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In the Bible is Jesus’ first miracle: of turning water into wine:

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. [...] Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from eighty to a hundred and twenty litres. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. [...]”

‭‭John‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬-‭9‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Hand-waving the mechanism of transformation, what laws would be violated? I’m assuming alcohol licensing, potentially food certifications + labelling, etc. Assume the same scenario: a guest at a wedding who does not receive compensation for the wine.

Interested in any jurisdiction.

1
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    – Dale M
    Mar 6, 2023 at 20:50

4 Answers 4

66

North Carolina,

The problem is Jesus didn't make wine, he made liquor, which is more heavily regulated.

NCGS § 18B-306 (a)

Authority. - An individual may make, possess, and transport wines and malt beverages for the individual's own use, the use of the individual's family and guests...

That would appear to make the transformation ok. However, the issue is if you look at the definition for wine, NCGS § 18B-101 (9)

"Unfortified wine" means any wine or alcohol consumable containing sixteen percent (16%) or less alcohol by volume made by fermentation from grapes, fruits, berries, rice, or honey; or by the addition of pure cane, beet, or dextrose sugar; or by the addition of pure brandy from the same type of grape, fruit, berry, rice, or honey that is contained in the base wine and produced in accordance with the regulations of the United States.

Miracle wine isn't wine because the alcohol didn't arise from fermentation, it came from a miracle. Similarly, NCGS § 18B-101 (15) says

"Malt beverage" means beer, lager, malt liquor, ale, porter, and any other brewed or fermented beverage or alcohol consumable except unfortified or fortified wine as defined by this Chapter, containing at least one-half of one percent (0.5%), and not more than fifteen percent (15%), alcohol by volume.

and since it wasn't brewed or fermented, it's not a malt beverage either. Therefore, it would be a liquor, as it's an alcohol consumable containing ethyl alcohol. NCGS § 18B-101 (14)

"Spirituous liquor" or "liquor" means distilled spirits or ethyl alcohol, and any alcohol consumable containing distilled spirits or ethyl alcohol, including spirits of wine, whiskey, rum, brandy, gin and all other distilled spirits and mixtures of cordials, liqueur, and premixed cocktails, in closed containers regardless of their dilution.

Thus, Jesus would violate § 18B-307(b)

Unlawful Manufacturing. - Except as provided in G.S. 18B-306, it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture any alcoholic beverage, except at an establishment with a Brew on Premises permit or a Winemaking on Premises permit, without first obtaining the applicable ABC permit and revenue licenses.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Law Meta, or in Law Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Dale M
    Mar 6, 2023 at 8:50
  • See also chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/144398/…
    – Monty Wild
    Mar 6, 2023 at 8:59
  • 4
    @Barmar Per Snopes discussing alcohol radioactivity, neither the FDA nor the Tobacco and Alcohol Tax Bureau have any objection to synthetic alcohol being used in food products, though the latter require that it be described as such on the product’s packaging. Both suggest that synthetic alcohols are widespread and in common use, which suggests that despite the definition of “wine” being what it is, at least in practice, substances are classed based on their chemical composition more than how they got to be that way.
    – KRyan
    Mar 6, 2023 at 18:57
  • 2
    "Jesus didn't make wine, he made liquor" - {[proof] needed}
    – Mazura
    Mar 8, 2023 at 1:10
  • 1
    @RobbieGoodwin The whole answer explains the reasoning for that - in NC law, what Jesus (is claimed to have) made would not be considered wine.
    – kaya3
    Mar 12, 2023 at 3:06
29

None

Anyone can make wine for personal use (which includes giving it to friends).

Food handling and labelling laws are only applicable if the wine is going to be sold.

Assuming the wedding was being held on unlicensed premises and the wine was not being sold, licensing laws are N/A. It is illegal to serve alcohol to children except with the permission of their parent/guardian.

If the premises are licensed then the “servants” would need to hold current Responsible Service of Alcohol qualifications and serve in accordance with the rules (no wine to intoxicated people, children etc.) and the licensee or their delegate would need to be on site.

7
  • 1
    Is “servants” in quotation marks to get around (not so) Modern Slavery laws?
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 6, 2023 at 4:53
  • 2
    @AndrewGrimm no servants is in quotation marks because it’s a quotation from the OPks quotation
    – Dale M
    Mar 6, 2023 at 6:27
  • 4
    The venue and/or catering had been serving wine prior to the miracle. The miracle occurs at Mary’s prompting because the hosts’ wine had run out, and afterwards the head caterer comments on the hosts’ unusual “choice” to serve superior wine later, after guests are already drunk and won’t appreciate it/wouldn’t notice inferior wine as much. I think it’s safe to assume that the wait staff had been serving the original wine legally, whether that’s because they didn’t need any qualifications or they had them.
    – KRyan
    Mar 6, 2023 at 18:48
  • @AndrewGrimm Modern slavery is not Biblical slavery.
    – Nelson
    Mar 8, 2023 at 0:58
  • As with pretty much everything else, as long as you aren't making money doing it, or more importantly not preventing someone else from making money doing it, then no one cares. - The shorter list of countries would be the one where, alcohol is legal in general, and the first two sentences are false.
    – Mazura
    Mar 8, 2023 at 1:00
17

Making several barrels of home-made wine for consumption at a friend's wedding (without payment) would be perfectly legal in the UK. No licence would be required, nor would Jesus have to pay any Duty on the wine produced.

The Wine and Made-wine Regulations 1989

These Regulations apply to wine and made-wine produced in the United Kingdom for sale.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1989/1356/made


In the event that Jesus attempted to sell said wine to his friend, at that point he'd be breaking a host of laws on Excise Duty, licencing as a vintner or winemaker, wine labelling, food hygiene standards, etc etc.

13

Assuming ad arguendo that the substance is wine, our attention is first directed to RCW 66.12.010 which says

Nothing in this title, other than RCW 66.28.140, applies to wine or beer manufactured in any home for private consumption, and not for sale.

Note that the "other than" exception allows for what would otherwise be illegal transportation, saying that

An adult member of a household may remove family beer or wine from the home subject to the following conditions: (a) The quantity removed by a producer is limited to a quantity not exceeding twenty gallons

Apart from the fact that the quantity being produced is over the volume limit on transporting home-brew, it was not produced in any home. The homebrew exemption does not apply. Production of alcohol requires a license, and payment of various fees per RCW 66.24.170.

The question whether the substance counts as "wine" is not relevant in Washington. Wine is defined as

any alcoholic beverage obtained by fermentation of fruits (grapes, berries, apples, et cetera) or other agricultural product containing sugar...

but there aren't stricter requirements on alcohol produced by trans-substantiation, and plainly no distillation was involved.

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  • 2
    I believe in first-century Judea wedding receptions were generally held at the bridegroom's house. So this wine probably was produced in a home and consumed at the same location.
    – David42
    Mar 7, 2023 at 15:08
  • One would wonder if the wine which is going to drink the full town (everybody attended these celebrations back then) is considered "private consumption"
    – Ángel
    Mar 8, 2023 at 2:59

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