Rome versus the Bible Series - #2

The "Holy Eucharist" and Transubstantiation

Special thanks to Brother Bob Orris for his help in preparing this work!

Table of Contents


The dogma concerning the "Holy Eucharist", which is considered to be the central act of the Mass, is perhaps THE central teaching in all of Roman theology. Called "the source and summit of the Christian life"1, The Eucharist is considered by Catholicism to contain the whole spiritual good of the Church, and is that in which are bound up all the other sacraments, ecclesiastical ministries, and "works of the apostolate"2. It is taught in Roman dogma that the Mass is the resacrificing of Jesus Christ. The priest officiating the Mass purports to call Christ down from heaven, and the bread and wine used in the ceremony supposedly becomes the literal body and blood of Christ, a process known as "transubstantiation".

“Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial charactre of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: ‘This is my body which is given for you’ and ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood’. In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.”3

Thus, the belief is that the "very body and blood" of Christ are present in the sacramental elements. In practice, however, the wine ("blood") is withheld from the laity, and the explanation is forwarded that the body and the blood are concomitant, meaning that both are contained in the bread host, a practice that began in the 12th century due to fear that the "blood of Christ" might be spilled during administration4. This ceremony is believed to cleanse a person from past sins and preserve them from future sins5, and is considered by the Roman religion to be necessary for the salvation of the soul6. Catholic apologists will sometimes calumniate by saying that the Mass is not a direct resacrifice, but rather a re-presentation or return to the sacrifice of Christ, but in practice, the Mass is treated as being a literal continuation of Christ's actual death and sacrifice. As the Catechism itself says about the "re-presentation" argument,

“The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is a memorial and because it applies the fruit.”7

"Re-presents" is defined specifically as "making present", hence the belief is in the "real presence" of the body and blood of Christ in the host and wine.

A Scriptural Examination of "The Holy Eucharist"

Resacrificing Christ Perpetually

The celebration of the Mass contradicts Scripture in that Christ is considered to be resacrificed over and over again, with each sacrifice bringing the participants ever more "under Christ" and imparting more grace to the receivers. This is an utterly false notion, as it denies the plain reading of Scripture which says that Christ's sacrifice for mankind was both a one-time affair, and that it was completely effectual for the remittance of sins.

Christ's sacrifice for us was a one-time only occurrence. The Bible denies the notion that He is being resacrificed over and over again. "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in ONCE into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hebrews 9:12) - "So Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many..." (Hebrews 9:28) - "But this man, after he had offered ONE sacrifice for sins FOR EVER, sat down on the right hand of God." (Hebrews 10:12) The Bible plainly says that Christ offered one sacrifice.

Further, the Roman claims to calling down Christ from heaven to offer His body and blood again are both arrogant and unbiblical. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool." (Hebrews 10:12-13) The notion that a Catholic priest can call down Christ at any time and cause Him to impart Himself into a piece of bread is a blasphemous denial of God's sovereignty. God is not subject to the whims of men, certainly not to those of false apostles, wolves in sheep's clothing like the Roman priesthood. "Who hath DIRECTED THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?" (Isaiah 40:13) Christ is not going to return to the surface of this earth until the appointed time when He comes back at the head of His army and subdues His enemies (Revelation 19:11-21). He is not returning bodily prior to that time, certainly not as a wafer in an idolatrous, pagan ritual.

The sacrifice of the Mass also denies the effectual nature of Christ's sacrifice for us. The Bible says that Christ's bloody sacrifice on the cross was completely able to save us from our sins, that nothing else is needed. "Wherefore he is able also to SAVE THEM TO THE UTTERMOST that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25) Once a soul trusts in Christ ALONE as their Saviour, there is no more need for sacrifice to be made for them. Christ is able to save a soul to the uttermost, in other words, completely and totally. Further, as Hebrews 7:25 says, He "ever liveth", making His intercessions for us. He does not need to undergo the breaking of His body and shedding of His blood which is to be implicitly understood in the dogma of the repetitious Mass.

When Jesus was on the cross, He said, “It is finished”, and then bowed His head and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30) That phrase, “it is finished”, is translated from a single Greek word, teleo, which has the meaning of “being finished, completed, discharged completely (as in a debt)”. Ancient papyri receipts for taxes and other debts have been discovered which have this single Greek word scrawled across them - Paid In Full. That is what Jesus did on the cross. He paid our sin debt in full. There is now no longer any need for Him to be sacrificed, and there is no grace that can be obtained by “re-presenting” Him. There is certainly no redemptive value to continually “re-presenting” Him, as He has already paid the debt, risen from the dead, and opened the way into heaven for all who will simply believe and trust in Him alone. The Bible presents Jesus’ work on the cross as being final and permanent in nature. Jesus died for the sins of the world - past, present, and future. His one sacrifice covers them all. There is simply no need, and no biblical provision, for the continual, repeated sacrifice of the Son of God.

Bloodless Nature of the Sacrificial Host

"..And without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22) In addition to presenting an unneeded resacrifice of Christ, the Mass also presents an unscriptural BLOODLESS sacrifice of Christ's body. Remember, the common lay Catholic does not normally partake of the wine used in the Mass, only the priests do. Hence, by taking the wafer only, the Roman Catholic is presented a sacrifice which, even assuming the need for the continual sacrificing of Christ, would not be effectual for the removal or forgiveness of sin since there is no blood shed to remit sin. Acts 20:28 tells us that Christ's church is bought with His own blood. It is the blood of Christ which was shed for us on the cross of Calvary, and which is being sprinkled by Christ upon the mercy seat in heaven to cover our sins.

Roman apologists will tout the ad hoc 12th century innovation that "the whole body, blood, soul, and divinity" of Christ are present in the wafer8, but again, in practice, the blood of Christ is denied the common laity due to the contradictory statement of Christ concerning the bread, "this is my body" (Matthew 26:26, etc.), which Catholicism also holds literal at the same time. If Rome's interpretation were correct about the reality of the bread being the body of Christ, then it would NOT contain the blood as the blood is specifically set apart as the wine of the cup by Christ during the institution of the Lord's Supper. Further, this point of doctrine is actually contradicted by yet another point of Catholic doctrine which teaches that the Eucharistic sacrifice "is offered in an unbloody manner"9, implying that the blood is NOT present in the Real Presence. Hence, Rome teaches that the bread is the body, and that the wine is the blood, but at the same time also teaches that the blood is with the body in the host, yet elsewhere then implies that the blood is NOT with the body, since the sacrifice is given in an "unbloody manner". All of this rigmarole is, of course, entirely unneeded because, as we will see below, the Lord Jesus Christ never once stated or implied that His literal flesh and blood would be presented to the Christian for consumption.

Expunging Sins Without Repentance

As was noted earlier, Catholicism teaches that past sins can be washed away, and future sins protected against, by taking the Mass. This, as well, contradicts the truth of God's Word and has no Scriptural support. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, REPENT: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) - "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to REPENTANCE." (Luke 5:32) - "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should RETURN FROM HIS WAYS and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23) God's Word quite clearly tells us that repentance is a vital element in the salvation experience. Christ told men to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand and this was necessary for them to be able to enter in. Repentance is necessary before conversion truly takes place, before salvation can be had, and before sins are forgiven after salvation. Peter said in Acts 3:19, "REPENT ye therefore, and BE CONVERTED, that your SINS MAY BE BLOTTED OUT..." Thus, repentance is necessary before a person can be saved. Similarly, before sins committed by a Christian, a SAVED PERSON, can be blotted out, repentance must be made. See the words of David, a man after God's own heart, in Psalm 32:5, "I ACKNOWLEDGED my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I NOT HID. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." David, a believer, had to repent and confess his sins to GOD before he would be forgiven.

So, what is repentance? Repentance is actively turning away from sin, of recognising it as an abomination before God, and of seeking to stay away from the sin. Repentance is not merely feeling guilty about sin. Repentance is turning from that sin which may make you feel guilty. Feeling guilty, but then continuing to commit the same sin again and again demonstrates a lack of repentance. Ezekiel 14:6 gives an example of what repentance would be, in this case on the nation of Israel's part, "Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; REPENT, and TURN YOURSELVES FROM your idols, and TURN AWAY YOUR FACES from all your abominations."

Because of the need for repentance to truly deal with sin, the simple taking of the Mass can not wash away sin. No sacramental ordinance can do what Christ's work on the cross alone can do: wash away sin. The Mass is a promise of freedom from sin without having to repent, without having to humble oneself before God, admitting the wrongness of your sin, and agreeing with God that your sin is an abomination which must be turned away from. In other words, the Mass is an empty promise, since God's Word clearly tells us that repentence is KEY to cleansing from sin. So many Catholics believe they can sin all week, take Mass on Sunday, and be cleared of their sins. This is the epitome of a lack of repentance. People who think like this aren't repenting, they have no idea even of the wrongness of their sin. It's just a tradition they carry out without any clue as to the true nature or working of sin. Consequently, the lack of repentance and turning away means they just keep living the same sinful way week after week after week, despite the supposed "protection from future sins" which the Mass is said to impart. This sort of hypocrisy is discernable even to to those who haven't the slightest discernment about Christianity. I've had many Hindus, for instance, hit the hypocrisy of Roman Catholicism right on the head by noting that "Christians" (by which they've always invariably been referring to Catholics, by the way) live one way all week, and think they can "go to church and make it right". This from spiritually blind polytheistic pagans who bow down before stone idols and worship a pantheon of 330 million gods! The Mass, with its sacramental efficacy in place of repentance unto salvation, is completely unscriptural.


