How Wine Was Removed From the Bible
At The Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples passed a common cup, drinking wine from it. Yes, real honest to goodness wine. This act set the stage for a ritual known as Communion that has been with the church for more than 2000 years.
I’m not much of church-goer myself. However, I’ve always been attracted to the ritual and ceremony of the catholic church. And as an avid wine drinker, I’ve always appreciated connection that wine had to the particular ritual of communion. It is the powerful image and meaning of the wine representing the blood of Christ that has kept wine a part of this ritual for so many years.
But powerful are other movements. So powerful as to remove wine from holy communion. It started in the late 19th century when the temperance movement grew out of evangelical revival movement and began to spread. The notion that alcohol was poisonous to both the body and society began to take hold, eventually leading toward prohibition in America.
At first, it was hard liquor that became forbidden by church leaders in America. Beer, cider and wine were not considered social ills, nor particularly harmful to the body. Add to this wine’s connection to communion and the fermented beverage of the vine was safe for church goers.
But the abstinence movement and prohibitionism gained steamed. Questions began to be raised. If alcohol was a poisonous and tempting beverage to be avoided, who could it be a part of the communion. To take care of this contradiction a nifty theory was offered and accepted far and wide.
A number of theologians and Christian scholars began to theorize that Greek and Hebrew words meaning wine had actually been mistranslated in the course of the bible being retranslated over the years and centuries. They argued the original meaning of these words was not wine, but rather "grape juice".
Thus, the justification for wine being removed from the Holy Communion was put forth and spread through out the protestant churches in America. It was an American Methodist dentist who created a way to mass produced grape juice that would eventually end up in the the cups in American Churches. His name was Thomas Bramwell Welch.
Today, many churches have moved back to wine for use in Communion as the prohibitionist debacle faded away.
Prohibitionism has not entirely left American life, nor finished with its effects on our culture. Perhaps this short little history might be illustrative of the kind of power a movement that is seemingly back by science and revisionist history can have, even on the most powerful of institutions.