Kool-Aid or Cana Cocktail?

Written by Drew on March 1st, 2006

This morning I want to address the comments left last night on my post, “Jesus and Social Drinking.” I’m glad the article generated some discussion. All along, I’ve wanted Drew’s Blog to be a forum where biblical subjects can be freely discussed in hopes of shedding more light on the truth.

What I’m arguing is that Jesus did not make alcoholic wine out of water in John 2:1-11. I’m not arguing that (a) alcohol is inherently evil or (b) all biblical references to “wine” are non-alcoholic. My point in this article is only that John 2 may not be used as a justification for social drinking.

Here’s my reasoning:

  • The Old Testament under which Jesus and His contemporaries lived strictly condemned drunkenness (Prov. 20:1; 23:35; Isa. 28:1; Hos. 4:11; Amos 6:6; Mic. 2:11).
  • The New Testament, which was established by Christ’s death (Heb. 9:15), also strongly condemns this vice (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:18).
  • Jesus never sinned (Heb. 4:15). Therefore, He never became drunk, nor did He ever encourage drunkenness.
  • If the wine at Cana was alcoholic, then drunkenness would have surely been the result. For the guests had already consumed the initial supply, and Jesus made and additional 180 gallons!

We are left with only two possible conclusions: (1) that Jesus made non-alcoholic wine and remained innocent of sin; or (2) that Jesus made alcoholic wine and encouraged drunkenness. The way I see it, the contextual evidence cannot support the latter conclusion.

Where is the evidence that the wine at Cana was alcoholic? It is claimed that, culturally, weddings were normally celebrated with intoxication. But such a broad claim demands supporting evidence; none was given.

In truth, “wine” referred to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and both were popular drinks of the day. The common word for wine in Greek is oinos, which is rather flexible. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, Isaiah declares that “no treader shall tread out wine [oinos] in the presses” (Isa. 16:10). Wine straight from the press cannot be fermented. In Matthew 9:17 Jesus said that men do not put “new wine” into old wineskins. The reason is old wineskins, being brittle, will burst once fermentation takes place. Obviously, “wine” is a word flexible enough to include all beverages derived from the grape.

These were Jews, not pagans, celebrating in Cana. And the Jews had a long background of abstinence from alcohol. The Old Testament prohibitions have already been cited. In addition there is the Nazirite vow, which not only prohibited fermented wine, but also all products of the vineyard (Num. 6). By Jesus’ day a new sect had branched off of Judaism, the Essenes, who took the Nazirite vow. To say the customary Jewish wedding involved a week of drunken carousing is to ignore the evidence!

Because grape juice, or sweet wine, was a common beverage, various methods had been developed to keep wine from fermenting. The Roman statesman Cato (234-149 B.C.) writes in De Agricultura, “If you wish to keep grape juice through the whole year, put the grape juice in an amphora, seal the stopper with pitch, and sink in the pond. Take it out after thirty days; it will remain sweet the whole year.” In Studies in the Life of Christ, R.C. Foster comments, “A Greek wine ship of the second century B.C. found by divers off the southern coast of France several years ago contained a great number of wine flasks that had been sealed so tight that after more than 2,000 years the sea water had not seeped into them” (p. 1220).

No, alcohol is not inherently evil (cf. 1 Tim. 5:23). But the drinking habits of modern-day Americans are. For this reason, I’m not as eager as others to quibble over the wine at Cana. To me the depletion of the initial supply and the sheer volume of Jesus’ wine suggests a non-alcoholic beverage.

True, the bridegroom called the wine “good” (Jn. 2:10). But as my reader pointed out, this may be John’s way of alluding to Hebrews 1:1-2, where it is said, in so many words, that God saved the best prophet for last. We can only speculate as to what the bridegroom meant. His statement is too ambiguous for firm conclusions.

On a lighter note, two more things: First it’s “Kool Aid,” not “cool aide.” Allow me to use it in a sentence: “The Kool Aid Man is the greatest character to ever bust through a brick wall on national television” (“Oh Yeahhh!”).

Last, a question: Who is George DeBuff?

 

10 Comments so far ↓

  1. Anonymous says:

    Kool Aid or Cana Cocktail (Great header).

