Luther and Transubstanstiation

A couple of questions, if you don’t mind…

  1. Did Martin Luther believe in Transubstanstiation? Or was this one of the reasons he became “Protestant”?

  2. Are there any non-Catholics (apart from Orthodox) who believe in Transubstantiation?

Thanks in advance.

Lutherans believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are “truly and substantially present in, with and under the forms” of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants eat and drink both the elements and the true Body and Blood of Christ Himself (cf. Augsburg Confession, Article 10) in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is more accurately and formally known as “the Sacramental Union.” It has been inaccurately called “consubstantiation.” This term is specifically rejected by Lutheran churches and theologians since it creates confusion about the actual doctrine, and it subjects the doctrine to the control of a philosophical concept in the same manner as, in their view, does the term “transubstantiation.”

Luther had many issues with the Catholic Church in his time so he left and form his own Church.

  1. Are there any non-Catholics (apart from Orthodox) who believe in Transubstantiation?

Thanks in advance.

The teaching on the Eucharist was I believe one of the main points of disagreement between Luther and Ulrich Zwingli (the leader of the Swiss Reformation) because the latter held onto the view that the Eucharist, body and blood is purely symbolic, which is probably the majority Protestant view today.

I’m not aware of any non-Catholic denomination outside of the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox which subscribe to the teaching on transubstantiation. The schismatic Old Catholic churches believe in the Real Presence but reject Transubstantiation as Catholics understand it.


Luther rejected the doctrine of transubstantion, at least in part because he did not accept the Aristotelian metaphysical basis for it.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in its document The Use of the Means of Grace, includes the following:

In this sacrament the crucified and risen Christ is present, giving his true body and blood as food and drink. This real presence is a mystery.

Further explanation is given as follows:

The Augsburg Confession states: “It is taught among us that the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine and are there distributed and received.” The Apology of the Augsburg Confession adds: “We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that ‘death no longer has dominion over him.’”

“The ‘how’ of Christ’s presence remains as inexplicable in the sacrament as elsewhere. It is a presence that remains ‘hidden’ even though visible media are used in the sacrament. The earthly element is . . . a fit vehicle of the divine presence and it, too, the common stuff of our daily life, participates in the new creation which has already begun.”

There is no doubt, however, that Luther and Lutheran theology hold firm to the Real Presence, that in the Eucharist we receive the true Body and Blood of Christ.

Pastor Gary

Some more information about Luther and his understanding of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

From Luther’s Smalcald Articles, written in 1537:

    Of the Sacrament of the Altar we hold that bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given and received not only by the godly, but also by wicked Christians.
    And that not only one form is to be given. [For] we do not need that high art [specious wisdom] which is to teach us that under the one form there is as much as under both, as the sophists and the Council of Constance teach. For even if it were true that there is as much under one as under both, yet the one form only is not the entire ordinance and institution [made] ordained and commanded by Christ. And we especially condemn and in God's name execrate those who not only omit both forms but also quite autocratically [tyrannically] prohibit, condemn, and blaspheme them as heresy, and so exalt themselves against and above Christ, our Lord and God [opposing and placing themselves ahead of Christ], etc.
    As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread, as Paul himself calls it, 1 Cor. 10, 16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11, 28: Let him so eat of that bread.

I hope that this helps.

Pastor Gary

No. He explicitly rejected it, particularly in his 1520 treatise On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. He thought that it was a “monstrous” intrusion of Aristotelian philosophy into Christian theology. However, he believed that Christ was truly and corporeally present in the Eucharist along with the true substance of bread and wine.

Or was this one of the reasons he became “Protestant”?

Since there was no pre-existing thing called “Protestant” for Luther to join, the question really makes no sense (as it does, for instance, for Calvin, who did join a pre-existing movement). Let me tackle it this way: from Luther’s perspective, transubstantiation was not a huge deal one way or the other. He thought it was silly and an incidental example of the corruption of Catholic theology, but it wasn’t the thing that really got him going. WRT the Eucharist his main concern was the doctrine of sacrifice, which he saw as distorting the purpose of the Eucharist from a gift God offers us to a sacrifice we offer God (and thus introducing the notion of human merit, which was what he was really concerned about).

From the Catholic point of view, however, *Babylonian Capitivity *was probably the deal-breaker (one Catholic diplomat, Glapion, said in 1521 that if Luther recanted this one book, all the issues raised in his other writings could be negotiated). One of the things I’ve become convinced of through studying the Reformation is that there was an asymmetry between what each side thought the big issues were. The Protestants, especially the Lutherans, tended to see faith vs. works as the main issue. Catholics were primarily concerned with the Protestant assault on the sacraments. You see this at Regensburg in 1541–Cardinal Contarini (yes, I name my alias after him), who was deeply sympathetic to the Protestant understanding of justification, refused to budge an inch on transubstantiation and scuttled the negotiations by so doing (though it probably wouldn’t have mattered, because both Rome and Luther rejected the agreement on justification anyway).

  1. Are there any non-Catholics (apart from Orthodox) who believe in Transubstantiation?

Well, I think the Old Catholics would. But leaving them on one side, the more extreme Anglo-Catholics (i.e., Anglicans who would claim to be Catholic rather than Protestant) believe in transubstantiation in all but name, and some of them aren’t too scared of the name. (The 39 Articles reject transubstantiation, but Anglo-Catholics don’t care much for the Articles.) My Episcopal church in North Carolina had Benediction and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament once or twice a year (usually on Shrove Tuesday, as well as the Holy Thursday liturgy which was celebrated just as it would be in a Catholic Church).


hello. my name is heath. i believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and wine, and that it truly becomes His Body and His Blood. I am not a Roman Catholic, I attend a church that was part of the Charismatic Epicsopal Church, but our diocese as well as others recently broke off from the CEC. We are now a communion with no name, but our clergy fall under Apostolic Succesion. But we hold to the Catholic teachings. I get real confused about some of our beliefs tho. I do believe that Peter was the first Pope and I believe that the Catholic Church was the Church that Christ started. But about Luther, I read somewhere that Lutheranism today is different than what Luther started tho. For example, Luther honored Mary, but do Lutherans today honor Mary? I don’t know lol. I guess my question is “Is Lutheranism today the same thing that Luther himself started today?”

Yup. Anglo-Catholics (high church Anglicans) and the more “Romanized” among the Evangelical Catholic Lutheran Churches like the Evangelical Community Church-Lutheran (ECCL), related Evangelical Catholic Lutheran Churches, and more than a few individual Evangelical Catholic Lutherans; who differ from mainstream Lutherans and accept the teachings of the Roman Catholilc Church in their totality on this subject.
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