The issue of alcohol and the Christian is an incredibly volatile subject causing great division and stern judgments on both sides. I have been deeply affected by this issue myself, as I have many friends and family members who are controlled by alcohol. I am not a teetotaler, but I rarely drink. I don’t like wine. Some beers are pretty good. I like tequila. But if the consumption of alcohol were made illegal, I would not even really notice.

There are so many different positions out there with regard to this issue. Let me try to name a few:

  1. Those who abstain from alcohol and believe that this is the biblical position for everyone.
  2. Those who abstain from alcohol but don’t believe this is a biblical mandate to enforce on others.
  3. Those who drink alcohol only for “celebratory” purposes (i.e., Lord’s table), but don’t get drunk.
  4. Those who casually drink wine or beer, but abstain from “hard liquor” and don’t get drunk.
  5. Those who casually drink alcohol in order to feel “merry” or “tipsy” but don’t get drunk.
  6. Those who drink alcohol and get drunk occasionally but are not “drunkards” (i.e. addicted).

Outside of this, all Christians would (or should) agree that being addicted to alcohol is expressly forbidden in Scripture, as it relinquishes control of our faculties to alcohol rather than to the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Paul warns Timothy about such abuses with regard to the qualifications of a deacon (1 Tim. 3:8) and elders (1 Tim. 3:3).

I am not going to discuss here which of the above positions is correct. However, I do want to discuss one passage of Scripture that infuses the debate over alcohol with great passion. It is the subject of Christ and his relation to alcohol while here on earth. Most specifically, I want to ask the question of whether Christ, during the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in John 2, turned the water into wine, unfermented grape juice, or something else. Here is the text:

John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

This question raised by this passage does indeed contribute a great deal to the overall debate. For if Christ turned the water into an alcoholic beverage, then his participation in the issue certainly does not bode well for those who preach that the biblical position requires Christians to abstain from alcohol altogether. He would have been serving as a bartender, if you will, at a celebration where abuse of alcohol certainly may have taken place. More than that, there is no reason to doubt that he himself would have drunk this wine.

Yet some maintain that the wine Jesus produced was a non-fermented type of wine called “new wine” (kainos neos). In this case, it would be like grape juice. Others believe that the wine Jesus created was watered down so much that one would have to suffer a severe bladder problem in order to get drunk. However, neither of these interpretations are supported by the best textual scholarship, and seem to be driven by a desire to maintain a rigid teetotaler position.

New Wine is Unfermented Wine?

R. A. Torrey does a good job of representing the position that the wine Christ provided was unfermented “new wine.”

“[Jesus] provided wine, but there is not a hint that the wine He made was intoxicating. It was fresh-made wine. New-made wine is never intoxicating. It is not intoxicating until some time after the process of fermentation has set in. Fermentation is a process of decay. There is not a hint that our Lord produced alcohol, which is a product of decay or death. He produced a living wine uncontaminated by fermentation. It is true it was better wine than they had been drinking, but that does not show for a moment that it was more fermented than that which they had before been drinking” (Difficulties in the Bible).

However, there are significant problems with this argument. New wine was fermented. Its ability to cause intoxication is well represented in the Scriptures (Is 49:26; Hos 4:11; cf. Judg 9:13; see “Wine” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 1992 [J. B. Green, S. McKnight & I. H. Marshall, Ed.], 870, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).

The happenings in Acts 2 represent this well. Having received the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles are speaking in tongues and sharing the Gospel with the people. Some people are amazed, but others accuse the Apostles of being intoxicated.

Acts 2:13:
“But others, mocking, said, ‘They are filled with new wine’.”

How could the Apostles be accused of being intoxicated from a drink that is not fermented? There is no indication, either in the culture of the day or in the Bible, that there was such a thing as unfermented wine. Wine is wine because it is fermented.

Some scholars have attempted to contrast the two Hebrew terms for wine in the Old Testament to make a case that one was unfermented grape juice. However, the evidence does not support such a conclusion. Leaning heavily on C. Seltman, Wine in the Ancient World, the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible draws this conclusion about the term that is purported to refer to grape juice:

(1) The Hebrew word is found in primarily neutral contexts; (2) often that particular word is found in contexts definitely including a fermented beverage (e.g., Gn 27:28; Hos 4:11; Mi 6:15); (3) the Ugaritic parallel to the term in question refers with certainty to a fermented wine (4) the Septuagint equivalents refer to fermented wine; (5) fermentation in the ancient Near East, unlike Greece, took only about three days, and (6) the Mishna provides no such evidence of the practice of having unfermented wine. There seems to have been no attempts to preserve wine in an unfermented state; it may have been a near impossible task.