    I love syllogistic reasoning. Thank you Aristotle for this useful tool of arguing.

    I challenge the following statement,

    “If the wine at Cana was alcoholic, then drunkenness would have surely been the result. For the guests had already consumed the initial supply, and Jesus made and additional 180 gallons!”

    This seems to be the crux of your argument and at best is an assumption. Here is a modern day syllogism for you.

    -A Christian should not cause anybody to stumble or sin by their actions.

    -If a Christian attends a party where drinking is taking place and even drunkenness he may cause somebody to stumble.

    -Therefore it is a sin for a Christian to attend parties with drunken behavior.

    Do you agree with this syllogism?

    If so, then consider the following syllogism.

    -Christians do not attend parties with drinking or drunkenness present because it is a sin.

    -Jesus is the only perfect person to live without sin.

    -Therefore Jesus would never attend a party with drunkenness present (i.e. Wedding feast at Cana)

    There is a second consideration though; you have failed to prove how adding Kool aid mix or dehydrated grape peels to water is a miracle. Not to mention running out of kool aid can easily be remedied but running out of wine is a serious problem, hence the conflict in Cana.

    You have constructed a syllogism which in turn has become your hermeneutical model. You fail to let the text speak for itself.

    Remember John himself recorded the protocol of wine serving in the text. The choice wine is brought out first and then the less desirable. This would be a moot point if in fact the custom was to serve grape Kool aid. Again, go back to the text.

    This has been one intoxicating conversation. You have put me in good spirits today and look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    Sincerely,

    Capt. Morgan,

  2. Drew Kizer says:

    Your syllogism seems reasonable enough to me. I fail to see how it negates anything I have said.

    True, I am assuming we’re not talking about Kool Aid, simply because I have never heard of such being used in ancient times. If we’re going to get anywhere in this discussion, eventually you are going to have to leave that straw man for something else.

    As I said, the bridegroom’s statement in Jn. 2:10 is ambiguous at best. You say “good wine” means better alcohol; I say it means better juice. Without contextual considerations it is impossible to draw a conclusion here.

    In fact, the point could be made that the bridegroom’s coherence argues for my side. After drinking up the initial supply of wine, or booze as you put it, he is talking about the quality of Jesus’ concoction. Have you ever heard a drunk relish his drink? At this point in the revelry he would have been concerned only about quantity, not quality.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My point of the syllogism is that Jesus did in fact attend a party in which alcohol was being served (the Wedding Feast). I showed that just because I constructed a syllogism that is logically correct the outcome is still false.

    The burden of proof still remains how do you prove that the wedding banquet did not have alcoholic wine without the circular train reasoning “Jesus wouldn’t have been there if alcohol was present so therefore it must not have been alcohol.” Most scholars agree that it was customary to have alcoholic wine.

    A much better approach would be to argue that the water to alcohol ratio in Jesus’ day was very different than today’s wine. That would be far more reasonable than to say that there was no wine all together and the reference to wine was really a figurative reference to something different etc… One can’t help but to see a western, Bible belt, “Walking Tall” interpretation with your view of the miracle at Cana. Then again, is it irony that portions of Walking Tall was filmed on your alma mater. Maybe ole Pusser had a talk with the Bible dept and got them straitened out on the whole alcohol thing.

    I have tried to offer other arguments besides the strawman view of kool aid. For example, you have yet to fully explain the miracle if in fact it wasn’t Jesus speeding up the fermentation process (C.S. Lewis). Second, you have not fully given an answer to the contextual questions of why did the master of the banquet, along with John himself, go out of their way to purport that the wine Jesus made was of good quality?

    Anyway, great conversation. Thanks for your time and research on this topic. I continue to enjoy reading your blog.

    Sincerely,

    Buford Pusser

  4. Aristotle says:

    Captain Morgan’s syllogisms are not valid!

  5. Drew Kizer says:

    One last thing. Suppose you were at a week-long party, drinking alcohol with a hundred friends, and the kegs run dry. But then a guy comes in at the last minutes and saves the party with 120-180 gallons of wine. According to the view of many social drinkers, Jesus is that guy in Jn. 2:1-11.

    I’m not comfortable with that interpretation. And I stand by reasoning, no matter how “circular” it may be.