Transubstantiation, as was said earlier, is the dogma which says that the bread and wine, when ingested in the Mass, are supernaturally transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ, which then imparts blessing to the participant. This, however, is unscriptural. Christ commanded to take the Lord's Supper with the words, "...this do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) He clearly indicates that the Lord's Supper was a symbolic act to remind us of His sacrifice on the cross, and His future return. Paul reiterates this in I Corinthians 11:26. Neither of them suggest that the Lord's Supper was to be considered the actual, physical body and blood of Christ.

Now, Catholics will point to John 6:48-71 and use this text as support for their contention that the body and blood of Christ were literally meant to be ingested. However, problems arise with this interpretation. First and foremost is that in verse 57 Christ says, "As the Living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Following the Catholic dogma to its conclusion, this verse can then only be interpreted as saying that Christ lives because He literally partakes of the flesh and blood of the Father (who is a spirit, and has no flesh or blood). If we live only by partaking of Christ's flesh and blood in the Eucharist, then Christ, who lives in the Father as we live in Christ, must live by eating and drinking the Father, a ludicrous notion which even Roman Catholic apologists would be unlikely to defend. Of course, what this verse REALLY means is clear and logical when understood from a symbolic perspective. Just as Christ had life because of His fellowship with the Father (due to their unity in the Godhead), so also do we have life when we are received back into the beloved fellowship of God through Christ. He is the bread of life, Christ is the means by which the spiritual hunger of man is truly fulfilled, and by which our once-dead spirits are given new life. "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved)". (Ephesians 2:5)

Also, in John 6:66 we are told that after His discourse on being the bread of life, many of Jesus' disciples left Him because they took His words literally, and were offended by what appeared on the surface to be ravings. They did not have the discernment to see that Jesus meant His words to be taken symbolically, that He was using symbolism just as He did in all His discourses. They did not understand that the Messiah would come speaking in parables (Psalms 78:2-4), just as Catholicism today doesn't understand the parabolic nature of John 6. In John 6:63, Jesus said, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Jesus clearly told His disciples that His words were meant to be taken figuratively, that the spiritual understanding, not the physical and literal, was to be had. He was nourishment for their SPIRITS, not their physical BODIES, and His giving of Himself to be their nourishment was likewise spiritual, not physical. Just as Christ obviously was not a physical door, not a wooden plank with a metal doorknob, when He said "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved..." (John 10:9), so also was he speaking figuratively when He spoke of the partaking of His flesh and blood by His followers.

We see in John 6:65, the verse right prior to the one mentioned above, the reason why some of His disciples did not understand the figurative, symbolic nature of Christ's words in this chapter. "And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." (John 6:65). The reason some of Christ's disciples were unfaithful, believed that He literally meant for them to partake of His flesh and blood, and left Him was because they were unregenerate people who had not faith given them from the Father to truly trust in Christ and rightly believe and understand His words. The same holds true for Catholics today who hold to the literalness of the flesh and blood in the Eucharist.

It is also interesting to note that in Matthew 26:29, AFTER the so-called "consecration of the first Mass", that Jesus refers to the wine as "THIS fruit of the vine". He still considered it to be wine, not His blood. Even if the Roman Church considers the wine to transubstantiate into Christ's blood, Jesus Himself, by the testimony of Scripture, apparently did not.

Further, Psalm 16:10 says, "...neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Christ's body, as He was perfect and sinless, did not undergo the corruption that naturally occurs due to the sin-death introduced into the world by Adam's fall. The host will decay if it is left in the monstrance, and is corrupted and disintegrated by natural digestive processes in the human body when eaten. Therefore, the host cannot be considered the body of Christ either before or after ingestion.

Also, the eating of blood is expressly forbidden by the Bible. Genesis 9:4 says, "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." This commandment to abstain from blood is from the Noahic dispensation and predates the law given to Moses, and is still binding on believers today. It is reiterated by James during the Jerusalem controversy in Acts 15:20 and 29. Believers are not to partake of blood, and God would not work in a way, such as transubstantiation, which would violate His own Word. To suppose that Christ was commanding His disciples to literally partake of His flesh and blood therefore would make Christ a minister of sin, encouraging His followers to partake of a practice which is contrary to Scripture, which would then make Christ also a sinner. If Christ were then a sinner, He could not serve as the spotless Lamb of God, the sacrifice for sin made in our place, and hence, the whole matter of the shedding of His blood and breaking of His body would be completely moot. Thus, by teaching the literality of the partaking of Christ's blood, Catholicism negates its own dogma when the logical application of Scripture is made.

Necessity of Taking the Mass for Salvation

Lastly, the Roman Catholic religion teaches that the taking of the Mass is necessary for salvation, that it cleanses away venial sins, and protects against mortal sins (these last being a topic unto themselves). In other words, Catholicism makes the Mass into another work needed to help Jesus save us, along with baptism, confession, etc.

“[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.”10

“As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”11

However, the biblical testimony against works-based salvation is quite clear. "NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:5) - "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) - "But to him THAT WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:5) - "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16) - "...all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." (Isaiah 64:6) All the good works, rituals, and sacraments which man may do cannot save him. Only faith on the shed blood of Christ can impart salvation through Christ. The Mass, just another ritual, has absolutely no capacity for aiding in the salvation of human beings.

Further, we understand that the Bible never presents salvation from the condemnation against sin as an on-going process, as the reference from Lumen Gentium above suggests. Sanctification yes, but justification (which is the aspect of salvation clearly dealt with in this issue) never. The biblical witness is clear - once a person truly repents of their sins and trusts on Christ as their Saviour, that person is immediately and forever cleared before the bar of God, and is justified in the sight of God by the imputation of the effectual merit of Jesus Christ the Son.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1)

Hence, there is no necessity for continually tapping some "treasury of merit" to move ever closer to salvation from the condemnation of hell. Either you're justified before God, or you're not. There is no middle ground.

The Pagan Origin of Transubstantiation

Seeing as transubstantiation, the central element of the Mass, is not Scriptural, from whence then does it come? The answer is from pagan religious systems whose origins extend back to the antiquity of man's rebellion against His Creator (see Romans 1:21-23), and which gradually evolved over time into forms which, quite often independently, mimic not just the outward appearance but also the central theology of the Mass.

Among the very early Indo-Aryans, transubstantiation was known, whereby the Brahmins taught that rice-cakes which were offered in sacrifice to the gods were substitutes for real human beings, which were then converted into real flesh and blood by the manipulations of the priests12. Sumner reported that in many primitive tribes, ceremonies exist in which the participants partake of images of the god made from grain flour, sometimes prepared using human blood kneaded into the dough, which a priest then turns into the god by means of magic formulas13. This primitive style of direct incorporation of the power of the various gods into the human existence continued as paganism became more refined. In ancient Mexico, The Aztecs and many other tribes believed in the ceremonial transformation of consecrated bread into the actual flesh and blood of various gods14. Likewise, in Egyptian mythology, a wafer of bread, inscribed with the name or symbology of Osiris, was offered to participants in cultic ceremonies after consecration by the priests of that god15. This last artifice continued into Christian times through the cult of Isis, one of the popular Oriental religious cults which found wide currency across the Roman Empire. In her cult, the mystery of the death of Osiris, and his subsequent rebirth as her son Horus, was celebrated. The flesh of the dead Osiris, then ruler of the underworld, was offered to the worshippers of the mother Isis and her perpetually infant son Horus.

The belief in transubstantiation, because of the widespread appearance of this doctrine in pagan societies without any apparent connexion, shows itself to be of very primeval origin, manifesting itself in as widely dispersed venues as Egypt, Mexico, and India. The Egyptian belief likely is what was incorporated into the syncretistic "Christianity" of the late Roman Empire. During the period of the 4th-5th centuries, the growing Roman church compromised with the pagan religions of the Empire in an effort to draw them into its sphere of influence and control. This syncretism, while retaining a veneer of Christian terminology and personage, became throughly paganised in its actual practices, one of which was the introduction of the belief in transubstantiation, as found in the doctrine of the "Real Presence" of Christ's flesh and blood in the host consecrated by priestly ritual. This pagan belief system was relatively slow to be adopted, but it eventually replaced the true worship of the risen Saviour in the bulk of European Christendom.

Transubstantiation is Not Traditional, A Negative Finding From the Patristics

As with pretty much every other belief of the Catholic religion which cannot be convincingly supported from Scripture, the fallback position is to then rely upon the supposed authority of the early patristic writers. As with most everything else, this support proves to be a hollow reed for Rome, as the patristics can usually be counted on to disagree more with current Catholic theology than to agree with it (see, for example, my article about the Apocrypha). Such is the case with the dogma of transubstantiation and the "Real Presence". We find numerous examples of patristic writers from all across the breadth of early church history who, either implicitly or explicitly, denied the tenets of the Catholic Mass. And while the positions of these writers on this issue may not be completely in accord with the view held by Bible-believing Protestants, Baptists, and Independents, there is much that indicates a closer affinity for the Biblical position than anything approximating that of the Catholic religion.