It would seem that, for the Hebrews, there is no way to use the term “grape juice” as a substitute for wine. The article concludes: “A careful examination of all the Hebrew words (as well as their Semitic cognates) and the Greek words for wine demonstrates that the ancients knew little, if anything, about unfermented wine.

Watered Down Wine?

Some make the case that the wine used in the New Testament was so watered down that it was nearly impossible to cause one to get drunk. Norman Geisler make such a case:

Wine today has a much higher level of alcohol than wine in the New Testament. In fact in New Testament times one would need to drink twenty-two glasses of wine in order to consume the large amount of alcohol in two martinis today. (“A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking” Bibliotheca Sacra, Issue 553, 1982).

However, this does not seem to be the case. Geisler is assuming a mixture evidenced by some ancient Greeks. Homer writes about a water to wine ratio of 20 to 1 (Homer, Odyssey 10. 208f). However, this may be because the wine was so strong! The Mishna, which represents a better accounting of the Hebrew usage of wine, assumes a ratio of two parts of water to one part wine. The Talmudic sources speak of three to one. Wine often would contain 15% alcohol. Even if it were mixed with three parts of water, this would put it at 5% alcohol. This is a higher percentage than much beer today! Pliny, the Roman Senator writing in the first century, spoke about wine that could hold a flame. For this to happen, it would had to have been in excess of 30% alcohol! No wonder some speak of adding twenty parts water.

Not only this, but wine diluted with water was symbolic of spiritual adulteration. Isaiah 1:22, speaking to the infidelity of the nation of Israel, says, “Your silver has become dross, your best wine mixed with water.” Just before this, God gives this rebuke: “How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.” The nation had gone astray. It is not seen as a good thing to have diluted wine.

Further (and most importantly) the story of Jesus at the wedding does not support a conclusion that the wine Jesus made was either excessively watered down or grape juice. After the head waiter had tasted the wine Jesus made, he went to the bridegroom and said this: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” What Jesus created was “good wine.” According to the waiter, the custom was to serve the “good wine” first; then, when the people had “drunk” much of the wine, they served the cheaper wine. This word for “drunk” is methusko, which means “to become intoxicated.” It is the same word used in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk [methusko] with wine…” (see also Luke 12:45; 1 Thes 5:7; Rev. 17:12). The only testimony we have about the state of the wine Christ created is the headwaiter’s review of it, and he suggests that it is the type that can intoxicate (i.e., it was fermented). It is very difficult to draw any other conclusion.

Added to this, there is no reason to believe that Christ himself did not drink this fermented wine. It is evident that He drank wine at the passover (Mark 14:23). In fact, Christ seemed to have made a habit of drinking wine. According to his own testimony, he drank wine that others abstained from.

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34).

John the Baptist took a Nazirite vow and abstained from alcohol. But Christ did not. He explicitly says that he came “eating and drinking.” Because of this, others accused him of being a drunkard.

The implications for all of this are important in the discussion about alcohol and the Christian. Christ, in celebration of the Kingdom, produced an alcoholic beverage that could intoxicate. Christ was a bartender! This certainly does not solve any of the problems associated with alcohol. The problems are tremendous. But to be controlled by alcohol is not a modern problem. This problem has been around since ancient times. However, this does not mean that God forbids things that have the potential to be destructive. We must be careful that we don’t legislate God. It is not unlike issues of gun control, sugar consumption, or tobacco. All of these have potential to hurt people, all of these have a history of hurting people, all of these have people who attempt to force moderation or abstinence, but none of them are forbidden by God. We must be careful in what we attempt to forbid, even if the legislation is for a good purpose. The solution for problems associated with alcohol is not a mandate for abstinence, but education concerning its dangers.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    181 replies to "Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine or Grape Juice?"

    • Roman

      I will tell you one thing and you can argue whatever you want, but this is the truth. God in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 said, if what you do causes your brother to stumble you are commit sin. ” 21 “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” – Roman 14:21.

      In Mark 9:42, Matthew 18:6, and Luke 17:2 Jesus teaches that if one causes one of the little ones to stumble it would be better for that person to be thrown overboard with a stone over the head.

      When I was a sinner I would find any evidence I could to support my bad behavior. You can know nothing about how much Jesus drank, what kind of wine it actually was, or what was the result/intentions. But I guarantee you this if your article even causes one person to sin you have done more harm than good! How many people do you think heard only what they want to hear from your statement? Jesus was sinless, so even if he did drink wine, he didn’t lie, be prideful, boastful, arrogant, obnoxious, angry, rude, lustful, not in control or violent (what most people become after drinking).

