Though a Christian from and amidst the Catholic tradition, I have always strived to understand my non-Catholic brothers and sisters with peace and harmony. As a result I have always been able to understand all sides/arguments of the Communion debate… those who advocate the literal physical presence as well as those who believe not in a physical presence but in a spiritual real presence/symbolism.
I have been contemplating the Eucharist recently and sincerely have a question for those among my Protestant brethren who take the spiritual presence or symbolic paths rather than believing in a physical real presence.
How do you explain why Jesus did not stop those disciples who walked away from Him near the end of Jn 6 and clearly tell them He was not speaking of eating his flesh literally? And what about Justin Martyr and the ECFs?
Thanks so much for any help you might provide. And God bless. Peace.
While I am not a Protestant, I think there is one important point that should be made here.
When certain Protestants claim that their communion is only a symbol, they are speaking the truth. They have no authority to concecrate the elements of bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ. The only choice they have if they do believe that it was meant to be the real presence is to become a member of the Catholic Church. They will never have the real presence otherwise.
Because Jesus wasn’t concerned with numbers but unquestioning obedience. The same reason he didn’t stop the rich young ruler who walked away sad. Or, you could take that literally too and sell all of your possessions and give them to the poor. Somehow, I doubt you’ll do this.
The disciples frequently misunderstood Jesus or just stood there flabbergasted at what he said. It does not mean they took him literally, or that he meant what he said literally. The fact that he goes on to say in John 6 that the flesh counts for nothing and his words are full of spiritual truth strongly indicates to me that he was speaking in a spiritual sense and the reason he didn’t go after those who left is obviously because they *were not *thinking in a spiritual sense but took him literally. This indicates the exact opposite of how the RCC interprets this passage.
To this end what I find rather disingenuous is when some Protestants will fight tooth and nail to defend taking the Bible literally, but when Sacred Scripture is cited that irrefutable defines, proves, or justifies Catholic theology, then the Bible is to be taken symbolically or that the Catholic Church just got it wrong all together. Just an observation of mine. :shrug:
Having been raised in a Protestant church (Disciples of Christ) that believes the Communion Service is no more than a symbol or a simple “remembrance”, I can say that the question quite simply never came up for me. And while many Protestants may refer to certain saints (St. Paul, St. Peter, and other well known saints), they’ve probably never heard of St. Justin Martyr. I know I hadn’t until I joined the Catholic Church.
I’ve had fellow Christians say Jesus had not been crucified yet at the time of the Last Supper and said to do this in remembrance of Him. And how in Jn 6 eating = believing. As to believe He was giving up His flesh for us. Also I knew of the spiritual sense drawn from Jn 6. But thanks for your interpretation of the disciples walking away. I truly appreciate it. Regarding Justin Martyr/ECFs, do you just dismiss them as potentially being wrong?
An excerpt from the link I posted above. “The Jews of Capharnaum were presently scandalized. How (said they) can this man give us his flesh to eat? But notwithstanding their murmuring, and the offence which his words had given, even to many of his disciples, he was so far from revoking, or expounding what he had said of any figurative or metaphorical sense, that he confirmed the same truth in the clearest and strongest terms. *Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat, *&c. And again, (ver. 56.) *For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. *I cannot omit taking notice of what St. Chrysostom and St. Cyril, in their commentaries on this place, have left us on these words, How can this man do this?These words which call in question the almighty and incomprehensible power of God, which hinder them, says St. Chrysostom, from believing all other mysteries and miracles: they might as well have said: How could he with five loaves feed five thousand men? This question, How can he do this? Is a question of infidels and unbelievers”.
Bold and underlined emphasis is mine. It says a lot and clearly explains the view that some Protestants hold regarding the most Holy Eucharist because they do call into “question the almighty and incomprehensible power of God” and because of that it does “hinder them”. It is as simple as that.
Chelley, I have some familiarity with DoC. And I actually had a DoC pastor tell me at his church they surely hope though the Lord’s spirit is present. I have faith it is. Where 2 or 3are gathered in His name, He tells us there He is. But God bless you on your new faith journey! Peace be with you.
Thanks for your efforts but my intent was not to begin a rehashing of the old debate about different Communion beliefs. I already know the Catholic interpretation. That’s why I asked my questions on the Non Catholic forum. To try to understand to the fullest how those who do not believe in a physical real presence see these things. God bless and peace.
