Thursday, July 17, 2014

Never Thirst - Taking Jesus "Literally" can be Fatal

Roman Catholics like to try to claim that they are just taking Jesus "literally" when they interpret "this is my body" to mean that what was in Jesus' hands was not bread but his physical body [FN1]. Three passages in John help to illustrate the problem with that approach: John 4, John 6, and John 7.  In the first, Jesus refers metaphorically to living water, in the second Jesus refers to himself as food and drink, and in the third Jesus offers drink to those who thirst.

In John 4, Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.  He asks her for water, she objects because he's Jewish, and he responds that she should be asking him for water, because the water he offers is better than the water from Jacob's well. She misunderstands him as speaking physically, even after some further explanation.  She wants to stop the labor of drawing water and misunderstands Jesus' comments about "never thirst."
John 4:6-15
Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
In John 6, Jesus interacts with a number of "disciples" who want Jesus to repeat the miracle of the loaves that's reported at the beginning of the chapter.  Jesus explains that the person who believes on him will never thirst and whoever comes to him will never hunger, calling himself the "bread of life" that "came down from heaven." Jesus insists that the bread he offers is better than the manna that the people ate in the wilderness.  Jesus talks about them eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but they take him physically and go away in disgust.  Jesus explains that the words he speaks are spirit and life.  Jesus asks the twelve if they will go away too, but Peter (speaking for the group) says that they will stay with him because they believe and know that his words are the words of eternal life.
John 6:26-71
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 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.
But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 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.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. 
In John 7, Jesus interacts with those at the temple for the feast.  Jesus offers the thirsty people water.  John explains to us that Jesus is speaking about the Spirit as the "rivers of flowing water."
John 7:37-39 
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
These passages illustrate Jesus' fondness for using food as a metaphor for trust in him.  We approach the Lord's table by faith, coming to Him as represented by the bread and cup.  We gain a benefit from this if we do so by faith, but not if we do so any other way.  It is not the physical elements that provide the benefit we receive, it is the Spirit.

Remember what Jesus said about clean/unclean foods:
Matthew 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
Unfortunately, it seems our Roman Catholic friends and relatives fail to understand this.  Christ is our spiritual food and drink, not our physical nourishment.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
Psalm 105:41 He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.
Isaiah 48:21 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
Psalm 78:20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
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.
The blessings we receive in Christ are primarily spiritual blessings.  We drink the spiritual drink from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock is Christ.  He is our Rock, we trust in Him.

To the glory of his grace!

TurretinFan

Footnote 1: I should add that the Roman Catholic position is particularly absurd in that it takes "this is my body" as implying that the bread ceases to be bread and becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.  Likewise, it is claimed that "this is ... my blood" implies exactly the same thing about the contents of the cup.  That's quite far from taking the words literally, in which the bread would just be the body, and the contents of the cup would just be the blood.

10 comments:

Kenneth Winsmann said...

So what is your argument against taking John 6 literally? The existence of metaphors in scripture? You have offered no explanation as to why the RC interpretation is incorrect. Obviously, Catholics are aware the there are metaphors in scripture. However, I get the feeling that we may differ on many of these said metaphors theological significance.

PeaceByJesus said...

He is not simply arguing for metaphors in Scripture, but that the figurative understanding of Jn. 6 is the ONLY ONE that is consistent with John and the rest of Scripture, while it is Caths who are being inconsistent.

For while the insist a literal reading of Jn. 6 must be followed since the Lord plainly called bread His "flesh," they are wonderfully inconsistent when dealing with David plainly calling water the blood of men who risked their blood to obtain it, and thus poured it out as an offering to the Lord, and when people are called "bread for Israel," and when land "eats" them, and enemies come to eat David, and the word of God is also eaten. (2 Samuel 23:15-17; Num. 13:32; 14:9; Jer. 15:16 ; Ps. 27:2; Ezek. 3:1; Rev. 10:8-9)

Likewise, to be consistent with their literal interpretation of Jn. 6:53,54, RCs must hold that those who deny the Real Presence (though it seems it was the Anglican version that this first defined) neither have spiritual or eternal life, which not only contradicts modern Rome, but nowhere in John or Scripture does any believer gain spiritual or eternal life by eating anything, let alone by engaging in a form of endocannibalism.

