In John 2:1 – 11 we have the account of the wedding feast at Cana. Here Christ performed His first miracle by turning water into wine (oinos). The question is, “Did Christ make fermented or unfermented oinos?”
I. JESUS MADE OINOS AT CANA
In John 2:6 – 11, the guests at the wedding feast had already “well drunk” (verse 10), when Jesus' mother told Him the supply of wine was gone.
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the
Jews, containing two or three firkins (20 or 30 gallons) apiece. Jesus saith unto them,
Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And He saith unto
them, Draw some out now, and bear it unto the governor of the feast.And they
bore it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine (oinos),
and knew not from where it was (but the servants who drew the water knew),
the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at
the beginning doth set forth good wine (oinos) and, when men have well drunk,
then that which is worse;but thou has kept the good (kalos) wine (oinos) until now.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana, of Galilee, and manifested forth his
glory; and His disciples believed on Him.
This particular miracle is used more than any other event in the Bible to teach the doctrine that the Lord, God Himself, promotes the drinking of alcoholic beverages. The argument is that Jesus made between 120 and 180 gallons of high quality fermented wine for the wedding party. His actions, it is argued, clearly show His approval of intoxicating drink.
Christians who agree that Jesus made alcoholic wine for the wedding guests usually add, of course, something that is not anywhere in the Bible—that Christ’s approval of alcohol means limiting the amount drunk. God approves drinking, they say, that is “moderate” drinking. Since moderation is nowhere defined in the Bible what Bible guideline do they find that shows us what moderate drinking is? The drinking Christians say the only alcohol drinking God condemns is drunkenness. Therefore, according to their reasoning, moderation for each drinker must stop short of being drunk.
II. FIVE MAJOR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE CANA WEDDING
Dr. Bacchiocchi tells us that the belief that Jesus made alcoholic wine is based on five major assumptions. (Assumption means to take something for granted without real proof.) They are:
a) the word oinos means only intoxicating drink.
b) both the wine that the guests drank first and the wine Jesus made were called oinos,
so both were intoxicating.
c) the Jews did not know how to keep grape juice from fermenting. The wedding took
place six months after the harvest so the wine must have fermented.
d) when the master of the feast said that the wine Jesus made was the good wine, he
meant high quality intoxicating wine.
e) the master of the feast said it was the custom to bring out poor wine after the guests
had well drunk. Well drunk means drunk, or intoxicated. 1
When we study the Bible we soon see that none of these assumptions are true. In fact, taking Scripture as a whole, and historical writings with it, we have to conclude that Jesus made grape juice.
The First Assumption: The Meaning of Oinos
This assumption was discussed at length in Lessons 1 and 2.
It is a common belief of many Christians today, pastors included, that oinos is always intoxicating wine. But we have read quotes from both pagan and Christian writers of Bible times who used oinos to mean either fermented or unfermented wine. The men who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek wrote the word oinos in place of the Hebrew tirosh 33 times. Tirosh always means fresh juice.
History proves that oinos was often grape juice. But more important than history is what the Bible teaches about the character of Jesus Christ. He is God, and God’s warnings against alcohol make it is contrary to Scripture to think that He produced 160 gallons of intoxicating wine. The Scripture says intoxicating wine is a mocker, bites like a serpent, stings like an adder, is the poison of dragons, the cruel venom of asps, and is the emblem of the wrath of Almighty God.2
The person who assumes that oinos is only fermented wine has not made a careful study of the meaning of this word.
The Second Assumption: All the Wine The Guests Drank Was Alcoholic
The guests had “well drunk” by the time Jesus made a drink for them. Those who believe all oinos is always intoxicating naturally assume that both the wine the guests drank first and the wine Jesus made later were alcoholic. This assumption leads to another assumption (discussed under assumption five): that the “well drunk” wedding guests were actually all drunk.
When all the facts are studied there is no reason to believe either the first or the second wine was intoxicating. But the Bible does say something was different about the oinos or juice Jesus made. It was called the “good” wine. The word “good” is not the usual Greek word for good, agathos. It is kalos or “that which is morally excellent or befitting.”3
The Third Assumption: The Ancients Couldn't Preserve Grape Juice
Almost everyone has heard this common argument, “People ofBible times could not keep the grape juice sweet so it naturally fermented to wine.” We know from our lessons on preserving juice in Book One that the people of both Old Testament and New Testament days could keep juice sweet for much longer than six months. The Bible says fresh juice was stored and kept sweet for the daily sacrifices all through the year. Some of the sweet juice was preserved for years.
