Communion-Symbol Only?

Q. When Jesus said, “This is my body, eat it,” my friend says he was speaking symbolically.

A. No, that would be impossible. In the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke, to symbolically “eat the flesh” or drink the blood” of someone meant to persecute and assault him. Did you know that there are several places in the Bible where “eating flesh and drinking blood” is used in a symbolic or metaphorical way? Let’s take a look at what this phrase means when it is used symbolically/metaphorically.

Psalm 27:2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me…
Micah 3:2-3 “…you who hate good and love evil;…who eat my people’s flesh…”
Rev 17: 6 “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”
Rev. 17:16 “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

So, we see that when “eating flesh” and “drinking blood” is used metaphorically or symbolically in the Bible it means destruction and murder. And it is still true today. If you got a letter that said someone wanted “to eat your flesh and drink your blood” you would take it as an evil threat of some kind and not an invitation to loving communion. Jesus was speaking literally in John 6 but no one would know just what He had in mind until the Last Supper. So, communion in His body and blood is literal but not cannibalistic. Jesus feeds us spiritually with Bread from Heaven.

For other posts: Killing Jesus,Body & Blood, Bread From Heaven

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7 Responses

  1. Hello,

    This is Philip Duffin. I was reading an Anglican Theological Textbook on the Eucharist and they explained the REAL PRESENCE OF JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST AS SPIRITUAL AND SACRAMENTAL.

    Jesus has also more than one body! Firstly his mystical body the Church. Then his body which he took from the Virgin Mary and is in Heaven now. Then the SACRAMEMTAL BODY which he gave out at the LAST SUPPER and which he gives at All Celebrations of the Eucharist.

    The Eucharist for Anglicans is this:







  2. Dear Phillip,
    The Roman Catholic understanding of the Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity being truly present under the appearance of bread and wine is much more similiar to the Anglican view than a Baptist or Calvary Chapel view of course.
    However, I don’t know if that Anglican definition is how a good Catholic theologian would phrase it. It is true that we are a part of the mystical body of Christ, His resurrected body is in Heaven, and He gives us his body to eat in the Eucharist.
    But I don’t know if we would blatantly state that Jesus has three bodies. That sounds wrong and very unfamiliar to anything I have ever read or heard.
    We don’t believe the elements remain bread and wine but that their substance is actually and really CHANGED into the body & blood of Jesus. But they do still look, taste, feel, smell like bread and wine. It is a mystery.
    I would recommend that you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church at this address.

  3. For Catholics, the Holy Eucharist / Catholic Mass is considered the most important and highest form of prayer. In fact, attending Mass is an obligation, under penalty of mortal sin, each Sunday and on certain other Holy Days of Obligation. The Mass is divided into two sections, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word consists of two readings (one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament), the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel reading, the homily (or sermon), and general intercessions (also called petitions).

    The center of the Mass is its second part, the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. During this time, Catholics share in the body and blood of Jesus in the form of the bread and wine passed out to the congregation. According to the Bible, this is done in remembrance of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-25, cf. Luke 22:18-20 and Matthew 26:26-28). However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1366, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit.” The Catechism continues in paragraph 1367:

    The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

    In the book of Malachi, the prophet predicts elimination of the old sacrificial system and the institution of a new sacrifice: “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:10-11). This means that God will one day be glorified among the Gentiles, who will make pure offerings to Him in all places. The Catholics see this as the Eucharist. However, the apostle Paul seems to have a different slant on it: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). The Eucharist can only be offered in select places: Churches consecrated and blessed according to Catholic Canon Law. The idea of offering our bodies as living sacrifices fits better with the language of the prediction, which says that the sacrifices will be offered “in every place.”

    The Roman Catholic Church believes that the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist become the actual body and blood of Jesus. They attempt to support their system of thought with passages such as John 6:32-58; Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:17-23; and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. In 1551 A.D., the Counsel of Trent officially stated: “by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change 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. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation” (Session XIII, chapter IV; cf. canon II). By sharing in the Eucharistic meal, the Church teaches that Catholics are fulfilling John 6:53: “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.”

    What does that really mean? Jesus goes on to say that “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63-64). So, if “the flesh is of no avail,” why would we have to eat Jesus’ flesh in order to have eternal life? It does not make sense, until Jesus tells us that the words He speaks are “spirit.” Jesus is saying that this is not a literal teaching, but a spiritual one. The language ties in perfectly with the aforementioned statement of the apostle Paul: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

    In Jewish thought, bread was equated with the Torah, and “eating of it” was reading and understanding the covenant of God (cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). For example, the apocryphal book of Sirach states “‘He who eats of me will hunger still, he who drinks of me will thirst for more; he who obeys me will not be put to shame, he who serves me will never fail.’ All this is true of the book of Most High’s covenant, the law which Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the community of Jacob” (Sirach 24:20-22). Quoting from Sirach here is not endorsing it as Scripture; it only serves to illustrate how the Jewish people thought of Mosaic Law. It is important to understand the equating of bread with the Torah to appreciate Jesus’ real point.

