The Very Early Eucharist---Jesus not present in the Bread and Wine?

I have just read a document published as part of a Rel Ed course (background for the sessions on the Eucharist) that state that the very early Church “believed that Jesus was present in the BREAKING of the bread, the SHARING of the cup, and in the community that gathered to pray. The focus had not yet shifted to Jesus present in the elements of bread and wine.”

The document later on states—“The passing centuries also witnessed a great shift in theology. Heresies denying the divinity of Jesus led to a great emphasis by the Church on Jesus as God. Eucharist became an object to be adored rather than a meal to be shared, as people felt themselves more and more unworthy. Jesus came to be understood as present in the bread and wine itself, rather than in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine.”

I was surprised to read this. Is this true that the early Church did not really think of the Eucharist as being the body and blood of Jesus? If not true, then please give me references to show otherwise. Thanks.

And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. 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. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

-Justin Martyr
First Apology
ca. 150 A.D.

Biblical References:

:bible1: "So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. " John 6:32-35

:bible1: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. " 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

:bible1: "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

Church Fathers (copied from the Catholic Answers tract “Real Presence”:

Ignatius of Antioch
"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible" (*Letter to the Romans *7:3 [A.D. 110]).

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (*Letter to the Smyrnaeans *6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration * and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (*First Apology *66 [A.D. 151]).

Irenaeus
"If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (*Against Heresies *4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).

“He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” (ibid., 5:2).*

“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (*Letter to the Romans *7:3 [A.D. 110]).

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (*Letter to the Smyrnaeans *6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

Ignatius of Antioch,Epistle to Smyrnaeans,7,1(c.A.D. 110),in ANF,I:89
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again"


Justin Martyr,First Apology,66(A.D. 110-165),in ANF,I:185
"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 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."


Irenaeus,Against Heresies,IV:18,4(c.A.D. 200),in ANF,I:486
"[T]he bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood…“

Irenaeus,Against Heresies,V:2,2(c.A.D. 200),in NE,119
"He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood,from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body,from which he gives increase to our bodies.”


Irenaeus,Against Heresies,IV:18,2(c.A.D. 200),in JUR,I:95
"But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of their Lord,and the cup His Blood,if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator of the world…"

Clement of Alexandria,The Instructor,2(ante A.D. 202),in ANF,II:242
"For the blood of the grape–that is, the Word–desired to be mixed with water, as His blood is mingled with salvation. And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord’s immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh. Accordingly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. And the one, the mixture of wine and water, nourishes to faith; while the other, the Spirit, conducts to immortality. And the mixture of both–of the water and of the Word–is called Eucharist, renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in body and soul."


Tertullian,Against Marcion,40(A.D. 212),in ANF,III:418-419
"Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, ‘This is my body,’ that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body. An empty thing, or phantom, is incapable of a figure. If, however, (as Marcion might say,) He pretended the bread was His body, because He lacked the truth of bodily substance, it follows that He must have given bread for us. It would contribute very well to the support of Marcion’s theory of a phantom body, that bread should have been crucified! But why call His body bread, and not rather (some other edible thing, say) a melon, which Marcion must have had in lieu of a heart! He did not understand how ancient was this figure of the body of Christ, who said Himself by Jeremiah: ‘I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter, and I knew not that they devised a device against me, saying, Let us cast the tree upon His bread,’ which means, of course, the cross upon His body. And thus, casting light, as He always did, upon the ancient prophecies, He declared plainly enough what He meant by the bread, when He called the bread His own body. He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new testament to be sealed ‘in His blood,’ affirms the reality of His body. For no blood can belong to a body which is not a body of flesh. If any sort of body were presented to our view, which is not one of flesh, not being fleshly, it would not possess blood. Thus, from the evidence of the flesh, we get a proof of the body, and a proof of the flesh from the evidence of the blood. In order, however, that you may discover how anciently wine is used as a figure for blood, turn to Isaiah, who asks, ‘Who is this that cometh from Edom, from Bosor with garments dyed in red, so glorious in His apparel, in the greatness of his might? Why are thy garments red, and thy raiment as his who cometh from the treading of the full winepress?’ The prophetic Spirit contemplates the Lord as if He were already on His way to His passion, clad in His fleshly nature; and as He was to suffer therein, He represents the bleeding condition of His flesh under the metaphor of garments dyed in red, as if reddened in the treading and crushing process of the wine-press, from which the labourers descend reddened with the wine-juice, like men stained in blood. Much more clearly still does the book of Genesis foretell this, when (in the blessing of Judah, out of whose tribe Christ was to come according to the flesh) it even then delineated Christ in the person of that patriarch, saying, ‘He washed His garments in wine, and His clothes in the blood of grapes’–in His garments and clothes the prophecy pointed out his flesh, and His blood in the wine. Thus did He now consecrate His blood in wine, who then (by the patriarch) used the figure of wine to describe His blood."

