Alcohol in the Bible

Alcohol in the Bible


Stephen Billiter


There is a belief that circulates in some religious circles and most of the secular world that Jesus made wine at the wedding feast that was alcoholic in nature. Part of the problem lies in the liberal interpretations of some of these Bible versions. The other dilemma is that often the Greek and Hebrew words for wine and grape juice are different words and the superficial study will not bring this out. In addition, sometimes the same Greek or Hebrew word is used for alcoholic or non-alcoholic wine. The Bible condemns all alcohol consumption except in Proverbs 31:6 where alcohol is used as a painkiller. One dilemma in the story of the first miracle of Jesus is the way that some translations render John 2:10. Please note first the differences in these four translations:

John 2:10: “And said to him, everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. (NRSV) "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (NIV, as you know, this translation is very popular). “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (KJV). Every man sets on first the good wine; and when men have drunk freely, then that which is worse: thou hast kept the good wine until now” (RV).

Please notice the first two versions; "have become drunk" and "too much to drink," it’s obvious that these types of phrases refer to alcoholic consumption. Then notice the next more accurate translations; "have well drunk” and have "drunk freely" which of course reflect the original Greek that means the wedding guests simply drank a lot of the beverage that was served. I personally recommend the AKJV, KJV2000, or KJV as these Bibles more accurately reflect the original languages. Even with these versions, one needs to refer to the original languages and to let the Bible interpret itself. Briefly stated; most liberal modern versions have at their foundation manuscripts that comprise only 10% of the surviving ancient manuscripts and most use the Alexandrian manuscripts Sinaticus and Vaticanus.

Here is most used general word for wine, alcoholic and grape juice, or fermented and unfermented.

G3631 οἶνος oinos, oy'-nos A primary word (or perhaps of Hebrew origin [H3196]); “wine” (literally or figuratively): - wine. In addition, please notice here the next word for wine is simply an all-encompassing word it does not make the distinction between alcoholic and non-alcoholic either, fermented or unfermented.

G1098 γλεῦκος, gleukos, glyoo'-ko. Akin to G1099; sweet wine, that is, (properly) must (fresh juice), but used of the more saccharine (and therefore highly inebriating) fermented wine: - new wine.

And also please notice the different Greek word that is used above for wine that is obviously reflecting alcohol consumption in the context used in Acts 2:13, as this is the Pentecost sermon that Peter preached as the Holy Spirit came down with power and Peter made the qualification that he and the other disciples were not drunk, but filled with the Spirit.

“Others mocking said, these men are full of new wine” (G1098).

Here is another text where Paul is telling Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach and often infirmities:

1Tim 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your often infirmities.

Please note here the word used is the same as the word for the wedding feast. It is not a word used specifically for alcoholic wine. Furthermore, in todays’ time alcohol has no redeeming healthful qualities that cannot be better found elsewhere. The modern advice some doctors give their patients to “have a couple of drinks” to lower blood pressure or “relax” is simply bad advice and reflects part of false science. Proper diet, exercise, and trust in Divine power works far better for these ailments than alcohol with its intoxicating, besotting power, even after one drink. There are two views upon this verse:

1. Is that Paul is telling Timothy to use wine (fermented) for its pain-killing qualities.

2.Paul is telling Timothy to use grape juice for its superior health benefits and that Paul would violate the commands of Holy Writ by telling Timothy to use fermented wine in which intoxication would curtail Timothy’s work for God in some manner and could lead to permanent drunkenness.

I tend to go with #2 as alcohol is forbidden by Paul in other places.

Rom 14:21: It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak (AKJV).

Eph 5:18: And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (KJV).

1Tim 3:3: Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.

1Tim 3:8: Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.

Grape juice is where the blessing is! It is simply loaded with nutrients. Isa 65:8 Thus says the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.

H8492, Wine, tîyrôsh, tee-roshe', tee-roshe' From H3423 in the sense of expulsion; must or fresh grape juice (as just squeezed out); by implication (rarely) fermented wine: - (new, sweet) wine. The Hebrew word here of course reflects grape juice.

