We begin this study with a goal of an academic and educational approach. We do well to first attempt to find out how the ancient cultures approached wine, including what wines were available, who drank it, and how it was drunk. Our sources for this are going to appeal mostly to the Greco-Roman context, since that is the primary culture in which Jesus Himself lived. This context serves as a basis for how the early Christians would have perceived wine.
At this point, I am offering just my attempt at historical education. I shall be adding more and more analysis and conclusions to this as time goes on. This first step is not intended to make any universal judgements concerning wine use today. Its intention is to provide a base off of which we can make wise decisions.
First Step: Historical Backdrop
- Wines up to 12% alcoholic capacity may have been available to lower class in the first century
- Wines within 8%-10% alcoholic content were most common
- Wines were ALWAYS expected to be diluted with water
- The most common dilution rates were between 80% water to %60 water
- Therefore: first century Christians would have drank no more than 4% alcohol beverage. More likely at 2%. Quite possibly under 1%
- Drinking wine was expected to be done along with eating meals, making the practical alcohol absorption to reach far beneath above rates.
- The symposium and comissatio (the well established Greek and Roman social drinking platforms) were designed for the purpose of drinking wine and socializing, and were labeled by terms corresponding to “carousing.”