A common argument in favor for the Eucharist questioned


It’s a common argument among Catholic apologists to say that, when Jesus was telling his disciples about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” (soon after the event of the multiplying of loaves and fishes) that He didn’t elaborate that it was symbolic or anything. He allowed them to walk away from him without another word. Therefore, he must have meant literal flesh and blood.

What about the time when Jesus was telling the pharisees about “raising the temple after three days”? Why wouldn’t he elaborate then?

Now, I’m not questioning the validity of the Eucharist. I’m simply questioning the strength of this argument which, at this point, seems to be rather weak.



Two very different audiences: His own disciples in the first case, who left Him over the doctrine, and willfully blind Pharisees on the other, not interested in following Him in the first place.


The OP’s question was an interesting one - this was an excellent response. Thanks! Of course, there are also many other verses (particularly in Paul’s letters) which also support the real presence in the Eucharist (and thus further support the Catholic interpretation of the verses in John’s gospel) - as well as a strong witness in the writings of the early Church Fathers including some who were direct disciples of the apostles. Ultimately, we have the Magesterium itself (although a Protestant would dismiss the latter).




When Jesus explained the Eucharist three times in John 6 he was speaking to his followers, his disciples. He wanted to be sure they understood clearly what he was saying. When Jesus spoke to the Jews about raising the Temple of his Body however, he knew they would never understand. The Jews were thinking of earthly things and Jesus knew they would not believe because of the hardness of their hearts.

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matthew 13:13)

The reason why he explained anything at all to the Jews was for the benefit of his disciples.

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19-22)



Loads of non-literal things in Scriptures, including the quoted words of Jesus, aren’t flagged up.

He was asking them to take part in His reconciling action - and those who walked away knew what He meant.

In this case it is literal as well but the literal meaning depends solely on the former.


It’s important to remember that Jesus as well as all of his disciples were Jewish. Jesus, as well as his mother were devout Jews.

It was a very difficult teaching about the Eucharist. Eating flesh and drinking blood. Who on earth could follow such a person? Now we can look back and say here is what he was saying, but at the time he must have sounded like a mad man. Of course his apostles stayed with him as who else had the words of everlasting life, but this was probably a decisive point for Judas.


Jesus was being literal when he was talking about destroying the temple. He was talking about himself as the temple. Jesus really did die and on the third day he really did rise from the dead. That was not symbolic.

“But he spoke of the temple of his body.” (John 2:19) The Pharisees thought he was talking about the temple building when he was literally talking about his own body.

But, anyways there is big difference with the bread of life discourse in John 6. Have you read it? Jesus literally says unless you eat his flesh and drink his blood you have no life in you and he says this a number of times just in case you didn’t get it the first time. In order to treat it as symbolic you have to bend over backwards to ignore what Jesus is saying.

“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.” (John 6:51)

““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; 54he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For 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. 57As 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.”” (John 6:53-58)

Now, you might read that and think how could Jesus give us his flesh to eat? That’s what they asked in verse 52.

Which takes more faith? To receive Jesus symbolically or to receive him actually in the Eucharist?

The Eucharist has symbolic and a literal elements to it. Similarly, Jesus talking about his body as the temple is both symbolic and literal.


[quote=roseproject]It’s a common argument among Catholic apologists to say that, when Jesus was telling his disciples about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” (soon after the event of the multiplying of loaves and fishes) that ***He didn’t elaborate that it was symbolic or anything. ***

That’s not entirely accurate. Jesus actually DID explain and clarify this teaching in v. 61-63
Too often that explanation is misunderstood or unclear. But it proves that Jesus DID explain this further in a way that SHOULD have reassured them that he was NOT talking about cannibalism.


Please stop. I know that Jesus was Jewish. :rolleyes:

The Bible itself uses the term “the Jews” to identify the audience who questioned Jesus about rebuilding the temple.

The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18:22)

The Bible itself makes the distinction between “The Jews” and “The disciples”. The term “The Jews” is used seventy five times in the four Gospels.



