Who Wants to Be an Apologist?

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The Winners Are:

1. Nicholas Hardesty

2. Andrew

3. Corazon Sotelo Parker

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Every other week I hold a competition called Who Wants to Be an Apologist? In which I propose an objection to the Catholic faith and invite you, the reader, to answer it.

1 Peter 3:15

It’s my hope that this series of posts will help you become a better apologist, so that you may “always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).

Before the objection, here are the prizes!

The Prizes

1st Prize winner will receive the book, The Eucharist for Beginners by Kenneth J. Howell by Catholic Answers Press (shipping included) and my fellow apologist Steve Ray’s great talk Defending the Eucharist: You Are What You Eat (mp3). Learn more about Steve here.

2nd and 3rd Prize winners will get Steve’s talk (mp3).

To be eligible your answer will need to be in no later than Tuesday the 20th at 9am (PST). We also ask that your answer be no more than 350 words. Also, I’m sorry, I can’t send the book outside the US (too much). You can still win the mp3, though!

The Objection

Catholics often point to the words of Jesus, who said, “This is My blood…” and “This is my body…” That’s fine. No one denies that. What Catholics fail to recognize is that Jesus frequently spoke in spiritual terms:

“I am the bread of life,” (John 6:48).

“I am the door,” (John 10:7,9).

“I am the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25).

“I am the true vine,” (John 15:1).

In the context of John 6, Jesus is telling His disciples that they must eat His body and blood (John 6:53).  He clearly says He was speaking in spiritual terms, “…the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life,” (John 6:63).

I’m looking forward to your answers! Let’s take this opportunity to learn how to defend this doctrine through, not only personal study, buy by reading each other’s answers!

 

 

35 thoughts on “Who Wants to Be an Apologist?

  1. when the disciples began to object and leave following this teaching, Jesus could have said, “Hey, I was just using metaphor! Come on, guys! Those were just spiritual terms!” Instead, he doubled down and said that the teaching was the truth. I think the words used in the Gospels also give us important cues, for instance – “This teaching is hard.” Yes, it was, and it did offend many of them! Nobody turned away when he said “I am the true vine” or any of the other examples. John wants us to see the mood and the reaction.

    I still see the same reaction to this teaching – many turn away. I stand with Peter – To whom else would I go? These are the words of eternal life.

    1. I pretty much second Catherine’s answer. I would also add that when speaking, Jesus uses the language ”Very truly I tell you”… Although in John 6 verses 35-40 could be read as if it is explaining the phrase in a symbolic way, Jesus is then bringing his teaching all together in verses 53-58, rather adamently. But He really would have said, ”Truly,truly I tell you’ as this is the way he would have spoke in his language as there was no superlative or comparative grammar, so to emphasis a point Jesus would have had to say it more than once, so he does, in Truly, Truly, which can’t get more serious and even plain than that. This is how the Jews knew he really meant it, they understood when a Jew spoke this way, it was actual, and not symbolic or methaphoric. And lastly, Again, Jesus was Jewish, a culture of eating Kosher, this would have been the worst teaching of Jesus if He only meant it in a figurative, symbolic way. This is what disgusted them, as Catherine does say, and how we can then say it is important to see it through a Jewish persons eye of the 1rst Century rather than our own spectacles.

  2. Jesus does indeed frequently speak in spiritual terms, but those spiritual terms point to a reality they convey, just like symbols at baptism, where the pouring of water represents the washing of sin. He gives an image to help us visualize a reality; the image is never the end in itself. So, when Jesus says, “I am the door”, he is not saying that he is physically an oak barrier on a hinge, but that he is the passage way to salvation – the way we get to heaven. The image of the door describes the reality that he is the only way to salvation. But with the Eucharist, we’re not talking about mere symbols. Jesus never used that spiritual language when referring to a thing, but only to a person. If Jesus only meant that the bread and wine was spiritually his body, he would be saying, “take this and eat it, for this is like my body.” Does that make any sense? What is the reality to which it would be referring. Actually, what Jesus was doing at the Last Supper was giving his actual flesh and blood to his apostles so that, by eating it, they would be made part of his body, and would be physically with him on the cross the next day. He was going to endure the pain, but they would share in the effects of his death because they were with him on the cross. If we can imagine one cell somewhere on Jesus’ physical body that never felt pain and never shed blood during his agony, when he rose from the dead on the third day, would we say that only the members that had felt pain and shed blood arose, leaving the other members still dead in the tomb? Of course not! The entire body rose. Well, the apostles were with him beforehand as they ate the Eucharist, they physically became part of him. And we who came later become part of him and are on the cross with him every time we receive the Eucharist. We are there with Christ on his cross, our sins are killed there, and we rise with him to his new life. That is why St. Paul says, “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes in glory” (1 Cor. 11:26) This is not mere spiritual talk without any reality behind it. It is the reality itself – the Eucharist IS the Body of Christ, not merely some representation of something else that we can’t put our finger on.