… (and tons more!)

All taken from
cin.org/users/jgallegos/realp.htm
cin.org/users/jgallegos/trans.htm

See also ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ11.HTM

Sounds like your Religious Ed course is engaging in some revisionism concerning early church history. It is true that Eucharistic adoration developed in importance over the years. But as the preceding posts amply demonstrate, that doesn’t mean that the early church didn’t believe in the real presence. Of course it did.

Yes, excellent references. Thanks to everyone. I get a bit “ticked” when I read things like the aforementioned document that tries to minimize the “real presence”. It didn’t sound right to me. One thing of interest though, is that the Didache doesn’t seem to, in any way, mention the real presence. But Justin Martyr’s writings were within 20 years or so of the Didache. Further, ommission of “real presence” in the Didache is not to mean that it was not accepted teaching, I suppose.

[quote=Journeyman]Yes, excellent references. Thanks to everyone. I get a bit “ticked” when I read things like the aforementioned document that tries to minimize the “real presence”. It didn’t sound right to me. One thing of interest though, is that the Didache doesn’t seem to, in any way, mention the real presence. But Justin Martyr’s writings were within 20 years or so of the Didache. Further, ommission of “real presence” in the Didache is not to mean that it was not accepted teaching, I suppose.
[/quote]

The Didache was not inspired…therefore could err
I can’t see any other way to read the 6th chapter of John & it always bothered me when I was outside the church that these passages are so clearly Catholic. I still wonder how any honest person can spiritualize them and not see the Eucharist there big as life eternal. :thumbsup:

[quote=Journeyman]Yes, excellent references. Thanks to everyone. I get a bit “ticked” when I read things like the aforementioned document that tries to minimize the “real presence”. It didn’t sound right to me. One thing of interest though, is that the Didache doesn’t seem to, in any way, mention the real presence. But Justin Martyr’s writings were within 20 years or so of the Didache. Further, ommission of “real presence” in the Didache is not to mean that it was not accepted teaching, I suppose.
[/quote]

The didache is not a theological treatise in the vein of Justin Martyr but deals with the outward form of Christian life and ritual. The author wasn’t trying explain the faith to outsiders but is writing to those who are already Christians and assumes his audience already knows the meaning behind the rituals.

Even so, we can still discern how important the eucharist was in the didache:

Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day. But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.”

We can see that the eucharist was something special in the didache when the recepients are expected to confess their sins before receiving it in order to be pure.

Saint Ambrose – Bishop of Milan 374-397, a Saint and a Doctor of the Catholic Church. Saint Ambrose died on Good Friday 397.

St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius uphold the venerable Chair of the Prince of the Apostles in the tribune of St. Peter’s at Rome. And note that St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine.

From “Prayer of Saint Ambrose”:

…May Thy Body and Blood, which I intend to receive, although I am unworthy, be for me the remission of my sins, the washing away of my guilt, the end of my evil thoughts, and the rebirth of my better instincts. May it incite me to do the works pleasing to Thee and profitable to my health in body and soul, and be a firm defense against the wiles of my enemies.

