This question is not aimed at addressing the faith-dogma aspect of the Eucharist - it is simply a matter of historical-cultural curiosity:
In all Catholic literature that I have consulted, it is unanimously agreed that, in his Jewish religious/social context, Jesus’ injunction to “eat my body and drink my blood” would have been considered utterly sacrilegous, first because of its cannibalistic implications and more crucially because it violates the Mosaic command not to consume blood. John’s Gospel itself implies that this is why so many - even Jesus’ own disciples - could not accept the idea.
We know Jesus was a spiritual innovator and pioneer (again I am not approaching this “from above” by faith or doctrinal christology, but “from below” via the historical approach). As such we could expect Jesus to preach and do things that might seem radically foreign to his time, circumstances, and culture. After all, the Buddha - another reforming innovator - essentially turned the received Hinduism of his time on its head. Presumably Jesus COULD have done the same with Judaism, but the NT’s whole thrust emphasises that Jesus fulfilled - not contradicted and shattered - the Mosaic directives. So can we see any historical or Torah precedents for the idea that, once the Messiah has come, we must eat his flesh and drink his blood? I don’t think so, but I could be mistaken.
So I would be very much interested in opinions that address the historical nature of Jesus’ Eucharistic teaching. Some questions might be:
- How did such a teaching originate AND PERSIST in its original JEWISH setting? How is it the Eucharistic-practicing disciples were not immediately censored for preaching and practicing this anti-Mosaic doctrine?
- How did they preach the eucharist as sacrifice, while at the same time continuing to be Temple-loyal Jews who continued to worship (Acts 3:1; 5:42) and even sacrifice (Acts 21:23-24) in the Temple?
- How did they justify and explain to fellow Jews the Real Presence/unbloody sacrifice as the fulfilment of Judaism? John 6 has Jesus harking back to the manna in the wilderness, not as a Eucharistic foreshadowing (at least I don’t take that from his words), but only as a symbolic parallel which is inferior to the (true) Bread of Life (e.g., people ate manna and died, but people who eat Jesus’ Eucharist will have eternal life).
So - just some discussion ideas, posed “from below” via historical-cultural standpoints. No offense to, or attack upon, Eucharistic teaching and/or standard christology. Any historical data or theories are welcomed.