We see a part of the institution Holy Eucharist at Mtt 26: 27-28 (NRSVCE):

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Jesus goes on to say at Mt 26: 29:

I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

Remember that Jesus was celebrating the the Passover which was the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Now, we see Yahweh , while preparing Israel for the first Passover,giving stern instructions on the use of leaven at Ex 12:14-15:

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel

Connecting the two, one wonders whether Jesus really used wine in the Last Supper, which was a commemoration of Passover. In fact, wine which is the product of fermentation does not go hand-in-hand with the unleavened bread ,and Jesus would be the last the break the instructions at Exodus!

But then, if Jesus did not drink wine, what did he drink ? Simple: fresh grape juice. We see at Song of Solomon 8:12 that drinking of fresh juice had been prevalent since ancient times:

I would give you spiced wine to drink,
the juice of my pomegranates.

Now, the Catholic Church all across the world has traditionally been using bread and wine to commemorate the Last Supper . Of course, wine has much higher shelf-life than has fresh grape juice , and it may be impossible for the sacristan to prepare fresh grape juice day after day for the Eucharist especially during the lean season of grapes. But, one really wonders if what Jesus drank at the Last Supper was wine or fresh grape juice .

My question therefore is: Did Jesus really use wine at the Last Supper? Has the Catholic Church made any research into the prospects of Jesus having used fresh grape juice?

  • Of course, the answer given by contributor One Face to the said question on 11.5.19 goes a long way in explaining the facts on which my question is based. My focus is not on whether Jesus drank wine during normal meals and parties, or not. He sure did. My question is why we have been traditionally made to believe that the CUP Jesus raised during the Last Supper , contained wine which otherwise was prohibited during the Passover meal on account of its having gone through fermentation. And I request for a conclusive statement from the side of Catholic Church. Dec 21, 2020 at 9:21
  • Doubts about an exact duplicate is seen on meta!
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 22, 2020 at 3:14

2 Answers 2


Did Jesus really use wine at the Last Supper? Has the Catholic Church made any research into the prospects of Jesus having used fresh grape juice?

Tradition holds that according to the Catholic Church, Christ used real wine at the Last Supper and not fresh grape juice.

This has been the constant tradition for centuries within both Catholic and Orthodox Churches. No Church Father suggests that Christ ever used grape juice in lieu of wine at the Last Supper.

Let us remember that Jesus’ first public miracle was to turn water into wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana. His last miracle was to change the bread and wine into his flesh and blood!

For example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem(c. 313 – 386 AD) speaks to us as Jesus using wine for the Eucharist.

"The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ" (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).

"Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the body and blood of Christ…[Since you are] fully convinced that the apparent bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the body of Christ, and that the apparent wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so,…partake of that bread as something spiritual, and put a cheerful face on your soul" (ibid., 22:6, 9). - The Church Fathers on the Holy Eucharist

To this day, during the Passover Feast the Jewish faithful drink wine. In fact, they serve four cups of wine.

The four cups of wine, known in Hebrew as arba kosot, are drunk by each participant at the Passover seder service.

This ceremony is prescribed by the Mishnah as a duty to be observed by even the poorest man (Pes. 10: 1). The four cups are drunk in the following order: (1) the Kiddush at the start of the seder; (2) at the conclusion of the main part of the Haggadah which ends with the Ge'ullah ("Redemption") benediction; (3) at the end of the Grace after Meals; and (4) at the conclusion of the Nishmat hymn ("Birkat ha-Shir"). Only the second and fourth cups were added for the seder meal since the drinking of the two other cups forms part of every meal on Sabbaths and holidays. The reason for four cups is based by the rabbis upon the midrashic interpretation of Exodus 6:6–7, where four different terms of deliverance are employed: "I will bring you out … deliver you … redeem you … and will take you to Me for a people," etc. (Ex. R. 6:4). Other symbolic explanations for the four cups are that they correspond to the four cups of Pharaoh mentioned in Genesis, ch. 40, or to the four ancient kingdoms which oppressed Israel and for which God requites Israel with four cups of consolation (TJ, Pes. 10:1, 37b–c).

Other examples of the special symbolic significance of the number four in the Haggadah are the Four Questions ("Mah Nishtannah"). Four Sons, and the four types of food at the seder meal: unleavened bread (matzah), lamb, bitter herbs, and ḥaroset. Some rabbis in the Talmud required a fifth cup of wine for the fifth expression of redemption "I shall bring you" (Pes. 118a, according to the text found in R. Hananel and Alfasi); this became symbolized in the cup of Elijah on the seder table. The four cups of wine should be drunk in a reclined position, as in Roman times reclining was a sign of freedom. Each cup has to contain at least a ¼ log (0.137 liter; Sh. Ar, OḤ 472:9). Red wine is to be preferred but because of the blood accusations in Europe, white wine was often used (see Blood Libel ). - Passover: Four Cups of Wine

Freshly pressed grapes do not remain as such in warmer climates. Freshly pressed grapes will ferment quite naturally on it’s own.

It is simply impossible to keep the juice from crushed grapes from fermenting without modern refrigeration and pasteurization techniques. So yes, the wine was alcoholic.