    1. Devil’s advocate, Matt gave us a line which Jesus does say he is the ‘true vine,’. this is metaphorical language. He does not say ”I am like the true vine” … Depending on which protestant one is speakig with, and which most are Evagelical or non-denoms it seems, a Baptism argument won’t speak to them…

  3. Saying I am is saying I represent like a door. He said about the bread and wine this is meaning the bread and wine litter lay his body and blood. Parts of speech are important in those days all information was delivered by words meaning was everything

  4. In the greek the word for eat is-chew or gnaw….. and in the Old Testament they had to EAT the sacrifice-the Lamb… and Jesus is the Lamb of God and He was/is sacrificed for us, so therefore, we have to EAT and Drink the Sacrifice/the Passover Sader meal-I believe that’s what it’s called-thank you Scott Hahn lol….. and then also it’s a fullfullment of the Mana in the Old testament that the Israelites collected every day until they reached the promise land… well-for us Jesus is the New Mana-the Bread of Angels/the Bread of Life and we need that until we reached Heaven/the Beatific Vision=the Promised Land… and if it was only symbolic, then why did many of his followers leave Him?

    p.s. I am a convert from the baptist church…

  5. An assertion claiming that Jesus intended simply a spiritual sense when he said “I am the Bread of Life” seems to forget the surrounding verses. Let’s take the whole passage in account. I’ll show how this passage differs from the few mentioned above as a metaphorical teaching differs from a literal one.

    If we were to apply a literal sense and the context of John 6 to the passage “I am the true vine” (for example), He would have gone on to say something like “I am the true vine … Truly, truly I say to you, farmers have given you plants, but those plants die. I am the real plant, that if you were to plant me and water me, I would not die … Truly, truly I say to you, he who puts my feet into the ground and waters my leaves will see fruit grow.” The retort could be – “How could this man be a plant?” If He were to continue in spite of their confusion at taking him literally, it could only be truly literal or intentional deception.

    John 6 is clearly a progression of literalism, since He took 30 verses to capitalize His doctrine. If He then stated “the flesh is of no avail” but meant “my flesh is of no avail” it would undermine the last 30 verses of any meaning. Certainly He couldn’t have meant His own flesh was of no avail, because it is by that flesh and blood on the cross that we are saved.

    This teaching is meant to be a “hard saying”(v.60) – a hard teaching that invites faith, which we first recognize in Peter. After “many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (v.66) Jesus turned to those nearby and asked “Will you also go away?” (v.67) Peter’s confession of faith presupposes something to have faith in.

    Was it literal? Jesus insistence proves it and Peter presupposes it.

    We are only left to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (v.68)

  6. Let’s look at the context of John 6 (I hope the verses aren’t included in the word count!):

    “…Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will 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?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.”

    Objection begins now:

    Now, let’s assume that the Protestant understanding of the Eucharist is indeed correct. Jesus poses this statement: “I am the living bread…whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”. Is it reasonable to assume that this statement could be mistaken to be literal, assuming the Protestant view? Certainly! Jesus’s audience clearly believed he was being literal: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”. Now, assuming Protestants are correct, wouldn’t Jesus correct the people’s misunderstanding? Maybe something along the lines of “No, you misunderstand. It’s obviously not real flesh! It’s a symbol!”. But, look how Jesus responds to the question: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood…” Just the opposite! Here, the moment where Jesus has the most obvious opportunity to modify the audience’s ‘misunderstanding’, not only for them but for the readers of Scripture for the rest of time, and throw all doubt out the window as to the Real Presence, he instead reiterates his claim and in fact elevates it! Clearly, Jesus believes in the Real Presence. But if Jesus believes in the Real Presence, then it must indeed be true, since Jesus is God and hence omniscient! This contradicts our original assumption deferring to the Protestant understanding. Hence, it’s a simple proof by contradiction, the Protestant understanding must be rejected in favor of the Catholic. This is clearly a different type of claim than a sort of “I am the vine, etc”, because no one questions his claim as being literal in those cases. Here, uniquely, the claim is questioned, not merely to clarify the audience’s desire to understand Jesus, but for us today to persuade us to believe in Jesus’s promise concerning the Eucharist. Abide in Christ and let him abide in you at the Eucharist with joy!

    End of objection.

    PS- I’m an ex-Evangelical Protestant currently in RCIA to be baptized and confirmed this spring!

