Jesus IS Speaking Literally in John 6
My thanks to Dr. Jim Guinee for accepting this debate. I hope
and pray that we both, and all who read this exchange will be
edified and learn from it.
I truly believe that Jesus was speaking literally when He commanded
that we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood or we have no life in
us, and it will be my task to prove that this was literal and was
received as literal and further taught as literal by other Apostles and
their disciples and throughout the Early Church Fathers. Let's
backtrack a little. The scene the day before of Him giving this command
is that of the feeding of the five thousand. He has just literally provided
for thousands in a miraculous way. Where there was only five loaves
of bread and two fishes, He fed five thousand.
After the miraculous feeding, He realizes they want to take Him by
force and make him king. So He leaves them and goes up the
mountain, alone. Evening comes and His Apostles go down to the
sea and get into a boat, and start heading for Capernaum. After
rowing out about three or four miles, a storm began to brew - and
they became afraid. Then they saw Jesus walking on the water,
another literal miracle, and as they welcomed Him to their boat,
the sea was calmed and instantly they were at their destination.
A moment earlier they were three to four miles out at sea! So
here we have two literal miracles! Jesus walking on water and
their sudden arrival at their destination.
Those on the other side knew that the Apostles had left alone, and
that Jesus was not with them when they left - yet He was with
them when they arrived at Capernaum, and questioned this. And
now we're getting to the part where Jesus issues the command
to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, or you have no life in you.
Jesus answers them (Jn 6:26-29) stating that they didn't seek Him
merely for the signs, but because they ate and were filled. Again
His reference is to the literal event of the day before. And when
they asked what to do to do the work of God, Jesus answered
and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in
Him whom He has sent." I repeat, the "work of God" is "that
you believe Him whom He has sent."
He then reminds them of how their fathers we literally fed bread
from heaven while they wandered in the desert. Again, this
miraculous feeding provided for all of God's People in a literal
way. He states that they were fed by the bread from heaven
which Moses had given them - but then contrasts that and says
it is the Father in heaven who gives them the True Bread from
heaven. In John 6:35 He declares that He is the Bread of Life.
In verse 38 He states "For I have come down from heaven, not
to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." In verse
40 He reiterates the need to believe Him.
In verse 41 we see that the Jews are grumbling because He
said He is the bread which came down from heaven. Then
in verse 43 He tells them not to grumble. Then in verse 48
He again repeats that He is the Bread of Life. He then again
reminds them of their fathers who ate the manna in the
wilderness - but they died; then contrasts that with the
Bread which comes down from heaven, so that if they eat of
it, they will not die. At verse 50 He repeats, "I am the living
bread that came down out of heaven." He goes on, and this
is important, He states that this bread is something that He
will give - that is, it has not yet been given to them
to eat, but will be.
At verse 52 we see that the Jews are no longer just grumbling,
but now begin to argue saying, "How can this man give us His
Flesh to eat?" Jesus respondes to them (v. 53) "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 yourselves." Note please,
Jesus doesn't say "figuratively, figuratively, I say unto you..."
but "truly, truly..." so what He's saying is absolutely true.
At verse 54 He reiterates that if you eat His Flesh and drink
His Blood, you have eternal life. And then affirms in 55, "For
My Flesh is True Food, and My Blood is True Drink." In 56
He again refers to those who eat His Flesh and drink His
Blood and in 57 says "he who eats Me, he will also live
because of Me." Then in 58, speaking of Himself again, He
states "This is the Bread which came down out of heaven;
not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats This Bread
will live forever."
Now after hearing this, many of His own disciples said,
"This is a difficult statement, who can listen to it?" And
He challenges them further, "Does this cause you to
stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending
to where He was before?" In other words, if they will not
believe Him that He will provide them the means of giving
them His Flesh to eat, would they believe it if they saw
Him ascending into heaven? "With this, many of His
disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him
anymore. So Jesus said to The Twelve, 'You do not
want to go away also, do you?' Simon Peter answered
Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of
eternal life. We have believed and have come to know
that You are the Holy One of God." (vs. 66-69). Please
note, not only did Jesus NOT change His story and say,
"Hey wait, My disciples - I was only speaking figuratively!
You don't REALLY have to eat My Flesh and drink My
Blood - those were just symbols I was using, come on
back!" No, He let them walk away - and then to drive
the point home, He turns to The Twelve and states,
"You do not want to go away also, do you?" Still not
changing or adapting what was said earlier - and The
Twelve stay with Him. If Jesus was speaking figuratively
here, He had every oportunity to clarify it as such - and
save many of His disciples from walking away, yet He
sticks to the literal sayings and lets them walk. They
understood Him perfectly - but it was a "hard saying"
and they would not accept it.
That was early on in His ministry, and the promise was
that He would give His Flesh to us. At the end of His
ministry is when He actually does give His Body and
Blood to the Apostles and then commands them to do
the same until He returns in glory.
Mat 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus
took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and
gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is
Note, He's not saying "this is a symbol of My Body, but that this
IS My Body." And He's telling them to "take, eat,
this IS My Body." This is quite a literal statement and
completely consistent with what He said back in John 6.
