I understand that Catholics and Methodists employ the practice of Intinction, that is, the dipping of the bread into the wine during the Eucharist.

In my experience, the bread and the wine are always served separately, which seems to follow the pattern set forth in the Bible.

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NASB

So, what specifically is the basis/reasoning/biblical foundation for taking the elements simultaneously rather than individually, with the bread first followed by the wine, which to me appears to be the pattern set forth in Scripture? When did this practice originate and by whom?

  • I don't know about originally, but my church started it so those who were sick would not feel excluded by God. Jan 3, 2013 at 0:20
  • 2
    I suspect you'll find it's pragmatism, but I'm interested in the answer too. +1 Jan 3, 2013 at 2:34

4 Answers 4


There's an article here that covers the history of intinction quite extensively. (I apologize that it's a PDF reference. It's the best article I could find.)

The article starts out like this:

The common wisdom among opponents of intinction is that it arose after the doctrine of transubstantiation, and was a method of preventing Christ's blood from spilling, and that it is associated primarily with Roman Catholicism. Although there are elements of truth in this assessment, the true history of the practice is a fair bit more complicated than that.

In summary, as far as the history goes, there's no consensus on why the practice as started. The earliest mention of the practice was in the writings of Julius I in 340 A.D.

In the context of rejecting several irregular practices regarding the Eucharist, he states the following: But their practice of giving the people intincted Eucharist for the fulfillment of communion is not received from the gospel witness, where, when he gave the apostles his body and blood, giving the bread separately and the chalice separately is recorded

There is no mention of the reason for the practice, just that it occurred.

Further, the article states:

It is not clear how or why intinction first was introduced into the church. According to William Freestone, the possibility exists that it was a convenience directed towards the administration of the Eucharist to the sick, making the bread easier to swallow. However, this was usually not our modern practice of intincting the bread into the wine, but rather of dipping bread into unconsecrated liquid. According to the Ohio Presbytery Report, the first mention of it is connected to paedocommunion, to make the bread easier to swallow by an infant. Freestone thinks it more likely that the practice originated from the fear of accident, and then passed over into communion of the sick

The remainder of the paper goes on to document various historical disputes over the practice, some of which are quite fiery. The dispute isn't really on-topic to the question, but it is worth a read.

In the Catholic Church, intinction seems to be something that is not meant to be common. I've found several articles (like this one) that state that it " is permitted when done according to Church directives". It also states "The Church provides that when Communion is given by intinction, it must be planned beforehand.", indicating that it's not something to be taken lightly. But nowhere does it outline why it should be given, and in what cases.

The only article I could find that had any sort of official support for there answer was this one.

With reference to the previous section on the theology of intinction (i.e., responses to Questions 2 and 3), this study committee found strong, compelling biblical and theological support for the practice of partaking of the elements separately – of “eating” AND of “drinking”. Therefore, intinction is out of accord with Scripture.

Practical considerations appear to be the primary reasons for intinction. During this study, the committee heard a variety of pragmatic reasons for the practice, including: (a) it is one of the “touch points” for a more meaningful worship, (b) it saves time, (c) it takes longer, (d) it may better appeal to those who come from church traditions that practice intinction (e.g., Catholic, Orthodox), (e) it avoids the Congregationalist practice of distributing the elements in the pews, (f) it better enables communion in the battlefield, and (g) it is practiced in the PCA.

Again, it points to convenience, or practicality as a reason.

From the Anglican Church:

Resolutions from 1948

Resolution 118

Administration of Holy Communion

The Conference holds that administration from a common chalice, being scriptural and having a spiritual meaning of great value, should continue to be the normal method of administration in the Anglican Communion; but is of opinion that there is no objection to administration of both kinds by the method of intinction where conditions require it, and that any part of the Anglican Communion by provincial regulation according to its own constitutional procedure has liberty to sanction administration by intinction as an optional alternative to the traditional method, and that the methods of intinction to be adopted or permitted should not be left to the discretion of individual priests.

The only guideline appears to be "where conditions require it". Implying some special set of circumstances where the traditional method is inconvenient or impractical.

