Here is something else to consider about the symbolic argument. A slightly different perspective from the usual rebuttals.
The argument of symbolism hits on two different points. The first refers to the bread at the last supper, with the claim being that the bread is only symbolically Jesus’ body. The second refers the word “eat” in John 6, when Jesus said one must eat His body and drink His blood. The claim here is that Jesus did not mean “eat” or “drink” literally.
The only possible way the symbolism argument can work is if these two points are considered separately. If considered together, the logic fails. It fails because John 6 points to the last supper, and the last supper refers back to Jesus’ teaching of the bread of life in John 6.
On the meaning of “eat”:
*]“I am the bread of life…” Jn 6:35 “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may *eat *of it and not die: I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Jn 6:50-51
*]“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.” Jn 6:53
*]"…he who eats this bread will live forever." Jn 6:58
[/list]The symbolic “eat” means to accept Jesus, and His words and teachings into your heart, and to live according to God’s will. The problem with this symbolic “eat” comes at the last supper. I can hardly believe that our Lord intended for his apostles to take the bread (here, I will momentarily concede the bread to be only bread) and symbolically eat it. Or, symbolically drink the wine. One can imagine the apostles looking quizzically at each other, saying, “Whaaa?”
At the last supper Jesus took the bread and said “eat”. I think we can assume He meant “eat” - literally. (Generally, that is what a supper is, you eat. “Take this ‘bread’ and EAT it”…EAT *). [size=2]So, if Jesus meant “eat” literally at the last supper, and the meaning of the bread at the last supper refers back to the meaning of the bread in John 6, then “eat” in John 6 must be taken literally as well.
So, since EAT MEANS EAT in John 6, the question comes down to: eat what? Bread? As at the last supper? John 6 doesn’t support it. Jesus did not say “anyone who (literally) eats bread will live forever”, or, “unless you (literally) eat bread and (literally) drink wine, you have no life in you.” He said you must eat His body and drink His blood, (again) literally.
“But,” you say, “he could have meant “body” symbolically in both John 6 and at the last supper.” Again, the logic fails. Jesus is the bread of life. You will live forever if you eat (again, literally – see the last supper) the bread of life. If you believe the bread is only Jesus’ body symbolically, then you believe that you will live forever by simply eating… well, bread.
Confused enough? Think of what it was like trying to write this…hooooo boy…