  7. Jesus speaks frequently in symbolic terms, that much is to be certain. However, it doesn’t seem that any symbol that Jesus proclaimed Himself to be took so much weight as when He claimed “this is my blood” and “this is my body”. We learn, by reading further in John 6 that “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” Jesus never once alters His words or claims that what He was saying is symbolic, even after several of His disciples leave Him. Instead, Jesus turns to the twelve and asks, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” to which Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69).

    Jesus never once “dumbs down” what He is saying about being the bread of life. He never changes His words, even after several disciples leave. Instead, He sticks to this hard teaching and asks if the original twelve will also leave. Peter responds with an incredible profession of faith saying that even though what Jesus says does not make sense, the original twelve will follow Him anyway. This kind of response was never required for any other time Jesus spoke symbolically.

    Interestingly enough, in John 6, the original greek word that Jesus used when he commanded His followers to “eat” Him is “trago” which literally means “to chew” or “to gnaw on”. That being said, it makes sense that Jesus’s Jewish followers were so taken aback by the words of Jesus. They had very strict eating laws that were a protection against cannibalism. For Jesus to command His followers to literally “chew or gnaw on” His flesh was absolutely unheard of. Unfortunately, if they had stuck around, they would have understood more fully that Jesus intended to come in the form of bread so that this would be possible.

    A symbolic interpretation of this passage is not possible. If Jesus had been speaking symbolically, there would have been no reason for so many disciples to have walked away from Him that day. Jesus has been described over time as the best teacher of all time. A great teacher would never let so many students leave if they had simply misunderstood the message that he/she was trying to get across, much less the Son of God.

  8. In John 6:66 it states “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” If people turned away because of a misunderstanding of Jesus words, then Jesus would have the moral obligation to explain them more clearly. It would be immoral and contradictory to the rest of his ministry for Jesus to refrain from explaining further his metaphor if that was in fact what it was. In Mark 4:15-20 Jesus explains his parable very clearly when he sees that the disciples do not understand it. Also the Eucharist is a covenant replacing the old covenant of sacrificing the life of an animal. Although this does not necessarily mean communion would have to be the true presence of Christ, it would make more sense for the Eucharist to be a true sacrifice, an actual reliving of the death and resurrection of Christ rather than simply a metaphor symbolizing it. This way instead of just remembering the sacrifice, Jesus gave us the opportunity to actually enter into his sacrifice.

  9. Jesus Founded The Catholic Church 2,000 years ago and That Catholic Church’s Authority decided what ‘Books’ Comprised The New Testament Canon, it’s “Our Book” so “we know what it means because we are NOT a religion of only ‘A Book’ We are a Family that can trace it’s lineage back to the beginning of The Catholic Church and Plus , JESUS said it( 4 times! ) and I believe Him. The End 😉

  10. “I am the bread of life…” John 6:34-35, 40. At this point, the Jews believe Jesus is speaking metaphorically. They only understood this to be a material bread, of superior excellence to the manna, which would preserve their health and life forever.
    “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?…” John 6:51-52. Now they see he is speaking literally. Jesus would have heard the grumblings. If he had been speaking metaphorically it would have been prudent for him to explain himself. He did not do so.
    “Amen, amen I say to you…” John 6:53. Jesus confirms the notion the disciples had formed of a real eating of his body. This was stunning. He then intensified his point by adding that they must also drink his blood. In verse 54, John begins to use trogo instead of phago. Trogo is a more graphic term, meaning “to chew on” or “to gnaw on”—as when an animal is ripping apart its prey. This is not the language of metaphor.
    “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood…” John 6:54-55. Jesus would never ask one to act immorally. If it were truly immoral for him to command those present to eat his body and blood, it would contradict his holiness. Even if Jesus was speaking symbolically, which he wasn’t, symbolically performing an immoral act would be immoral.
    “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life…” John 6:66-69. Allowing the disciples to leave showed that Jesus had nothing further to explain about the literal nature of his explanation.

  11. If Christ was only speaking spiritually and not literally, then why did everyone walk away from this “hard teaching” except for the Apostles. What is so hard about the symbolism and what did it symbolize causing everyone to abandon Jesus? Would Jesus have allowed them to walk away over a misunderstanding? He didn’t say “Hey guys wait up! I was only speaking symbolically! He doubled down asking the Apostles if they too would leave Him? Peter replied “Where else would I go?”

    No one walked away when Jesus claimed to be a door, or a vine because it was clear he speaking metaphorically, but that isn’t the case in John 6…

    Also, a little Church history shows that the entirity of the Christian church believed in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for the first 1500+ years of Christianity’s existence. To deny it is to say no Christian had ever “gotten it right” until the Reformers showed up? Do you really believe such a proposition?

