There is an attempt by certain men in certain denominations (mine included) to change the scripture to meet their own traditions and beliefs. Most Southern Baptists, for example, are against the consumption of alcoholic beverages and I have no argument with that. I agree with it. It is perfectly acceptable for an organization, even a Christian denomination, to have such a conviction. I am glad they have such a belief and I subscribe to that belief.

But it is not acceptable to twist the scripture to fit one’s traditions in order to make it seem like the scripture agrees with the tradition. This is what many ministers do. They try to make it seem that the scripture supports their prohibition of alcoholic beverages including wine. Scriptures, however, do not support that position.

NOTE: Let me be clear upon this point: I do not consume alcoholic beverages nor do I advocate the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It is not the purpose of this study to promote the use of wine or alcoholic beverages. The purpose is to elicit what the Scriptures say as opposed to what men say about this subject.

I have my own anecdote. When I was a youth, an early adolescent, I was confused. The Sunday School of my church taught that alcohol consumption was wrong. They had each student sign a pledge not to consume alcoholic beverages. That was a good thing to do with young adolescents. I am glad they did it and wish we did that today. It is like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, which was good and effective. But it made me think about the wedding at Cana. So I asked my teacher why, if alcohol was evil, Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana. The answer went something like this, “Well, that was not really wine. He just turned the water into grape juice.” At the time I accepted that simplistic, yet erroneous, answer.

That answer was based on a teaching in Baptist circles that claims that Jesus never consumed alcohol. Because they teach that alcohol is evil (and I agree that what the world often does with alcohol is evil) and since Jesus could not have any evil in Him, then He could not have consumed alcohol. That being the case, they had to come up with a teaching that somehow demonstrated that the “wine” Jesus consumed, had no alcohol in it. So there are various teachings surrounding this premise.

But before we get to those teachings, let me address the supposed inherent evil of wine. The Scriptures address this issue. Since the Scripture is the inspired Word of God, we must accept it as the real truth about this issue.

There are several Old Testament words translated wine in the KJV. Some are yayin, tirosh, chemer, raaph, mamcak, and ‘aciyc. But there are only three words that actually mean true wine. They are yayin, tirosh, and chemer. Note that raaph is not actually wine at all but distilled spirits like whiskey. It simply means to drip. It is rendered strong wine or strong drink. Yeqeb is also translated wine, but it simply means the trough of the wine press where the grape juice flows out. Mamcak is mixed or mulled wine, that is, wine mixed with water or spices.

The words tirosh and ‘aciyc mean must, which is sometimes called new wine. Tirosh can also mean fermented wine. Must is juice pressed from fruit, especially grapes, before and during fermentation; it is also the pulp and skins of the crushed grapes, all of which are a part of the fermentation process. This “new wine” most assuredly can be consumed. It is simply grape juice that has not been fermented. But the only time of year this was available was during the grape harvest. As soon as the juice is pressed from the grapes it begins the fermentation process. Without refrigeration, it becomes wine. It does so within a few days of pressing. Even with refrigeration it just takes a little longer to ferment. So it would have been impossible to maintain unfermented grape juice more than a few days after harvest. It certainly would not last until Passover. Grape harvest is in August and Passover is in April, eight months after the harvest. At Passover it would have been virtually impossible to maintain unfermented grape juice.

Yet, there is a way to preserve unfermented grape juice. That is to boil the juice down to a syrup and later add water to the syrup to make grape juice, but the syrup itself is also subject to fermentation if not properly maintained. It must be kept in an air-tight sealed container because yeast spores are always in the air around us (you are likely breathing in yeast spores at this very moment). But that reconstituted juice would never have been used by the priests for offerings because it is not pure enough. This syrup still has yeast (leaven) in it. The leaven is dead, but it is still in the syrup. No leaven was allowed in the Tabernacle or Temple. Leaven was not allowed any substance used for religious purposes for it represents sin. Only unleavened bread sat on the Table of the Presence. The only way to remove leaven from grape juice is to ferment it. In that process the leaven dies and settles to the bottom of the wine and the wine is siphoned off with no leaven in it. Yeast occurs naturally on the skins of grapes and cannot be prevented from entering into the grape juice. It cannot be washed off the grape skins. It can only be completely removed by fermentation. Yeast stays suspended in the grape juice (or syrup) if it is not fermented. It does not settle out.

All of the wine in the following Scripture is yayin, or fully fermented alcoholic wine.

Wine (yayin) is alcoholic because it can make one drunk: Genesis 9:21 “And he [Noah] drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.” 1 Samuel 1:14 “And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.”

Alcoholic wine was used for a drink offering in the Tabernacle: Exodus 29:40 “And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering.” In fact, because unfermented grape juice contains leaven, it would never be used as an offering.

The priests could not consume wine while performing their Tabernacle duties because it was intoxicating: Leviticus 10:9 “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:

The Nazarite was not to consume wine because it was intoxicating: Numbers 6:3 “He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.”

When the vow of the Nazarite was ended, he could once again consume alcoholic wine: Numbers 6:20 “And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.”

Jesse sent alcoholic wine to his sons who were at the battlefront. David took it to them: 1 Samuel 16:20 “And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.”

Abigail took alcoholic wine to David’s troops: 1 Samuel 25:18 “Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.”

God provides alcoholic wine to gladden men’s hearts: Psalms 104:14-15 “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

These verses are precedent that alcoholic wine was used by the Israelites and that it was approved by God, who provides it. There is also strong prohibition against getting drunk. Drinking alcoholic wine and getting drunk are not the same thing. The evil is not in the wine, nor is it in the drinking of wine. It is the drunkenness caused by drinking wine to excess that is evil and sinful. Even getting slightly intoxicated is sinful.

Since simply consuming wine that contains alcohol is not a sin, nor is it evil, then it would not have been evil for Jesus to consume it. Now, since drunkenness is condemned as evil, Jesus certainly never became intoxicated.

The New Testament has two terms rendered wine. They are oinos and gleukos. Oinos is the direct translation of the Hebrew yayin, and it is alcoholic wine. Gleukos is translated “new wine” in the only place it occurs and that is at Pentecost when the disciples spoke supernaturally in the languages of all who were in earshot. But it actually means sweet wine. New sweet wine can be that sweetened by fresh grape juice or honey. It can also refer to must, which is unfermented grape juice. Oinos is always alcoholic wine. Wine is wine and has been throughout the ages. It is a fermented alcoholic beverage and always has been. So oinos can inebriate people.

Many make that case that “new wine” is fresh grape juice and is non-alcoholic. If that is so, how do you explain these verses (the only place in the New Testament where the word gleukos, or new wine is used)? “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine [gleukos]. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: {15} For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:13-15) This gleukos, rendered “new wine” in the KJV, was understood by the Apostle Peter to be capable of causing drunkenness. Therefore this “new wine” was alcoholic.

Let us review the wedding at Cana.

John 2:3-10 “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. {4} Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. {5} His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. {6} And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. {7} Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. {8} And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. {9} When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, {10} And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”

All the incidents of the word “wine” are translations of the Greek oinos, or alcoholic wine. To prove the point, the word translated “drunk” here seems to indicate that the wine was simply consumed. But the Greek base word is methuo, which means intoxicated. It is the same word rendered drunken in the previous verses we discussed above (Acts 2:13-15). So after men have freely drunk the good wine and are beginning to get inebriated, then the host brings out wine of a lower quality. Verse 10 could be rendered: “And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have become drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

The Greek does not allow for this wine to be unfermented grape juice as my Sunday School teacher taught. This wine at the wedding at Cana was simple fermented wine as we know it today. Here are the definitions of the Greek word methuo:

Strong’s: μεθύω, methuo, meth-oo’-o: From another form of G3178; to drink to intoxication, that is, get drunk

Thayer’s: μεθύω, methuo: to be drunken

How Wine Is Made

Leaven, or yeast, is a naturally occurring microscopic single cell plant. Yeast is always suspended in the air. Yeast can always be found clinging to the skins of fruits and vegetables. It is impossible to completely wash yeast off of the skin. Even if it were possible, it would be nearly impossible to keep the yeast spores in the air from contacting and clinging to the cleaned fruit.