The Fourth Assumption: The “Good Wine” Was High Quality Alcoholic Wine
If anyone hears the words “good wine” today, the programming he has received from advertising, books and movies kicks in. He naturally thinks of aged wine high in alcoholic content. This was not the thinking of people in Bible times.
Albert Barnes, a well-known New Testament scholar, 1875, warns us not to be deceived in John 2:10 by the words, “good wine.” Why? Because, he says, we use the phrase “good wine” to mean a stronger more intoxicating wine. “But no such sense is to be attached to the word here.”4
The Testimony of Ancient and Modern Historians and Scholars
Pliny said that wine was most beneficial when its power or yeast had been removed by the strainer (filter). Plutarch agreed that wine was more pleasant to drink if it “neither inflames the brain nor infests the mind or passions” because its strength (fermenting yeast) has been removed by frequent filtering.5 Barnes writes,
Pliny, Plutarch and Horace describe wine as good, or mention as the best wine that
which was harmless or innocent . . . .The most useful wine . . . was that which had little
strength; and the most wholesome wine... was that which had not been adulterated by
“the addition of anything to the must or juice.”Pliny expressly says that a “good wine”
was one that was destitute of spirit . . . .It should not be assumed, therefore, that the
good wine was stronger . . . .It is rather to be presumed that it was milder. That would
be the best wine certainly. The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was
commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. The common wine
drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape.6
Dr. Henry Morris in The Bible Has the Answer, 1971, page 163, explains why the wine Jesus made was good, high quality wine. It was not because of the amount of alcohol in the wine, but because it was new wine, freshly created. Nothing in it was decaying or breaking down the sugars.
The Testimony of Ancient and Modern Rabbis
In Lesson 2 we learned that Jewish Rabbis who study the Talmud disagree on the wine question. Remember that the Talmud is a collection of Jewish civil and religious law writings compiled in A.D. 200.
Rabbi Isidore Koplowitz, 1923, writes that some Talmudic doctors sanctioned the use
of alcoholic wine. But many Talmudic Rabbins condemned alcoholic drinks. A number of
them claimed that alcoholic drink caused Israel's downfall. One saying the Rabbis often
repeated was, “When wine enters into the system of a person, out goes sense, wherever
there is wine there is no understanding.” Rabbi Koplowitz concluded from his research of
the Talmud that neither Moses, the Prophets in Israel or the Men of the Great Synod
ever commanded the Jews to drink wine or any other intoxicating liquor at any religious
function whatever. The custom of using alcoholic wine he says, “is but a Rabbinic
Because they saw the harmful effects of alcohol, some rabbis especially told the people to use boiled wine. The Mishnah says that Rabbi Yehuda, A.D. 200, “permits boiled wine as a heave offering because it improves its quality.” This boiled wine, or boiled down grape juice, says Kitto in Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, was esteemed (by the Jews) as the richest and best wine.8
The Talmud also indicates that drinking to the accompaniment of musical instruments in feasts such as a wedding was forbidden.9 Dr. Bacchiocchi, after carefully studying the writings of the rabbis, comes to this conclusion:
. . . the wine provided by Christ was described as “the good wine” because it was
The Teaching of the Bible
The research from sources outside the Bible does not carry the weight of the Bible itself. The Bible says Jesus is the sinless Son of God. Because Jesus is sinless, the good wine He made has to be grape juice. If the wine He made had been alcoholic, He would be morally responsible for tempting people to become intoxicated. Jesus Christ then would not be sinless, or wise or obedient to the Scriptures.
In Archeology and Bible History, 1950, page 355, Joseph P. Free said that the large amount of wine Jesus made proves either that God allows excessive alcoholic drinking, or that the oinos was grape juice.
In the light of the whole Old Testament condemnation of wine, it certainly would appear
that the beverage is grape juice.
It is against Scripture to believe that Christ, the Creator of good things woulduse His
supernatural energy to make an intoxicating wine which Scripture condemns as “a
mocker” and “a brawler” in Proverbs 20:1. 11
Leon C. Field, in Oinos: A Discussion of the Bible Wine Question, 1883, page 57, reminds us that even the very adjective used to describe the wine supports the conclusion that it was grape juice. The word kalos is morally excellent or befitting. Some of the people of ancient times spoke about the character of unintoxicating wine or grape juice. They called it moral (ethikos) wine.
