Luke 7:33-34 "For John the
Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, he
hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say,
behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and
WINE: FERMENTED OR UNFERMENTED?
The following is an
examination of the midst of common Biblical word for wine. The Greek word
for "wine" in Luke 7:33 is oinos. Oinos can refer to two distinctly
different types of juice of the grape:
unfermented juice, and
fermented or intoxicating wine.
This interpretation is supported by the following data.
(1) The Greek word oinos
was used by secular and religious authors in pre-Christian and early
church times to refer to fresh grape juice (see Aristotle, "Metereologica",
387.b 9-13) a. Anacreon (c. 500 B.C.) writes, "Squeeze the grape, let out
the wine (oinos)" (Ode 5) b. Nicander (2nd century B.C.) writes of
squeezing grapes and refers to the produced juice as oinos (Gerogica,
fragment 86). c. Papias (A.D. 60-130), an early church father, mentions
that when grapes are crushed they yield "jars of wine (oinos)" (cited by
Irenaeus, "Against Herecies", 5.33.3-4) d. A Greek Papyrus letter (P. Oxy.
729; A.D. 137) speaks of fresh wine(oinos) from the treading vat" (see
Moulton and Miligan, "The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament,p.10) e.
Athenaeus (AD. 200) speaks o a "sweet wine(oinos)" that "does not make the
head heavy" (Athanaeus, "Banquet",1.54). In another place, he writes of a
man gathering grapes who "went about, and took wine (onios) from the
field" (1.54). For more detailed discussions on use of oinos by ancient
writers, see Robert P. Teachout, "The Use of 'Wine' in the Old Testament"
(Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979)
(2) The Jewish scholars
who translated the O.T. into Greek about 200 BC used oinos when
translating several Hebrews words for wine. In other words, the writers of
the NT knew that oinos could either be fermented or unfermented juice from
(3) As in secular Greek
and the OT, an examination of NT passages reveals that oinos may mean
either fermented or unfermented wine. In Ephesians 5:18 the command "be
not drunk with wine (oinos)," refers to alcoholic wine. On the other hand,
in Revelation 19:15 Christ is described as treading out the winepress. The
Greek text reads: "He treads the winepress with wine (oinos)"; the oinos
that comes forth from the winepress would be grape juice (Isaiah 66:10;
Jer. 48:32-37). In Revelation 6:6 oinos refers to grapes on the vine as a
crop not to be destroyed. Thus, for believers in NT times, "wine"(oinos)
was a general word that could be used for two distinctly different grape
beverages, fermented and unfermented wine.
(4) Finally, ancient
Roman writers have explained in detail various processes used in dealing
with freshly squeezed grape juice, especially ways to preserve it from
fermenting a. Columella (on Agriculture, 12.29), knowing that grape juice
would not ferment if kept cool (under 50 degrees) and oxygen free, writes
as follows: "That your grape juice may be always as sweet as when it is
new, thus proceed. After you apply the press to the grapes, take the
newest must (i.e. fresh juice), put it in a new container (amphora), bung
it up , and cover it up very carefully with pitch lest any water should
enter, then sink it in a cistern or pond of cold water and allow no part
on the amphora to remain above the surface. After forty days take it out.
It will remain sweet for a year" (see also Columella, "Agriculture and
Trees"; Cato, "On Agriculture"). The Roman writer Pliny (1st century AD)
writes: "as soon as the must (grape juice) is taken from the vat and put
into casks, they plunge the casks in water till midwinter passes and
regular cold weather sets in" (Pliny, "Natural History", 14.11.83). Israel
would have had no problem in applying the above method (Deut.
8:7;11:11-12; Ps. 65:9-13). b. Another method to keep grapes from
fermenting was to boil them into a syrup Ancient historians actually
referred to this product as wine (oinos). Canon Farrar (Smith's Bible
Dictionary, p.747) states that "the wines of antiquity were more like
syrups; many of them were not intoxicant" Also, The New Bible Dictionary
(p. 1332) notes that "there were means of keeping wine sweet all year
USE OF WINE IN LORD'S SUPPER
Did Jesus use fermented
or unfermented grape drink when He instituted the Lord's Supper (Mat.
26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26)? The following
data support the conclusion that what Jesus and His disciples drank was
unfermented grape juice.
(1) Neither Luke nor any
other Biblical writer uses the word "wine"(oinos) in regard to the Lord's
Supper. The first three Gospel writers use "fruit of the vine" (Mat.
26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18-KJV). Unfermented wine is the only true
natural "fruit of the vine," containing approximately 20% sugar and NO
alcohol. Fermentation destroys much of sugar and alters what the vine
produced. Fermented wine is not the product of the vine.
