“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” – Proverbs 23:31-32
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Did Jesus drink wine? I often hear people make the argument for drinking alcoholic beverages that ” Even Jesus drank wine!” But did he really drink an alcoholic beverage like the ones that people argue for drinking? Let’s examine what happened.
Now, we’ve already established that Jesus did not make alcoholic beverages when He turned water into wine in A Biblical View on Drinking Alcoholic Beverages. The wine that Jesus made was grape juice. But did Jesus condone the drinking of alcoholic beverages by drinking alcohol Himself?
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Mathew 26:29). Fruit of the vine is generally accepted in the Bible to mean grapes. I contend that it was unfermented grape juice that the Lord and His disciples were drinking, given what we know the Bible teaches about strong drink and alcoholic drink elsewhere in Scripture. Whether that grape juice was fermented or unfermented is still a matter of debate among many (For more on the debate, see Jackson, 2000).
When Jesus was on the cross, “they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink” (Matthew 27:34). Gall was sort of a narcotic, which had the affect of stupefying the senses. Jesus refused the drink once He tasted it. He more than likely did not want to dull His senses but to experience the full effects of the cross. As Albert Barnes notes, “He was unwilling to blunt the pains of dying.”1
Then a second time, while on the cross, Jesus was offered sour wine from a vessel that was full of it, sitting there by the cross. This was after He cried out that He was thirsty (John 19:28). The Bible says, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). So He received the sour wine. But what is sour wine?
Strong’s Concordance translates the Greek word oxos as sour wine, with meaning: vinegar or sour wine mixed with water.2 According to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, the sour wine-and-water, or vinegar was a drink called posca that was a common drink of Roman soldiers.3 It was generally used to quench thirst, and that’s probably why they had it there near the cross, because those who were crucified would become extremely parched.
What Jesus drank on the cross was sour wine mixed with water, also known as vinegar. It was a mixture of sour wine and water, or vinegar. So one cannot accurately argue that Jesus drank wine to support their argument for drinking alcoholic beverages. During the Lord’s Supper it was more than likely unfermented grape juice, and on the cross it was vinegar. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that those making the argument for drinking alcoholic beverages are diluting their wine, liquor, or beer with water.
Jesus having drunk sour wine on the cross while He was dying does not give Christians a license to drink alcoholic beverages.
For more on whether Christians should drink alcoholic beverages, visit my post A Biblical View on Drinking Alcoholic Beverages.
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1
Jackson, Wayne (2000). “Was the Fruit of the Vine Fermented?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: February 19, 2021. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/224-was-the-fruit-of-the-vine-fermented