Skip to comments.Christ in the Eucharist (Ecumenical)
Posted on 12/29/2012 2:41:32 PM PST by narses
Protestant attacks on the Catholic Church often focus on the Eucharist. This demonstrates that opponents of the Churchmainly Evangelicals and Fundamentalistsrecognize one of Catholicisms core doctrines. Whats more, the attacks show that Fundamentalists are not always literalists. This is seen in their interpretation of the key biblical passage, chapter six of Johns Gospel, in which Christ speaks about the sacrament that will be instituted at the Last Supper. This tract examines the last half of that chapter.
John 6:30 begins a colloquy that took place in the synagogue at Capernaum. The Jews asked Jesus what sign he could perform so that they might believe in him. As a challenge, they noted that "our ancestors ate manna in the desert." Could Jesus top that? He told them the real bread from heaven comes from the Father. "Give us this bread always," they said. Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." At this point the Jews understood him to be speaking metaphorically.
Again and Again
Jesus first repeated what he said, then summarized: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (John 6:5152).
His listeners were stupefied because now they understood Jesus literallyand correctly. He again repeated his words, but with even greater emphasis, and introduced the statement about drinking his blood: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:5356).
Notice that Jesus made no attempt to soften what he said, no attempt to correct "misunderstandings," for there were none. Our Lords listeners understood him perfectly well. They no longer thought he was speaking metaphorically. If they had, if they mistook what he said, why no correction?
On other occasions when there was confusion, Christ explained just what he meant (cf. Matt. 16:512). Here, where any misunderstanding would be fatal, there was no effort by Jesus to correct. Instead, he repeated himself for greater emphasis.
In John 6:60 we read: "Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" These were his disciples, people used to his remarkable ways. He warned them not to think carnally, but spiritually: "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63; cf. 1 Cor. 2:1214).
But he knew some did not believe. (It is here, in the rejection of the Eucharist, that Judas fell away; look at John 6:64.) "After this, many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66).
This is the only record we have of any of Christs followers forsaking him for purely doctrinal reasons. If it had all been a misunderstanding, if they erred in taking a metaphor in a literal sense, why didnt he call them back and straighten things out? Both the Jews, who were suspicious of him, and his disciples, who had accepted everything up to this point, would have remained with him had he said he was speaking only symbolically.
But he did not correct these protesters. Twelve times he said he was the bread that came down from heaven; four times he said they would have "to eat my flesh and drink my blood." John 6 was an extended promise of what would be instituted at the Last Supperand it was a promise that could not be more explicit. Or so it would seem to a Catholic. But what do Fundamentalists say?
They say that in John 6 Jesus was not talking about physical food and drink, but about spiritual food and drink. They quote John 6:35: "Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." They claim that coming to him is bread, having faith in him is drink. Thus, eating his flesh and blood merely means believing in Christ.
But there is a problem with that interpretation. As Fr. John A. OBrien explains, "The phrase to eat the flesh and drink the blood, when used figuratively among the Jews, as among the Arabs of today, meant to inflict upon a person some serious injury, especially by calumny or by false accusation. To interpret the phrase figuratively then would be to make our Lord promise life everlasting to the culprit for slandering and hating him, which would reduce the whole passage to utter nonsense" (OBrien, The Faith of Millions, 215). For an example of this use, see Micah 3:3.
Fundamentalist writers who comment on John 6 also assert that one can show Christ was speaking only metaphorically by comparing verses like John 10:9 ("I am the door") and John 15:1 ("I am the true vine"). The problem is that there is not a connection to John 6:35, "I am the bread of life." "I am the door" and "I am the vine" make sense as metaphors because Christ is like a doorwe go to heaven through himand he is also like a vinewe get our spiritual sap through him. But Christ takes John 6:35 far beyond symbolism by saying, "For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55).
He continues: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (John 6:57). The Greek word used for "eats" (trogon) is very blunt and has the sense of "chewing" or "gnawing." This is not the language of metaphor.
Their Main Argument
For Fundamentalist writers, the scriptural argument is capped by an appeal to John 6:63: "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." They say this means that eating real flesh is a waste. But does this make sense?
Are we to understand that Christ had just commanded his disciples to eat his flesh, then said their doing so would be pointless? Is that what "the flesh is of no avail" means? "Eat my flesh, but youll find its a waste of time"is that what he was saying? Hardly.
