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Fruit of the Vine


In my study of the scriptures I have considered 3 basic avenues in order to know that Truth which makes one free, this approach consists of . . . 

1) First and foremost, what do the scriptures teach on a certain matter? 

2) What do uninspired writings state on that matter?

3) What does history reveal on the topic under consideration, was there any change in practice or belief on said matter since the time that the Faith was once and for all time delivered (Jude 3; i.e. the 1st century), and is it documented?

If one brings these 3 avenues into the mix I believe it is fairly easy to ascertain truth on a matter, and that includes the question “what is meant by the phrase fruit of the vine?” The  hardest part of this approach is once the Truth is ascertained is one’s willingness to accept it, and then to put said Truth into practice in one’s life, this is where the rubber hits the road so to speak. 

The words “fruit of the vine” as found in the bible can be literally translated “offspring of the tree” or “offspring of the vine” of which many will state that such a phrase does not bind the drinking of alcoholic wine in observance of the Lord’s supper (as the evidence points towards), thus no one commits sin if one drinks grape juice instead of wine in said memorial if the wine position is correct. This may indeed be a true fact, but one thing I believe we need to be careful of is hypocrisy, it is severely condemned in the scriptures (Mt 23:13-29), if we apply a certain logical rule to our interpretation of the scriptures on one topic and then in another instance push it aside because it does not align with our practices, then we indeed are guilty of hypocrisy. One fundamental rule that I believed should be never overlooked in interpretation is “what did the word(s) mean at the time of the writing,” “what did the recipients of the scriptures understand said word(s) meant?” Surely God was not attempting to deceive or confuse when He was giving commands through His word (John 8:32). We can look at the word "baptism" for instance and learn that today it means everything from immersion to sprinkling, yet in the 1st century the word “baptizo” meant “an immersion, an overwhelming,” and to hold to this interpretive measure as a binding in one point in the scriptures, and to ignore in another instance is the epidemy of hypocrisy. 

The truth concerning “fruit of the vine” as seen in our bibles (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:29; Lk 22:18) is that it was neither grape juice nor wine, but rather it was a mixture of water and wine as verified by all ancient sources . . . 

“Wine was added to water to purify the water. It also sweetened up the water and gave it a bit of flavor. Folks living in Bible times didn’t have two supermarket aisles full of various types of juices and soft drinks from which to choose. 

In such a warm climate, their juice would ferment all by itself unless they drank it all right after harvest. They had no canning lids, no freezers, and no powdered drinks. Thus, their choices were limited to a few kinds of fruit juices, warm goats milk, and for the most part, stagnant water from a cistern near their house. Thus, if they could add a little flavor to their water, they did. Wine was mixed with water to sweeten up the water and to purify it. 

However, the ancient civilized societies were well aware of the DANGERS of alcohol. They needed the wine as a beverage and as a water purifier, and yet at the same time maintained strict codes of its “use.” A Babylonian King named Hammurabi established a code of law in which he “laid out a variety of restrictions on the consumption and sale of alcohol. Violators of these laws could be executed. Similarly, in China, during the reign of Emperor Chung K’iang, drunkards were executed to show that the government did not approve of excessive drinking.” From the beginning, alcohol posed a problem to the ancient societies. On the one hand, they needed wine, but on the other hand, they also recognized its dangers. 

Many writings verify the fact that the ancients dealt with this dilemma by mixing their wine with water to PREVENT intoxication. Consider the following examples. In civilized Greek society, Homer (Odyssey IX, 208f) mentions a ratio of twenty parts water to one part wine. Hippocrates also considered “twenty parts of water to one part of the Thracian wine to be the proper beverage.” Pliny (Natural History XIV, vi, 54) mentions a ration of eight parts water to one part wine. Athenaeus’s The Learned Banquet, (around A.D. 200) writes in a play that their custom was to mix three parts water to one part wine. 

In Greece it was “considered barbarous to drink wine that was not diluted with water.” Plutarch wrote (in Sumposiacs III, ix), “We call a mixture wine, though the larger of the component parts is water.” A mixture of equal parts was considered strong drink. The ratio varied from place to place, but the practice of mixing water with wine was common. Athenaeus quoted Mnesitheus of Athens as saying, “in daily intercourse, to those who drink it moderately it gives good cheer; but if you overstep the bounds it brings violence. Mix it half and half and you get madness; unmixed—bodily collapse.” 

In Jewish society wine was also mixed with water, and unmixed wine was considered a strong drink. Several Old Testament passages spoke of the difference between wine and strong drink (Deut. 14:26; 29:6). The priests were to avoid BOTH when they went into the tabernacle (Lev.10:8-9). The Talmud (oral traditions of the Jews from about 200 BC to AD 200) includes instructions concerning wine in several chapters. One section (Shabbath 77a) states that wine which does not carry at least 3 parts of water is not wine. It would be  considered a strong drink. 

Rabbis said that food unblessed was unclean. They taught that wine, unless mixed with water, could not be blessed. Some rabbis demanded three parts of water; some demanded ten parts water before they would bless it. While the standards varied somewhat, it does give us some insight into the common practice of mixing wine and water in the days of Christ. (This might help shed light on the miracle at the wedding of Cana.) 

A passage from the uninspired apocryphal book of II Macc. 15:39 also sheds light on this practice among the Jews: “For as it is hurtful to drink wine or water alone; and as WINE MINGLED WITH WATER IS PLEASANT, and delighteth the taste: even so speech finely framed delighteth the ears of them that read the story. And here shall be an end.” This passage reveals the fact that they understood that drinking water alone (unmixed) was often harmful, and was thus MIXED it with wine. The mixing improved the taste of the (often stagnant) water AND removed the hurtful or harmful effects of unpurified water. This passage indicates to us the common Jewish custom of mixing water and wine and also includes two reasons for doing so. 

For the ancients, (especially the ancient Jews) drinking wine unmixed was considered Barbaric. It was a violation of Talmud and the standards of the rabbis. Wine that was not mixed was considered strong drink, and strong drink was considered Barbaric and thus, forbidden. 

However, in later years, the Romans were not so restrained in their drinking practices. Excessive drinking of wine became such a problem in Rome that Emperor Domitius Ulpinus came to believe that wine would destroy the empire. “To combat alcoholism spreading throughout the Roman culture, Domitius ordered half the vineyards in the empire to be destroyed and raised the price of wine.” 

When we read of drinking wine in the Bible, it must be understood in light of the customs, standards, and practices of that day. When we read the word wine we should think “wine mixed with water” unless it specifically says unmixed or strong drink. ( http://www.salembible.org/biblestudies/alcohol_3.htm). 

Also we can look at the studied judgment of Alfred Edersheim, who is considered by many to be a leading authority in the doctrines and practices of Judaism, it should be noted that his conclusions are based on uninspired writings concerning Jewish traditions . . . 

“The Mishnah Account” (Edersheim) 
"The Temple its Ministry and Service" . . .

“As detailed in the earliest Jewish record of ordinances- Mishnah- service of the Paschal Supper was exceedingly simple. Indeed, the impression left on the mind is, that, while all the observances were fixed, the prayers, with some exceptions preserved to us, were free. Rabbi Gamaliel, the teacher of St. Paul, said (Pes. x. 15): 'Whoever does not explain  three things in the Passover has not fulfilled the duty incumbent on him. These three things are: the Passover lamb, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. The Passover lamb means that God passed over the blood-sprinkled place on the houses of our fathers in Egypt; the unleavened bread means that our fathers were delivered out of Egypt (in haste); and the bitter herbs mean that the Egyptians made bitter the lives of our fathers in Egypt.' A few additional particulars are necessary to enable the reader to understand all the arrangements of the Paschal Supper. From the time of the evening-sacrifice nothing was to be eaten till the Paschal Supper, so that all might come to it with relish (Pes, x. 1). It is a moot point, whether at the time of our Lord two, or, as at present, three, large cakes of unleavened bread were used in the service. The Mishnah mentions (Pes. ii. 6) these five kinds as falling within the designation of 'bitter herbs,' viz. lettuce, endive, succory (garden endive?), what is called 'Charchavina' (urtica, beets?), and horehound (bitter coriander?). The 'bitter herbs' seem to have been twice partaken of during the service, once dipped in salt water or vinegar, and a second time with Charoseth, a compound of dates, raisins, etc., and vinegar, though the Mishnah expressly declares (Pes. x. 3) that Charoseth was not obligatory. RED WINE ALONE WAS TO BE USED IN THE PASHAL SUPPER, AND ALWAYS MIXED WITH WATER*

*Of this there cannot be the slightest doubt. Indeed, the following quotation from the Mishnah (Pes. vii. 13) might even induce one to believe that warm WATER WAS MIXED WITH THE WINE: 'If two companies eat (the Passover) in the same house, the one turns its face to one side, the other to the other, and the kettle (warming kettle) stands between them.” (Edersheim; the Temple its ministry and service; ch 12; electronic database) 

“Edershiem The life and times of Jesus the Messiah” . . .

