By Keith Thompson
The Roman Catholic understanding of the Eucharist says that after the words of consecration given by the priest or bishop, the bread and wine are changed in substance to the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, and only remain bread in wine in appearance and taste (Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Thirteenth Session, Ch. 4, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H. J. Schroeder, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1978], p. 75; Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Canons on the Most Holy Sacramental of the Eucharist, Canon 1, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H. J. Schroeder, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1978], p. 79).
Rome also claims the Eucharist is a propitious sacrifice and “that the principle fruit of the most Holy Eucharist is the remission of sins” (Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Canons on the Most Holy Sacramental of the Eucharist, Canon 5, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H. J. Schroeder, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1978], p. 79). The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is a memorial and because it applies its fruit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, [DoubleDay, 1994], par. 1366, p. 380). It also says,
“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice . . . 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 alter of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, [DoubleDay, 1994], par. 1367, p. 381).
When Rome says the sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory, this means that when the Catholic takes it, God’s attitude towards them allegedly changes from being angry to favourable. Catholic writer John Anthony O’Brien sums up the Catholic mindset on the Mass in his book The Faith of Millions which received the Nihil Obstat and imprimatur, showing the Roman church approves of it: “When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into heaven, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our alter to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. . . . The priest then speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest’s command. . . . No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of ‘alter Christus.’ For the priest is and should be another Christ” (John Anthony O'Brien, The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1974], pp. 255-256).
Finally, Papalism states the bread and wine are to be worshiped and venerated as God. The Council of Trent stated Catholics should “give to this most holy sacrament in veneration the worship of latria, which is due to the true God” (Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Thirteenth Session, Ch. 5, The Worship and Veneration to be Shown to this Most Holy Sacrament, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H. J. Schroeder, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1978], p. 76).
Rome also says, “the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, [DoubleDay, 1994], par. 1372, p. 369). Therefore, if her teaching on the Eucharist is clearly refuted biblically and by primitive extrabiblical sources, then Roman Catholicism itself is refuted as a false faith.
Biblical Response to Transubstantiation
New Testament does not teach priests existed or presided over Eucharist. In the twenty-third session of the Council of Trent in Canon 1, Rome claimed the New Testament priesthood has the power to consecrate and offer the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins (Canons on the Sacrament of Order, Session 23, Canon 1, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H. J. Schroeder, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1978], pp. 162-163). So in a sense Rome’s doctrine of the Mass depends upon the validity of her idea that God ordained a New Testament priesthood and their ability to consecrate and offer the bread and wine. However, as we have shown in our other material, there is no New Testament priesthood. Presbyters, contra Rome, as we proved, were not priests but identical to elders or bishops. Moreover, there is no evidence the presbyters, who Rome erroneously claims were priests, were in charge of presiding over the Eucharist in the primitive church. As Catholic scholar Richard P. McBrian notes, “It is not clear, however, that anyone in particular was commissioned to preside over the Eucharist in the beginning. . . . Indeed, there is no compelling evidence that they [apostles] presided when they were present, or that a chain of ordination from Apostle to bishop to priest was required for presiding” (Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism: New Edition, [HarperOne, 1994], pp. 866-867). Since the priesthood as well as the idea that they presided over the Eucharist in primitive God-ordained Christianity is false, Rome’s doctrine of the Mass, which depends on those ideas, is also false.
Elements still called “bread and wine” even after alleged transubstantiation in New Testament. In Matthew 26:26-28 Jesus says the bread and wine were His body and blood (what Rome calls consecrating the elements). However, if transubstantiation is true and this was literal, why does Jesus then continue to identify the wine as “fruit of the vine,” i.e., mere wine, in v. 29? Similarly, after mentioning consecration in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, why does Paul continue to refer to the elements simply “bread” and “the cup” in vv. 26-27. This is inconsistent with the Roman view that a literal change in substance has taken place.
Drinking Jesus’ literal blood violates biblical prohibitions on drinking blood. In both the Old and New Testaments we see prohibition of drinking blood. If one adopts Rome’s literalist view of transubstantiation, they have to believe they are violating these commands. In Leviticus 17:14 we read, “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off” (Leviticus 17:14). Leviticus 17:10 also forbids the eating of “any blood.” This is significant because part of Jesus’ mission was to obey the Law perfectly as the spotless Lamb (see Galatians 4:4; Luke 3:22; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22; 3:18). For Catholics to claim Jesus engaged in and allowed His disciples to drink literal blood, would be to say before the institution of the New Covenant Jesus engaged in the breaking of the Mosaic Law and was hence not a spotless lamb who perfectly obeyed the Law. The New Covenant was not instituted until Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross (see Luke 22:10; Hebrews 9:15-16). Therefore, Rome’s idea forces one to believe prior to the doing away with the Old Covenant and Mosaic Law, Jesus engaged in and allowed the violation of it. What is more, even according to Jesus’ New Covenant rules, drinking blood is forbidden. Hence, the case is settled clearly on this issue. The conclusion of the Acts 15 council was that Gentiles, like Jews, were not to drink blood (Acts 15:20). Acts 21:25 confirms the same thing. If Jesus was speaking symbolically about His blood being wine we are to drink, the biblical mandate is not violated. But if one agrees with the literalist Roman view, it definitely is.
