Q. How do you interpret Proverbs 23:34 and reconcile it with it being okay to drink alcoholic beverages? It seems if one should not even look upon wine when it is fermented (as Proverbs 23:34 says, and I believe this means to look upon in the light of desiring to drink it), then God does not want us to drink it at all because of the sin and degradation it leads one into.
Many go to the wedding feast where Jesus turned the water into wine to justify drinking alcoholic beverages because if it wasn’t okay then surely Jesus would not have turned water into wine. But has anyone thought it possible the water that Jesus turned to wine was not fermented wine? In light of Proverbs 23:34, I believe Jesus turned the water into the pure juice of the vine (not fermented). Otherwise, Jesus has contradicted His own words. I don’t believe Jesus would do something God said not to do. I don’t believe Jesus would have provided fermented wine to those at the wedding feast knowing there would be some who would consume too much and end up drunk and committing other sins that drunkenness leads to. If that were the case, then Jesus himself would have been a stumbling block and a hypocrite.
Paul said it was okay to “take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (medicinal purposes). I believe that would be the only occasion to take of alcohol during biblical times. Nowadays we have so much “medicine” for various illnesses that do not contain alcohol that there is no excuse to consume alcohol in any form.
Can you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus turned the water into (fermented) wine?
A. The Bible repeatedly warns of the dangers in drinking too much and its first mention of wine described the sorry outcome of Noah’s drunkenness. (Genesis 9:20-27) But it doesn’t forbid drinking.
Proverbs 23:29-35 refers to someone who drinks too much, a drunk. This is indicated by the fact that the writer describes someone who lingers over wine (vs. 30), has hallucinations while drinking (vs. 33), feels no pain even when beaten, and whose first thought upon regaining consciousness is for another drink (vs. 35).
As for the wedding feast, the master of the feast complimented the wine Jesus provided as being superior to the wine the groom served. Jesus drank wine (Luke 7:34) and at the Last Supper gave some to His disciples.
As for proof, in John 2 the Bible says wine, not juice. The primary dictionary definition of wine is “the fermented juice of grapes, made in many varieties, such as red, white, sweet, dry, still, and sparkling, for use as a beverage, in cooking, in religious rites, etc., and usually having an alcoholic content of 14 percent or less.” The Greek word John used appears 32 times in the New Testament and is translated wine every time. On the two occasions when the Bible refers to wine that hasn’t had time to ferment, it always adds the prefix “new”. That’s good enough for me.
While I agree with your sentiments about the dangers of drunkenness, we can’t re-interpret the Bible to accommodate them.