Getting nit-picky on the Eucharist


#1

I’m writing something that I hope to turn into a web-page about the Eucharist. I have been reading a lot of information on the Blessed Sacrament, and I have a very specific question about the Eucharist, specifically, about the original text of John 6.

In the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, Jesus tells the disciples that they must eat His flesh. The Gospel writer uses the Greek word “sarx” which means, literally, “flesh.”

However, I have read a Fundamentalist argument that “sarx” can be used both literaly, as in “flesh”, and more figuratively, as in “body” or “being”. The word “soma” is absolutely literal “flesh.” By his (twisted) reasoning, if the Gospel writer had intended it to be His literal flesh, then why wasn’t “soma” used instead of “sarx?”

My reply to this argument is that “sarx” can indeed have more of a metaphysical connotation than just a hunk of meat; it can mean a person’s body or their being/nature, etc. But this is not a contradiction to the Real Presence, because the Eucharist is believed to be not only the body and blood of Christ, but also His soul and divinity. The Eucharist becomes for us not only the flesh-and-blood body that Christ had while on earth, but also His divine being. By this reasoning, the use of the word “sarx” is a more accurate representation of what the Eucharist is than is “soma.”

My question for you is: Is my reasoning getting twisted? Am I stretching the meanings here, or is it a reasonable way to address the issue? I hate to get into the splitting of hairs like this, but it seems necessary to address the extremes to which anti-Catholics will go to deny the Real Presence. I just don’t want to be guilty of the same sort of “verse bending” as they are. Thanks in advance for your help!


#2

It doesn’t seem that possible “metaphysical” meanings for “sarx” and “soma” are germane here. The ordinary meanings of the words are just fine.

The standard meaning for the word “sarx” is “flesh,” and the standard meaning for “soma” is “body.”

Jesus (or rather John rendering Jesus’ words into Greek) probably uses “sarx” in John 6 because speaking of eating one’s flesh is more vivid than speaking of eating one’s body (i.e., he’s making the point that you need to receive the Eucharist more forcefully). Neither excludes the other since people’s bodies are made of flesh and so eating one’s body involves eating one’s flesh.

It is true also that Jesus flesh/body is united to his blood, soul, and divnity and that these are also received in the Eucharist, but this is an ontological and theological truth and not something that is evident from the language that is used in the text. The language doesn’t deal with the latter question one way or the other, so don’t try to squeeze the langauge to get too much out of it.

Hope this helps!


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