Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Devin Rose on Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and the Eucharist

Over in the over-flowing comment box at the Roman Catholic blog Called to Communion, Devin Rose has provided a comment that veers slightly off the stated topic for that box. I'm providing a response here instead of there both to keep that discussion on topic and because (for the moment) the CTC site is undergoing maintenance and the comment boxes are apparently all closed.

Devin Rose wrote (in part):
We were discussing the Eucharist: they both believe in the symbolic-only Eucharist (ala Zwingli and the Baptists) whereas I as a Catholic believe in transubstantiation. I asked them how can we know what the Apostles believed on this subject, given that we disagree with each other on how to interpret the Bible on this doctrine.

They said it comes down to their belief in the Bible and how clearly it teaches the symbolic-only Eucharist. I told them that, since we disagree on the interpretation, what if we looked at other sources, say, two of the early Christian leaders whose writings we know are authentic: St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Justin Martyr. I am sure you are familiar with what they wrote about the Eucharist. In short, they unequivocally speak of the bread and the wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. Even if one were to try to interpret their words in the most Baptist-leaning way possible, they fall much closer to the Catholic (and Lutheran and even Calvinist) belief on the Eucharist than the Zwinglian/Baptist symbolic belief.
(source)

I have four main responses:

1) Yes, your friends are right to go to the Scriptures. Since Scripture dates to the time of the apostles, is inspired, and (in many cases) was penned by an apostle, it is the best possible evidence as to what the Apostles believed. Going to an apostolic father (like Ignatius) or to a very early Christian writer (like Justin Martyr) is only second and third best (Ignatius was in an overlapping generation with the apostles and Justin Martyr was in one of the first generations that did not overlap with the apostles). Similarly, while we know the text of Scripture with high confidence for virtually all its verses, the text of Ignatius is actually open to significant doubt at many places. Not only are many of the letters attributed to him inauthentic, but the authentic letters have been variously interpolated over the years so that we have, in essence, two versions - a long version in which we have little confidence that it is fully authentic - and a short version in which we have higher confidence that it is authentic. The text of Justin Martyr is substantially less controversial, but again - the textual transmission of Justin Martyr is nowhere near as good as the textual transmission of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.

2) In point of fact, the Scriptures are sufficient to resolve the matter as to what the Apostles believed. But if you will insist that the Scriptures are ambiguous or somehow lack sufficient authority, we can examine with you the historical record of tradition. Nevertheless, the historical record shows that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is something developed rather late. The term itself doesn't come around for about a thousand years or so. The concept without the word is also not found. In other words, we don't find the accidents/substance distinction being enunciated by the fathers of the church significantly prior to the development of the term.

3) As to the specific instances of Ignatius and Justin Martyr, they do use expressions that are frequently used in this sort of discussion. The two most popular quotations alleged from Ignatius are the following (taken from an article on the Real Presence at Catholic.com - link to the article):

"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]).

(I've previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn't teach transubstantiation.)

"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]).

(Similarly, I've also previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn't teach transubstantiation.)

As noted above, I've previously demonstrated that these quotations don't teach transubstantiation. However, I could have gone further. Note that Ignatius uses words that sound like a literal identification between the bread and the flesh. But consider that Ignatius elsewhere makes a similar identification:
Not that I know there is anything of this kind among you; but I put you on your guard, inasmuch as I love you greatly, and foresee the snares of the devil. Wherefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, be renewed in faith, that is the flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no one of you cherish any grudge against his neighbour. Give no occasion to the Gentiles, lest by means of a few foolish men the whole multitude [of those that believe] in God be evil spoken of. For, "Woe to him by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among any." [Isaiah 52:5]
- Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 8 (Short Version - both versions available here)

Notice how, in this passage, Ignatius calls "faith" the "flesh of the Lord" and calls "love" the "blood of Jesus Christ." If he had said this about the bread and the cup, you might have thought he intended a transubstantial sense to his words. Here, however, you can plainly see that he does not intend such a sense. Instead, is employing metaphor.

Similarly, with Justin, the typical quotation is this (using the same article identified above):

"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]).

(I've likewise previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn't teach transubstantiation.)

And again, I can do more than simply point out that the quotation used doesn't teach transubstantiation. I can show that Justin viewed the Eucharist as literally bread:
And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: 'I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but you profane it.' [Malachi 1:10-12] [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 41 (link to source - most footnotes at source omitted above)

Notice how in this passage, Justin explains that the oblation of flour for the purification of leprosy pre-shadowed the bread of the Eucharist. And how the sacrifice of the bread and cup (for Justin) are a sacrifice of bread, similar to the oblation of fine flour in the Old Testament administration there. Notice as well that Justin views the sacrament as a "celebration ... in remembrance" but not a re-presentation.

In fact, we see this stated even more clearly in a later chapter:
But I must repeat to you the words of Isaiah referred to, in order that from them you may know that these things are so. They are these: "Hear, you that are far off, what I have done; those that are near shall know my might. The sinners in Zion are removed; trembling shall seize the impious. Who shall announce to you the everlasting place? The man who walks in righteousness, speaks in the right way, hates sin and unrighteousness, and keeps his hands pure from bribes, stops the ears from hearing the unjust judgment of blood closes the eyes from seeing unrighteousness: he shall dwell in the lofty cave of the strong rock. Bread shall be given to him, and his water [shall be] sure. You shall see the King with glory, and your eyes shall look far off. Your soul shall pursue diligently the fear of the Lord. Where is the scribe? Where are the counsellors? Where is he that numbers those who are nourished—the small and great people? With whom they did not take counsel, nor knew the depth of the voices, so that they heard not. The people who have become depreciated, and there is no understanding in him who hears." [Isaiah 33:13-19] Now it is evident, that in this prophecy [allusion is made] to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 70 (link to source - most footnotes at source omitted)

Notice how Justin suggests that bread is given not as the flesh and blood as such, but rather in remembrance of those things.

4) Consider finally the absurdity of assuming that every time "[X] is [Y]" is used of things having two different substances, we should view this in a transubstantial sense.

1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Will Mr. Rose try to suggest that the Rock was Christ in substance under the accidents of Rock? Surely no one would be so foolish as to make such a suggestion. May I further suggest to you that the only reason that you view the statement "This is my body" in a transubstantial sense is that you have been taught this tradition. It is not something found in the text or learned from it. Furthermore, the tradition itself is not a tradition that comes from the apostles. The historical evidence shows us that not only the term "transubstantiation" but the idea behind it were later developments, not the original apostolic teaching.

-TurretinFan

21 comments:

Louis said...

Thanks, TF.

Turretinfan said...

You're welcome.

Devin Rose said...

Thanks for the reply, Turretinfan--a person commented on my blog and mentioned you had responded to my CTC comment here.

I don't have time to reply right now, but I would mention a few things: The first thing I believed as a Christian was that Jesus meant the Eucharist in a purely symbolic way (ala Zwingli); I believed that to be true because I was taught it by the Baptist tradition in which I first found myself upon converting from atheism. It made sense to me; Symbolism like this is used a lot in the Bible.

Then, however, when I came to accept the authority of the Catholic Church, I changed my belief because the Catholic Church taught, with evidence that seemed to me as strong or stronger than my Baptist belief, that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The relevant Bible passages seem to be able to support either interpretation (or one in between like Luther and Calvin presented).

As for the quotes from the early Christians mentioned, they could have been speaking literally in one of the passages (supporting a literal transformation) and in the speaking symbolically (I'm talking about the specific passage from Ignatius where clearly someone's faith is not the flesh of Jesus but rather he is speaking metaphorically).

The other difficulty in such passages is trying to prove that they believed that Christ's presence was _only_ symbolic. Catholics of course believe in a both-and here like they do in all the sacraments, which both symbolize (or signify) _and_ confer the grace symbolized. Proving that one of the saints believed a symbolic-only teaching is hard to demonstrate.

My friends and I are still stuck: What do we do when brilliant, faithful Christians like Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all had substantial disagreement as to what Jesus meant when he said "This is my body"? We disagree about the biblical interpretation, and as you demonstrate here, we even disagree about the (seemingly more clear) witness of the early Fathers. The one thing that is unequivocal is that the Catholic Church from pretty early on taught that Christ was really present in the Eucharist, even if transubstantiation was decreed _dogmatically_ in the 1200s (or somewhere around there). How do my friends and I resolve this dispute when the magisterial Reformers could not resolve it amongst themselves?

Ryan said...

Excellent, as always.

Devin Rose said...

Hmmm, I made a relatively brief comment earlier today after my lunch break but don't yet see it. If it got eaten, I can write another one and try to comment again.

Ken said...

Devin wrote:
My friends and I are still stuck: What do we do when brilliant, faithful Christians like Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all had substantial disagreement as to what Jesus meant when he said "This is my body"?

