Given that wine was used by Christ at the last supper, is it valid to use grape juice in the remembrance of the Lord's Table?

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    The "Valid" part of your question is interesting. I've thought of 30 leading questions to comment and deleted them all because they sound snarky. But seriously, if you were a Catholic/Orthodox priest and your end was transubstantiation, then it would be easy to say no, it's not valid.
    – Peter Turner
    May 7, 2012 at 21:16
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    Let's see... the wine symbolizes the blood of Jesus (a horrible tradition if you think about it as a non-Christian). I would think that grape juice symbolizing wine is fair game :) Jesus didn't have Pepsi or beer to choose from. gasp I just suggested that Jesus may have drank beer if he had the choice...
    – user1054
    May 8, 2012 at 14:09
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    @NathanBunney Being a ritualistic person myself, I want to agree with you. However what we're talking about is symbolism. The important part is that we drink in remembrance of him. I would think that this concern is small potatoes in comparison to sprinkling or submersion in baptismal. Or even dipping the bread in the wine / juice for the person or not.
    – user1054
    May 8, 2012 at 15:05
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    Further discussion should probably be moved to chat.
    – Flimzy
    May 8, 2012 at 17:14
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    @NathanBunney With all due respect, I believe you have an answer to your question in your head and were looking for us to confirm it. To me, it looks like Flimzy and I have made comments which are oddly similar to the accepted answer; "... it is not a significant issue and neither moral nor immoral to use wine or grape juice." Pizza, and Pepsi for all - or grape juice and crackers if you don't have them.
    – user1054
    May 9, 2012 at 15:22

7 Answers 7


Yes, wine was most likely used by Jesus during the Last Supper, just as the cups in the Passover Feast are typically wine in today's observances. Yet, there is not prescriptive command to use wine nor is there any prohibitive command against using grape juice.

If this were a significant issue, then it is reasonable to assume that the Bible would contain either a prohibitive or prescriptive reference somewhere. After all, there are quite a few books, and Passover (which is what Jesus celebrated as the Last Supper) had been observed since Moses.

So, the conclusion is that it is not a significant issue and neither moral nor immoral to use wine or grape juice. We do use the fruit of the vine, following the pattern in Passover celebrations, but the presence of fermentation is immaterial.

The remembrance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is supreme.

I might add that if you happen to live in a desert where no grapes can be grown, it would seem improper to assert that you could not celebrate communion since you would have neither grape juice nor wine.

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    I voted your answer correct with one proviso. I do believe that your desert example is not accurate. Just like David longed for the temple, the person in the desert could long to partake of the Lord's table. May 8, 2012 at 14:50
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    The LDS allow water. They allow anything, actually.
    – user3961
    Apr 6, 2013 at 7:15

The earliest recorded formulation of the Lord's Supper reads:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.—1st Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

These are the words that many Protestant denominations use to institute the sacrament. Which cup was Jesus talking about? It was almost certainly one of the cups of wine that are traditionally associated with the Passover celebration. While there's an off-chance it was just grape juice, it's more likely to have been strong wine diluted with water.

In contrast with the cup, we can be pretty certain that the bread was unleavened as befits the Passover. However, Christian tradition does not universally require the bread at the Lord's Supper to be unleavened. The issue of what type of bread to use turned out to be the final straw that precipitated the Great Schism.

So can we drink grape juice instead of wine for the Lord's Supper? I'll let Paul take a crack at that question:

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.—1st Corinthians 10:23-33 (ESV)

The churches I normally attend use grape juice. But when I go to a church that uses wine, I drink up. I imagine the reverse is true. As to whether communion at my church is valid: that's another question entirely.

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    I just noticed something. He says that the cup is in remembrance of his blood. Not the wine in it, but the cup he was passing around. This could be interpreted as meaning that what's truly significant is the act of sharing the drink itself in memory of his sacrifice, and not the specific contents of the cup. (I have nothing to back that up, just thinking out loud here. Any thoughts?)
    – Mason Wheeler
    Jul 16, 2012 at 18:32
  • @MasonWheeler, please make your comment into a question. It's a very interesting one.
    – Joe
    Jul 18, 2012 at 2:04
  • @Joe: I asked the question over on Biblical Hermeneutics. It's not exactly the question Mason asked, but I think his comment could be the germ of an answer. Jul 18, 2012 at 17:14
  • @MasonWheeler You just blew my mind. That's a great point... and will probably be the topic of my Sabbath studies tomorrow.
    – Matt
    Jul 13, 2013 at 18:16

I would say it is not valid. The wine at the Last Supper — Jesus' Passover celebration — was fermented because that was the tradition. It was an oral tradition later codified in the Mishnah, but it was still what Christ did, so it should be when we Do this in remembrance. It's not simply an act, it's a re-creation. I can see that the theology of the Eucharist looms large in the answer for "valid" or "invalid"!

The reason there is no prescription in the Bible is because wine is wine: grape juice fermented anyway so there wasn't a choice. It would never had occurred to the writers to say otherwise because grape juice didn't really exist (only as a precursor to wine). There is no proscription either, so there is no basis not to use wine. Indeed, Paul admonishes Timothy in 1 Tim 5:23 to take wine.

Having just checked, the Catholic Code of Canon Law (Can. 924) and the Canons of the Church of England (Can. B17) do prescribe wine. Other Churches may do likewise — and in those Churches it is certainly not valid to use unfermented juice.

To answer Narnian's edit, if there is no alternative then in extremis of course something else can be used. But if wine can conveniently be obtained, then to do otherwise is not valid.

