John 6:53 to be taken figuratively?


In John 6:53, our Lord states “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” The Catholic Church teaches that Protestants can have life within them, yet they do not receive the Eucharist. Accordingly, John 6:53 cannot be interpreted literally because those who do not receive the Eucharist may still have life within them. Where is my logic incorrect in this analysis? Thanks for anyone’s help.



The Catholic Church teaches that Protestants can have life within them, yet they do not receive the Eucharist.

Please tell us the source for this supposed teaching, and what exactly you mean by that. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing, but you ought to source this assumption, otherwise your argument would fail on logical grounds.



You’re absolutely correct that my understanding is limited when I write that the Church teaches that Protestants have life within them. I think of Ephesians 2:22 and 1 Corinthians 3:16, in which Paul discusses the indwelling of God in the Spirit. I am then assuming that the Church teaches that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is possible for our separated brethren because Heaven is not foreclosed to Protestants. I am then making the assumption that the indwelling of God is what Jesus is referring to in John 6:53 when he refers to having “life within you.” So, there is some mental gymnastics there. Thanks.


The Church teaches that non-Catholic Christians may be saved; are you equating this to “have life within them”? If so, can you demonstrate it from Church teaching?

Also, it’s a general principle that we are constrained by God’s rules, but that He is not. Therefore, He can do what we cannot. By this logic, although we cannot ensure that we have life within us without Christ’s body & blood, that does not imply that Christ cannot choose to give Protestants this same “life within themselves.”

Just my first thoughts, off the top of my head…


Literally, because his followers took it literally, got disgusted and left. He did not stop them to say “it was just a symbol.”


Literally. Look up the word in the Greek that John uses for “eat”. That Greek word is rarely used metaphorically.


Which is that word? It would be handy for me to know and to compare to any other word meaning eat.



I believe the distinction is that Protestants, through their imperfect union with the Church (through baptism and faithfulness to God’s commands), and presumed ignorance of the full presence of grace in the Catholic Church, have the possibility for salvation. Yet this is a far cry to the outpouring of grace and resulting supernatural life available through reception of the Christ’s body and blood. In other words, they are missing an incredible gift that would strengthen them supernaturally and prepare them for life eternal with God.


I find the passage interesting. Especially when referenced to Jeremiah 15:16

Jeremiah 15:16 (RSVCE)

Thy words were found, and I ate them,
and thy words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by thy name,
O Lord, God of hosts.

Then think about John 1 where it is stated that the ‘word became flesh’…


What I also find confusing is the verse that follows John 6:53 and the correlation between it and John 6:40. Can I ‘believe’ and not eat his flesh and have eternal life? Or, can I eat his flesh and not ‘believe’ and have eternal life? John 6 has a few things that are hard for me to understand if you take ‘eat my flesh’ literally.

John 6:54 (RSVCE)

54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:40 (RSVCE)

40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”


To actually understand what Jesus meant I would recommend reading all of John 6 verses 22-71. It made a big difference in my life!


The Lord was stating a general rule, without enumerating legitimate exceptions to that rule. If He had included exceptions, He might have stated it as: Ordinarily, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you, except when you are invincibly ignorant of this command or when it is impossible for you to fulfill it. The Church understands that Protestants may fall under the exceptions.


A minor mistake on my part. In John 6:53 the word for eat is “phago”, which could be metaphorical. BUT, in the following verses, 54-58, Jesus ramps it up, and changes the word that is translated as eat to the Greek word “trogo”. Trogo’s meaning is not just eat, more specifically it is to gnaw on something, like a dog gnaws a bone. And in koine Greek, it is NEVER used metaphorically. The following is a link to an interesting article on that passage.

And here is a quote from St. Irenaeus. The interesting thing about Irenaeus is that he was a disciple of St. Polycarp. And Polycarp just happened to be a disciple of some guy named John, who wrote some Gospel.:wink:

**“So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ’s Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.”-“Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the FalselyNamed Gnosis”. Book 5:2, 2-3, circa **



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