Beginning with the earliest and going in chronological order, we first see the testimony of Justin Martyr:

Justin Martyr (110-165 AD)

"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."16

Here, Justin states that the bread and the cup were given to Christians for the purpose of remembrance. Not only this, but he also indicates that the remembrance denoted by the bread and wine was that of Christ's being made flesh and suffering for us, not of a presentation of the actual flesh and blood. Thus, Justin is expousing a commemorative view of the Lord's Supper.

Tatian (110-172 AD)

"...It is not we who eat human flesh - they among you who assert such a thing have been suborned as false witnesses; it is among you that Pelops is made a supper for the gods, although beloved by Poseidon, and Kronos devours his children, and Zeus swallows Metis."17

Here, Tatian pointedly confutes the claims of pagans in his day who attacked Christianity by misconstruing its teachings (a phenomenon as old as the faith itself). In fact, many of the very early Christian writers pointedly refused the charge that Christians "banqueted on blood", etc., a charge which very likely originated from pagan misunderstanding of the teaching of the Lord's Supper18. At any rate, Tatian certainly seemed quite opposed to the idea of eating anybody's flesh, Christ's or otherwise.

Theophilus of Antioch (115-181 AD)

"Nor indeed was there any necessity for my refuting these, except that I see you still in dubiety about the word of the truth. For though yourself prudent, you endure fools gladly. Otherwise you would not have been moved by senseless men to yield yourself to empty words, and to give credit to the prevalent rumor wherewith godless lips falsely accuse us, who are worshippers of God, and are called Christians, alleging that the wives of us all are held in common and made promiscuous use of; and that we even commit incest with our own sisters, and, what is most impious and barbarous of all, that we eat human flesh."19

Again, a 2nd-century writer, Theophilus, pointedly condemns as "most impious of all" the idea that Christians would eat human flesh. Just as the pagans calumniated against Christianity by claiming wife-sharing and incest (likely due to the communal nature of early Christianity, see Acts 4:32ff), so also did they falsely accuse Christians of cannibalism. Where else BUT from a misconstruction of passages concerning the Lord's Supper could this have originated? Clearly, Theophilus did not believe in any sort of "real presence" of Christ's flesh and blood in the symbolic elements of the communion table.

Irenaeus (120 - 200 AD)

"Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity."20

Irenaeus here argues for a dualism between the physical and spiritual natures both of the bread of the Eucharist and the body of the Christian who partakes of that Eucharist. While Irenaeus does seem to follow the error of sacramental efficacy in attaching salvatic power to the Eucharist, he clearly establishes that the bread of the Eucharist, when it receives the invocation of God, attains to a dual nature, both earthly and heavenly, which would seem to be much closer to the consubstantial view of Luther than the transubstantial view of Rome. He never once mentions it becoming the body of Christ, nor does his dualistic view of the consecrated Eucharist accord with the dogma of the "real presence". The logical understanding of his view is that our bodies, upon taking the Eucharist, have an incorruptibility which is spiritual, obviously, for it is apparent to all that they remain physically corruptible even after taking the Lord's Supper. Irenaeus' position cannot in any reasonable way be construed to support the belief in transubstantiation.

Tertullian (145-220 AD)

"Come now, when you read in the words of David, how that 'the Lord reigneth from the tree,' I want to know what you understand by it. Perhaps you think some wooden king of the Jews is meant!--and not Christ, who overcame death by His suffering on the cross, and thence reigned! Now, although death reigned from Adam even to Christ, why may not Christ be said to have reigned from the tree, from His having shut up the kingdom of death by dying upon the tree of His cross? This tree it is which Jeremiah likewise gives you intimation of, when he prophesies to the Jews, who should say, 'Come, let us destroy the tree with the fruit, (the bread) thereof,' that is, His body. For so did God in your own gospel even reveal the sense, when He called His body bread; so that, for the time to come, you may understand that He has given to His body the figure of bread, whose body the prophet of old figuratively turned into bread, the Lord Himself designing to give by and by an interpretation of the mystery."21

Here we see Tertullian referring to the body of Christ as a "figure of bread". clearly saying that the identification is not to be taken literally. In this whole passage, Tertullian argues against literalistic interpretations of several passages. One can surmise from his statements about the figurative nature of the bread being the body of Christ that Tertullian would not have held to the "real presence" doctrine. However, lest there be any doubt at this point, Tertullian speaks about this very subject at another point:

"He says, it is true, that 'the flesh profiteth nothing;' but then, as in the former case, the meaning must be regulated by the subject which is spoken of. Now, because they thought His discourse was harsh and intolerable, supposing that He had really and literally enjoined on them to eat his flesh, He, with the view of ordering the state of salvation as a spiritual thing, set out with the principle, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth; 'and then added, 'The flesh profiteth nothing,'-meaning, of course, to the giving of life. He also goes on to explain what He would have us to understand by spirit: 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' In a like sense He had previously said: 'He that heareth my words, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but shall pass from death unto life.' Constituting, therefore, His word as the life-giving principle, because that word is spirit and life, He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith."22

At this point, Tertullian seems to clear up any misconceptions that some might be tempted to entertain about his position on the nature of the Lord's Supper. Tertullian employs a decidedly Protestant interpretation of the discourse of Christ in John chapter six. He employs the same sort of argument about the spirit quickening and the flesh profiting nothing that any Protestant or Baptist who was even nominally versed in the Scriptures would use.