Now let’s look at a verse we listed above as one that may contradict Paul’s counsel to Timothy, if fermented wine is meant: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous” (1Ti 3:3 AKJV).

G3943 πάροινος, paroinos, par'-oy-nos. From G3844 and G3631; staying near wine, that is, tippling (a toper): - given to wine. It is easy to see from Paul’s text here the word for wine is meant to be for one who drinks a lot of alcoholic wine, and these are the qualifications for a bishop, or pastor. Then just a few verses down we have: "Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre” (1Ti 3:8). And so we have our word “oinos” again here that we saw at the wedding feast; but in this context the meaning is obviously alcoholic wine.

A careful study of the Old Testament also is clear the Bible does not sanction the use of alcohol.

Prov 23:29 "Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?" (KJV).

Prov 23:30 "They that tarry long at the wine; H3196 they that go to seek mixed wine"H4469.

Prov 23:31 "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it gives his color in the cup, when it moves itself aright".

Prov 23:32 "At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder".

Prov 23:33 "Your eyes shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things".

Prov 23:34 "Yes, you shall be as he that lies down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lies upon the top of a mast".

Pro 23:35 "They have stricken me, shall thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again. An obvious description of a physically addicted alcoholic is given here".

H3196 יין yayin yah'-yin. From an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication: - banqueting, wine, wine [-bibber].

H4469 mamsâk,mam-sawk' From H4537; mixture, that is, (specifically) wine mixed (with water or spices): - drink-offering, mixed wine

Obviously alcoholic wine used here.

Then here below is a reference to grape juice. The Old Testament Hebrew is making a distinction that “new wine” is grape juice.

Neh 13:12 Then broughtH935 allH3605 JudahH3063 the titheH4643 of the cornH1715 and the new wineH8492 and the oilH3323 unto the treasuries.H214 H8492 tîyrôsh, tîyrôsh, tee-roshe', tee-roshe.' From H3423 in the sense of expulsion; must or fresh grape juice (as just squeezed out); by implication (rarely) fermented wine: - (new, sweet) wine.

So here the children of Israel did not bring alcoholic wine into the storehouse. The very idea that this is alcoholic wine and God would accept a tithe of this is an abomination and has no factual basis. The plain truth is that nowhere in the Bible can it be proven that God ever sanctions the use of alcohol except as a pain-killer to be used as narcotics are used today for those in great pain or suffering from terminal cancer or such.

Prov 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

Prov 31:5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

Prov 31:6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish…..Prov 31:7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

Jesus on the cross was offered vinegar and gall, which he refused to keep His mind clear from the temptations of Satan, and the vinegar was sour fermented wine. He is the Savior of the world, so in that sense he did not make use of strong medication to kill His great physical pain. I cannot imagine Jesus ever drinking alcohol, and no proof exists that He did. What a mission He had! His mind, above that of all others needed complete clarity at all times as He must not give in to even a sinful thought as Satan was hot on His track. Had He used alcoholic wine the chances for His failure would have been greatly increased.

Here we have some evidence we can survey to add confirmation as to just how alcoholic wine was used or not used. And we can get some ideas about the use of wine at the last Supper. Here from the website of RBC Ministries;

"The June 20, 1975, issue of Christianity Today contained an interesting article by Robert H. Stein: "Wine-Drinking In New Testament Times." He observes that the wine used in ancient times was mixed with water in ratios of up to four parts water to one part wine. Mr. Stein explains:

“In the Talmud, which contains the oral traditions of Judaism from about 200 BC to AD 200, there are several tractates in which the mixture of water and wine is discussed. One tractate (Shabbath 77a) states that wine that does not carry three parts water is not wine. The normal mixture is said to consist of two parts water to one part wine. In a most important reference (Pesahim 108b) it is stated that the four cups every Jew was to drink during the Passover ritual were to be mixed in a ratio of three parts water to one part wine. From this we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that the fruit of the vine used at the institution of the Lord's Supper was a mixture of three parts water to one part wine. In another Jewish reference from around 60 BC, we read, "It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one's enjoyment" (II Maccabees 15:39).