I did manage to find one specific example that lists a specific reason:

Q. Why does St. Peter’s intinction, rather than using the cup like other parishes?

A. There are several reasons. We have had some difficulty in the past getting a sufficient number of EMHC. And even if we had them, numerous EMHC sometimes make for a rather cumbersome crowd in the Sanctuary at Communion time. There is the additional problem of preparing the proper amount of wine for the Offertory. When the Precious Blood is then distributed, we either run out before all have received, or have much remaining, which then must be consumed by the Priest and/or EMHC. Many people also refrain from receiving the Precious Blood of the Lord from the Cup because of hygiene concerns. Intinction eliminates these problems.

So (and I'm repeating myself) it is a matter of practicality for them as well.

  • Wow! This is great research. I think you're ready to defend your thesis now and get your doctorate!
    – Narnian
    Jan 3, 2013 at 4:50
  • Interesting question. In Hong Kong they dip the bread in the wine, but before used to all drink from the same cup, because after SARS hygiene concerns over ruled trying to follow a particular strict practice. At the time of Christ they actually dipped lamb wrapped with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (all combined as 'sop') in a date, raisin, nut and vinegar mixture (Charoseth) and then drank wine which was watered down a bit. There is another interesting question how did the elements of the last supper (passover with a new meaning) narrow down to todays practice of bread and wine?
    – Mike
    Jan 3, 2013 at 4:51
  • Intinction is only a defence against disease if done circumspectly: the priest must intinct, being careful not to touch the wine with his fingers, and must then place the wafer directly on the tongue of the communicant, again being careful not to touch any part of the recipient. If the communicant intincts for himself, or the priest contaminates either himself or the wine, it is pointless. During the avian flu "epidemic" in the UK, the Church of England simply withheld the cup altogether. Jan 3, 2013 at 7:57
  • I can see how the recipient dipping the wafer would make the wine go much further, and would also reduce the wine consumption of the recipient to a minimum. There is also the hygiene angle but this is only relevant if everyone sticks to inctinction, of course. Interesting - thank you! Sep 20, 2013 at 10:44

John 13:26 says Jesus dipped the bread. I assume this means dipped in wine. I attend a reformed church where we practice intinction. I've seen a lot of articles that say that intinction is not Biblically accurate. While it may not be common practice, based on how John presents the account, intinction is indeed Biblical even if only mentioned rather briefly.

  • In the Jewish Passover, if I recall, there are bitter herbs in which the bread may be dipped.
    – Narnian
    Feb 11, 2014 at 12:52

Catholics no longer practice intinction, and have not done so in any recent time. I have never once seen it done in a Roman Catholic Mass, though I have participated in it at Eastern Orthodox services.

This article explains more: http://catholicism.about.com/b/2009/10/16/reader-question-communion-and-intinction.htm

  • Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, this doesn't really answer the question. It looks like it should be a comment on another post, but you haven't yet earned enough to leave comments. (Again, see the help page.) Nov 3, 2013 at 21:05

To my knowledge, this method is not practiced by most Catholics now. I know that is practiced by multiple Protestant denominations, and there are several reasons.

  • Scriptural precedence
  • Logistical/practical
  • hygiene/ more sanitary
  • economical
  • cultural

I am a member of Evangelical Free Church of America - and this is how they do the Lord's supper, or communion.

Also, most protestant denominations don't use the term Eucharist, and it's not very clear, and it's from the word "giving thanks". It's really just one of many methods, and most of this is more about culture than being Biblical or "The right way".

This is also practiced in some Presbyterian churches, and some non-denominational churches as well.
We led an international Church in Poland, and this was the way it was done also.

In many cultures, there is a communal cup, - just one or two for the entire church, and this is seen by many Westerners as very unhygienic/ unsanitary. Sometimes, a deacon will literally use one cloth and just keep wiping the rim of the cup, and other times they don't wipe it at all.

Another reason is from scripture, where Christ said that the one who dipped in the cup with Him would betray him, and this word is the same original Greek word -"Baptizo" where we get the English word Baptize, or Baptist. To bury. So there actually is Biblical precedence for this.

Another reason is simply that it is much faster with large congregations, than having 1500 people all share from 3 or four cups, and much less messy, than passing a giant goblet between 300 people, and much more efficient that filling 1500 tiny plastic disposable cups and breaking 57 boxes of Matzo - unleavened bread.

  • Although rarely done in Western Catholicism, it is the norm in almost all the the Eastern Rite Catholics!
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 22, 2020 at 3:01

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