Why No Wine in the Lord’s Supper?

Did Jesus make or use intoxicating wine? Many believe that Jesus turned water into intoxicating wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2). See, one has to assert this with bias since “wine” from the Greek work oinos was grape juice that the farmer may or may not have leavened. [Read more about this here.]

Strangely, some would imply that Jesus would have aided a wedding into a drinking party that His Spirit condemned (1 Pet 4:3). Remember that John 2:10 used the Greek word methuo, which means drunk or filled, to describe the amount of wine consumed by the wedding guests. If the wine was intoxicating in the wedding of John 2, then the text is describing the guests as intoxicated and Jesus was giving them 120 to 150 gallons of intoxicating wine. Some have pointed out that Jesus made “new wine”, which is the description of nonalcoholic wine in the Scriptures (cf. Acts 2).

Those asserting that Jesus made intoxicating wine are also implying that Jesus was encouraging a drinking party, vain drinking, and drunkenness. In Wayne Jackson’s article, “What about Moderate Social Drinking?”,

“There is no proof that the ‘wine’ at the marriage feast in Cana was fermented. The Greek word for ‘wine’ in this text is oinos, which may refer to a fermented beverage (cf. Eph. 5:18), or it may denote freshly squeezed grape juice (cf. Isa. 16:10 – LXX). Since the word for ‘wine’ is generic, the student has no right to import the concept of an alcoholic beverage into this passage without contextual justification—of which there is none.”

To assume that Jesus made intoxicating drinks is to assume that after everyone had drunk all the other intoxicating wine, then they needed more of the best intoxicating wine and Jesus was the man to do it.

Many denominations have made wine a part of the “Eucharist”, the Lord’s Supper. Few churches use alcoholic wine with exception of the churches of Christ.

Did Jesus use intoxicating wine in the Lord’s Supper? No, He did not. Actually, wine has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper. The word “wine” is never used in reference to the Lord’s Supper. People have invented the idea that Jesus used alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus mentions the specific content of the cup to drink is “fruit of the vine” or an even better translation “fruit of the grapevine”. There is no indication of its fermentation. Add to all of this that Jesus used unleavened bread because it was the time of the Passover when God commanded Israel to throw out all leaven. The grape juice would have been unleavened too at least in the sense of having additional yeast rather than wild yeast. What does that mean? The throwing out of leaven would have also included the throwing out of highly intoxicating wine that contained additional yeast.

Most do not know what is biblical wine. Most assume that all “wine” in the Bible is highly alcoholic and intoxicating like today’s wine. There are passages that clearly imply that wine can intoxicate (Eph 5:18, 1 Tim 3:8, Titus 2:3). Still, “wine” is often simply grape juice.

There are a number of examples of nonalcoholic wine. The Scriptures call the grape juice within the grapes of the field “wine” (Deut 11:14, 2 Chr 31:5). Isaiah also described the “wine”  in the grape (Isa 65:8). These passages alone should convince all. The blood of the grape is “wine” (Deut 32:14). Isaiah also described the vineyard consisting of “red wine” (Isa 27:2). The grape juice of the winepress is also “wine” (Prov 3:10). Biblical “wine” may be alcoholic or not at all.

In reading the Old Testament, many would be surprised that there are six Hebrew words that the translators interpret as “wine”. Two of these words include the word asis, which means “sweet grape juice” or “new grape juice” and the other word, hemer, simply means “grape juice”. These words refer to non-alcoholic juice.

Biblical wine contains much alcohol than wine today. The sugar of grape juice can only ferment up to possibly 4% alcohol with wild yeast, which is nothing to the use of a drinker. For grape juice to exceed 4% alcohol, then the winemaker must add yeast. The yeast added to ancient wines produced between 5-10% alcohol. This alcohol would eventually kill yeast cells and prevent alcohol exceeding 10%. Wines today average 12-18% alcohol due to saccharomyces, a genetically modified yeast that scientist developed in the twentieth century.

Today’s wine is not biblical wine in regards to alcohol content. Due to distilling, strong drinks like liquor go over twenty percent. Study for yourself. See some of my sources for this info in the International Biblical Encyclopedia, Wine Makers Magazines, and Alcohol in Moderation Digest.

When reading the word “wine” in the Bible, remember that it may be grape juice or intoxicating. Yet, it is not like today’s wine that has a higher alcoholic content. The simple use of the word “wine” has become the means for many to justify their actions in vain drinking and drunkenness.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, Faith and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Why No Wine in the Lord’s Supper?

  1. Patricia Donahue says:

    You must remember the bible refers to Gods children , as kings and priest! Jesus was a Nazarite which Nazarite refers th the highest level of consecration. Which Samuel took and Jesus wkd have taken . He is our high priest and came to fulfill the law perfectly… Which he did!! Since the priest of O T were not allowed to partake of wine during their priestly duties, it stands to reason that Gods Son, our High Priest would have had to abstained from fermented drink in order to have fulfilled the law perfectly. Think about it my friends !

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  2. I believe it is quite plain in scripture that Jesus ( the spotless, sinless Son Of God) did not drink fermented wine. If the high priest of OT were not to partake of wine during their priestly duties, if they did they died! Then Jesus, who is our high priest, forever, who came to fulfill the law perfectly would have obeyed the law in order to have fulfilled it up one his death . Also during Passover all yeast had to be removed from the Israelites homes. (representing evil). Would our savior have contaminated his body with that which was referred to as representing evil? I don’t think so!!!!! To add to that, we as Gods people are referred to, as kings and priest then should we not take the highest vow ( Nazerite, John The Baptist ) of consecration? Would Jesus have done any less than John? Lots to think about ….

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  3. Here are some key posts from a discussion on οἶνος in the b-Greek archives which some may wish to peruse (below). I agree that just because a person can look at cows grazing in the field and legitimately say, “Look at all that juicy steak,” and just as someone can look at a classroom of first graders and call them mathematicians and doctors, that does not mean that the word steak means a cow, and neither does it mean that the words mathematician and doctor mean first-grade children. The same is true for the words יין yayin and οἶνος OINOS in metaphorical statements that speak of grapes on the vine containing “wine” (יין/οἶνος) or of “wine” (יין/οἶνος) in a winepress. The finished product, “wine,” is the intended goal and purpose of the grapes hanging there in the vineyard and of the winepress, just like steak is the intended goal and purpose of the grazing cows on the rancher’s farm. That is why someone can refer to the juice in the grapes on the vine, or the juice coming from a winepress, as “wine.” Metaphorical usage of words does not change their meaning. Citing usages that are metaphorical or where the meaning is ambiguous doesn’t actually prove anything.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/test-archives/html4/1998-04/24801.html

    http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/test-archives/html4/1998-04/24991.html

    http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/test-archives/html4/1998-04/24978.html

    http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/test-archives/html4/1998-04/24981.html

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  4. Here is a post from the b-Hebrew archives which gives some clarity from a linguist and biblical Hebrew scholar, with an interesting tidbit on the Jewish context of פרי הגפן pri ha-gefen ‘fruit of the vine’ which some may wish to follow up on.

    http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2002-January/012189.html

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