The Fifth Assumption: The Guests Were Already Drunk
This assumption is based first of all on assumption two that all wine in the Bible is alcoholic. It next centers on another assumption about the meaning of the words “well drunk.” The defenders of alcoholic wine believe that the Greek word methusthosin “well drunk” means drunkenness from alcoholic drink and that it can mean nothing else. That belief or assumption leads them to state their final assumption: the wedding guests were drunk on the good wine.
Alcohol Defenders Explain: the Words"Well Drunk" Show the Good Wine Was Alcoholic
In John 2:10, the master of the feast said that, in his experience as a banquet master, after wedding guests were “well drunk” on good oinos, a poorer, less expensive oinos was usually served.
Those who assume that “well drunk” means actually drunk remind us that the good wine served first was what made the guests drunk. And what did Jesus make? He made really good wine—better than the first served. John 2:10 says, “. . . you have kept the good wine until now.” Since the good wine at wedding feasts made the guests drunk, and Jesus made even better good wine, His wine, compared with the good wine served first, they say, was intoxicating too.
Further proof that the guests were already drunk, the alcohol defenders go on to say, is that the banquet master implied that the guests didn't notice when the switch was made to poorer wine. That would be a typical experience for a drinker.
Alcohol Defenders Claim the meaning of Greek "Well Drunk" Can Only Be “Drunk”
Drunk is the word methusko. Book reviewers who studied John Ellis' book, The Wine Question in the Light of the New Dispensation, 1883, reported,
There is another incontestable proof . . . that Jesus made alcoholic wine . . . the word
methusko. The word . . . signifies to make drunk, to intoxicate; in the passive, to be
drunk . . . now this term is never used for designating the effects from any other than
Problems That Plague the Assumptions
Alcohol Defenders Scheme to Save Jesus from Guilt for Giving Alcohol to Drunk People
Bible commentators who subscribe to the“all wine is alcoholic”assumption and the “well drunk is drunk” assumption also, find themselves with a problem. According to their reasoning, Jesus, at the Cana Wedding made 120 to 180 gallons of high quality intoxicating wine for wedding guests who were already drunk.
In an effort to deliver themselves from the dilemma of saying that Jesus made and gave alcohol to drunks at Cana, these commentators remind us that the master of the feast was talking about marriage feasts in general and not the one Jesus was attending. When the banquet master said, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have well drunk, then the poor wine. . . ”he was explaining what usually happened at the feasts he was hired to oversee. He was not claiming that everyone or anyone at this particular feast at Cana was drunk.13
The defense of Jesus argument then is that the words “well drunk” or drunken, meaning intoxicated, do not apply to the guests at the Cana wedding. The banquet master omitted Cana in his sweeping statement of what usually happened at weddings.When Jesus made alcoholic wine, the second batch of alcohol for the feast, He made it for not-yet-drunk drinkers.
Moderationists, or Christians for moderate alcohol drinking, latch on to this argument that “well drunk” does not apply to the Cana Wedding. They, like the Bible commentators, want to prove that Jesus made alcoholic wine, but they don’t want drunkenness.
Another group of Christians who stands against drinking alcohol, but who believes “well drunk” can only mean drunk, also accepts the argument omitting Cana from the banquet master’s statement.This provides the way out ofthe “well drunk” problem. Nobody was drunk at Cana, they say, “and Jesus made grape juice.”
Alcohol Defender’s Problem: The Banquet Master's Words Can Include Cana Too
It is true that the master of ceremonies was referring to what happened at wedding feasts in general but there is no reason to believe he was not including the feast at Cana in his general observation.
Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine and when men have well drunk that
which is worse . . . .
The hosts at the wedding at Cana, as in any wedding, would have served their very best right from the start of the feast. They served until they ran out of wine, and by this time the banquet master could say the guests had “well drunk” or drunk freely. The one difference between this feast and other wedding feasts was the surprise of the really good wine made by Jesus. It was so good it was better than what was served first.
. . . but thou hast kept the good wine (kalos oinos) until now.
Another Problem for Alcohol Defenders: the Words “Well Drunk”
Does “well drunk” from the methuo word group always and only refer to intoxicating drinks as the defenders of alcohol positively and authoritatively say it does?
