• U.S.

Religion: Did Jesus Drink Wine?

2 minute read
TIME

Jimmy Carter has announced that he will serve nothing stronger than wine when he moves into the White House this week, and he drinks only an occasional Scotch. That temperate approach has proved a disappointment to out-and-out prohibitionists, since Carter is a devout member of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptists are among the driest of U.S. church groups.

But one celebrated Southern Baptist, Billy Graham, leaped to the new President’s defense in a Miami Herald interview. As Graham reads his well-worn Bible, there is no doubt that “Jesus drank wine.” After all, he miraculously turned six huge jars of water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-11). “That wasn’t grape juice, as some of them try to claim,” added Graham.

Not so, replied Fundamentalist Presbyterian Carl Mclntire. In his Christian Beacon, he offered an ingenious exegesis of the Cana account: “Jesus Christ never drank any fermented wine, neither did he ever make fermented wine. What Jesus did at the marriage of Cana was to make out of water the finest nonintoxicating wine that perhaps was ever made. The various combinations of the fruits of the vine can produce some delicious non-fermented drinks.”

Facing a flurry of complaints, Graham then issued a 2,000-word statement further explaining his position on alcohol. The wine of biblical times was “very much weaker than modern drink,” he said. “We have a free conscience before the Lord, [but] it is better for Christians to be teetotalers, except for medicinal purposes.”

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