What do Protestants have to say about John 6?

A question to all Protestants: What do you have to say about John 6?

Good question.

As someone within the Anglican Communion, I believe Jesus is hinting at what is to come in the eucharist, and that he is fully present in it; so I better eat it. However, if I’m to be a good Anglican, I must tell that many would disagree with what I just said.

My cousin who has a strong theology backround ((born Catholic now an ND pastor) says the Eucharist was just for Jesus’ apostles, no clue were that one comes from. Did not get far with the discussion. Tend to just converse about stuff we agree on.

I believe it’s referring the spiritual eating of Christ by faith and not relating to the Eucharist or Last Supper.

As I have said in another thread, I do not think John 6 is dealing with the Eucharist. Jesus says unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life in us. He also says that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has life. If the passage is talking about the Eucharist, it would seem to follow that receiving the Eucharist at a Catholic mas, licitly or not, would result in the person eating having eternal life. The Eucharist itself would be enough with or without faith. This would be an absurd result so I do not believe John 6 is dealing with the Eucharist.

This is without judging the nature of the Eucharist, just that John 6 is not about it.

From my understandings, some Protestants might say Jn 6 is about Jesus not turning anyone away at the table (verse 37). Also that in Jn 6, “eating” His flesh means to believe in Christ and in the sacrifice of His flesh which He made for us on the cross. And those who left were still thinking He was speaking literally when He was speaking figuratively. That the words spoken as Jesus said, are of spirit and life, the flesh profits nothing.

But one of my favorite explanations of “eating” actually came from an Episcopal priest and TEC believes in the RP. But she went on to explain it something like this:

Jesus is with us. And we are to consume His message and teachings of love and of caring for those in need, for the poor, for the sick… and then go forth and apply this message to how we live our lives.

I understand these verses to refer to the Eucharist. See the section, “God comes to us with His Body”

John 6: 43-59 is mentioned specifically.

As others have said, John 6 is not about The Last Supper. The context is extremely important and what Jesus was communicating and what John was recording cannot be understood without that context. Jesus had physically fed the people following Him around, and they were back for another helping of physical food. Jesus told them specifically that they were not going to get another helping of physical food, they could have Him and His words, as He is the Word of God, and He is the Bread of Life.

John writes in very symbolic terms and focuses on the symbolism presented by Jesus more than other writers do. He also gives the key to interpreting the symbols right there in the chapter.

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

“Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life;”

So, we have eating and we have drinking. The key is given; eating = coming to Jesus, drinking = believing in Jesus. And we also know He isn’t being literal because all humans still get literally and physically hungry, and we all still get literally and physically thirsty. We consume the bread of life, not literally and physically as they ate of manna, but rather by coming to Jesus, and trusting Him.

I agree that John often discusses symbols but it seems to me what his Gospel is often intended to do is explain them. They aren’t necessarily explained as a systematic theology or as an exhaustive creed like the Athenasian Creed. Although sometimes they are like in the introduction of John where explains Christ is the Logos. Of course sometimes John’s Gospel is very direct when it records Jesus as saying, ‘Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained’.

One problem I see with your understanding is that we could apply your same logic, whereby we know Jesus is not being literal, to your explanation. If man’s continued hunger after consuming the Body and Blood disproves the Catholic interpretation then doesn’t it also disprove your’s since man still dies? Can’t ‘eternal life’ also be figurative?

Aren’t there some words missing?


I find interesting though, that Christ, when given the chance to explain himself (when everyone is upset at this tough saying), he says my flesh is ***true ***food and blood is true drink.

Whereas, just a few chapters earlier, we see Christ tell Nicodemus he must be born again (another tough saying), and then when given the chance, he explains himself a bit more.

As someone who studied Johannine literature in college, I was always taught that these passages were John showing the sacramental theology within the faith. My teacher was Methodist, and went to Duke Divinity. Also, I think this text must not be taken in isolation, with regards to Salvation. If it is, then those who object to this saying as non eucharistic, have a fair point. With the whole of scripture taken into account, it’s easier to see the eucharistic message.

I do agree with this in the main.

One problem I see with your understanding is that we could apply your same logic, whereby we know Jesus is not being literal, to your explanation. If man’s continued hunger after consuming the Body and Blood disproves the Catholic interpretation then doesn’t it also disprove your’s since man still dies? Can’t ‘eternal life’ also be figurative?

The explanation is that it speaking of Spiritual life; you won’t spiritually hunger, you won’t spiritually thirst, etc… The eternal life portion is repeated as the “true north” of the compass, to help line up the interpretation of the symbolism. So it is explaining the symbolism by allowing us to line up the phrases and see the meaning. This seems to be more prevalent in John’s writings than in others, as you said probably because he is including and explaining the symbols more.

While I personally am able to see and understand the arguments for the differing POV and beliefs regarding Communion and don’t wish at this time along my spiritual walk to get into the debate one way or the other. Partly because I think it does come down to a matter of faith. Still something I might never quite understand is why people say Jesus didn’t explain Himself better if He was speaking figuratively.

Because after He said that which you quoted, He further went on to say when his disciples were still complaining:

“It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” (Jn 6:63-65) NRSV

I understand. Jesus speaks figuratively ALL the time and doesn’t explain himself. “I will make you fishers of men”; we know he didn’t mean that the disciples would literally reel men in with hooks and rods, or nets. “I am the gate (or door)”; we know that Jesus isn’t a literal gate.

The difference I see with this passage, is the clear connections to the last supper.

  • *55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6 *

*19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22 **

I think the foreshadowing of the eucharist is very clear in John 6, just as he did with Nicodemus concerning baptism–“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit."

P.S. Just an interesting fact. John’s gospel omits Jesus’ baptism, as well as the last supper. However, in two places (John 3 and John 6), there are references to both of these sacraments. Not using this as part of my argument, just merely pointing out, from my point of view, an interesting distinction in the 4th Gospel.

I believe in John 6 Christ is speaking prophetically about the sacrament that will be instituted at the Last Supper and yes I realize Luther would disagree with this.

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