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Can we have a non-alcoholic Lord’s supper?

Short answer: no.

Let me say up front that I’m not going to entertain any malarky about wine in the Bible not being alcoholic. That’s a bizarre 19th century innovation which has been utterly discredited. In fact, if you can find me a single reputable Bible translation that renders the Greek and Hebrew words for wine as “grape juice”, I will give you a shiny nickel. There’s a good reason why no one will be getting any nickels, and that is that Bible translators understand the meanings of words, and the words translated “wine” mean fermented, alcholic grape juice.

That being the case, it is indisputable that Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread and a cup of alcoholic grape juice (aka wine). That’s what they used in the Passover.

Just like he instituted baptism in river water. That’s just what they used.

Now, that doesn’t mean we have to use wine or bread produced exactly like Passover wine or bread, any more than we have to baptize people in the Jordan River.

But we do have to use wine and bread, and we do have to use water, or we’re just not doing the Lord’s supper or baptism.

Hence, I think it is basically a farce to have the Lord’s supper with grape juice, as is so common in many evangelical churches today. Indeed, our ability to do this is entirely the result of a historical accident, wherein we discovered how to prevent grape juice naturally fermenting into wine via Pasteurization during the prohibition period in the United States. Hard to believe such untheological events could have caused such long-lasting theological confusion, yet there it is. In any event, before 1869 it simply wasn’t possible, scientifically speaking, to make non-alcoholic grape juice. It would start to ferment as soon as it came out of the press.

So the answer must be “no”. We can’t have the Lord’s cup without wine.

Now the standard response to this is, “But what about recovering alcoholics?! Would you exclude them from the Lord’s table?”

In all honesty, this reminds me of the rape exception to abortion: find a fringe case and try to use it as a wedge to split a principled position apart with a pragmatic argument. And as with the rape exception, this simply won’t work: you can defeat a principled view by showing that it sometimes leads to unpleasant situations.

Mind you, I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to alcoholics. I’m not; addiction is terrible and we should avoid practices which could cause our brothers to stumble. But let me ask a simple question:

Do you think alcoholism was not a problem in the first century?

The answer, of course, is that it was—for instance, 1 Corinthians 6:10-11 specifically says that some of the Corinthians were previously drunkards. Yet the Bible nowhere suggests that the Lord’s supper should not be practiced with wine. The issue of alcoholism doesn’t even come up.

Since the nature of the Lord’s supper requires bread and wine, if you’re using something other than wine, then in that respect you simply aren’t doing the Lord’s supper. You are doing an imitation. The question about excluding alcoholics trades on the assumption that an imitation of the Lord’s supper with something other than wine is still the Lord’s supper—so alcoholics can still partake. But that seems like a fundamentally false assumption. If someone can’t drink wine then they can’t partake of the Lord’s cup because by definition the Lord’s cup is a cup of wine. Partaking of another cup doesn’t change this.

Of course, they can still partake of the bread. People who choose to avoid alcohol are not excluded from the Lord’s supper in toto.

37 comments

  1. bethyada

    it is indisputable that Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread and a cup of alcoholic grape juice (aka wine)

    So we’ve taken the yeast out of the wine and put it in the bread?

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Actually, another interesting argument against grape juice is precisely that there was to be no leaven even in the house at Passover, let alone in the food—including the drink. Yeast is consumed in the process of fermentation; good wine doesn’t contain any. But obviously if the juice doesn’t go through the fermentation process, the yeast is still present.

  3. John

    Unless you are allergic to gluten :)

    You can find reformed people arguing very vehemently about whether the Lord’s supper should be leavened or unleavened bread. Which presumably is a question of equal importance. I wonder which side of that argument is not “doing the lords supper”.

    It’s a bit of a problem for sola scriptura. There are many such questions surrounding what is a valid lord’s supper, but not many answers found in scripture.

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I’m not sure how leavened versus unleavened is of equal importance. To say that seems to imply that leavened bread is to unleavened as wine is to grape juice—which as I’ve said just looks like an obvious category error.

