Posts Tagged ‘Jesus and wine’

The line that the bible draws is drunkenness (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3; Ephesians 5:18) rather than drinking, for instance, wine in moderation. In other words the biblical admonition is “don’t get drunk,” not “abstain from wine.”

Regarding the use of wine in moderation, it was fine according to the Jewish culture and teaching of that day (as well as the rest of the ancient world).

  1. Jesus made wine in John 2. The steward responded, the good wine is usually served first and then the cheap wine (so that the cheap stuff won’t be noticed after having felt the modest effect of the first, good wine). But Jesus made good wine.
  2. Jesus drank wine, and attended so many festive occasions that he was accused of being a drunkard – Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:33-34.
  3. Jesus used a cup of wine to speak of his blood at the last supper (“the fruit of the vine” is a Semitic expression that means wine).
  4. Given what Paul says in I Corinthians 11 about some getting drunk at a Lord’s supper, wine was still used by the Gentile churches. When he rebukes them for this he does not say, don’t drink wine, he urges moderation.
  5. Although he refused the wine mixed with myrrh – a sedative (Mark 15:23), Jesus drank some sour wine while on the cross to quench his thirst – John 19:28-30.
  6. Deacons (church leaders) are not to be “addicted to much wine” –  1 Timothy 3:8, that is, they must drink in moderation and not be given to drunkenness. (See also Titus 2:3).
  7. Timothy is told to drink “a little wine” for a medical need – 1 Timothy 5:23.
  8. Romans 14 assumes drinking wine as normal. It might, however,  need to be restricted out of love for another person.

Now none of this excuses those who might use this as a license to abuse alcohol for what the bible forbids – drunkenness. Let’s be clear drug and alcohol abuse makes us unable to think clearly so that we cannot love God and our neighbor. Also there is the danger of addiction – of becoming enslaved to a power other than our Lord, Jesus. Alcohol abuse causes us to hurt and destroy others and to hurt and destroy ourselves. It also cuts us off from God and excludes us from his eternal kingdom (Galatians 5:21; I Corinthians 6:10).

With regard to drinking in moderation, there are other considerations that come into play. I may well be free to drink, but does it cause others to stumble? Or, does it damage my witness? Also, if  there is a “genetic?” propensity to addiction (as runs in some people’s families) which might make it harder for me to simply drink in moderation, this has to be considered. But I cannot say that it is a sin simply to drink in moderation, in and of itself.

The only exception I would make is for those coming out of a context where they have been enslaved and abused alcohol, and to drink even in moderation would be a stumbling block to them to fall into drunkenness. Here abstinence is called for. As Jesus says, “If you hand causes you to sin, cut it off . . .” Mark 9. In this case something that is not sinful for others, is sinful for you, because for you it causes you to be unable to live out your Christian commitment. So you cut off all alcohol.

Word Study

New Testament words for wine or alcoholic drinks:

1. Oinos (oy’-nos) – “wine”


–  “A fermented beverage made from the juice of grapes”- (L&N, p. 77).

–  “A beverage made from fermented juice of the grape” – (BDAG, 3rd, p. 707).

“All wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented drink was called wine.” – (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p. 870)

Wine was often mixed with water – at a typical rate of 3 parts water, one part wine. This was the case with Passover wine. This kind of dilution of wine was also used in the early church with the cup of the Lord’s supper.

Other phrases that refer to wine: “blood of the grape,” “fruit of the vine,” “the cup.”

It also had a medicinal use – Luke 10:34; 1 Timothy 5:23. Also it was used, mixed with myrrh, as a sedative or pain killer – Mark 15:23.

Texts: Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23; Luke 1:15; 5:39; 7:33; 10:34; John 2:3; 2:9-10; 4:46; Romans 14:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:8; 5:23; Titus 2:3; Revelation 6:6; 14:8; 14:10; 16:19; 17:2; 18:3; 18:13; 19:15.

2. Oinos neos (oy’-nos neh’-os) – “new wine”

Definition: Same word as above, but with the adjective “new.”

– “. . . newly pressed grape juice, unfermented or in the initial stages of fermentation” – (L&N, p. 77).

Texts: Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38.

3. Gleukos (glyoo’–kos)  – “sweet/new wine”


–  “A new, sweet wine in process of fermentation” – (L&N, p. 77).

–  “Sweet, new wine” – (BDAG, 3rd, p. 201)

Text: Acts 2:13

4. Oxos (ox’-os) “cheap, sour wine”


–  “Sour wine,” “wine vinegar.” “It relieved thirst more effectively than water, and being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society and those in moderate circumstances.” – BDAG 3rd, p. 715).

Texts: Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29-30.

5. Sikera (sik’–er-ah) – “beer”


–  “An intoxicating drink made from grain.” Whiskey, gin and vodka were not known in the ancient world. – (L&N, p. 77).

–  “An alcoholic beverage,” “beer,” – not necessarily stronger than wine – (BDAG 3rd, p. 923)

Text: Luke 1:15

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