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(Last Updated: 30 Nov 1998 )
Note that there are other places
where Jesus just repeats a true but unpopular teaching, such as
Matthew 9:2-7, where he talks about his power to forgive sins,
and John 8:56-58, where he talks about his eternal existence.
Also notice that Jesus made no attempt to soften what he said, no
attempt to correct "misunderstandings," for there were none. Our
Lord's listeners understood him perfectly well. They no longer
thought he was speaking metaphorically. If they had thought he
was speaking metaphorically, if they mistook what he said, why no
correction? On other occasions when there was confusion, Christ
explained just what he meant (like Matt. 16:5-12). Here, where
any misunderstanding would be fatal, there was no
effort by Jesus to correct. Instead, he repeated himself for greater emphasis.
Protestant churches tend to say that this whole "Bread of Life" passage is symbolic, while Catholics emphasise the literal language used. My personal opinion is that it is both metaphorical and literal - there are elements of both.
And even more strongly than that, there's 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, which says "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself." Sounds a lot like Paul's talking about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You wouldn't be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord if it was just a symbol.
Another relevant Scripture is Malachi 1:11 - "'My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations', says the LORD Almighty." This is a prophecy about an on-going, universal, pure offering, as in Catholic teaching, not a symbolic gesture. In fact, the re-presentation of Christ to the Father in the Eucharist at Mass is a physical offering that has no parallel in Protestant services, so it seems very likely that the Eucharist is the literal fulfilment of this prophecy.
And here's another interesting
fact: the statement, "Do this in remembrance of me" can also be
translated as "Offer this as my memorial sacrifice." The Greek
term for "remembrance" is anamnesis, and every time it
occurs in the Protestant Bible (whether in the New Testament or
the Greek Old Testament), it occurs in a sacrificial context. For
example, it appears in the Greek translation of Numbers 10:10:
"On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts,
and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets
over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace
offerings; they shall serve you for remembrance
[anamnesis] before your God: I am the Lord your God." Thus
the Eucharist is a remembrance, a memorial offering we present to
God to plead the merits of Christ on the
Ignatius of Antioch, who died in AD 110 and was a disciple of both Peter and John, wrote about the Gnostic heretics of his time:
And Justin Martyr, writing around AD 155, describes the early Christian belief about the Lord's Supper like this:
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