The historical roots of using grape juice in the place of wine are actually not rooted in theology but rooted in a man named Thomas Welch. Permit me to explain by sharing an excerpt from Craig Parton’s book, “The Defense Never Rests:”
“The development of pasteurized grape juice by Thomas Welch as a substitute for Communion wine is well documented. Welch, a pietistic, temperance-minded nineteenth-century Methodist, pioneered what is today a $650 million-a-year grape juice business, a business that benefited directly from Protestant churches in the nineteenth century caught up in the burgeoning temperance movement. Welch’s motivation in pasteurizing grape juice was utterly clear–he sought the end of the “scandal” of serving alcohol in the church. Perhaps just as fascinating, at the same time there began the first theological attempts at claiming that wine was not used in Communion in the New Testament and that Jesus was actually a teetotaler.” [Craig Parton “The Defense Never Rests,” (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2003), 142.]
For More Information On This Subject See:
- Richard Ostling, “Wine or Grape Juice: A Communion Conundrum,” Associated Press article, Salt Lake Tribune, 18 May, 2002.
- William Chazanof, Welch’s Grape Juice: From Corporation to Cooperative (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1977)
- Betty O’Brien, “The Lord’s Supper: Traditional Cup or Innovative Cups of Individuality,” Methodist History 32, no. 2 (January 1994): pp. 79-98.
- Pastor Hoffman’s Article: “God Revealed: What was in that cup? Why we use real wine and not grape juice in the Lord’s Supper.”
Hope that helps,
Pastor Matt Richard
Zion Lutheran Church