Alcohol in the Bible

Alcoholic beverages appear in the Hebrew Bible, after Noah planted a vineyard and became inebriated. In the New Testament, Jesus miraculously made copious amounts of wine[1] at the marriage at Cana (John 2). Wine is the most common alcoholic beverage mentioned in biblical literature, where it is a source of symbolism,[2] and was an important part of daily life in biblical times.[2][3][4] Additionally, the inhabitants of ancient Israel drank beer, and wines made from fruits other than grapes, and references to these appear in scripture.[5]

Jesus depicted transforming water into wine. Maerten de Vos, The Marriage at Cana, c.1597, Cathedral of our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium.

Many Christians abstain from alcohol, citing, among other verses, 1 Corinthians 10:21, which states, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons."[citation needed] Others think biblical literature displays an ambivalence toward drinks that can be intoxicating, considering them both a blessing from God that brings joy and merriment and potentially dangerous beverages that can be sinfully abused.[6][7][8][9] The relationships between Judaism and alcohol and Christianity and alcohol have generally maintained this same tension, though some modern Christian sects, particularly American Protestant groups around the time of Prohibition, have rejected alcohol as evil. The original versions of the books of the Bible use several different words for alcoholic beverages: at least 10 in Hebrew, and five in Greek. Drunkenness is discouraged and not infrequently portrayed, and some biblical persons abstained from alcohol. Wine is used symbolically, in both positive and negative terms. Its consumption is prescribed for religious rites or medicinal uses in some places.


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