The transubstantiation doctrine

This word was unknown until the eleventh century although the teaching has its roots in earlier times. Augustine of Hippo in 410 A.D. set forth the concept that the faithful ate in the communion elements, the very body and blood of Christ. He proposed that this was the result of a divine miracle. About 831 A.D. a great controversy raged around this matter. Radbertus, a monk of Corlic, argued for the Augustine idea, while Ratramus a fellow monk argued that consecration by the priest effected no change in the substance of the elements but brought about the spiritual presence of the body of Christ. This was unresolved at the time but later, the Radbertian view became dominant, leading to the decision of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.) which proclaimed the teaching as dogma for the Roman Church.

A challenge developed in 1388 A.D. when John Wycliff, a great theological scholar, opposed the episcopal claims of the church and attacked the transubstantiation doctrine. He saw in this doctrine a false buttress to the priestly claim that they were an exclusive human agency for the attainment of the blessing of communion, since a priest was necessary to bring about the miracle change in the bread and wine. Luther (16th century) also apposed the teaching and especially attacked the idea that the Lord’s supper is a sacrifice to God.

The Roman church still holds firmly to the Rasbertian doctrine. The following is an extract from a recent publication.

‘Sacrifice is the highest act of religion in which a priest offers a victim to God. . . . A priest offers sacrifice in the Mass when, acting in the Person of Jesus Christ, he uses the power of consecration and changes the bread and wine into Our Lord’s body and blood. The bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at consecration. . . . The Mass is the true sacrifice of the new law for in it Our Lord Jesus Christ through a priest offers himself to God the Father for the living and the dead. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the cross . . .’ — The Catholic Faith 1981. Rev. Fr.P.J. Elliot Imp. Vic. Gen of Melbourne.

In the main two opposing views are taught today in other church communions.

The first ‘consubstantiation’ is similar to the Roman Church. This teaches that although no change takes place in the physical nature of the elements the body and blood of Christ is supernaturally united to the natural bread and wine in a spiritual manner. Being so joined with the elements both are received and eaten by the believer.

The second view advanced by Zwingli (1484-1529 A.D.) simply taught that the taking of the communion commemorates the sacrificial work of Christ and its value to the participant consists only in the bestowal of a blessing.

Theologians have made a number of attempts to reconcile these views particularly among ‘reformed schools of thought’ Essentially the ideas come under a broad heading of ‘spiritual presence’ These views require that Christ is present spiritually in the Lord’s supper and imparts a blessing to the believer. ‘there am I in the midst’. There is no change in the bread and the wine. The body of Christ is taken and eaten, but after a heavenly or spiritual manner.

The means is by the exercise of faith.1 i.e. you must believe and completely trust that the Lord is present and if you do, He is!

Note Not eat, and because He is what you eat literally, the act itself conveys a blessing (this is partaking by the works or doing of man) but rather have faith that He is present, then eat because of that faith.

The distinction is a basic difference. Because of this believing and complete trust in His Word, Christ presences Himself and we are able to eat of the spiritual Christ and so receive His life.2

Such faith does not require a priest, or acolyte, or religious to be present at a communion service.

Having given some background let us consider again the transubstantiation viewpoint. The following ideas seem essential to its continued validity.

a. There must be a priest or religious empowered by a priest present.

b. The priest class alone can pray the prayer of consecration.

c. A miracle takes place when this is done; the bread and wine are literally changed.

d. Although the consecrated elements look like bread and wine they are not so.

e. God puts a veil over the believer’s vision so they cannot see Christ as He is in reality presented. i.e. present as flesh and blood.

g. The bread and wine become ‘holy’ and are worshipped. (the adoration of the host.)

h. Believers eat literal flesh and drink literal blood even though the appearance is of bread and wine.

From these requirements problems began to emerge and indeed are continuing to emerge as the church moves forward in time. An early problem came through the laity when they began to fear the consequences of spilling the blood of Christ. This fear became so strong that the priesthood councils had to solve it by deciding that the blood was in the flesh anyway. The people had no need to receive the cup. Perhaps this may be sustained as an argument if no wine is used in the service, but the present idea of bread for the laity and bread & wine for the priest makes a nonsense of the proposition. The bread only is also a direct contradiction of the scriptural intention. In the gospels Jesus specifically took the cup and gave it to the disciples in addition and separate from the bread. The instruction to each communicant is to EAT and DRINK.3 Notice that Jesus took the cup AFTER supper. There is a time separation between eating and drinking, further supporting the need to both eat and drink. Paul affirms this in his letters and we are hard pressed to find any other reason than human convenience for so carelessly setting aside the Lord’s wishes.

The concept of the literal flesh and blood being offered up again and again is particularly difficult. We read, ‘Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again the way the high priest enters every year with blood not his own.’4 Or again ‘ But when this high priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins’5.

In the light of these two Scriptures alone, there is reason to question the validity of the Roman mass as presently practised.

The theological affirmation of early, well meaning scholars trying to develop what they thought was organised doctrine left no room for the possibility that they might be wrong. The infallibility concept has in a sense backed the Roman Catholic communion into a corner in regard to seeing more clearly the meaning of Scripture.

