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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

7 Answers 7

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've never seen Lucy make grape juice before? :) – Charles Alsobrook Oct 17 '13 at 16:01

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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This is what is what I have alway heard growing up Church of God. Mainly, if you are an alcoholic, just a small amount can be a trigger and not as much that any consumption is and of itself is necessarily a sin. Better to be careful. 1 Corinthians 8:9 "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak." – aceinthehole Apr 2 at 18:34

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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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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Growing up in the Lutheran church, wine was always used. White grape juice was provided as an alternative to those who had an alcohol addiction. Wine is mentioned in the bible not grape juice... and drunkenness is a sin not the actual drinking of wine. Man has injected their own perception into the words of the Bible and have made it fit their own opinions and desires.

I believe the practice of grape juice instead of wine is the product of the temperance movement and those who have injected fear and their own opinion to the Bible. God doesn't inspire his words to be written in a diluted confusing manner.

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Hi and welcome to the site. Here's a bit of well meaning advice: if part of your answer could be copied into every answer you write then it doesn't belong in any answer! It is inappropriate to talk at length about people adding to the Bible, especially when it does not directly address this specific question. Instead, you should assume that people are trying to read an interpret the Bible faithfully and reasonably. I have edited out the parts of your answer that let it down. – curiousdannii Apr 13 at 14:22

Being a keen student of the Holy Bible I like it to interpret itself. Hence the Bible can and does answer itself. Please correct me if I am wrong. All scripture is 2 Tim 3:16-17. "

" ALL SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD, AND IS PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS." Whilst we should all know that, therefore, The Bible states in Lev10:9 "DO NOT DRINK WINE NOR STRONG DRINK, THOU NOR THY SONS WITH THEE, WHEN YE GO INTO THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION, LEST YE DIE: IT SHALL BE A STATUTE FOR EVER THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS." EZEKIEL 44:21 " NEITHER SHALL ANY PRIEST DRINK WINE, WHEN THEY ENTER INTO THE INNER COURT." These verses confirm Matthew 26:27-29, and Mark 14:23-25. To my mind it is not saying one cannot drink wine, but definitely not to drink any fermented wine in the sanctuary or even drinking any before entering the sanctuary.Fermented wine is corrupted, Jesus precious blood is not corrupted, never was, never will be, therefore he said this is "MY BLOOD" Look, sin defiles, blood cleanses.simply to my mind it is plain scriptural truth, un-fermented wine was used at the last supper. G.D.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Welcome Graeme. Sadly, this answer seems to just express your opinion, which isn't what this site is about: here we focus on explaining and learning what different groups of Christians believe. Please take a minute to learn how this site is different from others, and review how your answer can be supported. – Nathaniel yesterday

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


Seeing as how this got negative votes, I am revisiting this answer, though I really cannot see why the votes were negative. From the Biblical perspective, it is clear that there are two types of wine. GOD AND HIS WORD DO NOT CONTRADICT. However, from the texts it may seem as if they do. Jesus was completely pure, the lambs that were slain, that were symbolic of His death, were supposed to be unblemished. How then can we say that Jesus partook of this substance that has gone through the process of putrefaction? More importantly, why would Jesus say that this substance symbolizes His blood? Let us try to reason without prejudice. Does this make sense?

It is clear that Jesus refers to untainted, pure wine, or grape juice as we call it today.

Now many made claims that, historically, this was impossible because there were no methods of preservation. This is false. There were many methods of preserving food and drink in Bible times, including grapes and unfermented wine. Some of these methods include boiling, filtration, cold storage, and sulphur fumigation. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, in his book "Wine in the Bible - A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages" explains many of these processes. Chapter 4 deals with a very in-depth study on the subject of the preservation of grape juice. I have included a link to Chapter 4 here.

My answer aimed to answer the question from a Biblical perspective, nevertheless, here is the counter argument for anyone that claims that there was no way to preserve unfermented wine beyond the season.

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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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