Yeast consumes sugar in order to grow and reproduce. It reproduces by cell division. The byproducts of this action are carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This is known as fermentation. When the yeast in bread dough grows and reproduces it produces CO2 and alcohol; in other words, fermentation takes place. The expanding carbon dioxide gas is what causes the bread to rise. When the bread is baked, the alcohol evaporates. After the yeast consumes the sugar it dies. The dead yeast cells remain in the bread to be consumed with it. The alcohol is gone but the dead leaven remains. Quite a bit of the flavor of bread comes from the yeast in it.

Yeast, or leaven, is symbolic of sin. That is why unleavened bread is consumed at Passover, and at Communion. The leaven represents sin, and the Passover, who is Christ, is without sin so unleavened bread represents Christ, Who was without sin. The Communion bread also represents the body of Christ, which was without sin. So it too must be unleavened bread. Only unleavened bread was allowed on the Table of Shewbread. (Josephus 3.6.6)

Grapes are picked and then crushed. These grapes, as we have seen, are naturally contaminated with yeast or leaven. The preferred way to press grapes has always been for people to get into the winepress and simply stomp the grapes with their feet, crushing them. If the grape seeds are crushed the juice becomes bitter. Bare feet will crush the grapes but not the seeds. A modern mechanical press must not crush the seeds. As the grapes are crushed, the juice escapes the skins and as it does so, it mixes with the naturally occurring leaven. There is no reliable way to prevent this. That is why, when fresh squeezed grape juice is allowed to sit for a day or two, it begins to ferment. It has naturally occurring leaven in it.

The juice of the grape is semi-clear. If the juice of crushed grapes were poured off of the crushed skins, the wine produced would be white wine. However, in practice that is not done; the skins remain with the juice during the fermentation process. White wine is produced from white grapes and red wine is produced from red grapes. To get red wine, the crushed red grape skins are allowed to remain in the juice during fermentation. This results in red wine. The color of the skins gives color to the wine.

After the grapes are crushed, the juice is known as must. This mixture of grape juice, pulp, and skins is also called must. Fresh grape juice is called must. New wine can be must. But, as we have seen above, new wine can also refer to sweet wine, which is wine sweetened with a sweetener like fresh sweet grape juice or honey. By the way, most wine grapes are not sweet to eat. They are a bit sour and have thick inedible skins. Grapes bred for consumption have thin, edible skins, and have too much sugar in them to make good wine. Fermentation begins immediately when the grapes are crushed. It cannot be prevented.

Once the crushing is completed the must is put into containers to ferment. Fermentation takes several days. Some modern wines are racked (siphoned off leaving the lees, which are dead yeast cells, and skins in the container) and then sugar is added and they are re-fermented. After fermentation is completed, the wine is racked and put into a clean container several times. Also after fermentation the yeast cells are dead. The fermentation process kills them off, usually when the alcohol reaches 10%-12%. The wine remains in this container for a good while. Here the dead yeast cells precipitate to the bottom of the container. In fresh grape juice, the yeast cells are alive and do not precipitate to the bottom because they remain in motion, consuming sugar and dividing. They only precipitate out of the liquid after they die. After a time, the wine is racked again to remove the lees. The wine is rested and racked several more times until it is completely free of leaven. It is impossible to do this to fresh juice because it would soon ferment and because the yeast cells are living and in motion. Modern wine bottlers pass the wine through micron sized filters to remove all the lees.

