Water into Wine

Many well-meaning people will point to the miracle where Jesus turns water into wine as their justification to drink alcoholic beverages (Jn. 2:1-11).   They correctly conclude that Christ would not have made wine if He did not approve of its consumption.  However, they err by assuming the wine which Jesus made was fermented.

The generic Greek word for wine (oinos) does not imply either a fermented nor unfermented beverage.  We have already covered this point in many passages in others articles on wine.  We have also emphasized the necessity to determine the meaning of the word wine by considering the context in which the word is found.  The key to determining the inebriating effects of the wine Jesus made from water is found in this manner.

The master of the wedding feast makes an observation that the wine made by Jesus was “good” as compared to the wine being drank which he describes as inferior (Jn. 2:10).  In order to appreciate his statement, we need to know what people in the first century consider good wine versus inferior wine.  Albert Barnes in his New Testament commentary has an excellent discourse on the nature of the good wine.

“We should not be deceived by the phrase “good wine.” We often use the phrase to denote that it is good in proportion to its strength and its power to intoxicate; but no such sense is to be attached to the word here.  Pliny, Plutarch, and Horace describe wine as good, or mention that as the best wine, which was harmless or innocent–poculo vini innocentis. The most useful wine — utilissimum vinum— was that which had little strength; and the most wholesome wine– saluberrimum vinum— was that which had not been adulterated by “the addition of anything to the must or juice.” Pliny expressly says that a “good wine” was one that was destitute of spirit (lib. iv. c. 13). It should not be assumed, therefore, that the “good wine” was stronger than the other: it is rather to be presumed that it was milder. The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. It was not brandied wine, nor drugged wine, nor wine compounded of various substances, such as we drink in this land. The common wine drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape. We use the word wine now to denote the kind of liquid which passes under that name in this country–always containing a considerable portion of alcohol –not only the alcohol produced by fermentation, but alcohol added to keep it or make it stronger. But we have no right to take that sense of the word, and go with it to the interpretation of the Scriptures. We should endeavor to place ourselves in the exact circumstances of those times, ascertain precisely what idea the word would convey to those who used it then, and apply that sense to the word in the interpretation of the Bible; and there is not the slightest evidence that the word so used would have conveyed any idea but that of the pure juice of the grape, nor the slightest circumstance mentioned in this account that would not be fully met by such a supposition.”[i]

The wine that Jesus made was good because it did not ferment.  The fermentation process converts the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol.  If there is no sugar, the flavor is not good.  It is believed that this wedding feast took place months after the vintage.  Fresh grape juice would not be available during this season.  It appears the inferior wine was likely grape juice that was reconstituted with water from must.  However, the wine Jesus provides must have been fresh grape juice.

The Greek word that was used to describe the goodness of the wine that Jesus made is quite revealing.  The common Greek word for good is agathos.  However, the word used by the master of the feast was kalosKalos carries the idea of moral goodness.  The master of the feast was not only talking about the good flavor of the wine; he was also stating the moral goodness of the beverage.  He is implying the wine is non-intoxicating.

Further, it is ludicrous to think that Jesus would in any way encourage or facilitate the means by which people could sin.  Jesus was well aware of the condemnation given to the drinking of intoxicating wine in the Old Law (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35).  He would tempt no one with sin (Jas. 1:13; Matt. 6:13).  However, He made enough wine to get the whole wedding party drunk if it were fermented.  Nor should we overlook the fact that wedding parties had many small children that also drank from the same wine.

[i] Albert Barnes’ Commentary on the Bible.
By Steve A. Hamilton

Tirosh and Gleukos

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of “wine,” but unfortunately it does not specify what kind of ”wine” it is talking about. There are several words from different languages that get translated into the word ”wine.”  Yayin and tirosh from the Hebrew, oinos and gleukos from the Greek, and vinum from the Latin are all words that were translated into “wine” in the Bible. The word tirosh and gleukos refers to the grape itself, a newly finished product of grape such as grape juice, boiled grape juice (which is called must), or a cluster of grapes. The other three words have a dual meaning. They can refer to grape juice or to fermented grape juice whereas tirosh and gleukos never refer to an alcoholic substance. Even though by definition tirosh and gleukos cannot mean an alcoholic wine, we are going to look at some verses translated “wine” and prove that they cannot possibly be referring to an alcoholic beverage .