That's nice that you call Luther and Calvin and Zwingli "brilliant, faithful Christians", but your church (RCC) at the time would have executed Luther, had it not been for Fredrick of Saxony, and Calvin also, if they had had the power. (by then it was too late, it seems; Western Europe was going toward Protestantism.) And you would not have been able to be friends with 2 baptists in the 16th Century, I don't think. They are anathema.

How do my friends and I resolve this dispute when the magisterial Reformers could not resolve it amongst themselves?

The solution is certainly not to just "bow down" to the Roman Catholic Church; for that is to "kill our brains" and our spirits and to go against Scripture- even Ignatius Loyala commanded this, "if we (the RCC) says something is white when to your eyes is is black, you are commanded to submit and believe it is white." ( I am paraphrasing from memory)

The views of Mary and justification and indulgences, purgatory and all the issues that separate us Protestants from Rome, your solution seems to be just "submit" (kill your brains).

That is just not acceptable.
Romans 14:5 says, "Let each one be convinced in his own mind."

The transubstantiation issue is the probably the biggest "brain killer" of all; with the genuflexing and thinking that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.

It is the RCC who should repent of this and admit and confess that this was wrong and get back to the Bible - Jesus said, "this is MY body" while He was reclining or standing there in His body in time and space, so it is obvious that it did not mean literally, but "This bread represents My body", which will be given on the cross, etc.

Turretinfan did an excellent job of analyzing Ignatius and Justin Martyr to show that they did not mean what Rome tries to read back into the ancient church fathers and writers.

The way to solve it, is for the Roman Magisterium to open up the Scriptures again and do proper historical/grammatical exegesis.

John Bugay said...

http://www.reformation21.org/calvin/2009/11/blog-225-41725-41728.php

"Central to Calvin's view of the Supper, and not always sufficiently appreciated, is an insistence that Christ's body is in heaven - and therefore talk of Calvin's doctrine of the "real presence of Christ in the Supper" (an expression he did not and would not have used) even by sympathizers of Calvin, miss the point. Transubstantiation, with its view of the ubiquity of flesh, is an absurdity."

Devin Rose said...

Hi Turretinfan and friends,

I don't have a lot of time once again, but I would like to respond with the main point I was trying to make (of which the doctrine of the Eucharist was only an example): It is all well and good that you (and your particular Protestant Communities which look to Calvin's interpretation of Scripture) think that the Eucharist is X. We could discuss the Eucharist, and I could demonstrate that the evidence from the early Christians is strongly in favor of a literal transformation, against the few points that TurretinFan makes here, but of course you would just argue back that "that's not what they meant." Particularly, TF mentioned St. Cyril of Jerusalem I recall--a more Catholic guy is hard to find, and on another day I would ask for an explanation of how his catechetical lectures' description of the sacraments (all very Catholic) is actually Protestant. In the meantime, Professor Feingold just did a lecture on the early Fathers and the Eucharist, which you can listen to here: http://hebrewcatholic.org/themesoftheearly.html

My main point, however, and one I hope TF will respond to on the CtC article (which is now back up) is how different Protestants can know what the Apostles taught, given that, for instance, my two Protestant friends refused to even admit any evidence from the writings of the early Christians, regardless of whether they could be construed to support their interpretive tradition or not. TF obviously is a Protestant willing to accept at least examining these writings, but my friends are not, and their claim to sola Scriptura's definition is "just as valid" as yours is, given that the Radical Reformation movement of Protestantism did not admit influences from the Fathers or early Church. Please help me explain to them why they are wrong to not accept the writings of the early Fathers as important to knowing what the Apostles taught.

@ Ken: You did a fine job of attacking the Catholic Church with accusations, many of which are hagiographical references, but you didn't really answer my (honestly posed) question. Can you take the question honestly a respond in charity?

Turretinfan said...

DR wrote: "I don't have a lot of time once again, but I would like to respond with the main point I was trying to make (of which the doctrine of the Eucharist was only an example):"

ok

DR wrote: "It is all well and good that you (and your particular Protestant Communities which look to Calvin's interpretation of Scripture) think that the Eucharist is X."

Calvin's interpretation of Scripture is not even a subordinate authority in our churches. It is merely a persuasive authority, like that of the church fathers on whose shoulders he stood.

DR wrote: "We could discuss the Eucharist, and I could demonstrate that the evidence from the early Christians is strongly in favor of a literal transformation, against the few points that TurretinFan makes here, but of course you would just argue back that 'that's not what they meant.'"

a) It is easy to say that you could demonstrate something. It is much more difficult to actually do it. Compare your sentence above with my post.

b) No, we wouldn't just argue back that "that's not what they meant." We're not invested (as your church is) in making the church fathers agree with our position. If they make mistakes, we let them. We're quite willing to let the fathers be the fathers, not trying to make them into 21st century Reformed Presbyterians. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, Rome tries to claim them as Roman Catholics, which is why we see a lot of these unreasonable attempts to put transubstantiation into the mouths of fathers for whom the idea was an unknown concept.

c) Considering that you've decided to lecture Ken on charity, you might consider whether it is charitable to assume that your theological opponents will refuse to be persuaded by your demonstration (should you actually provide a demonstration).

DR wrote: "Particularly, TF mentioned St. Cyril of Jerusalem I recall--a more Catholic guy is hard to find, and on another day I would ask for an explanation of how his catechetical lectures' description of the sacraments (all very Catholic) is actually Protestant."

a) Cyril was Catholic, but not Roman Catholic.

b) It's actually quite easy to find folks who are more Roman Catholic than Cyril of Jerusalem. Ignatius of Loyola, Bellarmine, and Francis de Sales come to mind. For that matter, assuming you are not a so-called traditionalist Roman Catholic, then John Paul II and Benedict XVI would even more Roman Catholic than those three.

c) We don't claim that the early church fathers were Protestants. That would be an anachronism. It's similarly an anachronism to view them as Roman Catholics. Both we and you differ theologically from them. We justify our differences from them with an appeal to an authority that is higher than theirs, you to an authority that is (from our perspective) lesser than theirs.

d) I'd be happy to discuss Cyril's view of the sacraments, but I wonder whether you seriously imagine that Cyril's view of the sacraments is going to be the same as the Roman Catholic position. For example, do you really suppose that Cyril is going to say that there are seven sacraments? or call "confession" a "sacrament" or view "confession" in the same way Roman Catholicism does today?


DR wrote: "In the meantime, Professor Feingold just did a lecture on the early Fathers and the Eucharist, which you can listen to here: http://hebrewcatholic.org/themesoftheearly.html"

William Webster has an excellent article on the Eucharist and the fathers here: link to article.

[Cont'd in Part 2]

Turretinfan said...

[Cont'd from Part 1]

DR wrote: "My main point, however, and one I hope TF will respond to on the CtC article (which is now back up) is how different Protestants can know what the Apostles taught,"

The way that we can know what the apostles taught is, as Justin Martyr put it, from their memoirs, namely the New Testament Scriptures (see my recent post providing the evidence). That way works for anyone who wants to know.

By the way, if you want to know what Augustine taught, read Augustine's writings. If you want to know what Calvin taught, read Calvin's writings. If you want to know what the Apostles taught, read the New Testament. This isn't some unusual suggestion.

DR continued: "given that, for instance, my two Protestant friends refused to even admit any evidence from the writings of the early Christians,"

I'm not sure that's totally fair to them. But, then again, I don't know them. My answer is, at least practically speaking, independent of whether or not particular folks act in a particular way.

My answer is objective, not subjective.

DR continued: "regardless of whether they could be construed to support their interpretive tradition or not."

Ok. They probably view such additional teachings as unnecessary in view of the sufficiency of Scripture.

DR wrote: "TF obviously is a Protestant willing to accept at least examining these writings, but my friends are not,"

"Protestant" is kind of an unhelpful category from my perspective. That's really just an aside.

DR continued: "and their claim to sola Scriptura's definition is "just as valid" as yours is,"

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. We (Reformed Christians) didn't get a trademark on the phrase, but the phrase has historical signification with a fairly small range of meanings.

DR continued: "given that the Radical Reformation movement of Protestantism did not admit influences from the Fathers or early Church."

Not admitting influences from previous Christian teachers has to do with other things than sola scriptura.

DR wrote: "Please help me explain to them why they are wrong to not accept the writings of the early Fathers as important to knowing what the Apostles taught."

They are a useful fallible source of historic information. If we are establishing doctrines, we do so from infallible sources, which is probably why your friends are not inclined to go with the teachings of the fathers when the fathers are contrary to Scripture.

DR concluded: "@ Ken: You did a fine job of attacking the Catholic Church with accusations, many of which are hagiographical references, but you didn't really answer my (honestly posed) question. Can you take the question honestly a respond in charity?"

There is a modicum of irony in calling Ken's critique "attacking the Catholic Church with accusations" and then telling him (in effect) that he was uncharitable.

-TurretinFan

Devin Rose said...

TF,

Part 1:

Your reasons for interpreting Ignatius and Justin Martyr on the Eucharist as symbolic are unpersuasive. Your general method is to list some other place where they used metaphorical language (where it is clearly metaphorical) and then apply that to the times when they clearly were speaking literally. It doesn't work. To press your erroneous interpretive idea further, you state:

4) Consider finally the absurdity of assuming that every time "[X] is [Y]" is used of things having two different substances, we should view this in a transubstantial sense....Will Mr. Rose try to suggest that the Rock was Christ in substance under the accidents of Rock? Surely no one would be so foolish as to make such a suggestion

No one has ever made that claim, least of all me. The biblical authors and the early Fathers, and well, just about everyone, makes use of both metaphorical and literal language, and we have to use our reason and what other aides we have to determine in which cases they are using which kind of language. So, big surprise, Jesus sometimes speaks metaphorically and sometimes literally. Additionally, there are multiple senses in which passages from Scripture can be understood, though the literal sense is primary; a passage can operate in multiple senses (moral, anagogical, allegorical, and literal).

What is interesting about your interpretations of the biblical passages and of these Fathers is that, I would be hard-pressed to know what they could have possibly said to convince you that they meant what they said about the Eucharist literally.

Jesus said: This is my body.
Zwingli (and TF) say: By that he means, This signifies my body
Luther says: No, by that he means, this is my body in a real way

As an aside, how do you answer Luther's challenge that if Jesus did not mean "this is my body" in a real way but only "this symbolizes my body" that the entire Scriptures must then be incomprehensible and impossible to accurately interpret? How did Luther get this so wrong when he got so much else so right?

Similarly, when Ignatius specifically talks of the Eucharist, he uses "to be" and Justin uses words like "transmutation" (which I recall you ultimately did not dispute the translation of because one of your favorite Calvinist interpreters also used that word). Yes, Ignatius uses metaphorical language elsewhere, not to talk about the Eucharist, but about one's faith, etc. but there it is clear he is being metaphorical while in these other two passages, it is the opposite: the plain reading is a literal one. You ding these saints for not using the word "transubstantiation" nor spelling out the Aristotelian philosophical concepts behind their words, but that is not necessary for them to communicate the same truth, nor was it necessary for Jesus to explain in philosophical language exactly what was happening when he consecrated the first Eucharist and tranformed it into his body.

Greek concepts of what a "person" is were employed by the Church when dogmatically defining the Trinity in the 4th century, but it is not necessary to see those same concepts word-for-word in the Bible or in early saints' writings for them to communicate the same idea (Ironically, the usage of Greek philosophical ideas at Nicaea in 325 AD is one of the arguments Mormons use against the doctrine of the Trinity (which they reject), claiming that these pagan philosophies were wrongly employed in Christianity in the early centuries and led to misunderstandings of key doctrines.)

Devin Rose said...

Part 2:

You wrote: May I further suggest to you that the only reason that you view the statement "This is my body" in a transubstantial sense is that you have been taught this tradition. It is not something found in the text or learned from it.

No, it is found in the text: I believe that when Jesus said "this is my body" he really meant, "this is my body" and not (as you interpret it) "this symbolizes my body but is not really my body." Who is the one who is using a tradition to color his intepretation? You reject Luther's understanding of the Eucharist as well, which is closer to Catholicism's than yours is. Which tradition was he following? Why is the interpretation that you agree with the only one that is not coming from a tradition (if you indeed believe that)? I would argue that all of us are coming from a tradition, including you, except I admit it. Do you admit that you are coming from a tradition? The most obvious reading of this Scripture along with John 6 would indicate as Luther and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches claim and the early Christians in every century claimed that Jesus meant what he said in a literal way and not in a symbolic way.

Furthermore, the tradition itself is not a tradition that comes from the apostles. The historical evidence shows us that not only the term "transubstantiation" but the idea behind it were later developments, not the original apostolic teaching.