No, says Dr. Bacchiocchi. This claim overlooks the broader usage of the verb. The methuo word group does not mean only “to make drunk.” It also means “to drink freely” without any thought of intoxication. Then he quotes an article from The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Herbert Preisker.
. . . methuo and methuskomai are mostly used literally in the New Testament for to be
drunk and to get drunk. (But) Methuskomai is used with no religious judgment in John
2:10 in connection with the rule that the poorer wine is served only when guests have
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words tells us that methuo is used in the passive voice in John 2:10 and that it means “to drink freely.”
In other words, the meaning of “well drunk” in John 2:10 does not have to be
intoxication. The verse simply states the rule: serve a poorer beverage only after the
guests have drunk well. John Parkhurst in his A Greek and English Lexicon to the
New Testament, 1817, says,
Methuo . . . denotes in general to drink wine or strong drink more freely than usual, and
that whether to drunkenness or not. Passively to drink freely and to cheerfulness, though
not to drunkenness . . . in John 2:10. And in this sense the verb is plainly used by the
Septuagint, in Genesis 43:34; Canticles (Song of Solomon) 5:1; and also, I think, in
Joseph's brothers feasted with him in Genesis 43:34. In Song of Solomon 5:1, Solomon
says, “I have drunk my wine (grape juice) with my milk. Eat, O Friends. Drink, yea,
drink abundantly (methuo).” Genesis 9:21 is the story of Noah.16
Methuo, in the Greek Old Testament, is “runneth over” in Psalm 23:5. “My cup runneth over” is plainly speaking about overflowing blessings from the Lord, and complete satisfying of all our needs.
We will study more about the word methuo in Lesson 5 and also when we learn about the communion service in the early church, I Corinthians 11:21. In that case Chrysostom, Bengel, Grotius, Wycliff, Kuinoel, Bilroth, MacKnight, Newcome, Bloomfield, Clarke, Lightfoot, Dean Stanley and Whedom as well as Clement and others say the word methuo or “drunken” in the King James Bible means filled to the full with no thought of drunkenness.
Summarizing the study of the methuo word group, we can say that methusko, “well drunk’ in John 2:10, means satiated (having enough or more than enough) or fully satisfied. It refers simply to the large quantity of wine (grape juice) generally consumed at a feast, without any reference to intoxicating effects.
The miracle of the wedding wine and its “well-drunk” drinkers must fit into the context of the Bible as a whole, including Jesus’ example and teaching. It fits well and with no problems if the fifth assumption and its underlying assumptions are dropped. The wine the bridegroom served at the feast was grape juice. The guests had well drunk and the supply ran out. When the banquet master tasted the oinos grapejuice Jesus made it was so good he talked to the bridegroom about it. He praised this juice, and stated his experience as master of ceremonies. Hosts usually served better juice until the taste buds were dulled, and then brought out a less expensive product.
If the guests had been well satisfied alcohol drinkers before they received the juice Jesus made they would not have thought the juice was good. Drinkers of alcohol want more alcohol, not juice.
Those who wish to insist that the wine used at the feast was alcoholic and that Jesus also provided alcoholic wine, though of a better quality, are driven to the conclusion that Jesus provided a large additional quantity of intoxicating wine so that the wedding party could continue its reckless indulgence.17
Alcohol at Cana Defense by Current Preachers and Bible Teachers
“Jesus made alcoholic wine,” says a popular church and radio Bible preacher; “He did make it at Cana and we shouldn't get bent out of shape with a little wine at a wedding.” The preacher goes on to tell us that no one at Cana got drunk. Why not? He ignores the “well drunk” statement of the banquet master and claims there were so many people present at the wedding that everyone had only a very small drink.
Where does the Bible say how many were present at the wedding in Cana? The Bible teacher who claims so many people were present is adding words to the Bible.
“Jesus made intoxicating wine,” a Bible teacher tells his University class, “but when it was served it was diluted.” There is no scriptural basis for his statement.
The argument of diluted alcoholic wine is an effort to protect Jesus from criticism for giving 120 -180 gallons of alcoholic drink to already well drunk wedding guests. The teacher does not say what he thinks the words “well drunk” mean. If he believes that the first wine served at the feast was also diluted before guests drank it, he may claim that drinkers who fill up on diluted wine don’t get drunk; therefore, Jesus’ wine, diluted when served, would not cause drunkenness either.
Why would diluted wine not cause drunkenness? Encyclopedias tell us alcoholic wine contains approximately 12 to 15 per cent ethanol. If the servants diluted Jesus’ especially good wine, what alcohol content would remain?
Beer fermentation usually results in 3 to 5 per cent ethanol in the beer. A website description of a “ kegger” or beer party reports the keg size as 15 gallons with the beer having a 4.9 per cent alcohol content. Well drunk party goers all ended up drunk within several hours.
Another question arises about the claimed “diluting” of Jesus’ wine: who did it?Did God produce the alcohol and trust man to dilute it to the right degree of alcohol content? It is the colossal pride of man that claims this authority to correct God’s work.
Alcohol Defense Not Valid in the Bible: God Never Tempts Man with Evil, James 1:13
God does not tempt man, James 1:13. If Jesus deliberately tempted the marriage guests to sin by giving them gallons of alcoholic wine, He is not God. If they were already drunk He has approved not only alcoholic drink but drinking to excess. He did not say one word warning them to drink in moderation!
Since all scripture is united in condemning drunkenness as sin, this kind of harmful miracle is an impossibility for the One who knew no sin. The good wine Christ made was not intoxicating. It was not decaying. Like Him, it was good. The master of the feast was surprised at the sparkling freshness of the good grape juice.18 The people at the feast recognized that it was better than the first wine they had been drinking. That first wine was not intoxicating either, and they could appreciate how much better the second juice was.
If Jesus made ethyl alcohol He threw the whole force of His personal testimony behind the use of it by everyone. He authorized the drinking of 960 to 1440 pints of“more excellent” alcoholic wine for already well drunk guests, directly contributing to their intoxication.He did not do that because God has said, “Look not . . . upon the wine when it is red, when it moveth itself . . . .” Proverbs 23:31.
III. THE MIRACLE AT CANA
What really was the miracle? Matthew 15:34 explains how Christ fed 4000 people; Mark 6 tells about feeding 5000. The Lord started out with only a few loaves and fishes and instantly multiplied them. These miracles, like His first miracle at Cana, show that the Maker of the laws is above the laws. At the wedding at Cana, Christ by supernatural and superhuman rapidity, changed the water into the pure blood of the grape.
Psalm 104:14,15 says, “That he may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine (grape juice) that maketh glad the heart of man.” These verses tell us that God makes theearth bring forth juice (oinos). The rain, drawn up through the roots of the vine, changes into grape juice in the clusters of grapes. Every year this process takes place according to God’s laws of nature. Augustine says it is a miracle that happens so often we “cease to wonder at what is done.”
The early church fathers agree about the miracle at Cana. Both St. Augustine and Chrysostom who lived in the 300’s say that on the marriage day Jesus made grape juice instantly; it is what He does every year in the vines in a slower process.19
The Purpose of the Miracle
The stated purpose of the miracle at Cana is found in John 2:11. The Bible says that it “manifested forth” Christ’s glory (revealed it or made it clear) and His disciples believed in Him. That it took place at a wedding shows divine approval of marriage.
Christ's eternal power and deity, Romans 1:20, says Dr. Bacchiocchi, were manifested at the beginning of His miracles through an act of creation: “He . . . made the water wine,” John 4:46. 20
Dr. R. A. Torrey writes that “ there is not a hint that the wine Christ made was
intoxicating. It was fresh-made wine . . . new . . . Fermentation is a process of decay.
There is not a hint that our Lord produced alcohol which is a product of decay and
death. He produced a living wine uncontamnated by fermentation.”
Dr. William Pettengill thinks the drink Jesus made was like the heavenly fruit of the vine
He will drink new with His own in the Father's kingdom, Matthew 26:29. No wonder
the governor of the feast said it was the best— “Never before had he tasted such wine,
and never did he taste it again.”21
Jesus knew how important His example would be through the ages. How could his disciples have believed in Him if they had seen Him do a miracle to encourage drunkeness? Everything He did brought glory to God. He gave us the example of self denial and abstinence and told us to follow Him, Matthew 16:24.
