A discussion in chat today has lead me to this question. Most of us should be familiar with the debate about whether Jesus drank alcoholic wine, or some other form of wine, or simple grape juice.

My question isn't about settling that debate, however. My question is essentially asking when did the debate begin? What is the history of "Jesus only drank grape juice" interpretation?

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    I'm going to guess it came after the invention of Welch's Grape Juice... Since that was the invention of grape juice. Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 23:40
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    According to wiki, Thomas Bramwell Welch developed the pasteurization of grape juice for his church, where they wanted to use only unfermented grape juice instead of wine. I would guess some tried to use fresh-squeezed juice for a while before 1869.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 2:00
  • 1
    See also:When the Bible talks about wine does it mean alcoholic wine? Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 19:44

2 Answers 2


The consistent use of sacramental wine and admission of archaeological/paleoanthropological finds as evidencing positions (see the argument over the fillioque clause) in the Catholic & Orthodox Churches precludes the possibility of such a position. The protestant reformation is often dated to begin in 1517 with Luther's nailing of his theses to a church door. Early Christian Protestantism, however, focused on real theological and eschatological issues mostly centered on certain forms of corruption within the Church and a belief that the Pope was the Antichrist. The objections to alcohol appear to have begun with American Puritanism, and probably ran into nuanced opposition likely to elicit the creation of a position like Jesus only drinking grape juice when abstinence from alcohol first became a major political force. For guesses as to when this might be, see below:


The earliest record I personally can find of this particular argument is in Dr. Stephen Reynolds' Purified Translation of the Bible, intended for Southern Baptists, and published in the year 2000, but with many editions released in 1999.


According to this PDF, the theory comes from the idea that the current process of fermentation far exceeds the fermentation process of Jesus time, therefore the concentration of alcohol in the wine must have been so weak compared to wine today, that people started to assume it must have been like grape juice compared to the wine today.

However, the bible does talk about drunkenness, and the only way to get drunk is with alcohol so the wine described in the Bible must have had some alcohol.


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