Rome’s view is cannibalism. If Rome is right about the bread being the literal body of Christ, and that Catholics actually eat it, then this is cannibalism. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Eleventh Edition defines a cannibal as “one that eats the flesh of its own kind” (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Eleventh Edition, [Merriam-Webster, 2004], p. 180). Since as a result of the incarnation it is a fact that Jesus is fully man (hypostatic union), this means if Catholics are correct then by eating his literal flesh they are engaging in cannibalism. The problem is when Scripture mentions cannibalism, it is seen to be evil and a judgement from God (see Leviticus 26:27-29; Deuteronomy 28:49, 53-57; Jeremiah 19:8-9; Lamentations 2:20; 4:10; Ezekiel 5:10). In one of the examples we read, “27But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters” (Leviticus 26:27-29). This is not something positive according to Holy Scripture. Instead, if people engage in it, it usually means they are under God’s wrath.
Biblical Response to the Mass as a Propitiatory Sacrifice
Jesus’ sacrifice was offered once for all. Since the New Testament is crystal clear on the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice, or the offering of it, was a once-for-all thing, it is erroneous for Rome to claim that in her Mass the same sacrifice is offered over and over. As Hebrews 7:27 says, “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27). The Greek word for “once for all” here is ephapax which is a strengthened form of hapax which means “one time” or “once for all” in regards to something “not requiring repetition” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996], p. 445). The fact Hebrews 7:27 uses this word in regards to the offering of Jesus’ sacrifice, demonstrates how specious it is for Rome to claim she offers the same sacrifice of Christ daily in the Mass. Leon Morris notes that in regards to this word being applied to Jesus’ sacrificial offering, “There is an air of utter finality about this expression” (Leon Morris, Hebrews, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, [Zondervan, 1981], p. 73). Other texts use this word in regards to the offering of Jesus’ sacrifice in the first century. For example in Hebrews 10:10 we read: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Notice, the offering of Jesus’ sacrifice was once-for-all. These texts forfeit Papalism’s idea they legitimately offer it over and over in the bread and wine. Hebrews 9:26, 28 uses hapax when it says, “for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. . . . so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26,28). Again, Vine’s notes the word hapax means “one time” or “once for all” in regards to something “not requiring repetition” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996], p. 445). The offering of Jesus’ sacrifice does not need to be repeated. It is perfect. The Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown notes that with regard to the church’s later development of the Eucharist as a Christian sacrifice, “one has reason to doubt that he [the author of Hebrews] would have been enthusiastic about such a development” (Raymond Edward Brown, John P. Meier, Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity, [Paulist Press, 1983], p. 171 brackets mine). Lastly, 1 Peter 3:18 explicitly says, “Christ also suffered once for sins.” The idea that Christ is called down from heaven, made into bread, and then sacrificed as a victim again and again as the same sacrifice contradicts the plain position of Scripture that Jesus suffered once for sins.
There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. As noted, Rome officially claims the sacrifice of the Mass is the same sacrifice of Calvary, though it’s repeated in an “unbloody” fashion (Catechism of the Catholic Church, [DoubleDay, 1994], par. 1367, p. 381). The council of Trent confirms this when it asserted “He instituted a new Passover, namely, Himself, to be immolated under visible signs by the Church through the priests. . . .” (Session Twenty-Two, Ch. 1, The Institution of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Canons on the Most Holy Sacramental of the Eucharist, Canon 5, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, trans. H. J. Schroeder, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1978], p. 145). An “immolation” is a sacrifice and thus Rome is teaching the same sacrifice of Christ is done repeatedly by her, but without a victim actually having their blood shed. The problem with Rome claiming remission of sins is accomplished with a sacrifice wherein there is no bloodshed, is that Hebrews 9:22 says, “. . . without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). To offer a propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice, there must be suffering and bloodshed. Thus, contra Rome, her unbloody Mass does not provide anyone with remission of sins or right standing with God.
