A series of articles born out of critically thinking on the works of several Catholic Apologists and comparing their work with Scripture.
This is one controversial doctrine of the Catholic Church that I can at least understand how many might be able to form this doctrine from Scripture. While I don't agree with many aspects of the doctrine, I can appreciate how some passages might be taken and seem to teach some of the doctrine. But by God's mercy, we have the rest of His Word to check test doctrine against. And, in my opinion, when the whole of Scripture is examined, many holes in this doctrine are found.
One Catholic apologist that I was reading questioned the intelligence of Protestants when John 6 "so clearly teaches the concept of the Eucharist." I have studied this passage in particular, and feel the need to comment on it here since the notion above seems so widely accepted by Catholic apologists.
Many of the verses are well known my many, and some (which I believe are critical to understanding Jesus' sermon) are not, but I would like to take the time here to comment on just a few verses in John 6:
John 6:50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat there of, and not die.
John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Absolute literal interpretation.
If we are to take the extreme literal interpretation of this passage as the Catholic author suggested, we must conclude just from these 4 verses that if any man eats of the bread of life (Jesus’ flesh), he has eternal everlasting life…period. There are no if ands or buts attached to these statements. There are no conditional clauses such as you have to be in a “state of grace.” It states as plainly that eternal life is given to whomever eats of this bread as plainly as it says that Jesus’ flesh is the bread. If these verses are totally literal suggested, then I can partake of Catholic communion and have eternal life…even if I only partake once. I don't even see anywhere where it says I have to be Catholic. This means that all that have ever partaken in Catholic communion have eternal life. The Christmas/Easter Catholics, the Catholics that have left the church and now are atheists or a member of some other religion. Can Catholics honestly say that they believe that all Catholics and former Catholics that they have ever met or read about have eternal life? Do they present the fruits of eternal life in their life here on earth? The verses say, “if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever”. To quote Mr. Currie (the Catholic apologist referred to earlier) in a phrase that he is fond of using “I couldn't’t think of any way that Jesus could have said it more plainly”. Even if we ignore the other Scriptures and the above observation, it may have appeared that Jesus was talking plainly until we get to verse 63 at the end of Jesus' sermon, Jesus plainly says that these words He has just spoken “are spirit”. What in the world did He mean by that? Mr. Currie stopped short of this verse in his usage of this sermon as a defense for the doctrine of the Eucharist. It is clearly an integral part of this passage. Either Mr. Currie was ignorant of that or less than honest about dealing with the whole passage. In addition to this complication, we have another complication found in this very same sermon by Jesus in verse 6:47 ; “Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that believes on me has everlasting life.” It literally says that one can get everlasting life by believing too. So does everlasting life come from the bread or does it comes from believing? Most Catholics apologists would probably say that both are required based on John6:47 and:
John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Both Eucharist and faith required? If both the Eucharist and faith are required, then everyone outside of the Catholic Church is lost. None will get to heaven. This is because the Catholic Church believes it is the only church that has the true Bread in the form of the Eucharist. If both are required, then anyone who is not Catholic is lost because they don’t receive the true Bread. This clearly is contrary to what most practicing Catholics believe today and contrary to what Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. How can we solve all of these discrepancies of bread and belief? I believe that the key is found in verse 63 where Jesus tells us that His Words are spiritual, and that these words are not meant to be taken literally. The bread refers to Jesus Himself in the sense that He must be found in us and we must be found in Him for us in order for us to have eternal life. Bread was probably the most common food at the time and it was easy for people to see the analogy that Jesus was making. He is likened to a big loaf of bread that was given for us. It represented His Body that was broken and crushed on our behalf for payment for our sins. And we all must partake of that loaf (partake of, or receive Jesus' Body that was sacrificed) to have our sins cleansed (receive eternal life). His body (one loaf) was given for many (many saints partaking of one Lord at the communion table). The bread is eaten and becomes part of us symbolizing that Jesus has entered into us, and changed our heart. As a result of God the Holy Spirit now indwells us. We all get our eternal life from this one Body that was sacrificed, and if that Body that was sacrificed on our behalf is rejected (bread not eaten), then we are lost. This is parallel language to that found in the parable of the vine and the branches:
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine; neither can you unless you abide in me.
John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
John 15:6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Apart from Jesus we can do nothing and on our own. This is illustrated in the parable about bread and the parable about the vine as well as other parables that Jesus spoke. The gift of the Bread of Life comes when we are saved. We are given faith, the True Bread, eternal life, justification, and so much more at the time that God saves us.
Did John forget about the Bread?
It is stunning to me that the same Catholic apologist who leaned on John 6 so heavily in support of his view of the Eucharist failed to recognize that if John records Jesus's words in John 6 as support of the concept of the Eucharist, why does this same Apostle John not even mention the "This is my body" quote or even talk about bread or wine during his extensive recording of the last supper? If John really had the Eucharist in mind in John 6 and that it was that important, how in the world did he fail to bring it up in his record of the last supper? It would be unconscionable. I am not saying that the observance of the last supper is not important nor that John did not think that it was important, but only that John did not record it. This should put into question whether John was really speaking of the concept of "the Eucharist" in John 6 since he blows by it in the last supper.
Bread as object lesson If Jesus wanted to convey what His sacrifice (death on the cross) would mean beforehand without having to go through it, what method would He have had at His disposal? He could not have used computer animation. He could have used pictures, but if He wanted a lasting remembrance of what it meant - something that could be repeated to remind people and something that would not have faded, what could He have used? To use bread and wine (both extremely common and available substances of that day and has continued to our day) would have been perfect... of course. If He wanted to give His apostles an object lesson about what was imminent while at the same time, give them and all the generations until He returns, He would have and did use bread and wine. Does this mean that the bread actually was His body or the wine His blood? I find it extremely believable and likely that He was using these objects as an object lesson for His apostles and us. If He wanted to explain how His body was going to be broken for us and His blood shed for us, and how we have to be in Him and He in us to be His followers, how could He have better explained it than by bread and wine. It is not unlike an illustration that a parent or teacher would use in comparing our solar system with basketballs, soft balls, ping pong balls, etc. They would set the basket ball in the middle and say "this is the sun". They would place the softball away from the sun and say "this is Jupiter" and on and on. Is the basketball really the sun? Is Jupiter really the softball? Did the basketball turn into the sun? Of course not. They are representations of the real things. Jesus gave a representation of His body and blood with the bread and wine - they do not turn into the "real thing". If I have a kidney that I want to donate to my child who was relatively uneducated in such things and want to explain how this is going to happen to him, do I slice myself open and show him my kidney - of course not. I could use a teddy bear though and put a kidney bean into it and say "this is my body" when I point to the bear and say "this is my kidney" when I point to the bean and so on. Is this what Jesus was doing? He is so far above us that His apostles (and us) would need a child like object lesson from Him to help us understand. A lesson that could be easily understood, preserved, and passed down through generations.
Volumes upon volumes have been written on the Eucharist. I have nothing that I can personally add to what I have stated above and what has already been stated by many in many different ways. My advice is to look at what both Protestants and Catholics have to say about the matter. Then, re-read what Scripture says and see which view you think aligns with Scripture.