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QUESTIONS  ABOUT  THE  EUCHARIST



This page responds to the following Protestant objections to Transubstantiation, the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at Mass.   (Either click on the specific argument or scroll down to read it.)

Protestant Argument 1:  Cannibalism
Protestant Argument 2:  Spirit means symbolic
Protestant Argument 3:  The flesh is of no avail
Protestant Argument 4:  “Eat my flesh” - “I am the door”   Both are symbolic.
Protestant Argument 5:  Leviticus 17:14 says not to drink blood

 


 

Cannibalism

 

Protestant Argument 1:
Jesus Christ could not have intended for us to eat His Flesh and Blood, because that would be cannibalism.

Catholic Response:  ( This is one Catholic’s attempt to defend what God has revealed through His Catholic Church.  I, of course, do not intend to speak for the Church.)

When Catholics celebrate the Lord’s Supper and consume His Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist it is not cannibalism.  That will be demonstrated farther down in this article, but let us first consider some preliminary points:

Three parts:

I.  The  Process  Used  To  Interpret  Scripture
II. What  Happened  In  The  Early  Church
III. Is  It  Cannibalism ?

 

I.  The  Process  Used  To  Interpret  Scripture

There is a worldly temptation to consider ourselves and our own opinion the final arbiter of what is right and what is wrong, to call it as WE see it.  This temptation can carry over into our determination of what Sacred Scripture means.  That is, we can choose to filter what God has said through our own understanding of what is right and proper.

If a person’s criteria for determining what Sacred Scripture means is:  “The Bible can only mean that which is valid according to my own understanding,”  that person is very easy prey for Satan.  Consider  1 Peter 5:8,  2 Peter 1:20,  2 Peter 3:16.  Footnote 1

God’s ways are far above our ways and our understanding of what seems to be right,  Cf. Romans  11:33-34.  Footnote 2

When God asks us to die to ourselves and to our deepest desires for the things of the earth, we will be susceptible to Satan’s deceptions if we judge those commands according to what seems right in our own mind since the dying part will hardly seem right in our own eyes.  No one wants to truly die to himself.

Hypothetically:  If Jesus’s statement:
“… he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day,” (John 6:54)
had been an instruction to engage in cannibalism, then for the Christian, cannibalism would have been a good thing.  We are not to determine what Jesus said according to our thinking of what is right and wrong, rather we are to adjust our thinking of what is right and wrong according to what Jesus told us to do.
 
 

II.  What  Happened  In  The  Early  Church
      And  What  Did  They   Believe

The early church was also falsely accused of endorsing cannibalism, Cf. Tertullian, The Apology, Chapter 7:1.  This is because the early church also taught that we are to literally eat and drink Christ’s Flesh and Blood.

See:  What the Early Church believed  (external link from Catholic Answers)

We will see later how this is not done in a cannibalistic manner, but the point here is that this false accusation should not sway us from accepting the Lord’s teaching.  Jesus Christ was falsely accused and He predicted that His Church would be treated the same way

See:  Christ and His Church are falsely accused.

The first Christian to suggest a figurative only interpretation of John’s Gospel chapter 6:41-69, was Berengarius of Tours (died 1088 AD.)  He later repented and came back to the Catholic Church.  Of course I am not including here Judas Iscariot who was the very first follower of Christ who did not believe Jesus when He said that we should eat His Flesh.

John 6:64-66  
“ ‘But there are some of you that do not believe.’   For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.   And he said,   ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’    After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.”

Even the Reformers Martin Luther and King Henry VIII believed that we are to literally eat and drink Christ’s Flesh and Blood.  It is only in recent times that this figurative only interpretation has become popular.  ( The early church fathers affirmed the literal meaning of  John 6.  See link to early church writers above.  Please read what they actually said, not just what others claimed the early church believed.)
 
 

III.   Is  It  Cannibalism
 

What is the Eucharist ?
In Catholic Eucharistic celebrations Christ’s Body is truly and substantially present,  not in a natural way but in supernatural, i.e. miraculous way.  It is the same as in the Last Supper when Christ changed the substance of the bread and wine, but not its form,  into His Flesh and Blood.  So, the   *FORM*   of the Eucharist, which does not change, is bread and wine.
 