    Even though I think the bread should ideally be unleavened given the original Passover practice, leavened bread is still bread. (Same with gluten-free bread, one could argue.)

  5. John

    The leaven in the bread, one might argue, was a major issue for the Jews. The alcohol content of the wine was not.

    You say unleavened bread is still bread. I’ve heard it argued though that it is not ?????. Similarly, grape juice might not be wine to the modern mind. But I don’t know if ancient thinking thought would have said it is not ?????.

    BTW, the location of your submit button misbehaves on iPhone.

  6. John

    Erm, Greek seems to get lost somewhere here. Substitute artos and oinos above.

  7. David White

    Brother, it seems you’re making an arbitrary distinction here.

    1) Christ used unleavened bread, but you’re OK using ordinary bread. You’ve declared this legit because the important thing is the “bread” part, not the “unleavened” part. But what’s the basis for drawing the line there? Does that demarcation have any more Biblical warrant than someone who says the important thing is the “unleavened” part, and therefore eating leavened bread is just an imitation Lord’s Supper?

    2) You say all bread is still bread. But surely wine is simply aged grape juice. What stage of its fermentation allows it to be used in the Lord’s supper, whereas its use one day earlier would render the sacrament invalid?

    3) What about other distinctions?

    a) If you’re not using a single Cup, but instead using little individual plastic cups, are you also celebrating an imitation Lord’s Supper?

    b) A detail found both in Luke 22 and 1 Cor. 11 is that Christ broke the bread for his disciples. If we pass the bread among ourselves and each person breaks off a piece, have we violated an important part of the sacrament?

    4) Finally, there are many parts of the world where wine is either non-grape based, or unavailable entirely. Must poor congregations in those countries be resigned to having either imitation Lord’s Supper celebrations, or perhaps none at all?

    I believe the significance of the Lord’s supper is that we are taking a physical solid food that represents his body, and a liquid food that represents his blood. There is great symbolism in what we do, but the Bible’s lack of emphasis on the wine leads me to believe that the contents of the cup are far less significant than the meaning it carries and the testimony it proclaims.

    (And I think my argument is further strengthened by the fact that wine is never mentioned by name… only “the cup” or the “fruit of the vine”. This is not to argue that the type of liquid Jesus used is unknown. But the Lord’s supper is instituted by Jesus’ commands to eat bread, and drink (something) from the cup. There is a striking absence of emphasis or strict guidelines on the actual contents of the cup are strikingly absent. When these kinds of details are missing in other New Testament teachings, that’s usually a good indication that Christian liberty is allowed.

  8. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    David:

    1. As I’ve said, I’m working from the nature of a thing. Bread is bread, wine is wine, juice is juice, etc. That’s the opposite of arbitrary.

    2. It sounds like you’re just appealing to the fuzziness that arises from the fact that the property of “wineness” is scalar. But why should we doubt that there is a categorical difference between wine and grape juice, just because it is unclear where precisely that difference occurs? That’s like doubting there is a difference between red and orange, or daytime and twilight. Moreover, the objection is stillborn inasmuch as modern grape juice will never become wine, even if stored correctly.

    3. Valid questions. But why think the number of cups is of the nature of the sacrament in similar way to the food used, any more than the physical presence of Jesus himself? Of course, it’s easy to hedge our bets by having a single cup and having the pastor break the bread. I’ve been to a church in Auckland where they do this and it works very well. I liked it.

    4. This is a much better question I think :) The first thing that springs to mind is the many options God gave Israel for “alternative” sacrifices when money was tight. The second is how he repeatedly says that he is not interested in ritual, but the heart, and that he does not accept sacrifices from people whose hearts are far from him. It seems obvious that in circumstances where wine is not available, a substitute would be acceptable. God is not a jerk. Just as if, for some reason, water was incredibly scarce but milk was lying around in large vats, he would accept “milk baptism” (I know, not a likely scenario, but it’s hard to find one given the nature of water). But my complaint is not leveled against churches who cannot afford wine, or churches who cannot source grape wine; it is leveled against affluent Western churches who can get wine for $7.99 a bottle at Pak’n’Save, but use grape juice instead.