Great answers from you folks! I would add two more supportive statement for the Real Presence, these again from Justin Martyr:

“The food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic Prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, ***is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.***” Justin Martyr, First Apology [66]

Gee, after all these centuries we still have a Eucharistic prayer during which we pray the very same thing.
(Pretty amazing, I think, but I guess I’m just easy to impress.)

and secondly,

“…those whom we call deacons give to each one present to partake of the Eucharistic bread and wine and water; ***and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.***” ibid [65]

The point above is that, if the Eucharistic elements were only considered as common food, why bother to distribute them to those unable to attend? Looks like it was viewed as just what Justin calls it!

**How about that? Homebound ministry already present in 150 AD ! **

Journeyman’s Religious Ed. course publisher has its work cut out for it, to prove that the early Christians had no understanding of a “real presence”! The evidence is strongly for the Real Presence.

Can they find early people who denied it? Of course. You can also find early people who denied nearly every declared doctrine about our Lord Jesus Christ!

Does that mean the early church didn’t believe something because it had dissenters?
No! But, as for dissention, it does prove that old adage,

“the more things change, the more they stay the same…”

GOD BLESS US ALL (TWICE, IF POSSIBLE!)

[quote=Journeyman]I have just read a document published as part of a Rel Ed course (background for the sessions on the Eucharist) that state that the very early Church “believed that Jesus was present in the BREAKING of the bread, the SHARING of the cup, and in the community that gathered to pray. The focus had not yet shifted to Jesus present in the elements of bread and wine.”

The document later on states—“The passing centuries also witnessed a great shift in theology. Heresies denying the divinity of Jesus led to a great emphasis by the Church on Jesus as God. Eucharist became an object to be adored rather than a meal to be shared, as people felt themselves more and more unworthy. Jesus came to be understood as present in the bread and wine itself, rather than in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine.”

I was surprised to read this. Is this true that the early Church did not really think of the Eucharist as being the body and blood of Jesus? If not true, then please give me references to show otherwise. Thanks.
[/quote]

Your not reading it correctly because it is not worded or presented very well. I’m not an english scholar however I do try and be very specific in my choice of words. The “Breaking of the Bread” was the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass) and Holy Communion. The “Sharing of the Cup” was also a term for Holy Communion. Jesus present in a different way in the Christian community gathered to pray is also believed today, that has not changed. Many of the early Fathers from the first and second century speak of the Eucharist and specifically that it IS the Flesh and Blood of our Lord and Saviour.

“do this in remembrance of Me” - Luke 22:19

There aren’t many subjects Catholic apologists like to discuss more than the eucharist. Even if their arguments about the papacy are refuted, even if the evidence they cite for the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, and other doctrines isn’t convincing, they still think they have a strong argument in the doctrine of the eucharist. They’ll quote John 6 and the passages of scripture about the Last Supper. They’ll quote centuries of church fathers referring to the eucharist as a sacrifice and referring to Jesus being present in the elements of the eucharist. They’ll point out that even Protestants like Martin Luther have believed in a eucharistic presence. How, then, can evangelicals maintain that the eucharist is just symbolic, that there is no presence of Christ? Are evangelicals going to go up against 1500 years of church history?

This sort of reasoning seems to have had a lot of influence on evangelicals who have converted to Catholicism. Some converts to the Catholic Church even cite the eucharist as the primary issue, or one of the most significant issues, in convincing them to convert. But is the argument as compelling as so many Catholics think it is?