What is cannibalism ?
Cannibalism is to eat food, but not just any food.  For it to be cannibalism the   *FORM*   of the food has to be meat and or blood of one’s own species.  Since the   *FORM*   of the Eucharist is not meat or blood it cannot be cannibalism.

So, the determining factor is the form of the food.  If a person eats a dead man, that would be cannibalism.  If, on the other hand, a lion nourishes himself by eating several people, and then a month later a hunter comes along and kills and eats that lion, that would not be cannibalism.


 

Spirit means symbolic  ???

 

Protestant Argument 2:

In John 6:63 Jesus said that his words are “spirit and life.”  By the word “spirit”  He means that they are only symbolic.

Catholic response:

A fundamental flaw in this reasoning is that the word  “spirit”  is never used in the Bible to mean symbolic.
John 4:24 says  “God is spirit …”

Using this definition for the word  “spirit”  would force that same Protestant to conclude that God does not really exist, but rather is only symbolic of something else.


 

The flesh is of no avail

 

Protestant Argument 3:
Jesus words  “the flesh is of no avail” (John 6:63)  means that we do not have to eat His Flesh.

Catholic response:

The references to “the flesh” and “my flesh” mean two different things.  Whereas, if the Protestant assumption that they mean the same thing were true it would prove too much.  It would mean His Incarnation, His death on the cross, and His bodily resurrection all account for nothing.

The Protestant argument would make nonsense out of Jesus’ words.   “You must eat my flesh to have eternal life, but it is just a waste of time ???”   

Note that Jesus is referring to   “the flesh”  as opposed to  “my flesh”  that He had spoken of earlier.  The meaning of the phrase  “the flesh”  can be seen by looking how it is used else where in Sacred Scripture.  It means that which is of purely human origin without the aid of God’s grace.  Cf.  Galatians 5: 16-22  and Romans 8:9  1 Corinthians 2:9 - 3:3.  Footnote 4.

He just said that we had to eat His Flesh in John 6:50-51.  When the Jews ask how this can be, Jesus repeats his command to eat His Flesh not once or twice but three more times in verses 53, 54, and 56.   (Cf. John 6 verses 50-52, 53, 54, and 56. Footnote 3)

And to further emphasis His point He says in
John 6:55  “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”

In verse 60 the Jews say that it is hard to accept.  (The Greek word used here is  “skleros”  which means “hard to accept”  not “hard to understand.”)  After this Jesus says
John 6:63-64   “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.   But there are some of you that do not believe.”
 

The Pharisees were trying to evaluate Jesus words by their own fleshly and natural judgment.   They were thinking without faith and by their own fallen human nature with all of its pride, selfish desires and tendencies toward sin.   That is why Jesus says that we can only come to have faith in Him and accept His words as true only by the aide of God’s grace, John 6:65.

Further, the contention offered by some Protestants that Jesus was refuting the literal meaning of His words runs into serious theological contradictions.  Jesus said:

John 6:63-64  
“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.   But there are some of you that do not believe.”

If Jesus had been intending that we understand Him to be referring to His own flesh in the phrase, “the flesh is of no avail”  this would contradict several other Scriptural passages.

John 1:14
“And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.”

Ephesians 2:13-16
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,
15 abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace,
16 and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.”

Colossians 1:21-22
“And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds  he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him ...”

Therefore, Jesus was not referring to His own flesh in John 6:63, but rather He was explaining why the worldly thinking of the Pharisee’s prevented them from believing in the truth that He had just said.

John 6:60-65
“Then many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’
61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them,  ‘Does this shock you?
62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you who do not believe.’   Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.
65 And he said,  ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.’ ”

Only by God’s grace can we believe in what Jesus said because it goes beyond our common human understanding of things.  Jesus’ words have spirit and life (John 6:63.)  What did He tell us to do ?  To eat His Flesh and drink His Blood.  We thereby receive the Holy Spirit who has transformed the bread and wine into the Body, and Blood, the Soul and the Divinity of Jesus Christ and who gives us everlasting life.


