Why do Protestants think that the Eucharist is only a symbol?

I know that they claim it is a symbol, but why do they think so? I can’t seem to find an answer here on the forums or CA. You can just copy a link or something that leads to a website explaining it if you want, doesn’t matter to me.


In my opinion, because it’s a catholic teaching so they try to distance themselves. A great book about the Eucharist, it’s 10 in amazon, it’s Jesus and the Eucharist Jewish roots by Dr. Brant pitre.

It is important to note that protestants of the Methodist Lutheran and High Church Anglicanism do believe in the real presence but not in transubstantiation.

Protestants of the reform tradition do not believe in the real presence. that belief started with a rejection of a sacrificial priesthood instead communion was seen as a public affirmation of faith of the community the elements did not change but the presence of the community would have some grace to the communion

I forget who it was, but they said that the biggest break of Protestantism from Catholicism was their disbelief in the Eucharist, everything else is minor in comparison. It boggles my mind how any Christian can read John 6 and not believe in the Catholic/Orthodox teaching on the Eucharist.

It’s pretty clear

48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
54 Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?
62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*
63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c
65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?”
71 He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.

Do they think Jesus was just joking?

It’s funny because this is the one and only documented time in the entirety of the Gospels where we read about people walking away from Jesus’ teachings.

I think it is because if they acknowledge that it is not a symbol then that means that they would need a priest. And they don’t want that. They want to believe that all they need is the Bible and that’s it. And they want to interpret it themselves, do communion themselves, and be totally self-sustaining. That’s what I saw anyway at my husband’s Baptist church.

Here are a few reasons why Protestants believe John 6 is figurative. Please don’t respond with putting down the author! I realize a lot of people here don’t like Mike G. But he states why Protestants don’t believe in Transubstantiation.

John 6 and Transubstantiation

Written by Mike Gendron.

The Lord Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life In you.” Was Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? The Roman Catholic Church teaches His Words are literal. Their literal interpretation is the foundation for its doctrine of transubstantiation – the “miraculous” changing of bread and wine into the living Christ, His body and blood, soul and divinity. Each Catholic priest is said to have the power to call Jesus down from heaven when he whispers over the wafer, “Hoc corpus meus est.” Catholics believe they are actually eating and drinking the living body and blood of Jesus Christ when they consume the lifeless wafer. This is a vital and important requirement in their salvation and a doctrine they must believe and accept to remain a

If priests indeed have the power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of the glorified Christ, and if indeed consuming His body and blood is necessary for salvation, then the whole world must become Catholic to escape the wrath of God. On the other hand, if Jesus was speaking in figurative language then the Eucharist becomes the most blasphemous and deceptive hoax any religion could impose on its people. There is no middle ground.

Catholics need to know that Jesus used figurative language when He spoke to the Jewish multitude in this sixth chapter of John. There are at least seven convincing reasons why this passage must be taken figuratively.

Drinking Blood Forbidden
The Law of Moses strictly forbade Jews from drinking blood (Leviticus 17:10-14) A literal interpretation to drink blood would mean Jesus was teaching the Jews to disobey the Mosaic Law. This would have been enough cause for them to persecute Jesus. (See John 5:16)

Biblical Disharmony
If John 6:53 is interpreted literally, it is in disharmony with the rest of the Bible. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ for eternal life adds another requirement to the Gospel of grace. Furthermore, it gives no hope of eternal life to any Christian who does not consume the body and blood of Christ. A literal translation of this verse would oppose hundreds of Scriptures that declare justification and salvation are by grace through faith alone in Christ.


Unexplainable Dilemma
Since the “eating and drinking” in verse 6:54 and the “believing” in verse 6:40 produce the same result - eternal life we have an unexplainable dilemma if both are taken literally. What if a person “believes” but does not “eat or drink”? Or what if a person “eats and drinks” but does not “believe?” This could happen any time a non-believer walked into a Catholic Church and received the Eucharist. Does this person have eternal life because he met one of the requirements but not the other? The only possible way to harmonize these two verses is to accept one verse as figurative and one as literal.