    I agree that other considerations are more important, say, the water-to-alcohol ratio in biblical times, contrasted with our suped-up version of wine today. But for the purpose of getting a good discussion going (and I think we’ve had one), I brought up Cana. I think my points prove that social drinkers cannot use this as their proof text. Furthermore, we all should be careful what we accuse the Lord of doing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Good point there. Cana should not be used as a proof text by social drinkers to authorize social drinking. You are correct and I agree 100%.

    thanks again for the stimulating dialogue.

    p.s. I enjoy the baptist and baptism piece you posted.

  7. The Berean Examiner says:

    I did a very in depth study of this subject and I came to the conclusion that drinking in moderation is not sin but getting drunk is a sin. This is very easy to understand if you take the whole Bible in context. It is context, context, context; It is not prooftext, prooftext, prooftext.

    For those who are more interested in this subject and would like to see the other side of this issue, I would recommend Brother Al Maxey’s, a member of the Church of Christ, Reflections # 134 “Jesus, Behold the winebibber – May a Christian drink wine?”, Keith Hunt’s very well written “Christians and Wine?” series of articles, Kenneth Gentry’s “God gave wine – What the Bible said about alcohol” book, Daniel B Wallace’s article “The Bible and Alcohol”, Dr. Bacchus’s “Wine in the Bible” list of scripture references, Daniel Whitfield’s “Alcohol and the Bible” article along with a complete list of scripture references.

    Here is Drew’s version of John 2:1-12

    “Two days later there was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding. At the wedding there was not enough grape juice. After the grape juice was all gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more grape juice.” Jesus answered, “Dear woman, you should not tell me what to do. It is not yet time for me to begin my work.” Jesus’ mother said to the servants, “Do what Jesus tells you to do.” In that place there were six large waterpots made of stone. The Jews used waterpots like these in their washing ceremonies. Each waterpot held about 20 or 30 gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill those waterpots with water.” So the servants filled the pots to the top. Then Jesus said to the servants, “Now take out some water. Carry the water to the master of the feast.” So the servants brought the water to the master. Then the man in charge of the wedding feast tasted it, but the water had become grape juice. The man did not know where the grape juice came from. But the servants that brought the water knew where it came from. The master of the wedding called the bridegroom. He said to the bridegroom, “People always serve the best grape juice first. Later, after the guests have become full, people serve the cheaper grape juice. But you have saved the best grape juice until now.” This was the first miracle that Jesus did. Jesus did this miracle in the town of Cana in Galilee. So Jesus showed his greatness. And his followers believed in him. Then Jesus went to the town of Capernaum. Jesus’ mother and brothers and his followers went with him. They all stayed in Capernaum a few days.”

    Here is God’s version of John 2:1-12

    “Two days later there was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding. At the wedding there was not enough wine. After the wine was all gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus answered, “Dear woman, you should not tell me what to do. It is not yet time for me to begin my work.”
    Jesus’ mother said to the servants, “Do what Jesus tells you to do.” In that place there were six large waterpots made of stone. The Jews used waterpots like these in their washing ceremonies. Each waterpot held about 20 or 30 gallons.
    Jesus said to the servants, “Fill those waterpots with water.” So the servants filled the pots to the top. Then Jesus said to the servants, “Now take out some water. Carry the water to the master of the feast.” So the servants brought the water to the master. Then the man in charge of the wedding feast tasted it, but the water had become wine. The man did not know where the wine came from. But the servants that brought the water knew where it came from. The master of the wedding called the bridegroom. He said to the bridegroom, “People always serve the best wine first. Later, after the guests have become drunk, people serve the cheaper wine. But you have saved the best wine until now.”
    This was the first miracle that Jesus did. Jesus did this miracle in the town of Cana in Galilee. So Jesus showed his greatness. And his followers believed in him. Then Jesus went to the town of Capernaum. Jesus’ mother and brothers and his followers went with him. They all stayed in Capernaum a few days.”

    Remember, It is not Drew’s word (Kool-Aid), but God’s word (Cana Cocktail) that is truth (John 17:17).

  8. Drew Kizer says:

    It is always nice to be lectured by the Berean Examiner.

