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King James Bible:

And saith unto him, 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.

International Standard Version:

and told him, "Everyone serves the best wine first, and the cheap kind when people are drunk. But you have kept the best wine until now!"

Most English translation use the word drunk. Is that a past tense of drink or drunk in a sense of alcohol intoxication?

What's the original Greek word?

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2 Answers 2

The Greek text of Robert Estienne's Textus Receptus (1551) states,

καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τότε τὸν ἐλάσσω σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι

The Greek word in question is μεθυσθῶσιν, which is conjugated from the verb μεθύω in the 3rd person, plural number, aorist tense, passive voice, subjunctive mood.

Regarding the verb μεθύω, BDAG notes,

μεθύω (μέθυ ‘wine’; Hom. et al.; PHal 1, 193f; PGM 7, 180 πολλὰ πίνειν καὶ μὴ μεθύειν, al. in pap; LXX, Test12Patr; Philo; Jos., Bell. 6, 196, Vi. 225; 388; Just., D. 14, 6) to drink to a point of intoxication, be drunk Ac 2:15; Ox 1 verso, 15 (ASyn. 240, 40; cp. GTh 28; Unknown Sayings 69–74). Opp. πεινᾶν 1 Cor 11:21. οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν those who get drunk are drunk at night 1 Th 5:7. οἱ μεθύοντες those who are drunken (Diod S 4, 5, 3; Cornutus 30 p. 61, 6; Job 12:25) Mt 24:49.—In imagery (X., Symp. 8, 21; Pla., Lysias 222c; Philostrat., Vi. Soph. 2, 1, 2 πλούτῳ μ.; Achilles Tat. 1, 6, 1 ἔρωτι; OdeSol 11:6 ὕδωρ τὸ ἀθάνατον; Philo) of the apocal. woman who has sated her thirst for blood (sim. in hue to wine) εἶδον τὴν γυναῖκα μεθύουσαν ἐκ τ. αἵματος τ. ἁγίων Rv 17:6.—DELG s.v. μέθυ. M-M. TW.

The idea in John 2:10 is that those who are drunk are not going to find bad wine as offensive to the taste as those who are not drunk (and possess a more discriminating taste).

Henry Alford notes,

The saying of the ἀρχ. is a general one, not applicable to the company then present. We may be sure that the Lord would not have sanctioned, nor ministered to, actual drunkenness. Only those who can conceive this, will find any difficulty here; and they will find difficulties every where.

The account of the practice referred to is, that the palates of men become after a while dull, and cannot distinguish between good wine and bad. Pliny (Natural History, XIV, 13) speaks of persons “qui etiam convivis (vina) alia quam sibimetipsis ministrant, aut procedente mensa subjiciunt.”1 But the practice here described is not precisely that of which Pliny speaks, nor is there any meanness to be charged on it: it is only that, when a man has some kinds of wine choicer than others, he naturally produces the choicest, to suit the most discriminating taste. With regard to the word μεθυσθῶσιν, while there is no reason here to press its ordinary meaning, so neither is there any to shrink from it, as uttered by the ἀρχιτρίκλινος. The safest rendering is that of Tyndall and Cranmer, “when men be dronke;” “cum inebriati fuerint,” Vulg.


Footnotes

1 John Bostock translates Pliny's remarks into English as, "[The same Cato, while on his voyage to Spain, from which he afterwards returned triumphant, would drink of no other wine but that which was served out to the rowers—very different,] indeed, to the conduct of those who are in the habit of giving to their guests even inferior wine to that which they drink themselves, or else contrive to substitute inferior in the course of the repast."


References

  1. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (626). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Indonesian translation translate that to "have drunk satisfactorily" perhaps to hide the idea that Jesus produces narchotic and alcohol. –  Jim Thio Apr 17 at 5:44
    
You can drink wine and not become intoxicated. Wine is scientifically proven to be a healthy beverage when consumed in moderation. And in Judaism, wine was an integral part of religious rituals (e.g., it was consumed during the Passover seder, on the Sabbath, and during a regular meal). –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Apr 17 at 7:32
    
Yes. However, as you said, the word methou means alcohol intoxication. So those people are drunk. Jesus helped them to get even more drunk by manufacturing 400 liters of wine. Also there is no doubt that people in the party drinks a lot. –  Jim Thio Apr 17 at 7:35
    
Well, can you drink large amount of wine without getting drunk? They depleted the host's whole wine reserve. Then Jesus produce copious amount. What are they? Star Trek crew that can cure hangover that quickly. –  Jim Thio Apr 17 at 9:38
    
Perhaps the host didn't provide much wine in the first place. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Apr 17 at 18:31

The Greek verb used is μεθύω.

Definitions include:

  • to be drunken with wine (Perseus Digital Library)
  • to drink to intoxication, i.e. get drunk (Mickelson)
  • to be intoxicated; metaphorically, to be drenched; metaphorically intoxicated with passion, pride, etc. (LSJ; Middle Liddell)
  • be drunken (Slater)
  • be drunken; metaphorically, soaked (Autenrieth)

Comparing the usage of the word in other new testament texts, we find it is always used with the sense of intoxication:

  • drunkards in a parable (Matthew 24.49)
  • the apostles are accused of being drunk on the morning of Pentecost (Acts 2.15)
  • Paul criticizes members of the Corinthian church for getting drunk while others go hungry (1 Corinthians 11.21)
  • Paul says Christians should be prepared, figuratively contrasted to people who fall asleep or get drunk at night (1 Thessalonians 5.7)
  • Babylon the harlot gets herself and the kings of the earth drunk on her wine (Revelation 17.2,6)
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how do you transliterate μεθύω? mesouw? –  Jim Thio Apr 16 at 11:44
    
Transliterated as methuō –  Mark Edward Apr 16 at 15:51
    
Right. methuō or methyō. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Apr 17 at 7:34

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