    I believe the significance of the Lord’s supper is that we are taking a physical solid food that represents his body, and a liquid food that represents his blood.

    In the broadest sense, I agree. But that doesn’t mean we should substitute any old food and drink when Jesus told us which ones to use.

  9. David White

    As I’ve said, I’m working from the nature of a thing. Bread is bread, wine is wine, juice is juice, etc. That’s the opposite of arbitrary.

    What seems arbitrary is to declare that categorization as the important categorization. For a Jew celebrating Passover the important category was unleavened vs. leavened bread. Jesus may have handed his disciples unleavened bread. Why is that distinction not a matter of importance, but the distinction between wine and juice of such importance that the wrong choice renders the Lord’s Supper invalid?

    But why should we doubt that there is a categorical difference between wine and grape juice, just because it is unclear where precisely that difference occurs?

    What is in question is whether that categorical difference is of significance. Because your premise is that the use of the wrong liquid renders the Lord’s Table celebration an “imitation”. Therefore being unclear where the difference occurs is a serious problem.

    Moreover, the objection is stillborn inasmuch as modern grape juice will never become wine, even if stored correctly.

    Not if you’re stating a universal principle, which must have applied to the church over the previous 19 centuries and also still applies to those regions of the world where juice preservation/refrigeration is not available.

    It seems obvious that in circumstances where wine is not available, a substitute would be acceptable.

    I humbly submit that a principle of new covenant worship that has an increasing number of footnotes (some of which must be derived from old covenant sacrificial laws because they are not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament) seems increasingly unlikely. Should Paul maybe have clarified this for us, since apparently we’re talking about the difference between a God-honoring and God-insulting sacrament? After telling the Corinthians that their gluttony at the Lord’s Supper kindled God’s anger, shouldn’t he have also warned them to make sure their grapes were good and fermented lest they also bring down God’s wrath on them?

    You’ve hung a lot of weight on this issue, brother; I just don’t see the New Testament putting nearly the emphasis on the contents of the cup as you do.

  10. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Why is that distinction not a matter of importance, but the distinction between wine and juice of such importance that the wrong choice renders the Lord’s Supper invalid?

    It comes down to the basic categories into which the elements of the Lord’s supper fall. I’m open to an argument that leavened bread is illegitimate; just as I’m open to an argument that gluten-free bread is illegitimate, or fig wine. But on the face of it, the most fundamental elements of the Lord’s supper are simply bread and wine. That’s the bare minimum you need to be doing it right.

    Not if you’re stating a universal principle

    I guess I assumed, given what I said about the history of the grape juice debate, that it was clear I was referring to modern grape juice—the kind that’s boiled and has sugar added to prevent fermentation. I don’t think there’s any real issue in terms of non-Pasteurized grape juice. Is that even drunk as juice in other cultures? Wouldn’t they just make wine out of it?

    I humbly submit that a principle of new covenant worship that has an increasing number of footnotes (some of which must be derived from old covenant sacrificial laws because they are not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament) seems increasingly unlikely.

    I think you’re mistaking what’s going on here. For instance, mistaking the OP for a fully-thought-out position. This is a blog, after all. I’m allowed to attenuate or even change my position from what I wrote :)

    That said, I don’t think I’m footnoting. I’m simply saying, the form of the Lord’s supper involves bread and wine. If you’re not going to use wine, you’d better have a good reason if you want that to be acceptable in the eyes of God. Being unable to get hold of wine is a good reason. Preferring grape juice isn’t.

    Should Paul maybe have clarified this for us, since apparently we’re talking about the difference between a God-honoring and God-insulting sacrament?

    No offense or nuthin’, but this strikes me as facile. Why would Paul address a situation that wouldn’t even arise until 1869? We would only expect him to write about this if the Corinthians were actually trying to substitute something other than wine into the Lord’s supper. But why should they have done that, given their limited options, and the fact they had no reason at all to do so?

