The doctrine of Transubstantiation in the Roman Catholic Church is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as: “By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).”1)Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 395; para 1413 Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott states, “Christ becomes present in the Sacrament of the Altar by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His Body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood…. This transformation is called Transubstantiation.”2)Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogmas (ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. Patrick Lynch), Herder (St. Louis: 1955), p. 379 “Transubstantiation” literally means “to change the substance.” It is said this doctrine “raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments…”3) Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 383; para 1374 as it has been called “the sacrament of sacraments,”4)John G. Arintero, The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church (trans. Jordan Aumann), B. Herder Books Co. (St. Louis, MO: 1949), Vol. 1, p. 328 because, “The Worship and Adoration (Latria) must be given to Christ present in the Eucharist…. It follows from the wholeness and permanence of the Real Presence that the absolute worship of adoration (Cultus Latriae) is due to Christ present in the Eucharist.”5) Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogmas (ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. Patrick Lynch), Herder (St. Louis: 1955), p. 387 Since this bread and wine truly become Christ’s body and blood, “The Holy Mass is a true and proper Sacrifice.”6) Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogmas (ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. Patrick Lynch), Herder (St. Louis, MO: 1955), p. 402

Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian minister converted to Catholicism because of his experience of witnessing this ceremony. He writes:

After pronouncing the words of consecration, the priest held up the Host. I felt as if the last drop of my doubt had drained from me. With all my heart, I whispered, “My Lord and My God. That’s really you! And if that’s you, then I want full communion with you. I don’t want to hold back.”

Then I remembered my promise: 1990. Oh yes. I’ve got to regain control—I’m a Presbyterian, right? right! And with that, I left the chapel, not telling a soul where I had been or what I had done. But the next day I was back, and the next, and the next. Within a week or two I was hooked. I don’t know how to say it, but I had fallen head over heals in love with our Lord in the Eucharist! His presence to me in the Blessed Sacrament was powerful and personal….

Day after day, witnessing the entire drama of the Mass, I saw the covenant renewed right before my eyes. I knew Christ wanted me to receive him in faith, not just spiritually in my heart, but physically as well: onto my tongues, down my throat and into my whole body and soul. This was the gospel in its fullness.7)Scott & Kimberly Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism, Ignatius Press (San Francisco, CA: 1993), p. 88

Catholics commonly resort to attacking using the Bible to establish doctrine. For example, H. J Marshall attacks the reformers for rejecting Transubstantiation when he writes, “The reformers replaced the body of Christ with a book. The Bible was the replacement for the presence of Jesus.”8) H. J. Marshall, The Church or the Bible? One was Commissioned to Teach, Marshall Publishing Company, (Boothwyn, PA: 1993), p. 68 The title of Marshall’s book is The Church or the Bible? One was Commissioned to Teach, which is odd since the commission to the church to teach is to teach from the Bible, “that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3), including “any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10) within a list of abominable sins (1 Timothy 1:9-10). Former Catholic Mike Gendron offers an appropriate response to such a statement. “The Sacrifice of the Mass clearly violates God’s Word and is a powerful deception that holds Catholics in bondage.”9)Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics for Eternity, 21st Century Press (Springfield, MO: 2008), p. 114 Indeed, all things taught by men must be judged according to God’s word—the Bible (Acts 17:10-11), and as we will see the actual teaching of the earliest centuries show rejection of this doctrine but the historical development begins as late as the fourth century. Thus, it is counter-intuitive to cite Church Fathers and Tradition is evidence for the doctrine; but if we use such reasoning the earliest teachings are in the Bible and the earliest Church Fathers opposed this doctrine.

In summary, the doctrine of Transubstantiation consists of: 1) the bread and wine truly become the very substance of the body and blood of Christ; 2) the bread and wine are the objects of worship after having been transubstantiated; 3) this sacrament is the most important and it is promoted as the major evangelistic outreach of the catholic church as evident in Scott Hahn’s conversion; 4) the bread and wine are considered “re-presenting” or “renewing” the actual sacrifice of Christ as a daily act. We will first assess this from a scriptural position and follow that with a historical discussion.

Considering number 1 in the summary, it is important to note that nowhere in the Bible is the actual substance of liquid in this ordnance called “wine.” Paul uses the phrase “drink the cup of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 10:21) and in quoting Christ’s words, again expresses it as “this cup” (1 Corinthians 11:25-26). To take this phrase as a literal physical sense would mean the cup itself is the New Testament; not the substance inside it. Luke, Paul’s companion in traveling also uses the term “this cup” in reference to the Last Supper (Luke 22:20). The only times the actual substance in “this cup” is described is said to be “fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). Being that the Last Supper was the Passover meal (Matthew 26:19; Mark 14:1,12; Luke 22:7-8, 13, 15) which is also in the weak long festival (Leviticus 23:5-6) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mark 14:1, 12; Luke 22:1), in which all the leaven in the house was to be removed. Alcoholic wine is not produced by simply letting grape juice ferment, but rather by adding leaven (yeast) and sugar fructose. Since Paul states: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7) it is obvious that leavened products, such as alcoholic wine, are not acceptable to use. An ancient papyrus discovered in Elephantine Egypt written in Aramaic dated in “the fifth year of Darius,” which is 419 B.C., relates the commanded practices for that Jewish community while observing Passover. It states, “Be (ritually) clean and take heed. Do no work on the 15th or the 21st day, nor drink beer nor eat anything in which there is leaven from the 14th at sundown until the 21st of Nisan.”10)“The Passover Papyrus” (translated by H. L. Ginsberg) in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 491 Even worst is attempting to use this leavened substance to represent Christ blood as leaven is repeatedly used as a symbol for sin (Matthew 13:33, Luke 13:21; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9) or false doctrine (Matthew 16:6, 11-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1). The Greek word for “wine” can be used in reference “the fermented juice of the grape… or unfermented grape juice…”11)see A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (ed. Walter Bauer and trans. Wm. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. Danker, University of Chicago Press  (Chicago, IL: 1979), p. 562 and must be defined according to context. When early Christian authors began to use the word erroneously for the Lord’s Supper it became misapplied to alcoholic wine by later interpreters of their writings.

Christ does speak of the cup as “his cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:20, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:15), or “this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28; cf. Mark 14:24). Both expression leave no room to think He was telling His disciples that the cup had His literal physical blood in it at that very moment as He had not yet shed it on the cross. It is clearly expounded in Hebrews that the blood shedding was initiating a new covenant (Hebrews 9:18-22) as a pattern set when the first covenant was established (Hebrews 9:23). The major difference between the old and new covenants is that Christ shedding His blood was a one time sacrifice not needing to be done repeatedly. “nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many…” (Hebrews 9:25-28). The regular repetition of this ordinance is not to repeatedly offering Christ as a renewed sacrifice but rather “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). The disciples present at the last supper surely did not understand Christ’s words to mean they were literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood, nor should anyone think such a thing is taken place today.

The Catholic’s only Biblical passage to support this doctrine is John 6:51-58. However, if one takes this passage in the sense of physically eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood, there becomes major inconsistencies in the interpretation of this passage. First, Christ Himself said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) Thus they are meant to be understood in a spiritual sense, not physical. Second, if they are taken in the physical sense than the same physical sense must be applied to His words “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) In this case, eating the Eucharist should keep a person from physically dying. Third, consider the Lord’s words in John 6:35 “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” If understood in the spiritual sense that Christ Himself said it ought to be interpreted, never spiritually hungering or thirsting would confirm the sufficiency of His one time sacrifice not needing to be repeated. This spiritual sense is confirmed as the saints in heaven do not hunger or thirst as having received the sufficient atonement of Christ one time sacrifice (Revelation 7:16-17). Taken in the same physical sense would force us to say partaking the Mass should cause one to never again physically hunger or thirst. The interpretation of these words in a physical sense would be the same error made by the women at the well (John 4:13-14), but Christ was offering “living water” (John 7:37-38) to those who thirst, which was defined as “the Holy Ghost” (John 7:39). Further irreconcilable contradictions arise when considering that if it is teaching to literally drink blood but Christians are commanded “that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:20); and again, “that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood” (Acts 15:29). Indeed, Psalm 16:4 states: “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.” This is important to identify that drinking blood was a pagan method of idolatry that Jews found extremely abominable and the gentile Christians were commanded to not partake in drinking blood. Furthermore, and of a great importance to the topic of transubstantiation is that Psalm 16 is a messianic prophecy of Christ’s resurrection (see Psalm 16:10 cf. Acts 2:25-31), so this comment opposing drinking blood in the context of a prophecy of Christ’s resurrection clearly indicates Christians would not be drinking actual blood to commemorate the Lord’s death.