There are a lot of problems with this popular Catholic argument. The argument isn’t even a defense of Catholicism. It’s a defense of something like what the Catholic Church teaches. The Council of Trent made it clear just what the Catholic position is on this issue (emphasis added):

Since Christ our Redeemer said that that which he offered under the appearance of bread was truly his body, it has therefore always been held in the Church of God, and this holy Synod now declares anew, that through consecration of the bread and wine there comes about a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. And this conversion is by the Holy Catholic church conveniently and properly called transubstantiation. (session 13, “Decrees Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist”, chapter 4)

According to the Catholic Church, transubstantiation is the view of the eucharist always held by the Christian church. Some Catholics try to redefine this claim of the Council of Trent by saying that what Trent meant is that there was always some sort of belief in a presence in the eucharist, which was later defined more specifically as transubstantiation. While it’s true that Trent doesn’t claim that the word “transubstantiation” has always been used, Trent does claim that the concept has always been held by the Christian church. There are two sentences in the quote above. The first sentence refers to a view of the eucharist always being held by the Christian church. The second sentence says that this view is transubstantiation. The way in which Trent describes the view always held by the Christian church makes it clear that transubstantiation is being described. The council refers to the whole substance of the bread and the whole substance of the wine being converted. That’s transubstantiation.

Why do Catholic apologists attempt to redefine what the Council of Trent taught? Because what Trent said is false. Let’s consider just some of the evidence that leads to this conclusion.

Though Catholics often cite some alleged references to their view of the eucharist in the Bible, the truth is that there’s no evidence of the Catholic eucharist in scripture. John 6 is often cited as referring to eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood by means of a transubstantiated eucharist. There are a lot of problems with the Catholic view of John 6, however, such as the fact that Jesus speaks in the present tense about how He is the bread of life and how people are responsible for eating and drinking Him. Jesus doesn’t refer to how these things will begin in the future, when the eucharist is instituted. Rather, He refers to them as a present reality. And John 6:35 identifies what the eating and drinking are. The passage is not about the eucharist. (See members.aol.com/jasonte2/john666.htm for a further discussion of the problems with the Catholic interpretation of John

continued

6.) Likewise, the passages about the Last Supper don’t prove transubstantiation. They could be interpreted as references to a physical presence of Christ in the eucharist. That’s a possibility. But they can also be interpreted otherwise. There’s no evidence for the Catholic view of the eucharist in scripture, but there is some evidence against it. In Matthew 26:29, Jesus refers to the contents of the cup as “this fruit of the vine”. It couldn’t be wine, though, if transubstantiation had occurred. And Jesus refers to drinking the contents of the cup with His followers again in the kingdom to come. Yet, the eucharist apparently is to be practiced only until Jesus returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). If the cup in Matthew 26:29 contained transubstantiated blood, then why would Jesus refer to drinking that substance with His followers in the future, at a time when there would be no eucharist? And if the eucharist is a sacrifice as the Catholic Church defines it to be, why is there no mention of the eucharist in the book of Hebrews? The author of Hebrews discusses Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at length, and he repeatedly refers to it as a past, completed event, one that was only offered once and is never to be offered again. While Catholics try to reconcile the book of Hebrews with the concept of offering Christ’s sacrifice repeatedly through the mass, there remains a fact they can’t deny. The author of Hebrews is silent about the eucharist in places where we would expect the eucharist to be mentioned, if it was viewed as the Catholic Church views it. This is acknowledged even by Catholic scholars. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990) is a Catholic commentary that some of the foremost Catholic scholars in the world contributed to. It was edited by Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy. Near the end of the section on the book of Hebrews, the commentary admits:

If, as it seems, the author [of Hebrews] does not speak of the eucharist either here or elsewhere, the reason may be that he did not consider it a sacrifice. (p. 941)

There’s nothing wrong with viewing the eucharist as a sacrifice in the sense of thanksgiving and praise (Hebrews 13:15). Some of the church fathers referred to the eucharist in such a way. For example, Justin Martyr wrote the following in response to the followers of Judaism who claimed to be fulfilling Malachi 1:11 (emphasis added):

Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him. But He utterly rejects those presented by you and by those priests of yours, saying, ‘And I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles (He says); but ye profane it.’ Yet even now, in your love of contention, you assert that God does not accept the sacrifices of those who dwelt then in Jerusalem, and were called Israelites; but says that He is pleased with the prayers of the individuals of that nation then dispersed, and calls their prayers sacrifices. Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind, whose name the high priests of your nation and your teachers have caused to be profaned and blasphemed over all the earth. But these filthy garments, which have been put by you on all who have become Christians by the name of Jesus, God shows shall be taken away from us, when He shall raise all men from the dead, and appoint some to be incorruptible, immortal, and free from sorrow in the everlasting and imperishable kingdom; but shall send others away to the everlasting punishment of fire. But as to you and your teachers deceiving yourselves when you interpret what the Scripture says as referring to those of your nation then in dispersion, and maintain that their prayers and sacrifices offered in every place are pure and well-pleasing, learn that you are speaking falsely, and trying by all means to cheat yourselves: for, first of all, not even now does your nation extend from the rising to the setting of the sun, but there are nations among which none of your race ever dwelt.

continued

For there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians, or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads, or vagrants, or herdsmen living in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered through the name of the crucified Jesus. And then, as the Scriptures show, at the time when Malachi wrote this, your dispersion over all the earth, which now exists, had not taken place. (Dialogue with Trypho, 117)

These arguments of Justin Martyr are contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches. According to Justin Martyr, the eucharist is a sacrifice only in the sense of being a means by which Christians offer prayers and thanksgiving to God. Justin Martyr not only says nothing of the eucharist being a sacrifice in the sense Catholics define it to be, but he even *excludes the possibility of the Catholic view *by saying that the eucharist is a sacrifice only in the sense of prayers and thanksgiving being offered through it. Justin Martyr seems to have had Biblical passages like Hebrews 13:15 in mind, which is a concept that evangelicals agree with. The eucharist is a sacrifice in that sense.

Some church fathers defined the eucharist as a sacrifice differently than Justin Martyr, including in ways that are similar to the Catholic view. But Justin Martyr illustrates two things. First, it’s false to claim that all of the church fathers viewed the eucharist as the Catholic Church views it. Secondly, the eucharist can be referred to as a sacrifice in numerous ways. It’s not enough for Catholic apologists to cite a church father referring to the eucharist as a sacrifice. What type of sacrifice did the church father believe it to be? And how convincing are that church father’s arguments?

Even more than they discuss the concept that the eucharist is an atoning sacrifice, Catholics argue that there’s a presence of Christ in the eucharist, and that the church fathers agreed with them on this issue. Some Catholics will even claim that every church father believed in a presence in the eucharist. They’ll often cite a scholar like J.N.D. Kelly referring to the church fathers believing in a “real presence” in the eucharist. But what these Catholics often don’t do is quote what Kelly goes on to say. As Kelly explains, the church fathers defined “real presence” in a number of ways, including ways that contradict transubstantiation. Some of the church fathers were closer to the consubstantiation of Lutheranism or the spiritual presence of Calvinism, for example. See the section titled “The Church and the Host” at:

aomin.org/JRWOpening.html

Also see the historian Philip Schaff’s comments in section 69 at:

ccel.org/s/schaff/history/2_ch05.htm

And section 95 at:

ccel.org/s/schaff/history/3_ch07.htm

I also recommend consulting Schaff’s footnotes, since the notes cite additional passages from the fathers and cite other scholars confirming Schaff’s conclusions.

The church fathers held a wide variety of views on subjects such as how to interpret John 6 and Christ’s presence in the eucharist. For example, Clement of Alexandria wrote the following about John 6 (emphasis added):

Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: “Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood,” describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,–of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle. (The Instructor, 1:6)

continued

In another passage, Clement contradicts transubstantiation. He writes the following about how Christians should conduct themselves when drinking alcohol (emphasis added):