    You’ve hung a lot of weight on this issue, brother; I just don’t see the New Testament putting nearly the emphasis on the contents of the cup as you do.

    Again, this is facile. The Bible never addresses the issue of abortion directly either. Yet I’m sure you’d agree that the sixth commandment is sufficient for us to say with certainty that 1.3 billion dead babies since 1970 is something we should put some emphasis on.

  11. John

    In modern English, we wouldn’t call juice “wine”. But if you explained to an ancient person about this drink which is squeezed grapes, would they call it wine? I don’t know.

    Would I call unleavened bread, “bread”. Probably not. I might call it damper, or various other things. It doesn’t really help us know whether artos in Paul could have been unleavened. I’ve seen people argue artos is always leavened. My guess is, we can’t know for sure, purely based on language or history.

    How is sola scriptura to function in this environment?

  12. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    It’s only a problem for sola scriptura if you assume God requires us to answer these questions definitively.

    Apparently he does not. Simply knowing to use wine and bread is sufficient—though of course we can augment our knowledge with other historical evidence (sola, not solo scriptura).

    To the best of my knowledge, there is a word in Greek for grape juice that has not been turned into wine. But since they didn’t drink this as juice, and it would go rancid fairly quickly if not turned into wine, it doesn’t appear in the Bible.

  13. John

    There are English words for unleavened bread too. Does that definitively answer the question of whether unleavened bread is in fact bread, in English? I think not.

    You can say well, with sola scriptura, it doesn’t matter. But… The thesis of this post is that it does matter. You can google and find people even within the narrow confines of the reformed tradition arguing both sides.

    It’s not just a matter of answering vs answering definitively. When people in your church are fighting it out, you need an answer.

  14. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, I confess I am not very clear on what you’re arguing at this point. Could you summarize your thesis?

  15. John

    My thesis is that you’ve opened a can of worms by taking a position on a question not answerable from scripture. Like many such questions, paedo baptism, paedo communion, and many others, you will not be able to achieve consensus.

    And even if per chance you had a compelling case, did you ever try and change the position of a church on any topic? That ain’t going to happen.

  16. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Not being able to achieve a consensus is not the same as not being able to find a satisfactory answer.

    Here’s my position:

    1. To the best of our ability, we should conduct the Lord’s supper in the manner instituted by Jesus.
    2. Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread and grape wine.
    3. Therefore, to the best of our ability, we should conduct the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread and grape wine.

    (2) is a matter of historical fact, so the only premise to push back on here is (1). But how? Certainly we can say there is some fuzziness in the extent of the referent for “do this in remembrance of me”. But fuzziness in defining the outer limits of the sacrament doesn’t affect clarity in defining its inner limits. In terms of the minimal constituents, obviously two of them are unleavened bread being broken, and grape wine being drunk.

    Btw, notice the logical corollary of (3):

    3*. To the best of our ability, we should not conduct the Lord’s supper without unleavened bread and grape wine.

  17. John

    It’s far from obvious that those are the inner limits. For one thing many argue it wasn’t the feast of unleavened bread but the day before, thus they were using leavened bread. Others argue, yes he was using unleavened bread, but the apostles for various reasons, perhaps because the rising of the bread symbolizes resurrection, perhaps because the supper occurs weekly whereas the unleavened feast is yearly, mandated leavened bread, to be in conformance with Jewish practice. Given the history of leavened bread from antiquity in the church, that’s at least plausible. Others have argued the same thing, but based on their belief about the word artos.

    Your particular “inner limits” are rather arbitrary, in specifically excluding something (leaven) and including something (alcohol) presumably based on modern English thinking. Why you don’t exclude wine with preservative like 99% of modern wine has, but ancient wine didn’t have, we don’t know, but because ancient wine had alcohol, then you think it’s significant.

  18. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Okay, so your argument is that it’s not obvious that the inner limit includes unleavened bread. I’ll concede that.

    How does that affect the issue of wine, which is what this post is about?