    In John 6, Jesus is actually telling the crowd that He is superior to the Torah (cf. John 6:49-51), and the entire Mosaic system of Law. In the passage from Sirach, it states that those who eat of the Law will “hunger still” and “thirst for more,” the language of which is mirrored by Jesus when He says “He who comes to Me will never be hungry, he who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Jesus is not commanding people to literally eat His flesh and drink His blood, He is telling them the core of all Christian doctrine: belief in Jesus Himself (“The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent,” John 6:29, emphasis added). Therefore, the Catholic interpretation of John 6 is unbiblical.

    Secondly, there is a very clear analogy in John 6 to the days of Moses and the eating of manna. In the days of Moses, manna was God’s provision for food for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. In John 6, however, Jesus claimed to be the true manna, the bread of heaven. With this statement Jesus claimed to be God’s full provision for salvation. Manna was God’s provision of deliverance from starvation. Jesus is God’s provision of deliverance from damnation. Just as the manna had to be consumed to preserve the lives of the Israelites, so Jesus has to be consumed (fully received by faith) for salvation to be received.

    It is very clear that Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life and encouraged his followers to eat of His flesh in John 6. But we do not need to conclude that Jesus was teaching what the Catholics have referred to as transubstantiation. The Lord’s Supper / Christian communion / Holy Eucharist had not been instituted yet. Jesus did not institute the Holy Eucharist / Mass / Lord’s Supper until John chapter 13. Therefore, to read the Lord’s Supper into John 6 is unwarranted. As suggested above, it is best to understand this passage in light of coming to Jesus, in faith, for salvation. When we receive Him as Savior, placing our full trust in Him, we are “consuming His flesh” and “drinking His blood.” His body was broken (at His death) and His blood was shed to provide for our salvation. 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

    Whether the Catholic definition of Holy Eucharist is a “re-sacrifice” of Christ, or a “re-offering” of Christ’s sacrifice – both concepts are unbiblical. Christ does not need to be re-sacrificed. Christ’s sacrifice does not need to be re-offered. Hebrews 7:27 declares, “Unlike the other high priests, He (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins ONCE for all when He offered Himself.” Similarly, 1 Peter 3:18 exclaims, “For Christ died for sins ONCE for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…” Christ’s once for all death on the cross was sufficient to atone for all of our sins (1 John 2:2). Therefore, Christ’s sacrifice does not need to be re-offered. Instead, Christ’s sacrifice is to be received by faith (John 1:12; 3:16). Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood are symbols of fully receiving His sacrifice on our behalf, by grace through faith.

  4. Jeronie,

    All of your arguments are based on a false premise. That premise is that all Christian truth can be found in Sacred Scripture and ONLY sacred scripture. The irony is that this Protestant Doctrine of Scripture Alone or Sola Scriptura cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.

    You base your beliefs and criticism of the Catholic doctrine on Protestant interpretation of scripture which is actually Protestant Tradition.

    Click the links for more posts on Catholic TRADITION and EUCHARIST

  5. And if you ever read this …bfhu…there is always two ‘sides’ to irony – your defense of the Catholic beliefs concerning the Communion is also tradition – Catholic tradition.
    And one question – who brought up Sola Scriptura anyway? Freaks me out when anyone tries to poke holes in that ideal – isn’t it a smart idea to rely on Scripture for all things taught in Church/Mass? Unless you think that we should ‘invent’ new ideas. It’s pretty scary when you begin to step away from Scripture to try to make a point.

  6. I’d find it very UNLIKELY that Jesus was speaking symbolically when he spoke in John 6. He mentions that his body is real food nearly 6 times, and it’s the only doctrine he speaks of where his disciples walk away from him. The greek he uses for “eat” is actually “trogo” which means “to chew,” so if he wasn’t speaking literally, he certainly shocked his listeners unnecessarily. And also recall…he didn’t stop to clarify “wait guys…you didn’t think I was actually asking you to eat my body and drink my blood, did you?” He let them go, and he turned to his disciples, asking them if they wanted to leave as well.

    At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
    Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
    But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.
    I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
    Whoever eats this bread will live forever.
    This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
    Unless you east the flesh of the Son of Man (Mark 14:62) and drink His blood, you will not have life in you.
    Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
    For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.
    Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.
    So also whoever eats me, the same shall live because of me.
    This is the bread that descends from heaven. It is not like the manna that your fathers ate.

    1 Cor 11:26-29 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” [If communion is just a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, why would we bring judgment upon ourselves if we eat or drink unworthily? It’s just a symbol. This tends to make sense, however, if the bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Christ].

    Exodus 12:21-28 “ Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD,”

    John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

    Jesus acted as Priest of the New Covenant when He celebrated the Passover with His disciples in the Upper Room. This Jewish Passover was considered a true sacrifice — not only the bloody aspect of the Passover that took place on the first day of the Passover week, but the unbloody aspect of it as well. Exodus 12:1-14 and Malachi 1:7-11 tell us that the unleavened bread was considered an unbloody sacrifice just as the lambs of sacrifice were considered a bloody sacrifice. When Jesus said the immortal words “This is my body” and “This cup . . . is the new covenant in my blood” (see Lk 22:19-20), He established this sacrificial banquet for all time. They would no longer be consuming a lamb that could never take away sins (see Heb 10:11), but rather the true “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, 6:53-54). And when He then said to His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He ordained them to go out and share this same cup of our salvation to the ends of the earth.

