Is the Sixth Chapter of John about the Eucharist?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by Toma, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It is often said that the discourse on the bread of life in John 6 is about the Eucharist.

    Occurring after our Lord's feeding of the many with loaves and fish, this speech is about faith, eating flesh, drinking blood, partaking, abiding, and eternal life - all pregnant with mystery. Roman Catholics are fond of relating this to transubstantiation, and Christians in general think it is about the Eucharist, but is it?

    The institution of the Lord's Supper does not properly occur in John's Gospel. The only reference is indirect: he reports "the supper being ended..." (13:2), and "He riseth from supper..." (13:4) to wash the disciples' feet; thus begins the Farewell Discourse. There is nothing about the Eucharist.

    John is alone in mentioning the water changed into wine at Cana, and the words "it is finished", when Christ Jesus finished the passover by partaking of the bitter substance upon the Cross. Were all these events about eating, drinking, spirit and flesh, to be seen in the light of the Eucharist, or are we imprinting the Eucharist on passages that are about faith in Jesus Christ, and the metaphors He used to describe it?

    I wonder whether John 6, specifically, has anything to do with the Eucharist: the celebration and sacrament. The Lord said that partaking of his body and blood is eternal life, but he also said "the words that I speak to you are spirit and life" and did not later tie these words in with the Eucharist, in John's report.

    Any thoughts, words of the Church Fathers, scriptural comparisons, essays, or articles on this?

    This is just a question... I have no answers or biases toward certain answers... I just want to know what it's all about. :)
     
  2. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    I'm looking for ECFs on this particular passage. Obviously, there are many examples of ECF support for the Eucharist; but commentary on John's Gospel might require more digging.

    We are not imprinting the Eucharist on John 6. Other than people who have a vested interest in denying sacramental theology, I haven't encountered any real resistance to that interpretation. It really is hard to read John 6 in any way other than the traditional interpretation. Though St. John doesn't personally present the institution of the Eucharist as a follow-up to this discourse, the rest of the Scriptures support such a reading for John 6. As for the other examples (such as Cana), I'll leave that to the experts. Cana reveals much, but I wouldn't argue that it is primarily Eucharistic in nature. Christ's refusal to receive wine/vinegar on the cross is primarily a fulfillment of prophecy, as far as I know.
     
  3. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Thank you for the reply Adam. :)

    John completes his narrative by declaring that those things which are necessary (for our belief and new life in Christ's Name) are contained within "this book" (John 20:30-31). Since this Gospel does not direct itself to the Last Supper, nor anything like it, do we assume that John was indirectly referring to the Eucharist? If he was, why in such shadows? Holy Communion is the height of mystical union with God through Christ. That's the very thing John's Gospel is about, isn't it? It just seems strange that he'd go through all that trouble to explain about 'abiding' with/in God, and not mention the Eucharist.

    Could it be that Christ's words about eating and drinking in Ch. 6 are, in the self-contained context of John, about faith (like the Mustard Seed of Matthew)?

    I am inclined to think that the Lord's spiritual words in John 6 are John's selected words of the Lord on faith, akin to Matthew recording Jesus' saying that those who have faith in Him can uproot trees, overturn mountains, etc. - that was Matthew's example, and this body/blood metaphor is John's example. Both are from Christ's days with us.

    To be fair...

    Chrysostom, around paragraph [5.] in his 47th homily on John, interprets the very passage which is before us. He relates John 6 to "the Mysteries"; his words for the Eucharist.

    Augustine, around paragraph 11. in his 26th Tractate on John, speaks of "the sacrament" in relation to the Lord's words here.

    I was just wondering if anyone else came across such things... if you do, please say so...!
     
  4. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    I guess he thought that he did mention it. :) And he never claimed that his Gospel contained everything or was the only source of truth. The Apostles traveled around teaching, and they all taught the Eucharist. St. John didn't put everything in his book, as there was no need to do so.
     
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  5. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    This looks like an interesting topic, I suppose the question is, whether Christ's nourishment to us is limited only through the Eucharist. Does Christ ever stop spiritually nourishing us? If this passage is referring to the Eucharist, then wouldn't it logically follow that only those who have taken communion will be saved? (John 6:53) but verse 7 says all who believe will have eternal life. The link to the eucharist appears to me to be indirect. Both God's Word and the sacrament are pointing us in the same direction, ie to Christ Himself,

    Looking forward to learning more about it
     
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  6. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Remembrance,

    John 20:
    30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    The passage says the book was written so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name. The passage doesn't say that all things necessary for salvation are contained in the book of John. We must accept Scripture as a whole in order to understand that which is necessary for salvation.