Viewing the Mass as propitiatory and expiatory contradicts scriptural teaching on Christ’s perfect propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice. The idea that believers have to approach the Mass in order to receive the propitious and expiatory benefits of Jesus’ atonement flies in the face of the biblical teaching that the death of Jesus was a sacrifice which involved (1) the imputation of the sin’s of God’s people to Jesus in conformity with Levitical rule; (2) the necessary substitutionary punishment for those sins Jesus received on behalf of His people; and (3) the expiation or cancellation of those sins of God’s people. For all the texts which affirm these points see Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1998], p. 634. Very briefly, in support of point (1) it must be observed that since Jesus’ death is stated many times in the Bible to be a sacrifice or offering (Isaiah 53:10; Ephesians 5:2, 7; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 7:27; 9:28; 10:14), and that OT sacrificial language is applied to Christ such as Passover Lamb, Lamb of God, and spotless Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7; cf. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19), it follows that, like in the Old Testament, believers’ sins were imputed to Christ (see Leviticus 1:4; 3:2, 16:21-22; Numbers 8:12). To show one example of this from the Old Testament, Leviticus 16:21-22 confirms, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22). In confirmation of point (2), we see that when Matthew 20:28 says Jesus came “to give his life as a ransom for many,” the word translated “for” is anti and in context it refers to substitutionary death. This is why New Testament scholar Robert Gundry renders this text as “Even to give his life [as a] ransom in substitution for many” (Robert Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2010], p. 89). Another text demonstrating substitutionary atonement is 2 Corinthians 5:21 which says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Here you have the pure one who knew no sin, Jesus, becoming sin (or a sacrifice for sin; see David J. A. Clines, 2 Corinthians, [Zondervan, 1979]; W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996], pp. 576-577) for the impure ones (i.e., the “we”). When the text says “for our sake (or ‘for us’) he made him to be sin who knew no sin,” the words “for us” in the Greek, hyper hēmōn, is a phrase for substitution (James R. White, The God who Justifies, [Bethany House Publishers, 2001], p. 365). Thus, Jesus was the substitutionary sacrifice for sins who, in the place of believers, received the punishment of God the Father for their sins. Because substitutionary atonement is true we see, as Robert Reymond observes, the death of Jesus “because of (διἀ, dia – 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 8:9), for (περὶ, peri – Matt. 26:28; Rom. 8:3; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), and in behalf of (ὑπὲρ, hyper – Mark 14:24; Luke 22:19, 20; John 6:51; 10:11, 15; Rom. 5:6, 8; 8:32; 14:15; 1 Cor. 11:24; 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:15, 21; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; 3:13; Eph. 5:2, 25; 1 Thes. 5:10; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14; Heb. 2:9; 10:12; 1 Pet. 2:21; 3:18; 1 John 3:16) those sinners whose sins had been imputed to him” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1998], p. 634). Since believers’ sins were imputed to Jesus on the cross and His death was substitutionary, in that he suffered in the place of believers for their sins, it follows that necessary expiation of believers sins (i.e., the wiping away of their sins) was accomplished definitely at the cross. They were imputed to Jesus and he died or paid for them. As Reymond quotes Geerhardus Vos stating, “Wherever [in the sacrificial system] there is a slaying and manipulation of blood there is expiation” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, [Eerdmans, 1948] p. 135 quoted in Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1998], p. 634). Since the sins of believers have been expiated or wiped away by this substitutionary sacrificial offering of Christ in the first century, it follows that Rome’s idea of a later Mass appropriating expiation attacks the sufficiency of Jesus’ once-for-all work.
In regards to propitiation, that is, Jesus turning away the Father’s wrath from believers with His perfect sacrifice, numerous texts can be cited. In 1 John 4:10 we read, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10; cf. 2:2). In the past, the Father lovingly sent Christ to be the propitiation of our sins. Moreover, Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). This text clearly shows that in the first century Jesus made propitiation with His sacrifice serving as the High priest who offered himself. Hebrews 10:11-12, which is in the same conceptual world as the text just read, emphasizes Jesus’ priestly role in the capacity of offering himself on the cross. This proves our point. In Romans 3:25 we also see mention of Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). His death actually made propitiation. It did not just make it possible in a Mass. The word for “put forward” is proetheto. It’s in the aorist middle indicative which signifies an action happening at a specific time in the past. So in the past Jesus was put forward as a propitious offering. Just as expiation through substitutionary atonement was accomplished at the cross as we demonstrated, so was propitiation. Further evidence propitiation on behalf of God’s people was accomplished at the cross, invalidating the need for the Catholic Mass, is the fact that many texts talk about the reconciliation of God to man based on the cross, when, prior to it, God was at enmity with and angry at men. Scripture teaches the crucifixion actually accomplished this reconciliation in the past which shows the propitiation which enabled such reconciliation was likewise completed in the past at the cross. For example, Romans 5:10-11 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11). Both instances of “reconciled” and “reconciliation” here are in the aorist tense which affirms reconciliation was accomplished in the past at Jesus’ sacrifice or “the death of his [God’s] son,” as v. 10 says. Moreover, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 also says, “18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Commenting on this text, Robert Reymond notes, “. . . the verb form in the phrase ‘who reconciled us to himself through Christ’ in 5:18 is in the aorist tense, again suggesting that the removal of alienation occurred punctiliarly with the death of Christ and is now an accomplished fact. . . . Paul’s periphrastic construction in 5:19 (‘was . . . reconciling,’ ἡν καταλλάξαντος, ēn . . . katallassōn) places the reconciliation activity in the past as an accomplished fact” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1998], p. 647). We have clearly shown the propitiation, like expiation, was fully accomplished at the cross. Hence, the idea the Catholic Mass results in propitiation is a mockery of the once-for-all sufficient, perfect, eternal work of Christ which is received by faith (e.g. Luke 18:12-14; John 3:16; 5:24; Romans 3:25, 28; 4:1-6; 5:1, 10; 10:3-4; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 7:23-25, 27; 8:12-13; 9:12, 26; 10:9-14, 17; 13:12; 1 Peter 3:18).
