Interpreting the Words of Institution

Why do we take statements such as “I am the vine…” figuratively at all? If we hold that reason demands it then the Calvinists are sure to state that in the case of the Words of Institution reason demands a figurative interpretation also (even if of a different part of the statement). Any suggestions as to literature that will assist in this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Maybe there are more nuances to literal vs. figurative interpretation than most people realize or understand.

Because there was no particular vine or door. If he said “I am ever this vine, and whenever you do this, do this in remembrance of me” then we’d probably be worshiping vines too.

It’s clear from the context the Jesus is using the vine and door as illustrations, not as sacraments. On the other hand, Jesus took bread and said “This is my Body. Do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of me.”

There is an object, and statement, and a command. Further, St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians confirms a repeated practice of the Lord’s Supper, and that violence to the Bread is violence (sacrilege) to the Body which merits supernatural punishment. So far, the only real consequence of abusing vines is getting tangled.

In the 16th century, Luther and the other major heresiarchs had a meeting and came up with 200+ interpretations of “THIS IS MY BODY”, while the Catholic Church holds that Our Lord meant what He said.

So why do we have to rehash it all over again? :grimacing:

Not really an accurate description. Luther held to the presence of the true body and blood being present in the sacrament of Holy Communion whereas Zwingli did not. Its not that complicated. Also, neither of the views presented at Marburg were novel. They were both ideas that had been debated within the Church for centuries.

Both sides in this debate have their strong points. I would say that the thing that seals it for me is that Last Supper is instituted in the context of Passover, wherein the Lamb is actually slaughtered and eaten as a participation in the Passover as if the Israelites in Jesus’ day and now are actually being delivered from the hand of slavery. There was nothing symbolic about sharing in that meal, which to me translates over to the Last Supper. It is this covenant meal demonstrating our deliverance from sin, death, and the devil that still goes on today in the Holy Supper.

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Yeah, but Luther denied that the Mass was truly a sacrifice. So, there’s the problematic contradiction that you have non-sacrificial sacrifice in the sacrament. Zwingli, at least, said “no sacrifice and no sacrament”, which is internally consistent.

Yeah… so what? Prior to early ecumenical councils of the Church, the question of what the Trinity was, had been debated within the Church. Following these councils, there was a conciliar definition that was accepted by the Church. Any later discussion ran afoul of the doctrinal statements of the Church.

Similarly, although the question of the Eucharist had been debated in the Church, the Fourth Lateran Council in the 13th century settled on “transubstantiation”. Any later discussion… similarly runs afoul of what the Church had already decided, doctrinally.

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Because that is in line with scripture (Hebrews 10). Luther makes a sharp distinction between sacrifice and sacrament. I suggest you read the Babylonian Captivity of the Church for Luther’s actual view of the Holy Supper.

Fantastic. Did the apostolic fathers accept transubstantiation? If so, please provide a quote. If not, then please explain why going above and beyond what the apostles stated in their writings was necessary or doctrinally sound.

Almost. Not quite, but almost. The Catholic Church doesn’t suggest that the sacrifice of the Mass is numerically identical with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. (If we did, then you’d be correct in asserting that we’re attempting to “re-crucify Christ” at each Mass.) Rather, each sacrifice of the Mass is numerically distinct from Christ’s sacrifice. In other words, at Mass, we offer a sacrifice that is unbloody, which is distinct from the bloody sacrifice on the cross. (Please note that, in the institution narratives, Jesus talks about the Eucharist being the covenant. Scriptural covenants include literal sacrifices as the ratification of the covenant.)

So, although Hebrews 10 correctly points out that the sacrifice on the cross is “once and for all”, it doesn’t preclude an unbloody sacrifice – which is precisely what Jesus performed at the Last Supper, and which the Catholic Church performs – at His command! – at each Mass!

By “apostolic fathers”, do you mean “the Twelve”? Or do you mean the bishops of the councils of the first four centuries? If the latter, then why does the teaching of a 5th century bishop count as “valid” and the teaching of later bishops count as “unnecessary” or “doctrinally unsound”?

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
St. Justin Martyr, First Apology (100-165 AD).

“The bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood…”
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (180 AD).

“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.”
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans (110 AD).

Again, if you actually read the work I am referring to, you would notice the distinction drawn between a sacrifice and a sacrament. Not putting much faith in you doing so though. But, I stand by Hebrews 10 even if you choose to define it in a way the author specifically did not intend.

I mean apostolic, none of which held to this understanding of the mystery of Holy Communion since this explanation was not invented until Thomistic thought in the Scholastic age of the Church wherein non-scriptural philosophical understandings were brought in to explain the mystery the early Church didn’t need to explain. My point is that doctrine generally is drawn as broadly as scripture allows without attempting to go beyond what scripture does. Otherwise, you end up drawing unscriptural distinctions that the apostles didn’t feel were necessary or salvific.

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Luther would agree with all of the early fathers you just quoted about the presence of the true body and blood of Christ without the exercise of using Aristotelian philosophy to go further than what scripture explains.

Also, just to clarify, I don’t have an issue with Saint Thomas Aquinas, I think the Summa Theologica is a very impressive work. I just don’t think it is necessary to accept every sentence he wrote as de fide dogma punishable by anathema.

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The Apostolic Fathers are after the Apostles and before Nicea I (325), e.g. Clement of Rome, Clement of Alexandria. Btw, Tertullian is not an Apostolic Father of the Church. He was an early apologist but left the Church and founded his own sect. He disagreed with Pope St. Victor I on remarriage for widows. Pope St. Victor I said that widows were free to remarry while Tertullian said that a widow is still married to her husband even though he passed away. There are a few works that he wrote while still Catholic though.

There’s lots of widows and widowers who would have been desolate if Tertullian had his way.

Two thoughts:

  • The apostolic fathers believed that the Eucharist was truly Christ. They didn’t have access to the philosophy of later ages, but faulting them for that is unfair. So, to blame Augustine for not saying “transubstantiation!” is akin to demonizing Jefferson for having slaves (or, in the 1920’s, demonizing Washington for producing alcoholic beverages): it’s simply anachronistic, and unfair to the truth that humans live in times and places and are subject to the understandings of those contexts.
  • Your assertion that only the understandings of the apostolic fathers is valid does your argument more harm than good, I’m afraid. Did they ascribe to the view that it’s valid to separate oneself from the Church and found one’s own community? 'Cause, if they didn’t, then your argument says that the ediface of Protestantism is invalid. Are you really willing to go there?

If your standard is “apostolic teaching”, please present an apostolic teaching that asserts that this is true.

You realize that this is an interpretative stance that isn’t founded in the teachings of the apostles… right?

Take a look at the response that @Hodos gives us. That seems to not be the way he understands “apostolic”. :wink:

I look at scripture as a subset of tradition put to writing, so developing doctrine to be more precise than scripture, by way of sacred tradition, makes sense to me . Aristotelian philosophy provided a framework and vocabulary to describe these subjects in a more precise and coherent way. Its kind of like using calculus to eloquently describe the same thing you could do in algebra, and all that without changing the truth of the object it describes.

I don’t have a problem with this distinction if it doesn’t involve condemning one to being outside the Church for what is essentially a philosophical explanation of something the scriptures doesn’t attempt to explain.

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