Dr. M. R. De Haan expressed his viewpoint concerning the use of wine in moderation:

“It is the abuse of wine rather than the use of wine which is strongly condemned in the Scriptures. I know that in European countries, even among Christians, wine is oftentimes used as an appetizer, but not in excess. Personally, I do not use it, and I wish that we could eliminate it entirely. But it is well to remember that the use of wine does not mean the abuse of wine. Certainly it was never meant to be used for the purpose of intoxication, and I believe that it would be a great deal better not to use it at all, seeing the evil to which it often leads” (Web. Retrieved from:

Let me say that Dr. De Haan and I believe quite a bit differently when it comes to what the Scriptures say about the use of alcohol. As I said, I only see a recommendation when one is very much in pain like Proverbs 31:6 says. This is a good example coming from shall we say a “misunderstanding” of the overall position of the Bible upon any amount of alcohol, as well as drunkenness, intoxication, and what it can lead to. As Dr. De Haan said: “Certainly it was never meant to be used for the purpose of intoxication”. Well then I would say what he just referred to can only be unfermented grape juice in my mind.

One average glass of wine with dinner; and with the alcohol content between 8 and 11% will cause some degree of intoxication in every one. However, older women and native Americans will consume less alcohol and become as; or more intoxicated that the rest of the population. Now some scientific information:

“Alcohol is absorbed primarily from the stomach and small intestine and metabolized mainly in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). If insufficient ADH is produced in the liver, the body will not be able to metabolize alcohol. A second enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), also plays a role in metabolism. Some people lack ALDH, which is often associated with facial flushing, sweating, and/or becoming ill after drinking small amounts of alcohol. Recent studies suggest women have fewer alcohol metabolizing enzymes than men. The fact that women typically have higher body fat percentages also causes them to metabolize alcohol differently — in particular, a woman will typically have a higher blood alcohol concentration level than a man, even after consuming the same amount of alcohol.”
(Web. Retrieved from: (

Certainly Dr. De Haan realizes that it’s best to leave off all alcohol and touch not a drop. However, when we enlist the full authority of Holy Writ, then we have a rock-solid incontrovertible;”Thus saith the LORD,” behind our position. And when doing a word search in the KJV NT, the word “sober” occurs 12 times, and here are just a few:

1Th 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

1Th 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.

Tit 2:4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. Clearly, constant sobriety should be the order of the day for Christians.

Here is an OT text some use to drink alcohol:

Deut. 14:26 “And you shall bestow that money for whatever your soul lusts after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul desires: and you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household” (AKJV).

Please notice the above words,"your soul lusts after.”I do not believe that God here is promoting alcohol. There is a sense here with that God is "winking at times of ignorance”. He knows they will lust after these things and just as He gave them up to divorce, He does a similar thing here. He’s just saying, “This is what you are lusting after,” and he reminds them of that fact;”These are the things you will do here.”

And then the Good News Bible:

“Spend it on whatever you want---beef, lamb, wine, beer---and there, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families are to eat and enjoy yourselves” (Deut. 14:26). Comparing these two translations, the sense of sin, to lust after, is just not here in the GNB as we notice omitted words. No doubt, other liberal translations would also reflect this because nearly all modern translations come from the NA27 manuscripts. In addition, for me, it seems God is saying, “This is what you will do because I have foreknowledge.”

Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the 7th Day Adventist Church. is considered a prophet by most of its over 20 million members worldwide, and her writings and work provide comfort, guidance, and instruction on a wide variety of subjects, and she was given prophetic utterances by God that speak of end time events and relates to major prophecies in the Bible. Through her inspired pen, Biblical knowledge has enjoyed a tremendous increase: “…….even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan 12:4 ). She is the “lesser light” that leads to the greater light, the Bible. She worked tirelessly for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union beginning in 1874, and in her 70 year ministry wrote much upon the plague of alcohol on mankind.