Christ’s miracles always helped people. He came not to “destroy men’s lives but to save them,” Luke 9:56. Making intoxicating alcohol would have brought Him shame, not glory,
Alcohol Is Not Found in Living Plants
Sir Humphry Davy wrote about alcohol, “It has never been found ready formed in plants.” Count Chaptal, the French chemist observed, “Nature never forms spiritous liquors (in the living fruit); she rots the grape upon the branch.” (Rotting bruised juicy sweet fruit on the ground will ferment shortly from yeast and bacteria, as part of the decay process.) “Alcohol, (for man to drink)” said Dr. Henry Monroe, “is an artificial thing prepared by man through the destructive process of fermentation.”22
Could anyone seriously believe, after studying this question thoroughly, that Christ produced alcohol, something not approved of in all His creation? Could He make alcohol and give it to His creatures when He, better than all others, knew what it would do? Alcohol has been the cause of eternal ruin to thousands, yes, millions of people and continues even now to lead men and women to eternal damnation. The miracle at the wedding at Cana does not support the use of alcoholic liquor. We cannot say, “Jesus made alcoholic wine. Therefore it's okay to drink.”
IV. A SAMPLE SERMON: JESUS MADE ALCOHOLIC WINE
A professor from a leading United States evangelical seminary gave this message about the miracle at Cana at a popular Family Bible Conference in 1992. Although we cannot include the whole message we can review the main points. Much of what is printed here is verbatim—the words of the speaker. The audience laughed in agreement at the references to alcoholic wine. 23
Introduction: John 2
Jesus was invited to the wedding but He showed up with five friends. In typical near east hospitality the hosts said, Any friend of Jesus is a friend of ours. Some people think that's why the wine ran out. Five unexpected guests . . . .
That's the situation. Now let's move on to the miracle itself. It has three progressive steps, revolving around Mary, Jesus and the headwaiter. Verse 3 says the wine gave out. To run out of wine was a gross social error. The bride's family could sue the groom's family.
Sermon Teaching: well drunk (methuo) and oinos
What do we mean by wine? I have to be honest. I grew up in a very strict background. My first response was “Jesus couldn’t have made wine.” Think of all the damage from alcoholic beverages... (and the speaker lists some). As a pastor I have seen homes devastated, ruined by alcohol and personalities reduced to nothing. So my first response is No, Christ couldn't have....
But I must be honest. Drop down to verse 10. It says... ‘And when the guests have well drunk ...’ I’m really sorry for this translation because the Greek word is methuo and methuo in Greek means to be drunk. The translators didn’t take this word for what it really is. It (the verse) says that the good wine is served first and when men are drunk, that which is poorer. It is quite obvious they are looking at the wine as something that had alcohol in it. The fact of the matter is, it (the word for wine) is the same noun as in Ephesians 5:18, ‘Do not be drunk on wine.’ It is the same word, oinos. So I come away with the idea that this has got to be wine (alcoholic).
But be very careful. Handle this with care. You must understand that in biblical days drunkenness was abhorred, looked upon as disgusting. Today people may laugh, “He hung one on last night,” but that was not true in Bible times. Then only the boorish drank wine straight. The Talmud tells us that it was normal to mix wine with water, three or four parts water to one of wine. (no cite given.) That was very little wine. If you let wine ferment to its highest alcoholic content it only goes to 12 per cent.Mix this with water and you have a very low alcoholic content. You could get drunk on it but you really had to down it. Some say your bladder would give you trouble before your brain. But you could get drunk. This is what the verse says.
The Sermon Effort to Deliver Jesus from Guilt
There were six stone waterpots that contained about 25 gallons each . . . . It is significant that the Bible says waterpots. Some skeptic might say they were stone, with porous walls.They might once have held grape juice which would then give a mild taste to the water. Guests who were slightly inebriated might think it was wine. No. They were waterpots. They contained water and nothing else. Jesus told the servants to fill the waterpots and they filled them to the brim. There was no room for anything else to be added.
Now the wine is taken to the headwaiter. He can't believe it. He says, ‘Every man serves the good wine first and when men are drunk, that which is poorer.’ Now don't misunderstand me. He is not saying they were drunk at this festivity. He is saying this is the normal modus operandi for people to get guests so their senses were dulled and they could not tell good wine from bad wine.
(The speaker goes on to explain that if you smell a strong scent of some product and then are asked to smell a second scent of another brand name immediately afterwards, you will say the first is better because the second seems like nothing. You can't smell it.) And that is what was happening here in John 2:10. Get the senses dulled and serve the poorer later.
