drinking purposes.
Contrary to belief, fermented wine does not happen all by itself and must be carefully engineered to finish the fermentation process. The vast majority of the juice in Jesus’ time was consumed as a tasty drink not unlike the grape beverages of today. Additionally, fermented wine was a rarity since the resources needed for fermentation were unavailable to most grape producers.
Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” If Jesus observed the law, particularly when the law restricted the priests that took the Nazarite vow to not consume alcoholic drink, then no way could Jesus involve Himself with fermented drink. It would be inconsistent for the Bible to speak against alcoholic wine, then have Jesus ignore it.
Consequently, if the guests of Cana were “well drunken” on alcoholic wine and Jesus provided 150 more gallons, then Jesus would be in violation of the law and guilty for causing others to sin by excess.
However, if the guests had “well drunk” enough of the watered down grape juice, and Jesus provided 150 gallons of a rich undiluted grape juice, then it would make more sense because of the superior quality of the grape juice compared to the watered down version.
Now, what Jesus do you think makes more sense?