"Jesus couldn’t have made wine at the wedding at Cana.” The old man was adamant. “He couldn’t have made wine because making wine would be a sin. Jesus never sinned.” He turned and walked out of the church, Bible under his arm, without giving my dad—the pastor—a chance to reply.
Sin or Blessing?
It’s a perfect example of circular reasoning, or “assuming the premise.” Making wine is sinful; Jesus couldn’t have sinned, and, therefore, Jesus could not have made wine.
My dad had been trying to explain that the Greek word for the stuff Jesus made in John 2 was the same as the word for the stuff Paul tells the church not to get drunk on in Ephesians 5:18, and it was all a bit much for the man to take in.
His concern, if not his logic, was reasonable. If you’ve been raised to regard wine as inherently sinful, the Bible can be disturbing reading. Jesus makes wine and serves wine; he says that wine is the new covenant in his very blood. The psalmist praises wine as that which gladdens a person’s heart (Psalm 104:14–15), and the Teacher urges the reader to drink wine with gladness, insisting that God approves (Ecclesiastes 9:7).
No small measure of ink has been spilled in an attempt to blot out the Bible’s embarrassing oenophilia; The Temperance Bible-Commentary (1868) is but one example of the volumes that have been written (and are probably still being written) to correct this perceived flaw. These writings generally go to great and tedious lengths to demonstrate that wherever the Bible reads “wine,” we are to understand it to mean “grape juice,” or, bizarrely, “raisin paste” (which sounds more like a cookie filling, or a laxative, than a beverage), or else to argue that when the Bible mentions “wine,” it’s referring to something so diluted as to be essentially non-intoxicating.1