From: Ward Powers (
Date: Sat Apr 18 1998 - 11:13:23 EDT

Fellow b-greekers:

I have been interested to read the comments in the OINOS thread, but have
not been able to respond earlier because of heavy pressure of work.
However, I do not wish to leave some of the comments unanswered.

At 08:04 98/04/16 -0500, Carl wrote:

>A final follow-up on yesterday's thread. As Edward's rather(?!) definitive
>statement indicated, grape juice is so very unstable that it won't remain
>drinkable for very long, and that seems a sufficiently determinative factor

My reading has informed me

(a) that those of biblical times did not always wish to drink alcoholic
wine on every occasion when they were thirsty, and that they often drank
fresh grape juice. For example, in the cupbearer's dream (Genesis 40:11) he
"took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharoah's cup, and put the cup in his
hand". No question about it: Pharaoh was drinking freshly-squeezed grape
juice. The context shows that when the cupbearer saw this in his dream it
was what he customarily did. See 40:11, "you will put Pharaoh's cup in his
hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer"; which (40:21) is
exactly what happened subsequently.

(b) that grapejuice was preserved for drinking out of season. The method
was to boil off liquid from the juice to bring it to the consistency of
toothpaste, known as "must"; this must was then kept in skins in a cool
place until one wanted to have a refreshing drink, when it was mixed with
cold water to the desired consistency. Not only was this drink
non-alcoholic, but the resultant drink was more resistant to fermentation.

(c) that this practice is continued to this day in some areas around the

(d) that the fact that one could not drink grapejuice all year round would
not mean that you did not drink it when you could, and in any case is
irrelevant to the question of whether or not OINOS always refers to
alcoholic wine in biblical usage. No one asserts that OINOS never refers to
alcoholic wine.

Carl continues:
>to add to the fact that there is no attested usage of OINOS clearly
>indicating reference to the UNfermented juice of the grape for us to
>conclude that OINOS always did, in fact, refer to an alcoholic beverage.

The word OINOS occurs 34 times in the GNT. Of these, 21 are in the Gospels:
10 are in the Synoptic passages about putting wine into new or old
wineskins; 6 are references to the turning of water into wine at Cana (John
2 plus 4:46); 2 are to Jesus being offered wine on the cross; 2 are to John
the Baptist not drinking wine; and the other one is to the Good Samaritan
pouring in oil and wine in dressing the wounds of the injured man.

There are 8 references in Revelation; one referring to a winepress (19:15);
2 mentioning wine in a list of commodities (6:6; 18:13); 2 to the wine of
God's wrath (14:10; 16:19); and 3 to wine of sexual impurity (14:8; 17:2;

The word occurs in the Epistles in Romans 14:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy
3:8; 5:23; Titus 2:3.

Undoubtedly some of these references are to an alcoholic beverage. But can
it be asserted that all of them are?

I would wish to ask, re the passages about putting wine into skins: is it
held that the grapejuice was fermented into wine BEFORE being put into the
wineskins? If so, where and in what form was the grapejuice held while it
fermented into wine? What evidence is adduced in support of this? If it is
held that the grapejuice fermented into wine IN the wineskins (which I
would have thought was the assumption behind these passages), then Mark
2:22 (and parallels) - which use OINOS of the liquid which is being put
into the wineskins - are using OINOS in reference to the unfermented juice
of the grape.

When however one extends one's investigation to include the LXX, the matter
becomes even clearer.

There are several words in the OT translated "wine" in our versions. I
noted eight different words rendered "wine" in the listing for "wine" in
the NIV Exhaustive Concordance (pages 1256f.). The two most common are
YAYIN (141 times) and TIYROS (38 times).

In the NIV, TIYROS is translated "grapes" once [Micah 6:15]; "[grape]juice"
once [Isaiah 65:8]; "new" once; "wine" once; and "new wine" 34 times. Micah
6:15 reads in the NIV, "you will crush grapes but not drink the wine:. NRSV
has "tread grapes". The meaning is, "you will produce grapejuice", and the
Hebrew word used is TIYROS. The LXX has, KAI OINON, KAI OU MH PIHTE. That
is, the TIYROS is translated by OINON. Similarly a vine bearing grapes is
referred to as having wine in Judges 9:13 (also TIYROS, and also translated
in the LXX as OINOS).

Grapes are described [1 Chronicles 27:27] as "the treasures of the wine in
the fields". "Wine" here is YAYIN; in the LXX the passage reads, KAI EPI
TWN QHSAURWN TWN EN TOIS CWRIOIS TOU OINOU. Harvesting the crop of grapes
is described (Jeremiah 40:10, 12) as "to harvest the wine" (NIV), "gather
the wine" (NRSV); again, YAYIN in the Hebrew, OINOS in the LXX. But grapes
contain grapejuice not fermented wine.

When one treads a winepress, what one produces from the grapes is, of
course, unfermented grapejuice. But what one treads out of the winepress,
what flows out of the winepress, is called YAYIN, "wine" (Isaiah 16:10;
Jeremiah 48:33), OINOS in the LXX.

In summary: It is not in question that YAYIN and TIYROS in the Hebrew and
OINOS in the Greek can, in appropriate contexts, mean alcoholic wine which
can make you drunk. In fact, many texts both in OT and NT warn against this
very thing. What is in question is whether they can also be found used of
unfermented grapejuice.

I have shown examples of the use of TIYROS and YAYIN referring to the
grapejuice while still in the grapes on the vine, and in the grapes when
harvested, and of the juice produced when the grapes are pressed in the
winepress. I have shown that the LXX regularly translates these words
(including in the instances when they refer to grapejuice) by OINOS. I
would also submit that the liquid being put into the wineskins in the NT,
which is referred to as OINOS, is unfermented grapejuice.

My conclusion is that the word "wine", when used to translate these words,
must be recognized as having a meaning which extends from the juice of the
grape while still in the grape, through to the alcoholic beverage.

I submit therefore that it is not accurate to say that OINOS did, in fact,
always refer to an alcoholic beverage.

So what kind of OINOS did Jesus create at the Wedding Feast in Cana? I have
two comments:

(a) First, the answer to that question is not prejudged by the fact that the
beverage is described as being OINOS.

(b) Second, what kind of OINOS one thinks Jesus would have made will depend
upon one's theological presuppositions in the matter, at which one has
already arrived before approaching the passage.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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