E is for Eucharist: Learning Your ABC's the Catholic Way

Catholic Answers Magazine

We've got something really special planned for the next issue of Catholic Answers Magazine.

It's our first issue of 2019, and we've pulled out all the stops to give you a cornucopia of apologetic knowledge with the ABC's of apologetics - That's 26 articles that you can read...and use!

Catholic Answers Apologist Karlo Broussard gives us a taste with an excerpt from E is for Eucharist

The Catholic Church teaches that at the Last Supper Jesus changed bread and wine into his body and blood with the words, “This is my body . . . this is my blood.” But many Protestants say the Eucharist was intended by Christ to be merely a symbol of his body and blood.

Which position coheres best with the scriptural evidence? Let’s take a look.

One line of defense for the Catholic position is to take literally Jesus’ words in the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. John records Jesus saying, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

There are many ways we can show that Jesus did not intend his words to be taken merely as a metaphor. Here we’ll focus only on two.

First, Jesus’s audience understood him literally, but yet Jesus doesn’t correct them. In verse fifty-two, Jesus’ Jewish audience responds, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus’ disciples respond with similar perplexity, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60).

You would think that if Jesus’s audience were mistaken, and given the gravity of this teaching, Jesus would have clarified their taking his words literally. But Jesus does just the opposite: he affirms them.

In response to the comments made by his Jewish audience, Jesus reiterates the need to eat his flesh and drink his blood no less than six times in six verses (vv. 53-58). He likewise affirms his disciples’ literal interpretation when he allows them walk away because of their refusal to accept his teaching (v. 66).

A further reason to take Jesus’ words literally is that first-century Jews already had a metaphorical meaning for the language “eat flesh” and “drink blood”—namely, persecution, assault, and destruction.

For example, in Revelation 17:6, the harlot is “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus,” which many scholars take to refer to the first-century persecution of Christians by Jewish religious leaders. A few verses later, in verse seventeen, the language of eating flesh connotes the destruction of the harlot, which given the interpretation of the previous metaphor of drinking blood symbolizes the burning of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

It’s unlikely that Jesus would have intended his command to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to obtain eternal life to be taken in the metaphorical sense common among Jews, since these words, understood metaphorically by Jews, would have meant, “If you destroy me, you will live forever.”

If Jesus were using this language in a different metaphorical sense, he would have made it clear that he was doing so, lest his audience think that he intended the absurd meaning above. Since Jesus doesn’t make such a clarification, we can conclude that he’s not using the language of eating his flesh and drinking his blood in a metaphorical sense.

For these two reasons, among many others, we can conclude that Jesus meant his words literally and not metaphorically.

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Nov 29th 2018 Catholic Answers

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