Was the wine in the Bible, Non-alcoholic?

A Seven-day Adventist was telling me that the wine in the Bible is not the same wine today. Difference being that the biblical wine has no alcohol? I also hear some Christian denominations don’t use wine for communion?
Is it true? Was alcoholic wine a relatively recent developement?

I don’t have a Bible here so can’t get you the quote, but it’s in Genesis.

The first mention of wine is shortly after Noah and his family got off the ark. He’d saved some grape juice and it had fermented. He drank it and got very, very drunk.

Non-alcohol wine wouldn’t have made him drunk, you know.

So even without getting into the chemistry of fermentation, I can tell you that the Adventist can’t read.

This is an ongoing argument within and among some denominations of Christianity. There are clear associations between wine and drunkeness in both the old and new testaments, so a blanket statement that alcoholic wine didn’t exist in biblical times is clearly false. I have heard that there are several words used for wine in Greek and Hebrew, one of which means “unfermented” (therefore alcohol-free) grape juice. This is used sometimes to argue that Jesus never drank alcohol. Many denominations use plain grape juice for communion.

As Nava said, the Noah story in Genesis 9:

And in the new testament, Ephesians 5:18:

The practice in ancient times was to water the wine down for normal use with meals. They drank “unwatered” wine when they wanted to get drunk. Mixing wine with water made the water safer to drink because the alcohol in the wine killed the bacteria in the water, thus lowering risks of cholera, dysentary, etc.

Unrefrigerated, unfermented grape juice would not have lasted very long without fermenting anyway.

I have virtually no knowledge of biblical scholarship, but I want to suggest that if the bible uses a word that is translated as “wine,” then the people who wrote it no doubt is meant as a libation that contains alcohol. Otherwise, it would have been translated as a word such as “juice.” We know what wine is. It is a fermented juice, meaning that it has turned, in part, to alcohol. For some recent cult to start claiming that, “noooo, it really was just juice, and Jesus and all the other folks in the bible never tasted alcohol,” is patent revisionism. It’s bad enough that people take the bible as gospel (no pun intended), but then when they start putting their own personal spin on it, it just gets sillier and sillier. Ahhh, don’t get me started.

My denomination (Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, or Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement if you want to get really technical), is rather uptight and, IMHO, intellectually dishonest about this.

There’s not doubt in my mind, nor in the mind of most leaders of my denomination, that the wine in the Bible was… well, wine. When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, it was real wine. At the Last Supper, they drank real wine. Et cetera.

However, we serve grape juice at Communion.

The best I can figure is that we’re so concerned with the evils of drunkenness that we put a fence around the issue, so to speak, and don’t even serve wine at Communion. There are those among us evangelical Protestants, including in my denomination, who try to explain away the use of wine in Biblical times by saying that it was ONLY used to render drinking water safe, blah blah blah.

It’s kind of silly, if you ask me.

Emphasis added.

The bolded sentence doesn’t really make a lot of sense if we’re just talking about grape juice. It does make sense in the context of an alcoholic beverage though. (Typical host: “Hey, those guys are all pretty well sloshed. Time to bring out the cheap stuff; they’ll never even notice!”) So, not only does Jesus miraculously make wine, he makes good wine (“I will miraculously make no wine before its time”); we’re not talking about some small, ceremonial amount, but well over a hundred gallons of the stuff; and Jesus reportedly makes wine by the barrelful for a group of people who are very likely already pretty well lubricated.

Party on, dude!

My church (United Methodists) acknowledges that the Bilble is indeed talking about wine, complete with alcohol. However, for communion, we use grape juice with the reasoning that even that tiny bit of alcohol in the wine might be a problem for an alcoholic. I think that reasoning is overkill, but I can’t see that the subsitution of grape juice causes any harm.

I don’t know the Hebrew for the Old Testament usages, and I’ll have to defer to Diogenes or one of the Jewish Dopers on that. However, virtually every New Testament usage is oinos (forgive the Romanization; I don’t have a Greek font handy). And this word means “juice of the grape.” While it was possible with extreme care to preserve unfermented grape juice for a few days, ordinarily all grape-pressing was permitted to ferment to wine, which was then customarily diluted with water as a table beverage, the undiluted substance being used when intoxication was the goal. Like any other alcoholic beverage, it would induce some tipsiness, but as diluted, it was considered safe for even children to drink. Oinos meant, indifferently, fresh grape juice and full strength wine, and everything in between, there being no easy differentiating line in the days before pasteurization.

