Your post says this:
“We have already mentioned that wine was universally used by the entire church for the first 1,800 years of her existence. During those years, there was never any suggestion that another drink should be used. In the early church, for example, we find clear testimony to the use of wine by such men as Justin Martyr (The First Apology, 65) and Clement of Alexandria (The Instructor, 2.2).”
True, but misleading, since it fails to mention the ancient practice (including 250 B.C. to A.D. 250) of using diluted wine. That fact is brought out clearly in both Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria. Read on!
First, let’s look at Charles Hodge’s comments in his Systematic Theology (volume 3, pages 617):”The Elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper…. In most churches, the wine used in the Lord’s Supper is mixed with water. The reasons assigned for this custom, are,
(1.) The eucharist having been instituted at the table of the Paschal supper, and the wine used in the Passover being mixed with water, it is morally certain that the wine used by Christ when instituting this sacrament, was also thus mixed. Hence it was inferred that his disciples in all ages should follow his example. That the Paschal cup contained wine mixed with water rests on the authority of Jewish writers. “It was the general practice of the Jews to dilute their wine with water….” It is certain, from the writings of the fathers, that this custom prevailed extensively in the primitive Church. As the Greeks and Romans were in the habit of mixing water with their wine on all ordinary occasions, it is the more natural that the same usage should prevail in the Church. It is still retained, both by Romanists [i.e., Roman Catholics] and by the Oriental [i.e., Eastern Orthodox] Church.
(2.) Besides this historical reason for the usage in question, it was urged that it adds to the appropriate significance of the ordinance. As water and blood flowed from the side of our Lord on the cross, it is proper, it is said, that water should be mixed with the wine in the service intended to be commemorative of his death….”
Note that Hodge — an advocate of the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper — indicates that “[i]n most churches, the wine used in the Lord’s Supper is mixed with water ….” for two reasons, one based on ancient practice (the “historical reason”) and the other based on “the appropriate significance of the ordinance.” (Hodge is using the word “significance” in its older meaning of a “symbol” or “sign” with a theological reference.)
Like Charles Hodge, Robert Stein — New Testament seminary professor and author of Difficult Passages in the New Testament (Baker, 1990, pp. 233-238) — believes that it “is obvious that the term wine in the Bible does not mean unfermented grape juice….” Stein provides many interesting specifics that support Charles Hodge’s references to “the Greeks and Romans,” “Jewish writers,” and “the writings of the [Church] fathers” on the “prevailing custom” of diluting wine with water:”
In ancient Greek culture, … [w]hat is important to note is that before wine was drunk, it was mixed with water…. The ratio of water to wine varied. Homer (Odyssey 9.208-9) mentions a ratio of twenty parts water to one part wine. Pliny (Natural History, 14.6.54) mentions a ratio of eight parts water to one part wine…. [Stein also mentions Hesiod (three to one), Alexis (four to one), Diocles (two to one), Ion (three to one), Nicochares (five to two), and Anacreon (two to one).] [As] a beverage [wine] was always thought of as a mixed drink. Plutarch (Symposiacs 3.9), for instance, states, ‘We call a mixture “wine,” although the larger of the component parts is water.’ The ratio of water might vary, but only barbarians drank wine unmixed, and a mixture of wine and water of equal parts was seen as ’strong drink’ and frowned upon. The term wine or oinos in the ancient Greek world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today, but wine mixed with water. Usually a writer simply referred to the mixture of water and wine as ‘wine.’…”
And we … have examples in both Jewish and Christian literature … that wine was likewise understood as being a mixture of wine and water. In several instances in the Old Testament a distinction is made between ‘wine’ and ’strong drink.’…. The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia (vol. 12, p. 533) states that in the rabbinic period at least, ‘ “yayin”‘ [wine] is to be distinguished from “shekar” [strong drink]: the former is diluted with water…; the latter is undiluted….’ In the Talmud, which contains the oral traditions of Judaism from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 200 (the Mishnah)…, there are several tractates in which the mixture of water and wine is discussed…. In a most important reference (Pesahim 108b) the writer states that the four cups every Jew was to drink during the Passover ritual were to be mixed in a ratio of three parts water to one part wine. From this we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that the fruit of the vine used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper was a mixture of three parts water to one part wine. In another Jewish reference from around 60 B.C. we read, ‘It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment’ (2 Macc.15:39). In ancient times there were not many beverages that were safe to drink…. The drinking of wine (i.e., a mixture of water and wine) served therefore as a safety measure, since often the water available was not safe….”The burden of proof … is surely upon anyone who would say that the wine of the New Testament is substantially different from the wine mentioned by the Greeks, the rabbis during the Talmudic period, and the early church fathers.
In the writings of the early church fathers it is clear that ‘wine’ means wine mixed with water. Justin Martyr around A.D. 150 described the Lord’s Supper in this way: ‘Bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president sends up prayers and thanksgiving’ (Apology 1.67.5)…. Cyprian around A.D. 250 stated….: ‘Nothing must be done by us but what the Lord first did on our behalf….. Thus, therefore, in considering the cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, even as wine alone cannot be offered….’ (Epistle 62.2, 11, 13). Here it is obvious that unmixed wine and plain water were both found unacceptable at the Lord’s Supper. A mixture of wine and water was the norm…. Earlier (the latter part of the second century) Clement of Alexandria had stated: ‘It is best for the wine to be mixed with as much water as possible…. To … the water, which is in the greatest quantity, there is to be mixed in some of the [wine]….” (Instructor, Book II, Chapter 2, page 243 [A.D. 182-212]).
If wine in Bible times had a maximum alcoholic content of 12% undiluted and if it is true that “we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that the fruit of the vine used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper was a mixture of three parts water to one part wine,” then that would put the alcohol content of wine used for the Lord’s Supper at 3% or less.