The cross ensures God will forgive and not remember sins putting them away. In foresight of the New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). We know Jesus’ blood sacrifice purchased this New Covenant and thus God’s promise of forgiveness and not remembering sin (see Matthew 26:28). Old Testament scholar Charles L. Feinberg contextually observes, “Notice that the covenant shows no dependence on law, temple, sacrifices, ark, human priesthood, nation, or country” (Charles L. Feinberg, Jeremiah, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, [Zondervan, 1986], p. 577). Hebrews 8:12 confirms Christ’s perfect one-time sacrifice accomplishes this Old Testament promise, and Hebrews 10:17-18 says because Jeremiah 31:34 is fulfilled perfectly in Christ, that is, His sacrifice accomplished the “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” there is no need for any further offerings. This invalidates the Catholic Mass and demonstrates the utter finality of Christ’s perfect work. It says: “17then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:17-18). Thus, the offering of the Mass is false and this is why just a little earlier Hebrews 9:26 says, “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Jesus’ first century once-for-all sacrifice accomplished propitiation and expiation putting away the sin of God’s people in a final and absolute sense. Jesus bore the sin of God’s people on himself and paid for them all. As Leon Morris notes concerning this powerful text: “The purpose of Christ’s coming was ‘to do away with sin.’ Here the expression eis athetēsin is a strong one, signifying the total annulment of sin. The word ‘is used in a technical juristic sense’ (Deiss BS, pp. 228-9) with the meaning ‘to annul’ or ‘cancel.’ Sin, then, is rendered completely inoperative and this was done ‘by the sacrifice of himself’” (Leon Morris, Hebrews, [Zondervan, 1981], p. 93). Notice the text says Jesus appeared “once for all” to put away sin with His sacrifice. It’s not done more than once, contra Rome. The elect then receive this purchased and secured putting away of sin by the instrumental cause of the empty hand of God-granted faith (e.g. Luke 18:12-14; John 3:16; 5:24; Romans 3:25, 28; 4:1-6; 5:1, 10; 10:3-4; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 7:23-25, 27; 8:12-13; 9:12, 26; 10:9-14, 17; 13:12; 1 Peter 3:18). This redemption was thus secured and accomplished for God's people at the cross and it is applied to the believer during their life once God grants them faith. Rome’s disregard for this perfect, complete sacrifice received by the empty hand of God-granted faith in place of her offering of the Mass is a bold attack on the perfect work of Christ.
Biblical Response to the Mass being Worshiped as God
Host never worshiped in New Testament. When one examines the entire New Testament, what is discovered is there is not once instance of the host being worshiped as God, or one exhortation to do so. This is quite peculiar if the Roman teaching is true and the primitive church engaged in such things.
Jesus said to eat the bread and drink the wine, not worship it. Rome’s practice of worshiping the host contradicts what Jesus actually did say to do with it. In Matthew 26:26 Jesus said “Take, eat” in regards to the bread. In v. 27 in regards to the wine he said “Drink of it.” He does not say “worship it before eating and drinking,” as Rome does.
God detests the worship of things other than Himself. God does not approve of praise, worship and glory He deserves being given to anything or anyone else since He is jealous (Exodus 20:3-5; 34:14; Isaiah 42:8; Psalms 81:9; Jeremiah 25:6; Matthew 4:10). Since we have clearly refuted Rome’s claim that the bread and wine are the literal body and blood of Christ, it follows that God abhors the worship of these things.
Response to Rome’s biblical arguments for Transubstantiation and worship of the Mass
Hebrews 9:23 supports the numerous sacrifices of the Catholic Mass? Roman Catholics will quote Hebrews 9:23 as alleged proof for the concept of numerous sacrifices of the Mass happening around the world every day: “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Hebrews 9:23). What Hebrews means by copies of the heavenly things needing to be purified, is the Old Covenant earthly sanctuary, which served as a type, being purified with the blood of calves and he-goats. But the heavenly things, that is, the fulfillment of the earthly sanctuary known as the heavenly sanctuary, needed to be purified by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, in that Christ’s sacrifice ensures the purity of the heavenly sanctuary (Robert Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2010], p. 897). With this in view, it is erroneous for Catholics to claim the Mass ensures the purity of the heavenly sanctuary. That makes little sense. Rather the reason, Christ’s once-for-all atonement is identified as “better sacrifices” here, is not because the later Catholic Mass with all its baggage was in view, which would be anachronism, but because as Gundry notes, “the author uses the plural . . . to imply that Christ’s sacrifice amounted in its worth to all the inferior sacrifices and more” (Robert Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2010], p. 897). Leon Morris similarly notes, “. . .we should take ‘sacrifices’ as the generic plural that lays down the principle fulfilled in the one sacrifice” (Leon Morris, Hebrews, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, [Zondervan, 1981], p. 91).
Malachi 1:11 proves the Mass is a Sacrifice? Malachi 1:11 is quoted by Catholic writers as alleged proof for the Mass being a literal New Covenant sacrifice. It states, “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 1:11). Commenting on this text Roman apologist Dave Armstrong asserts: “This cannot be a reference to the Sacrifice of the Cross, which occurred in one location only. Malachi speaks of a universal ‘pure offering’ (singular rather than plural), precisely as in Catholic teaching” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], pp. 96-97). However, the Catholic is too hasty in their immediate literalist understanding of sacrifice here. First, the incense are actually prayers here (Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy and Titus, eds. G. K. Beale, D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, [Baker Academic, 2007], p. 893; cf. Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). What is meant by “pure offering” is that the sacrifice of Christians would be spiritual and metaphorical in that the praise and good deeds of believers are seen as pure offerings or sacrifices which please God. Hebrews 13:15-16 confirms: “15Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16). In Philippians 4:18 Paul says the good work of receiving gifts and supplies from the Philippians is “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). The word for “sacrifice” here is thysian, the same word used in Malachi 1:11 in the LXX. We see more evidence of metaphorical spiritual sacrifice or offering in Psalms 51:17; 141:2; Isaiah 66:20 and 1 Peter 2:5. As the Reformed scholar John Gill rightly observed,
“and a pure offering; meaning either the Gentiles themselves, their souls and bodies, (Isaiah 66:20) or their sacrifices of praise, good works, and alms deeds (Hebrews 13:15) which, though imperfect, and not free from sin, may be said to be 'pure', proceeding from a pure heart, sprinkled by the blood of Christ, and offered in a pure and spiritual manner, and through the pure incense of Christ's mediation” (John Gill, John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Malachi 1:11).
