The Eucharist: Real Presence or symbol?

This one has always seemed obvious to me, but it seems our separated brethren obfuscate, evade, or flat-out say we Catholics just don’t understand what Jesus was saying. So let’s look at the evidence.


Seems like if those that understood Jesus to be saying eat my flesh and didn’t like it walked away, why didn’t He say wait guys come back I am using a metaphor. Every time he is questioned he reiterates the same point. Eat My flesh. Drink My blood.


Hhmm? I am wondering something? When the Jews celebrated the Passover,did they actually eat a tangible lamb or did they eat something only representing a lamb?

Does not scripture and especially the Book of Revelation call Jesus the Lamb of God 28 times within 22 chapters? Why would Jesus gives us merely a symbol to consume?

Red Dawg,
I’m not disagreeing with you. In fact, Lutherans do agree with the historic Church, east and west, regarding the real presence. I would simply contend that John 6, without the accounts of the Last Supper in the Gospels and reiterated by Paul, can appear to be symbolic. Once one sees Christ’s words in John 6 in light of His words at the Last supper - Take, eat, this is my body - can one discern the predictive nature involved in John 6.


Somehow, I wouldn’t want to be the one to correct Christ at the Last Supper by saying, "Excuse me, Master, but don’t you mean, ‘this represents my body?’ "


In the words of Anglican poet John Donne:

    He was the Word that spake it;
    He took the bread and brake it;
    and what that Word did make it;
    I do believe and take it

One need not be Anglivan to give this a :thumbsup:


Verses 29, 35, 40, and 47 tell you what Jesus was telling them to do. Verse 65 is a final attempt to get them to understand.
It was only after deliberate ignorance on the part of His listeners that he began to get metaphoric.
Ezekiel 3:1-4 gives another example of eating something that isn’t really supposed to be eaten, but it does give an insight on what it means.

The passover lamb was representative of Jesus Christ.
The Last Supper was done in rememberance of the body and blood of Christ and is where Jesus assigned the meaning of the bread and wine.

Symbols are very powerful reminders of events and concepts. The Lord used them throughout the OT in the rituals and ordinances performed. Jews were no stranger to symbolic and metphoric meanings.

Blessings Jon!

I agree 100%

Still does not change the fact the Jews ate an actual tangible lamb,not something merely representing a lamb. BTW: No where does Jesus explicitly state the bread and wine merely represent Him,rather it IS His Body and Blood.

They ate an actual tangible lamb that represented the savior. Just like the Apostles ate actual tangible bread and wine that represent the body and blood of Christ.
When Jesus handed the Apostles the bread and said: “this is my body”, that is the assignment of meaning. If it was literal, why did He give bread and not a literal piece of His flesh?
As I said before, the Jews were no strangers to symbolic representations and metaphoric language, so Jesus had no need to explicitly state: “I’m using metaphoric language now”

Wonderful. :slight_smile:

if we look at other times in the bible where eating flesh and drinking blood is used symbolically (Isaiah 10:18, Micah 3:3, Revelation 17:16, and many others…), it always means to persecute, assault, or otherwise destroy. Now why would Jesus use this kind of symbolism to describe how we should gain everlasting life?? In order to enter heaven we must attack and assault our Savior?? i dont think so…

They ate an actual tangible lamb that represented the savior.

Exactly! Until the fulfillment of Jesus the Lamb of God who takes the sin of the world.

Just like the Apostles ate actual tangible bread and wine that represent the body and blood of Christ.

Really? Again,where does Jesus say: THIS represents or is a symbol of my body and blood? John 6 does not suggest a symbol. Simply listen to Jesus say:

“For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). He continues: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (John 6:57). The Greek word used for “eats” (trogon) is very blunt and has the sense of “chewing” or “gnawing.” This is not the language of metaphor!

When Jesus handed the Apostles the bread and said: “this is my body”, that is the assignment of meaning. If it was literal, why did He give bread and not a literal piece of His flesh?

The why didn’t he give them a vine or door when He said: I am the vine and I am the door?If the Eucharist was merely symbolic,then why did so many walk away? If it had all been a misunderstanding, if they erred in taking a metaphor in a literal sense, why didn’t he call them back and straighten things out? Both the Jews, who were suspicious of him, and his disciples, who had accepted everything up to this point, would have remained with him had he said he was speaking only symbolically. Care to show me where in other places Jesus says I am the vine or I am the door, people really believed He was a literally a vine or door? Or where they able to comprend His metaphor?

As I said before, the Jews were no strangers to symbolic representations and metaphoric language, so Jesus had no need to explicitly state: “I’m using metaphoric language now”

Really? St.Paul sure differs with your LDS belief.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). So when we receive Communion, we actually participate in the body and blood of Christ, not just eat symbols of them. Paul also said, “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).

“To answer for the body and blood” of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide. **How could eating mere bread and wine “unworthily” be so serious? **Paul’s comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ. Pretty harsh words for something so symbolic.

Likewise,early church does not support your position,it is all a novelty a symbolic Eucharist.

BTW: How ironic to believe Jesus is God and Creator,yet God is not capable nor is it POSSIBLE, giving us His Body and Blood in two simple elements: bread and wine. How arrogant.