      In 1 Peter 5:8 We are taught to be SOBER minded for we don’t know when the lord will return.

    • Shawn


      Have you stopped eating meat?
      Notice how you quoted the verse concerning “eating meat or drinking wine”, yet you only paid attention to the “wine” part.

      >”You can know nothing about how much Jesus drank, what kind of wine it actually was, or what was the result/intentions”>

      And while it’s true that I have no idea of how much wine Jesus drank (though I don’t recall anyone on this thread claiming to know how much wine Jesus drank so that gets thrown into the can labeled “straw man”), but I can most certainly know what kind of wine it was, and I’ve proven that point quite easily in my posts. Did you actually read my posts? I didn’t think so. Just more knee-jerk reactions, which is typical.

    • Shawn


      You said: “Ylt acts 2 13 says sweet wine also was the wedding at cana the only time jesus preformed the miracle if so then I believe the unfermanted type. Also I think john 2 25 sums up the whole point and is more important than anything else..”

      Perhaps you could point to some evidence supporting your position? All you’ve done so far is to tell us what you believe, without telling us why you believe it.

    • Shawn


      Also, I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is that’s supposed to be “summed up” in John 2:25.

      And since you didn’t bother to actually quote the reference for us, here it is:
      “He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”

      I truly fail to see how this addresses anything at the wedding feast in Cana, nor of identifying any type of wine, etc. How about telling us what this verse us supposed to be telling us.

    • David

      When I study the Bible I look for any propositional statements concerning the subject at hand. Proverbs says propositionally that the substance of alcohol is an agent of mocking and brawling. The discussion on moderation is mute if this is true as God does not give license for us to participate in that which is intrinsically evil. Let the propositional truth guide your study and the ambiguous terms yayin and oinos takeon their appropriate meaning in any given passage. Alcohol is a unique substance that works directly in the moral processing part of the brain…one drink of alcohol lowers the ability to retain clear moral focus…thus is presented in in Ephesians 5:18,as the anti-type of the Holy Spirit…

    • Shawn

      “When I study the Bible I look for any propositional statements concerning the subject at hand.”

      Evidently you also choose to ignore the rest of Scripture when it comes into direct conflict with what you’ve chosen to believes is the correct answer. Why is it that you WILL NOT address the verses I’ve posted again and again, ESPECIALLY Deut 14:26?

      AND you’ve chosen to ignore the other passages in Proverbs where wine is given high priority:

      Do not spend your strength on women,
      your vigor on those who ruin kings.
      4It is not for kings, Lemuel—
      it is not for kings to drink wine,
      not for rulers to crave beer,
      5lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
      and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
      6Let beer be for those who are perishing,
      wine for those who are in anguish!
      7Let them drink and forget their poverty
      and remember their misery no more.
      8Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
      for the rights of all who are destitute.
      9Speak up and judge fairly;
      defend the rights of the poor and needy.

      And how about Proverbs 9? Notice that Wisdom calls for you to drink the WINE, yet Folly calls you to drink WATER.

      My question for you is, are you willing to take a look at a little essay I did on the very subject, which is absolutely chock full of Scripture? Do you dare challenge your own thinking and preconceptions?

    • The honest truth❤️

      I can prove you wrong my friend ❤️

      Romans 14:21
      “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby my brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak…”

      In my church we have a Christian who was once an alcoholic, for the sake of Christians with this temptation the church made a unified decision to use unfermented, fruit of the vine, for our communion (100% pure grape juice).
      The Bible says we are to serve God with our mind, wine has the ability to distort the human mind. How can I serve God if I have an unstable mind?

      The new laws did not come into effect until Christ died, and was resurrected. In the old law to drink wine was almost considered a form of thankfulness to God and all that he has supplied to you. The new law, does not say that to drink wine is a sin, but why allow temptation to sit on your tongue? Yes, in the new testament you see Jesus turned water to wine, but you also see him worshipping on the Sabbath day! This is because his a law did not come into effect until he died.

      The Bible says to be sober, for our adversary is like a lion seeking whom he may devour…. It does not become a sin unto you allow it to make you drunk, but why even risk allowing this sinful flesh to come so close to what, if taken too far, could take you to hell.

    • Annette Leon

      My thinking Jesus did not turn water into wine.The guests were well over the limit, that water was poured from the wine flask, they would not have known the difference.