Instead, "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me," (John 6:57) and Christ did not live by the Father by eating His flesh, but doing the Father's will was His meat, (Jn. 4:34) thus one "lives" in Scripture by doing the Father's will, and which is that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.. (John 6:40)

They then live by every word that proceedth out of the mouth of God. (Mt. 4:4)

And thus nowhere in Scripture do we see the Lord's supper being the presented as the "source and summit of the Christian life" in which "the work of our redemption is accomplished," but instead it is only manifestly described once, in which this "feast of charity" shows the Lord's death by the unselfish manner in which they partake of the communal meal, declaring their unity with the Lord who died for them and each other. As explained here .

Nor is any NT pastor is shown even distributing food as part of his ordained function.

And instead the primarily function of pastors is that of preaching the word and prayer, (Acts 6L4; 2Tim. 4:2) for nowhere is any physical consumption of food being presented as spiritually nourishing them, but instead "thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained." (1 Timothy 4:6)

PeaceByJesus said...

Pt. 2

In addition, the metaphorical view of Jn. 6 is completely consistent with John, in which

• In John 1:29, Jesus is called “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” — but he does not have hoofs and literal physical wool.

• In John 2:19 Jesus is the temple of God: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” — but He is not made of literal stone.

• In John 3:14,15, Jesus is the likened to the serpent in the wilderness (Num. 21) who must “be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal” (vs. 14, 15) — but He is not made of literal bronze.

• In John 4:14, Jesus provides living water, that “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (v. 14) — but which was not literally consumed by mouth.

• In John 7:37 Jesus is the One who promises “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” — but this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive. (John 7:38)

• In Jn. 9:5 Jesus is “the Light of the world” — but who is not blocked by an umbrella.
• In John 10, Jesus is “the door of the sheep,”, and the good shepherd [who] giveth his life for the sheep”, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” vs. 7, 10, 11) — but who again, is not literally an animal with cloven hoofs.

• In John 15, Jesus is the true vine — but who does not physically grow from the ground nor whose fruit is literally physically consumed.

It is thus evident that men have life by believing the gospel, and live that out by obeying that word, which does not teach spiritual life being obtained by physically eating anything. Instead, Caths have "eaten the fruit of lies." (Hos. 10-:3)

Kenneth Winsmann said...

peace by Jesus,

I get your point. There are many metaphors in scripture. I would ask, how do we know which descriptions to take literally and which to take as metaphorical? Your problem is that you have considered everything BUT the text under consideration. I think that there IS a metaphorical aspect to the bread of life discourse and I also think that there is a sacramental teaching as well. The pharasees reaction is they key to understanding which is which. Jesus sermon should be divided into two parts

1. The invitation to faith (6:35-47)This part of the sermon is obviously metaphorical. It open up "I am the bread of life"(6:35) followed by a string of invitation to have faith in Christ. The metaphorical nature of the sermon is made obvious by the response of the Jews who ask, NOT why he calls himself bread, but how he can claim to have descended from heaven (6:42)

2. Invitation to the Eucharist (6:48-58)

The second half of the discourse likewise opens up with "I am the bread of life" (6;48). This is followed by a string of invitations to eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood. The literal import is so obvious that it too, stands out in the response of the Jews, who ask how it is possible to eat his flesh? Where as in the first part of the discourse the "metaphor" was clear and obvious for everyone to see, in the second half the literal nature of the teaching is equally as obvious. This is when Jesus reaction to their outrage is also telling. He doesn't even attempt to explain the supposed "metaphor". In fact, He seems perfectly willing to even let his apostles go away too, all from the simple "misunderstanding" that everything was supposed to be taken metaphorically. Just doesn't fit.

One should also consider the language used by Christ in the first and second parts of the discourse. In the first (obviously metaphorical portion) he uses the greek verb "esthio" for "eating" the bread of life. This is a very common verb for eating. In the second half of the discourse he switches to the verb "trogo" which means to chew or gnaw. Greek literature used this verb to describe animals such as mules and pigs.This marks a noticeable change in emphasis, from the necessity of faith to the consumption of the eucharist. The graphic connotation of the verb adds greater force to the repetition of His words; He demands we express our faith by eating, in a real and physical way, his life giving flesh in the sacrament.

onedaringjew said...

Re, why many disciples left.

But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back...

What about what immediately precedes "From that time..." namely, "...no man can come to me , except it were given..."

They're good Jewish Arminians.

PeaceByJesus said...

Sorry for forgetting this thread:

I would ask, how do we know which descriptions to take literally and which to take as metaphorical?

How? By examining it in the light of both the immediate and larger context and that of the the totality of Scripture.

In so doing do we see in the totality of Scripture anywhere believers gaining spiritual and eternal life, for which Jn. 6:53,54 makes consuming Christ an unequivocally imperative (thus excluding Prots), by physcially eating anything? No, by no means.

