CLAIM: Some fundamentalist interpreters argue that Jesus couldn’t have turned the water into wine, because the Bible speaks against drunkenness. Commentator Martin Hengel speaks of the “profane nature of the miracle.” Thus Jesus must have turned the wine into grape juice, or else he diluted the remaining wine with water. Is this the case?
RESPONSE: Jesus did not dilute the remaining wine with water, because the text tells us that there was no remaining wine (“when the wine ran out” verse 3). Moreover, the text explicitly speaks of the “water which had become wine” (v.9).
The notion that Jesus created grape juice is equally untenable. In the text, the wine steward believed that the people already had too much to drink (v.10). He uses the Greek word methysko. Carson writes, “The verb methysko does not refer to consuming too much liquid, but to inebriation.” Moreover, the Greek term oinos doesn’t refer to grape juice but to wine. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul writes, “Do not get drunk with wine (oinos).” Is it possible to get drunk off of grape juice?
The ancient practice of diluting wine has been greatly exaggerated. For instance, Robert Stein argues, “The ratio of water to wine varied. Homer (Odyssey IX, 208f.) mentions a ratio of 20 to 1, twenty parts water to one part wine.” However, Homer’s claim was made to explain the exaggerated potency of the wine. He was saying something like, “This stuff was so good, we could dilute it 20 times over… and it was still strong enough to drink!” Moreover, Homer’s material in the Odyssey is fictional and exaggerated. Thus it shouldn’t be taken too literally. Ancient references to diluting wine with water (2:1 or 3:1) are reasonable, but not 20:1 as Homer’s Odyssey (Odyssey IX. 208). A two to one (or three to one) ration would make ancient wine similar to the strength of a modern American beer.
Finally, the claim that wine was used to purify dirty water is fallacious. Fundamentalists often argue that the ancients drank wine only because they didn’t have clean drinking water. However, their claim is also that they diluted the wine with dirty water (10:1 or 20:1)! How would wine purify dirty drinking water? No such practice is known today, nor was it ever used in ancient times. For more on whether or not Christians should be permitted to drink, see comments on 1 Timothy 5:23.
 Martin Hengel, ‘The Interpretation of the Wine Miracle at Cana: John 2:1-11.” Cited in Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991. 166.
 W. F. Howard, The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation (revised by C. K. Barrett; Epworth, 1955), p. 191. Cited in Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991. 166.
 Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991. 169.
 Stein, Robert. “Wine-Drinking in New Testament Times,” Christianity Today, June 20, 1975. 9.