    Why you don’t exclude wine with preservative like 99% of modern wine has, but ancient wine didn’t have, we don’t know, but because ancient wine had alcohol, then you think it’s significant.

    Does the inclusion of preservative change the nature of the substance as being essentially fermented grape juice? If not, what relevance does this have?

  19. John

    Because there’s a parallel between leaven in bread and fermentation of wine. As was pointed out, yeast is often used for both bread and wine. If it matters for one, why not the other? If bread sans yeast is still bread ( by your theory anyway), is wine without fermenting agent, and sufficient time to produce alcohol still wine? By ancient thinking, you can’t really answer that. You assume that the standard for wine is fermention, but you can’t prove it. As someone else asked, exactly how much fermention and alcohol do YOU need, before you’ll declare it valid?

  20. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I’ve already answered this. There is no parallel between leaven in bread and fermentation in wine. Bread sans yeast is by definition still bread. Wine sans fermentation is a contradiction in terms.

    You keep talking about ancient thinking, as if the ancients drank grape juice that hadn’t been fermented. But as I’ve already said, this is something that was scientifically impossible until 1869. If you were going to drink squeezed grapes in the ancient world, it just would be fermented. If you think otherwise, you need to document your claim, or you’re just basing your entire argument on unsubstantiated speculation.

  21. John

    Let me be clear on what you’re claiming. You’re claiming that if I buy some grapes from the supermarket, squash them into a liquid, consume it, then I can get drunk, and pulled over for DUI?

  22. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I’m fascinated to see the thought process that got you from my argument that wine is fermented by definition, to this bizarre grape-squishing-and-getting-drunk scenario…

  23. John

    You claimed it was “scientifically impossible” to drink unfermented grape juice without some special equipment or modern knowledge or something, and challenged me to prove it is otherwise. I documented the procedure of buying grapes, squishing out the liquid into a cup and consuming it. I then asked you to clarify whether you think I will get drunk using this procedure, which I take it you would not dispute is a procedure available to the ancients.

  24. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, as you surely know it takes a couple of days for fermentation to start.

    The question is, do you think that the ancients pressed grapes and then drank the juice within a couple of days? Was this a common practice? Was the wine in Jesus’ cup something that had been pressed that day, or the day before?

    If you can provide documentation that this was a common practice, then you might have a leg to stand on (although you will still have to explain why the New Testament authors used the Greek word for wine instead of the word for unfermented juice).

    Seems like you’ve got your work cut out—hop to.

  25. John

    Well first let me say that the person who wishes to circumscribe parameters around what is wine, would bear the burden of proof. You after all introduced the concept of an “inner circle”. If there is such circle, you are the one who has to join all the dots on where it lies.

    Having said that, 30 seconds on google turned up this scholarly-looking article that claims that it it indisputable that freshly squeezed grape juice was called oinos. I’m not going to read it right now to comment on how well documented it is, except to point out that your inner circle is looking shaky.

    http://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/Wine-Ancient-World.pdf

  26. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, that’s a very interesting paper. However…

    the person who wishes to circumscribe parameters around what is wine, would bear the burden of proof.

    This is just a bizarre statement. You’re saying that the person who wants to use a word according to its definition carries the burden of proof? I don’t think so. Rather, the person who wants to claim that “non-fermented wine” is not a contradiction in terms bears the burden of proof.

    Notice I’m using the English word here, not the Greek one. I agree that the Greek oinois can refer to non-fermented grape juice as well. But notice how it is always translated “wine” rather than “grape juice” in modern Bibles. The reason for this is simple: contextually, that is what it means. If you want to argue that it should be translated “grape juice” somewhere, the burden of proof rests on you.

    The simple fact is, the liquid in Jesus’ cup was fermented. There’s no doubt about this. Baker himself attests to this when he observes that grape juice was reserved for women and children; the norm was fermented wine.

    This being the case, there’s nothing shaky about my inner circle at all. Remember, I have already conceded that wine (ie, fermented grape juice) is not necessary to the Lord’s supper in the strictest sense. My attenuated argument is that it is the ideal—and that where we are able to honor the ideal, we should do so.

