The UK Bible Students Website
All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version
– Matt. 26:27 –
A ‘The cup’ of which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper is referred to in the accounts of it as ‘the fruit [product] of the vine’ (v. 29; Mark 14: 25; Luke 22:18).
However, wine or drink of any description was not a prescribed feature of the original Passover, as set out in Exodus (12:1-14).
The practise was introduced later, but was a custom sufficiently established by Jesus’ day that He drew on it as a symbol of His blood (Matt. 26:28).
The bread prescribed for the original Passover meal was to be unleavened, and Jesus and the disciples would have honoured this tradition.
This might, therefore, suggest that the ‘fruit of the grapes’ also was unfermented. However, compare and contrast this idea with Deut. 28:7 which, in prescribing the drink offering with respect to the Tabernacle offerings, specifies ‘strong wine’; and Lev. 7:12, 13, where both unleavened (unfermented) and leavened (fermented) bread are prescribed as components of some offerings.
The long-standing practice of Bible Students (and others) has been to serve alcohol-free grape juice at the Memorial supper. In Studies in the Scriptures, The New Creation, Pastor Russell addressed this question in a footnote on p. 476 (italics added):
So far as we are able to judge, the Lord used fermented wine when he instituted this Memorial. Nevertheless, in view of his not specifying wine, but simply ‘fruit of the vine,’ and in view also of the fact that the alcoholic habit has obtained so great and so evil a power in our day, we believe we have the Lord’s approval in the use of unfermented grape juice, or raisin juice, to which, if convenient, a few drops of fermented wine may be added, so as to satisfy the consciences of any who might be inclined to consider that obedience to the Lord’s example would require the use of fermented wine. In this manner there will be no danger to any of the Lord’s brethren, even the weakest in the flesh.