(2) The Lord's Supper was
instituted when Jesus and His disciples were eating the Passover. The
Passover law in Ex. 12:14-20 prohibited, during Passover week, the
presence and use of seor (Ex. 12:15), a word referring to leaven, yeast,
or any agent of fermentation. Seor in the ancient world was often obtained
from the thick scum in top of unfermenting wine. Furthermore, all hametz
(i.e. anything containing any fermentation) was forbidden (Ex. 12:19;
13:7) God had given these laws because fermentation symbolized corruption
and sin (Mat. 16:6,12:1 Cor. 5:7-8). Jesus, the Son of God, fulfilled the
law in every requirement (Mat.5:17). This, He would have followed God's
law for the Passover and not used fermented wine.
(3) A rather lively
debate has taken place over the centuries among Jewish rabbis and scholars
in NT times. as to whether fermented products of the vine were allowed in
the Passover. Those who held to a stricter and more literal interpretation
of the Hebrew Scriptures, especially Exodus 13:7, insisted that no
fermented wine was to be used on this occasion.
(4) Some Jewish sources
affirm that the use of the unfermented wine at the Passover was common in
NT times. For example, "According to the synoptic Gospels, it would appear
that on the Thursday evening of the last week of His life Jesus with His
disciples entered Jerusalem in order to eat the Passover meal with them in
the sacred city; if so, the wafer and the wine of ...them communion
service then instituted by Him as a memorial would be the unleavened bread
and the unfermented wine of the Seder Service" (see "Jesus," The Jewish
Encyclopedia, 1904 edition, V.165).
(5) In the OT fermented
drink was never to be used in the house of God, nor were the priests
allowed to draw near to God in worship while drinking intoxicating
beverages (see Lev. 10:9). Jesus Christ was God's High Priest of the new
covenant for the sake of His people (Heb. 3:1;5:1-10)
(6) The value of a symbol
is determined by its capacity to conceptualize the spiritual reality.
Therefore, just as the bread represented the pure body of Christ and had
to be unleavened (i.e. uncorrupted with fermentation), the fruit of the
vine, representing the incorruptible blood of Christ, would have been best
represented by juice that was unfermented (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
(7) Paul instructed the
Corinthians to put away spiritual yeast, i.e. the fermenting agent of
"malice and wickedness", because Christ is our Passover (1 Cor.5:6-8). It
would be inconsistent with the goal and spiritual requirement of the
Lord's Supper to use something which was a symbol of evil. i.e. something
with leaven or yeast.
WINE: MIXED OR FULL STRENGTH?
concerning the making and use of wine by the Jews and other nations in the
Biblical world indicate that it was a. often unfermented b. normally mixed
The previous articles
discussed one of the processes used in keeping freshly squeezed grape
juice in a sweet and unfermented state. This article discusses two other
processes of dealing with grapes, preparatory to mixing them with water.
(1) One method was to
dehydrate the grapes to a proper point, sprinkle them with olive oil to
keep them moist, and store them in earthenware jars (Zondervan Pictorial
Encyclopedia of the Bible, V.882; see also Columella, "On Agriculture",
12.33.1-8). A very sweet grape beverage could made from these stored
grapes at any time by later adding water and steeping of boiling them.
Polybius indicated that the Roman women were allowed to drink this kind of
grape beverage, but were forbidden to drink fermented wine (see Polybius,
"Fragments, 6.4; cf. Pliny, 14.11.81).
(2) Another method was to
boil freshly squeezed grape juice until it became a thick paste or syrup
(grape honey); this process made it storable, removed any intoxicating
quality because of the high concentration of sugarm and preserved its
sweetness (see Columella, "On Agriculture", 12.19.1-6 and 20.1-8; Pliny,
"Natural History", 14.11.80). This was then stored in large jars or skins.
The paste could be used as a jam for their bread or dissolved in water to
make grape juice once again (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the
Bible, V.882-884). "It is probable that the grape wwas largely cultivated
as a source of sugar: the juice expressed in the 'wine press' was reduced
by boiling to a liquid ...known as 'grape honey'" (The International
Standard Bible Encyclopedia of the Bible, V.3050). References to honey in
the Bible frequently refer to grape honey (called "debash" by the Jews)
rather than to the honey of the bee.
(3) Water, then, could be
mixed with dehydrated grapes and with grape syrup, as well as with
fermented wine. Greek and Roman authors gave various ratios that were
used. Homer (Odyssey. IX.208f) mentions a ratio of twenty parts water to
one part wine. Plutarch (Sumposiacs, III.ix) states, "We call a mixture
'wine,' although the larger of the component parts is water." Pliny
(Natural History,XIV.6.54) mentions a ratio of eight parts water to one
(4) Among Jewish people
in Bible times, social and religious customs mandated never serving
unmixed wine, especially if it was fermented. The Talmud (a Jewish work
that describes the traditions of Judaism from about 200 BC to AD 200)
discusses in several tractates the mixture of water and wine (e.g.
