Subject: Exposing the grape juice myth
Date: Feb 24, 2006
One of my favorite Mormon Myths (and there are many) is that Jesus drank grape juice, and not wine. Of course if it were wine, today Jesus would be denied a temple
recommend. I find that ironic and unchristian like. :)
I am copying a very good summary on this from the below site (the Jews were well known to make some of the best wine and I am sure Jesus would not have done any less):
Isn’t it Really Grape Juice?
Some take the words for wine to mean ‘grape juice.’ If this were so, then why would there be prohibitions against drunkenness? One cannot get drunk on grape juice. Further, Jesus’ first miracle was changing the water into wine at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. He made between 120 and 180 gallons of wine! Even if this had been grape juice, it would soon turn to wine because the fermentation process would immediately begin. But it most certainly was not grape juice: the head waiter in John 2:10 said, “Every man sets out the good wine first, then after the guests have drunk freely, the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” The verb translated ‘drunk freely’ is almost always used of getting drunk (and is so translated in the NRSV here). In the least, the people at this wedding feast, if not drunk, would certainly be drinking alcohol fairly freely (if not, this verb means something here that is nowhere else attested4). And this makes perfect sense in the context: The reason why a man brings out the poorer wine later is because the good wine has numbed the senses a bit. Grape juice would hardly mask anything. Note also Acts 2:13—”they are full of sweet wine”—an inaccurate comment made about the apostles when they began speaking in tongues, as though this explained their unusual behavior. The point is: If they were full of grape juice would this comment even have made any sense at all? That would be like saying, “Well, they’re all acting strange and silly because they have had too much orange juice this morning!”
There are other references to alcoholic beverages in the Bible: Several times in the first books of the Bible, wine and strong drink are prohibited to those who take a Nazarite vow (cf. Num 6, Judges 13). Even grape juice and fresh and dried grapes (i.e., raisins, as the NIV renders the word) are prohibited to the Nazarite (Numbers 6:3)!5 But that restriction is only for those who make this vow. If someone today wants to claim that believers do not have the right to drink alcohol on the analogy of a Nazarite vow (as some today are fond of doing), they also should say that believers ought not to eat Raisin Bran!
Negative Statements about Wine Indicate that it is not Grape Juice
Further, the Bible at times speaks very harshly about becoming enslaved to drink or allowing it to control a person, especially to the point of drunkenness. Proverbs 20:1—“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” (NASB). Cf. also Prov 21:17 (where heavy drinking and gluttony are equally condemned); 1 Sam 1:14; Isa 5:11, 22; 28:1 (drunkenness is condemned); 28:7; 29:9; 56:12; Jer 23:9; 51:7; Joel 3:3. In the New Testament notice: Eph 5:18 (“do not get drunk with wine”); 1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7 ([elders and deacons ought not be] “addicted to wine or strong drink”); Titus 2:3 (older women, who would serve as role models to the younger ones, must not be addicted to wine). As well, numerous passages use wine or drunkenness in an analogy about God’s wrath, immorality, etc. (cf. Rev. 14:8, 10; 16:19; 17:2; 18:3).
The significance of these negative statements is just this: If this were only grape juice, why would excess in drinking it be condemned? If this were only grape juice, why are certain mental effects attributed to it (cf., e.g., Psalm 60:3)? One can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that wine is always grape juice, for then the negative statements in scripture make no sense; those who say that it is only grape juice tend to focus just on the neutral and positive passages, conveniently allowing them to condemn the drinking of real wine at all times. But even this position is not logical: If the Bible only speaks of grape juice, then it makes no comment about alcoholic wine. And if so, then it does not directly prohibit it. And if we are going to prohibit something that the Bible does not address, why stop at wine? Why don’t we include the ballet, opera, football games, country-western music (actually, I might be in favor of banning this one!), salt water fishing, zippers on clothes, etc. Once legalism infests the soul it doesn’t know where to quit.
In sum, is wine the same as grape juice? No, for if it were, the Bible would hardly condemn the abuse of such. Those who argue that the two are identical simply cannot handle the passages that speak about excess.
Neutral and Positive References to Alcoholic Beverages in the Bible
At the same time, there are several neutral, almost casual references to alcoholic beverages. Genesis 14:18 refers to Melchizedek, a type of Christ, as offering wine to Abram; Nehemiah 2:1 refers to the king drinking wine (Nehemiah was required to taste it first to make sure it was not poisoned); Esther 5:6; 7:1-2 speaks of wine that Esther (the godly Jewess) drank with the king; Job 1:13 refers to righteous Job’s family drinking wine; Daniel 10:3 speaks of drinking wine as a blessing after a time of fasting. Some of Jesus’ parables are about wine, wineskins, vineyards (cf. Matt 9:17; 21:33; even John 15 speaks of God the Father as the vinedresser!). Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine for his stomach’s sake and not just water (1 Tim 5:23). The same Greek and Hebrew terms that were used to speak of the abuses of wine are used in these passages. One cannot argue, therefore, that alcoholic beverages are in themselves proscribed, while grape juice is permitted. The lexical data cannot be so twisted.