  12. First of all, when you say that Jesus clearly says that, “He was speaking in spiritual terms.” you are taking advantage of the ambiguity of the term “Spirit”. If you read the entirety of the passage, it is clear that he wasn’t referring to what He said as being spiritual in the sense of metaphorical, on the contrary, He was emphasizing the importance of his unbelievable words! They are spiritual in worth, not meaning.
    Also, when you compare the claims of Jesus in this passage to other claims of His which are clearly metaphorical, you can’t help but notice that in every other instance, Jesus goes on to explain the metaphor. When he says “I am the vine” in John 15:1, he proceeds to explain the analogy, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). However, when Jesus proclaims, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat (The Greek word used is Trogon – literally “to munch” or “chew) the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” He not only doesn’t explain it as an analogy, He reiterates this preposterous claim as not being metaphorical! in John 6:58: “This is the bread that came down from heaven, NOT like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” And when people finally understood what He meant, they left him! There was no reason for abandonment unless he spoke the truth.
    And this truth is what the earliest members of the church knew and understood fully. St. John Chrysostom (d 407 AD) emphasized, “It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself.”

  13. I understand where you are coming from with your objection, although, I disagree. John 6:63 is often used to say that Jesus was only speaking symbolically. However, if we look closely and look at it technically, we first see that the word “Spirit” is never used anywhere in Scripture to mean symbolic. John 4:24 says God is “Spirit.” But does that mean God is Symbolic? No. Also, the Greek word “sarx” used for “flesh” is sometimes used to describe our fallen nature form Grace. Secondly, if Jesus’ explanation was symbolic, why did many of His followers leave even after He made this explanation? Either it was a bad explanation or not one at all. Furthermore, if the people Jesus spoke to didn’t understand it to mean that His words were only symbolic, why should we?
    Catholics believe that the Holy Eucharist is the actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ because that is what Christ said it is. “This is my body. This is my Blood.”(Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20). Many Christians don’t understand that the last supper was the first Mass and the fulfillment of what Jesus promised in John chapter 6. In John 6:51 Jesus says: “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.” The people took Him literally. They said: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:52) And Jesus confirmed their understanding when He said: “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” (John 6:53). “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6:55). Catholics believe that in Holy Communion we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ because that is what all Christians believed until the advent of Protestantism in the 16th century. Like modern Catholics, the apostles also believed that the Holy Eucharist is the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. Saint Paul writes: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). “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.” (1 Cor. 11:27). “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Cor. 11:29). One cannot be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord if the Eucharist were only a symbol.

  14. First of all, whenever we hear Jesus say “Amen, amen I say to you” or “Truly, truly I tell you” or “Verily I say unto thee,” this is an indication that he’s about to say something of great importance. We can use this clue to conclude that Jesus was, in fact, speaking literally when he said whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will remain in him and have eternal life. Additionally, the real meanings behind the words “eat my flesh” were lost in translation. In Greek, the word “trogone” was used. It is usually translated to mean “eat,” but it is more literally translated to mean “chew” or “gnaw.” The Greek word “sarx” was used to mean “body,” but it can be more literally translated as “flesh.” So when Jesus told the Jews to “eat my flesh,” he wasn’t just telling them to do it symbolically or spiritually. He was actually saying “trogone on my sarx,” or “gnaw on my flesh.” If this graphic description of what Jesus expected of them wasn’t enough, he also saw their confusion and misunderstanding. The Jews were obviously quite taken aback by this teaching, as demonstrated in John 6:52 “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” as well as John 6:60-61 “Then many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them ‘Does this shock you?'” But instead of correcting their misunderstanding and saying that he was merely speaking figuratively once again, Jesus held strong to his first claim that he’s truly the Bread of Life.

  15. This is awesome! I was reading a Protestant apologist who made this exact argument, using the “I am” statements as his proof that John 6 and the Last Supper are only symbolic.

    Not sure if I’ll have a chance to post a full reply, but I’m excited to see who gets the prize!

  16. Jesus does certainly speak metaphorically when he says “I am the light of the world”, or “I am the door”, or “I am the good shepherd”. He is certainly not referring to himself as a light bulb, or a pine wood door, or a shepherd always standing out in the field.

    There is a reason, however, not to take Jesus’ words “I am the bread of life” metaphorically. From the beginning of the gospel, the apostle John begins and threads in this theme of the incarnation. For instance:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1 & 14).

    Why bring this up? John was writing to testify that Jesus, the Son of God whom Christians proclaimed, was truly sent from God in physical human flesh, in all ways like human beings. He became one of us. Is that not amazing? An additional note is to notice how the word “Dwelt” in v14 has a specific meaning which corresponds to the Tabernacle of the Israelites. In other words, Jesus is the Temple of God, for He is fully God dwelling in full human existence right in the existence of the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As Isaiah said, he is “Emmanual- God with us” (Isaish 7:14).

