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Home The Light Articles from 1999 Intoxicating Wine or Fruit of the Vine?

Intoxicating Wine or Fruit of the Vine?

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Intoxicating Wine or Fruit of the Vine?

by Raymond Stiner

The Bible teaches that in the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus of necessity used both unleavened bread and unfermented fruit of the vine. There are many reasons for this conclusion.

In the first place, Jesus instituted his Supper with his disciples as they ate the Passover. This great and memorable occasion is recorded for us in Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:17-25, Luke 22:7-20. The apostle Paul also received the account of it through inspiration in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. Because these accounts are relatively the same, we are going to study with you the account found in Matthew 26.

Beginning with verse 17, we are told that the feast of unleavened bread had started. And "when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve." It was at this time that Jesus brought up the fact that one of them would betray him.

Then, in the same evening, which was the evening of the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (also known on this particular day as the feast of the passover), Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper with his disciples. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (vs. 26-28). We are able to see that this communion service was instituted on the same night that Jesus ate the passover with his disciples. Now let us look at some of the requirements of the passover of Exodus 12.

It was first given unto God's people while they were yet in Egypt. It was con-nected with the last plague that God sent upon the Egyptians, where the death angel passed through Egypt that night and destroyed the firstborn of every family. And then in Exo. 12:14-20 we find this passover feast as well as the feast of unleavened bread being established as a wonderful memorial. "...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" (vs. 14-15). Also, in verse 20 we read, "Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread." Verse 19 stated that there was to be no leaven in their houses.

Now it follows that if Jesus ate the passover with his disciples, and that it was eaten in a man's house where the disciples had made it ready (Mark 14:12-17), there was no leaven in the house. Thus the bread Jesus used of necessity was unleavened. Likewise the fruit of the vine was unfermented because fermentation is a form of leaven, and there was to be no leaven in the house.

In the book entitled Bible Wines & the Laws of Fermentation by William Patton, D.D., we find many references on this subject. Concerning leavened bread and fermented wine being the same, he quotes from the Bible Commentary, p. 280; "The law forbade seor—yeast, ferment, whatever could excite fermentation and khahmatz— whatever had undergone fermentation, or had been subject to the action of seor." That is, the law forbade yeast, or fermentation to be used in the passover or feast of unleavened bread. In the writings of Professor Moses Stuart, p. 16 it says, "The Hebrew word khahmatz means anything fermented." "All leaven, i.e. fermentation, was excluded from offerings to God (Lev.2:3-14)" (p.20).

Dr. S. M. Isaacs, an eminent Jewish Rabbi stated, "In the Holy Land they do not commonly use fermented wines. The best wines are preserved sweet and unfermented." In reference to their customs at their religious festivals, he repeatedly and emphatically said, "The Jews do not, in their feasts for sacred purposes, including the marriage feast, ever use any kind of fermented drinks. In their ablations and libations, both private and public, they employ the fruit of the vine—that is, fresh grapes—unfermented grape juice, and raisins, as the symbol of benediction. Fermentation is to them always a symbol of corruption, as in nature and science it is itself decay, rottenness."

In the Monthly Review of Jan. 1870, pg. 41, A. P. Peabody, D.D., wrote in his essay on the Lord's Supper: "The writer has satisfied himself, by careful research, that in the Saviour's time the Jews, at least the high ritualists among them, extended the prohibi-tion of leaven to the principle of fermentation in every form; and that it was customary to press the contents of the `cup' from clusters of grapes preserved for this special purpose."

Another reason why the bread and fruit of the vine are to be without fermentation or leaven is because it is to be an emblem of the Lord's body and his blood. We know that the body of Jesus did not see corruption. It was prophesied in Psalms 16:10, "For thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." This is what the apostle Peter was referring to when he was talking about the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:31). All admit that the bread, an emblem of the body of Christ, was unleavened—had not passed putrification or fermentation—and therefore remains the proper emblem of the body of Christ which saw "no corruption." For the same reason there is necessity that the wine (fruit of the vine) be unfermented that it might be the fit emblem of the great sacrifice of Jesus' blood "which saw no corruption."

When Jesus had finished instituting the Supper he said in Matthew 26:29, "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." In this language, Jesus referred to the "fruit of the vine." There is no way that the fruit of the vine could be fermented, because you cannot get strong wine from the grape or the cluster of grapes. In 1 Corinthians 10:16 the cup is referred to as the cup of blessing. Then, if you turn to Isaiah 65:8 we are told that the new wine is found in the cluster and that a blessing is in this cluster. From the cluster of grapes then comes the pure juice which becomes the element to be used in this cup of blessing.

We must understand that when the word wine is used, it does not always refer to strong, fermented wine. The word oinos, which is translated wine could refer to all stages of the liquid that came from the vine. Thus, it is up to us to study the context to see if fermented wine is meant. "Fruit of the vine," unfermented wine, was used and is to be used in the Lord's Supper.

It is argued that it would be impossible to always have grapes to have pure grape juice in the apostles' days. I am convinced that they knew more about preservation than we do today. In the Bible Commentary, (pg. 278) it states that even in Spain today "they have the secret of preserving grapes sound and juicy from one season to another." Jose-phus, in his Jewish Wars b. vii c viii. s. 4, makes mention of a fortress in Palestine called Masada built by Herod where there was found fresh fruits and other necessities that they had preserved. "For here was laid up corn in large quantities, and such as would subsist men for a long time: here was also wine and oil in abundance, with all kinds of pulse, and dates heaped up together. These fruits were also fresh and full ripe, and no way inferior to such fruits newly laid in, although they were little short of a hundred years, from the laying in of these provisions."

In conclusion, let me ask you this. Is it probable that Christ took an intoxicating liquor, which in all the ages past had been the cause of misery and ruin, and which in all the ages to come would destroy myriads in temporal and eternal destruction; that he took the wine in which the Bible declared was a deadly bite like a serpent and whose



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