For all those who disagree with Jesus real presence in the Eucharist , may I suggest you take a look at letters of Ignatius . Or Paul . 1Cor 10 and 1Cor 11 Paul makes it very clear that the Eucharist is to be taken seriously .Now also read the Didache(teaching of the twelve) . It clearly states the importance of the Eucharist"Do not give what is sacred to dogs" The Didache was written before the gospels by some of the apostles . Would a symbol be sacred?Lets take another gander at John 6 . Look at all the sentences that involve eating the flesh and blood of Christ : Now in case you did not know the Gospels were written in Greek. And the word for eat in Greek is "Phagan " However when Jesus is speaking of eating in this part of the chapter, he uses the word (instead of Phagan) "Trogon "meaning to munch and naw. This word was used to put greater emphasis on actual eating .

I have problems using John 6 to support a Real Presence in the sense of transubstantiation. If we give Jesus’ words their plain meaning it would seem to result in Sola Eucharist.

In verse 51 Jesus says if anyone eats this bread he will live forever.

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
(Joh 6:51 NASB)

Now if I understand Catholic teaching the elements actually become Jesus. So if anyone receives the Eucharist in a Catholic Church, that person really eats Jesus body. If we give Jesus’ words their plain meaning, that person will live forever, whether he is Christian or not, because he has eaten Jesus’ body. Jesus puts no qualifications on His statement here such as Paul does when he writes about receiving unworthily.

Going on, Jesus then says in verse that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life in us.

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
(Joh 6:53 NASB)

I don’t think that the Catholic Church teaches that nobody can be saved without receiving the Eucharist or else it should be given to infants.

So we have one is saved if and only if he receives the Eucharist.

I know that God can save anyone He wants, but if someone is saved without receiving the Eucharist or is lost even if he has received, then Jesus’ statements here are not true.

Jesus was born in a city whose name means “House of Bread”, he was laid in a feeding trough, his first miracle involved turning water into wine. Clearly he has the power to change the substance of one thing into another…

The Passover lamb was a real lamb a prefiguring of Christ’s sacrifice. His cousin didn’t just randomly say…


Personally, I think John 20 is almost as compelling as John 6.

*Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:24-25)*Like the disciples who walk away in John 6:66, Thomas simply will not believe that which is not provable by the sense of sight and touch. Like so many non-Catholics who deny the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, upon being told that Christ has risen from the dead, Thomas demands tangible proof.

*Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. (John 20:24-29)*How wonderful our Lord is! Jesus reveals himself to Thomas in a way which removes all doubt, but at the same time he confirms for all time how blessed we are if we have been given the gift of believing through the Holy Spirit. When we approach the altar to recieve the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, our human senses tell us that it is only a wafer of unleavened bread and a cup of common wine. How sad it is that like Thomas, some can only reason to be real that which can be tasted, touched, observed or measured by means of the flesh. Anyone who has heard Scott Hahn’s converstion story remembers his now famous exclamation upon attening Mass for the first time and seeing the Holy Eucharist…

***My God it’s you! It’s really you!!!" ***Wasn’t Scott Hahn like just like Thomas? Also consider Luke 24.

***While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified **and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. (Luke 24:36-43)*Jesus says to the desciples, “Peace be with you.” But instead of being at peace the disciples are startled. Far from being at peace, they are terrified. How does Jesus respond? How does Jesus put them at peace? Jesus tells the startled disciples to look at his hands and feet. Jesus tells the terrified disciples to touch his flesh and bones. Jesus asks them for food. Look and see… that it is really me. Touch my body… so that you know. Eat with me… and be at peace.

Look… Touch… Eat… for my flesh is true food… and be at peace.

How wonderful our Lord is!!!

“Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”


I know some do not believe in the physical real presence but they also believe in more than just a symbol. They might reject a physical RP because Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Or because our Lord had not died yet at the Supper, thus doing this in remembrance and speaking body and blood metaphorically or symbolicly. Or because they believe in Jn 6 Jesus explained He was speaking of the spirit (vs 63). And about believing, for which they believe the word “eating” was metaphoric just as Jesus also calls Himself a vine and so forth in Scripture, so about believing in Him as the Son who would give His life. And after all of that He finally let those walk who insisted on still being hung up on the literal.

And if even to the degree ECFs all believed in the physical presence (some dispute what the Catholic Church claims Augustine and others were saying), some might say the early Church might not have been getting it all completely right even then,.

This is why it is faith, and we shall only truly know with all certainty and complete understanding beyond humanness all there is to know of Him, when He comes again.

Until then it is faith. By which we walk but not by sight.


I think it is pretty clear, though, C.Matt…that the issue of likely misunderstanding of the Eucharist was considered by Christ.

He brought up the reality of eating His flesh and blood after the feeding of the 5,000. Many disciples/followers left him. The apostles remained, and were deeply troubled and questioning as well…but they were already committed to following the presence of God in Christ…where could they go after knowing them…and exclaiming that He is indeed the Son of God, and only He can give us eternal life.

The Lord then gave us the context of His Bread of Life at the Last Supper…we do this in remembrance of Him…but we receive Him in another form…

He said He would always be with us…the sacraments are concrete…but still mystery…they given to us in ordinary forms of every day life, but contain the greater reality of the grace of Christ Himself.

Catholicism is more a daily interaction with the grace of Christ, we are cooperating with Him and all He has given us, and we are fed the Bread of Life…

A number of us can fellowship with Protestants and experience the Holy Spirit. But the Eucharist is truly an event outside of ourselves. We are truly receiving Christ and for this we affirm ‘Amen’.

Kathleen, “I think it is pretty clear” might be where faith comes in for some. Or some might say it is because Jesus anticipated the misunderstanding that He brought up the spirit. And what is affirmed as Augustine words suggest to some, though many grains and grapes, is an Amen! to coming together as one bread/wine in being members of the one body of Christ.

My point only is it does not take a huge leap of faith to understand different beliefs.

God bless and peace.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit