Jesus IS Speaking Literally in John 6

Opening Statement
Scott Windsor

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 My body."
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.
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.

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 Eucharist too.

"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]).

"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]).

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.

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:

Justin Martyr
"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]).
St. Augustine
"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:

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.

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 answers at:

Thank you, and I remain,

Your humble servant in the Lord, Jesus Christ,

Scott Windsor<<<