If the view formerly expressed is correct, that the owner of the house had provided all that was needed for the Supper, Peter and John would find there the Wine for the four Cups, the cakes of unleavened Bread, and probably also ‘the bitter herbs.’ Of the latter five kinds are mentioned, which were to be dipped once in salt water, or vinegar, and another time in a mixture called hòaroseṯ (a compound made of nuts, raisins, apples, almonds, etc.) - although this hòaroseṯ was not obligatory. THE WINE WAS THE ORDINARY ONE OF THE COUNTRY, ONLY RED; IT WAS MIXED WITH WATER, GENERALLY IN THE PROPORTION OF ONE PART TO TWO OF WATER. The quantity for each of the four Cups is stated by one authority as five-sixteenths of a log, which may be roughly computed at half a tumbler - of course mixed with water. The Paschal Cup is described (according to the rubrical measure, which of course would not always be observed) as two fingers long by two fingers broad, and its height as a finger, half a finger, and one third of a finger. All things being, as we presume, ready in the furnished upper room, it would only remain for Peter and John to see to the Paschal Lamb, and anything else required for the Supper, possibly also to what was to be offered as hòagigah, or festive sacrifice, and afterwards eaten at the Supper. If the latter were to be brought, the disciples would, of course, have to attend earlier in the Temple. The cost of the Lamb, which had to be provided, was very small. So low a sum as about threepence of our money is mentioned for such a sacrifice. But this must refer to a hypothetical case rather than to the ordinary cost, and we prefer the more reasonable computation, from one sela to three selaim, i.e. from 2s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. of our money.” (Edershiem The life and times of Jesus the Messiah; Book 5 chapter 9; electronic database) 

John Lightfoot another authority in the practices of Judaism writes thus. . . 

“IV. It is commanded, that he should perform this office with red wine. So the Babylonian, "It is necessary that it should taste, and look like wine." The Gloss, that it should be red. 

V. If he drinks wine pure; and not mingled with water, he hath performed his duty; BUT COMMONLY THEY MINGLE WATER WITH IT: hence, when there is mention of wine in the rubric of the feasts, they always use the word THEY MINGLE him a cup. Concerning that MINGLING, both Talmudists dispute in the forecited chapter of the Passover: which see. "The Rabbins have a tradition. OVER WINE WHICH HATH NOT WATER MINGLED WITH IT THEY DO NOT SAY THAT BLESSING, 'Blessed be He that created the FRUIT OF THE VINE'; . . . 


. . . but, 'Blessed be he that created the fruit of the tree.' " The Gloss, "THEIR WINE WAS VERY STRONG; AND NOT FIT TO BE DRUNK WITHOUT WATER," etc. The Gemarists a little after: "The wise agree with R. Eleazar, 'That one ought not to bless over the cup of blessing till water be mingled with it.' " The mingling of water with every cup was requisite FOR HEALTH, AND FOR THE AVOIDING OF DRUNKENNESS. We have before taken notice of a story of Rabban Gamaliel, who found and confessed some disorder of mind, and unfitness for serious business, by having drunk off an Italian quart of wine. These things being thus premised, concerning the paschal wine, we now return to observe this cup of our Saviour.” (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica; Lightfoot; Mt 26:27; electronic database) 

This assertion is also verified by early uninspired Christian writings . . . 

“And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday,76 all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president (this shows us one of the first evidences of a distinction being made in the eldership [approx AD 150] “president” here is thought to be referring to the presiding elder; KW). verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and WINE AND WATER are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability,77 and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given,78 and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration” (Justin Martyr; AD 150; Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p 185-186) 

This conclusion is also substantiated by the “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” . . . 