    The only way to show that it is not the ideal is to show that Jesus didn’t drink wine at the last supper, but rather drank grape juice. That just seems like an impossible task given the historical facts.

  27. John

    There’s some logical disconnects here that you don’t seem to see.

    Firstly, why does what the English say have even the slightest bearing on it? If we are two Christians sitting down to study the bible, you with English, and me with Greek. I say “the word here means grape juice whether fermented or not”, you say “the word means fermented grape juice”, then the Greek has to bear the burden of proof that the Greek text is correct? Really?

    I guess more than 51% of ancient grape juice was fermented, so wine is the best fitting English word, but nevertheless there is no English word which encompasses the word oinos. There’s only an approximation.

    Secondly, how are you going to decide what is critical to the biblical concept of oinos? If I showed they always used Merlot, would that exclude Shiraz? If they didn’t use preservative, would that make preservative out of the question? If they diluted it with water (which I think they did), is undiluted still the same product? There’s a lot of questions we could raise here, but the one fact we do have is that the degree of fermentation has nothing to do with whether it is oinos or not. Nothing. At. All.

    You’ve imported English presuppositions into the text, and then assumed that is the standard.

    Next point, assuming your claim that Jesus’ wine was fermented, in light of the fact that fermentation has no bearing on a drink’s oinos-ness, why should I care, anymore than I should care whether it was Shiraz or Merlot, or that it didn’t have preservative? The text doesn’t specify Merlot, nor does it specify the degree of fermentation.

    Next point, how exactly did you determine that his oinos was fermented? You have access to the supply chain on his last supper?

    You claim that Baker says that grape juice was reserved for women. But that’s not what Baker says. He says wine(fermented) was reserved for men. It’s not the same thing. Like in today’s society wine is reserved for adults, but it doesn’t mean grape juice is reserved for children.

    It’s not like back then you would go to the supermarket, pick out some oinos, and there was a government health warning with the percentage of alcohol on the label.

    Even if we accept the rather conjectural theory that fermented wine was more “normal”, it doesn’t really say what that means. 60% of the time to be considered normal? 80%?

    And was Jesus’ situation there “normal”? He was after all an itinerant preacher, not with a personal cellar. Did he have to go pick the grapes himself, because he didn’t have his own stock? We can speculate forever about the relationship between probabilities and his particular situation, just as we could go back and forth arguing whether it was more likely Shiraz or Merlot, but the reality is, the text is silent.

    The deeper point, is that sola scriptura practitioners often get a bee in their bonnet that the bible says a particular thing, when such point is very debatable, then they are surprised when others see it differently. Even when the bible says something relatively clear (e.g. Women wearing head coverings), there is no real prospect of getting any church to change their practice. What is the point really of sola scriptura?

  28. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, re burden of proof, my point was that there is a prima facie case for wine (meaning fermented grape juice) given that all notable Bible translations use that word.

    Since the term oinos doesn’t even occur in passages that talk about the Lord’s supper, I’m not sure why this is getting so much attention.

    You claim that Baker says that grape juice was reserved for women. But that’s not what Baker says. He says wine(fermented) was reserved for men.

    Quoth Baker:

    To summarize this first point: there was simple grape juice in the ancient world. Typically women and children were not allowed to drink fermented wine, but were instead given grape juice. There was also an “after-wine” that was served to day laborers. The norm, however, was regular, fermented wine.

    So your own source shows that the standard—what we would assume people to be drinking when oinos is specified—is regular, fermented wine.