There are, as well, positive statements about alcoholic beverages: Deut 14:26 implies that it is a good thing to drink wine and strong drink to the Lord: “And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household” (NASB). Psalm 4:7 compares joy in the Lord to the abundance of wine; Psalm 104:14-15 credits God as the creator of wine that “makes a man’s heart glad” (cf. also Hos 2:8); honoring the Lord with one’s wealth is rewarded with the blessings of abundant stores of wine (Prov 3:10); love is compared to wine repeatedly in the Song of Songs, as though good wine were similarly sweet (1:2, 4; 4:10; 7:9). The Lord prepares a banquet with “well-aged wines... and fine, well-aged wines” for his people (Isa 25:6) [obviously this cannot be grape juice, for aging does nothing but ferment it!].
The lack of wine is viewed as a judgment from God (Jer 48:33; Lam 2:12; Hos 2:9; Joel 1:10; Hag 2:16); and, conversely, its provision is viewed as a blessing from the Lord (cf. Gen 27:28; Deut 7:13; 11:14; Joel 2:19, 24; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14). Cf. also Isa 55:1; Jer 31:12; Zech 9:17.
Indeed, there was even the Passover tradition that went beyond the biblical teaching: by the time of the first century, every adult was obliged to have four glasses of wine during the Passover celebration. Jesus and his disciples did this in the Last Supper.6 The fact that the wine of the Passover was a symbol the Lord used for his blood and for the new covenant implicitly shows that our Lord’s view of wine was quite different from that of many modern Christians.
What is truly remarkable here are the many positive statements made about wine and alcoholic beverages in the Bible.7 Wine is so often connected with the blessings of God that we are hard-pressed to figure out why so many modern Christians view drink as the worst of all evils. Why, if one didn’t know better, he might think that God actually wanted us to enjoy life! Unfortunately, the only Bible most of our pagan friends will read is the one written on our lives and spoken from our lips. The Bible they know is a book of ‘Thou shalt nots,’ and the God they know is a cosmic killjoy.
I think the best balance on this issue can be see in Luke 7:33-34: John the Baptist abstained from drinking wine; Jesus did not abstain [indeed, people called him a drunkard! Although certainly not true, it would be difficult for this charge to have been made had Jesus only drunk grape juice]. Both respected one another and both recognized that their individual lifestyles were not universal principles. One man may choose not to drink; another may choose to drink. We ought not condemn another servant of the Lord for his choice.
As well, Romans 14 is a key passage for gleaning principles about how we ought to conduct ourselves in relation to one another on this issue: weaker brothers ought not to judge those whose freedom in Christ allows them to enjoy alcoholic beverages; stronger brothers ought not to disdain weaker brothers for their stance. Whether we drink or not, let us do all things to the glory of God.
Subject: There was no refrigeration in Biblical times...
Date: Feb 24 11:04
...and Israel is a hot place. There would be no way to preserve grape juice without its fermenting. Wine was safer to drink than water in many places as the alcohol killed germs. All the baloney about not drinking alcohol arose in the 19th century in various Protestant sects in the USA and the British Isles. It is a real non-issue in biblical scholarship.
Subject: Re: There was no refrigeration in Biblical times...
Date: Feb 24 11:15
It makes so much sense and is just another example of Mormon anti-intellectual thinking. They have to come up with these myths so that people can believe in their false beliefs.
Subject: I've had this conversation with my TBM family
Date: Feb 24 11:18
I make wine and beer at home.
Grape juice will usually be fermented out completely within one to two weeks. That is how long it takes for the yeast to consume the sugar in the juice and convert it to alcohol. straight grape juice usually has enough sugar in it to make between 10 and 14 percent alcohol wine.
I asked my brother, if the last supper was in the spring time, how would they be able to keep grape juice without fermenting? After thinking about it, his response was "I guess Jesus had to have drank alcohol"
The only time they would have ever drank grape juice, is at the time of pressing, period.
Subject: Excellent point...
Date: Feb 24 11:22
You are right and that well supports that Jesus drank alcoholic wine. I will remember that one.
Subject: Re: The grape juice myth
Date: Feb 24 11:27
The Bible teaches: "Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
And why was new wine not put into old bottles? The pressure from the
fermentation would cause the bottles to burst. This is also a metaphor for Christ, who is the new wine and the old wine is the law of Moses. Mormon's never discuss the literal or figurative part of this topic. A topic that is a big symbol for Jesus and
Christianity. No wonder people claim that Mormons aren't Christian; they don't even know the story.
Biblical wine was not grape juice Mormons will say anything to support their beliefs.
Subject: Wow, that is really amazing to me...
Date: Feb 24 11:40
I am learning more than I expected from everyone on this topic and that makes so much sense. That is great stuff, and you are so right, this is another conflict with Mormonism and what Christianity is all about!
Subject: More info
Date: Feb 24 13:09
The word translated as wine in the gospels is: OINOS. It literally means "Fermented."