    In-depth studies do not consist of reading every piece on the Internet that agrees with your preconceived position. Rather, in-depth studies consider all sides of a debate, include those that opposed your own. These comments are not the result of “examinations” made in the Berean fashion (Acts 17:11).

    If oinos can mean “must” or alcoholic wine, as I have shown, then my “version” of John 2, as you put it, is consistent with the biblical text.

    Of course, this debate involves more than John 2. In fact, as I have shown, John 2 should not even be a strong consideration in this discussion. Maybe later I’ll post more meaningful points for discussion.

  9. fitzage says:

    I think it is an invalid assumption to claim that, if the wine mentioned in this passage is alcoholic, then there would have been much drunkenness. It is quite possible that at a week long feast with hundreds in attendance, especially when these people were used to drinking wine as their main beverage, that enormous quantities of wine could be consumed without any drunkenness. I could drink alcohol all day long and not be drunk, as long as I spaced it out well enough.

    I believe your conclusions that what is being referred to here is grape juice are untenable from the context (as the Berean Examiner pointed out, the conversation doesn’t even make sense if grape juice is the beverage here).

    However, I completely agree on one thing: John 2 should not even be a strong consideration in this discussion. I personally use it as more of an example than a proof of anything. If one were to conclusively prove (which hasn’t come close to being accomplished) that the wine in this passage was grape juice, it would make no difference in the overall theology of the Bible on the subject of alcohol.

    Let’s look at some other verses that make zero sense if the wine is referring to something non-alcoholic:

    Psalm 104:14-15 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

    Eccl. 10:16-19 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.

    Prov. 31:6-7 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

    Deut. 14:22-27 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

    Luke 7:33 ¶ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

    This last one is particularly telling in regards to the character of Christ. If the Son of Man had come eating and drinking grape juice, then there would have been no basis for his detractors to call him a drunkard. Notice also that he hung out with the dregs of society, which certainly would mean that, while he didn’t participate and encourage drunkenness, he would have been places where it happened.

    At any rate, I believe the testimony of Scripture is clear that, where wine is mentioned, it refers to an alcoholic beverage most of the time, at the very least, and if the words used are interpreted different there must be a very compelling contextual reason to do so (which is rare, if at all).

    I think the following is an excellent discussion of this subject, should you care to peruse it: http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/alcoholb/alcoholb.htm

  10. The Berean Examiner says:

    Yes, these comments are the result of examinations made in the Berean fashion. My very in-depth studies were done exactly as you stated. I did consider all sides of this issue just like you said. I did include those that opposed my own conclusions just like you said (More about this later). John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little.” As a matter of fact, I had a plenty of discussions with several of my brothers in Christ that opposed my own conclusions on this issue. It was very interesting because it turned out that they did know the Bible like Satan knew the Bible (Matthew 4:5-6) and these workmen should be ashamed because they did not rightly divide the truth (2 Tim 2:15). This reminded me of so much of the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14). These brothers in Christ can believe what ever they want to believe because, as Carl Ketcherside said, you do not have to be my twin to be my brother (Romans 14:1-22) I now know the truth on this subject and the truth set me free (John 8:32) and that is the bottom line.

    You have said that the Lord’s Supper is to be done only on Sundays (1 Cor 11:25-26), that silence is prohibitive, that you must understand that baptism is for the remissions of sins before it is valid (You must be rebaptized if you did not understand this), that you must do the so-called “five acts of worship” in the so-called Sunday morning “worship” service for it to be valid, (Romans 12:1-2, James 1:26-27, Philippians 3:3), that we should follow all of the legalistic patterns that you think are valid or the legalistic patterns that you came up with (Matthew 23:2-3), that all drinking is sin, and now you are saying that your version of the Bible is correct while God’s version of the Bible is incorrect and no, you are not inspired, by the way. So . . . what is the next crazy thing that you are going to say? (1 Kings 18:27, Matthew 15:14, Matthew 23:24, Mathew 23:2-3, 1 Kings 18:39, Ezekiel 22:4-5, Proverbs 1:24-26, Gal 1:10, 1 Thess 2:4, Matthew 10:34-38)

    You must not be familiar with James 3:1 or have you also taken the words of James 3:1 out and added your own words? (Rev 22:18-19, Deut 4:2, Prov 30:6)

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