Mat 26:27 And when He had taken a cup and given
thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it,
all of you;
Mat 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which
is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Now, did the Early Church believe the Eucharist to
actually BE His Body and Blood? Let's see! St. Paul,
in his first letter to the Corinthians states that those
who partake of the Eucharist unworthily eats and
drinks judgment unto themselves, and why? For not
realizing the Body of Christ! (1 Cor. 11:23-29).
Next let's look at what the first generation of the disciples
of the Apostles taught - and since we're talking about the
literalness of John 6, let's look at one of St. John's,
St. Ignatius and see if his teaching is a literal view of the
"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of
this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of
Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I
desire his blood, which is love incorruptible" (Letter to the
Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).
Here we see a disciple of the writer of John 6 representing
the Eucharist in the exact same literal way that Catholics
(Eastern and Western) do to this day.
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the
grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how
contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They
abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they
do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior
Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which
that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who
deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes"
(Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1 [A.D. 110]).
So, we have St. John the Apostle recording Jesus' literal
words to "eat My Flesh" and "drink My Blood" or "you
have no life in you." St. Paul the Apostle spells out the
Consecration, literally as the Gospels do, and declares
that those who partake of it unworthily eat and drink unto
themselves judgment - for not realizing the Body of
the Lord. There's nothing figurative about what St. Paul
said. Then going to a disciple of the writer of John 6 and
see that St. Ignatius also represents a very literal
understanding of the Eucharist, that it truly IS the
Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And let's look at what some of the other Early Church Fathers
taught on this subject:
As we can see here, the literal and Catholic understanding of the
Eucharist is seen from the first generation of Christianity through
St. Augustine - and I could keep going, but for brevity sake I will
stop with the 5th century teachings of St. Augustine.
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is
permitted to partake of it, except one who believes
our teaching to be true and who has been washed
in the washing which is for the remission of sins
and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism]
and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not
as common bread nor common drink do we
receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior
was made incarnate by the word of God and had
both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as
we have been taught, the food which has been
made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer
set down by him, and by the change of which our
blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and
the blood of that incarnated Jesus"
(First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
"If the Lord were from other than the Father, how
could he rightly take bread, which is of the same
creation as our own, and confess it to be his body
and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?"
(Against Heresies 4:33-32 [A.D. 189]).
"He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be
his own blood, from which he causes our blood to
flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has
established as his own body, from which he gives
increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the
mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread
receives the Word of God and becomes the
Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the
substance of our flesh is increased and supported,
how can they say that the flesh is not capable of
receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life-flesh
which is nourished by the body and blood of the
Lord, and is in fact a member of him?" (ibid., 5:2).
"'And she [Wisdom] has furnished her table'
[Prov. 9:2] . . . refers to his [Christ's] honored and
undefiled body and blood, which day by day are
administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual
divine table, as a memorial of that first and
ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper
[i.e., the Last Supper]" (Fragment from Commentary
on Proverbs [A.D. 217]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and
forward, and denounces them, saying, 'Whosoever
eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily,
is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord' [1 Cor. 11:27].
All these warnings being scorned and
contemned-[lapsed Christians will often take Communion]
before their sin is expiated, before confession has been
made of their crime, before their conscience has been
purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before
the offense of an angry and threatening Lord has been
appeased, [and so] violence is done to his body and
blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with
their hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord"
(The Lapsed 15-16 [A.D. 251]).
Ambrose of Milan
"Perhaps you may be saying, 'I see something else;
how can you assure me that I am receiving the body
of Christ?' It but remains for us to prove it. And how
many are the examples we might use! . . . Christ is in
that sacrament, because it is the body of Christ"
(The Mysteries 9:50, 58 [A.D. 390]).
Theodore of Mopsuestia
"When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, 'This is
the symbol of my body,' but, 'This is my body.' In the
same way, when he gave the cup of his blood he did
not say, 'This is the symbol of my blood,' but, 'This is
my blood'; for he wanted us to look upon the
[Eucharistic elements] after their reception of grace
and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to
their nature, but receive them as they are, the body
and blood of our Lord. We ought . . . not regard
[the elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the
body and blood of the Lord, into which they were
transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit"
(Catechetical Homilies 5:1 [A.D. 405]).
"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring
to his own body, he said, 'This is my body'
[Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands"
(Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).
"I promised you [new Christians], who have now
been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain
the sacrament of the Lord's Table. . . . That bread
which you see on the altar, having been sanctified
by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That
chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having
been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood
of Christ" (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).
More quotes here: http://www.a2z.org/acts/articles/euch.htm
In summary, if we read John 6 on this subject in a literal way we
see that this interpretation is completely consistent with Matthew
26:26 as it is with St. Paul's instructions to the Corinthians. The
exact same literal view is expressed by St. John the Apostle's
own disciple when he wrote to both the Romans and the
Smyrnaeans. The literal view of the Eucharist as actually being
the Body and Blood of Christ is echoed throughout the Early
Church Fathers from St. Justin Martyr through St. Augustine.
Thus, the logical conclusion here is that John 6, when speaking
on eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, is a literal command,
unless we're willing to tear from Christian history the words of
Sts. Paul, Ignatius, Justin, Ireneaus, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine
and many, many more.
With that being said, I respectfully close this Opening Statement
in my debate with Dr. Guinee. I also will welcome any other
respectful challengers to offer their own Opening Statement in
this debate and will keep such respectful challenges and their
Thank you, and I remain,
Your humble servant in the Lord, Jesus Christ,