Perspectives présidentielles

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Is a little wine acceptable because Jesus turned water to wine?

Q: Is it acceptable to drink moderate amounts of wine because Jesus turned the water to wine at the wedding in Cana? — Roberta, from Zambia

A: Roberta, to answer this question, it is helpful to consider what type of “wine” Jesus provided in Cana, as recorded in John 2:1-11. 

Jesus was at the wedding with His disciples. His mother, Mary, was also there. During the reception, the hosts ran out of the beverage they were serving. Mary approaches Jesus and says, “They have no wine.” Although Jesus asks her, “What does your concern have to do with Me?” Mary tells the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Jesus then instructs the servants to “Fill the waterpots with water.” 

It is interesting that the Bible gives us very specific information about these waterpots. In verse six, we learn:

  • there are six waterpots.
  • they are made of stone.
  • they were normally used for purification rituals.
  • their capacity was 20 or 30 gallons (75 to 113 liters) each. That means all together they could hold 120 to 180 gallons (454 to 681 liters)!  

In addition, verse 7 tells us that they “filled them to the brim,” so there is no question that Jesus provided a very large quantity. The question is, did He provide fermented, alcoholic wine, or was it the pure, unfermented wine — that is, grape juice?

Keep in mind, if it was alcoholic wine, that means Jesus provided enough wine for the entire party to become very drunk for several days.  

After the servants fill the waterpots to the brim, Jesus tells them to pour some out and take it to “the master of the feast” (vs. 8). After tasting “the water that was turned into wine” (vs. 9) the master declares to the bridegroom, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (vs. 10). 

Does this indicate that the “wine” was alcoholic? Not at all. In fact, “There is even evidence from ancient writers of a preference for drinks with little or no alcohol. ‘Pliny expressly says that a ‘good wine’ was one that was destitute of spirit.’ The Greeks recommended diluting wine with at least three or four parts water. The ‘best’ wine seems to have been that which was the freshest and touched the least by fermentation, because it could be enjoyed in greater quantities for a longer period of time.” (See “John 2:1–11. What Kind of Wine Did Jesus Make at Cana?” by Clinton Wahlen, Biblical Research Institute.

Surely, we can conclude that Jesus provided only the best, pure unfermented wine (grape juice) to those attending the wedding feast.

But what about other considerations, such as whether or not in ancient times there were methods to preserve grape juice so that it did not ferment? The answer to this question and more details regarding the miracle at Cana are given by Dr. Wahlen in the short article referenced in the link above, and I encourage you to read it.

The Bible warns us about the dangers of drinking alcohol. In Proverbs 20:1 we read, “Wine is a mocker. Strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

And Proverbs 23:31,32 is even more direct: “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.”

Modern research verifies that even moderate drinking of wine or other alcoholic beverages has negative effects upon a person’s brain, and “even the equivalent of a small glass of wine per day is linked to an increased breast cancer risk.” The 30-year-long study was carried out by scholars from the University of Oxford and University College London and the results were published in the peer-reviewed BMJ (former known as the British Medical Journal) in 2017. You can read the study here. A more popular article about the study is available here

Of course, as Seventh-day Adventists, we believe “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own. … For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Certainly, drinking alcohol in any amount, will not bring glory to God, or good health to mind or body.

The best advice from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy is to stay away from alcohol in all its forms — it will hurt your physical and spiritual health! You need the clearest mind possible as you proclaim God’s last-day three angels’ messages pointing people to Christ, His righteousness, and His soon coming!”