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Some Baptists and many other evangelicals use grape juice in communion. Is this explained on any catechism (or systematic theology available online) ?

Does the reason for not using wine have to do with keeping oneself pure or the moral problems with alcohol?

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Change "Baptists" to some Christian churches. I believe this is more of a congregational rule thing. The United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation that I attended some months ago in May used grape juice (very sweet!) and leavened bread (very puffy!). –  Double U Oct 13 '13 at 21:15
I have some ignorance on the matter, hence my question. But isn't the split here largely between evangelicals and mainlines? –  pterandon Oct 13 '13 at 23:22
I have heard before that grape juice is unfermented (alluding to the purity) and the moral problems with alcohol-induced behaviors. –  Double U Oct 14 '13 at 0:10
@pterandon No. I think you might not quite understand what the difference between mainline and evangelical means. It has to do with the beliefs of an individual or a group, not necessarily an entire denomination. Rules for communion are set at the denominational level. Every denomination has it's own rules for it's own reasons. –  crownjewel82 Oct 14 '13 at 13:47
It may be as simple as the priest knowing there is people in his church with alcohol dependency issues and not wanting to needlessly tempt them. –  Neil Meyer Oct 16 '13 at 9:39

6 Answers 6

The Protestant practice of traditionally substituting grape juice for wine during communion must largely be credited to one man - Thomas Bramwell Welch

From Wikipedia:

While some Christians consider the use of wine from the grape as essential for the validity of the sacrament, many Protestants also allow (or require) pasteurized grape juice as a substitute. Wine was used in Eucharistic rites by all Protestant groups until an alternative arose in the late 19th century. Methodist dentist and prohibitionist Thomas Bramwell Welch applied new pasteurization techniques to stop the natural fermentation process of grape juice. Some Christians who were part of the growing temperance movement pressed for a switch from wine to grape juice, and the substitution spread quickly over much of the United States, as well as to other countries to a lesser degree. There remains an ongoing debate between some American Protestant denominations as to whether wine can and should be used for the Eucharist or allowed as an ordinary beverage, with Catholics and some mainline Protestants allowing wine drinking in moderation, and some conservative Protestant groups opposing consumption of alcohol altogether. (emphasis added)

Anyone with basic knowledge of wine making knows that once grape juice is successfully squeezed and collected, it doesn't remain as juice for very long. Unpasteurized grape juice, if not consumed within a few days of harvest, will quickly ferment, rendering it not consumable (unless treated and stored to begin the wine making process).

As the excerpt from Wikipedia above states, prior to the turn of the 20th century "grape juice communion" was practically non-existent. Before the modern discovery of the pasteurization process, it would have taken a significant amount of effort to have enough freshly squeezed juice for a congregation readily available every Sunday (or less frequently depending on the denomination).

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So, contrary to the traditional presuppositions held by Temperance Movement grandchildren, the theological "roots" of sipping grape juice instead of wine during communion has more to do with pasteurization and prohibition than it does biblical exegesis.

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Can't I say really understand the reason for the photo, but it's a good answer otherwise :) –  Flimzy Oct 17 '13 at 15:49
@Flimzy Wait a minute...you've never seen Lucy make grape juice before? :) –  Charles Alsobrook Oct 17 '13 at 16:01

All Protestant churches that use grape juice instead of wine will attempt to show that it is either biblical to forgo wine or not unbiblical to do so; biblical, meaning that the terms "cup of wine", "wine", in the Bible do not necessarily mean the fermented wine, according to them. Once they state this proposition, they add that alcohol has the tendency to cause immorality and therefore is unnecessary for use in the Lord's Supper/Communion.

Critics will point out that the majority of Protestant churches that forgo the use of wine historically (20th century) supported Prohibition and also used wine prior to the Temperance movement. Baptists are notable for this turn around. Read more about this phenomenon here.

So critics would call it political while those Protestants would call it biblical.

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That last bit is not true. The terms are interchangeable. As an example, the United Methodist Church. umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2247711 –  crownjewel82 Oct 14 '13 at 13:41
Most protestants I've ever met use both terms Communion and the Lord's Supper. –  Flimzy Oct 14 '13 at 23:19
Do you have a reference to the trend changing in the U.S. around the Prohibition era? It sounds quite reasonable to me, but I'd be curious to read more about it. –  Flimzy Oct 14 '13 at 23:20
Communion and Lord's Supper are both used. The word that would generally be avoided by Protestants who are not "high church" is "Eucharist." –  david brainerd Mar 29 '14 at 5:59
@Flimzy this guy has a decent post with references. –  Matthew Moisen Mar 29 '14 at 6:21

The United Methodist Church is a denomination that uses grape juice instead of wine. I am using them as an example because their reason is explicitly stated in the Book of Worship:

Although the historic and ecumenical Christian practice has been to use wine, the use of unfermented grape juice by The United Methodist Church and its predecessors since the late nineteenth century expresses pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, enables the participation of children and youth, and supports the church's witness of abstinence.

The Book of Discipline also asks ordained clergy to abstain from alcohol in solidarity with recovering alcoholics.

