Why do we believe the Bible literally in conjunction with communion, but allegorize on much of the rest of it?

It seems to be very contradictory to me to say that we believe in transubstantiation because Jesus taught it in the Bible, yet we believe that most prophecy is allegory. IE amellinalism as opposed to premellinialism. Or a literal 1000 year reign on David’s throne. Are we just called to believe whatever the Church teaches on these things without question? This is extremely perplexing to me.

We take each passage of the Bible on its own terms. Some parts of the Bible are historical, others are parables. Some statements are allegorical, others are literal. The Bible is not a single book but rather a collection of books written over hundreds of years. Context is usually the key to interpreting. The other key is tradition.

In terms of the Eucharist, there doesn’t appear to be any other way to take the words of Jesus other than literally.

“‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:51–52).

Jesus issued no correction to those who understood Him literally but did not believe. Instead of correcting them, Jesus simply re-emphasized His statement:

“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 you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53–56).

It seems rather odd that if Jesus didn’t want to be taken literally that he would reinforce a literal understanding of His words.

The other problem with understanding these words figuratively is that to eat someone’s flesh or drink their blood did have a figurative meaning in Aramaic culture. To use those words figuratively meant to attack another person (either verbally or physically). To understand Jesus figuratively is to have Jesus saying that whoever attacks Him has eternal life. What sense does that make?

The early Christian writers also appear to unanimously understand Jesus as speaking literally. Early Christian writings on the Eucharist all point to a literal understanding of Jesus’ words. If we’re going to claim that Jesus’ words are figurative rather than literal then we also have to explain how Christians could have misunderstood Jesus for over a millennium.

Its not a matter of “picking and choosing” what to take literally or figuratively, its a matter of examining the text itself. For example, if one day I am hungry and say, “I could eat a horse.” No one would take me literally. If on another day I say, “I’m so hungry I could eat a pork chop.” People would take me literally. The culture and context of my words would reveal my intentions.

For further information: Christ in the Eucharist
The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church

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