There is a process whereby the grape juice is boiled down to a concentrate. The boiling kills the yeast but does not remove the dead cells from the concentrate. The concentrate can later be reconstituted to form grape juice. This process is used today by commercial grape juice producers. Juice is boiled and concentrated and placed into sealed bottles. After opening, water and sugar are added to make drinkable grape juice. Sometimes this concentrate is frozen. Most people have used this bottled or frozen concentrate to make grape juice. The ancients also used this process. The concentrate or syrup must be isolated from the air to keep the yeast spores present in the air from contaminating the concentrate and causing it to ferment. The concentrate was poured hot by the ancients into earthen containers and then sealed with wax, which was melted and poured on top of the concentrate. When the juice and the wax cooled, a wax seal would remain on top of the concentrate. This concentrate was also poured into jars and sealed with pitch, which is like pine sap or tar. This would prevent contamination of the concentrate by yeast spores from the air until the seal was broken for use. As soon as the seal was broken, the fermentation process began, caused by yeast spores in the air contaminating the concentrate. That is why modern concentrate must be refrigerated after opening. In fact, the concentrate could, should anyone wish, be reconstituted and then fermented to make wine. In fact, home winemaking kits come with grape juice concentrate. Some concentrated grape juice is canned and sold specifically for home winemaking.

Various ministers teach that the priests used this reconstituted juice instead of wine for libations and offerings. They say that this is the new wine used for religious purposes. Well the problem with that argument is twofold. One, the word used in the Old Testament for such libations and offerings was yayin, which is alcoholic wine, as we have shown. The second objection is that this reconstituted grape juice still has leaven in it. The leaven is dead, but still remains in the juice. Using such leavened grape juice for religious purposes would be the same as using leavened bread for those purposes. Leavening represents sin, and could not be used by the Israeli priesthood because it represented sin. So this reconstituted, leavened juice would never have been used by the priests. Only wine that had been fermented was considered purified, that is freed from leaven, and only such fermented, alcoholic wine would have been used in Tabernacle and Temple service.

The Hebrews referred to grape juice as the blood of the grape. In fact, this term is used in Deuteronomy 32:14: “Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.” Note the words are “pure blood of the grape.” The word rendered pure is chemer (Strong’s 2560 & 2561), which means fermented. So the pure blood of the grape was fermented grape juice or wine.

It is interesting to note that the blood of the grape is also symbolic of the blood of Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup and passed it around for all to drink. He said in Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” The question arises, what was in the cup? Let us try to find out.

What was the occasion of this supper? It was the Passover Seder. What are the elements of this Seder? Roasted lamb (modern seders use a piece of roasted or boiled meat), unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a mixture of fruits and nuts), a vegetable, a boiled or roasted egg, salt water, a cup, the Passover Haggadah (telling or story), and wine. There are five obligations (mitzvahs) that must be performed by the men. They are: eating unleavened bread, drinking four cups of wine, eating bitter herbs, reciting the Passover story, and singing psalms of praise. See Exodus Chapter 12.

In Exodus 12:19 we are told: “Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.” Drinking grape juice at Passover is forbidden by this law. No leaven is allowed in the house. Grape juice is leavened so only wine would be allowed on Passover.

The cup at the Last Supper contained wine, and not grape juice. That is because no leavening (yeast) was allowed to be a part of the Passover. Grape juice has leaven in it and it is impossible to remove the leaven from grape juice. Wine, on the other hand, is the fruit of the vine or grape juice without leaven in it. The fermentation and racking process removes all traces of leaven. Only unleavened grape juice, and that must be fermented wine, is suitable to represent the sinless blood of Christ that was shed for us.

So, did Jesus consume wine? Yes. Did he ever become intoxicated? No. Was the wine at Cana alcoholic, or was it grape juice? It was alcoholic wine. What was in the cup at the Last Supper, a Passover Seder? Alcoholic wine.

This entry was posted in Topical Studies. Bookmark the permalink.