Water into Wine

The transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first Miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John.

In the biblical account, Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding and when the wine runs out. Jesus turns water into wine by performing a miracle.

Jesus the Polygamyst: Marriage at Cana

Contrary to current mainstream Mormon belief, Mormon leader Orson Hyde taught that the Marriage at Cana was Jesus’ own wedding, that Jesus was a polygamist and that the sisters Mary Magdalene and Martha were among his wives. This teaching has never been accepted as part of official Mormon doctrine by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is not held to be true by the overwhelming majority of Mormons today. Anti-Mormon critic Floyd McElveen argues against this hypothesis based on John 2:8-10 which states that the master of the ceremony at the feast (unaware of the miracle) congratulated “the bridegroom” for the wine, not Jesus and that John 2:2 states that: “Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding”, and one does not get invited to his own wedding.

  • On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 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 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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
    (John 2:1-11)

This story highlights to my Baptist friends that Yeshua (Jesus Christ) did not turn the water into grape juice. The Master of the Feast clearly, 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.”

Whether one wants to believe the Holy Bible for what it says (unlike most Baptists I know), the fact is that Noah and the Wedding Guests at Cana were drinking alcoholic beverages.

The Apostolic Fathers make very little reference to wine, but the earliest references from the Church Fathers make it clear that the early church used wine in their celebration of the Eucharist, often mixing it with water according to the prevailing custom. The Didache, an early Christian treatise which is generally accepted to be from the late 1st century, instructs Christians to give a portion of their wine in support of a true prophet or, if they have no prophet resident with them, to the poor.

Clement of Alexandria wrote in a chapter about drinking that he admires those who adopt an austere life and abstain from wine, and he suggests the young abstain from wine so as not to inflame their “wild impulses.” But he says taking a little wine as medicine or for pleasure after the day’s work is acceptable for those who are “moored by reason and time” such that they aren’t tempted by drunkenness, and he encourages mixing water in with the wine to inhibit inebriation. He also says wine [not grape juice] is an appropriate symbol of Jesus’ blood.

Cyprian rejects as “contrary to evangelical and apostolical discipline” the practice of some Gnostics, who used water instead of wine in the Eucharist. While still rejecting drunkenness, on the content of the cup he says, “The Holy Spirit also … makes mention of the Lord’s cup, and says, “Thy inebriating cup, how excellent it is!” [quoting a variation of Psalm 23:5 (in the Hebrew numbering)] Now the cup which inebriates is assuredly mingled with wine, for water cannot inebriate anybody.”

  • A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
    (Psalms 23:1-6 ESV)

Basil the Great likewise repudiated the views of some dualistic heretics who abhorred marriage, rejected wine, and called God’s creation “polluted” and who substituted water for wine in the Eucharist.

John Chrysostom in a homily on 1 Timothy 5:23 stresses moderation and adds that the biblical passage in question is useful for refuting heretics and immature Christians who say there should be no wine. He emphasizes the goodness of God’s creation and adjures: “Let there be no drunkenness; for wine is the work of God, but drunkenness is the work of the devil. Wine makes not drunkenness; but intemperance produces it. Do not accuse that which is the workmanship of God, but accuse the madness of a fellow mortal.”

The virtue of temperance passed from Greek philosophy into Christian ethics and became one of the four cardinal virtues under St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. Drunkenness, on the other hand, is considered a manifestation of gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins as compiled by Gregory the Great in the 6th century.

This article could be much more lengthy (and tedious) delving into the Middle Ages, Protestant Reformation, English Reformation, Colonial America, Methodism, and the Temporance Movement.

At the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples shared a Kiddush of wine.

  • And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
    (Mark 14:23-25 ESV)

Likewise, Paul the Apostle counseled Timothy cobverning the use of wine for his stomach ands other ailments.

  • Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
    (I Timothy 5:23)

The kiddish is recited over a full (brimming) large cup of wine. The wine symbolizes joy and the full cup symbolizes overflowing joy and bounty. On Shabbat there should be nothing missing from total physical and spiritual completion. Kiddush may be recited and drunk while  standing, sitting, or standing while reciting and sitting while drinking. There are a number of variations for holding the cup. Of particular note: place the cup in the palm of the right hand with the five fingers curled upward holding it. This symbolizes the five-petaled rose, the symbol of perfection, of longing for God (the petals reach upward), of the people of Israel.

The text of the kiddush can be found in the siddur. The first half is an account of the completion of creation on the seventh day (Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 2:1-3). The introductory phrase va-y’hi erev va-y’hi voker–“and there was evening and there was morning”–is said in a low tone. This allows the emphasis to fall on the first four words of kiddush: “yom ha-shishi. Va-y’khulu ha-shamayim (Friday), “the sixth day. The heaven and the earth were finished”the first letters of which form the Tetragrammaton, the holy four-letter Name of God.

After this we recite the blessing over the wine.

The second half of the kiddush recalls both the Creation and the Exodus from Egypt, the paradigm for all physical and spiritual redemptions and rebirths, and concludes with the blessing on the sanctification of the Shabbat. If wine is not available, the kiddush can be recited over the twin hallot [braided breads]. Simply substitute the blessing over the bread for the one over the wine.

Throughout the Torah, we are reminded of the great spiritual significance of wine in the life of a Jew. In fact, the Talmudic Rabbis saw fit to establish a special law with special regard to wine. Today, the vast majority of wines on the market are unfit for consumption by the kosher consumer. Throughout all the stages of wine production, the strictest Kosher supervision is required until the final stage of the actual bottling. There is, of course, the prohibition concerning wines which relates to the status of boiled wine. Kosher wine that has been cooked before contact with a non-Jew has occurred is exempted from the injunction. This prohibition stems from the historical perspective that boiled wine was considered “improper” to be offered as a libation to an idol (where wines were often offered by these idol worshiping nations). Such wine, (called “Yayin Nesach“), that had been offered to an idol was prohibited for Jewish use of any kind. This was a Torah-based prohibition. In addition, there is also a rabbinic prohibition which forbids drinking the ordinary wine of non-Jews in order to reduce social contact which could lead to assimilation and intermarriage. Such wine is called “Stam Yenam“. Therefore, if a non-Jew happened to come into contact with boiled wine, the wine is still permissible for an observant Jew to drink. Many kosher wines today bear the marking “Mevushal“, that indicates that they have been boiled. Extra caution must be taken with a kosher wine that has not been previously boiled (Mevushal), lest a non-Jew or Jew who is not Shomer Shabbos should come in contact with that bottle of wine (maid etc.). A closed bottle, even non-Mevushal wine, may be handled by a non-Jew. In its most basic state, wine is nothing more than fermented grape juice. The processing, aging and grape type used in each type of wine provide the countless variations of wines available on the market today. As we have stated, the basic initial ingredient in wine is the grape, which consists of water, sugar, acid and tannin. The most popular types of grapes used in kosher wines today are carignam, grenache and semillon. Today, the vineyards in Israel consist of over 40,000 acres and produce over 13 million gallons of wines per year. Currently, kosher wines are being produced in such places as Spain, Italy, New York, California, Israel and Italy. Besides the vital knowledge that the kosher consumer must have when purchasing wine for the enjoyment of the wine itself, it is also imperative for the kosher consumer to realize that often, wine and grape juice are used to flavor and color other food and beverage items (i.e. beer, pink lemonade, lite canned fruits, tropical drinks, cereals, etc.). Therefore, it is imperative for the kosher consumer to rely on competent Hashgachas when purchasing such complex items.