The fact is that Christs flesh avails much! If it were of no avail, then the Son of God incarnated for no reason, he died for no reason, and he rose from the dead for no reason. Christs flesh profits us more than anyone elses in the world. If it profits us nothing, so that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ are of no avail, then "your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (1 Cor. 15:17b18).
In John 6:63 "flesh profits nothing" refers to mankinds inclination to think using only what their natural human reason would tell them rather than what God would tell them. Thus in John 8:1516 Jesus tells his opponents: "You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me." So natural human judgment, unaided by Gods grace, is unreliable; but Gods judgment is always true.
And were the disciples to understand the line "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life" as nothing but a circumlocution (and a very clumsy one at that) for "symbolic"? No one can come up with such interpretations unless he first holds to the Fundamentalist position and thinks it necessary to find a rationale, no matter how forced, for evading the Catholic interpretation. In John 6:63 "flesh" does not refer to Christs own fleshthe context makes this clearbut to mankinds inclination to think on a natural, human level. "The words I have spoken to you are spirit" does not mean "What I have just said is symbolic." The word "spirit" is never used that way in the Bible. The line means that what Christ has said will be understood only through faith; only by the power of the Spirit and the drawing of the Father (cf. John 6:37, 4445, 65).
Paul Confirms This
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16). So when we receive Communion, we actually participate in the body and blood of Christ, not just eat symbols of them. Paul also said, "Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor. 11:27, 29). "To answer for the body and blood" of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide. How could eating mere bread and wine "unworthily" be so serious? Pauls comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.
What Did the First Christians Say?
Anti-Catholics also claim the early Church took this chapter symbolically. Is that so? Lets see what some early Christians thought, keeping in mind that we can learn much about how Scripture should be interpreted by examining the writings of early Christians.
Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110, said, referring to "those who hold heterodox opinions," that "they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again" (6:2, 7:1).
Forty years later, Justin Martyr, wrote, "Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66:120).
Origen, in a homily written about A.D. 244, attested to belief in the Real Presence. "I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence" (Homilies on Exodus 13:3).
Cyril of Jerusalem, in a catechetical lecture presented in the mid-300s, said, "Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Masters declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the body and blood of Christ" (Catechetical Discourses: Mystagogic 4:22:9).
In a fifth-century homily, Theodore of Mopsuestia seemed to be speaking to todays Evangelicals and Fundamentalists: "When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, This is the symbol of my body, but, This is my body. In the same way, when he gave the cup of his blood he did not say, This is the symbol of my blood, but, This is my blood, for he wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic elements], after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit, not according to their nature, but to receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord" (Catechetical Homilies 5:1).
Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally. In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.
Why do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals reject the plain, literal interpretation of John 6? For them, Catholic sacraments are out because they imply a spiritual realitygracebeing conveyed by means of matter. This seems to them to be a violation of the divine plan. For many Protestants, matter is not to be used, but overcome or avoided.
One suspects, had they been asked by the Creator their opinion of how to bring about mankinds salvation, Fundamentalists would have advised him to adopt a different approach. How much cleaner things would be if spirit never dirtied itself with matter! But God approves of matterhe approves of it because he created itand he approves of it so much that he comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine, just as he does in the physical form of the Incarnate Christ.
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors. Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004 IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827 permission to publish this work is hereby granted. +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004
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Just so. If Jesus didn’t really mean what he said, then why did he let so many of his disciples leave? And why would they leave, unless they took his words literally but refused to accept them?
This question is at the very heart of the difference between Catholics and Protestants.
Although I believe in transubstantiation I am pretty sure if I had been in the crowd listening to Jesus say that we should eat his flesh and drink his blood I would have thought “that’s it I’m outta here, what a whackjob.”
Reading a book on Eucharistic Miracles helped to firm up my belief in the Real Presence, though it left me wondering if at the next communion the accidents of bread and wine would turn into the real thing like it did in some cases. I told my friend, who gave me the book, that if that ever happens to me I am going to FREAK OUT, and he said that if that happened to me he would freak out too.
This question is at the very heart of the difference between Catholics and Protestants.Precisely!
Imho, all that narses did was to acknowledge that he posted the article. Is that a problem?
2 Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
In that case we can only keep posting truth for those who lurk but dont post.