Eating and Drinking Can Be Figurative
The Jews were familiar with the use of the figurative language of “eating and drinking” in the Old Testament to describe the appropriation of divine blessings to one’s innermost being. It was God’s way of providing spiritual nourishment for the soul. (See Jeremiah 15:16 and Ezekiel 2:8, 3:1)

Jesus Confirmed His Use of Figurative Language
Jesus informed His disciples there were times when He spoke figuratively to impart spiritual truths (John 16:25). He often used that type of language to describe Himself. The Gospel of John records seven figurative declarations Jesus made of Himself – “the bread of life” (6:48), “the light of the world” (8:12), “the door” (10:9), “the good shepherd” (10:11), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “the way, the truth and the life” (14:6), and “the true vine” (15:1). He also referred to His body as the temple (2:19). When speaking to a mixed crowd of believers and unbelievers, Jesus used parables (figurative language) so that unbelievers could not understand the mysteries of heaven which were not granted to them (Mat. 13:10-17). The reason the multitude were seeking after Jesus was because they wanted more physical food (John 6:26). Jesus was offering them spiritual food (John 6:32-33). As believers partake of Jesus, He will abide in them (John 6:53). They will never hunger or thirst. Clearly this is in a figurative sense (John 6:35). As the good shepherd, He feeds His people knowledge and understanding of Himself (Jer. 3:15).

His Words Were Spiritual
Jesus ended this teaching by revealing “the words I have spoken to you are spirit” (6:63). As with each of the seven miracles in John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the miracle to convey a spiritual truth. Here Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fish and uses a human analogy to teach the necessity of spiritual nourishment. This is consistent with His teaching on how we are to worship God. “God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). As we worship Christ He is present spiritually, not physically. In fact, Jesus can only be bodily present at one place at one time. His omnipresence refers only to His spirit. It is impossible for Christ to be bodily present in thousands of Catholic Churches around the world.

A Counterfeit Miracle?
There is no Biblical precedent where something supernatural occurred where the outward evidence indicated no miracle had taken place. (The wafer and wine look, taste and feel the same before and after the supposed miracle of transubstantion). When Jesus changed water into wine, all the elements of water changed into the actual elements of wine.

The 6th chapter of John took place three years before the Last Supper. If the Words of Christ were taken literally, why didn’t people start gnawing on His flesh after this teaching? The ones who departed from Jesus were unbelievers (6:36) who had followed him to Capernaum for another free lunch (6:26). When Jesus offered Himself as “spiritual” food they were not interested (6:63). Those who ate of the spiritual food for eternal life were believers (6:40) and remained with Jesus. He had the words [not the flesh] of eternal life (6:68). Catholics need to know that when Jesus is received spiritually, one time in the heart, there is no need to receive him physically, over and over again in the stomach. Anyone who believes they are literally eating Jesus is absurd and cannibalistic.
At the Last Supper Jesus asked believers to remember Him until He comes again. Why do Catholics remember Him if they believe He has come again the Eucharist. “For I [Paul] received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26). If transubstantiation were true and Jesus is indeed physically present, why would He ask us to remember Him. Furthermore, God does not dwell in Catholic tabernacles made with human hands (Acts 7:48).

The only way to receive Jesus is spiritually by faith John 1:12-13).

Biblically speaking - I don’t think this is necessarily true.

I am not aware of anywhere in the bible that it explicitly states that only a priest can confect the Eucharist. So theoretically - a protestant could believe in the real presence and deny the need for a priest to confect it.

Just a thought.


Drinking Blood Forbidden - and yet Christians do many things that were forbidden by Mosaic law. The old law was fulfilled and abolished by the New Covenant and the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Plus, eating and drinking the flesh and blood of God is different than doing so of men. That which was forbidden in Mosaic law had more to do with cannibalism and human sacrifice.

Biblical Disharmony - Faith alone does not save. Faith without works is dead. They like the leave that one out too. There is no salvation outside of the Church, Protestants don’t like that, so of course they say there’s “disharmony.”

Unexplainable Dilemma - Or maybe you need to do both? Why is one exclusive of the other?

