Is "new wine" non-alcoholic?
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Q: I need some help. Sometimes when I share my Catholic faith with people, they mention to me that Catholics like to drink alcohol and how wrong that is. How do I respond to this?
A: I would ask them to tell you where in the Scriptures does it say anything about drinking alcohol being wrong? Quick answer: it doesn’t. It says getting drunk is wrong, but it doesn’t say merely drinking is wrong. In fact, it tells us just the opposite:
1 Tim 3:8, "Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine…" Obviously, it is okay for them to drink some wine, they just cannot be addicted to "much" wine. Moderation is the key.
1 Tim 4:4, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." The materials from which alcohol is made are all natural materials made by God. So give thanksgiving for that glass of beer or wine before you drink it.
Matthew 15:10-11, "Hear and understand, not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth…"
1 Tim 5:23, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." Timothy is ordered to drink wine.
All 3 accounts of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Jesus and the Apostles drinking wine (the "fruit of the vine").
Jesus’ first miracle was to turn some 120-180 gallons of water into wine (John 2:3-10) for folks to drink. And, it was better wine than any of the wine that had already been served at that particular wedding.
Now, some people will say that the wine Jesus created out of water, and the wine that Paul ordered Timothy to drink, and the wine at the Last Supper was “new” wine, which they claim is non-alcoholic wine. Let’s look and see what the Bible has to say about that.
First of all, we need to note that the Bible clearly identifies when there is a distinction being made for “new” wine. We see this in both the Old and New Testament. For example, “new” wine is mentioned in Hosea 9:2, Haggai 1:11, Zechariah 9:17, Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:38. Yet, neither at the wedding feast in Cana, nor at the Last Supper, nor in Paul’s letter to Timothy does it mention “new” wine.
Secondly, the Bible tells us that new wine is indeed alcoholic wine. We can see this very clearly in Hosea 4:11 where it says, “Wine and new wine take away the understanding.” I would like to have someone tell me how supposedly non-alcoholic new wine can “take away understanding?” And, we see the same in the New Testament. In Acts 2:13, when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in other tongues, what do some in the crowd say? “But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine,” (Acts 2:13). They thought the Apostles were drunk! And this point cannot be argued because Peter goes on to say in verse 15, responding to the crowd, “For these men are not drunk.”
So, those who try to argue that “new” wine is the wine Jesus and the Apostles and Timothy and all the guests at the wedding feast of Cana drank, and that it is a non-alcoholic wine, are proven wrong by Scripture on both counts.
Finally, in Luke 7:33-34 it says, "For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard.’” If Jesus was drinking non-alcoholic wine, how could they accuse Him of being a drunkard?
This is not to say that He was a drunkard – obviously He wasn’t. But, the only way someone could even begin to make that case would be if He was known to drink wine – wine that contained alcohol. You could not even falsely accuse someone of being a drunkard if they only drank non-alcoholic wine.
In other words, Scripture gives strong testament to the fact that merely drinking alcohol is not a sin, but getting drunk on alcohol is.
John Martignoniis a nationally-known Catholic apologist and Bible scholar. He is the Founder and President of the Bible Christian Society, where you can find lots of free apologetics materials — CD’s, mp3 downloads, e-newsletters, and more, and host of EWTN’s “Open Line” airing on Mondays at 3 p.m. EST. He is also Director of the Office of the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama.