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Lex Rex

Friday, April 08, 2005

Early Church: Sacraments

I would like to hear input on Augustine, he seems to support more of the symbolic nature of the Eucharist and not so much real presence. I do not know how accurate this is, but Schaff claims there was considerable debate over the issue of the Eucharist early on (its meaning, not practice) and obviously, that debate continues today.

Let's look at John 6, and read this in the context that Jesus Himself provides: (my comments will be in IT, and no BGM, I am not quoting White or any other of your proclaimed enemies, the following are just mere observations of Scripture of which I am sincerely open to feedback):

JOHN
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." (Here, Jesus IMO is establishing the context, making a distinction between perishable nourishment that sustains you for a while and that of spiritual nourishment that is everlasting) 28 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" (Notice here the Jewish audience ignore the food reference and focus on the labor) 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (Here again, Jesus is referring to belief in Him) 30 So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat." 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." (here, this bread must be metaphorical as Jesus is obviously not standing before them appearing like manna or a loaf of bread, but in flesh) 34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (He refers to himself as the bread of life and in the same sentence refers to the belief in Him) 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (Again, refers to belief in Him)41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, "I have come down from heaven?" (notice here, the Jews focus again not on the bread reference but on clearly what Jesus is saying, that He is of Heaven) 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, "And they will all be taught by God." Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (This seems to be a clear reference to his coming sacrifice, and that the sacrifice of his flesh is the "bread" of life).
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "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 you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." 59 Jesus [3] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." (Jesus reveals the clear meaning to His disciples, as He does other times when He uses allegorical teaching, i.e. leavened bread)(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

It is with this revelation in private to His disciples that Jesus, IMO, lays out what He meant. He spoke directly to their confusion, it is the Spirit that gives life, the reference to flesh was an allegory.

Here is another example of where Jesus employed allegory, but in this case revealed the true meaning, perhaps because He knew the heart of Nicodemus,
John 3:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus [1] by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [2] he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [3] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." 8 The wind [4] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (Are we now to have the sacrament of the womb where we ritualistically climb into a womb and engage in a birthing experience? I am not being smart here, I sincerely ask)Another example of Jesus using symbolism to illustrate a point:Matthew 16:5:

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, "Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread." 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Notice they again mistook His example for literal meaning, ironically involving a metaphorical Bread. These men walked with Jesus and made mistakes, is it possible that after the ascension, without Jesus there to re-direct or rebuke, that the church once again mistook allegory for a literal interpretation? Not only possible, but seems likely, which is why from the start I have been hesitant to rely on what the church fathers did as ipso facto proof that is what we are to do today.

And again,

John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit."

Bread is referenced in the OT as sacrifice, it is fitting for Jesus in NT to refer to Himself as the bread from heaven, or sacrifice:

Levitecus:

21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD's food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them."

So my question is, with all of the times Jesus uses allegory to illustrate who He was/is, why is the church insistent on reading a literal interpretation into the sacrament of the Eucharist in the form of the real presence doctrine? Is not the clear context and Jesus' revelation to His disciples indicate what he meant, i.e., that the bread, or His presence in thereof, is not the point, it is clearly your belief in Him, a belief that looks alone to Jesus as the sustenance of our soul, in the spiritual sense, and that the sacrifice of His body was sufficient? Does this not mesh well with how we interpret the NT vs. the OT in all other matters, i.e. circumcision, temple sacrifice, etc....Jesus replaced it all, once and for all.