The Elements of the Lord’s Supper

What Kind of Bread and Fruit of the Vine Are We to Use?
part 3

Peter Ditzel

The Fruit of the Vine

Paul’s account of Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 gives no indication of what is in the cup. But Mark and Luke note that Jesus called it the fruit of the vine. Mark 14:23-25, for example, says: “And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Matthew 26:27-29 says “this fruit of the vine,” instead of “the fruit of the vine”: “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. 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.”

Obviously, the fruit of the vine Jesus referred to was liquid, but was it grape juice or wine?

The Questions

There are several questions that must be answered to determine whether the fruit of the vine Jesus used was wine or grape juice. These are:

1. Is wine inherently evil?

There are many who believe that wine that contains alcohol is evil, and Jesus would never have used it. They say that positive references to wine in the Bible are actually referring to non-alcoholic wine, or grape juice. If the Bible contains an exception to what these people say, their argument falls apart.

In Numbers 28 we find such an exception. Here is a positive reference to wine that, without any doubt, must contain alcohol. It is called “strong wine.” In verses 2-8 we read, “And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the LORD; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even; And a tenth part of an ephah of flour for a meat offering, mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil. It is a continual burnt offering, which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD. And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering. And the other lamb shalt thou offer at even: as the meat offering of the morning, and as the drink offering thereof, thou shalt offer it, a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.”

The Hebrew word translated “strong wine” here is shekar. The Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon says this word means, “strong drink, intoxicating drink, fermented or intoxicating liquor.” Yet, it was wine. We know this because this sacrifice is referring to the same sacrifice described in Exodus 29:38-41. But in that text, the word used for wine is the ordinary Hebrew word for wine, yayin. This is the same word that so many advocates for grape juice say means unfermented, nonalcoholic wine when used in a positive sense. But, obviously, it cannot mean this in this text because its parallel text calls it “strong wine.” The word yayin comes from a root word meaning to effervesce because of the bubbling that takes place during fermentation. So, even the word yayin implies fermented wine, not unfermented grape juice.

By the way, this sacrifice was not just occasional. It was the continual burnt offering, offered every day in the morning and again in the evening. As should be obvious, the lamb pictured the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. And the wine poured out—the strong, fermented, alcoholic wine—pictured His blood shed for us. Here is proof from the Bible that alcoholic, fermented wine pictured the blood of Jesus Christ. And think about this: God did not give the Israelites a choice about the liquid that was to be poured out in the sacrifice. It had to be strong wine. If the priests performing the sacrifice had chosen to use grape juice instead, they would have been guilty of disobeying God. God would have rejected the offering, and He may have punished them for their innovation as He had Nadab and Abihu.

It is significant that, when Jesus, referring to the contents of the cup at the Lord’s Supper, said it was “shed for many,” all three synoptic Gospels use the Greek word ekchunō for the word translated in the King James Version as “shed.” This word can also be translated “poured out,” just as the strong wine in the daily sacrifice was poured out.

This example devastates the position that the Bible never mentions alcoholic wine positively. It also shows that there is good reason to believe that other positive references to wine (Heb. yayin), including those where it is used in other offerings picturing Jesus’ sacrifice, also refer to fermented, alcoholic wine. Wine is not inherently evil; only its misuse is a sin.

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