Discussing the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
From Justin's First Apology
An Internet poster with the handle Agomemnon quoted Justin Martyr thus:
"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]).
Justin Martyr has been quoted to attempt to support the Roman Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and the "real absence" of the bread and contents of the cup.
In this case, the translation itself - while it may not be optimal - is not the issue. Schaff similarly translates Chapter 66 of the First Apology:
And this food is called among us ******* (Greek font is not working) [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For 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. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them,which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.The bull whose horns need to be grabbed here is the comparison: "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."
The Roman Catholics read this comparison as suggesting the doctrine of transubstantiation.
However, let's look at the comparison:
"in like manner as Jesus ... had flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise ... the food which is blessed ... is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."
This is a repetition of the same metaphor used in Scripture - it is not a transsubstantial explanation.
But some Roman Catholics may insist that we make the comparison not between the flesh and blood of Christ being compared with elements but rather:
"in like manner as Jesus ... having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood ... so likewise ... the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word ... is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."
This is not the comparison that is being made. We can deduce this several ways. One way we can deduce it is from considering that if this is the intended comparison then (primarily) the first verb should be parallel in its conjugation to the second verb and (secondarily) the prepositional phrase should have the same or a similar object. In other words, the sentence would be worded:
"just as Jesus was made flesh by the Word of God, even so the food is made flesh by the word of God in the blessing."
If Justin was trying to say that with what he said, he chose an exceptionally clumsy way to do so.
One way we can deduce that Justin was not clumisly trying to describe a Roman Catholic concept can be seen from the immediate context and the extended context.
In the immediate context, Justin begins by saying that the "food" is called "Eucharistia" [the Eucharist] and that consumption of the food is restricted to those who have professed faith and been baptized, because the food is not treated as "common food" but as the flesh and blood of Christ.
Justin's point is to distinguish this food from ordinary food, much like the shewbread was distinguishable from ordinary bread. Justin claims that this distinction is based on the teachings of the Apostles: the written teachings recorded in the gospels.
For the extended context, we should also read the 65th Chapter of Justin Martyr's Apology ("Administration of the sacraments"):
But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, ring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ******* (Hebrew font is not working) [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
Notice how even after the presiding brother has consecrated the bread and water/wine, what the deacons bring to the people is still called "bread and wine mixed with water."
A few less sophisticated Roman Catholic apologists will sieze on the phrase: "from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished." But this phrase, in context, proves exactly the opposite of what they wish to claim. For Justin is speaking of the digestive process whereby the bread and wine nourish us as food nourishes us. But the nourishment that the body and blood of Christ provide is not physical nourishment, but spiritual nourishment. Thus, Justin explains that the practice was to restrict this symbol to those who are - to outward appearances - already feeding by faith on Christ: i.e. those who believed and were baptized.
The bottom line is that Justin Martyr describes the consecration of the bread and drink to serve and be regarded as the body and blood of Christ: not to have a change of substance into the physical body and blood of Christ. Likewise PVI's doctrine of "real absence" is entirely absent from Justin's knowledge.
Praise and Glory be to Him Who has sat down at the right hand of the Father!