Those were the exact words a man was screaming at me as I thought he was about to “punch me out” because I was teaching a small audience of students some of the thoughts I’ll share with you in this brief teaching. I’ve heard lots of similar words during the years I’ve been serving and participating in Communion (the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist—whatever you choose to call the solemn and holy event).Let me share some irrefutable scientific facts with you about wine and grape juice and then you decide the matter for yourself, okay?
From the very dawn of agriculture, humans have grown grapes (and other agricultural produce) from which to make wine. The very second a grape is plucked from the grape vine, an enzyme in the skin of the grape immediately begins to ferment. Until 1869 (more about that in a few minutes), there was no way to stop that fermentation process originating in the grape skin. From the moment a grape is removed from the vine, it begins to ferment into alcohol.
In ancient times (and in some cultures yet today), people spoke of “new wine” and “old wine.” New wine was made from grapes shortly after they were plucked from the vine and had little alcohol content. Old wine was wine that had more time to ferment and become more alcoholic in content. Between new wine and old wine, there have always been varying stages of wine’s alcoholic content depending upon the time elapsed from the time the grape was plucked from the vine and the natural fermentation process began. For centuries, there was never any thought given to wine not having an alcohol content; it was simply a matter of fermentation time. Until 1869, wine always had some level of alcohol content. Always!
Did Jesus live before 1869? Yes, He did. Jesus drank wine with an alcoholic content! If it was new wine, it had less alcohol. Sometimes, back in those days people would dilute old wine with water to make it less alcoholic. Old, new, or diluted—it contained alcohol. Always! Until 1869 . . .
Until that time, most ordinary, normal people simply drank wine in moderation. Often, people drank wine because it was “safer” to drink than water which was often full of harmful bacteria and germs. People didn’t know about bacteria and germs back then; they just knew it was unsafe to drink much of the water back in those days. They felt they were safer and healthier drinking wine—in moderation. And it was always that way . . . until 1869. Yes, Jesus drank alcoholic wine. He had no choice, other than to drink no wine at all.
Okay, what’s the great secret? What happened in 1869 to change all that? A dentist in Vineland, New Jersey, named Thomas B Welch (and his son, Charles, also a dentist) were active members of the “temperance movement.” They were experimenting with ways to create a non-alcoholic wine for their Wesleyan church’s communion services. They invented a special pasteurization process that could arrest and stop the fermentation of the wine. Viola!
That was the very first non-alcoholic grape juice in all of human history. Before that year, if people drank wine at all, it was alcoholic. Period! As a sidebar, ironically most of the parishioners in the Welch’s church continued to use wine instead of grape juice . . .
Later, in 1893 Charles Welch founded Welch’s Grape Juice Company in Westfield, New York. And now you know “the rest of the story,” as famed newscaster Paul Harvey puts it.
Do I try to push these facts on other people, especially on well-intended Jesus believers who feel that Jesus could not have drunk alcoholic wine? No, I do not! I simply share what I know to be scientific fact and let people decide for themselves what they want to do.
Whenever I serve Communion, I always give people the choice of consuming wine or grape juice.
But . . . the unalterable, historical fact is: Jesus did drink wine. Period! He didn’t change water into grape juice; he turned it into wine. Paul didn’t tell Timothy to drink grape juice; he told him to drink a little wine for some gastrointestinal health challenges he was having.
It’s okay for Jesus believers to drink either wine . . . or grape juice.
Life Enrichment Services, Inc.
Revised and Updated December 2020