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In John 2:10 [Berean Literal Bible]

and said, “Everyone serves the fine wine first, and then the cheap wine after the guests are drunk. But you have saved the fine wine until now!”

In Galatians 5:21 [Berean Literal Bible]

and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What was the cultural practice of wedding guests concerning wine drinking on a happy occasion? Was it a sin to be drunk at the wedding feast?

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There are several matters here surrounding this question.

1. The remark of the Emcee

Several commentators are of the view that remark of the "master of the banquet" about cheap wine coming out when all are drunk (see Ellicott, Meyer, Pulpit, etc) appears to be a common banquet joke. Whether is is correct or not, it shows that what Jesus miraculously created by superb quality, very expensive wine.

2. Time of Year

John 2:12, 13 suggest that the time of wedding was shortly before Passover, probably about March. Since the vintage is harvested in July-August, whatever the wedding guests were drinking before Jesus' miracle was not fresh grape juice.

The most prized wine was the rarest and most expensive because it was only available during and briefly after the grape harvest - fresh grape juice. At other times of the year, people resorted (much as today) to several other methods for having wine:

  • fermenting
  • creating very concentrated juice that was then sealed - juice could be recovered later by dilution
  • Sometimes some spirit was added to kill the wine and prevent any fermentation; equivalently wine vinegar was added for a similar effect.

Barnes comments are useful:

The good wine - This shows that this had all the qualities of real 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.

3. What did Jesus produce?

Again, Barnes continues:

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.

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Just like the fish and loaves. Was the wine what they got drunk on? IF they got drunk, that was the free will thing. Is it a sin to drink wine or more comtemprarily alcohol in general? 1 Tim 5:23. It is a sin to over indulge..

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