Pastor wilson help?


How would you excellent apologists deal with this:

A survey of the early Church Fathers indicates that the earliest documents and Fathers such as the Didache (late first century) and Justin Martyr (died c. 165) don’t assert the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament. Ignatius (died about 107) comes closer when he protested of his Gnostic opponents that “they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” However, by the time of Irenaeus (died c. 200 AD), you find statements that the bread and wine are strictly Christ’s body and blood, in an argument against the Docetists about the reality of Christ’s earthly body. Tertullian (died c. 220 AD) and Cyprian (died 258 AD) sometimes used terms that indicate a symbolic understanding of the body and blood. Kelly concludes, however, that “while accepting the equation of the elements with the body and blood, [Tertullian] remains conscious of the sacramental distinction between them.”

Though the trend was to see the communion elements as the actual body and blood of Christ, there is another strain as well that used symbolic vocabulary to refer to the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Serapion (died 211 AD) refers to the elements as “a likeness.” Eusebius of Caesarea (died c. 339 AD) on the one hand declares, “We are continually fed with the Savior’s body, we continually participate in the lamb’s blood,” but on the other states that Christians daily commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice “with the symbols of his body and saving blood,” and that he instructed his disciples to make “the image of his own body,” and to employ bread as its symbol. The Apostolical Constitutions (compiled c. 380 AD) use words such as “antitypes” and “symbols” to describe the elements, though they speak of communion as the body of Christ and the blood of Christ.

Other Fathers who mix Real Presence vocabulary with symbolic terms include Cyril of Jerusalem (died 444), Gregory of Nazianzus (died 389), and Macarius of Egypt (died c. 390 AD). Athanasius clearly distinguishes the visible bread and wine from the spiritual nourishment they convey. The symbolic language did not point to absent realities, but were accepted as signs of realities which were present but apprehended by faith.

While St. Augustine (died 430) can be quoted to support various views of the Lord’s Supper, he apparently accepted the widespread realism theory of his time, though in some passages he clearly describes the Lord’s Supper as a spiritual eating and drinking.


I don’t think I’m an “excellent” apologist, but I would simply respond: “People have always had a few differing views on most Christian doctrines, if not all of them. So, thank God for the Magisterium, and for the Church’s ability to sort through the confusion.”


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 by the Word of God, had both 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. (Justin Martyr, First Apology, chap. lxvi.)
This sounds like an assertion of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to me.


Well first off, anyone can make stuff up by using Early Church Fathers names and say that “St. Augustine didn’t believe in the real presence.” Secondly all Early Church Fathers did believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You will not find one that says “that the Gifts offered is not Christ’s Body and Blood.” Lastly when it comes to speaking of symbols, the only time one can properly use the word “symbol” is during anything prior to the consecration in the Liturgy. For it is true that the bread and wine that is going to be offered is a symbol of His Body and Blood. If it were always a symbol, then there would be no need for the Words of Institution nor the Invoking of the Holy Spirit to “change” the gifts from what was a symbol to now His actual Body and Blood in the Liturgy.


The first thing I would say is that St Paul, that distinguished VECF (VERY Early Church Father :wink: ) speaks of those who receive the Eucharist unworthily as being guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. No-one can be guilty of anything by receiving a SYMBOL unworthily. Ergo St Paul himself believed in a much-more-than-symbolic Eucharist.


One does not have to be a great apologist to point out that the pastor indeed did not cite anything that directly refutes the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which is fitting, because the pastor is only claiming that the church fathers did not clearly assert the doctrine. Rather, he cites several examples of early Church fathers making statements supporting the doctrine, while occasionally using “symbolic language” to describe the Eucharist. Seems more like the pastor is pointing out that this can be confusing, and I can see how. I submit that if an early Church father occasionally referred to the Eucharist as a symbol, while much more often referring to the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ, then this is only because the Church fathers did not forsee that Christians would someday point to this “symbolic language” in order to deny His Real Presence in the Eucharist.

As for the pastor’s actual point, previous replies above do show that church fathers were often quite clear about Transubstantiation. If their statements that appear to indicate an oppostie doctrine are still confusing, then the confusion should be cleared up fact that Transubstantiation is the doctrine that the Church fathers’ successors have kept through the ages.


Serapion using the term “likeness” in the Eucharistic Prayer is perfectly okay because he means “actual.” If you read the Eucharistic Prayer you will see that he certainly believed it to be his actual Body and Blood. - 73k

Serapion in using the term “likeness” uses the same Greek word for “likeness,” Homoioma, that St. Paul uses in Romans 8:3,

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” KJV

Now we all know that Jesus did not come symbolically in the flesh, but actually came in the flesh. He was actually made man. So no problem here with “likeness.”

Now with Eusebius using the term “symbols,” this is again okay, though a little misleading. He is using the term in reference to Eucharistic Symbols. The Eucharistic Symbols are bread and wine that we use in the Liturgy to commemorate Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. This bread and wine are only symbols, also known as Eucharistic Symbols, of his Body and Blood before the Consecration. After the Invoking of the Holy Spirit, no longer the symbols remain.


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