Looking for knowledge on the early church


I am having a discussion with a protestant friend of mine about the Eucharist. When we started to talk about it he didn’t know anything about it at all. Now he has gone from seeing his view on the Eucharist as merely symbolic to Jesus being spiritually present at his protestant communion. So I guess you could say he is coming around in a way.

Here is the question I have. I showed him the statements from St. Ignatius of Antioch about the Eucharist in the second century, and he is trying to explain it away…

He says:

**From Ignatius, Letter to the Romans.

Highly figurative all the way through the letter. Arguing for martyrdom, to be done with this world, to

die to self. So he says his “passionate love has been crucified” and “I take no pleasure in corruptible

food or the pleasures of this life.” Then, immediately, he says that he wants to “the bread of God, which

is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David, and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible

love.” Here the flesh stands for the bread of God, spiritual sustenance, and the blood stands for

heavenly, Christ-like love. Highly symbolic. He may be referring to actually wanting to take communion,

though that seems like an odd reading, considering he probably took it many times. In the context, he

seems to me to be wanting to lose himself in Christ and probably isn’t even thinking of the actual


Also look at Ignatius’s Letter to the Smyrneans. You can find it at:


Download the first volume.

Note that this copy has both the shorter and longer version of his letters. Apparently, most scholars

accept that he wrote the shorter versions and another person(s) “glossed”, or expanded upon, that

version, making the longer version. Either way, you will see that the context for the bolded excerpt

from this letter is that he was strongly denouncing the heretics who said that Christ never had physical

flesh, and therefore they would not take the Eucharist. Taking this into account allows ample leeway for

understanding his words the way Protestants understand his words: that the Eucharist represents the

physical body of Jesus broken for our sins. The point Ignatius was making was not that the flesh is the

literal flesh of Christ, transformed by the hands and prayers of the priest, but that Christ’s flesh was

actual physical flesh just like the bread. His overwhelmingly primary point has to do with the physicality

of Jesus—that Jesus was not mere incorporeal spirit.

So anyone have a good response to this? Anyone have some great knowledge on this specific topic?

Thanks in advance! :smiley:


“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 (A.D. 110)

“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 (A.D. 110-165)

“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 (A.D. 180)




You will like this site. therealpresence.org/eucharst/father/a5.html#didache


Thanks for your replies everyone! :smiley:

I am totally convinced that the Catholic view and the early church view of the Eucharist are the same. I love the resources you guys gave me.

However even though the statements of the early church about the Eucharist are very clear to me, they are not so clear with my protestant friend… so that is why I was wondering if anyone could respond to what he said about Ignatius’ letter in my post?



Read this link.


Several sites I have been, one of them Protestant, says the key word trogon is rarely used metaphorically. John could have used a different word here, but he didn’t. He is extremely clear.


**John 6:53-58, 66-67 **
So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’ After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Will you also go away?’”

Most Protestants believe that the bread and wine offered by the Catholic priest in the Holy Mass are only symbols of Christ’s body and blood. They do not believe that Christians have to actually eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ to have eternal life. They do not believe that Christ’s flesh is actual food, and His blood actual drink. Why, then, does Jesus repeatedly say in these verses that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have no life in us? Why does Christ say that His flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed, if His flesh and blood really aren’t food and drink indeed? This teaching of Jesus on the Eucharist is the most profound in all of Scripture, and these verses are very problematic to the Protestant contention that the bread and wine of the Mass are just symbols.

When John 6 is prayerfully read, we see how Jesus gradually teaches the faithful about the life-giving bread from heaven that He will give to the world (through the multiplication of the loaves, the reference to the raining manna given to the Israelites, and finally to the bread that Jesus will give which is His flesh). When the Jews question Jesus about how he could possibly give them His flesh to eat, Jesus becomes more literal in His explanation. Jesus says several times that we must eat (in Greek, “phago”) His flesh to gain eternal life (which literally means “to chew”).

When the Jews further question the strangeness of His teaching, Jesus uses an even more literal verb (in Greek, “trogo”) to describe how we must eat His flesh to have eternal life (which literally means “to gnaw or crunch”). The word “trogo” is only used two other times in the New Testament (Matt. 24:38; John 13:18) and it is always used literally (physically eating). Protestants are unable to provide a single example of where “trogo” is ever used in a symbolic sense. To drive His point home, Jesus says that His flesh is real food indeed, and His blood is real drink indeed (Jesus says nothing about the bread being a symbol of His body and blood).

What is perhaps most compelling about the foregoing passages is what happens at the end of Jesus’ discourse. We know that the Jews understood Jesus as speaking literally. This is demonstrated by their question, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” They could not conceive of why consuming Jesus’ flesh was life-giving and how they could possibly do such a thing. We also know that Jesus responds to their question by being even more literal about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. But we learn at the end of Jesus’ discourse that many of His followers, because of the difficulty of His teaching, decided to no longer follow Him – and Jesus let them go. Then He turned to His apostles and asked them, “Will you also go away?”

Would Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God who became man to save humanity, allow his followers to leave Him if they misunderstood His teaching? Of course not, especially when the teaching regarded how they were to obtain eternal life which was at the heart of Jesus’ mission. Jesus always explained the meaning of His teachings to His disciples. Mark 4:34. Jesus did not say, “Hey, guys, come back here, you got it all wrong.” He didn’t do this because they did not have it all wrong. They understood correctly – we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life within us. The Protestant who contends that the Catholic offering of bread and wine in the Mass is just a symbol (and does not miraculously become the body and blood of Christ through the actions of the priest acting “in persona Christi”) must address John 6:53-58, 66-67 – why Jesus used the words He did, and why Jesus allowed His followers to leave Him if they understood Him correctly (which is the only time in Scripture where Christ allows His disciples to leave Him based upon a doctrinal teaching).

When we meditate upon this mystery with an open mind and heart, we come to believe and know that the Eucharist is the way the Father gives us His Son in the eternal covenant of love by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is an extension of the Incarnation. If we can believe in the Incarnation (that God become a little baby), than believing that God makes Himself substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine is easy. The Church has thus taught for 2,000 years that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith – the consummation of the sacrificed Paschal lamb, by which we are restored to God and share in His divine life. Thus, Saint Paul says, “our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed; therefore, let us celebrate the feast.” 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.

– John Salza


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