Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vintner's Collection

John 2:9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now."

9 ὡς δὲ ἐγεύσατο ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον γεγενημένον καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει πόθεν ἐστίν, οἱ δὲ διάκονοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ ἠντληκότες τὸ ὕδωρ, φωνεῖ τὸν νυμφίον ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος 10  καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω· σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι.

This is end of the account of Jesus' first public miracle.  Here He made up for a shortage in wine at a wedding He attended with His mother.  The Roman Catholic Church uses this text as a proof that we should use Mary as an intercessor because she can make Jesus do things that He otherwise wouldn't do.  I don't think that is what this text is all about.  Instead, I think that this shows that Jesus has command over creation.  After all, He did create it.  He is God and should be worshiped as such.

It also throws a wrench into anyone who tries to say that the Bible argues for abstinence from alcohol.  Abstinence is a fine idea and, frankly, there are not many good reasons to drink; however, we need to be careful about making the Bible say what our tradition says that it says.  To me, the interesting word is μεθυσθῶσιν, which is a subjunctive aorist passive 3rd person plural.  The phrase "drunk freely" is a euphemism for what Thayer describes as "to become intoxicated, to make drunk."  In other words, you serve inferior wine after people have had their senses dulled.  The only way to make sense of that is to understand this as real wine that was consumed in a way that we would normally think of.

Apparently Jesus made real wine.  To argue otherwise is to go against the plain reading of the passage as well as reason.  I do not want to minimize the deleterious effects of alcohol.  I see some of them every time my mom visits.  I lost an aunt partly because of it.  But let's not try to make the Bible say something it doesn't say.  If our Lord made real wine then we should just leave it at that.

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