I had a conversation with my Protestant friend Jason. In his interpretation of John 6 he says that Jesus was referring to how intimate the relationship was supposed to be between Him and them, not the Eucharist. The Jews turned this into an issue of eating a human but Jesus kept insisting on the intimate relationship and thought “if they don’t except my hyperbole, they don’t trust me.” How would you respond to that. Right now I have no counter to Jason.
Words are twisted. Scripture is twisted. When someone says “What Jesus really meant here was…” they are inventing theology on a personal level. They are indulging themselves and their ego. All of the reformers held that the Eucharist was revealed not only in John 6, but also in the last supper narratives as well as in the writings of Saint Paul and even in the Didache. Once departing from revealed truth, the reformers differed vociferously on the meaning and content of the Eucharist. Today that has devolved even into the occasional condemnation of the Eucharist as idolatry.
The New Testament is called the New Testament for a single reason - but not what many think. Our Lord used those exact words at the pinnacle of His earthly ministry - the last supper. If you check the KJV or the Douay-Rheims, you see that “New Testament” was used to describe one thing: the Eucharist!
When talking to a protestant, you can bring up the common (and probably correct) protestant assumption that the Bible should be interpreted in the most literal way that common sense will allow. When Jesus says then “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (verse 35), what is the most literal interpretation of this, given that Jesus had just been talking about life giving bread? Verse 53 cements the argument: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” Could that be any clearer? You would have to engage in mental gymnastics to make that verse mean anything other than that you must consume the Body and Blood of Christ (at least once you take it with the descriptions in the various Gospels of the Last Supper).
If Jesus’ language was meant to be a metaphor only, he picked a really strange one that was sure to repel his Jewish listeners. For them, the idea of drinking any blood was something that would make them ritually impure and drive the further from God. For Jesus to use this as a metaphor for being closer to God would be very odd.
Plus, when the listeners pushed back and asked him to clarify, Jesus intensified his language. The word he used for “eat” was what we might refer to as “gnaw” like a cow gnaws on a piece of cud.
Finally, when some of his listeners—people who had been following him up to this point—walked away because of the hardness of the saying, Jesus did not chase after them saying, “Wait, you misunderstood! I was only speaking metaphorically!” He didn’t even turn to his apostles and explain to them that it was really just a metaphor. He turned to them and asked “Are you going to leave, too?”
If you’re looking for more scriptural basis of the Eucharist, I would recommend going to Brant Pitre’s site: theholyeucharist.com/. He’s got a 72 minute video where he lays out the biblical case for the Eucharist paying particular attention to what the understanding of Jesus’ original Jewish audience would have been to the Bread of Life discourse. Good stuff.
I don’t know about mental gymnastics. Jason my friend said, like I wrote, that Jesus went to stronger language to emphasis how close the relationship was supposed to be and the Jews through up their hands and said “cannibal!” I don’t see how to refute him without looking at other passages of the Bible. St Paul said Jesus became sin, yet that was hyperbole. I like rock solid arguments and try always not to be sloppy
Why would they do that? If they believed, and were correct in believing, that he was speaking metaphorically, why accuse him of speaking literally? Why walk away from the guy you had previously been following over it? Because it is fun to pretend to misunderstand him, make accusations, and storm off?
I encourage you to watch the video in the link I posted above. If you’re looking for more details, you’re going to need to look places that can spend more time on it than usually happens in a forum thread here.
This is the problem with bypassing the Church Christ established to decide matters of faith and morals and wing it on our own, isn’t it? Your friend simply doesn’t want to believe in the Eucharist, so he has to deny the plain meaning of the text in order to make it fit his beliefs.
Having said that, the Church doesn’t base her teachings on any particular Bible passages. The Bible, in this case the NT, is the witness to the truths the Church teaches, but we don’t scour the NT looking for “proof” for anything–because we look to the Church to determine doctrine as well as correct scriptural interpretation.
So, your friend will not/cannot agree that John 6 says anything about the Eucharist. It doesn’t fit into his belief system, therefore John 6 doesn’t say what it says but rather must be figurative only. While for Catholics John 6 is both figurative and literal. We don’t have to read passages as either/or. We can see all the ways it can be interpreted and draw from each one. We can do that because we have the Church to define doctrine–we don’t rely on our personal interpretation of Scripture, which can be faulty and/or misled–like your friend’s is.