Besides that the Passover is held in March or April! That is not the time for grape harvesting in the northern hemisphere. You have to wait about six months more for that in Israel. Thus another indication that it was indeed wine used at the Last Supper.

All fruit when crushed or rotten will have naturally occurring alcohol. As long as there is sugar, yeast and water alcohol will happen. Most commercially purchased fruit juice has a small amount of alcohol in it when you purchase it.

Low-alcoholic beverage Sparkling cider, sodas, and juices naturally contain trace amounts or no alcohol. Some fresh orange juices are above the UK 'alcohol free' limit of 0.05% ABV, as are some yogurts and rye bread.

Ethanol distillation is used to separate alcoholic beverages into what are advertised as non-alcoholic beverages and spirits; distilled wine produces low alcohol wine and brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn, "burning wine"),1 distilled beer may be used to produce low-alcohol beer and whisky.

However alcoholic beverages cannot be further purified to 0.00% alcohol by volume by distillation. In fact, most beverages labeled non-alcoholic contain 0.5% ABV as it is more profitable than distilling it to 0.05% ABV often found in products sold by companies specializing in non-alcoholic beverages. - Can alcohol (ethanol) exist in nature without the intervention of man?

Some get into the subject matter of yeast in the Passover Feast because the Ancient Jews ate unleavened bread. That is to say without yeast in the making of Matzo. However, Moses makes to such prohibition in the use of grape juice for wine, whether by natural means or manually added by man to aid fermentation. The Ancient Jews ate Matzo because they ate in haste.

  • Ken Graham, thanks for the wonderful answer covering both Jewish tradition and Catholic Church teaching. As regards the second part referring to natural fermentation, you can always keep organically grown grapes on the table, and have them crushed and filtered on the spot, staving off any scope of fermentation. But, if Israel in Egypt had the privilege of having wine, and if the Jewish tradition at Jesus' time mandated drinking of wine during Passover, I stand corrected. Dec 23, 2020 at 4:46
  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan The Passover is held in March or April! That is not the time for grape harvesting in the northern hemisphere. You have to wait about six months more for that in Israel. Thus another indication that it was indeed wine used at the Last Supper.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 23, 2020 at 16:08

We know from Jewish historians, like Josephus and others, and also the Talmud, which is the written commenentary on the Tanakh -[Our Old Testament], that Jews have been using wine for the Passover for thousands of years, - long before Christ.
We also know that scripture tells us explicitly in at least two gospels that Christ stated that what is called the Lord's supper or the Last Supper was literally a Passover meal. People speculate and assume that there wasn't a lamb, because Christ was going to be the Passover lamb, but again - this is total conjecture and in fact, the text says that the disciples were told to make preparations. So we can't be dogmatic regarding if there was a full Seder meal with a roast lamb, but we know that it did include unleavened bread and wine.
Also, there are multiple passages in the Old and New Testament where the word "Juice" is used, and so if it were juice - the Gospel writers could have used this, but none of them did. I'm not sure why you say that unleavened bread and wine don't fit. We see many examples of this in the NT, and most importantly, - as Mike Borden pointed out, the yeast which is in bread is something added - and it's also a picture of sin. The fermentation process in wine is totally different and it not considered "yeast" or leaven. In fact there is certified Kosher wine, for Passover but it is still wine. ;-) This is why before Passover they had to clean their houses, barns and every storage place of yeast and only eat unleavened bread.
This was a picture of cleansing every corner of our heart and mind of sin. We can't simply hide it in the basement. Grape juice ferments on it's own, and quite quickly, if not refrigerated, and particularly, in those days before Pasteurization was even discovered, which means it was much harder to store grape juice in a hot dry climate.

Also, while there are multiple references to the evils of drunkenness, wine itself is never used as a picture for sin- but actually Oil and Wine are symbols of the Holy Spirit. It's also no coincidence at all that Christ's first miracle was at a wedding - a picture of the Rapture/Harpazo and that he turned water into wine.

  • This question requires a Catholic based response. Could you update your answer with some Catholic sources.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 21, 2020 at 19:56
  • Ken, not sure why you think it requires a Catholic-based response. First, this is not a Catholic forum, and more importantly - there is nothing in the question that even says it's to Catholics or that he wants to get a Catholic perspective. Cheers.
    – Tennman7
    Dec 21, 2020 at 23:06
  • 1
    Please read the last three sentences in the question body! It asks for a Catholic perspective. It fact this site is not a forum at all, but a question and answer site.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 21, 2020 at 23:07
  • This question came to my mind in the back-drop of a recent controversy in India involving the Government's proposal to take away the exemption so far granted to Sacramental Wine from excise duty. Many Catholics kept wondering if the Church would have to find alternatives for wine in Holy Mass. Dec 22, 2020 at 4:39
  • Hello Ken, I did not mean to be rude or disrespectful in my comment. If it seemed that way, please accept my apology. The question has been modified or edited and the original version did not have the phrase "According to Catholocism" in it. Cheers
    – Tennman7
    Dec 22, 2020 at 12:59

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