Let's assume that what you are saying is true. As we continue reading the early Christians beyond these particular ones from the first century after the Apostles, we see more and more examples of the literal transformation understanding of the Eucharist. Do you also argue with them as you do for Ignatius and Justin that they were all speaking metaphorically in their writings? At which point in history do you concede that Christians in the Church believed and taught the literal transformation (because by your last statement above you do eventually concede that this was what the Church taught)? 3rd century? 4th century? 5th century? 12th century? Whichever century you answer, I will look forward to your explanation of how the writings of the Christians up to that time demonstrate your belief in the symbolic-only Eucharist and not a literal transformation.

Why would Christians in the Church change the beliefs of the Apostles on this matter if, by your interpretations of their writings, the symbolic-only Eucharist was so clearly taught in both the Bible and in these 2nd century writings? When did they change this teaching from symbolic-only to literal? Who made that change?

Devin Rose said...

In the comments you wrote
Not admitting influences from previous Christian teachers has to do with other things than sola scriptura.


Wrong. The thing at question is the very definition of sola Scriptura. My Protestant friends (whose denominations I listed in my CtC comment) descend from the Anabaptist Protestants, whose definition of sola Scriptura is also called "tradition 0" as in, no admittance of evidence as to what the Apostles believes except what is in the Bible, so early Christian writings are out. This is of course why they rejected infant baptism and yet Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all supported it "against the fanatics" inspired by the devil as Luther called those who rejected infant baptism. Sola Scriptura is all about whether we can accept any traditions not found explicitly in the Scriptures and if so, which ones can be considered to harmonize with the Scriptures--infant baptism is the perfect example of a difference between Protestants' definitions of sola Scriptura and what can and cannot be admitted as evidence as to how to interpret the Scriptures. By the way, do you believe in infant baptism? :)


There is a modicum of irony in calling Ken's critique "attacking the Catholic Church with accusations" and then telling him (in effect) that he was uncharitable.


If Ken attacked my mother with spurious and inaccurate statements in order to defame her, and I told him he was acting uncharitably and exhorted him to reconsider his statements' foundations and re-phrase his criticisms or list his sources for making them, there is no irony there. And guess what, the Church is my mother. :)

I look forward to your replies, especially those I put in bold.

Turretinfan said...

Devin:

That's quite a lot of topics you raise there. Trying to narrow it down to those on topic, you state: "Yes, Ignatius uses metaphorical language elsewhere, not to talk about the Eucharist, but about one's faith, etc. but there it is clear he is being metaphorical while in these other two passages, it is the opposite: the plain reading is a literal one."

a) Transubstantiation isn't a "literal" interpretation of either Jesus or these Fathers. A "literal" view of Jesus' words would be that the bread is literally his body and the flesh is literally his blood.

Transubstantiation is both more and less than that. It is less than that, in that the accidents of bread are retained. It is more than that, in that the "whole Christ" is alleged to be present under each species.

b) You don't actually demonstrate what you assert. It's good that you acknowledge that these folks used metaphor, but you don't demonstrate that they intend their words to be understand in a transubstantial sense here.

Using the verb "to be" doesn't rule out metaphor. In fact, it's a normal characteristic of metaphor.

You claim: "I would be hard-pressed to know what they could have possibly said to convince you that they meant what they said about the Eucharist literally." But surely it is actually quite easy to express transubstantiation. Trent does it in only a paragraph or so. Others have done so as well.

You claim I "ding" the fathers for not spelling out your doctrines, but you've got it all wrong. I ding you for reading your doctrines into the fathers. I'm trying to encourage you to let the fathers be the fathers, and to stop trying to turn them into Roman Catholics.

You claim: "No, it is found in the text: I believe that when Jesus said "this is my body" he really meant, "this is my body" and not (as you interpret it) "this symbolizes my body but is not really my body.""

a) Jesus using a metaphor wouldn't be him meaning his words any less.

b) Saying that a piece of bread is a person is something that, on the face of it, looks like a metaphor (just like "the rock was Christ" looks like a metaphor). You haven't given us a good reason to take the statement in a non-metaphorical way.

As to John 6, you might want to be aware that Augustine and Clement of Alexandria plainly stated that the passage was metaphorical.

It's tough to pin down the development of doctrine exactly. The dawn of the term is one indicator, but not the only one. I've heard folks argue that the earliest clear evidence of the doctrine comes from the 9th century.

As for Ken, if you can't avoid taking his comments personally, step away and don't address them until you can treat them as his sincere criticism of a human institution.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Let me add an extra comment: "Your general method is to list some other place where they used metaphorical language (where it is clearly metaphorical) and then apply that to the times when they clearly were speaking literally."

a) That's not actually my "general method." My approach is highlighted in the several posts to which I linked.