No offense meant to you. Clearly, referring to Jesus’ opponents as the Jews is outdated and misleading even though that is how they are named in the gospels which were written in a later period of hostilities toward Jesus’ followers. Jesus and his disciples were Jewish during his ministry and taught and ministered to other Jews. Now is quite a turnaround to how things used to be, as my early Catholic teachings were very anti-semitic. Pope Francis has proclaimed that it is not necessary to evangelize the Jews any longer. The Jews are no longer our enemies. :slight_smile:


The teaching on the Eucharist and Jesus explanation in Jn6:61-63 can only be understood after his passion and resurrection. Anyone following Jesus after this teaching and before his passion and resurrection possessed tremendous faith. I honestly think that I would have turned my back and walked away shaking my head.


I am no apologist, but Jesus hard teaching on the Eucharist, which allowed many of his followers to walk away leaves no doubt he was referring to his flesh and his blood literally. It certainly is no weak argument. The weakness is on those who refuse to face what he says and want to water it down by saying it must be symbolic. Later at the actual Last Supper, he leaves no doubt about it when he offers up his blood and body in actual sacrifice.


Anyone that wants to argue that Jesus was speaking symbolically in John 6 has to do backflips to get around John 6:51

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Jesus specifically says that the bread that he will give to them to eat is the same bread that he will give for the life of the world, which is his flesh.

If he was speaking symbolically about eating his flesh, then he was also speaking symbolically about offering his life for atonement.

It is either both literal or both symbolic in this one sentence. No Christian holds that the atonement was symbolic, which means the flesh he gives as bread is not symbolic either.


It’s pretty hard to be objective about it 2000 yrs. later. :wink:

The Evangelist may not have recorded the entire conversation, or, what we do have may not be exactly what the Evangelist said.

My point was that Jesus did offer a partial explanation in order to dispel their carnal imaginings and yet still remain a test of Faith.

But you’re also right, that it did take Faith (no more than what Peter, all the Apostles, and all the rest of the disciples had.) The full revelation was not to be given until the Last Supper.

If you believe in the Sacramental presence today, in the Eucharist, I believe you would have had the Faith to believe Jesus in the flesh then. :wink:


I can’t say for sure what you might do, but then if you had seen him actually calming a storm in the middle of the sea, or healing a man who had never seen before, or change 125 gallons of water into wine, or multiply food to feed 5000, or raise people back to life, or just plain walk with him, and so on, you might just believe. But you weren’t there so in view of all of this, you still may well have believed it without twitching an eye just as Peter did.

We believe in the Holy Trinity; 3 distinct persons not separate … that’s a big one. Do you believe it? I believe one thing…we believe more than we give ourselves credit for. Because God gave us the power to do so…faith.

So don’t be too hard on yourself…you love him and he loves you and the rest is easy.


Thank you for your kind sentiments, but I am not hard on myself. I do believe in the Holy Trinity. Do you believe in Jesus because of his miracles? Even today we have a miracle for modern man to see, the Shroud of Turin. Yet, few people believe. Not even a photograph of the crucified Lord at the moment of his resurrection is enough for people to believe.
For some reason, I cannot add to this thought and will continue later…


Another point that I do not think has been mentioned yet is that Jesus tell the audience that if they find that teaching (to eat is body and drink His blood) difficult to believe in then what will they make of it when they see the Son of Man ascending to Heaven. Of course Jesus did after the resurrection end up ascending to Heaven. Both teachings are literal.

Someone did quote the section of scripture that states the Eucharistic doctrine is of the Spirit, but to just reaffirm here spirit does not equal symbolic. No where in scripture is spirit ever considered symbolic or else God Himself would be considered symbolic and that is absurd.


For some reason, I could not type another line, but all seems well now.
Jesus appeared as a man. In his mission, he and his disciples travelled from town to town for three years pretty much repeating the same things over and over again. That is why there are so many different versions of what Jesus had to say. And how his disciples managed to remember his teachings and his stories.
If every so often he did a miracle or two, after a while, so what. Jesus knew where he was going and what his end plan was. He explained the importance of the Eucharist in advance to basically ignorant and uneducated persons who listened to him preaching as a man.
How could you, Fred, an educated man, listen and follow a person who was claiming that you had to eat his body and drink his blood to remain his follower. How could you know what that means? The disciples remained with him , with only one, Judas Iscariot, who was now turned against him. This is the most amazing miracle of them all.:slight_smile:


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