    A bit further on in the gospel, Jesus tells the Pharisees concerning the Temple “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-21)

    Tie this together with what John said in chapter 1! The Word, who was God, became flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1;14). The Word was a real human being, just like us, but He was God who became one of us. He is both human being and God being.

    Notice how John is recording this event. He gives a future commentary on what Jesus meant when he said “…in three days I will rebuild it”!. He says “But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed….”. In someway, the destruction of Jesus’ body on the cross and the resurrection of his corpse in the tomb was a destruction and rebuilding of God’s Temple!!

    What is the temple? It is the place where God and man meet together in holy communion! This has always been the intention, even with all the barriers that were put in place with the Levitical priesthood, whose sacrifices could never redeem humankind.

    So, Jesus’ body is the Temple.

    But here is the question, how do we meet Jesus’s body so as to enter the Temple of God? We begin to see the significance of Jesus’ physical human flesh. The reality of his being a truly human being is what makes it possible for us to have God dwell in us. As the son of God, being fully God in the flesh, He became man in order that he might unite our humanity to his humanity, and thereby link us up with the divine Sonship, which is the dwelling-ship of the Trinity.

    But how does our humanity unite with his humanity? Jesus teaches us that his humanity unites to our humanity by way of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He teaches us that by saying “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will abide in me and I in him”.

    But here is refutation to the objection. When Jesus speaks metaphorically of light, water, shepherd, and door, he is speaking to issues which are not tied to his physical existence per se. In other words, to be the “light of the world” is to be a hope for eternal life. To be the door is to be the way in which we must follow. To be a shepherd pertains to his care for the flock. However, to tie “bread” to his human existence ties right into the thread that John begins right from the beginning, namely, that the Word became flesh. If His claim that His body is the bread of Life which must be eaten is taken metaphorically, then it would imply that his physical human existence is not really necessary for our salvation, for if we are to understand “eating his flesh” in terms of just believing in Him whole heartedly, this does not require His incarnation. However, if we must consume His body, then this ties well with the major theme of John’s gospel, that the eternal Word became flesh in order to be the Temple of God for humanity. We have to come into contact with his flesh in order to partake of God’s temple, and we cannot say this about his other metaphors of light, door, and shepherd.

  17. In regards to John 10, 15 & 11 we see a how Jesus teaches his followers. In John 10 he says that he is the door we understand this to be imagery of a spiritual concept because he tells us that He is the door and we are the sheep. We can clearly see that he is talking about people (sheep) and himself (door). In John 11, Jesus calls himself the resurrection and he evidenced that by resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. In John 15, Jesus calls himself the true vine. Just like in chapter 10 he not only gives us a spiritual image but relates it directly to the physical. He clearly defines the meaning of the imagery. How can we use this to interpret John 6?

    If we look again to the complete text and ultimately context of the passage on John 6 we can get a better picture of what Jesus said and what he meant. This objection is actually raised in John 6:53 when the Jews replied with “How can this man give us his flesh to eat” and then answered by Jesus himself in v.54, “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” Just in these two passages we gain a lot of insight and understanding of what was being taught and what was understood by the listeners. Jesus could have said no you misunderstand me, let me clarify, instead he furthers his claim of flesh and blood. Then he tells then in v. 56, “For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed”, which tells us that he is speaking of something very real not spiritual. Jesus has a record of correcting misunderstanding of his teachings, John 4, John 3 and Matt 16 just to name a few. Jesus was clear in his teachings and explained himself fully. The objection that he was not literal in John 6 means that this teaching would be aberrant from the rest of his teachings.

  18. Great topic and responses…I love them all.

    Is there any significance to the place where this teaching took place (John 6:59)? It appears the Holy Trinity is affirming the teaching of the Holy Eucharist by virtue of the setting. I have no doubt that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

    1. Great Matt! What an excellent topic and challenge for “wannabe apologist (101).” What is the source and summit of the Faith? As to the location of this teaching, 6:59, place it in the context of Holy Week. Consider Peter in the Garden drawing his sword. It was here in Capernaum where John the Baptist and Jesus had the safety in numbers.

      Especially, however, connect this with the upper room for the defining of the New Covenant in Christ, Our Lord. How can we all participate in the sacrifice, and how can blood be eaten; is not the manna reference pointing to the law? What does the law state about blood? Why did they not rise to stone Him in Capernaum as the crowd had been driven before?

      Christ is the only worthy sacrificial victim, the true lamb who atones. If this is not literal then how does Peter call all animals clean and go out to the Gentiles? Without the literal Body and Blood all of the faith disintegrates and denegrates the law. Christ fulfills the law and feeds us with true food.