In what manner do you think the Lord drank when He became man for our sakes? As shamelessly as we? Was it not with decorum and propriety? Was it not deliberately? For rest assured, He Himself also partook of wine; for He, too, was man. And He blessed the wine, saying, “Take, drink: this is my blood”–the blood of the vine. He figuratively calls the Word “shed for many, for the remission of sins”–the holy stream of gladness. And that he who drinks ought to observe moderation, He clearly showed by what He taught at feasts. For He did not teach affected by wine. And that it was wine which was the thing blessed, He showed again, when He said to His disciples, “I will not drink of the fruit of this vine, till I drink it with you in the kingdom of my Father.” [Matthew 26:29] But that it was wine which was drunk by the Lord, He tells us again, when He spake concerning Himself, reproaching the Jews for their hardness of heart: “For the Son of man,” He says, “came, and they say, Behold a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans.” (The Instructor, 2:2)

Clement, like evangelicals, cites Matthew 26:29 as evidence that Jesus drank wine. If Clement believed that wine is what was drunk at the Last Supper, he didn’t believe in transubstantiation.

Similarly, Irenaeus denies transubstantiation in his writings. He seems to have believed in consubstantiation rather than the Catholic view of the eucharist. For example (emphasis added):

For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity. (Against Heresies, 4:18:5)

For this reason, when about to undergo His sufferings, that He might declare to Abraham and those with him the glad tidings of the inheritance being thrown open, Christ, after He had given thanks while holding the cup, and had drunk of it, and given it to the disciples, said to them: “Drink ye all of it: this is My blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of this vine, until that day when I will drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Thus, then, He will Himself renew the inheritance of the earth, and will re-organize the mystery of the glory of His sons; as David says, “He who hath renewed the face of the earth.” He promised to drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples, thus indicating both these points: the inheritance of the earth in which the new fruit of the vine is drunk, and the resurrection of His disciples in the flesh. For the new flesh which rises again is the same which also received the new cup. And He cannot by any means be understood as drinking of the fruit of the vine when settled down with his disciples above in a super-celestial place; nor, again, are they who drink it devoid of flesh, for to drink of that which flows from the vine pertains to flesh, and not spirit. (Against Heresies, 5:33:1)

Irenaeus describes the eucharist as consisting of two realities, one that comes from Heaven and another that’s from the earth. He refers to the eucharist as an example of drinking wine, the same substance that people will drink in Christ’s future kingdom, after the eucharist has served its purpose (1 Corinthians 11:26). Irenaeus, like Clement of Alexandria, contradicts transubstantiation. Though Irenaeus does seem to have believed in a presence in the eucharist, it isn’t transubstantiation.

Other examples could be cited, and other examples are cited in the article I linked to above. It’s a historical fact that the church fathers held a variety of eucharistic beliefs, including some that contradict what the Catholic Church teaches. This fact is contrary to the Council of Trent’s claim that transubstantiation had always been the view held by the Christian church.

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It should be noted, also, that many evangelicals believe in a presence in the eucharist. Some believe in consubstantiation. Some believe in a spiritual presence. Evangelicals don’t even have to hold to any specific view. Jesus and the apostles told Christians to celebrate the eucharist. A Christian can do so without knowing whether there’s any presence of Christ in the eucharist or what type of presence there is. For an evangelical, this issue isn’t too significant. The reliability of our rule of faith (the Bible) isn’t dependent on proving that Christ is present in the eucharist in some particular way. Catholics, on the other hand, must defend the Catholic Church’s allegedly infallible teaching of transubstantiation. They must also defend the Council of Trent’s claim that transubstantiation is the view always held by the Christian church, as well as Trent’s claim that every other view is unacceptable. Evangelicals just don’t carry the same burden of proof that Catholics carry on this issue. Catholics can’t say that this is unfair, since the claims of the Catholic Church itself are what create the added burden of proof for the Catholic apologist. If you don’t want to have to carry such a burden, then tell your denomination to quit making such weighty claims.

