On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (John 2:1-10)
Was Jesus a bartender?Did Jesus abandon Jewish law and the teachings of the prophets and convert water to wine and get people drunk at a wedding?
This is what is being proposed by sectarian translators of the Biblical texts. As we will see with the original Greek texts, Jesus did not abandon Jewish law and supply fellow guests of the wedding alcohol.
We do see some narrative in the books of the New Testament that Jesus did tolerate and teach to people who drank alcohol. But we also know that Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist, was very strict about maintaining abstinence from alcohol.
The Book of John is describing an event whereby Jesus turned water into a grape beverage at a wedding. The woman that Jesus responded to initially was his mother, who told Jesus they had no more. Jesus was clear to her that his time for preaching and performing miracles had not yet come, yet his mother insisted.
Once the water in the jars was taken out to the banquet, they had been converted. Was this beverage that Jesus converted grape juice and not alcoholic wine?
Consider that the attendees at the wedding were observant Jews. Would Jesus have turned water into an alcoholic beverage and broken Jewish law? Would he have gotten all those people drunk? Was Jesus a bartender or enabler of alcoholism?
Consider that Jesus was a student of John the Baptist. Both were considered Jewish teachers and observers of Jewish law:
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine ... (Numbers 6:2-3)
"Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk...." (Habakkuk 2:15)
"It is not for kings, O Lemuel—not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights." (Proverbs 31:4-5)
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)Rather, wine and beer were to be used strictly for medicinal purposes:
"Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish..." (Proverbs 31:6)Current Jewish custom allows for the drinking of a glass of wine on special occasions. But intoxication is still condemned, even today.
Didn't Jesus drink alcohol?One might argue that Jesus' statement in Matthew (duplicated in Luke) confirms that Jesus drank alcohol. Yet quite the opposite is true when we examine the statement carefully:
"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:18-19)When this statement is examined carefully along with the Greek, it becomes obvious that Jesus is saying that he did not drink alcohol. Jesus did sit down at the table of "sinners" - as they accused those who had sumptuous meals together with wine.
Not only does Jesus not state he drank alcohol here - it actually illustrates that Jesus did not drink alcohol ("a drunkard" - from the Greek word, οἰνοπότης (oinopotēs) - meaning "winebibber").
Jesus is comparing the lies they were telling about John (that he "had a demon") with what they were saying about Jesus.
If one were to say that Jesus is confirming that Jesus drank alcohol, that would mean he is also saying that John the Baptist "had a demon."
These are what they were accusing John of - which was obviously untrue. Thus we have to also accept that Jesus did not drink alcohol - because that would be untrue as well. This is what they were accusing - not what Jesus was.
As such, we have to reject the notion that Jesus drank alcohol. If he did drink alcohol, then Jesus would not have said they were falsely accusing him of being a drunkard - drinking alcohol.
Was this a non-alcoholic wine?The Greek word translated to "wine" here can refer to either an unfermented (non-alcoholic) wine or a fermented wine.
Oinos is a wine that can be fermented or unfermented (used in Matthew 9:17, Ephesians 5:18 and in John 2). Gleukos is a sweet, fresh grape juice (as in Acts 2:13).
This is also reflected in the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament. Some verses utilize the Hebrew word תִּירוֹשׁ (tiyrowsh), which indicates a freshly squeezed unfermented "wine" - more of a juice. Then there is יַיִן (yayin), a fermented wine - meaning it could be intoxicating, depending upon how long it is fermented (aged).
Typically, wine-makers utilize yeast to speed up the fermentation process, to convert more sugars to alcohol. When yeast is not used, the sugars convert more slowly, producing a wine that will have very little alcohol content unless it is aged a while.
A 'cheaper' wine?We should also note that Jesus stated that, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine ..." Here the word "choice" is being translated from the Greek word, καλός (kalos), which can mean "good" or "choice," but also "morally good" and "noble," as well as "genuine" and "approved."
Something that was "noble" or "morally good" would not be alcoholic under Jewish custom. Something that is both "morally good" and "genuine" would also indicate that it was fresh, and thus not alcoholic. It was not fermented, because it was fresh - and "morally good."
John then comments that this miracle was the first of many and that it caused Jesus’ disciples at that time to put their faith in him (John 2:11). Surely, serving intoxicating wine at a wedding would not have impressed any serious followers during those times of strict Jewish custom.
We should note that the Apostle John - as were James, Peter and most others - did strictly observe Jewish or Mosaic principles. It was Paul who, after Jesus left the planet, broke away and insisted that followers of Jesus didn't have to observe Mosaic principles.
Furthermore, the jars that Jesus had turned into the grape juice were stone water jars intended for the use of Jewish ceremonial washing. Would Jesus have turned the contents of what was being used for purification purposes into a source of drunkenness?
What is the context of Jesus' statement?We can conclude that the circumstances of this event indicate that Jesus did not abandon Jewish law and the teachings of the prophets and get people drunk at a wedding. All indications are that the wine was freshly squeezed and not thoroughly fermented. It was thus not alcoholic.
If by chance he did convert the water to fermented wine, it was for the purpose of being used ceremoniously and medicinally as a single serving, not as a source of intoxication. Noting that this was a wedding - a religious ceremony in Jewish custom - it was more likely grape juice.
While Jesus complied with the request of his mother, we know that Jesus was keenly aware of the time and circumstances for his service to the Supreme Being.
Jesus was representing the Supreme Being. God does not have his representatives cause people to become intoxicated. Jesus' statement, "My time has not come," shows that Jesus was subservient to the Supreme Being's will, and understood that the Supreme Being had a plan for imparting His teachings.
This illustrates Jesus' focus upon pleasing the Supreme Being, as confirmed elsewhere:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)Getting people drunk would not have been pleasing to the Supreme Being.
*Here is the translation of this event according to the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the wedding. When the grape juice was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more grape juice.” “Madam, what does this have to do with me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.” Now there were six stone water jars set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. And he said to them, “Draw some out and take it to the table master.” So they took it to him, and the table master tasted the water that had become grape juice. He did not know from where it had come, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. The table master called the bridegroom aside and said, “Every man serves the choice beverage first and when people have drunk freely, then he serves the cheaper grape juice. But you have kept the good juice until now." (John 2:1-10)