I agree that private interpretation is nonsense. My friend Jason is becoming a pastor and I thought his counter to my use of John 6 was strong. Maybe the jews didn’t want to be so close to Jesus that it would be like eating his flesh. The rock of my belief in apologetics though is that the Bible needs an interpreter. I totally agree with that
…the problem with Jason, and most non-Catholics, is that they live in complete seclusion… their understanding is glued to their forefather’s (creators) and what they believed… they are disengaged from the Church that Christ founded and refuse to understand the very Sacred Scriptures that they claim to obey outside of their founders stipulations ('if it’s Catholic, it is wrong).
Let’s look at the passage (paraphrased):
Jesus: eat my flesh
Jews: say what?
Jesus: unless you eat my flesh you can’t have part of Me (Salvation)
Jews: wait, eat your flesh… hey, we are not cannibals… no way no how will we do that!
Jesus: unless you chew/gnaw my flesh and drink my blood there’s no Life in you for my Flesh is Real Food, and my Blood Real Drink
Jews: aw, come on! …we can’t follow you… see you!
Did Jesus change His Teaching on the eating of His Flesh? Was Jesus so limited that He could not understand that they were taking Him literally? If Jesus was being metaphorical (using hyperbole/exaggerated language) why did He not change His “presentation” or run after them to explain that He was not being literal? Why did the Twelve remain? Why did they not ask for clarification? Why did Jesus not break it down to the Twelve as having been misunderstood?
Finally, why did St. Paul teach that Breaking of the Bread is in deed an Ordination from Christ and that it is not a symbolic practice:
[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]23 For** this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you**
: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, 24 and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me’. 25 In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ 26 Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, 27 and so anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily towards the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; 29 because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)
Let’s break this passage down:
St. Paul Receives Christ Delegation about the Eucharist, which he then, as the rest of the Apostles, pass down to the Believers
Jesus Institutes the Sacrament of the Eucharist which must remain permanent until His Parousia (Second Coming)
St. Paul correctly relates Jesus Salvific Act on the Cross to His Body and Blood–as Celebrated in the Catholic Mass, around the world, daily
St. Paul then makes the connection: anyone who Receives the Sacrament unworthily acts unworthily towards the Body and Blood of Christ
Finally, St. Paul, ups the ante: anyone that does not recognize (Believe and Accept) that Christians are in deed Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ receive it (through the act of consumption or through rejection–this is my personal intimation) for his/her own condemnation!
Could “Christians,” fifteen hundred years removed, know and understand better than Christ’s own Apostles His Commands and Delegations?
If the Church, obedient to Apostolic Teaching, Taught the Real Presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine for over two thousand years, how can divergent teachings that came fifteen hundred years after the Institution of the Eucharist be the correct Apostolic Teaching?
What greater evidence than two thousand years of Obedience to Christ’s Commands?
What greater evidence than to suffer being maligned and persecuted under the understanding that you are a cannibal because you engage in the Eating of the Flesh and drinking of the Blood of your Founder?
…some one shoots a bullet in the air… the forensic evidence can determine the type of gun, bullet, and the direction and point of impact… but with so many guns in the world there needs to be more definition… anyone can throw “this is what it means” at Scriptures… but the totality of Scriptures along with the Apostolic Teaching, which survives in the Church through Apostolic Succession, is the means to determine if what is claim is correct or simply eisegesis.
Well, your friend Jason is right and he’s wrong. The Jews who rejected Jesus certainly didn’t want to get closer to him on any level at all. Jesus saying they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood would merely have been the last straw for them.
He’s wrong, though, to think that his personal interpretation in any way negates Jesus’ own words. Jesus didn’t say them just to drive people away–although he knew it would drive some away who had been following him. Rather, he was letting both his detractors and his followers know the depth of his commitment to them and the depth of commitment he expects of us.