Sermon Comparisons: Alcoholic Wedding Wine Is Like Wine in God's Kingdom
The significance of the miracle is given in verse 11. His disciples believed in Jesus because He manifested His glory. He showed off what He really was. John's purpose in writing was to show that Jesus was the Messiah. How does this show Jesus was Messiah?
A wedding feast to the Jews was symbolic of God’s kingdom. Both the feasts in Matthew 8:11 and Matthew 22 look to the future feasts in the Kingdom of God…. See this also in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 25:6… the Lord makes for His people a lavish banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow and refined aged wine…. (Speaker emphasizes aged wine)
Now here (at Cana) is a wedding feast where the wine has run out. The people look at this miracle at Cana and say, “Oh, this wedding feast is symbolic of the kingdom. All has gone sour. The Lord Jesus retrieves the situation. He is the one who brings God’s great kingdom ….”(Messiah).
But there is more. In John 1:17 the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. The old wine has run out. The Lord produces new wine and it is far better.
Sermon Conclusion: Alcoholic Wine Is the Bible Symbol of Joy
Most of us do not realize that in Jewish thinking and often in the Old Testament, wine is associated with joy. Psalm 104:15 says wine makes glad the heart of man. In Judges 9:13 the vine says “Shall I leave my new wine which cheers God and men?” More than one commentary refers to the old Jewish saying, “Without wine there's no joy.” There's an old hymn which talks about the sands of time and says “He brings a poor lost sinner into His house of wine...” Why does He bring the sinner into the house of wine? Because wine is symbolic of joy. Now what this is saying is that Jesus is Messiah. He brings in the kingdom and one of the characteristics of the kingdom is joy.
Christians are to be characterized by joy. (The message goes on to talk about joy in the church as seen in the singing and the rejoicing in the church. An example is the church in Acts . . . . Joy is a fruit of the Spirit . . . . Nehemiah 8:11 says the joy of the Lord is our strength. Habakkuk said, “I will joy in the God of my salvation” even when nothing was left.) Trusting God leads to joy. You can tell exactly where a person is in his walk with God by the presence or absence of joy. That's why He made 150 gallons of the stuff.
But there’s more to it than that. Proverbs 17:22 says a merry heart (wine use implied) doeth good like a medicine. Humor will help heal you. (The message cites anecdotes related to humor and healing) Laughter is good for you. It is evidence of a walk that’s open on the Godward side.
How can you have that joy? By just simply resting and trusting in God no matter what happens. In that is joy. Christ Jesus is the key, who one day is going to bring a great, great kingdom. In the meantime He wants His children to walk in joy.
A Review of This Sermon
The purpose of the sermon is to give Christians biblical grounds to drink alcohol. Every point is designed to emphasize alcohol.
At the beginning of the message, explaining from John 2, the conference speaker imagines that Jesus arrived at the wedding with five uninvited friends. He says the extra guests probably caused the wine to run out, so Jesus made more. How much could these friends drink?A beer keg holds 15 gallons and serves up 120 full pints of beer. Jesus made 150 gallons!
The preacher says he knows the deadly effects of alcohol drinking. He feels Christ couldn’t make it. But, he adds, the word methuo in John 2:10 always means drunk, and this, along with the word oinos that he believes always means intoxicating wine, proves to him the whole passage of scripture is talking about alcoholic wine. All the wine at the feast, including Jesus’ wine, was alcoholic. The seminary teacher doesn’t bother to investigate thoroughly the meaning of methuo or oinos. He doesn’t question his rationalization that a Holy God is not as concerned—or as smart—as he himself is about alcohol.
As the message continues, the preacher never focuses on the logical conclusion to his reasoning about oinos and methuo. What he believes leads to saying that Jesus made 150 gallons of intoxicating wine for already drunk guests. He avoids this problem by leaping to the argument that the master of the feast was not talking about Cana in John 2:10 when he said the guests were well drunk (drunk). He was only talking about other weddings in general. Most people who study John 2 take for granted that “well drunk” in verse 10 refers to Cana as well as other weddings and if oinos means only alcoholic wine, that leaves Jesus giving lots of alcohol to drunk people.