And do we see this forbidden? Yes, as even animal flesh could be be eaten with the blood, let alone practicing a form of endocannibalism (it is).

And do we see such figurative language as men being called bread, and drinking water being called the blood of men, as shown, and the word of God being eaten? Yes indeed.

And do we see the Lord's Supper being the central focus and constant emphasis in the life of the church (Acts onward, interpretive of the gospels), as the source and summit of Christian faith, around which all else revolved? No we do not, in clear contrast to Catholicism.

And in the larger and immediate context of John, contrary to your argument, the Lord speaks in metaphorical ways that can easily be mistaken as literal, and does not give a clear explanation that the superficial hearers would recognize.

Thus the Lord let the Jews go on supposing that he spoke of destroying the temple of stone in Jn. 2, while Nicodemus in Jn. 3 supposed the Lord spoke of a second physical birth, and the puzzling explanation was one that even today some souls debate about (some even think its the resurrection of believers), meaning), and the Samaritan women in Jn. 4 thought the living water was physical, and the conversation just moved on to the Lord being a prophet.

Likewise in Jn. 6 the Lord speaks of something as audacious as being physically born twice, or literal water giving eternal life, and contrary to your argument, He does give explanation, that eating physically profits nothing spiritually, but that the Lord's words "are spirit, they are life," so that just "as the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." (John 6:57) In which Christ lived by every word which proceedth forth from the mouth of God, (Mt. 4:4) so that His "meat" was to do the Father's will, and thus He that eateth Christ by believing His word, even he shall find life in himself and live by Him who gave and gives it.

Thus souls only found life by believing the gospel message, and after to "desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby," (1 Peter 2:2) and be "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine." (1 Timothy 4:6)

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16) Those who do so "taste and see that the Lord is good."

And in the record of the early church (Acts) and onward, this what we see, that of souls obtaining life the moment they believe, and living by Christ by being letting the word of Christ dwell in them richly, being directed not to the literally eating anything to grow in grace but to "the word of his grace, which is able to build you up." (Acts 28:32)

Thus rather than being like Catholicism with its constant emphasis upon the Eucharist and the practice thereof we only see one manifest description of it in the life of the NT church, and in which as said, the Lord's Supper shows the Lord's death by the unselfish manner in which they partake of the communal meal, declaring their unity with the Lord who died for them and each other, with the recognition of the church as the body of Christ being the issue.

Thus the metaphorical interpretation alone is consistent with the totality of Scripture and John.

PeaceByJesus said...


the verb "trogo" which means to chew or gnaw.

The word you refer to for gnaw, "trōgō " is used as the plural for phagō, to "eat, " with the former occurring as eateth, 5 Joh_6:54, Joh_6:56-58 (3), Joh_13:18 eating, 1 Mat_24:38, that is the act of eating. As such it does not distinguish literal from metaphorical.

David Brainerd said...

"So what is your argument against taking John 6 literally?" (Kenneth Winsmann)

1) That it doesn't come in the context of a Lord's Supper institution story.

2) That John offers no Lord's Supper institution story like the other gospels.

3) That John is not above absolutely mocking concepts from the other gospels. For instance, Jesus praying in bloody sweat "Let this cup pass from me" is mocked by John's "And what shall I now say? Father save me from this hour? But for this hour came I into the world! Nay, rather I say, Father glorify thy name!" If he can directly attack/mock this prayer of Jesus, why not the Lord's Supper also? The discourse in John 6 is a mocking of the institution of an actual supper, with the words "The flesh profits nothing; it is the spirit that gives life" as the punchline which assert John's rejection of a physical supper. This says nothing of what our theology should be, only of what John's intention is.

kevin said...

The writer of Hebrews is clear that the need for a physical altar, a physical sacrifice, and a physical Priesthood was a lack of faith. Christ's Priesthood, altar, and sacrifice are in heave. Sacramental salvation ex opere operato is no faith and a replay of the Ot system. Sacramental efficacy in the place of the atonement is no faith. Blessed are those who dont see yet believe. Christ came to incorporate us inthis body by the Spirit, not the flesh.

kevin said...

The great theologian JCRyle once said beware of any religion that makes sacraments everything. There are only 4 verses in the Epistles on the Lord's supper and yet Rome has called it " the work of the people"to earn increases of salvation. Sacramental efficacy in the place of the atonement. This is a lack of faith according to the writer of Hebrews. If it is the work of the people and the summit of RC earning salvation then it is the antithesis of lbelieving.