For the first 1800-1900 years of Christianity, drinking alcohol in moderation was one more way to enjoy God’s gifts. But a movement in the social politic of America in the early 1900’s suddenly changed some protestant denominations stance on alcohol consumption.
These groups began teaching that drinking alcohol was always or almost always a sin. This was a huge change from historical Christianity.
As a result of this new teaching, we had a lot of people twisting scripture to try and support this idea that Jesus didn’t drink alcohol and that the word “wine” in scripture is actually referring to grape juice.
But this is not supported by scripture, history, or logic.
The Jews, prior to Jesus’ birth, had considered “wine” to be fermented (alcoholic) grape juice. And it was certainly a part of many activities, including weddings, and it was definitely used in the passover celebration.
When Jesus came along there is no indication that He changed or condemned any of these existing practices. In fact, he seems to have encouraged them. His first miracle was turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11). And again, the wine that these Jews would have been drinking was fermented, alcoholic wine – not grape juice. And then of course Jesus used wine when he celebrated passover with his apostles and instituted the Eucharist – wine being the object of consecration. Jesus actually humbles himself, taking on the form of wine, so that we can consume Him.
Another point to remember is that back then people had no way of preserving juice. They had no preservatives or other modern processes to easily keep grape juice from fermenting. So once they harvested the grapes for the year and stored the juice in skins, the fermentation process naturally began. If you put juice in a container and leave it alone for a few months what do you get? Fermented, alcoholic wine. That’s what you get.
The passover feast occurred 6-7 months after the grape harvest. By then the grape juice was surely a nice shiraz, or a pinot (ok…I’m not sure how nice it was). So it would have been impossible to not have alcoholic wine for the passover and really for any occasion during the large part of any year.
And even in scripture the apostles themselves are mistakenly accused of being drunk on wine (Acts 2:13-15). First, this seems to infer that it’s not unreasonable to think the apostles may have been drinking alcoholic wine. And second, Peter responds to the accusers, not by saying that they didn’t drink alcohol or that it was bad. He responds by saying basically, “hey, we’re not drunk, it’s too early to be drinking wine.” The implication is obviously that the apostles did drink alcoholic wine, it was just too early in the day to have done so – and they certainly weren’t drunk.
And the constant teaching of the Church is consistent with all of this. Drinking wine can be a good and holy thing.
All that being said, the Church has also always taught that abuse of alcohol or anything else to the point of impairing your judgment is a serious sin. Just as some groups have taken the use of alcohol to an extreme by prohibiting it, it is just as incorrect and even more dangerous to take it to the other extreme of abusing it.
Many Catholics take the Church’s acceptance of the use of alcohol as a license to get drunk. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is a sin of grave matter. I’ve heard many a Catholic respond to negative inferences of getting drunk by saying, “Oh, I’m Catholic…so it’s cool.”
No, it’s not cool. And it’s not Catholic.
It’s another one of those things where a little common sense goes a long way. And if you want to know the absolute best way to drink…click here.