    This is, of course, corroborated by early witnesses to the nature of the Passover ceremony itself. For example,

    More importantly, however, wine became an important part of Passover. The first known references to the drinking of wine at Passover is found in Jub. 49:6. According to this work the first Passover celebrants drank wine, which is probably an anachronism. Also at least two cups of wine are a part of Jesus’ last Passover meal (Luke 22:17-20). The Mishna and Tosepta, in fact, stipulate that a minimum of four cups of wine per celebrant was required for a first-century Passover meal (m. Pesah. 10:1; t. Pesah. 10:1); the Jewish festival meal, of which the Passover was an instance, was structured around the blessing and drinking of four cups of wine (t. Ber. 4:8). That this was the practice of the pre-destruction period is believable, since these four cups would provice the needed framework for the meal. According to t. Pesah.. 10:1, each cup must be a quarter log, or an eighth of a litre. So enough wine was drunk over the course of the meal to produce a feeling of well-being on the part of the participants. In fact, t. Pesah.. 10:4 considers it the religious duty of a man to bring joy to his children and dependents by providing enough wine for each to become mildly intoxicated. The wine was diluted with various amounts of water, depending on its strength, which typical of the ancient world in general (m. Pesah. 10:2; t. Pesah.. 10:2).

    And was Jesus’ situation there “normal”? He was after all an itinerant preacher, not with a personal cellar. Did he have to go pick the grapes himself, because he didn’t have his own stock?

    Are you serious? Read Matthew 26:17-19 and Mark 14:12-16. Moreover, in Mark 14:25 Jesus compares the wine he is drinking to the wine that will be drunk at the marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19:9). If you recall from John 2:7-10, wine at marriages was fermented. Multiple lines of evidence converge on the Passover wine being fermented, and none point in the other direction. The mere fact that you can invent improbable scenarios in which it was unfermented doesn’t actually serve as reason to doubt that it was fermented.

    What is the point really of sola scriptura?

    Since this is completely off-topic, I will give a one-line reply: the point of sola Scriptura is that the Bible is the only place we find God’s word, and therefore the only authoritative source of doctrine. I am frankly amazed that this even requires an answer.

  29. John

    After quoting such a plethora of extra-biblical sources to justify your doctrine ( I call it doctrine, since you’ve identified it as inner circle) you reach a surprising conclusion, namely that scripture is the only authoritative source of doctrine.

    You’re right, I hadn’t thought about it before, scripture doesn’t say what he was drinking. As far as the bible is concerned, it could have been anything.

    I think he was drinking fermented red wine, no preservatives, but with water added. Why do I think that? Tradition. As it happens, that lines up with the probabilities of historians, but either way it’s extra scriptural.

    But as far as sola scriptura is concerned, 7-up would be fine. Don’t laugh, a long long time ago I was in a church that did it with 7-up, and I was horrified, but now I see that red wine is not a scriptural teaching at all.

    If your church starts doing the same, you won’t have a verse to stand on.

  30. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, there’s not much point having a conversation with someone as intellectually dishonest/incompetent as you are. I’d suggest you go read up on the distinction between sola Scriptura and solo Scriptura. You’re embarrassing yourself.

  31. John

    That’s rather harsh.

    Everytime I hear someone claim there is actually a difference between solo, sola, or prima scriptura, and I press them to justify that there is a difference, their position collapses into a mass of contradictions and special pleading.

    For example, I can’t see immediately from your site what denomination you are, but you mention a baptist played some role in your conversion, so I’ll assume for now you’re a baptist. If not I could easily find another example. People claiming solo scriptura is different, say that they don’t reinterpret scripture contrary to the church. To quote one apologist for this:

    “In contrast with the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura, the revisionist doctrine of “solo” Scriptura is marked by radical individualism and a rejection of the authority of the church”.

    But it is abundantly clear that the history of the church unanimously taught paedo baptism. Yet you’ll find baptists decrying solo scriptura when it suits their argument.

    Solo vs sola scriptura is a non entity. Both groups are indistinguishable, except when you find their argument failing, in which case they’ll fall back to tradition. But when tradition threatens their own position, then it has no value, like a baptist faced with the unanimous history of the church.

    Try and take a principled and consistent stand. Either tradition has authority, or it does not. If it does, we can concede agreement on the wine issue, but I’ll expect you to condemn baptists as a cult group who rejects the authority of the church.

  32. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, this is completely off-topic. I’m not here to provide a soapbox for your particular talking points. This thread has never been about sola Scriptura, yet you keep trying to turn it into that. Don’t post about it here again.

  33. John

    You’ve made claims about the lords supper being a certain thing “by definition”, without any definition being provided. You’ve provided historical arguments about what Jesus was probably doing, but that’s not the same as providing a -definition- of the lords supper. Jesus was probably doing a lot of things… Sitting on the floor, wearing robes, sharing a cup, but whose to say which things are -definitional- of “the lords supper”. That’s why this post is so vacuous. It makes a lot of grandiose claims, without actually supplying what is required.

    For example, it is equally as indisputable that Jesus mixed water with the wine. All the same historical sources support it. Historical Christianity also mixes water with the wine in the lords supper. Does your church do it? I’ll bet not. So by your very own line of argumentation, your church does not “do the lords supper”. Don’t tell me that oh well, it is still wine. The bible doesn’t mention wine as you pointed out, and besides, grape juice is indisputably oinos.

  34. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, I’ve moved on from those claims. You need to keep up. Try:

    Btw, my church uses grape juice.

  35. Dr P

    Some thoughts:

    As a winemaker, I can tell you that fermentation begins the instant yeast comes in contact with the sugar found in the grape; since there is yeast on grapeskins, that means fermentation begins with pressing.

    It is also intersting that, for nearly two millennia, nobody disputed what wine was; ie an alcoholic beverage made from grapes. Prior to that, the Jews used wine at the Passover, as fresh grapes would not have been available.

    Doubts about alcohol are the result of 19th century Pietist gnosticism, attributing evil to alcohol contra Scripture and church history. Twentieth century medicine is no better, calling alcoholism a disease for what seems to be more sociopolitical than empirical reasons. That a dram of wine at Communion can turn a model citizen into a town drunk has no empirical support.

    Either way, neither Scripture nor Church ever spoke of alcoholism, but rather of drunkenness and the category of weaker brother. We do nobody any favor by speaking otherwise.

  36. John

    The ancients had no idea that alcohol was an actual thing. That came in the 16th century when distiling was invented and people realized that there was a sub component in wine or beer that could be split off. To the ancients, oinos was the juice of the grape, and if you left oinos for a while, it made you drunk. There thus could be no concept of alcoholic or non alcoholic oinos. Rather there was old and new oinos ( terms which we see in the NT ).

    If fermentation begins with pressing, and grape juice is pressed, it follows that grape juice has tiny amounts of alcohol. A quick google search seems to indicate this is true. Grape juice contains tiny amounts of alcohol.

    Alcoholism is a disease in this sense. Most people can drink, even be regular heavy drinkers, but have the power to stop any time, with little difficulty. Some people lack that ability to stop. I went through a period where I drank very heavily. One day I said, I’m going to stop now. I took a few days with minor cravings, and that was it. For alcoholics, this is not so. So might say there is something wrong with alcoholics that they lack something normal people have.

    Still I agree that a teaspoon of diluted wine ought not be an issue. If the taste of a tiny amount of wine could trigger the memory in their mind, I think the taste of grape juice could trigger the same thing. You can’t after all get a buzz from a teaspoon of wine.

  37. Dr P

    John, the processes of Drs Pasteur and Welch have assured theat no pietistical palate would ever be sullied by demon rum. First century Jews and Christians would have given the matter no thought; why do we? I propose that “alcoholism” is nothing more than the medicalization of sin, just as the psychiatric cartel has so manufactured “diseases” like gender identity dysphoria, sexual addictions, and gambling disorder. Kaka de torro + ICD = DSM. In less politically correct tomes, the psychiatric profession also listed homosexuality as a disease, as psychiatry is eminently secular and has no concept of sin.

    Alcoholic wine at Communion was always the norm until the 19th century; indeed, the Armenian church continues her ancient practice of using undiluted wine (unlike the other eastern churches, she also continues to use azymes). ISTM any so-called alcoholic who blames his binge on the contents of the chalice is merely looking for an excuse.

  I don’t post ill-considered articles and I don’t sponsor ill-considered comments. Take a moment to review what you’ve written…