  19. Yes, Jesus did speak in spiritual terms. The question is whether Jesus is speaking in spiritually or literally in John 6. By looking at the Greek text we see Jesus is speaking literally. Jesus speaks of living bread that will give eternal life to anyone who eats it. Sounds good so far… However, Jesus says this is his flesh (v. 52). The verb Jesus is using for “eat” is esthio, which means “to eat.” The Jews have a problem with this. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” At this point in verse 53 the Jews are interpreting Jesus in a literal way. If Jesus means the Eucharist in a spiritual way, he should then correct the Jews’ misunderstanding. But Jesus does not. Instead, Jesus makes his teaching on the Eucharist stronger. He tells the Jews that they must eat his flesh and blood using the verb trogo, which means “to gnaw.” Jesus does not say, “Wait, I am talking about a figurative eating.” Rather, he says, “you must literally gnaw on my flesh.” He paints a clear picture in their minds what he is teaching. As if that were not enough, he uses this verb (trogo) five times from verses 53-38. The Jews point out that this literal gnawing on his flesh is a hard saying (v. 60). That’s why many disciples leave. If Jesus means the Eucharist spiritually he should chase after them and say, “Wait! You misunderstood.” But he lets them go. He is even willing to let his own apostles leave over this teaching (v. 67). Further, there was already a spiritual meaning for eating someone’s flesh and blood. That meaning was to do violence to the person and rip them to shreds. Clearly, this is not what Jesus means.
    The objection in verse 63 is speaking about the mind’s natural inability to grasp this teaching. The Real Presence of the Eucharist must be accepted on faith. It is the Spirit (faith) that we must rely on. The flesh (our flesh /mind’s ability, not Jesus’ flesh) cannot grasp how the Eucharist is possible.

  20. Here’s my response (I count exactly 350 words):

    Catholics DO recognize that Jesus often spoke in spiritual terms. In fact, there is no reason to deny that the “I am” statements of Jn 6 are metaphorical. Twice Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 48) and, interestingly enough, these two verses bookend the metaphorical portion of the discourse. In the intervening verses, Jesus is obviously exhorting the crowd to believe in Him (cf. vs. 35, 40, 47).

    The problem is that Protestants do not understand that section within the larger progression of Jesus’ teaching, which, from the beginning of Jn 6 to its end, calls the people to a more radical faith. It is not enough to believe. This belief must also compel one TO EAT, and that is the message of the remainder of the discourse (vs. 48-58).

    Evidence of this can be seen in the response of the crowd. At first they had no problem with Jesus calling Himself bread; they only wondered how it was that He came down from heaven (vs. 42). In other words, Jesus was speaking metaphorically and they knew it. It was only during the second section (vs. 48-58) that they considered His message of eating and drinking to be scandalous. At this stage, they took Him literally (cf. vs. 52, 60, 66).

    If they were misunderstanding a metaphor, Jesus likely would have explained it to them, since He did this often (cf. Mt 16:11-12; Mk 4:34; Lk 12:41-43; John 3:3-11). But He did not. Also note that Jesus shifted from eating bread to eating FLESH. If He were speaking figuratively, then His words would echo a Hebrew idiom where consuming flesh and blood refers to the brutalities of war (cf. Deut 32:42; Ezek 39:17-18). Are Protestants willing to take Jn 6 to that conclusion?

    Finally, that His words are “spirit and life” (vs. 63) does not preclude the Catholic understanding once one considers that, in other places in Scripture (cf. John 3:6; Mark 14:38; 1 Cor 2:14; 3:3; Rom 8:5; Gal 5:17), this language is used to pit human wisdom against supernatural faith. Jesus’ teaching is of the Spirit, and only a mind aided by this Spirit can receive it.

  21. I see your point, but let’s look at a little more context to this argument. John 10:6 tell us “Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.” and so clearly in this instance, we know Jesus to be speaking metaphorically. Similarly in John 15:11 Jesus says “I have told you this so my joy may be in you” emphasizing that spoken word over the actual metaphor itself. (however the metaphor of the vine does tie in quite nicely with John 6:56 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.”)

    Now as for John 11:25, we know that Jesus is in fact the resurrection, and it coincides beautifully with his teachings on the Eucharist in John 6:54 “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” To wrap up was the saying in John 6:63 “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” this does not refer in anyway to a metaphor, it in fact emphatically declares, these are words that will bring you to the “eternal life” Jesus speaks of; i.e. this doctrine which he establishes here, is integral in attaining eternal life.

    As well let’s take a look at the reaction of his disciples in John 6:61,62 “Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” So upon finding that his disciples were discontented with what is admittedly a tough doctrine, he challenges them further, asking what they’d do if he ascended into heaven right then and there? Logically we can conclude that he wouldn’t challenge them further if he could simply stop and explain the symbolism behind his words as he does with various other things.

