Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jesus wasn't a bartender!?

There are Christians in the world who choose not to drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. I understand and respect that. And then there are those who think that Christians shouldn't drink because they claim it is a sin.

One of the more difficult passages for those in the second group is Jesus turning water into wine in John 2. The thought of the Messiah using his powers to provide an intoxicating beverage just doesn't sit well with them. Often they will refer to it as "new wine" by which they mean alcohol free.

The video clip below was sent to me by a friend. I am not sure who the speaker is, but he can sure preach. Too bad his facts are wrong.

Again, I respect that he doesn't want to drink alcohol. But calling it a sin (something the Bible doesn't do) and suggesting that Jesus made non-alcoholic wine is just plain wrong. There are several ways that I could answer him, but I will use just one passage.

In Deuteronomy 14:22-27 some regulations for tithing are laid out. In 14:23 the reader is told to use their tithe (watch this now) to buy grain and new wine to drink where the Lord commands. Now it is true that the Hebrew  word in 14:23 means "new wine" or "fresh wine." It is a rarely used word for wine and carries with it connotations of ritual. But that doesn't necessarily mean non-alcoholic wine. One problem that has to be taken into consideration here is how would one keep grape juice from spoiling in the heat of Palestine? Certainly some portion of grape juice was probably drank when it was first squeezed and thus non-fermented. But without refrigeration and stabilizers the process of fermentation would begin to settle in on its own. Grape juice will either ferment or spoil. Thus the ancients had to make wine to keep it from becoming vinegar.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that new wine in 14:23 does refer to unfermented drink. What then are we to make of what we are told about the tithe in 14:26? There we read that if you are too far from the temple to enjoy your tithes you are to go out and buy "wine and strong drink" and to "rejoice in the presence of the Lord." In this case there is no getting around it. The word for "strong drink" is the same one used in Gen 9:21 to describe what Noah drank when he got drunk. And both words for wine and strong drink are used in 1 Sam 1:15 when Eli thinks Hannah is drunk. So while I am not suggesting the author of Deuteronomy is telling us to use our tithes to get drunk (something Bible does condemn) I am saying that we are told to spend our tithe money on a good bottle of wine and/or beer or even scotch and enjoy it in the presence of God.

So if the preacher above doesn't want to drink that is his choice.But he should not suggest that Jesus never drank or that he only made non-alcoholic wine. Equating Jesus with a bartender seems to be an attempt to not just marginalize those who drink but also those who serve drinks. But the gospels I read seem to locate Jesus frequently in the presence of bartenders.

For myself, I think I will use some of my tithe money!


  1. Couldn't agree more. Let's celebrate!

  2. So how did this guy know what Mogun David (sp?) was?

    1. I am utterly confident that this man doesn't drink. If Magen David is his "go to wine" then he has tried nothing but bad wine!

  3. Not only does he hate alcoholic beverages but Jehovah's Witnesses too?! I sit here wondering if his religious fervor exposes that his greatest personal struggle is with his desire to consume alcohol and convert to the JW's.

  4. Buying some good beer with tithe money...that is one of the best ideas ever. How has no theology ever been made around this concept??!

    In all seriousness though, I love this post. It's a really refreshing argument that I've never heard used. More people should think this way.

  5. I think we can be fairly sure γλεῦκος ("new wine") was an alcoholic beverage, as otherwise the accusation in Acts 2.13 makes very little sense indeed.