Eating and Drinking Can Be Figurative - or maybe literal

Jesus Confirmed His Use of Figurative Language - All of the things mentioned are truths stated in poetic ways. Not sure what the point is. Plus, again, people LEFT Jesus over saying these things. He obviously wasn’t joking or being figurative here.

His Words Were Spiritual - The Eucharist is The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. It affects our souls. It is nourishment for our souls. Without which our souls die. So yes, they are quite spiritual.

A Counterfeit Miracle? - Why does this matter? Blessed are those who do not see, but believe. Of course we can also point to the countless Eucharistic miracles, but Protestants don’t believe in that sort of thing.

I came across this piece dealing with miracles and why I am Catholic. The presenter in this Youtube video makes the remark specifically how protestants only view the Eucharist as symbolic,…………but then they can’t explain or just don’t desire to deal with the question as to why do we have all these unexplained Eucharistic miracles.


I am not very smart, but I continue to ask why do all these miracles happen in this one Church? Is someone trying to tell me something? :slight_smile:

Do Catholics literally get hungry and thirsty sometimes?

Because that is how they were raised to think. I first heard the word ‘Eucharist’ when I was ~21-22, when briefly and half-interestedly skimming an article on it that some guy linked. My reaction to it was “That’s weird”.

This knowledge made me ahead of the curve. If you interviewed non-Catholic adults from 18-65 on the word “Eucharist”, most of them won’t know what it means. Contemporary society is religiously illiterate.

I am always hungry and thirsty for Christ.

Odd. Didn’t Jesus say you’d never be hungry or thirsty?

Why does the miracle of fire occur in the Orthodox Church? Why are there Hindu Yogi who haven’t eaten in thirty years? How could Muhammad fly on a donkey? How could Buddah banish demons? How could Druids levitate and control the weather?

Many different religions have “miracles” of various descriptions. As I’m sure many Christians would brand the bizarre feats of Tibetan monks (such as sleep without breathing) to be acts of demonic power they probably view Catholic miracles to be the same, hoaxes or for the more liberal minded acts of a same universal deity.

We become hungrier and thirstier for Christ…and less and less of worldly goods…which is part of our journey in growing deeper in Christ.

Hi, cguerber… Um… No.

Jesus spoke figuratively in parables on MANY occasions, and SAID He was speaking in parables when doing so. For example; the parable of the lost sheep. There was NO such disclaimer this time… am I right?

Let’s look at this a little more closely, shall we?

John 6:51-52- then Jesus says that the bread He is referring to is His flesh. The Jews take Him literally and immediately question such a teaching. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?

John 6:53 - 58 - Jesus does not correct their literal interpretation. Instead, Jesus eliminates any metaphorical interpretations by swearing an oath and being even more literal about eating His flesh. In fact, Jesus says four times we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Catholics thus believe that Jesus makes present His body and blood in the sacrifice of the Mass. Protestants, if they are not going to become Catholic, can only argue that Jesus was somehow speaking symbolically.

John 6:23-53 - however, a symbolic interpretation is not plausible. Throughout these verses, the Greek text uses the word “phago” nine times. “Phago” literally means “to eat” or “physically consume.” Like the Protestants of our day, the disciples take issue with Jesus’ literal usage of “eat.” So Jesus does what?

John 6:54, 56, 57, 58 - He uses an even more literal verb, translated as “trogo,” which means to gnaw or chew or crunch. He increases the literalness and drives his message home. Jesus will literally give us His flesh and blood to eat. The word “trogo” is only used two other times in the New Testament (in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18) and it always means to literally gnaw or chew meat. While “phago” might also have a spiritual application, “trogo” is never used metaphorically in Greek. So Protestants cannot find one verse in Scripture where “trogo” is used symbolically, and yet this must be their argument if they are going to deny the Catholic understanding of Jesus’ words. Moreover, the Jews already knew Jesus was speaking literally even before Jesus used the word “trogo” when they said “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).