For example if you take the attitude that a sacrificial act is involved there must be a victim, hence the need for a literal body. The need for a literal body makes transubstantiation a necessity, as does the concept of a sacrificial victim make necessary a special priesthood after the manner of the Aaronic priesthood under Mosaic Law. From one basic teaching came a host of others.

However, the Scriptures do little to support these concepts. Consider . ‘You also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices.’6. and also ‘But you are a chosen people a royal priesthood.’7 As to sacrifices, ‘I urge you brethren to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.’8. These and other Scriptures like them agree on two things. We are all priests and we are all called to minister and offer up spiritual not literal sacrifices.

The act of oblation in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is finished as He himself testified.9 What remains is Jesus the priestly mediator before the throne, for He is the propitiation, i.e. the mercy seat; eternally covering the wrath of God found in the law. Thus there remains no further need for offering up another sacrifice for ‘It is finished’

Scriptures for study which contain problems for the Roman Catholic traditional view are

a. Jesus was offered once only, never needs renewal of this. Heb.9:24-28. Heb.10:11 Heb.12:14-18.10

b. Constant renewal of His sacrifice equates with animal sacrifice. Heb.10:1-4.11

c. Christ is at heavenly, not an earthly altar. Ephes.1:20-21. Heb.9:24.12

d. At the Last Supper Jesus gave the bread and wine while He was still present and whole in respect to flesh and blood. The elements did not change into His flesh then for He remained in view before them. Why the change? Matt.26:26-28. Mk. 14:22-25. Luk.22:19-20.13

e. Jesus said the drink was the fruit of the vine. Matt.26:2914

f. Has the commandment about blood changed? Acts.15:20. Lev. 17:10.15

g. Notice that Jesus took the bread and said, ‘This is my body’, yet His literal body was standing in front of them as He spoke. Luke 22:19 16.

Are we to assume that He meant:
i. this represents my flesh,
ii. this will in future represent my flesh,
iii. I have changed this bread into my flesh, or
iv. in future I will change this into my flesh?

h. Similarly with the cup. Jesus said ‘This is the cup of the new testament in my blood’ [17] Yet His blood had not yet been shed. So the wine they drank could not have been literal blood but only ‘fruit of the vine’. [14] Why change the experience of the Apostles to satisfy our ideas?

Another profitable area to consider in the search for understanding is to consider the nature of the meal at which the disciples and our Lord gathered that fateful evening. A number of suggestions have been offered from an ordinary meal or perhaps a Sabbath ‘Qiddush’ i.e. a simple service of prayer, to the generally accepted traditional view that the meal was the customary Passover feast.

Matt.26:19 & Mark.14:16 18. Scriptures support the Passover feast view. This being so we should perhaps ask what form did the meal take and raise the question of the Passover lamb. Were the disciples fulfilling Deut. 16?19. If so they ate the lamb with unleavened bread and wine. How does this effect our understanding of the Last Supper?

There is also need to study more closely the Easter festival and seriously question our present interpretation of the days presently observed as being the passion period. Three days and three nights are significant in this regard.20

Nevertheless the central question involved in all of the problems involving this important command of the Lord that we eat and drink is the meaning and place of sacrifice. In transubstantiation we are proposing to offer the literal body and blood of Jesus as a sacrifice. This is contrary to the teaching that Jesus gave himself as one sacrifice forever, and so detracts from the glory of the cross.21.  Heb.9:25. Heb.10:12. Since the cross He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. . NO more offering is necessary.

Consider again the extract from the Catholic Faith 1981.

‘The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the cross.’

Now let us read Hebrews, ‘if they fall away to be brought back to repentance because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.’8.

These two ideas do seem to be incompatible

Notes

1. Heb 11:6 (NIV) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
2. Mat 18:20 (NIV) “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
3. Mat 26:26 (NIV) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 1 Cor 11:25 (NIV) In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Heb 6:6 (NIV) if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
4. Heb 9:25 (NIV) Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.
5. Heb 10:12 (NIV) But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
Heb 11:6 (NIV) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
6. 1 Pet 2:5 (NIV) you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
7. 1 Pet 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
8. Rom 12:1 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
9. John 19:30 (NIV) When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
10. Heb 9:24ff (NIV) For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Heb 10:11 (NIV) Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
Heb 12:14ff (NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;
11. Heb 10:1ff (NIV) The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 12. Eph 1:20f (NIV) which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Heb 9:24 (NIV) For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
13. Mat 26:26 (NIV) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 14:22 (NIV) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
14. Mat 26:29 (NIV) I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Mark 14:22ff (NIV) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 22:19f (NIV) And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
15. Acts 15:20 (NIV) Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
Lev 17:10 (NIV) “‘Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people.
16. Luke 22:19f (NIV) And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
17. Luke 22:20 (NIV) In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
18. Mat 26:19 (NIV) So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:16 (NIV) The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
19. Deu 16:1 (NIV) Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt by night.
20. Mat 12:40 (NIV) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
21. Heb 9:25 (NIV) Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.
Heb 10:12 (NIV) But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.