Some people might have been scared off at such a commitment, but I think most had no idea what he meant–rather they took him to mean they’d have to eat muscle/bone/skin, etc. and drink blood from his veins. It took faith and courage for Peter to affirm, in the teeth of such controversial ideas, feelings, and misunderstandings, the Apostles’ faith by saying, “To whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
…the staple of Protestantism is that it protests against the Catholic Church… never mind that they go against Scriptures and must embrace nonsense in order to fit their interpretational bias into the equation…
…look at what he is selling to you (and which seemingly you have bought hook-line-and-sinker): the Jews rejected Jesus’ Teachings on Eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood because they understood Him to be using metaphor (hyperbole); Jesus in His deluded grandiosity let’s them leave because He wants them to become intimate with Him but in a manner that would cause them to recoil from Him…
…here’s your pastor friend theology:
Jesus: hey do what I say so that you can be my intimate friends
Jews: what do you say we should do?
Jesus: jump into that vat of oil, light yourselves up, and jump from that yonder cliff!
Jews: say what?
Jesus: you heard!
Jews: are you kidding?
Jesus: nope, I’m dead serious; do it now!
…is that not like one of those skids presented in those perverted cartoons and tv shows and films?
Is that Christ’s Goal?:
[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
(St. Luke 7:23)
…for your pastor friend and for you to be correct (hyperbole), Christ must fully be engaged in anti-Christian behavior: cause men to stumble and fall!
I have debated the interpretation of John 6 several times. Every time it (the response) has been the same:
“Eating Jesus’ flesh is coming to Him, and drinking His blood is believing in Him”
Which, on the surface, *seems * like a decent interpretation. The first half of the Bread of Life discourse is concerning Jesus’ heavenly origins and believing in Him, after all. As I started dissecting it (to prove the figurative interpretation false), one person I was debating said, “Jesus couldn’t have been literal because the bread and wine don’t look like Jesus’ body and blood!”
I usually point to the Last Supper accounts, where Jesus (as we all know) says over the bread, “This is my body”, and over the wine, “This is my blood”. If Jesus was being literal, as we believe, then the fact that the bread and wine don’t look like His body and blood is meaningless. The authors didn’t note that the bread and wine appeared to be flesh and blood. They wrote about what it looked like and what Jesus said it was. The appearance remains the same, it’s the substance that is changed. Still, I often point to Eucharistic miracles. Unfortunately, they kept insisting that the literal interpretation is false.
So, as I said, I dissect (bold is me): "The Israelites truly ate manna in the desert, correct?" “Yes.” So Jesus is talking about an actual event?" “Yes.” “And Jesus truly came down from heaven, correct?” “Yes…” And the Jews understood him literally here?" “Yes, because they mentioned his parents.”
So we establish that everything being spoken about thus far is to be understood literally. This is where things get dicey.
"When Jesus says that he is the bread that came down from heaven, the Jews understand him literally again?" “Yes.” “Yet you say they’re wrong to take Him literally when He says to eat His flesh and drink His blood (which is true food and true drink)?” “Of course” "You believe that coming to Jesus is bread and believing in him is blood. Do you think by “coming to Jesus” and “believing in Jesus”, you will be raised up on the last day?" “Yes.” “But later, Jesus asks the disciples if they will be offended if they see him ascend to where he was before. Isn’t this talking about Jesus’ ascension into heaven?” “Yes, but the disciples couldn’t have known that was what he was talking about.” "It doesn’t matter. They didn’t know what Jesus meant when he said he would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, killed, and on the third day rise from the dead. But he was speaking literally when he said this."
My observation is this: they take everything at the beginning and end at face value, but understand the middle as a figure of speech.
What did He go on to do? The Eucharist. His flesh is in heaven, but He is sacramentally present in the Eucharist. That is how the Church was founded and that is how it remains. Remember that when Jesus said the words of consecration, this was beyond the point at which He spoke to the Apostles in parables (John 16:25-29) - He then spoke plainly. 1,500 years later in Europe, something changed radically.
Let your friend become a pastor, as his journey is just beginning and you threaten his very income by preaching against his theology. Let him feel the emptiness, sense the longing for more. Far better to pray for him - for decades if that is what it takes. It is not nearly as satisfying to us, but the Holy Spirit converts - not us.