When you taste it as you consume it, it tastes like bread and wine, not flesh and blood. If you have a blood alcohol test, it’ll detect the alcohol from the wine.
The Jews asked, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
What confused them is that they were trying to take Jesus literally. They were blind to the spiritual dimension. There’s a similar subject with Jesus at the well with the Samaritan women. Jesus tells the woman that she should have asked him for living water so she’ll never thirst again. She replies that he has no bucket to get it out of the well with. Jesus goes on to explain that he doesn’t mean the well water. But, she still thinks Jesus is being literal, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
I do have Protestant friends who say “It is flesh and blood because the Bible says it IS.”
I’d also point out the fact that Jesus wasn’t crucified yet at the Last Supper, but it didn’t seem relevant to the question, so I left it alone.
Not only in John 6 does Christ use eating to refer to spiritual nourishment, but in the episode with the woman at the well. He tells his disciples he has food to eat that they do not know about. The same word for “eat” is used here as in John 6 - phago.
As far as the ECFs, I’m of an opinion with Calvin, of whom I’m not a huge fan, but I’ll quote him here:
“for those holy men were ignorant of many things, are often opposed to each other, and are sometimes at variance with themselves.”
In other words, the ECFs at times seemed to have MPD, and they were certainly guilty of amplifying what some previous “father” said so that the story grew with the telling, and is why Roman Catholicism has continually added to its explanations (while remaining unchanged, of course - sorry for the sarcasm). Personally, I often think that Catholics appeal to the Fathers out of ignorance (not that I’m suggesting that’s the case here), because you at least alluded to a specific quote, with which I am familiar. But I don’t think the argument in appealing to some quote from an ECF is ever as convincing as it’s made out to be.
I know, I know: “The ECFs gave us the Bible!” and “The Bible is a product of the church, not vice versa!” As I’ve pointed out in other conversations, every argument for Christianity is eventually reduced to assumptions and circularity. I believe what I do about the Bible by Faith, just as you believe what you do about the Catholic church by Faith.
In Matt 13:11 Jesus is explaining why he speaks in parables in public but then explains them to the Apostles. This has nothing to do with the Apostles having a special ability to interpret, because it was Jesus who was doing the interpreting.
We’ll actually fight tooth and nail for the intended meaning of Scripture, which is assumed to be the literal meaning unless there is reason to believe otherwise. It’s a starting point; we know full well that we won’t end there a lot of the time, though.
Jesus said a variety of things about Himself that we obviously can’t take literally. He says He is the Door, the Vine, Bread from Heaven, the Gate, the Capstone, the Lamb, etc. We would take Him literally if we could, but we obviously can’t. If taken literally, these would be absurdities.
We do take Him literally whenever we can, though. When he says he’s Almighty, the Atoning Sacrifice, the Author of Salvation, God, the Head of the Church, or the Source of Eternal Salvation, we begin by taking Him literally and go no further.
There is one other category besides “stay put” and “discount absurdities,” though. If the literal reading means Jesus is endorsing sinful or unlawful behavior, we will avoid sticking with the literal reading there, too. That’s what happened in John 6, and for the people who left, they stuck with the literal meaning and concluded that Jesus was a bad man. It was a hard saying because any meaning aside from the plain literal one is hard to discern.
Yet Jesus did not stop the people who left. He didn’t make it easy for them. I don’t think we should always expect Jesus to make it easy, though. A few examples have already been given of genuinely seeking individuals who walked away from Jesus because it was hard- even after a face to face chat with Him. So Jesus didn’t make it as easy as He could have; this does not stick out as an isolated event. He did it quite a bit. This is just one more example.
He knew who would leave, who would stay, and why they’d all do that, and I suppose He wanted some people to go away if they weren’t willing to stick around when the teaching was hard. This is the way He made it happen, which seems like the most straightforward and expedient way of accomplishing such a goal.
@SteveVH- we actually can’t get it at a Catholic parish, either. This is an assertion from my own POV, and even when I’m talking to someone of a different POV, I don’t always appropriately qualify these things if I truly believe I’m right and you’re wrong.
@cooterhein - good point: eating human flesh is unlawful in the Torah, as is drinking any kind of blood. This lends additional credence to the fact that Jesus was looking for spiritual followers, which these individuals revealed they were not by their LITERAL interpretation of his words.
John 4:23-24 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”