Clement of Alexandria (153-217 AD)

"And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord's immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh."23

Clement draws a distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects of the Lord's blood. While he seems to be advocating the obtaining of immortality by partaking of the Lord's Supper, an error, he correctly distinguishes between the spiritual and physical aspects of the Lord's existence and connects this partaking of the blood and immortality with the Spirit, not the flesh. His dual view of the blood of Christ, further, is at odds with the "real presence" dogma which states that the host and wine are fully the body and blood of Christ.

"And entertaining this view, we may regard the proclamation of the Gospel, which is universally diffused, as milk; and as meat, faith, which from instruction is compacted into a foundation, which, being more substantial than hearing, is likened to meat, and assimilates to the soul itself nourishment of this kind. Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: "Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood;" describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,--of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle."24

Thus, Clement entertains a very symbolic, non-literal understanding of the Lord's discourse in John 6. His interpretation has somewhat Protestant overtones to it, in its understanding that "eating the flesh and drinking the blood" are to be taken as exercising of faith in Christ and growing in the hope of the Lord.

Eusebius (260-341 AD)

"And there was one energy of the Divine Spirit pervading all the members, and one soul in all, and the same eagerness of faith, and one hymn from all in praise of the Deity. Yea, and perfect services were conducted by the prelates, the sacred rites being solemnized, and the majestic institutions of the Church observed, here with the singing of psalms and with the reading of the words committed to us by God, and there with the performance of divine and mystic services; and the mysterious symbols of the Saviour's passion were dispensed. At the same time people of every age, both male and female, with all the power of the mind gave honor unto God, the author of their benefits, in prayers and thanksgiving, with a joyful mind and soul. And every one of the bishops present, each to the best of his ability, delivered panegyric orations, adding luster to the assembly."25

In this passage, Eusebius is describing the establishment of open Christian worship after toleration was extended by Emperors Constantine and Licinius. In this chapter, he describes part of what can be taken as a typical Christian worship service. Included in this service was the dispensation of the elements of the Lord's Supper, which Eusebius simply says were "symbols of the Saviour's passion", something with which Bible-believers today could generally agree.

Augustine (354-430 AD)

"To be sure, we often speak in the following way: As Pascha approaches, we say that tomorrow, or the day after, is 'the Passion of the Lord,' although He suffered so many years before, and His Passion occurred only once. Indeed, on that particular Lord’s Day we say 'Today the Lord has risen,' although many, many years have passed since the time when he arose. Why is it that there is no one so foolish as to accuse us of being liars when we speak in this way? It is because we name these days according to a likeness to the days on which those events took place. Thus a day, which is not the actual day, but like to it in the circle of the year, takes its name from the actual day because of the celebration of the sacrament which occurred, not on the very day of the celebration, but long ago....For if sacraments did not have a certain likeness to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at a certain way the sacrament of the body of Christ is the body of Christ"26

Here, Augustine himself makes a relatively simple argument. Just as Christians may refer to the day of Pascha (what we call "Easter" today), the day of His resurrection, as "the day He has risen", quite obviously the day which they speak of is not ACTUALLY that day, as the Lord's rose many years ago, and His passion occurred only once (as Augustine points out). Likewise, the elements of the sacraments, by which here he means the bread and wine, are spoken of as having a certain likeness to what they represent in figure, these being the body and blood of Christ. This is the sense, Augustine says, in which the sacraments should be understood as "the body of Christ".

"And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eateth that flesh, unless he hath first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord's may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping. But doth the flesh give life? Our Lord Himself, when He was speaking in praise of this same earth, said, 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.' ...But when our Lord praised it, He was speaking of His own flesh, and He had said, 'Except a man eat My flesh, he shall have no life in him.' Some disciples of His, about seventy, were offended, and said, 'This is an hard saying, who can hear it?' And they went back, and walked no more with Him. It seemed unto them hard that He said, 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you:' they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, 'This is a hard saying.' It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He saith not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learnt that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learnt. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and saith unto them, 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood"27

And here, Augustine presents us with a very standard Protestant, anti-transubstantiational interpretation of the Lord's words in John 6. Augustine even goes so far as to say that those who interpreted Christ's words literally were receiving it "foolishly" and that their thoughts were "carnal", as he employs a reductio ad absurdam to make the point that their thinking was wrong. He essentially turns the entire Catholic argument against Protestants, this being that Protestants are like those who left the Lord because they were offended at His teaching, on its head.