In summary:

[list]
*]The Council of Trent taught that transubstantiation is the view of the eucharist always held by the Christian church. Trent also taught that every other view of the eucharist is so inaccurate as to cause the advocates of those views to be anathema. Therefore, Catholics must defend transubstantiation, not just some vague concept of “real presence”.
[/list]
[list]
*]There is no scriptural evidence of the Catholic view of the eucharist, while there is some scriptural evidence against the concept (Matthew 26:29 as compared with 1 Corinthians 11:26, silence about the eucharist in Hebrews, etc.).
[/list]
[list]
*]Concepts like the eucharist being a sacrifice and Christ’s presence in the eucharist were widespread among the church fathers, but were defined in numerous ways, including ways that contradict Catholic teaching.
[/list]
[list]
*]Many evangelicals believe in some form of presence in the eucharist, and they don’t even need to hold any particular view on the subject if they don’t want to. Just as the Roman Catholic Church allows Catholics freedom to believe what they want to believe or to not reach any conclusion on some issues, Christ’s presence in the eucharist is an issue where evangelicals have freedom. We can be silent, or allow a variety of viewpoints, where scripture is silent. Catholics don’t have this option, since their denomination has made so many claims about the subject in allegedly infallible proclamations.
[/list]
The eucharist is another issue that illustrates how anachronistic, misleading, and false many of the claims of the Catholic Church are. Some Catholics seem to ignore or minimize their denomination’s errors on issues like the papacy and the Immaculate Conception, because they think that the Catholic Church is at least closer to the truth than evangelicalism on other issues, like the eucharist. But such reasoning is fallacious. For one thing, all it takes is one error to refute Catholicism. Since the Catholic Church teaches that its traditions are just as authoritative as scripture, an error on one subject also disproves what the Catholic Church has taught on other subjects. If the Immaculate Conception doctrine is contrary to the evidence, for example, that isn’t just problematic for the doctrine that Mary was immaculately conceived. It’s also problematic for the doctrine of papal infallibility, since Pope Pius IX allegedly was exercising that power when he declared Mary to be conceived without sin. When the Catholic Church is shown to be wrong on the eucharist, the Immaculate Conception, or some other issue, that has implications for far more than just that one doctrine.

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With regard to the eucharist, consider one of the larger implications of the Catholic Church being wrong on that subject. If it’s true that the church fathers held a wide variety of eucharistic beliefs, and that they also held a wide variety of beliefs on a lot of other subjects, what does that tell us about early church history? It tells us that it’s unlikely that the church fathers were part of one worldwide denomination headed by a Pope. What’s more likely is that the church fathers disagreed with each other so much because they belonged to churches that were governmentally independent of one another, and they interpreted the scriptures for themselves. In fact, many of the church fathers specifically said as much. The fact that there were so many differing views among the church fathers, including views that contradict what the Catholic Church teaches, suggests that they weren’t Roman Catholics.

If the Catholic Church isn’t reliable, what are we to conclude about the eucharist, then? What do we do if we can’t trust Catholicism to tell us what to believe? We ought to go to the scriptures. And if the beliefs of the church fathers and other sources are relevant in some way, we should also consider those things. We should study the issue ourselves instead of just uncritically accepting whatever an institution like the Roman Catholic Church teaches. When we go to the scriptures, we find that a number of eucharistic views are plausible, but transubstantiation isn’t one of them (Matthew 26:29). The concept that the eucharist is an atoning sacrifice is unacceptable. Trying to continually offer Christ’s sacrifice as an atonement for our sins, and offering it as a further atonement of the temporal portion of sins already forgiven, is contrary to what’s taught in the book of Hebrews, such as Hebrews 9:12-10:18. For example, in Hebrews 9:25-26, we see the author distinguishing between Christ’s sacrifice and the offering of that sacrifice. Not only was Christ only sacrificed once, but He also offered that one sacrifice to God only once. Catholics acknowledge that there was only one sacrifice, but they argue that the one sacrifice is offered repeatedly through the eucharist. This claim of the Catholic Church is contrary to scripture. And there are a lot of other contradictions between what scripture teaches on these subjects and what the Catholic Church teaches, especially in the book of Hebrews. We can reasonably arrive at a number of different views of the eucharist, but the Catholic view isn’t one of them.

Hope this helps!

Oh my goodness…I must leave the church right away!

:banghead:

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