Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“That's Just Grape”

Categories: GRAB BAG, NEW TESTAMENT
I personally believe that consuming any amount of alcohol is sinful.  Yet, so many people argue with me on this subject.  I continue to hear that Jesus drank wine and that it was fermented.  I believe that Jesus was perfect, and I honestly do not believe that the Son of God would sit down at a table with his disciples and do this.  I believe that the wine the Bible speaks of is simply grape juice. Please explain this to me.  Am I right for frowning upon alcohol, or is it simply okay to drink...as long as it is not abused?

 

Sincerely,
Fomenting Over Fermenting

Dear Fomenting Over Fermenting,

The Greek word for ‘wine’ is ‘oinos’.  ‘Oinos’ simply means ‘grape juice’… sometimes fermented, sometimes not.  So whenever you see the word ‘wine’ in your Bible, it may be talking about fermented or non-alcoholic grape juice.  New wine is grape juice that hasn’t had the time to fully ferment; old wine is alcoholic and fully fermented.  This explains why in Lk 5:39 Jesus states that people would choose the old wine over the new wine.

We also have to understand that the wine that was drunk in Jesus’ day was made using the natural yeasts found on the outside skin of the grape.  When grapes are crushed, the grape juice mixes with this wild yeast and ferments the juice.  These natural yeasts will only ferment wine to about 13% alcohol content, not the 17% or higher of many wines found today.  Furthermore, most wine was diluted anywhere from one part wine with one part water to as much as one part wine with four parts water.  In fact, Roman soldiers were known to only drink a type of wine called ‘posca’ which was an especially diluted mixture of water, bitter herbs, and older wine.

We say all this to tell you that wine in Jesus’ day is not the same as today.  Just because Jesus turned water into wine doesn’t mean it was fermented wine.  The word ‘wine’ is too generic for one to automatically assume that it was highly alcoholic.  God never specifically condemns drinking wine, but He does condemn ‘strong drink’ (Pr 20:1), drinking parties (1 Pet 4:3), and drunkenness (Rom 13:13).  Almost all alcohol that is consumed today would fall into the category of ‘strong drink’ because our alcoholic beverages are artificially fermented to increase their alcoholic content, and they are rarely diluted with water.  We would all do well to heed the words of Pr 23:31-32 and avoid alcohol as much as is possible.