Patristic Scholars on Transubstantiation


Does anyone know of any patristic scholars who would disagree with the statement below. A Protestant clergyman quoted it to me from a Protestant patristics scholar:

“Even Roman Catholic partristic scholars argue that the doctrine of transubstantiation is a development in continuity with the early beliefs and teachings on the Eucharist.”

I’m not looking for apologetic arguments, but for scholarly articles or authors who would place the doctrine of transubstantiation in the Early Church.




Nice collection of quotes, but I’m looking for authors of scholarly journals. The individual in question is a member of The North American Patristics Society

and they publish The Journal of Early Christian Studies

It’s interesting that the Patristics Society is based at the Catholic St. Meinrad School of Theology, yet I found a number of Protestant contributors to the journal.


Buy William Jurgen’s Early Church Fathers…


Got it, thanks. Looking for journal articles…


They won’t use the phrase “transubstantiation.” That term was developed later to explain something implicit in the traditional teaching.


It’s the wrong question.

The word itself, is mediaeval Latin - first used in 1140, to be exact.
*]What the word transubstantiatio
*]is a name for,
*]is one aspect
*]of something far older: that is, of the belief that the Eucharistic Gifts,
*]once consecrated
*]become the Body & Blood of Christ
*]“really, truly, and substantially” (which is itself a formula later than 1140).[/LIST]Which is why what you ask for, cannot be given - it does not, in the terms requested, exist.

It’s like asking for the copy of the Letter to the Romans read by Isaiah :slight_smile: - the movement of tradition of which Romans is a part, is, in retrospect (& whether one is in the first or the 20th century A.D.) part of the same movement of tradition as produced the Book of Isaiah. But that does not mean that Isaiah could say, “Aha - in 800 years’ time, I will be quoted by St.Paul”. Neither could the Fathers look forward to 1140, and say that the word transubstantiatio would be applied to a development of an element of the Faith they held regarding the Bl. Eucharist. But that does not for one moment mean there is not, as we see both them and that use of that word in 1140, a genuine organic development in the Church’s Faith. :slight_smile:

Someone who is not a Catholic may well look at the same historical data, & not see what we see - but that is fair enough, because non-Catholics cannot be expected to hold the Faith of the Church; & it is that faith that concerns us here. Not some other.



Here are two articles from Homiletic and Pastoral Review that cover these things.

Restoring Eucharistic Devotion - Rev. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap. - Homelitic and Pastoral Review Vol. 56 No. 5, Feb. 2006 - pgs. 8-16

On the Incarnation and the Mass - Rev. Michael Hull, S.T.D. - Homelitic and Pastoral Review Vol. 56 No. 10, July 2006 - pgs. 6-9


Thanks. This is the type of thing that I’ve been looking for. I see that they don’t offer back articles online, but there’s a library near me which may have them.

Also, I’ve contacted a Catholic university, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they say.



I know you’re looking primarily for journal articles, but if you don’t already have this scholarly work, I highly recommend it:

The Hidden Manna


Thanks, Fidelis. I have that book, too. It is excellent, as you say.

I’m no babe in the Eucharstic woods, but I don’t have any knowledge of journal articles that might be brought to bear.


The two must-read classic articles for understanding the historical development of the term “transubstantiation” are:

Chadwick, Henry. “Ego Berengarius.” Journal of Theological Studies 40, no. 2 (October 1989): 415–445.

McCue, James F. “Doctrine of Transubstantiation from Berengar Through Trent: The Point at Issue.” Harvard Theological Review 61, no. 3 (Jl 1968): 385–430.

I also recommend the appropriate sections in Benedict XVI’s God Is Near Us, Aidan Nichols’ The Holy Eucharist and Robert Barron’s Eucharist.

Your interlocutor is correct. The idea of transubstantiation per se does not exist in the patristic period. It emerges in response to a conceptual problem that was simply impossible in that time. It became possible when the philosophical framework in Western Europe shifted and “symbol” and “reality” came to be seen as opposites. Then the Church had to figure out how to say that the change was “real” without it becoming some kind of clandestine physical manipulation of the elements, hidden from our senses. Transubstantiation was the solution to that problem. If you’re still interested, feel free to contact me at I have a massive bibliography on this from writing my doctoral dissertation on the subject.


I think the reason for the dearth of scholarly articles is due to the fact that most forum members are probably not subscribers to journals of theological scholarship. I know I’m not. In the age of the internet, it seems unnecessary to pay for information.

Other than that, two thoughts come to mind. First, CCC 1375 cites St. Ambrose and St. Chrysostom as early believers in transubstantiation:

You might help your search by googling the works cited in those footnotes along with the keywords Transubstantiation and Early Church in the Google Scholar search engine.

Second, I think the development referred to by the Protestant author the gentleman quoted is consistent with how Catholics view doctrinal development, especially in light of Blessed John Henry Newman’s understanding of doctrinal development. Catholics don’t have to hold that Transubstantiation was “unpacked” from the deposit of faith by all the early Church Fathers so early on. It is enough that some guessed at it and all tried to understand it in ways that contributed to the later development. Does that make sense?



The author writes: “the time has come to carry back into patristic times the beginning of the theology of transubstantiation. One inkling of this, though its author does not seem aware of the significance of what he says, is found in the recent symposium on The Study of Liturgy [by] Dr. Halliburton…”


Post #11 dated June 26th, 2007.


Thanks for this! I have already purchased the two articles, and will acquire the remaining books as well. I am especially focused on the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist in my own studies. I am very happy to have such excellent references. Thanks for reviving this old thread, and for your comments. :thumbsup:


The word ‘transubstantiation’ does not appear until the 8th or 9th century. Did not become a Dogma until the 4th Lateran Council in 1215. The question is: How and when did the belief in the Real Presence come about? Leon-Defour in his book “Resurrection” makes the following statement with regard to the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus:
“The fact that the occasion is a meal leads us to suggest, as one of the contexts in which the accounts of the appearances took shape, the liturgical setting, and more precisely the eucharistic meal . John suggests this by dating the appearances on the first day of the week, and a week later . More precisely, in Luke, we hear of the ‘breaking of bread’, a specialized term to indicate the eucharist . . . . In the Emmaus narrative, this scene even constitutes the final point of the appearance, since it is at this moment that ‘their eyes were opened and they recognized him’ (Luke 24,30-31) . . . . In the account of the appearance beside the Sea of Tiberias, the meal has already been prepared by the mysterious traveller . . . . Against this background, the frequent mentions of the meal suggest that in all probability the liturgy of the eucharist was the occasion for the meeting between the risen Christ and his disciples . Were these meals held in common already eucharistic, or did they become so because of the coming of the risen Christ? It is difficult to make a decision . It seems more likely that the original assemblies were only the result of a loyalty to the memory of Jesus of Nazareth which still survived,
and that the appearances of Christ made this remembrance a paschal reality?”
In my paper “The Post-Resurrection Appearances” [MELITA THEOLOGICA, Vol XLIX, No. 1, pp 43-64] I expanded on the nature of the [unmentioned] meal in John’s Doubting Thomas episodes. Thus, the belief goes back to the appearances of Jesus.


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