Shabbath 77a; Pesahim 1086). Some Jewish rabbis insisted that unless
fermented wine was mixed with three parts of water, it could not be
blessed and would defile the drinker. Others demanded that ten parts of
water must be mixed with one part of fermented wine before it could be
(5) An interesting
passage emerges in the book of Revelation: when speaking of "the wine of
the wrath of God," an angel declares that it will be "without mixture,"
i.e., full strength (Rev. 14:10); see Jer. 25:15). It was stated in this
way because the readers normally would expect all grape beverages to be
mixed with water (John 2:3)
In summary, then, the
normal uses of wine by Jews in Biblical days were not the same as today,
grape juice freshly squeezed
grape juice preserved
juice from dried grapes
grape wine made from grape syrup and water
unfermented or fermented stored wine diluted with water at a
ratio as high as 20 to 1.
wine was fermented and served unmixed, it was considered barbaric,
defiling, and incapable of being blessed by the rabbis. In the light of
these facts, it is impossible to defend the modern-day practice of
drinking alcoholic beverages on the basis of the Jews' use of wine in
Biblical times. They are clearly not the same. Furthermore, Christians of
Biblical days exercised a more careful attitude towards various kinds of
wines than did the Jews (Rom 14:21; 1 Thes.5:6; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 2:2-->
historical/documental notes can/will be provided as requested)
JESUS GLORY MANIFESTED THROUGH WINE
In his second chapter,
John records that Jesus made "wine" out of water at Cana. The question is,
"What kind of wine?" As we have seen, it could be fermented or
unfermented, full strength or diluted. We must determine our answer to
this question by contextual implication and moral likelihood. The position
of this study Bible is that Jesus made wine (oinos) that was pure
unfermented grape juice. The following data support this conclusion and
give strong reasons for rejecting the opinion that Jesus made intoxicating
(1) The primary object of
this miracle was to "manifest forth His glory" (John 2:11) in such a way
as to induce personal faith and confidence in Him as the holy and
righteous Son of God who came to save people from their sin (2:11; Mat.
1:21). To suggest that Christ showed forth His deity as the One and Only
Son of the Father (John 1:14) by miraculously creating gallons of
intoxicating wine for a drunken party (note 2:10, which implies that the
people had already drunk freely), and that this was immensely important to
His Messianic mission, requires an irreverence few are willing to display.
it would testify more to the honor of God, and the honor and glory of
Christ, to believe that He supernaturally created the same juices of the
grape that God makes annually through the process of His natural created
order. (see John 2:3, note). This miracle, therefore, points to Christ's
sovereignty over the natural world and becomes a symbol of His power to
transform sinful people spiritually into children of God (John 3:1-15).
Because of this miracle "we beheld His glory, the glory as the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14; 2:11).
(2) It is contrary to
Scriptural revelation concerning the perfect obedience of Christ to his
heavenly Father (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22) to suppose that He
disobeyed the Father's moral command, "look not thou upon the wine when it
is red... when it moveth itself aright," i.e. when it is fermented (Prov.
23:31, note). Indeed, Christ came to fulfill the law (Mat. 5:17) and would
have supported the Biblical passage which condemns intoxicating wine as "a
mocker" and "raging" (see Prov. 20:1, note) and the words of Hab. 2:15
"Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink... and makest him drunken"
(Lev. 10:8-11; Num. 6:1-5; Deut. 21:20; Prov. 31:4-7; Is. 28:7; Amos
2:8,12; 4:1; 6:6; Rom. 14:13,21). Check these verses out, these show us
about: different kinds of wine, and what the Lord God said about wine.
(3) Furthermore, note the
following modern medical evidence. a. Current leading medical experts on
human birth defects have found unmistakable evidence that moderate
alcoholic consumption is damaging to the reproductive systems of women of
children bearing age, causing miscarriages and births of babies with
incurable mental and physical defects, World authorities on early
embryology maintain that women who drink even moderate amounts of alcohol
around the time of conception (a 48-hour time period) risk damaging the
chromosomes of an egg preparing to leave the ovary and hence, causing
disastrous results to the mental and physical development of the infant.
b. It would be theologically absurd to maintain that Jesus served and
encouraged the use of alcoholic beverages at a wedding which included many
women as well as the young bride with the possibilities of her immediate
conception. To maintain that He did not know of the potential terrible
effects of intoxicating drink on unborn children is to call into question
His deity, wisdom, and discernment of good and evil. To maintain that He
knew of the potential harm and disfiguring results of alcohol, and yet
promoted and encouraged its use, is to call into question His goodness,
compassion, and love.
The only sound conclusion
rationally, Biblically, and theologically is that the wine which Christ
made at the wedding in order to manifest His glory was pure, sweet,
unfermented fruit of the vine -- just as the one that He used in the last
Full Life Study Bible, King James Version (p. 1538 and p. 1594)