ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Christ is risen!
MODERN CHRISTIAN: He is risen indeed!
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: I love that greeting. In the early church, during the 50 days following the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we used to greet each other by one saying, “Christ is risen,” and the other replying, “He is risen indeed.”
Image © Saulo Zayas 2016
MODERN CHRISTIAN: I love that greeting too. You know, these past dialogues we have had have been enlightening. Now, I am interested to hear on what you in the early church believed about the Eucharist. Clearly, you did not hold it to be the Body and Blood of Christ since that belief was only invented by Roman Catholics 1000 years after the Resurrection of Christ.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: What?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Well, the doctrine of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is only 1000 years old.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: I never heard of such a term. Transubstanti-what?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: See, I knew it! Transubstantiation is the doctrine that the bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Wait, something sounds familiar here, but before you go further, what is “Mass”?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Mass is the prayer service of the Roman Catholic Church.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: What is it like?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: It begins with a priest saying morning prayers, then there are readings from the Gospels and the Epistles, then there is a sermon. Afterward, the priest prays over the bread and wine and Catholics claim that they change into the Body and Blood of Jesus, but I am really glad that in the early church you have never heard of Transubstantiation or the Mass; it further confirms to me that the Catholics invented both.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Wait a second, morning prayers, readings from the Gospels and Epistles, sermons, bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood. We had all that in the early church. When did you say that started, a thousand years after Christ?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Wait, what?! You mean you had Mass and Transubstantiation?! But that can’t be! I was told in church it started only a thousand years after Christ.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: My friend, that is impossible. What you are describing I saw in my days exactly as you describe them, and my father saw it before me, and my grandfather as well. The most ancient Christians, who lived much earlier than I did, described these things as well, and they wrote about them. The terms you are using I have never heard, but the things you are describing I am very well familiar with and so were all the Christians who lived in my times.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: So, you are saying that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist?
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Yes.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: This can’t be the case.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Why not? It is mentioned in the Bible.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: But, the Bible teaches it is not the Body and Blood of Christ.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: How did you arrive at that understanding from the Bible?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: When Jesus spoke, He used metaphors. For example, Jesus said that He is the Door (John 10:9). He is not literally a door. The same applies to the Eucharist. The bread and wine are not the Body and Blood just like Jesus is not a door.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Jesus truly said He is the Door, but He did not command us to walk through doors and do this in remembrance of Him. However, He did with the Eucharist. That already indicates something uniquely different about the Eucharist. Whereas our Lord Jesus gave parables, He never started a practice by a parable. The Last Supper was not a parable nor a metaphor. If you pay attention to when Jesus gave parables, He would later explain them to His disciples. When He explained this to His disciples, He said, “This is My Body,” and “This is my Blood” (Mark 14:22, 23). There is no further explanation to the Apostles like with many of the parables. All He said afterward was “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
MODERN CHRISTIAN: I am not convinced. Do you have any other Scriptures?
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Yes, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:35, 53-55).
MODERN CHRISTIAN: This is not the Eucharist. This is not the Last Supper if you pay attention to the context. Plus it is an I AM statement in the Gospel of John. These are all metaphors like when Jesus said, “I AM the Door,” “I AM the True Vine.”
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: The I AM statements were not all metaphors. Some of them were literal. When Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” that was not a metaphor. That is absolutely literal, and He demonstrated it by raising Lazarus from the dead and giving him life, and by raising Himself from the dead, and showing that He is the Life. When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that is not a metaphor. He is the Way to God, and He is the Truth, and He is the Life. Nobody can have physical or spiritual life if it were not for Him.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Uh…
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: In addition, the context for when our Lord Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” is similar to the Last Supper, which was during the Passover, although here it was an earlier year. In the Gospel of John it says He said these words when “the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near” (John 6:4). Who taught you the Scriptures? How could you claim that the seven I AM statements in John are all metaphors? Back to the point, when Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” toward the end of that discourse, He said, “My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). The word “indeed” with “food indeed” and “drink indeed” is alethos in Greek. You remember our greeting from the beginning, “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed”?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Yes.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: That greeting in Greek is “Christos Anesti; Alethos Anesti.” That word is better translated as “truly,” or “in reality.” Did our Lord Jesus Christ really rise from the dead?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Absolutely!
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Then, if the same word which was used in the Greek world to refer to his real resurrection is also used about His Body and Blood being food, then they are also really the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He made it very clear for us.
In addition, the earliest Christians understood this discourse to refer to the Eucharist. For example, one of the earliest Christians to write after the Apostles, wrote the following about the Eucharist, that it is “the medicine of immortality and the antidote we take in order NOT TO DIE BUT TO LIVE FOREVER in Jesus Christ” (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20.2). That sounds very similar to what our Lord Jesus said in this discourse, “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and NOT DIE. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will LIVE FOREVER; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:50-51).
You say it does not refer to the Eucharist because the I AM statements are not literal. Yet, two of them are clearly literal. You say it does not refer to the Eucharist because it is a different context, but the context is the Passover like the Last Supper. You say it does not refer to the Eucharist, but here is one of the earliest Christians who was actually a disciple of John the Apostle who wrote the Gospel, and in his letter, he is clearly alluding to “I AM the Bread of Life” as the Eucharist. Ignatius’s wording leaves no doubt that he had this discourse in mind here and applied it to the Eucharist.
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