"`Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,' says Christ, `and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.' This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us."28

Augustine seems to be recognising that to literally eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ would be to commit a "crime or a vice". He likely recognised that such a teaching in reality violated the Law of God where it condemns the ingesting of blood, and thus argues, logically, that the meaning of the passage MUST be symbolic to remain in accord with the testimony of the rest of Scripture.

Theodoret (393-457 AD)

"Eranistes: 'Therefore, just as the symbols of the Lord’s body and of his blood are one thing before the priest’s invocation, but after the invocation are changed, and become something else, so to was the Lord’s body changed, after the ascension, into the divine essence.'

Orthodox Theodoret: 'You have been caught in the nets which you have woven, for not even after the consecration do the mystical symbols depart from their own nature! They continue in their former essence, both in shape and appearance, and are visible, and palpable, as they were beforehand."29

In his dialogue, Theodoret utilises a mock conversation with a heretic named Eranistes to put forth his own theological understandings. He quite openly contradicts the notion that the priest's invocation can cause the bread and wine to change in essence (i.e. transubstantiate). He proceeds to point out the obvious - that the bread and wine remain exactly the same, in both form and essence, after a priest chants a few words over them. His dialogical heretic, Eranistes, is depicted giving a more or less classical view of transubstantiation, which would seem to indicate that even in Theodoret's day, there were those false brethren already entering into the churches trying to deceive God's people and lead them into compromise with the pagan beliefs around them.

Gelasius I (d. 496 AD)

"The sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it we are made partakers of the divine-nature. Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease. And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the performance of the mysteries."30

Perhaps most embarrassing of all for Catholic apologists is the revelation that even Gelasius, touted as one of the greatest early "popes", quite openly refers to the bread and wine as a "similitude", meaning a figure, a picture, of what they represent. He also pointedly rejects the transubstantiation of these elements into the literal body and blood of Christ. He says that the bread and wine remain just that: bread and wine.

The church historian, Kelly, has been much misused by the Catholic religion to try to substantiate its claim for the apostolic origin of the "real presence" view of the Eucharist. Oft-quoted by Catholic apologists on this point, he says,

"Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestionable realistic, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be....the Saviour’s body and blood."31

This would seem to speak in Rome's favour, would it not? Yet, let us look and see what Kelly then continues on to say right after this:

"Among theologians, however, this identity [i.e., the "real presence"] was interpreted in our period [fourth and fifth centuries] in at least two different ways, and these interpretations, mutually exclusive though they were in strict logic, were allowed to overlap. In the first place, the figurative or symbolic view, which stressed the distinction between the visible ELEMENTS and the reality they REPRESENTED, still claimed a measure of support..."32(emphasis mine)

Several points of interest present themselves in the quotation above. Kelly points out something which should be understood by those who deal with the writings of many of the early Christian authors: they were often imprecise with their language, and this is why many of the patristics views of the nature of the Lord's Supper would seem to overlap with the opposite to which they held, and why some would seem ambiguous on the subject. Further, Kelly says that the symbolic view of the Lord's Supper "STILL claimed a measure of support". This indicates that it was an older, more traditional view, and the inference would seem to be that it was being replaced by an up-start literalist view of the ordinance. And support the traditional symbolic view had too! Kelly gives as supporting the symbolic view: Tertullian, Cyprian, the Apostolic Confessions, Serapion, Eusebius, Eustathius of Antioch, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Macarius, Athanasius, and Augustine33. Many of these, we saw above in their own words. To this list, we may certainly add Gelasius, Theodoret, Clement of Alexandria, Tatian, Theophilus, Justin Martyr, and most likely Irenaeus. Webster also adds to the list of those expousing a strictly symbolic view of the Lord's Supper, Jerome and Ambrosiaster34

Keep in mind, of course, that I am not claiming that each of the patristics mentioned above would hold to the same view of the Lord's Supper as Bible-believing Fundamentalists would. I am merely saying that none of them held to the pagan doctrine of transubstantiation as taught by the Roman Catholic religion. The variety of their views would rival those of today.

"There is the literal view of transubstantiation which could be that expressed by Chrysostom; the Lutheran view of consubstantiation, which could be taught by Irenaeus or Justin Martyr; the spiritual view of Calvin, which is closely aligned with Augustine; and the strictly symbolic view of Zwingli, which is similar to that expressed by Eusebius"35

While it is true that some patristics such as John Chrysostom, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Ambrose held to the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation, these are in the minority of voices within the early church. Further, we understand that the patristic writers themselves are no arbiters of what is true doctrine and what is false, though they may serve as a testimony concerning how the majority of God's children throughout these early centuries of Christianity were led of the Holy Ghost (see John 15:26, I John 2:20,27). It is in this sense that their words should be looked to for guidance, and we see that their guidance points away from transubstantiation.