Since the word tirosh has no alcoholic meaning behind it, yet is translated “wine,” it should be pretty easy to see why the verses we are about to look at do not refer to alcoholic “wine.”

The first mention of tirosh is in Genesis 27:28. The verse is talking about Isaac’s blessing to Jacob and says, “Therefore may God give you … plenty of grain and wine.” The typical person who does not want to see that this is clearly grapes or grape juice would jump to the conclusion that God wants us to have plenty of food and alcohol. Besides, God wants us to be happy and alcohol makes me happy, right? If we look at the context of the verse Isaac is blessing Jacob with natural blessings such as grain, dew, and the fatness of the earth. Besides the fact that tirosh doesn’t refer to alcoholic beverages anyway, we can see that Isaac is blessing Jacob with the bounty of the earth which God provides; not something that is fermented and manmade.

Another great example of the word tirosh is found in Isaiah 65:8. It says, “Thus says the LORD: ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster … ‘” How can there be alcoholic “wine” in the cluster of a grape while still on the vine? Once again it is very evident that tirosh, though translated ”wine” does not refer to an alcoholic beverage.

One last look at the word tirosh is found in Deut. 11:13, 14 which talks about gathering ” … in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.” The verse is once again referring to natural God given blessings of rain, grain, oil and grape juice or grapes. It is important to note that grapes and grape juice were a very large part of the Old Testament economy. Wealth was determined by how well your crops and animals did each year. Certainly, it would be a great blessing of the Lord’s to be given plenty of rain which in turn bears grain, grapes, and oil.

Other verses that have the word tirosh in them are Deut. 33 :28; Hos. 2:8; Joel 1:10; 2: 18, 19, Jer. 31:10-12; Micah 6:15; Num. 18:12; and Psalm 4:7. It is important to note that tirosh is never given a negative connotation or is frowned upon in scriptures. This shows God’s approval and blessing in grapes and grape juice.


Gleukos is the Greek equivalent to the word tirosh. Unfortunately, it is very rare to find the word gleukos in the New Testament. When the Old Testament was being translated into Greek (known as the Septuagint) they did not translate the Hebrew word tirosh into the equivalent word of gleukos. Instead they translated several uses of the word tirosh into oinos. This fact alone is evidence that you cannot believe the word “wine” in the Bible is always referring to an alcoholic beverage. You need to look at the context of the verse and apply common sense to determine the meaning of the word “wine.”

One example of the Hebrew word tirosh being translated into the Greek word oinos is in Proverbs 3:10 ” … And your vats will overflow with new wine.” The King James Version translates vats into presses. Clearly, we can see that tirosh was the correct word to be used for this verse, and should have been translated gleukos in the Septuagint, since it is referring to a freshly pressed grape.

Other verses that translate the Hebrew word tirosh into the Greek word oinos are Psalms 4:7; Is. 65:8; and Joel 1:10; 2:24.

As mentioned earlier, it is hard to find the Hebrew word tirosh translated into the Greek word gleukos, but it is even harder to find the Hebrew word yayin translated into the Greek word gleukos. One such rare occurrence is in Job 32:19 which reads, “Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins.” The word gleukos is fittingly used here since it is referring to grape juice that has not yet fermented.

Our last look at the word gleukos comes from Acts 2:13, which reads from the NKN as “Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine. ‘” It is Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Peter and other devout men from several places. They were all given a variation of the gift of tongues which allowed them to speak to several men all with different languages and they all heard each other in their own language. Some other men who were there began to mock the group that had received the Holy Spirit saying that they were filled with gleukos? We have previously established that gleukos is the equivalent to tirosh, both which mean grape juice. It is safe to assume that these devout men were well known, and not partakers of alcoholic beverages. The mocking men knew that these devout men did not drink alcoholic beverages, yet these devout men were acting strange to them. So what better sarcastic insult is there but that these devout men were drunk on grape juice? I suppose this argument may not be the best, but one thing is sure, the mocking men accused the devout men of being drunk on grape juice (gleukos).

By Jason Hamilton