The word translated as wine in some later parts of the New Testament is GLEUKOS. It means sweet juice (probably unfermented).
Both words are used in the new testament, but when Jesus turned water to wine, he turned it into OINOS. More acurately, it might be said that Jesus "Fermented" the water.
Subject: Actually, it's more damning than that. Gleukos only appears once.
Date: Feb 24 14:09
Author: Tyson Dunn
Taking from the KJV translation:
oinos appears in:
Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, Mark 15:23, Luke 1:15, Luke 5:37, Luke 5:38, Luke 7:33, Luke 10:34, John 2:3, John 2:9, John 2:10, John 4:46, Romans 14:21, Ephesians 5:18, 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 5:23, Titus 2:3, Revelation 6:6, Revelation 14:8, Revelation 14:10, Revelation 16:19, Revelation 17:2, Revelation 18:3, Revelation 18:13
The derived word paroinos "given to wine" appears in:
1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7
The derived word oinophlugia "excess of wine" appears in:
1 Peter 4:3
The only verse that gleukos appears in is:
(Luke 5:39 mentions old wine and new wine, but the original Greek only has the words for "old" and "new".)
Subject: And that one reference has a context of intoxication
Date: Feb 24 14:45
Author: Concrete Zipper
While many people are experiencing the gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost...
"Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine."
I.e. "gleukos" is translated as "new wine" and the context shows that they certainly weren't referring to fruit juice.
Subject: I wonder if verses 13 and 15 point to the core of the original story.
Date: Feb 24 17:35
Author: Tyson Dunn
As γλευκος appears nowhere else in the New Testament, I am rather surprised that I can find no arguments that 13 and 15 are interpolations. After all, if all the assembled people are all understanding the apostles, then the notion that there should be naysayers pointing out their drunkenness seems at odds with the context—especially naysayers who nevertheless understand Peter. The story is more internally consistent without the scoffers.
Conversely, the scoffers may be evidence that the story is somewhat genuine. I mean, the list of nationalities in the preceding verses seems like hyperbole, no matter how many nationalities may have converged on Jerusalem at that time. But from a naturalistic standpoint, a public gathering of believers performing religious glossolalia (not xenoglossia) would have been enough for non-believing bystanders to have hurled accusations of drunkenness at them.
I wonder what approaches have been taken in dissecting this chapter.
Subject: Great stuff..
Date: Feb 24 16:14
I think you guys knocked this myth out of the ballpark. Maybe I will post some of these finer points on the anti-intellectual TBM's site and see what they come up with. These seems like solid facts to me... but they always come up with a hope and a prayer that maybe they are still right, and that is all it takes to believe. Really good stuff everyone..
Subject: None of this matters to a believer:
Date: Feb 24 16:18
Jebus was god, of course, so he could just zap the nasty alcohol out of the juice. (There is no way god would want to get tipsy- besides, alcohol has no power over him.)
Of course, Jesus knew about the WoW way before his time. He had to wait until science could find a way to manufacture refrigerated grape juice ('cause the people weren't ready yet). It wasn't time for the revelation, blah blah.
Subject: Re: Exposing the grape juice myth
Date: Feb 24 17:56
As a homebrewer who makes beer and wine, if you leave grape juice out without refrigeration, the wild yeasts will start fermenting. Until relatively recently in human history, it was safer to drink wine and other alcoholic beverages instead of water. The fermentation process kills the deadly bacteria, if a batch gets infected, the bacteria won't harm you, in fact vinegar is one type of bacterial infection. One of the reasons so many pioneers died on the journey west is from drinking contaminated water.
Subject: just 2 cents worth
Date: Feb 24 19:36
Author: Erik and the Dynamos
To jump off the specific topic of wine, but also in relation to whether or not they drank alcoholic beverages during the biblical times.
A good book by Biblical archaeology scholar Oded Borowski (Daily Life in Biblical Times) is a good reference as to the eating and drinking habits of the people of Palestine during the "Biblical period". Borowski's book says that all the following fruits could be found and their fruits stored for future consumption: figs,
pomegranates, grapes, apricots, dates, apples, olives. Also mentioned the widespread fermentation of wheats and barleys for beer.
I think their is no doubt that alcohol was in common use during Biblical times. Perhaps not pure alcohol drinking all the time, but the use of distilled and fermented fruit juice as a purifier and to add flavor to the water, which was scarce (the desert) and also alkaline (salty) in nature.
Subject: The gross ignorance of some Mormons....
Date: Feb 24 19:56
Author: Peep Stoner
Mormons themselves drank fermented sacramental wine for most of the 19th century. It wasn't until sometime after the fanatical Heber J. Grant instituted an absolute prohibition in the early 20th century that some grossly ignorant Mormons began thinking that prohibition had been the rule of the one true church throughout all history. This is the same type of self=deluding ignorance exhibited by some younger Mormons today who refuse to believe that bloody penalty pantomimes were part of the Temple ceremony prior to 1990.