“1. Mixed Wine: (ISBE; “wine”)

“In Old Testament times wine was drunk undiluted, and wine mixed with water was thought to be ruined (Isa_1:22). The “mixed” or “mingled wines” (see I, 1, (5), above) were prepared with aromatic herbs of various sorts and some of these compounds, used throughout the ancient world, were highly intoxicating (Isa_5:22). Wine mixed with myrrh was stupefying and an anesthetic (Mar_15:23). At a later period, however, the Greek use of DILUTED WINES had attained such sway that the writer of 2 Maccabees speaks (15:39) of UNDILUTED WINE AS "DISTASTEFUL" (poleìmion). This dilution is so normal in the following centuries that the Mishna can take it for granted and, indeed, R. Eliezer even FORBADE SAYING THE TABLE-BLESSING OVER UNDILUTED WINE (Berākhōth 7 5). THE PORTION OF WATER WAS LARGE, ONLY ONE-THIRD TO ONE-FORTH OF THE TOTAL MIXTURE BEING WINE (Niddāh 2 7; Pesòāhòīm 108b).” (ISBE, “wine”, electronic database)

Also the practice of using water and wine mixed was and is still being observed today by the Catholic (apostate) church, as it has been for almost 2,000 years (since the ordinance was instituted in Christ's time).

So when and why did the practice of using grape juice begin? 

If we have the answer to this question then it is quite easy to see all the pieces of this puzzle and to put them together in one’s mind, for one can check the writings of the so called Protestant churches and see that all (including those of the restoration movement; churches of Christ, disciples of Christ) used wine (sadly to say most without the mixing of water) until sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries, surprisingly the answer to this question is found in what is widely known in this country as “Welch’s Grape Juice,” the origin of this product fits well in our study and completes the puzzle . . .

"A New York doctor named Thomas Welch (that’s right, the founder of Welch’s Grape Juice) was a devoted Methodist and prohibitionist. Welch was the first to apply the newly developed process of pasteurization to grape juice, so his pro-prohibition church could practice what it preached when it took communion. For the first 20 years of the company’s existence, their only customers were churches.

Jesus, of course, instituted the communion memorial during the “Last Supper” in the Upper Room, as He and His apostles celebrated the Passover meal. Although the Old Testament never specified that wine be part of the Passover observance, wine had become an integral part of the celebration long before the time of Christ. Jesus used the unleavened bread and wine there on the table to institute the Church’s holy feast. For almost all of the many centuries of church history since then, wine was used as part of the  communion (Eucharist) observance. However, that all changed in the 1800s, as a result of the temperance movement that swept through the United States and around the world.

In 1862, French scientist Louis Pasteur developed pasteurization, a process to kill harmful organisms in milk. In 1869, Welch applied the pasteurization process to grape juice, discovering that it was thereby possible to prevent juice from fermenting. His product was originally called “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine.” Thus the processed juice industry was born. What was Welch’s motivation? In addition to being a doctor and dentist, Welch was a Methodist minister and a staunch prohibitionist. Welch lived in the day of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (est. 1873) and Carrie Nation, the six-foot-tall, hatchet-wielding minister’s wife who launched her crusade against saloons in the 1890s. Welch’s son, Charles Welch, said his father “invented” grape juice “out of a passion to serve God by helping his church to give its communion as the fruit of the vine instead of the cup of devils.” In other words, Welch’s grape juice made holy communion holier.

Churches were slow to give up centuries of tradition and, as at least some saw it, the instructions of the Lord Himself, by switching from wine to grape juice. In 1892, Charles Welch changed the name of the beverage to “Welch’s Grape Juice” and began promoting the drink to the general public. He made great use of advertising, including a popular magazine ad featuring a young woman saying, “The lips that touch Welch’s are all that touch mine.”

William Jennings Bryan, a famous fundamentalist preacher and politician, was Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan drew further attention to Welch’s juice when he served it instead of fermented wine at a diplomatic function. Prohibition became the law of the land via the 18th Amendment in 1919, and by then, Welch’s juice was already a huge success.

Today many, perhaps most, Protestant churches continue to use grape juice rather than wine in their communion services.” 

With this information in hand what do you believe the truth is? Those that state that whoever contends for Jesus drinking and giving others wine makes Him out to be a bartender are weak in their defense of their position, that fact that some ancients could preserve juice in its unfermented state proves nothing but that, there is no evidence that any religious body (including the early church) every partook of such, yet I believe that it is likely that Christ never drank unmixed wine, but it is merely an opinion without evidence, but what I showed you is evidence, and the fact that we were not at the table with Christ when He instituted the Lord’s supper and therefore cannot be positively sure that He did not drink grape juice therein is a stretch at best, we need to follow the evidence and not a 100 year old tradition of man, for it is written (Mt 15:9) . . . 

Mat 15:9 But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. 

                                                                       "That in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written" 1 Cor 4:6

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