Matthew 26:28 proves the Mass is a transubstantiated sacrifice? Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis argues the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice for the remission of sins based on Matthew 26:28 which says, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28 cf. Luke 22:19-20). Sungenis claims that because the phrase “is being poured out” in the original Greek is in the present participle form, and that because the word “is” in the phrase “this is my blood” is in the present indicative, therefore Rome’s case is proven:
“When the present participle is used with the present indicative, the time denoted by the participle is not the near or distant future, but strictly the present. This would mean that the blood, at the time Jesus is speaking, is presently being poured out, that is, it is the blood of Jesus under the appearance of wine. . . . Matthew’s version gives us the reason why the blood is being poured out, i.e., ‘poured out for the remission of sins.’ This shows the connection of sacrament and sacrifice to propitiate for sins . . .” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Bread Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 2000], pp. 150, 151).
However, Sungenis’ claim that “is being poured out” being in the present participle, and “is” in “this is my blood” being in the present indicative means the Supper is the literal sacrifice of Jesus taking place then and there, is unwarranted. Jesus speaks of His blood being poured out in the present here because, in the context of relaying that bread and wine prophetically symbolize his upcoming death and blood-pouring, the sacrifice can thus be spoken of as if it is happening presently. In other words, the blood-pouring which would happen in the future on the cross is as good as happened since the bread and wine are symbolic predictions of that determined event, not because they are the literal event. We know Jesus is not teaching the Supper is literally the blood pouring out for forgiveness of sins, since there is no actual violent bloodshed happening here. Without actual violent bloodshed there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Moreover, it is clear that at this point the hour or time of Jesus’ bloody sacrifice for remission of sins had not yet come (John 2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 8:20; 12-23-25). It came at the cross and not before as John 17:1 confirms. Thus, the Supper can not be the literal sacrifice of Christ for remission of sins. Lastly, Jesus could not have been saying the Supper was an actual time when remission of sins was given due to bloodshed (as Sungenis argues), since Jeremiah 31:34’s background promise concerning future New Covenant remission of sins is actualized, not at the Supper, but at the actual sacrifice of Christ on the cross according to Hebrews 10:14-18.
1 Corinthians 10:16-21 proves Eucharist is a transubstantiated sacrifice? Roman Catholics argue 1 Corinthians 10:16-21 establishes the bread and wine are a transubstantiated literal sacrifice. The text states, “16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.18Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:16-21). The Roman Catholic argument here is that since in the context of speaking about Christians partaking in the Lord’s Supper at the table, there is mention of Israel’s sacrifices (v. 18) and pagan sacrifices (vv. 19-20), that therefore the Lord’s Supper has to be seen as a expiatory and propitiatory sacrifice (Robert Sungenis, Not by Bread Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 2000], pp. 160-161). However, noting Paul’s analogies here to pagan or Jewish sacrifices does not prove the Catholic point since Reformation Christians readily affirm the Supper symbolizes, commemorates or celebrates Jesus’ sacrifice on the alter of God (i.e., the cross), and that by gathering at the so-called table of sacrifice, Christians celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice. This is why Paul mentions the “The cup of blessing” (Gk. eulogia) in v. 16 which means “cup of thanksgiving to God”. It’s a commemorative meal of thanks for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The error of the Catholic is that he jumps to concluding that because sacrifice is in the equation here, that Paul must be teaching the Supper is itself a sacrifice and does not simply celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice, whereby believers have fellowship with God, that is, participate with him, and with each other uniting together (i.e., “we who are many are one body” v. 17) through the commemorative meal (vv. 16-17). However, nowhere does Paul here or anywhere else teach the Lord’s Supper is itself an actual sacrifice which appropriates the expiatory and propitiatory benefits of the cross. Such an idea is entirely absent from the text. Moreover, yes v. 16 calls the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, but that’s not the issue. The issue is what is meant by that? Is it symbolic and metaphorical? Or is it literal? That the former is true is evidenced by the fact that Paul knew Christ was not yet sacrificed when he instituted this Supper on the Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 22:7-23). Thus, Paul is clearly inviting people to view the bread and wine as metaphorical memorial symbols to remember Jesus by, and which show thanks, thereby uniting believers together, and uniting them to God through this spiritual covenant participation.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 proves transubstantiation? The text states, “27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Roman apologist Patrick Madrid claims this text is teaching people in “mortal sin” must not participate in the Supper (Patrick Madrid, Where is That in the Bible?, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2001[, p. 113). Dave Armstrong quotes the Catholic James Cardinal Gibbons’ words from his book The Faith of our Fathers concerning this text: “Could St. Paul express more clearly his belief in the Real Presence than he has done here? . . . He who receives a sacrament unworthily shall be guilty of the sin of high treason, and of shedding the blood of his Lord in vain. But how could he be guilty of a crime so enormous if he had taken in the Eucharist only a particle of bread and wine? Would a man be accused of homicide . . . if he were to offer violence to the statue or painting of the governor? Certainly not. In like manner, St. Paul would not . . . declare a man guilty of trampling on the blood of his Savior by drinking in a unworthy manner a little wine in memory of him” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 92). In response, Madrid is