Welch’s or Wine?

I did this brief (very brief) word study for a coworker of Carly’s who had some questions about wine in the Bible. This is by no means anywhere close to exhaustive. It is merely an overview, and I’m posting it here to open up conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts, however, with such a touchy topic as alcohol, please be gracious by not forcing your personal liberties or legalisms onto other people.

*               *               *

Wine: Most popular Greek word in the NT is oinos (pronounced “oy-noss”). This is the word used for the wine that Jesus made during his first miracle at the Cana wedding when he turned water into oinos.

There are at least three reasons to believe that oinos is similar to our alcoholic wine today:

  1. This is the word used in Ephesians 5:18 when Paul says, “Do not be drunk with oinos but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Being “drunk” and being “filled” are contrasted here. Both imply intoxication and being controlled by a substance outside of oneself. On the one hand, one (i.e. drunkenness) is negative and sinful. The other (i.e. filled with the Holy Spirit) is positive and holy. So Paul does not say that oinos is bad, but that being controlled by it is (compare 1 Tim. 4:1-5, especially verses 4-5).
  2. This is the word used in Romans 14:21 when Paul says that wine should not be a stumbling block to a brother. If oinos was merely grape juice or some other processed beverage, why would it be considered a possible stumbling block to a Christian? The short answer is that it wouldn’t. No one gets controlled by grape juice (well, maybe in some very bizarre circumstances!). Because of the temptation to be physically controlled by something other than the Spirit, Paul says it would be best for the mature believer to abstain instead of forcing the weaker brother he is friends with to compromise convictions and practices.
  3. Finally, Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words points out that Matt. 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37 imply that this oinos is fermented. In these passages, Jesus is speaking of putting new wine into old skins–he is giving an analogy of bringing the New Covenant to Jews who are still married to the Old Covenant. New grape juice would not cause old animal skins used for a canteen to burst, but a freshly fermented, alcoholic beverage certainly would.

The other uses of the word oinos in the NT give us no reason to believe that this drink is not a processed, fermented, alcoholic drink. It probably was not be as strong as the wine or other drinks we have today, of course. It even took wedding guests awhile to get drunk during the week-long celebration.  That’s why at weddings (like in Cana, see John 2:1-11) they used the good wine first and were content to dish out the cheap, boxed Franzia wine toward the end of the week. Whatever the alcoholic content of wine in the Bible, however, we do know for certain they weren’t drinking Welch’s.


That Guy Might Be a Father Someday

While walking on the University of Johannesburg campus today, I saw a male student wearing a t-shirt that said:

I’m Sotally Tober.

In case you missed the joke, it’s supposed to be a quote from a drunk guy saying, “I’m totally sober.”

I couldn’t help but say, “That guy is going to be a dad someday.  He might even be one already.   How sad.”  That’s what men in our society — not just American society — are like.  I’m in South Africa.  I’m talking the world’s society.

Most men are simply “males,” not real men.  They are typically good at getting drunk, looking at porn, avoiding hard work, and macking on women.  That’s sad.  And do you know what type of guy a person who wears a shirt like that becomes (unless God’s grace saves him)?

They become the guy at the rugby game I saw last week.  This guy is at the game with his wife and 6- or 7-year old son.  The “Bulls Babes” cheerleading team comes right in front of us (we are in row 7).  This guy stands his kid up on the seat and gives him a camera and tells him to take a picture of the cheerleaders (who weren’t dressed for the weather, if you follow me).

That was bad enough.  But it was magnified even more because his wife — the boy’s mom — was sitting right next to him.  I wanted to go up and grab his collar, get into his face, and say, “Why don’t you just punch your wife in the stomach?  Why don’t you spit in her face?  Why don’t you just mock her and say, ‘You aren’t pretty enough!  Why can’t you be a cheerleader?”

It was abuse in its most subtle form.  It was disgusting and disgraceful

And non-Christians say that men who love Jesus support the oppression of women.  Give me a break.