    • sally

      im sure thats the excuse the applicants gave you – or the HR dept

      the fact is : in every state in the us you need a bal/bac of .08 to even be arrested much less prosecuted !

      youd have to have more than two drinks an hour to be intoxicated unless your like 13 yrs old……

    • Aaron

      Maybe weddings were different in Jesus’ s day. Maybe people didn’t drink to get stuck and act like fools as today. Now a days people care more about getting drunk at a wedding than the bride and groom.
      The same can be said for Christians who drink now. If they drink just to get wasted and use this scripture as an excuse while forgetting the scriptures about drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
      Point is, Jesus would not turn watern into wine so alcoholics or idiots who can’t have fun without being wasted could enjoy the wedding.
      Jesus died in the cross so the addiction of alcohol can be broken. He wouldn’t serve up the sin he would then die for. That would be hypocritical.

    • Dwight

      Ancient wine could exceed the 14-15% by fortifying the wine with sugar during it fermentatin process, which was done by drying raisins and then adding them into the wine. Also heat increased the sugar levels…hence the wines in the hotter regions of Palestine were often more alcoholic than the wines further north. Aristotle said, “Part 9 “Sweet wine does give off fumes, for it contains fat and behaves like oil. It does not solidify under the influence of cold and it is apt to burn. Really it is not wine at all in spite of its name: for it does not taste like wine and consequently does not inebriate as ordinary wine does. It contains but little fumigable stuff and consequently is inflammable.” so some wines were so high they could catch flame, but not sweet wine.

    • Kerney Paul Dupuis

      What amazes me most; is that most of the bloggers here actually believe that the transmutation of water into wine is possible. Contact me and I will sell you a philosophers stone that turns lead into gold.

    • meera

      The author of the bible / any religious text is totally perfect and may a lifetime to understand their language. To me wine – refers to strongess n power of god. If water is kept for a long time its power will fade, taste dies etc. But jesus turned such water into wine. If wine is kept for a time long it gets stronger and the effect of it is powerful. So jesus had to power to turn water(probably old kept water) into wine. The power of the water now is more powerful than ever because the lord has blessed it. His men were drunk with his blessings. I love literacy!!!

    • Aaron Versch

      Drinking is not a sin. Being drunk is. Drunkards shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Like everything, it’s your intention and heart that matters. If you don’t want to give up alcohol and want to hold onto something in your former life, be careful.
      I hate it when people plan on sinning and use Noah bring drunk or David sinning as excuses. Mistakes are one thing, but if you plan on going out and getting wasted, don’t use the Word of God as an excuse.
      Alcoholism is an iniquity in my family. So I choose not to touch it and don’t put myself in a situation to look for an excuse. Science can tell me that it’s in my genes so I eventually will be an alcoholic but if I choose not to drink, my free will to drunk won’t ever be taken from me. I will never have to use science or scripture to convince me it’s ok. Touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you also means, touch the unclean thing and I will reject you. Your heart and intention makes things unclean.

    • Pktrkt

      Everyone misses the point. Wine or grape juice, it was a wasted miracle. If someone gives you three wishes you do not make wine one of them, but always wish for three more wishes on the third. A eternal supply of toilet paper for everyone would have been better than wine for a few.

    • genealogyangel

      For me, the main reason this is an issue that needs sounds research and respectful discussion is that I have a relative who is an active member of the WCTU. She brings up this topic in family gatherings. While I believe she is wrong in her thinking and has believed erroneous theories, I need to be able to talk about this with her in an edifying manner. It is significant to me that in recent years scientists/nutritionists have found that moderate drinking of wine is beneficial to one’s health; supposedly it increases heart health and protects against Alzheimer’s.

    • Aaron

      Of course science will back up anything you want. It will also discredit anything you want to. Just like reprobates can find theologians, professors, etc to twist the Word of God into anything they want so they don’t have to give up sin. If you want to moderately drink, and the Holy Spirit is not convicting you because your heart and reasoning is ok, have at it. But once you become drunk, watch out. The Bible clearly states drunkards cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
      I am sure if someone wants to get wasted for whatever reason and still proclaim to be Christ-like, they will find an excuse to justify it, but why sadden God? It’s all about your personal relationship with him and winning souls for him. So if sin separates us from God and drunkenness is a sin, why purposely anger God?
      God can free addiction because he shed his blood to conquer all addiction. So bring your addiction to God. Remember though, it takes someone willingly making the decision to drink a whole lot of times in order to be addicted to it, so please don’t give the enemy any way into your soul.

    • Kevin

      Small editorial comment;
      kainos neos means new new, not new wine (which you know…but missed).


      I am of the personal choice in our walk camp.

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