wrong since rather than saying believers should not participate in the Supper if guilty of Rome’s later concept mortal sin, what he is really teaching according to the context is that celebrating the Supper in an unworthy manner means to celebrate in a way that humiliated and demeaned other believers. In vv. 18-22, 33 Paul warns against factions existing in the Corinthian Church while the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. This resulted in wealthier members impatiently taking food and drink before other less wealthy members arrived (v. 33), whereby the latter received lower quality food and drink when they arrived and thus got humiliated (vv. 18-22). This was common in the Roman world (Roy E. Ciampa, Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010], p. 545). So, Paul is saying if you participate in the Lord’s Supper in this manner, or in light of this background, it cannot be considered the Lord’s Supper (i.e., they are partaking in an unworthy manner in v. 27), since the Lord’s Supper must be marked by unity. Once context is consulted, one observes Paul is not simply saying if you are mortal sin one must not partake as Catholics claim. Moreover, it makes sense then that, contra Armstrong and Gibbons, when Paul in v. 27 says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord,” he is not talking about transubstantiation, but rather saying those who practice the Supper in this unworthy pagan factionalist manner are guilty of sinning against the believers who represent the body and blood of Jesus as Christians. It has nothing to do with transubstantiation according to the context.
John 6 teaches transubstantiation? The Catholic position is that John 6 demonstrates Jesus was speaking literally in the sense that the bread and wine truly become His body and blood. We will, in this order, (1) address Rome’s arguments based on this text; and (2) provide reasons why this text does not teach transubstantiation. The text reads:
"35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. . . . 47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53So Jesus said to them, "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. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58This 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."59Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" 61But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." 66After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:35, 47-66).
Addressing Catholic arguments for transubstantiation view
Catholic argument #1: It is argued by Catholics such as Tim Staples that if Jesus was speaking metaphorically about flesh and blood being bread and wine in vv. 54-55, then he would have corrected the Jews who grumbled and did not understand him in vv. 52, 60, such as he did when correcting the Jews’ misunderstanding of his saying that he has “meat to eat that you know not of” (John 4:32) which he went on to explain actually referred to his work in doing the will of the Father (Matthew 4:34) (Tim Staples, Nuts and Bolts, [Basilica Press, 2007], p. 33). However, although Jesus sometimes would correct misunderstandings of his metaphorical teachings (see also Matthew 16:5-12), there are various instances where Jesus is misunderstood about his metaphorical language but does not clarify His message. For example, after driving people out of the Temple with a whip of cords for turning the temple into a house of trade in John 2:14-16, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” in v. 19. The Jews misunderstood this metaphorical teaching in v. 20 and yet Jesus does not there clarify for them he was referring to his crucifixion and resurrection. We see a similar case in Matthew 26:60-63 where at the trial the Jews misunderstand Jesus’ same teaching, and yet he “remained silent” (v. 63) and did not explain the true meaning. In John 9:7-20 Jesus explains that he is the shepherd who protects the flock and fights the wolves. However, in v. 20 certain Jews respond in confusion thinking Jesus was insane or demon possessed for saying such things. However, Jesus does not clarify to them what he really meant. Hence, it is deceptive for Staples to claim that in regards to the other instances where Jews misunderstood Jesus’ metaphors “In each case, he cleared up the misunderstanding” (Tim Staples, Nuts and Bolts, [Basilica Press, 2007], p. 33). He clearly did not. Therefore, just because Jesus did not correct the Jews about his language in John 6 concerning His body and blood being bread and wine after they took it literally, that does not mean we was not nevertheless speaking metaphorically.
Catholics argument #2: A common argument concerns, as Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong notes, “The reactions of the listeners” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 90). It is common for Catholics to assert that it is weighty that the Jews were so aghast and offended at Jesus’ statements on eating his flesh and drinking His blood since they perceived them literally (vv. 41-42, 52, 60), so much so that they walked away from Jesus after the John 6 discourse (v. 66). Therefore, it is argued Jesus’ teaching here was literal as the Jewish audience allegedly attests. However, there are many instances where the Jews wrongly take Jesus literally when His teaching is actually supposed to be taken metaphorically (Matthew 26:60-63; John 2:14-19; 3:4; 4:10-15; 9:7-20). Hence, just because the Jews take a teaching literally does not mean it should be understood literally. Moreover, the common Catholic claim that Reformation Christians, like the Jews here, walk away from Jesus’ allegedly literal teaching on transubstantiation in v. 66 is false. It is clear that the thing which pushes them over the edge and causes them to walk away is Jesus’ reiterated point that they do not have the ability to come to Him unless the Father draws them and grants that to them. Verses 44, 64-66 state: “44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. . . . 64But there are some of you who do not believe. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’ 66After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:44, 64-66). Thus, it is because of the point which Reformed Christians note, namely that men do not have the ability to come to Christ unless God ordains it, which was the tipping point for the Jews causing them to turn away from Jesu (v. 66)s. So, it is not Reformation Christians who, with the Jews, turn away from Jesus’ alleged teaching on transubstantiation. It is the Catholics who, like the Jews, turn away from Jesus’ Reformed teaching on God’s absolute sovereignty over salvation, that is, Calvinism. Natural man despises the sovereignty of God.