I carefully consider the quotation in question, its context, and so forth. I reach a conclusion from careful study, taking care not to impose my conclusions on the data, but to derive my conclusions from the data.

b) Sadly, your general method is to state conclusions without providing demonstration. That kind of method isn't going to fly here, because I don't take your claims on faith in you.

c) You assert that the reading is "clearly literal" - but I think it appears that way to you only because you are hoping to find some expression of your church's theology in the fathers. If you don't let your theological biases prejudice your judgment, you'll find that it is more clearly metaphorical, like the vine/branches metaphor or the head/body metaphor, or any of the other Scriptural metaphors.

d) If it were literally true, the Eucharist would be cannibalism and vampirism. Those who took Jesus literally in John 6 were scandalized by his words for that reason.

e) Further to (d), transubstantiation isn't taking the text literally. It's assigning it a highly specialized meaning that has no basis at all in the text.

-TurretinFan

Devin Rose said...

TF,

Ugh, 4096 character limit...

My final comments on the matter:

1. I'm disappointed that you did not address the bolded challenged that Luther made.

2. I'm disappointed by your vague and unspecific answer as to when and with whom the belief of the Real Presence was invented for the Eucharist--I'm not surprised by it, since the language used by the early, middle, nd late Christians, as well as the Church, is the same or substantially similar to that used by Justin and Ignatius, which you claim is symbolic-only.

3. I know what transubstantiation is: I used the word 'literal' because it is an easier short-hand method for describing the belief in the Real Presence, just as 'symbolic' and "symbolic-only' is shorthand for the set of more complex beliefs that can encompass everyone from Zwingli/Baptists to you/Calvinists.

4. I was just reading Thomas a Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ (next to the Bible, one of the most popular Christian books of all time), who I think lived in the 11th century (can't exactly remember), who spoke of "the bread that gives eternal life" about the Eucharist. He uses the word "bread" but believed in the Real Presence and transubstantiation, so what gives? Christians early, middle, and late (even after transubstantiation was dogmatically declared) in the Church have used the word "bread" when speaking of the consecrated bread (or host). Do they all deny transubstantiation? No. Rather, it is simply easier to communicate that one is speaking of Christ present in the Eucharist by saying "consecrated bread" or "bread" or "consecrated host" or just "host" rather than "He received Jesus under the appearance of bread but by that I mean consecrated bread whose substance had been transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ." Your argument for why Justin must not have believed in transubstantiation because he spoke of the bread and its elements is therefore rebutted. Tons of saints in every century used the word bread, and it is still done today.

5. John 6: Of course I realize you interpret the passage differently. I will look up the references to Augustine and Clement of Alexandria on it, but even assuming your references are accurate, what did many other saints and early Christians write about it? They linked it directly to Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist. And what did the Church do? She also linked it to the Real Presence.

6. Re: Ken. His statement are inaccurate at best and false at worst, and they ignore the fact that Calvinists and Lutherans and other Protestant groups put to death and persecuted Catholics by the thousands as well as their own Protestant brothers (those that disagreed with them that is). His references to Luther are hagiographical: The leaders of the Catholic Church could have put Luther to death but instead met with him in several disputations and diets to try to come to consensus, reconciliation, etc. Did Catholics kill and persecute Protestants at this time? Yes. Did Protestants kill and persecute Catholics? Yes. Okay, so what does it prove then? Nothing. His arguments stand rebutted. He took the opportunity, which you allowed, to make exaggerrated accusations against the Catholic Church after I spoke charitably about the Protestant Reformers and was asking you sincere questions on a specific topic. Do you desire Christian unity in the truth? If so, I encourage you to moderate such comments and exhort your interlocutors to stay on topic, be charitable, and to not just fly off and make accusations against the other's Christian tradition.

Devin Rose said...

7. You believe that you carefully studied all of these writings and came to the conclusion that (surprise) matches your beliefs. Yet, assuming your interpretation and beliefs are true, you failed to answer my question as to when the Church radically and drastically changed the belief from symbolic-only to literal, when the language used by Christians significantly changed from that of Justin and Ignatius, indicating a change in belief. Your "careful study" (without bias) led you to believe in a ZWinglian/Calvinist symbolic-only doctrine, while Luther's "careful study" led him to believe in sacramental union (or consubstantiation), a much more real-presence belief than yours, and Aquinas after "careful study" came to believe in transubstantiation. Claiming you have "carefully studied" a passage and therefore interpreted it accurately is unhelpful. I understand the arguments you are making, yet the passages themselves could be just as easily (if not more easily) taken to support the Catholic belief. Therefore we must look further through the next centuries in history, yet, as I mentioned previously, you failed to offer anything but a vague answer about the 9th century which you "read somewhere."