Interestingly, up until the Vatican II council (1962-1965) the Catholic layperson was not allowed to drink the wine for fear that it might get spilled. “If a crumb of bread should fall to the floor, that means the body of Christ in on the floor. If someone spills a drop of wine, that means a drop of Christ’s blood is on the floor.”12)Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, Harvest House Publishers (Eugene OR: 2000),p. 175 The denial of wine had been justified by reasoning that “whoever, receives His body receives Christ Himself. There is no receiving Christ in parts.”13) H. J. Marshall, The Church or the Bible? One was Commissioned to Teach, Marshall Publishing Company, (Boothwyn, PA: 1993), p. 73 The Catholic Catechism teaches, “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.”14) Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 385; para 1377 Thus was the argument that the bread was sufficient and mystically included the blood. But how can it be viewed as sufficient when the whole doctrine of Mass being re-sacrificed daily is evident that Christ’s sacrificed is not sufficient enough. The Bible says Christ cannot die in a continual sacrifice. “knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9) Plus Christ’s sacrifice over two thousand years ago is sufficient as a once for all offering. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God…Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:10-12, 18).

Of course, offering worship to a wafer is ludicrous. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) The second of the Ten Commandments tells us not to have any object or figurine to bow down to (Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 5:8-9). This command condemns “any likeness of anything” (Deuteronomy 5:8), including a wafer supposedly becoming flesh. The Catholic Catechism, interestingly, discusses idolatry under the first commandment, defining it as “divinizing what is not God.”15)Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 569, para. 2112 In the discussion of the second commandment which condemns all images, one will notice it is mysteriously missing from the Catholic Catechism, skipping directly to the third commandment and calling it “The Second Commandment”.16)Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 575, para. 2142 In order to make up for the loss of one of the commandments the Catechism splits the tenth commandment—“thou shalt not covet”—into two separate commandments of not coveting.17)Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 662, 667; para. 2514, 2534 This is most obviously a cover up of their intentional desecration of God’s words, which is warned against repeatedly in Scripture to not add to or omit from it (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Jeremiah 26:2; Galatians 3:15; Revelation 22:18-19).

The New Testament is the earliest written document and the only one with authority of God’s inspired words. Any tradition devised by men must be compatible with the New Testament as Paul wrote, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6) Note here that these traditions he speaks of were “received,” being grammatically in the past tense, thus any tradition contradicting those that existed in Paul’s days must be rejected. Peter also warned, “forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19). It is only the blood of Christ shed on the cross two thousand years ago in a once and for all sacrifice that cannot be re-presented based on the teachings of later traditions developed by church fathers centuries after the Bible was completed.

Irenaeus wrote a lengthy text entitled Against Heresies in which he discussed a particular Gnostic heretic named Marcus, whose practice is evidently a doctrine of Transubstantiation, which Irenaeus considers heresy and compares this man to the antichrist.

But there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master. He is a perfect adept in magical impostures, and by this means drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist. For, joining the buffooneries of Anaxilaus to the craftiness of the magi, as they are called, he is regarded by his senseless and cracked-brain followers as working miracles by these means.

Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, he contrives to give them a purple and reddish color, so that Charis, who is one of those that are superior to all things, should be thought to drop her own blood into that cup through means of his invocation, and that thus those who are present should be led to rejoice to taste of that cup, in order that, by so doing, the Charis, who is set forth by this magician, may also flow into them.18)Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 1, chapt. XIII, para 1-2; The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 1, p. 334

The Gnostic Gospel of Philip would confirm that this was indeed an expression of Transubstantiation was being taught from within the Gnostic cults, stating: “The eucharist is Jesus.”19)The Gospel of Philip, 63,21-24; The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edidtion (Ed. Marvin Meyer), HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY: 2007), p 170 Church historian Philip Schaff spoke of Gnosticism as “a false Gentile Christianity, which may be called the PAGANIZING or GNOSTIC heresy…. The author, or first representative of this baptized heathenism, according to the uniform testimony of Christian antiquity, is Simon Magus, who unquestionably adulterated Christianity with pagan ideas and practices, and gave himself out, in pantheistic style, for an emanation of God.”20)Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 2011), Vol. 1, p. 566 He used similar language in his description of Catholicism. “Roman Catholicism is pagan Rome baptized, a Christian reproduction of the universal empire seated of old in the city of the seven hills.”21) Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 2011), Vol. 1, p. 85

Though citations from these early church fathers can be offered to identify a superficial appearance that they taught this false doctrine, but such expression must be understood within the social-historical context and rhetorical eloquence utilized in antiquity. For example, Justin Martyr can be quoted for writing: “And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true… or not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”22)Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, chap. LXVI; The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 1, p.185 However, Justin’s disciple Tatian wrote an address to the Greeks to refute the common accusation they made against the Christians of committing cannibalism because they too thought such expression were literally physical flesh and blood. Tatian wrote, “It is not we who eat human flesh—they among you who assert such a thing have been suborned as false witnesses…”23)Tatian, Address of Tatian to the Greeks, chapt. XXVI; The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 2, p. 76 and he went on to reiterate the pagan myths of the Greek gods eating their own children. Another second century Christian author named Theophilus commented on the fact that pagans made this accusation and considered it “what is most impious and barbarous of all, that we eat human flesh.”24)Theophilus, Theophilus to Autolycus, book III, chapt. IV; The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 2, p. 112 Athenagoras (second century) argued against this accusation, “even the brutes do not touch the flesh of their own kind…”25)Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, chapt. III; The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 2, p. 130

Irenaeus explained where the Greeks got this idea of accusing Christians of cannibalism.

For when the Greeks, having arrested the slaves of Christian catechumens, then used force against them, in order to learn from them some secret thing [practised] among Christians, these slaves, having nothing to say that would meet the wishes of their tormentors, except that they had heard from their masters that the divine communion was the body and blood of Christ, and imagining that it was actually flesh and blood, gave their inquisitors answer to that effect. Then these latter, assuming such to be the case with regard to the practices of Christians, gave information regarding it to other Greeks, and sought to compel the martyrs Sanctus and Blandina to confess, under the influence of torture, [that the allegation was correct]. To these men Blandina replied very admirably in these words: “How should those persons endure such [accusations], who, for the sake of the practice [of piety], did not avail themselves even of the flesh that was permitted [them to eat]?”26)Irenaeus, Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, XIII; The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 1, p. 570

Many other quotations could be offered to prove the point that, though the Christian authors of antiquity did use such terminology, they obviously never meant it to be taken so hyper-literally as if they were truly eating physical flesh and drinking Christ’s blood. Simply throwing out citations without identifying the background accurately is deceptive that many Catholic authors have been guilty of over the centuries. Interestingly, the Catholic Catechism does not seek this deceptive method of inaccurately quoting these earliest author but only reference men from the fourth century such as St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose.27) Catechism of the Catholic Church (Complete and Updated with modifications from the Editio Typica), Doubleday (New York, NY: 1997), p. 384; para 1375 These later authors cited as the authority for Transubstantiation were misguided by their heremeneutics of the homilies of earlier authors. “The immediate purpose of the homily, especially if within the context of a liturgical celebration, was to move the congregation to greater sensitivity to God, and also to explain n aspect of Christian faith and life.”28)Roland E. Murphy, Wisdom Literature & Psalms, Abington Press (Nashville, TN: 1983), p. 58 Thus it was an experiential, mystical appeal which brought these expressions about at the cost of the accurate mode of interpreting Scripture in the literal grammatical-historical sense. God forbid that we would continue such an error of negligently handling of His inspired word in order to sanction a man-made tradition structured upon a quasi-mystical view of misunderstanding both the Bible and the statements of the early church father.



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