Catholic argument #3: Catholics such as Robert Sungenis argue because Jesus switches from using the Greek word phagō in vv. 50, 51, 53, which can mean to eat literally or metaphorically, to using the Greek word trōgō in vv. 54, 56, 57, 58 which, according to Sungenis, only means to literally eat or chew, that therefore Jesus must have switched to teaching people are not only eat his body symbolically, but literally as well, that is, in the Catholic Mass (Robert Sungenis, Not by Bread Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 2000], pp. 183-185). Yet, this claim is inaccurate. The word trōgō can have a non-literal meaning just as phagō can. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words notes that in regards to John 6’s usage, “The use in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18 is a witness against pressing into the meaning of the word the sense of munching or gnawing; it had largely lost this sense in its common usage” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words , [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996], p. 193). This work is arguing Matthew 24:38 and John 13:18 show the word could be employed symbolically and that at this time this was common. Sungenis’s attempted response of Vine’s citations is unconvincing since for example in the case of Matthew 24:38, contra Sungenis, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” are all clearly used symbolically of people just living life without care for what Noah was saying before the flood. Hence, this eating can be used symbolically for other things. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament also notes trōgō can be used “figuratively” (Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, [Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2009], p. 632). Sungenis also refutes his own argument since he cites Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich’s 1979 tome A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature as providing two examples of trōgō in classical Greek taking on a symbolic meaning. Sungenis fails to convincingly refute that work to show contextually the two instances it cites do not prove the point. This widely embraced lexicon is the scholarly standard. So, if Sungenis wishes to refute what it is saying here, he has to do more than merely claim, as he simply does, the two examples cited by it do not prove the point. The two examples are Aristophenes in the fifth century B. C. using the word to say “the one eating my bread” figuratively and Polybius in the second century B. C. using it to say “two brothers eat” which are examples of comradeship and not literal eating according to that source. Moreover, in explaining why there is a change from phagō to trōgō in Jesus’ sermon, D. A. Carson notes, “It is far more likely that John injects no new meaning by selecting this verb, but prefers this verb when he opts for the Greek present tense (similarly in 13:18)” (D. A. Carson, John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991], p. 296).
Catholic argument #4: Dave Armstrong argues one must adopt a literal interpretation because of the alleged “graphic realism and intensive reiteration (for example, John 6:55)” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 90). In John 6:55, the text Armstrong cited, Jesus says, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Contra Armstrong, this is not a sound argument. For, in regards to Jesus’ symbolic statement that he is “the door” in John 10, He first states this in v. 7 and then reiterates it again using the same words in v. 9: “I am the door”. Moreover, He shows the same kind of realism Armstrong mentions when he says in v. 9 “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” Yet, no one is going to say Jesus was affirming He was a literal door. The fact Jesus so commonly employed this kind of symbolic language, reiteration, and perceived realism should give the Catholics pause concerning their position.
Catholic argument #5: Robert Sungenis argues,
“. . . no passage of the Old and New Testament commands anyone to drink blood, not even as a metaphor. Yet the Bible uses the drinking of both water literally (John 4:13; Romans 12:20) and figuratively (John 4:10-15; 7:38). Hence, since the rest of the New Testament never uses drinking blood as a metaphor for believing in Jesus, it certainly begs the question for opponents to claim it is metaphor in John 6. Similarly, nowhere other than in John 6 does either the Old or New Testament ever command anyone to eat the flesh of either God or Christ, even as a metaphor” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Bread Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 2000], p. 178).
The obvious error in Sungenis’s reasoning is that just because the Bible does not employ a metaphor except for in one story or episode, does not mean it is not a metaphor. For, Jesus is only called “the door” metaphorically in one episode (John 10:7-9). Sungenis even admits this when he says “John 10 is the only time that Jesus says, ‘I am the door,’ or even referred to as a door in all of Scripture” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Bread Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 2000], p. 183). God is never referred to metaphorically as a door in the Old Testament either. Just because God or Christ, as a metaphorical door, is not a metaphorical theme treated elsewhere, does not mean John 10:7-9 is not teaching Jesus is a metaphorical and non-literal door. Similarly, just because drinking blood and eating flesh as a metaphor for believing Jesus is not used widely in the Bible, that does not mean in John 6 it is not uniquely metaphorical.
