Jesus turns water into wines.

The word methiosin in Koine Greek means being drunk.

However, very few major biblical translate methiosin as drunk.

Most translate that as something that may refer to being drunk but not necessarily so.


too much to drink
a lot to drink
drunk freely
are drunk
have drunk freely
have well drunk
had plenty
have well drunk

Actually, English is not my first language. I am not even sure what those words mean.

An answer in this question says that those words mean drunk. They are just euphemisms. Really?

I am sure had plenty and drunk freely doesn't necessarily mean being drunk. Does the original word, methiosin, necessarily mean drunk or ambiguous?

I know in Indonesia they translate this as "puas minum", which means something like "satisfied drinking". I know those phrases don't mean the person is inebriated.

Is this a sample of bowdlerization of the bible? If so, is there a complete list?

Any answer, whether agree or disagree is fine, as long as it's well sourced.


3 Answers 3


The translators are not likely to have made an attempt to water down the meaning here so much as to merely translate the grammar correctly.

The Greek word used in John 2:10 is in the Greek aorist subjunctive passive form. When we say in English "he is drunk", we are using the word "drunk" as an adjective, not as a verb, and it is clearly synonymous with being intoxicated. But that is not the form of the grammar used here, and the translators would not have been translating correctly to convert the Greek verb to an English adjective.

As it is, because of the difficulty of translating the Greek word, it has resulted in a longer expression in English. Verbs in Greek, like in Latin languages, can include the pronominal subject (pronoun), the action itself, the time of the action, the tense/mood of the action, and even the object of the verb--all in one word.

G3184 μεθυσθῶσιν (methysthōsin) [V-ASP-3P]

Can be broken down into the following grammar:

  • Aorist verb
  • Subjunctive tense
  • Passive voice (coupled with "to be"; e.g. "have been")
  • Third-person plural (they)

Aorist is difficult to translate to English because English does not have aorist verbs. It is a form of past tense used in narrative in which the verb does not indicate any specific time nor state of completion. Since English does not have this, however, the translators have used a past-perfect (including "to have") in the translation as perhaps the nearest equivalent.

Subjunctive is also difficult. English does not have a subjunctive verb form, and uses past tense verbs to express subjunctive meanings. A common example is "if I were you, I would...." The "were" is the English subjunctive verb. In this case, we use subjunctive because this is the unreal condition--I am not you and could never be you.

The Greek verb, however, does not mean "intoxicated" (an adjective), because it addresses an action. In order to become intoxicated with wine, one must first drink it. The action is the drinking. And English uses "drink" as a common euphemism for imbibing alcoholic beverages.

If I say "he drinks every day after work," an English speaker would assume, in the absence of any context to the contrary, that he is drinking alcohol, not water or milk or tea or juice or anything else. In other words, when "drink" is used as an intransitive verb in English, alcohol is generally assumed. To specify something other than alcohol, the object must be provided (transitive verb); e.g. "he drinks water every day after work."

So the translators are actually doing their best at properly translating both the meaning and the grammar of this passage in John 2:10, and any misunderstanding of it may be the part of the reader. Because the context of the drinking is clearly referring to wine at the wedding, there is little excuse for thinking of anything other than inebriation.

This is the reason it is always helpful to study the original languages or to use dictionaries and lexicons to help understand the meanings of the words and expressions used.

Screenshot of John 2:10 in Interlinear Bible

  • Oh so all those translations do mean inebriated? Because in Indonesia it's not very clear. In fact, protestants insist that getting drunk is sin and argue that in Jesus' parties, no body get drunk.
    – obfuscated
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 2:17
  • 1
    @obfuscated The party was not Jesus' party: He was an invited guest at the party, and merely attended. His mother may have been assisting in the food service for it, but Jesus Himself was not part of the wedding party. There is only one word for wine in Greek, and it can include both alcoholic wine and non-alcoholic grape juice. Virtually all wine served at a wedding, however, would have been alcoholic, due to preservation issues. This is why the pure grape juice that Jesus miraculously provided surprised the host and crowd so very much. It was better than their preserved wine.
    – Polyhat
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 2:47
  • I upvoted your answer, however I'd downvote your comment if I could because nothing in the passage implies the wine Jesus made was non-alcoholic. The point was that it was good wine rather than the cheap nasty stuff weddings would buy in bulk.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 3:39
  • 1
    Why is it inconsistent for Jesus to make alcoholic wine and contribute to drunkenness' of anyone? Ancient jews have little compunction against getting drunk occasionally. Jesus himself drink wine. In any case, it shouldn't be up to the translator to decide. It should be up to interpreters or individuals that want to follow the bible.
    – obfuscated
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 5:48
  • 1
    @obfuscated Please see the screenshot of the interlinear Bible for John 2:10 which I have added to the answer. You will see what part of speech the word in question is from the grammatical notations below it.
    – Polyhat
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 14:02

One can drink alcohol without becoming drunk. Only those who drink too much alcohol pass from the biblical state of thanking God for "wine that makes glad the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15) to being drunk. That Psalm of praise details why we should bless the Lord our God. In the list of things we thank God for is "oil to make [our] face to shine" and "bread which strengthens man's heart." Is it right to thank God for bread to eat? Yes. Is it right to thank God for oil? Yes. Is it right to thank God for wine? Yes. And wine which makes glad our heart is not likely to be non-alcoholic.

It is only drunkenness that God's people are to avoid - Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11. Indeed, the apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." (1 Timothy 5:23).

Now to the text you ask about, when Jesus miraculously changed plain water into the best of wine - and a very large quantity of it, at that (six stone water-jars). John 1:20 uses the Greek 'methysthosin' which, in context, translates into English as 'they might become drunk'. So, a good reading of the verse in question could be, "Every man puts the best wine out first, and when people are intoxicated, the inferior. You have reserved the best wine until now." Another good translation puts it, "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." (The Companion Bible, Bagster) The note for 'well drunk' reads, "= drunk freely."

That was what the director of the wedding feast said to the bridegroom upon tasting Jesus' wine. Those wedding feasts went on for many days, you see. We are not speaking of a one-day Western-style wedding, where many guests rush to the bar after the ceremony, to get down as much alcohol as they can in as short a period of time as they can. No, this was a prolonged celebration over many days, so the custom was to put out the best wine at the start, then, a day or two later, those who had drunk a lot of alcohol would not even notice that the wine was now of poor quality.

Yet it holds good that only those who had drunk to the point of inebriation would have drunk freely so as to be incapable of discerning good wine from cheap wine. The text is not saying that everybody was already drunk! Clearly, the director (or governor) of the feast was not drunk. He instantly discerned that this wine was the best of wine. Some guests would be drunk, but not necessarily all of them. That is why it is correct to translate 'methysthosin' as 'they might become drunk'.

But I'm always perplexed as to why debates about this miracle of Jesus' center on whether Jesus produced alcoholic, or non-alcoholic wine. That is to miss the point entirely. Is nobody bothered to consider why this first miracle at the start of his ministry involved wine, and to relate that to how the end of his ministry was also marked by wine - the Passover cups during the meal, and the cup of wine at the end which marks the new covenant?


John 2:10 New International Version

and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink [G3184]; but you have saved the best till now.”

G3184 is ambigious. NASB Translation:

drunk (3), drunk freely (1), drunkards (1), get drunk (1), made drunk (1).

There is another related Greek word that is unambiguous used in Luke 21:34

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness [G3178] and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

STRONGS NT 3178: μέθη

μέθη, μέθης, ἡ (akin to μέθυ, wine; perhaps any intoxicating drink, Latintemetum; cf. German Meth (mead)), intoxication; drunkenness:

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