Trying to hold alcohol drinking to “moderate drinking”, the conference speaker says the Talmud teaches that the Jews commonly mixed water with wine. He gives no reference for this statement. The Talmud, a collection of views of different rabbis, is not the Bible. (Book 3, Lesson 2, Passover Wine; Book 3 Lesson 4, Testimony of Rabbis) Alcoholic wine diluted with water is not mentioned in the Bible.
The seminary professor conference speaker tells his listeners Jesus’ alcoholic wedding wine was diluted down with three to four parts water. In contrast, the Bible says that, after Jesus said to fill the waterpots, He said, “Draw out now and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.”
The professor, using John 2:10, says you could get drunk on diluted wine but you really had to down it. He states that the highest alcohol content for wine is 12 percent; that would mean Jesus’ wine diluted down was three to four percent alcohol. Actually, wine can have from 8 to 15 or 16 percent alcohol content. (Current U.S. laws say table wines must be below 14 percent. Dessert wines can be up to 24 percent) The professor believes Jesus made good alcoholic wine; good wines are high alcohol wines described as “full bodied”.
Although he warns his listeners to be careful to understand that people in Bible times thought drunkenness was disgusting, he does not explain why people were not “abhorring the drunkenness” that the ruler of the feast in John 2:10 says was common at weddings.
In his effort to link alcoholic drink to God’s glory, the professor compares Isaiah 25:6 with John 2. In Isaiah 25:6, God supplies aged wine (the professor calls it alcoholic) at a future feast in the Kingdom of God. (See Book 2, lesson 9) In John 2, Jesus at Cana supplies alcoholic wine at a wedding feast that the professor says is a symbol to the Jews of the Kingdom of God. He believes Jesus’ act of supplying the alcoholic wine clued in the disciples that Jesus was Messiah, the one who would bring in the Kingdom.
The speaker says that one of the characteristics of God’s kingdom is joy. Alcoholic wine is the symbol of joy. He quotes Psalm 104:15 (see current lesson, Part III, also Book 2 lessons 2 and 4 ) and Judges 9:13 to support use of alcohol. In Judges 9:13, wine is Hebrewtirosh. Tirosh always means grape juice. (see Book 2, Lesson 6) Why doesn’t the professor tell his unsuspecting audience about the meaning of tirosh as he was so careful to do about methuo? He actually says, in an exact quote, “You can tell exactly where a person is in his walk with God by the presence or absence of joy. That’s why He made 150 gallons of the stuff.”
The preacher’s reasoning in his closing words is confusing. He says that resting and trusting in God is joy. To be consistent with the rest of his message, he should conclude with “joy is resting and trusting in God and drinking wine, the symbol of joy.” Christ and His great coming kingdom is the key, the preacher says. The listeners know by now what he does not put in words. Alcoholic wine is a key characteristic of the kingdom. And right now Jesus Christ wants His children to walk in joy,—evidently enjoying their wine as they trust in Him.
Note: A wedding is a family affair. Wedding guests are husbands, wives, and children of all ages. Some women would be expectant mothers; some men might be recovering alcoholics. And think of the children and young people. How could giving them an alcoholic drink show the glory of God? It couldn’t. Neither was this sermon on alcohol, given to influence all the families at the Bible conference, for the glory of God.
1. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, Biblical Perspective, Berrien Springs, Michigan, p.137.
2. Dr. William Patton, Bible Wines, Sane Press, Oklahoma City, p.90.
3. Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p.141.
4. Ibid., p.139.
6. Ibid., p.140.
7. Ibid., p.140 and 162.
8. Ibid., p.140.
9. Ibid., Dr. Bacchiocchi gives Sotah 48a and Mishna Sotah 9,11 as the information source. See Lesson 2 to review past discussion of the Jewish position on wine.
10. Ibid., p.141.
11. Ibid., From Joseph P. Free.
12. Ibid., p.142.
13. Ibid., Dr. Bacchiocchi lists Ellicot, Barclay, Clarke, and G. H. MacGregor as examples of those presenting this view.
14. Ibid., pp.142,143. Mr. Preisker published the volumes of his work in 1967.
15. Ibid., p.143.
16. Ibid., Parkhurst's thought would be that possibly Noah was not intoxicated.
18. Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, p.373.
19. Patton, Bible Wines, p.91.
20. Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p.143.
21. Ibid., p.144.
22. Patton, Bible Wines, p.92.
23. Message aired on Conference Pulpit, KNWC FM Sioux Falls, SD, May 15, 1993, 7p.m.