News Articles

1871 book: Jesus’ wine at Cana was non-alcoholic

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–First published in 1871, the book, “Bible Wines,” remains a valuable resource supporting a centuries-old contention that Christ turned barrels of water into non-alcoholic wine at the wedding in Cana.
“Bible Wines,” by William Patton, is distributed by the Temperance League of Kentucky. Copies can be ordered from the organization at (502) 635-0002.

Patton’s book is a godsend to those who believe Christ would not have turned water into fermented wine, said Claude Witt, executive director of the Temperance League of Kentucky who also is a Southern Baptist Convention Christian Life Commission member and president of the American Council on Alcohol Problems, based in St. Louis.

“There are so many biblical verses that clearly emphasize God’s restriction against drinking fermented wine,” Witt said.

“For example, in Numbers, chapter 6, verses 1 through 4, God instructs Moses to take the vow of the Nazirite and separate himself from wine or strong drink, to consume nothing from the grape vine, not drink grape juice, and eat not even the seed or the skins.

“While that was the call to be a priest, a leader of the people, today, with Christ, all of us are priests or ministers. All of us are called to separate ourselves from the world, and especially from one of the world’s greatest temptations — alcohol,” Witt said.

Still, those who drink moderately or occasionally say the Bible does not specifically rule out drinking, only getting drunk — at least for those who are not called to the degree of service as was Moses.

“There is an argument that can be made along those lines,” Witt said. “It is not one that I follow, but the Bible does in many instances sternly warn us not to get drunk. But I believe it is also clearly warning us not to drink at all.”

In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray for protection against temptation. Witt questioned why any believers would think God would lead them into such a powerful temptation by allowing them to drink, even in moderation.

“All alcoholics start as moderate drinkers. All those who get drunk start with a first drink,” he said.

In “Bible Wines,” Patton presented an extended argument that Christ created non-alcoholic wine at the wedding feast in Cana.

The Bible’s account of Christ turning water into wine, considered his first miracle, is in John 2:1-11. Patton contended:

“The distinguishing fact is that Christ turned the water into wine. The Greek word is oinos; and it is claimed that therefore the wine was alcoholic and intoxicating. But as oinos is a generic word, and, as such, includes all kinds of wine and all stages of the juice of the grape, and sometimes the cluster and even the vine, it is begging the whole question to assert it was intoxicating.

“As the narrative is silent on this point, the character of the wine can only be determined by the attendant circumstances — by the occasion, the material used, the person making the wine and the moral influence of the miracle.

“The occasion was a wedding convocation. The material was water — the same element which the clouds pour down, which the vine draws up from the earth by its roots, and in its passage to the clusters changes into juice. The operator was Jesus Christ, the same who, in the beginning, fixed that law by which the vine takes up water and converts it into pure, unfermented juice.

“The wine provided by the family was used up, and the mother of Jesus informed him of that fact. He directed that the six water pots be filled with water. This being done, He commanded it be drawn and handed to the master of the feast. He pronounced it wine — good wine.

“The moral influence of the miracle will be determined by the character of the wine. It is pertinent to ask: Is it not derogatory to the character of Christ and the teachings of the Bible to suppose that he exerted his miraculous power to produce (what some say is 126 gallons, others 60 gallons) of intoxicating wine?

“Wine which inspiration has denounced as ‘a mocker,’ ‘as biting as a serpent,’ and ‘stinging like an adder,’ as ‘the poison of dragons,’ ‘the cruel venom of asps,’ and which the Holy Spirit has selected as the emblem of the wrath of Almighty God?

“Is it probable that his son gave that to the guests after they had used the wine provided by the host, and which, it is claimed, was intoxicating?

“… Can it be seriously entertained that Christ should, by his miraculous power, make alcohol? Can it be believed that he, by making alcohol, sanctions the making of it and the giving of it to his creatures, when he, better than all others, knew that it, in the past, had been the cause of the temporal and eternal ruin of myriads, and which, in all the ages to come, would plunge myriads upon myriads into the depths of eternal damnation?”

Patton also quoted another theologian, identified as Professor Donovan, who observed, “All who know of the wines then used well understand the unfermented juice of the grape. The present wines of Jerusalem and Lebanon … were commonly boiled and sweet, without intoxicating qualities, such as we get in liquors called wines.

“The boiling prevents fermentation,” Donovan stated. “Those were esteemed the best wines, which were the least strong.”

    About the Author

  • Daniel W. Guido