    Side Note: I actually am considering apologetics as a career

  22. Jesus is called many things during his time on earth. Without any background or context, one of the strangest things Jesus is called is the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Why does John the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God? Afterall, Jesus wasn’t a four-legged animal walking the earth, he was a human like you and me right? With familiarity of the Old Testament, John is referring to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Passover (Exodus 12). In Moses’ Passover, God told the Israelites that a male lamb without blemish must be killed and the blood spread over wood of the doorpost. The Israelites would then roast the lamb and eat it. If Moses and his people did not follow these specific procedures, the first born son of each family would be dead the next day.

    So how does this make Jesus the Lamb of God? To start, there are many parallels with Jesus’ death on the cross and the old Passover of Moses. Jesus is without blemish (body without broken bones and soul since he was sinless), Jesus must be killed for not just the first born son to be saved, but for all of us to be saved. His blood was spread over the wood not of a doorpost, but the cross. Finally, in remembrance of his sacrifice for us, we must eat the flesh of the Lamb of God (Luke 22:19).

    Jesus also puts his title as Lamb of God to reality in John, Chapter 6. To put this sermon into context, we must keep in mind the Passover was approaching (John 6:4). In John 6, Jesus repeats many times to the Jews listening that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, causing almost all of his followers to leave (John 6:66). Jesus allowed them to leave because he was NOT speaking metaphorically.

    These parallels provide sufficient evidence that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. We consume Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity every time we attend mass. In John 6, Jesus meant what he said and he said what he meant.

  23. The Dogma of Christ Real Presence is the very Foundation of Christianity. Therefore the God Inspired [2:Tim. 3:16] and God warrantied bible [Mt. 28:20; Jn. 17:19] makes a clear and precise case for its truth; for its reality.

    Jesus our Perfect God, AND five different Bible authors testify to its truth:

    Matt. 26:26-28

    Mark 14:22:24

    Luke 22:19-21

    *John All of Chapter six* but especially verses 48-57 *[56]* *For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. [57] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him*

    St. Paul 1st. Cor. 11:23-29*** **[27] Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord*.

  24. Dear, my fellow brother in Christ,

    Thank-you for your great question! Lets take a step back and consider it. The following verses that you presented are to be taken figuratively. However, to the verse in question (John 6), this is not the case. The Gospel of John chapter 6 is to be taken literally. If we step back and read the passage in context, looking at it through the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover (Read Exodus 12) it is Jesus, the New Lamb (John 1:14) who needs to be consumed. In other words, the Eucharist is the fulfillment of the Jewish memorial meal of the New Covenant. Second, Christ flesh is indeed of avail, this is evidenced by the Incarnation and Resurrection. (Jn6:53) Jesus is making a contrast between our bodily eyes of the flesh which is tainted by concupiscence, and our abilities to see Divine mystery by the help of the Holy Spirit. He is not taking about His own flesh which will be crucified for our salvation. Third, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Therefore, when we receive communion, we actually participate in the body and blood of Christ which is that same flesh that was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25) witnessed in (John 20). Fourth, consider the following Apostolic evidence, Historical evidence, and a Eucharistic miracle:

    Apostolic Evidence:

    The Church’s ancient teaching in the Didache 70AD: “For this is what the Lord has said: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering..”

    For further reading I recommend, Faith of the Early Fathers: Three-Volume Set William A. Jurgens

    Historical Evidence:

    The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. Reaching back, Ignatius of Antioch 110AD forward to our present day here is just one example of the numerous quotes from the early fathers.

    Justin Martyr
    “We call this food Eucharist..not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate, ..” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

    Eucharistic Miracle:
    This is known as the Miracle of Lanciano. In the 8th century, a priest after pronouncing the words of consecration, the accidentals of the sacred host changed into a circle of flesh. It has been scientifically proven to have “type AB blood.” This is an ongoing miracle and is visible today.

    Since I am limited to 350 words for my response, I can not begin to do justice to this topic. Therefore, I recommend the following books for a more in depth theological study.

    The Hidden Manna by James OConner
    The Lambs Supper by Scott Hahn
    Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church Section 1324 the Sacrament of The Eucharist

    Thanks and God Bless!!

  25. Dear Friends in Christ,

    The Cathechesis helps us to understand the use of the words by Jesus to believe and understand them in the right perspective essentially to understand all this in the very person of Christ Jesus as revealed by Him. I shall try to attempt this way.

    The miracle of ‘transubstantiation’ which takes place after the Prayer of Consecration, meaning the ‘substance’ of bread and wine becoming the substance of Christ’s body and blood, while the appearance of both remain the same. Christ himself is truly present to us now as He was to the apostles. Jesus says that the Eucharist is His real body and blood and goes further, in no uncertain terms, asking His disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. This is the glorified body of Christ as anticipated during the Lord’s Supper and from the experiences of the disciples after Christ’s resurrection and that of the disciples on the way to Emmaus.