 

“Eat my flesh” – “I am the door”   Both are symbolic.

 

Protestant Argument 4:
“Eat my flesh” - “I am the door”
Both are symbolic.

Catholic response:

When Jesus says  “I am the door”  or  “I am the vine”  those words by their very nature  have obvious symbolic parallels that apply to Christ.  However, when Christ takes bread and says  “This is My Body”  it really becomes His Body.  Bread is in no way like flesh.  Its very nature cannot symbolize the actual Body of Christ.

Besides Jesus always explained his symbolic speech or parables to His disciples.
Mark 4:34   “ … he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”    Cf. Mat 16:5-12,  John 3:3,  4: 31-34,  10:1,6,9

To make Himself perfectly clear He says in
John 6:55  “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”

Jesus' followers left him precisely because His words were hard to accept.

Jesus followers understand Him in a literal sense and some leave Him and follow Him no more because this saying is just to hard to accept. And, it is the literal meaning that is hard to accept. Without the gift of faith we cannot follow Him.  John 6: 52, 60, 64-66.  If Jesus was speaking symbolically He would have been morally obligated to explicitly say so.  HE  DOES  NOT.  He just says to those remaining   “Do you also wish to go away?”    John 6:67

See More Details from Catholic Answers



 

 

Leviticus 17:14 says not to drink blood

 

Protestant Argument 5:
Leviticus 17:14 says not to drink blood or you will be cut off !

Leviticus 17:14   “… I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.”

 

Catholic response:

Yes !!!   We must be cut off  !!!

Jews and everyone is born in the family of Adam.  We must be cut off from Adams family and be grafted into Christ’s family.  We must be cut off from the Old Covenant and its laws so that we can get into the New Covenant.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22
“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

To be  “cut off”  means to die.  Cf. Isaiah 53:8
“… he was taken away … he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”
Also see  Job 27:8  Footnote 5.

We must be cut off.  That is we must die to ourselves in order to live for Christ.

Luke 9:23-24
“And he said to all,   ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.   For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.’ ”

Romans 7:1-6
“ Are you unaware, brothers … that the law has jurisdiction over one as long as one lives? …
4 In the same way, my brothers, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. …
6 But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter.”  NAB

Saint Paul compares Adam’s sin to Christ’s reward in

Romans 5:15-19
“But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. …
17 For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
18 In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.
19 For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.”   NAB



 

Footnote 1

1 Peter 5:8  
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.”

2 Peter 1:20  
“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”

2 Peter 3:16   
“There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”

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Footnote 2
Romans 11:33-34  
“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ”
 

Isaiah 55:9 
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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Footnote 3

John 6:39-66
 “ ... and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41  The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.”42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”43 Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves.44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’  Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.48 I am the bread of life.49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.51 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.”
52  The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”53 So Jesus said to them, “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;54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caperna-um.
60  Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?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.64 But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  66  After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” 
RSV

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Footnote 4

Galatians 5:16-22
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.   For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.   …  (19)   Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …”

Romans 8:9 
“But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

1 Corinthians 2:9 - 3:3
“But, as it is written,
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him,’    God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.   For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.   Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.   And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.
   The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.   The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.   ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’   But we have the mind of Christ.
3:1  But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ.   I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?”

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Footnote 5

Job 27:8  
“For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts him off, when God takes away his life?”

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Footnote 6

The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. In fact, NO Christian denied the literal interpretation in over six hundred years of the early church.

In summarizing the early Fathers’ teachings on Christ’s Real Presence, renowned Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly, writes: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

Read what early church said at :

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-real-presence


Problems with supposed symbolic interpretation.

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” (O’Brien, The Faith of Millions, 215). For an example of this use, see Micah 3:3.


Paul confirms literal interpretation


1 Corinthians 10:16
“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? Paul’s comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.
 

Read More at:
http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist
 

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