Sometimes within the United Methodist Church people will try to teach that the wine of the day wasn't alcoholic or that the wine used by Jesus wasn't alcoholic. There is no absolute, verifiable evidence, biblical or otherwise, for this view.

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At least one good reason is because there are children in the congregation, and to make communion something that not everyone can participate in is contrary to the principles of the gospel.

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here is a thread running thought this discussion concerning wine being corrupted or spoiled-contaminated and new wine being pure, unadulterated. In the Wedding of Cana Bible story (John 2:1-11) the wedding party runs out of wine. Mary advises Jesus of the situation

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

The master of the feast tastes this wine and pronounces it better than the best wine the wedding party could provide and admonishes them for keeping the best wine for last. It would be a very weak argument to say that the liquid Jesus made was grape juice because Jesus would not make anything “corrupted” or fermented.

Since the Last Supper was based on the Jewish tradition of Passover, wine (not grape juice) was an important ingredient of their observance. Jesus and the Decibels being an observant Jews would have drunk wine at that Passover meal.

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Welcome to C.SE. This is not a discussion site; it's a Q&A site. How does this answer answer the question "Why use grape juice?" –  Andrew Leach Mar 26 '14 at 13:02
Sounds like you are saying churches should not use grape juice. It's a little hard answer with the contradiction. Usually people want to find the answer not a contradiction. Instead maybe you can vote the question down next time. Welcome to C.SE! –  deleteMe Mar 26 '14 at 15:36

It is the same reason why unleavened bread was used. Bread was a symbol of Christ, and leaven was a symbol of sin or corruption (as it is a bacteria). Jesus never saw corruption. In the same way, fermented wine is wine(the fruit of the vine, aka grape juice) after it has been fermented or corrupted. The blood of Jesus cannot be symbolized with corrupted wine.

In the Bible, both fermented and unfermented wine (grape juice) is referred to as wine. You must look at the context to figure out whether it's talking about fermented or unfermented wine.

EXAMPLES of fermented wine:

Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!

Habakkuk 2:15

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

Proverbs 23:31-32

EXAMPLES of unfermented wine:

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes

Genesis 49:10-11

Definitely unfermented as the wine is being squeezed from the grapes.

And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.

Isaiah 16:10

Same here. Unfermented as the wine is pressed from the fruit of the vine(grapes).


Seeing as the Bible refers to wine as both fermented and unfermented, which was used at the last Supper?

Matthew 26:27-29

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Both "fruit of the vine" and "new" are descriptions of unfermented wine, and are not descriptions of fermented wine.

Mark 14:23-25

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

Once again in Mark, Jesus makes the same mention of the fruit of the vine, and new. Luke mentions the same. There is more Biblical proof that this is unfermented, new wine (plain grape juice) than fermented. If anyone feels any different, I challenge you to show me Biblical proof that fermented wine was used in the last supper. You will find there is no Biblical support for this kind of thinking, only traditions of men.

Just ask yourself this. Why would God denounce the use of fermented wine in one part of the Bible, but allow His own Son to drink this? Isn't this inconsistent?

For more information on this, here are some great articles:

  1. Why I Don't Drink Alcohol
  2. Christian & Alcohol
  3. Why are SDAs opposed to drinking wine?
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blood of Jesus cannot be symbolized with corrupted wine According to whom? The unleavened bread concept goes back to the passover celebration, when leaven was not allowed in the home during passover. There was no such rule regarding wine--if there had been, Jesus would not have used wine at the last supper (which was also a passover meal). So this line of reasoning I find to be rather incredible. But if it's accepted by some specific church group, that should be stated in the answer. –  Flimzy Oct 14 '13 at 21:37
@jlaverde: You're still making a jump. This concept of "corrupt wine" is not found in scripture. I'm not saying there aren't groups who hold this view--I would just like you to tell me who they are. –  Flimzy Oct 15 '13 at 23:49
@jlaverde clearly the bible is not authoritative in this matter. As you've shown there is clear debate and it is subject to interpretation. Most of the debate (at least that I've seen) is based on speculation and is unfounded. What you need to make this a good answer worthy of upvotes is to point to an actual scholar or theologian who agrees with the interpetations you've made here. Otherwise they appear to be inconsistent with both what we know about history and mainstream interpretations of scripture. –  wax eagle Oct 16 '13 at 15:02
@jlaverde the question is not exactly whether the Bible is authoritative though. You're putting forth your interpretation as authoritative with no indication of your credentials, no reference to show your interpretation is consistent with any existing doctrine. Why should I believe this interpretation over the traditional one? Specifically when the traditional interpretation fits the historical context better than this one does. –  wax eagle Oct 16 '13 at 15:35
@jlaverde I hate to be a stickler, but could you make those relevant to the points your making? It's good to link things, but rather than just linking them, tell us why they're important and how they support the argument you're making. Think about how you'd write a research paper, would you just dump your sources at the end? or would you work them in quoting and backing up your thesis with the ideas from the articles? that's what we're ultimately looking for here :). One of the things they don't tell you about SE is that it's partly intended to make you a better writer. –  wax eagle Oct 16 '13 at 17:19

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