The “wine in the Bible doesn’t mean alcoholic wine” people seem to be committing eisegesis, reading into the Bible their taboo on alcoholic beverages.

You know, in the Bible Jesus turned water into wine. But then Chuck Norris turned that wine into beer.

I thought that was a Greek practice, while most others - including Romans - drank their wine straight.

There’s parts of Spain where the land is yellow, yet the old adobe houses are red. The reason? Wine was way cheaper than water.
Catholic Communion usually is only the form; when wine is offered it’s real wine and there’s no offense in rejecting it. People drinks from the same cup, so actually it’s considered polite to everybody else to take only the form if you have a cold or whatever.

The Romans diluted their wine too but just not as much as the Greeks did.

Wine and Rome

Incidentally, Galilee would have been under far more Greek influence than Roman, so the tendency would have probably been towards more dilution rather less.

As previously noted, grape juice naturally turns into wine, and did just about universally until the Methodist layman Thomas Welch developed a process for preventing fermentation in the 19th century. Here is a page from the United Methodist Church discussing a bit of the history.

I’ve heard this explanation before, but I think it’s unlike that there enough alcohol content in wine to effect the quality of the water. I think it’s more likely the water was added to increase volume, especially by the poorer people.

I’m going to have to ask for a cite on this. Certainly, in some times and places, wine was cheaper than potable water. But for making adobe, it wouldn’t make a difference whether the water was potable, and I can’t see how wine could possibly be cheaper than non-potable water. What did they irrigate the vinyards with, more wine?

With there technology I don’t think you could store grape juice in a drinkable form w/o it turning into wine.

Perhaps the water was added before fermantation to increase volume.

It’s been answered already, but right there in the OP is your answer. The Adventists. They’re a special breed all their own.

See, that particular branch of fundamentalist protestantism is rabid about its dietary laws and practices. Unlike the Jews, however, who at least have the sense to say, “G_d said so, that’s why,” the Adventists attempt to back up at least a few of their practices with scientific “facts” that, to call them questionable, would give them far too much credence and would insult questionable.

Wait. That’s not fair. What I mean to say is that many of their dietary practices have valid reasons behind them, but they take it too far. For example, in the church that I grew up with, thin was in. Now, everyone should watch what they eat and indeed it’s healthy to do so, but some members of the church would go so far to say that those who were overweight had lesser moral character because obviously they were easily tempted and too quick to give in. Vegetarianism is encouraged in the church, and for valid reasons and health concerns, but fanatics will go so far as to say that eating meat clouds the mind and degrades one’s relationship with others and with God. As another example, one woman in my church was so terrified of eating sugar (and tried to get others to stop eating it as well) that she claimed that eating it was just like drinking alcohol because it fermets in the stomach during digestion and will have exactly the same effects. This is patently nonsense, and my father had to tell her so. Out of politeness, he refrained from telling her that trying to avoid all sugar is an exercise in futility, as nearly all foods contain it naturally. And so it goes.

Adventists are one of the groups that avoid alcohol (serving grape juice during communions), and they do it for valid reasons, but as with many things, they take it too far. Many are what I would deem pathological about avoiding alcohol, fearing it to unhealthy levels. It doesn’t surprise me that members of that church have dreamed up a way to explain it biblically, regardless of how shaky their biblical foundation might be. It wouldn’t be the first time - the Adventists have published a translation of the Bible that contains their dogma and unique beliefs sprinkled liberally throughout.

Snicks, raised Adventist and now recovering.

The last time I was in Paris, wine was far cheaper than either bottled water or Coke.

Anyhow, when I was growing up we used real wine (well, Manishevitz anyway) for Seders and for wine for the blessings at the temple. The only exception was junior congregation, with kids under bar mitzvah age, which used grape juice - but that was a matter of law and that it didn’t really count.

Is there a Biblical cite condemning wine - not drunkeness? It would be quite a laugh on the Adventists if they discover that grape juice doesn’t count when they’re at the gates of heaven.