Water to wine?

In John 2, Jesus turns water to wine. But when we say "wine," what do we mean? Is this alcohol or is this grape juice? I'll present the best points in both cases and let you decide, but remember...this passage isn't about drinking! It's about Jesus revealing his glory to his disciples and their placing their faith in him, about John revealing Jesus' glory to us and us placing our faith in him.


1) Contextual - in v. 10 the MC (ruler of the feast) chides the bridegroom for the order in which he brings out his wines. The MC reasons that one should bring out the good wine first, then, once everyone has "well drunk" (KJV) or "had too much to drink" (NIV), switch to the cheap stuff. The implication is that this wine, newly brought out, would have intoxicated the guests.

2) Lexical - the Greek word translated "well drunk" or "had too much to drink" - "methuo" - is found 6 other times in the New Testament, each fairly clearly referring to intoxication or drunkenness rather than slaked thirst or satiation [Mt. 24, Acts 2, 1 Cor 11, 1 Thes. 5, and Rev 17 (2x)].

3) Character - the Jesus of the Bible went to parties, was friends with sinners and was remarkably generous. He reveals God and God is a God of the festivals, the God who "brings forth...wine that gladdens the heart" (Ps. 104:14-15). It is in keeping with the character of this Jesus and this God to open wide the doors of celebration, freedom and love - to bring forth good wine - even if some will abuse it. That is our story, after all.

Grape Juice

1) Contextual - in John 2, Jesus turned over 100 gallons of water into wine several days into the wedding feast. None of the characters appear to be intoxicated, even after having "well drunk" or "had too much to drink." Additionally, the water-turned-wine might have been consumed in its entirety during the feast (how many people were at this wedding?), a great difficulty if the wine were stronger than grape juice.

2) Lexical - the Greek word for wine - "oinos" - can refer to a range of beverages, from fermented, alcoholic wine to the juice still in the grape. Additionally, "good wine" - "kalos oinos" - does not necessarily mean the wine was aged (increasing its alcohol content) and could mean that it was filtered (decreasing its alcohol content). Other ancient Greek sources create space for both options.

3) Character - Would Jesus have attended a wedding with out-of-control drinking? Would he have provided alcohol to people already headed toward intoxication? Jesus could not create wine and stand innocent when it is abused (Hab. 2:15, Lk. 17:2). He wouldn't tempt, provoke, endanger folks in that way.


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