Did Jesus Drink Alcohol?

da vinci's last supper

Many Muslims have been taught that Judaism and Christianity have banned alcohol. Specifically, Muslims have been told that Jesus shunned alcohol while he was on earth, following Muslim dietary laws. They come to this belief either because they guess it from the teaching that Jesus was a Muslim or because their imams and apologists have actually lied to them. But it is completely false.

Most Muslims don’t know that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding at Cana, where he turned water into wine. (Yes, wine. Not grape juice.) The professional party steward was so impressed with this wine that he said, “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” (John 2:10, ESV). By this he meant, “Everyone waits until the wedding guests are a bit tipsy and can’t tell the good wine from the bad, and then they bring out the cheap stuff to keep the party going.”

This doesn’t prove that Jesus was drinking the wine, of course, but in Matthew, referring to himself, Jesus says, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7:24). In context, this is presented as a false accusation containing a grain of truth–that is, Jesus ate at feasts and he drank wine.

At the Last Supper, one of the most significant occasions in Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus also drank wine, and at the same time, he used it to establish the institution of the Eucharist or Communion, the most important sacrament of Christianity, which traditionally involves wine (though sometimes, in modern days, grape juice). In Luke 22:17-18, we read, “And he [Jesus] took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.'” This was, in fact, a cup of…alcoholic wine.

Now, it is true that a number of Christians today either do not drink at all or drink very little. The Bible condemns drunkenness and alcoholism as well. But no Western country ever even thought of prohibiting alcohol altogether until the Temperance Movement of the United States in the early 20th century. The Temperance Movement was one of the big focuses of the feminist movement, because of the association of spousal abuse and unemployability with alcoholism in men. It also picked up religious support because churches were the main outlet for charity and help in society at that time, and religious institutions were very involved with dealing with families that were broken because of alcoholism. The Temperance Movement was a very specific reaction to what was a pervasive cultural problem. Though most school children are taught that this period (called Prohibition) was a failure, in reality, it brought a permanent change to American culture, dropping the level of alcohol consumption below that of all other countries that originated from the British Commonwealth when alcohol consumption had once been much higher than any other English-speaking country.

As a result of the history of the Temperance Movement in America, a few churches still preach against all alcohol consumption, especially denominations that originated around this time, but these are the exception, and the prohibition against alcohol does not come from the Bible.

If you have any more questions about alcohol, Jesus, and Christianity, I suggest watching Mike Winger’s great overview of what the Bible really says about alcohol:

Author: Marya Harb