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The Use of Alcohol

DAY 339

CHALLENGE

“Catholics are wrong to allow the use of alcohol. Jesus would never have approved of it. In the Bible, there were two types of wine—fermented and unfermented—and only the second, also known as ‘new wine,’ is ever endorsed.”

DEFENSE

The Bible contains multiple warnings against drunkenness (Prov. 20:1, Isa. 5:11–12, Luke 21:34, 1 Cor. 6:10, Eph. 5:18). But it does not condemn the moderate use of alcohol.

In the biblical languages, as in English, the term “wine” (Hebrew, yayin; Greek, oinos) is used to refer to the fermented juice of grapes. Even “new wine” was fermented, as shown by the crowd’s accusation on the day of Pentecost that the disciples were “filled with new wine” (Acts 2:13), to which Peter replied, “these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day” (Acts 2:15).

Jesus certainly approved of drinking alcoholic wine. He produced around 150 gallons of it at the wedding at Cana (John 2:6) to keep a wedding party going when people had already drunk enough to exhaust the original supply of wine.

We know what Jesus produced was alcoholic because, after Jesus turned the water into wine, the steward of the feast complimented the groom, telling him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). The steward thus identifies the “good wine” as high-quality wine that will cause people to lose their taste, making lesser quality wine palatable. Unfermented grape juice does not cause people to lose their taste; therefore, the wine Jesus produced was alcoholic.

The Old Testament, similarly, permits the use of alcoholic beverages. Thus, Deuteronomy states that, when fulfilling their obligation under the Mosaic Law to tithe, the Israelites could convert their crops to cash and then “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” (Deut. 14:26). Even if one were to maintain, contrary to the linguistic evidence, that the wine in this passage were unfermented, the “strong drink” would not be.

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