Here are some important verses in John 6:
1-6 After this Jesus crossed the Lake of Galilee (or Lake Tiberias), and a great crowd followed him because they had seen signs which he gave in his dealings with the sick. But Jesus went up the hillside and sat down there with his disciples. The Passover, the Jewish festival, was near. So Jesus, raising his eyes and seeing a great crowd on the way towards him, said to Philip, Where can we buy food for these people to eat? (He said this to test Philip, for he himself knew what he was going to do.)
7 Ten pounds worth of bread would not be enough for them, Philip replied, even if they had only a little each.
8-9 Then Andrew, Simon Peters brother, another disciple, put in, There is a boy here who has five small barley loaves and a couple of fish, but whats the good of that for such a crowd?
10a Then Jesus said, Get the people to sit down.
10b-12 There was plenty of grass there, and the men, some five thousand of them, sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks for them and distributed them to the people sitting on the grass, and he distributed the fish in the same way, giving them as much as they wanted. When they had eaten enough, Jesus said to his disciples, Collect the pieces that are left over so that nothing is wasted.
13-14 So they did as he suggested and filled twelve baskets with the broken pieces of the five barley loaves, which were left over after the people had eaten! When the men saw this sign of Jesus power, they kept saying, This certainly is the Prophet who was to come into the world!
15 Then Jesus, realising that they were going to carry him off and make him their king, retired once more to the hill-side quite alone...
... Some other small boats from Tiberias had landed quite near the place where they had eaten the food and the Lord had given thanks. When the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor the disciples were there any longer, they themselves got into the boats and went off to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they had found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, Master, when did you come here?
26-27 Believe me, replied Jesus, you are looking for me now not because you saw my signs but because you ate that food and had all you wanted. You should not work for the food which does not last but for the food which lasts on into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you, and he is the one who bears the stamp of God the Father.
Context is a wonderful thing. When Jesus talked about bread, he was referring BACK to the miracle of the previous day, and the one that had brought so many followers to him. None of what he said would make sense to ANY listener as referring to the Last Supper, which was a few years away...
I will add that it should be obvious that taking the Bible literally means that it is taken so when written, but not such as when metaphor is used, so that we neither believe that water has turned into blood even though David regarded it as such, (2Sam. 23:15-17, ) or that the Promised Land was a land that eateth up the inhabitants,” or that “the people of the land...are bread for us (Num. 13:32; 14:9), or thart Jeremiah did not literally eat God’s words when he said, “thy words were found. and I ate them,” (Jer. 15:16), nor Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:1) or John. (Rev. 10:8-9)
Those who insist on this kind of literalism have eaten the fruit of lies. (Prv. 10:13)
But what the basic literal hermeneutic of SS does require is that of taking historical accounts as literal events, but which officially sanctioned Roman Catholic scholarship denies, right in her own Bible: http://www.peacebyjesus.net/Ancients_on_Scripture.html#Remarks
you can lead a anti catholic ‘elitest’ to water, but you cant make him drink...
history, the bible and the early church and fathers speak out clearly and loudly against the protestant view, those who go against that history...will be the big losers in the end.
absolutely hilarious that 2000 years removed from THOSE WHO LIVED IT, WALKED AND TALKED with the apostles and church fathers, laid the foundations of the church, and learned through Sacred traditions of the teaching church, about the REAL PRESENCE, that folks can sit here on this board and others with their edited kjv and pretend to know more than those who were there...
seriously, what unmitigated gall.
No author was listed. What are you claiming is wrong with me posting this?
It appears all you have is — ‘tain’t so. But the clear words of Our Lord disagree with you.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16).
Paul also said, “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).
“To answer for the body and blood” of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide. How could eating mere bread and wine “unworthily” be so serious? Pauls comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.
I’m not sure what your problem is. The link to the source is right at the top.
I followed the link in your post #5 and skimmed over the arguments made against the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.
It sure takes a lot of wrangling of verses and words to explain away the plain words of Jesus and the early Christians writers.
It is Rome that is elitists, autocratically declaring she is infallible, while other sola ecclessia churches (Mormons and the like) make the same threats.
The real “losers” are those who follow those who presume of themselves more than what is written, including that even being the stewards of Holy Writ and inheritor of the promises makes them assuredly infallible, such as whenever they speak according to their infallibly defined formula.