I was reading "When the Bible talks about wine does it mean alcoholic wine?" and I thought, The Last Supper was during the Passover, when the Jews ware forbidden to use leaven:

Exodus 12:15 KJV
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.

This implies that the wine used in the The Last Supper was just grape juice, right?

  • 3
    I know in most modern Jewish Seders that they use wine. I don't believe the restriction on leavening here applies to wine.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 1:13
  • 2
    If it was aloholic, Perhaps that is why Peter, James and John were so sleepy? Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 5:04
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    what does leavening have to do with wine .. beyond that wine is made by allowing yeast to ferment in the grape juice (but it then dies because of the alcohol content)?
    – warren
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 12:53
  • @warren Yes, but yeast dies from the baking process. I see this as directly on topic. If God forbids the eating of yeast itself, then the law could be extended to wine. However, if the law is specific to bread, then wine would be excluded.
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 12:59
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    Yeast is not used as leaven in winemaking, as "leavening" is the act of causing the dough to rise, and wine has no dough, nor does it rise. Presumably, it would have been difficult to make wine during the passover feast, since yeast is a necessary ingredient, and the second part of the verse quoted says that all leaven should be put away "even the first day"... But I don't read it as a forbidding of using of other, non-leavened food products that used yeast in their making. But then of course I don't speak the original language, nor am I Jewish to understand the full original context.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 23:59

4 Answers 4


Prior to the advent of pasteurization, fermentation was something which happened in all grape juice whether a fermenting agent was consciously introduced or not (and it happened with relative immediacy). The last supper, then, would have had wine and not plain grape juice.

It is also noteworthy to point out that wine, unless something bizarre has occurred, is not leavened bread.

  • In Israel, grapes are harvested in the Fall (Grape Harvest). No fresh grapes were available in the early Spring. So it's almost certain that what they served was bottled (or however it was stored) many months before, and so was almost certainly fermented. ¶ For confirmation, take some fruit juice (without preservatives), expose it to the air for a day, and then store it unrefrigerated in a plastic (not glass) bottle. Within a day or two it will start fermenting. Commented May 9, 2023 at 13:19

To expand on my comment a bit, there are hundreds of speices of yeast. During Passover five of those are prohibited, and they are the yeasts that come from grains called chametz. Yeasts that come from grapes or its sugars are not prohibited.

The prohibited yeasts are:

  1. wheat
  2. barley
  3. spelt
  4. rye
  5. oats

*note these are the European grains for more information on chametz see wikipedia

Detailed information from Chabad.org

  • 3
    Is this per modern Jewish interpretation or is this historical as well? If this is the interpretation that came around, for example, in the 1800s, this wouldn't necessarily mean that the wine at the time of Jesus was seen as allowed or disallowed. (Personally, I think that since they didn't even know about yeast until the 1600s, that bread yeast and wine yeast are two different concepts.)
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 13:04
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    @Richard True, the yeast thing is modern but I think that proves the point, Would the ancient Israelites have known to link the fermentation of wine to rising of their bread? Perhaps that's a good question for the history or Judaism.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 13:25
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    This seems to answer the question in an extra-Biblical, modern(ish) context. It seems to describe the Jewish laws built up around the Exodus 12:15 verse (and others), and isn't necessarily a reflection of the meaning of the verse itself, unless further expanded. In other words, it describes the laws, but not the reason for the laws, and is therefore simply a re-statement of the core premise of the question, but not actually an answer.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 0:04

There is no reason to think that the wine of the Last Supper was unfermented. The prohibition is explicitly made against "leavened bread", and there no indication that it is against other products of yeast. It's not clear to me that wine was thought of in Biblical times as containing 'leaven'. Fermentation of wine largely happened without added yeast.


I've given this more thought over the last few days, and spoke to a few people from different backgrounds. My original answer was flawed, and I'd like to take another crack at this.

The short answer is "We don't know for sure." The original Greek recorded as Jesus' words is "gennema ampelos", which means "fruit of the vine." This can be taken to mean either fermented or unfermented grape juice.

This topic is the matter of quite a bit of debate, and any answer you get other than "we're not sure" (including my original) is going to be based on conjecture, logic based on un-provable assumptions, and bias, rather that provable fact. (Assuming that "provable fact" on this site would include a clear Biblical statement on the matter.)

My original statement included my opinion that this is really a non-issue. it is a non-issue for me, but in speaking with several friends from different backgrounds. (Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical free, and Lutheran) over the last few days, I've seen that it's important to them for other reasons.

In the "non-alcoholic" camp the issue seems to center around whether or not drinking is allowed for a Christian at all. The bias is that drinking is an outright sin, and since Jesus was sinless, then it couldn't have been alcoholic. If it were, then Jesus was a sinner. For that camp, there is no compromise.

In the "alcoholic" camp, I was surprised to find that the issue was a matter of credibility of Church authority. More than a few of the people I talked to stated (and I don't know if this is true, I just know what they told me) that their Church taught that it's alcoholic, and that they believed the Church. When pressed, one of them got really irate and said "Are you calling the Pope a liar?" Now I don't know what the Pope says about this, not being Catholic myself, but clearly this issue for her was a matter of importance. Believing otherwise would undermine her rock-solid faith in the Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope.

I can't stress enough here that I am not saying that the Pope or the Catholic church says anything on the subject. I really don't know. I'm relating her experience to illustrate a point.

Based on the fact that the original Greek is unclear, and the arguments on either side are based on un-provable assumptions and bias, my final answer is still "We don't know for sure."

I personally still think that it was unfermented, but I wouldn't state dogmatically that it's unfermented.

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