From Ministry magazine:

"Women were influential in a unique way. With Bibles in hand, they entered taverns, knelt on sawdust floors to pray, and appealed to tavern-keepers to close their places of business. Frequently they conducted all-day sit-ins.13

The WCTU pledged "to employ all proper means to discourage the use of and traffic in [alcoholic beverages]." Frances Willard, president of the WCTU for 19 years, "campaigned for prohibition amendments in state constitutions, supported the women's suffrage movement ..., advocated vegetarianism, opposed tobacco use, called for the creation of kindergartens, and on Sundays even sent ladies to the local jails to take bouquets with Bible texts attached for the prisoners."

Of course, Ellen White did not advise Adventists to participate in all of the WCTU's activities, but only "so far as we can do so without compromise." Neither did she suggest that Adventists indiscriminately join all temperance societies" (Web. retrieved from:

Remember the wedding feast? And the Last Supper? Here the prophet makes it very clear that Jesus Christ did not make or drink alcoholic beverages.

The gift of Christ to the marriage feast was a symbol. The water represented baptism into His death; the wine, the shedding of His blood for the sins of the world. The water to fill the jars was brought by human hands, but the word of Christ alone could impart to it life-giving virtue. So with the rites which point to the Savior’s death. It is only by the power of Christ, working through faith, that they have efficacy to nourish the soul. {DA 148.4}

The word of Christ supplied ample provision for the feast. So abundant is the provision of His grace to blot out the iniquities of men, and to renew and sustain the soul. {DA 149.1}

At the first feast He attended with His disciples, Jesus gave them the cup that symbolized His work for their salvation. At the last supper He gave it again, in the institution of that sacred rite by which His death was to be shown forth "till He come." 1 Cor. 11:26. And the sorrow of the disciples at parting from their Lord was comforted with the promise of reunion, as He said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." Matt. 26:29. {DA 149.2}

The wine which Christ provided for the feast, and that which He gave to the disciples as a symbol of His own blood, was the pure juice of the grape. To this the prophet Isaiah refers when he speaks of the new wine "in the cluster," and says, "Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it." Isa. 65:8. {DA 149.3}

It was Christ who in the Old Testament gave the warning to Israel, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." Prov. 20:1. And He Himself provided no such beverage. Satan tempts men to indulgence that will becloud reason and benumb the spiritual perceptions, but Christ teaches us to bring the lower nature into subjection. His whole life was an example of self-denial. In order to break the power of appetite, He suffered in our behalf the severest test that humanity could endure. It was Christ who directed that John the Baptist should drink neither wine nor strong drink. It was He who enjoined similar abstinence upon the wife of Manoah. And He pronounced a curse upon the man who should put the bottle to his neighbor's lips. Christ did not contradict His own teaching. The unfermented wine which He provided for the wedding guests was a wholesome and refreshing drink. Its effect was to bring the taste into harmony with a healthful appetite {Desire of Ages, p. 149.4}

We also reap what we sow

The truth is that alcohol is a destroyer, and the Bible does not sanction the use of it for any reason except pain, as to one dying. During Civil War battlefield amputations, the doctor often gave the victim a bottle of strong alcohol to deaden the pain.

It is quite obvious that in the world today, much misapprehension exists about God, and the Bible. We know there is an evil power that subverts His character in many ways. Millions will be finally destroyed for eternity through the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Many that profess to be Christians believe what they have heard about alcohol being promoted in the Bible is true, and the greater masses of people are too indolent to study. They have not made the necessary commitment to Christ that is required to know His truth, and that also means a searching of the Scriptures with the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Bible should always be opened with awe and reverence; praying always for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some may irreverently, and rather flippantly try to read the Bible to their own distress as Satan and his demons are always nearby to suggest wrong interpretations.

“Wine is a mocker
Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
Proverbs 20:1

"The author, Steve Billiter is single and currently resides in Reno NV with 3 grown children and several grandchildren who all live elsewhere. He is a full-time college student starting his 5th semester at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno in the fall of 2010, and transferring to the University Of Nevada, Reno, in January 2011; LORD willing, and majoring in Social Work. He is a member of the Carson City NV 7th day Adventist church and is involved in literature work and other ministry; being first baptized in the Adventist church 29 years ago by Lyle Albrecht. Steve has worked primarily as a carpenter over the years."