May Christ bring us to unity in the truth. One last note: I hope you return to Called to Communion: The solo/sola Scriptura arguments they make still stand unrefuted.

Devin

Devin Rose said...

I posted a comment reply two days ago, but it still hasn't shown up (it was "submitted for moderation"), and I have not received an email from you indicating why it was not published. (Perhaps it was just eaten by the blog?)

Given that you moderate all of my comments, if I take the effort to respond again, I will do so on my blog and link to yours here.

Peace in Christ,
Devin

Turretinfan said...

Devin:

As to (7), you wrote: "the Church radically and drastically changed the belief from symbolic-only to literal" ... but just so you know, the Reformed view is not symbolic-only - it is real presence.

Furthermore, there were a variety of views in the early church, from real presence to symbolic-only - though there were no takers for transubstantiation (because it hadn't been developed yet).

The move from real presence to physical presence seems to have taken place around the turn of the millenium (give or take a century or two), rapidly gaining acceptance from the point of the Council of Florence. The definition of transubstantiation, of course, did not come until the council of Trent (which comes after the Reformation is already in its second generation).

I hope that helps.

Turretinfan said...

"Given that you moderate all of my comments, if I take the effort to respond again, I will do so on my blog and link to yours here."

That's definitely the better course, in general, since if I don't like a comment here, I can just delete it. I wouldn't be able to do that at your blog.

Turretinfan said...

"1. I'm disappointed that you did not address the bolded challenged that Luther made."

It's off-topic.

"2. I'm disappointed by your vague and unspecific answer as to when and with whom the belief of the Real Presence was invented for the Eucharist--I'm not surprised by it, since the language used by the early, middle, [a]nd late Christians, as well as the Church, is the same or substantially similar to that used by Justin and Ignatius, which you claim is symbolic-only."

They sometimes use metaphorical language. As noted above, the correct view is real presence, though real presence does not equal physical presence. Symbolic language is consistent with both a "symbolic-only" and real presence view.

"3. I know what transubstantiation is: I used the word 'literal' because it is an easier short-hand method for describing the belief in the Real Presence, just as 'symbolic' and "symbolic-only' is shorthand for the set of more complex beliefs that can encompass everyone from Zwingli/Baptists to you/Calvinists."

The difference is that you seem to think that transubstantiation is somehow "literal," though it is quite far from literal.

"4. I was just reading Thomas a Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ (next to the Bible, one of the most popular Christian books of all time), who I think lived in the 11th century (can't exactly remember), who spoke of "the bread that gives eternal life" about the Eucharist. He uses the word "bread" but believed in the Real Presence and transubstantiation, so what gives? Christians early, middle, and late (even after transubstantiation was dogmatically declared) in the Church have used the word "bread" when speaking of the consecrated bread (or host). Do they all deny transubstantiation? No. Rather, it is simply easier to communicate that one is speaking of Christ present in the Eucharist by saying "consecrated bread" or "bread" or "consecrated host" or just "host" rather than "He received Jesus under the appearance of bread but by that I mean consecrated bread whose substance had been transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ." Your argument for why Justin must not have believed in transubstantiation because he spoke of the bread and its elements is therefore rebutted. Tons of saints in every century used the word bread, and it is still done today."

Hopefully you will agree that inconsistency by folks who post-date the innovation of transubstantiation is not proof that earlier folks were similarly inconsistent.

"5. John 6: Of course I realize you interpret the passage differently. I will look up the references to Augustine and Clement of Alexandria on it, but even assuming your references are accurate, what did many other saints and early Christians write about it? They linked it directly to Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist. And what did the Church do? She also linked it to the Real Presence."

What's the earliest father that makes this link, in your reading of the fathers?

As to (6), I'll let Ken speak for himself. The idea that "Calvinists" killed some people is a bizarre comparison, from my point of view - kind of like someone with leprosy noting the other guy got athlete's foot once. Part of the point is that the papacy itself is anti-christian, presumably, so I doubt that Ken would grant Roman Catholicism status as a "Christian tradition" in anything beyond a sociological sense.