    Heb 9:11-12 “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

    If one accepts the fact that God became Man, then it cannot consistently be deemed impossible (as many casually assume) for him to become truly and really present under the appearances of bread and wine. Jesus, after His Resurrection, could apparently walk through walls while remaining in his physical (glorified) body (John 20:26-27). How, then, can the Real Presence reasonably be regarded as intrinsically implausible by supernaturalist Christians?

    Matt 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
    Phil 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

    The prevailing protestant viewpoint (that the bread and wine are spiritual), only developed in the 16th century. God promised to lead all into spiritual truth (John 16:14), and the early church fathers believed in the real presence unequivocally. How are they wrong? What’s the evidence?

    As the Israelites revered the bread of the presence (Ex 25:29) and drew holiness from it (Lev 24:9) A town named Bethlehem (Hebrew for “House of Bread”).
    The verbs are more graphic in the Greek: He’s telling the assembly that they must “chew” or “gnaw” His flesh.
    He is offered continuously, a pure offering, from the rising of the sun to its setting.
    But rather represented Him and participated in His priesthood.
    The Didache repeatedly uses the word “sacrifice” to describe the Eucharist: “And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”

    A priest is, by definition, someone who offers sacrifice (see Heb 8:3) Christ appears as a sacrificial lamb (Rev 5:6) God willed that we should cooperate in His work of redemption. St. Paul went on to say, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is the Church.” (Col 1:24)

    In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus refers to the Eucharistic cup as the “new covenant in My blood” (22:20). He is certainly evoking Moses’ words at Exodus 24:6-8, “Behold the blood of the covenant,” but He is combining it with Jeremiah’s much later oracle of God’s promise: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31).

    When the word is in scripture has the meaning “symbolizes,” this sense is readily apparent:

    Matt 13:37-38: His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.” [He clarifies everything here, the parable of the wheat and the weeds].
    John 19:7-10 “Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
    [Once again, Jesus clarifies exactly what he means as the gate for the sheep. He doesn’t simply claim to be a door, forcing his disciples to leave in disgust].
    1 Cor 10:4 “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

    Catholic teaching on the Eucharist also helped me understand a passage in Zechariah that is unexplainable from an Evangelical perspective. “On that day….all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them” (Zech 14:20-21).
    “If Jesus’ sacrifice is final and complete, why will there be sacrifices needed in Jerusalem after the death and Resurrection of Jesus?” After Christ had died and set up his Kingdom, why would sacrifices still be performed in Israel?
    Catholics believe that the Eucharist is a real, unbloody sacrifice that brings into the present time the saving effects of the once-for-all-time crucifixion of Jesus. The work of Christ on the Cross is finished. The crucifixion need never be repeated. But its benefits are applied to me in today’s timeframe through the real sacrifice of the Eucharist.
    I finally came tot he conclusion that Zechariah had to be referring to the Eucharist. This is the only logical reason he would write that sacrifices will be done in the Kingdom after the Messiah’s coming.

    Karl Keating: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”’ (Ps 110:4). By definition, a priest offers a sacrifice. What did Melchizekek offer? Some Evangelicals are unaware of the fact that it was bread and wine that Melchizedek brought out to Abraham as an offering (Gen 14:18)
    1 COr 11:24-25 quotes Jesus as saying during the Last Supper, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in rememberance of me.” As Scripture scholar Father Mitchell Pacwa, S.J., has pointed out, the Greek word for “rememberance” in this passage is a very technical word. Interestingly, it is also a relatively rare word in Scripture. Outside of its uses in the Last Supper, it is used only one other time in the New Testament. This is in Hebrews 10:3, where the rememberance is the act of carrying out a sacrifice.
    The Greek word is used twice, both times meaning sacrifice: “Put some pure incense as a memorial….to be an offering (Lev 24:7) and “Sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you” (Nb 10:10).
    It is a word fraught with sacrificial overtones, used in the Bible to mean “remind yourself of something by participating in a sacrifice.”

  7. Keatings says: “it was bread and wine that Melchizedek brought out to Abraham as an offering” (Gen 14:18).

    There is NO indication in the Text that the refreshment brought out was anything more than just that; REFRESHMENT. Reading into this passage that it was an “”offering” of some sort is the worst sort of eisegesis imaginable and you ought to be ashamed for quoting this man, whom you now must admit, has deceived you.

    You say: “I’d find it very UNLIKELY that Jesus was speaking symbolically when he spoke in John 6. He mentions that his body is real food nearly 6 times”.

    You are wrong.

    You say: “The greek he uses for “eat” is actually “trogo” which means ‘to chew’ ”

    Which proves absolutely nothing.

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