    As the food we eat becomes us, we become like Christ when we eat His by being transformed by Him to experience and live all that the ‘Father’ had endowed and made to dwell in Christ Jesus. This is not possible in its fullness just by the spiritual presence of Christ alone.

    Also, the divinity of Christ and His power manifested is really capable of doing this as being reflected in the multiplication of the loaves, walking on the water, etc. The eating of body & blood of Jesus becomes the means by which we remain in Christ and receive His life for our sustenance as accorded by the Father where Jesus says that “…. He is the Vine and we are the branches… and we can do nothing without abiding in Him…..”

    The above teachings & understandings by Christ and the wisdom of the Church enables us to view them not in isolation but from Christ’s birth in a manger (as St.Luke depicts it as the place of storage of grains) to his death and resurrection ( glorification of His body….) as presented to the apostles. Since God is beyond time living in eternity, who is the same yesterday today and forever, He has to be present in reality and when we abide in Him only then the eternal truth is experienced and He becomes the door (way), an opening to this experience of eternity to the eternal Father’s home which is a beginning in this life to be fully realized when we die and meet Him face to face as He is.

    If it is just spiritual we don’t have to go to church or come together as a community to receive Christ. One can sit any where and be satisfied with the spiritual communion, though it does not fully capture and accord what God the Father intends to give us through Christ Jesus.

    In Christ
    Gerard

  26. Verse 63 doesn’t prove Jesus speaking in spiritual terms about Eucharist for the following reasons:

    1) Jesus’ Eucharistic discourse ends with verse 58 (see verse 59). The dialogue of verses 60-70 occurs later and deals with ‘faith’ not the Eucharist.

    2)The word ‘spirit’ is nowhere used in the Bible to mean “symbolic.” The spiritual is every bit as real as the material.

    When people wrongly take Him literally, Jesus corrects and explains. For examples in John 3:3-5, John 11:11-14, Matt 19:24-26, John 8:21-23, John 8:31-36, John 6:32-35.

    When people rightly take Him literally, Jesus confirms and repeats: For examples John 6, Matt 9:2-6, John 8:56-59, John 6:41-51.

  27. What Non-Catholics fail to understand is that Christ’s sacrifice begins at the Last Super. He took bread, 24giving thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25in a similar way he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, in remembrance of me.” (1Cor11:24-25) The Greek word used for “remembrance” (anemnesis) means to make the past present. The church remembers the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, they are recalling it not only to mind, but also to present effect. First century Christian’s would have recognized Christ as the new Passover Lamb and having to eat his flesh and drink his blood, under the appearance of bread and wine. Anemnesis parallels the Hebrew word (Zikkaron) which also means to make the past present. 14”This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever. Exodous 12:14) when the Passover is instituted.

    Jesus is speaking literally and sacramentally. He says “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (John6:57). The Greek word used for “eats” (trogon) is blunt and refers to “chewing” or “gnawing.” Not the language of metaphor.

    Jesus does not make an attempt to soften or correct what he said, “Instead, repeats himself with greater emphasis.

    In (John 6:63) A contrast between the Spirit’s ability to enlighten our minds and man kinds inability to understand revealed truths apart from faith. It’s an earthly perspective that is profitless in the face of divine mysteries. Jesus is not speaking of his own “flesh”, which does in fact give life to the world.

    “You are hard pressed to find a single statement by anybody in the first eight centuries of the Church, where you have a denial of the real presence of Jesus Christ flesh and blood, body, soul and divinity there in the Eucharist”. (Scott Hahn)

  28. Yes, Jesus frequently spoke in spiritual or metaphorical terms, often when explaining His true nature. But He also did so using plain language…

    “I am not of this world.” (John 8:23)
    “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
    “Before Abraham was made, I am.” (John 8:58)

    Clearly Jesus chose to speak both metaphorically and plainly, depending on the situation. So how do we tell the difference?

    Let’s consider Matthew 16:11…

    “Why do you not understand that it was not concerning bread I said to you: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?” (Matthew 16:11)

    When Jesus warns the disciples of the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees, they think He is referring to actual bread, to which Jesus immediately follows with an explanation. All the disciples had to do was THINK the wrong interpretation and Jesus knew it and corrected it.

    So then in John 6, after saying, “For my flesh is meat indeed,” (John 6:45), after seeing His disciples question the teaching, after watching many of them leave Him for good, and after explaining Himself not just once, but THIRTEEN different times…

    John 6:27, John 6:32, John 6:35, John 6:48, John 6:50, John 6:51, John 6:52, John 6:54, John 6:55, John 6:56, John 6:57, John 6:58, John 6:59

    …Jesus makes no correction and gives no further explanation. Instead…

    “Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away?” (John 6:68)

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