Catholic argument #6: Dave Armstrong argues John 6 has to be taken literally because of the “gravity and overriding importance of the teaching (John 6:53, 63), which Jesus, in his mercy and compassion, would not have allowed to be misunderstood” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 90). However, this is why it is important to base our views on Scripture and not human reason alone. As Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The biblical fact is Jesus often allowed his message to be misunderstood, even when teaching on matters of extreme importance. Matthew 13:10-13 confirms: “10Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ 11And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given’” (Matthew 13:10-11 cf. John 12:37-40). Jesus spoke in parable and metaphor precisely because He knew the non-elect would not be able to understand since they were not people who received the secrets of the kingdom from God (i.e., illumination of the mind from God); they were not God’s sheep. John 12:37-40 confirms this since it says many were not able to believe Christ even after they listened to Him and saw His miracles in order that Scripture would be fulfilled, namely Isaiah 53:1; 6:9-10 which teach God blinds eyes and hardens hearts so that certain people cannot believe. So it’s false for Armstrong to say Jesus would not allow his vital teachings to not be grasped by people. Moreover, as noted, Jesus often did not explain important metaphoric sayings people misunderstood, as in John 2:14-20 which mentions Jesus’ “destroy this temple and I will raise it up” teaching. We note also, as before, His teaching that He is the shepherd who protects the flock and fights the wolves in John 9:7-20, where the Jews misunderstood him and received no clarification. Thus, it is no surprise to see Jesus not correct the Jews in John 6 and explicitly say his teaching was symbolic.
Arguments against transubstantiation view
Christian argument #1: In John 6:40 we read, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). Compare that to John 6:54, which Catholics claim teaches transubstantiation, and notice it is very similar: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54). D. A. Carson observes, “The only substantial difference is that the one speaks of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking Jesus’ blood, while the other, in precisely the same conceptual location, speaks of looking to the Son and believing in him. The conclusion is obvious: the former is the metaphorical way of referring to the latter” (D. A. Carson, John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991], p. 287). In other words, due to similarities in the text, we see that 6:54 with its reference to feeding on flesh and drinking blood is the symbolic explanation of 6:40 which speaks about looking on the Son and believing. This refutes the common Catholic claim that there are two sections of the sermon, namely (1) 6:35-47 which they claim is a metaphorical invitation to faith wherein eating the bread of life is symbolic of believing in Jesus; and (2) 6:48-58 which they claim is a switch to literalist invitation to the Catholic transubstantiated Eucharist (Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, [Ignatius Press, 2010], p. 174; Robert Sungenis, Not by Bread Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 2000], pp. 170 n. 147, 175). Clearly, however, even in the section which they claim is literalist, we see evidence it is still a symbolic invitation to faith due to 6:54’s connection to 6:40.
Christian argument #2: John 6:35 demonstrates Jesus’ language concerning the necessity to eat and drink (John 6:50-51, 53-56, 58) is taken care of by simply coming to Him and believing in Him: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35). Thus, coming to and believing on Jesus are the same as the symbolic ideas of metaphorically eating His flesh and drinking His blood. What this means is once someone trusts Christ, His death on the cross (i.e., body and blood) count for the person and they can be said to have assimilated them metaphorically.
Christian argument #3: Based on the tenor of the Gospel of John, it is clear that Catholics are, like the Jews, erroneously taking Jesus’ teaching literal when they were meant to be taken spiritually. It’s not Reformation Christians who are in error for not taking Jesus’ words literally. It is the Catholics who emulate the falsity of the Jews who are. As Russell D. Moore notes, “The grumbling of Jesus’ overly literalistic hearers is a consistent theme in John. In John 2, when Jesus announces that he will restore a destroyed temple in three days, the confused onlookers ask how this can happen when it ‘has taken forty-six years to build this temple,’ mistakenly assuming he is referring to the physical edifice in Jerusalem (v. 20). In John 3, Nicodemus hears of the new birth and asks whether a man can reenter his mother’s birth canal (v. 4). In John 4, Jesus speaks of living water, and the Samaritan woman assumes that this water will free her from the daily routine of coming to the well (vv. 14-15). In John 8, when Jesus points to the slavery of his hearers, they assume he means literal bond slavery to some human power (vv. 31-35). In John 9, when Jesus says he has come to give sight to the blind and blindness to the seeing, the Pharisees assume he is referring to congenital eye failure rather than spiritual blindness of those who fail to believe (vv. 38-41). In John 10, yet another division occurs among the Jews when Jesus speaks of himself as a shepherd who fights wolves and guards a flock, a division that causes them to call him ‘raving mad’ (vv. 20-21). And so it goes. The problem with the Catholic view of the Eucharist is not that it seeks to answer the grumbling question of the crowds by the seashore, but that it seeks to answer it on the same mistaken terms” (Russell D. Moore, A Baptist Response, ed. John H. Armstrong, Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, [Zondervan, 2007], p. 139). In other words, the Catholics are guilty of the same common blind literalism as the Jews in these stories, as regards to their literalist view of John 6. Catholics are just as spiritually blind and undiscerning as those unbelieving Jews.
Christian argument # 4: If one takes Rome’s view of the second half of the discourse (6:48-58) literally, they are saying Jesus’ emphasis is it is necessary to partake of the transubstantiated Eucharist for eternal life (vv. 53-5, 58). However, stressing such a necessity would contradict the first part of the sermon which already established what is emphasized is how coming to and believing Jesus is what grants eternal life (vv. 35-37, 40, 44, 47). Therefore, it is problematic to assert literalism where Rome does, since doing so forces Jesus to contradict himself on the thing which is necessary for eternal life in this sermon.