    Regarding John Chapter 6, was Jesus lying when he said, "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink"?

    If not through the Holy Eucharist; how does one eat the Flesh of Christ and drink His Blood, in order to have eternal life and be raised on the last day?

    John 6:
    52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So 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. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 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.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

    Anna
     
  7. Symphorian

    Symphorian Well-Known Member

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    Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, Book 1, Chapter 6

    Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: Eat my flesh, and drink my blood; describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both—of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle.


    Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 37

    He says, it is true, that the flesh profits nothing; but then, as in the former case, the meaning must be regulated by the subject which is spoken of. Now, because they thought His discourse was harsh and intolerable, supposing that He had really and literally enjoined on them to eat his flesh, He, with the view of ordering the state of salvation as a spiritual thing, set out with the principle, It is the spirit that quickens; and then added, The flesh profits nothing,— meaning, of course, to the giving of life. He also goes on to explain what He would have us to understand by spirit: The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. In a like sense He had previously said: He that hears my words, and believes in Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but shall pass from death unto life. Constituting, therefore, His word as the life-giving principle, because that word is spirit and life, He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith. Now, just before (the passage in hand), He had declared His flesh to be the bread which comes down from heaven, impressing on (His hearers) constantly under the figure of necessary food the memory of their forefathers, who had preferred the bread and flesh of Egypt to their divine calling.
     
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  8. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    That's a very good point. I can't imagine that it is limited to the Eucharist. God called me to himself and I came to faith long before I was even baptized, and certainly before I had ever received Communion. Point being, there are other means of grace (such as the Word), and there are plenty of means at God's disposal to nourish us. It's a tricky situation because of the way that our Lord worded his statements in John 6. I'd say that for us, the Eucharist is a sure way of receiving grace; but grace is not limited to it by any means.
     
  9. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Adam W., it makes me happy that a thread I started can give anyone some food for thought. ;)

    Wow, you put it better than I ever could have, Scottish Knight! Thank you for clarifying the question.

    Quite so! I just find it interesting that for John, the word "life" is always used in a mystical, spiritual, eternal sense. To abide with God, for God to abide in us, is the true life of Heaven, our "daily bread", if you will. :)

    John may not explicitly say "all things necessary for salvation are in this book", but when he uses the word "life" in the context of "these things are written that you may have life in His Name", what other life can he mean? Salvation is the end-state of having true, abundant, full life without sin or unholiness. That's what Jesus came for: to give us life, and that abundantly! It's beautiful... thank God!

    Regarding John Chapter 6, was Jesus lying when he said, "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink"?

    By belief in His Name! :) When asked by the many in Jerusalem how all this salvation can be accomplished, Peter (at Pentecost) told them to believe in Christ. Salvation is through faith in His Name as a basis, or foundation, and it doesn't matter how many Communions you attend if you do so without faith, as we must certainly agree. :)

    Do you think non-denominationals or others who don't have any real Communion (except maybe a monthly or yearly memorial) can be saved? If not, why even have faith? If so, the Eucharist is not the exact meaning of our Lord's words in John 6.

    Thought-provoking response, anyway! :think:
     
  10. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    You realize that you're talking to people who celebrate the Eucharist weekly (or more), and who call it the central act of Christian worship, right? :) We don't say that a valid Eucharist or a frequent Eucharist are required for faith. The Holy Spirit grants Christian faith. Often, the Word is the means by which we come to faith. Baptism brings us into the Church, and we call the baptized faithful Christians. But the frequency and centrality of our Eucharistic celebrations should tell you the importance that all Anglicans place upon it. We look to John 6 as one of our sources, joining with Christians everywhere throughout the ages.
     
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  11. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Symphorian,
    I appreciate the quotes. I always like looking into all sides of an issue. :)

    Anna
     
  12. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Of course we must have faith; but it seems like you are denying the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and the fact that this Communion with Christ is part of salvation. God chooses the means of imparting Grace. Many Graces are imparted through the Holy Sacraments.

    How do you consume the true flesh and true blood of Christ simply by belief in His name?

    The Holy Eucharist is the center of Anglican worship. This Communion with Christ is vital to our life in Christ.

    Anna
     
  13. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Remembrance,
    It sounds like you are arguing for salvation through "faith alone." Would you clarify before we continue?

    Thanks,
    Anna
     
  14. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    ...except Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, apparently! :p

    The more we hear phrases like "Christians everywhere throughout the ages" in support of something, the less we should believe that thing. Why? Sadly, it is because there is no unanimous belief of all Christians everywhere on most theological subjects, at least not since the fourth ecumenical Council. The Reformed tradition is now 500 years old, and the Catholic vs. Orthodox split over many different issues is 1000+ years old. The non-Chalcedonian Christians left in the 450s and still maintain that the rest are in error! Each party says it is the 2000 year old preachers and interpreters of the Gospel.

    While your words were an honest boast made by the Catholics in the first four centuries, it is now an empty claim. A tragedy... :(

    This is the reason why I ask the question in the OP not just for Fathers' works, but articles, essays, thoughts...

    I am not questioning the real presence simply by questioning whether John 6 is about it. There are many passages that are pro-Eucharist, as it were. The question is whether this is one of them.

    May God forbid that I ever deny the real presence of Jesus Christ in His Supper, the Eucharist. It is a supreme thanksgiving that He makes to the Father for us, in our human nature. While Memorialists say it is merely a commemorative supper, and Romanists say the bread itself is consumed and the Body & Blood overtake it as well as the Soul & Divinity of Jesus, I prefer a balanced way: the Eucharist is His Divine Godhead and His Human Soul (Soul & Divinity) abiding in the bread. It remains bread, but consecrated and holy bread.

    Do you agree that receiving Communion gives no grace or aid to those who are faithless?
    If you agree, then we both believe that faith is the real way of eating Him, and drinking Him.
    If you don't agree, then logically-speaking, Christ enters even the faithless or scornful man who eats the bread!

    It seems most commensurate and fitting with His dignity, at least to me, that Christ simply leaves the bread that is being received by a person who is an unbeliever or who hates God. "Ex opere operato" just constrains Him who is the Lion of Judah. No way! :)

    Anyway, the topic is whether John 6 is about the Eucharist.

    By believing in His Name! That's precisely the issue before us... what all this means:

    54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
    55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
    56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
    57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
    -
    He compares our consumption of Him with His life in the Father. Do we believe that the Father somehow makes Himself a Eucharist for the Son? It's not an exact metaphor, so it doesn't really make sense... but if John 6 is about the Eucharist, then we cannot really be abiding in the Lord at all times, unless we're constantly receiving Holy Communion every minute of the day!
    -
    58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
    59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
    60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
    61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
    62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
    63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
    64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
    65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
    66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

    The disciples did not leave Him because of explicit teachings about the Eucharist - a liturgy which He instituted later, in private, and far from the synagogue. The disciples at the end of John 6 left immediately after He confirmed that no man can come to Him unless the Father gave that man to Jesus. That has nothing to do with the Eucharist, but is a statement about faith.

    67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
    68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
    69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

    Note that Peter confirms belief in all the Lord had just said by replying that they still believe He is the Messiah, Son of the living God. He doesn't seem to acknowledge that this is about anything like the Eucharist, but rather it is about us, Jesus, and the Father, in faith. All of John's Gospel is about this relationship, really...



    Was that always the case, or is it the Anglo-Catholic mind speaking? ;)

    We know that historically (at least in the 18th century), most Sundays involved Morning Prayer, the Litany, and Ante-Communion. Frequent Communion was not a staple of Anglican worship at all times and in all places, necessarily? It'd be nice if it was, maybe, but a pastor really must judge whether the congregation has any faith at all in order to celebrate the Mysteries worthily.

    We are saved by faith alone, if it is true faith that loves... but I don't want to get bogged down in things that are beside the question. Is John 6 about the Eucharist or not? :p
     
  15. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    I don't think my last post makes an empty claim.
     
  16. Symphorian

    Symphorian Well-Known Member

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  17. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    I appreciate your answer. That explains much about your assertions regarding John Chapter 6 and the Holy Eucharist.

    So, I'll bow out of the discussion.

    Peace and blessings,
    Anna