John 6:55 - to clarify further, Jesus says “For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed.” This phrase can only be understood as being responsive to those who do not believe that Jesus’ flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. Further, Jesus uses the word which is translated as “sarx.” “Sarx” means flesh (not “soma” which means body). See, for example, John 1:13,14; 3:6; 8:15; 17:2; Matt. 16:17; 19:5; 24:22; 26:41; Mark 10:8; 13:20; 14:38; and Luke 3:6; 24:39 which provides other examples in Scripture where “sarx” means flesh. It is always literal.

John 6:55 - further, the phrases “real” food and “real” drink use the word “alethes.” “Alethes” means “really” or “truly,” and would only be used if there were doubts concerning the reality of Jesus’ flesh and blood as being food and drink. Thus, Jesus is emphasizing the miracle of His body and blood being actual food and drink.

John 6:60 - as are many anti-Catholics today, Jesus’ disciples are scandalized by these words. They even ask, “Who can ‘listen’ to it (much less understand it)?” To the unillumined mind, it seems grotesque.

John 6:61-63 - Jesus acknowledges their disgust. Jesus’ use of the phrase “the spirit gives life” means the disciples need supernatural faith, not logic, to understand His words.

John 3:6 - Jesus often used the comparison of “spirit versus flesh” to teach about the necessity of possessing supernatural faith versus a natural understanding. In Mark 14:38 Jesus also uses the “spirit/flesh” comparison. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We must go beyond the natural to understand the supernatural. In 1 Cor. 2:14,3:3; Rom 8:5; and Gal. 5:17, Paul also uses the “spirit/flesh” comparison to teach that unspiritual people are not receiving the gift of faith. They are still “in the flesh.”

John 6:63 - Protestants often argue that Jesus’ use of the phrase “the spirit gives life” shows that Jesus was only speaking symbolically. However, Protestants must explain why there is not one place in Scripture where “spirit” means “symbolic.” As we have seen, the use of “spirit” relates to supernatural faith. What words are spirit and life? The words that we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us.

John 6:66-67 - many disciples leave Jesus, rejecting this literal interpretation that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. At this point, these disciples really thought Jesus had lost His mind. If they were wrong about the literal interpretation, why wouldn’t Jesus, the Great Teacher, have corrected them? Why didn’t Jesus say, “Hey, come back here, I was only speaking symbolically!”? Because they understood correctly.

Also, why in the world would Paul write in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. ???

Can a SYMBOL bring judgment? CAN IT??? No. There is NO WAY this is a symbol, even if you want it to be, cgruber.

Spiritual is not symbolic. Drinking from the life giving water of Christ even once means we are never spiritually thirsty again. The spiritual life in us won’t die, unless we do something to sever the relationship with God.

Too many people confuse symbolic and spiritual. Spiritual is just as real as the physical world, and the Eucharist is absolutely real and not symbolic.

Spiritually, I believe I am never hungry nor thirsty when I eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood.

This one stems from differing understandings of salvation. From a Catholic perspective, while we do profess Jesus as the Way to eternal life, we also don’t automatically condemn people who don’t. (Not saying that any path to Heaven is equally valid. Just that we aren’t God, and therefore can’t judge people for eternity) So with that sort of understanding, it makes sense that one could not receive the Eucharist through no fault of their own and still make it into Heaven.

Eating and Drinking Can Be Figurative

Jesus Confirmed His Use of Figurative Language

But if he was speaking figuratively, then why didn’t he call everyone back when people started to leave?

No, it’s a strawman. It’s presented in a way to make us sound crazy ("…when they consume the lifeless wafer"). And it’s not theologically correct. The priest does not have the power himself to consecrate the Host, as this passage purports. He also does not have the power himself to forgive sins in Confession. In both cases, God acts through the priest and the sacraments to bestow grace.

Drinking Blood Forbidden

Okay. Stop eating pork. “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Mt 15:10-11, RSVCE)

A literal translation of this verse would oppose hundreds of Scriptures that declare justification and salvation are by grace through faith alone in Christ.

Nope. I will give you that the New Testament frequently states that we are saved by faith. In that regard, Catholicism agrees with you. However, the Bible also says in James, that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (Jas 2:17, RSVCE) And indeed, later that very chapter, we see the only time “faith alone” actually appears: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Jas 2:24, RSVCE)

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