Having shown that transubstantiation, the heart and soul of the Roman Catholic Mass, is not historical within the early church, we then inquire as to when it DID appear within what is called Christendom. The first official formulation of the doctrine of the Real Presence was made at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD. Even after this time, the doctrine was slow to gain general acceptance within Roman Catholicism. Durant notes that in 855 AD, a French Benedictine monk named Ratramnus, taught that the bread and wine were spiritually the body and blood of Christ, not carnally so36. Later, however, the doctrine had become strongly enough entrenched that the Archdeacon of Tours, Berengar (1045), who questioned the reality of transubstantiation, was excommunicated and made the subject of an apologetic reply by Lanfranc, the Abbot of Bec, about 106337. The doctrine was finally proclaimed to be essential dogma by the Third Lateran Council in 1215, nearly twelve centuries after the Lord and the Apostles who supposedly taught this doctrine in an "undeniable" fashion.

Hence, we see from this history that transubstantiation, and the ritual of the Mass which centres on that doctrine, are very far from being the original tradition within God's Church, nor do they rest on any support other than the pronouncements of very late councils which convened after European religion had been swallowed up by the religious innovation of Roman Catholicism. There is no basis for the Catholic claim that transubstantiation is traditional and historical within the realms of Christian doctrine.


As we see from the testimony of God's Word, the "Holy Eucharist" is nothing more than an empty ritual which denies the efficacy of Christ's work on the cross, and which replaces salvation by grace with salvation through man's effort. Transubstantiation is a doctrine of pagan origin which opposes and contradicts the true biblical message of the Lord's Supper and the nature of our communion with Him. Lastly, we see that transubstantiation cannot even be defended from the ranks of the patristic writers upon whom Rome so often depends for justification of dogmas which cannot be supported from the holy Scriptures.

The Mass is a farce and a fraud. If you, this very day friend, are trusting in the Mass to lend grace to you, or to sanctify you in preparation for (hopefully) going to heaven, you are in for a rude awakening. Your trust is misplaced. I urge you to trust in Christ alone. "..For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Salvation comes by faithful trusting in Christ ALONE, without the admixture of works of your own. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags...." (Isaiah 64:6) To PARTIALLY trust in Christ is to be WHOLLY lost and separated from God. There WILL be a judgment one day. "And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) If you are trusting in sacramental efficacy, you are not ready for that judgment. I urge you to put your trust in Christ alone, answer His calling on your heart, avail of His free grace gift to you, and be saved! "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

End Notes

(1) - Lumen Gentium, 11
(2) - Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 Edition, paragraph 1324
(3) - Catechism, 1365
(4) - Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. VI, p.678
(5) - Cathechism, 1393
(6) - Catechism, 1332
(7) - Catechism, 1366
(8) - Catechism, 1374
(9) - Catechism, 1367
(10) - Denzinger-Schoenmetzer, Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, as quoted in Catechism, 1366
(11) - Lumen Gentium, 3; quoted in Catechism, 1364
(12) - Sir J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 490
(13) - W.G. Sumner, Folkways, p. 337
(14) - Sir J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, pp. 489-490
(15) - Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. II, p. 76
(16) - Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, cap. lxx
(17) - Tatian, Address to the Greeks, cap. xxv
(18) - Bishop Kaye, Illustrations from Tatian, Athenagorus, and Theophilus of Antioch, p. 153
(19) - Theophilus, To Autolycus, Lib. III, cap. iv
(20) - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Lib. IV, cap.xviii,5
(21) - Tertullian, Against Marcion, Lib. III, cap. xix
(22) - Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, cap. xxxviii
(23) - Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Lib. II, cap. ii
(24) - Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Lib. I, cap. vi
(25) - Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Lib. X, cap. iii-iv
(26) - Augustine, Letters XCVIII, cap. ix
(27) - Augustine, Exposition on the Psalms, Psalm XCIX
(28) - Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Lib. III, cap. xvi, 24
(29) - Theodoret, Eranistes, Dialogue II
(30) - Gelasius, Bishop of Rome, in his writing against Eutyches and Nestorius
(31) - J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p.440
(32) - J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p.441
(33) - J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 440-1
(34) - W. Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, p. 122
(35) - W. Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, p. 122
(36) - W. Durant, The Age of Faith, p. 741
(37) - Lanfranc, De corpore et sanguine Domini, as cited in Cambridge Medieval History, vol. VI, p. 678