  • I could be mistaken but, at least from a Catholic perspective, I don't think in extremis can make valid what is otherwise invalid matter. I've only heard of it invoked to justify what would otherwise be illicit acts -- e.g., a suspended or laicized priest can give absolution if the penitent is in danger of death and no other priest is available. But, as a parallel to the "no grapes available" situation, a layman could never give absolution.
    – Ben Dunlap
    Jun 8, 2012 at 19:22
  • Or in other words: validity is about what is possible, not what is permissible (again, speaking in terms of Catholic sacramental theology). Extreme circumstances don't make the impossible any less impossible, though they may make something permissible that otherwise wouldn't be.
    – Ben Dunlap
    Jun 8, 2012 at 19:33

What exactly does the Bible command regarding communion? 1 Cor 11:25, "In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"

That's pretty much it. If someone can point to a reference with more specific instructions, please post. But from that, I don't see how you could prove Biblically that it must be either wine OR grape juice. It just says we should drink from a cup.

The Gospels don't actually say the cup contained wine. They say, "the fruit of the vine", which could be wine or grape juice. But in any case, nothing in the Bible says that the contents of the cup are an essential component of the sacrament. There are many details of the ceremony as Jesus performed it. In the absence of specific commands, which of these details are essential and which are irrelevant? The Bible clearly says that the Last Supper took place on Passover, yet I've never heard a Christian say that we can only perform the sacrament on Passover. We are told that 13 people were present, yet I've never heard a Christian say that the ceremony is invalid unless exactly 13 people are present. Every church I've ever been in serves the wine or grape juice in glasses, while the Bible clearly says that Jesus used a cup. Etc. Perhaps you'll say I'm just bringing up silly and ridiculous points. But why is the contents of the cup essential but the cup itself is not? Who says, and on what basis?

I would consider it distinctly odd and irreverent to have a communion service with iced tea and donuts. But I really can't make a scriptural argument against that, I just wouldn't think it "feels right".

  • Ha! I like the idea of communion with iced tea and donuts! It'd be a popular communion service for sure! :P May 8, 2012 at 4:39
  • @Jay The example in scripture is of the early church breaking 'The Bread' from house to house. So clearly the authoritative practice of the church recorded in scripture is to not hold communion only on passover, that is why you have not heard Christians calling for that practice. :-) May 8, 2012 at 17:13
  • @Jay also, if you look at Paul's exhortation and instruction to the Corinthian church he mentions nothing except the bread and the cup. That is why we consider those of more importance than other elements. May 8, 2012 at 17:15
  • @Nathan But that's my point. The only thing actually commanded is to drink from a cup and eat bread. No mention of what has to be in the cup, or the form of the bread. What I was trying to say was that the fact that I don't see how you could make a case that we must use wine because the cup Jesus drank from presumably contained wine. By the same reasoning, you could say we must have 13 people in the room because that's how many were in the room when Jesus instituted the ceremony.
    – Jay
    May 9, 2012 at 6:39
  • @Jay it is not just a cup but "this" cup. That is the point here. May 9, 2012 at 19:36

The United Methodist Church uses grape juice for communion. Here's their reasoning.

The United Methodist Book of Worship says, "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."

So no, no Biblical reason, just a practical reason.


lets see. they had water, they had grapes, oops they could have made grape juice. nothing in the bible was done by accident. Jesus chose wine for a reason. we may not understand what that reason was but we should defend and honor his choice....

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    Welcome. Grape juice is made possible by refrigeration which they did not have, juice from grapes automatically ferments so they could not have just made grape juice. your new here so i'm not going to -1
    – user4060
    Jul 13, 2013 at 3:42
  • I'd like to second that welcome! When you get a moment, check out the tour page and maybe read about what makes us different (we are less discussion forum, more Q&A-formatted encyclopedia). Specifically, we look for doctrinal stances from various traditions -- if you know of a tradition that says Communion must (or at least should if at all possible) use wine, an edit to explain that teaching would be perfect here.
    – Ryan Frame
    Jul 13, 2013 at 13:47
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    Not to point out the obvious, but @caseyr547, that's nor true at all. They could easily make grape juice, and even store it short-term, in cool underground places and consume as long as it's within a day or so. Fermentation takes time and even when you add yeast and sugar to speed up the process, the initial fermentation stage is 3-5 days. During that stage, little alcohol is produced. It's during the next 2 weeks or so during the anaerobic stage that the majority of the alcohol get produced. See Wine Fermentation 101 Jul 13, 2013 at 14:17
  • In all likelihood, they did drink wine, but to say they couldn't make grape juice is flat out wrong. You have to make the grape juice first, to turn it into wine and there's no reason they wouldn't drink some of the fresh stuff. Our family drinks fresh grape juice produced from our own grapes made by us every summer. Jul 13, 2013 at 14:20
  • But this doesn't really answer the question. @Charlescross, I'd like to second Casey's welcome to the site, and suggest reading What makes a good supported answer? in addition to the help page and How we are different than other sites? Jul 13, 2013 at 14:57

In the Bible there is a routine reference to the fruit of the vine. Which is a direct reference to Jesus. Grape juice is used today because it and only it can be representative of the Blood of Jesus. In Biblical times the grapes were fermented, which made for strong drink ( wine) as we would know it today. But the difference in the time of Jesus is that the fermented grapes were mixed with three parts water to one part fermented grapes, which would weaken the drink. The juice from the grape is the representation of the Blood of Jesus. So in that case it is not only proper, but also a Biblical must that the church use grape juice.

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    Are you saying that wine is improper to use? If they used it back in Christ's day why not now? Also can you support with some documentation your statement that they mixed their wine with water, especially at the passover feast? Jul 17, 2012 at 22:02

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