Re: [John_Lit] Eucharistic eating in John 6:51-58
- In a message dated 9/1/2003 12:19:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> * In verses 51-53, the verb is the conventional PHAGH, as you indicate.Bob and Mike:
> We have an opening statement by Jesus, a response, and the first part of
> Jesus' reply. Merrill C. Tenney, writing in the Expositor's Bible
> Commentary, notes that that the use of the aorist tense of esthio in these
> verses implies "a decisive action at the outset, an acceptance." (p.78)
> * The verb changes in v. 54 to hO TRWGWN, as you indicated. The Jesus
> Seminar decided to translate the verb here as "feeds on". This is the
> second part of Jesus' reply. Tenney comments that the verb used here is in
> the present tense, which "refers to a progressive action that applies to
> the maintenance of a continuing state." The tense is clearly important,
> because it implies that although one baptism might be sufficient, communion
> with Jesus was an on-going process. But that sense could have been conveyed
> by using the present tense of esthio/phago, couldn't it?
> * Immediately after this conversation, we read in v. 60: When many of
> his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can
> accept it?" (NRS). This appears in other translations as a "hard saying."
> What was it that made it hard? Was it only, or primarily, that the
> disciples were challenged to eat his body and drink his blood (bad enough,
> certainly, to contemporary sensibilities), or was it made even more
> difficult by the use of hO TRWGWN?
This distinction between PHAGH and TRWGWN in John 6:51-58 has been carefully
crafted by the Evangelist to introduce the dimension of contemplation into the
act of eating. As noted by the lexicons, PHAGH simply refers to the act of
eating for sustenance, the intake of ordinary nutrition. TRWGWN however, in
narrative, sequential intensification, implies an involvment in the act of
eating---ruminating, contemplation, focus, being-in-the-moment of the intake of this
particular food---not merely "chewing" or "gnawing" (though these translations
certainly convey the sense of "deliberation"): "feeding on" according the the
Indeed, Robert Sungenis has ingeniously argued that this passage is different
from other purely metaphorical Johannine passages and that Jesus is really
speaking of himself in the bread, flesh and blood---an argument for the Real
Presence (see Bob's website or any number of apologetic websites [e.g., Matt's
(Matt161819] Apologetic Website] to read the Sungenis article).
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
In Johannine thought, what is the true rite of the eucharist? Is the true
rite of the eucharist physical in nature, regarding the physical eating of
the physical flesh of Jesus and the physical drinking of the physical blood
of Jesus? Or, is the true rite of the eucharist spiritual in nature,
regarding the spiritual eating of the spiritual flesh of Jesus and the
spiritual drinking of the spiritual blood of Jesus?
It is frequently assumed that, in Johannine thought, the true rite of the
eucharist is physical in nature. In particular, it is frequently assumed
that 6:51-57 regards the necessity of physically eating the physical flesh
of Jesus and of physically drinking the physical blood of Jesus.
However, there is reason to question this assumption.
For example, this assumption makes 6:51-57 discordant with the rest of
6:25-70, all but necessitating that it be an interpolation by a later
editor. However, 6:51-57 is the same basic style as the rest of 6:25-70.
Again, there is no initiation of a physical rite of the eucharist in the
Johannine narrative of the Last Supper. This, too, raises questions about
whether the Johannine community regarded the true rite of the eucharist as
being physical in nature.
Perhaps, then, the Johannine community believed that the true rite of the
eucharist is spiritual in nature.
This explains why there is no initiation of a physical rite of the eucharist
in the Johannine narrative of the Last Supper.
Further, as will be pointed out in this post, when 6:25-70 is interpreted
in terms of six hypotheses, then 6:51-57 becomes an integral part of the
original text and it speaks not about physically eating/chewing the physical
flesh of Jesus and physically drinking the physical blood of Jesus but,
rather, about spiritually eating/chewing the spiritual flesh of Jesus and
spiritually drinking the spiritual blood of Jesus.
So, it will be concluded, it appears likely that the Johannine community
deemed the true rite of the eucharist to be spiritual in nature.
POSITING OF SIX HYPOTHESES.
Hypothesis 1: In Johannine thought, there is the eternal Spirit of God--who
imparts its immortality to what it resides within.
Hypothesis 2 In Johannine thought, Jesus is the Word (Logos) of God--who
both personifies the words (logoi) of God as a collective unity and speaks
these words of God.
Hypothesis 3: In Johannine thought, within each word of God and within the
Word of God is the eternal Spirit of God, so that, therefore, these words
and the Word are imperishable.
Hypothesis 4: In Johannine thought, the words of God have analogs in
physical unleavened bread, in physical fish, and in the physical body/flesh
of Jesus as the Word, making the words of God the spiritual unleavened
bread, the spiritual fish, and the spiritual body/flesh of Jesus as the
Hypothesis 5: In Johannine thought, the Spirit has analogs in physical
water, physical wine, and physical blood, making the Spirit the spiritual
water, the spiritual wine, and the spiritual blood.
Hypothesis 6: In Johannine thought, what happens to the physical analogs of
the words of God and of the Spirit in the narrative is sometimes a
revelation of what can happen on the spiritual level of reality with these
words of God and Spirit.
EXAMPLES OF HYPOTHESIS 6
At Cana, the physical water is transformed into physical wine: which
illustrates that the Spirit can be readily transformed from itself as the
spiritual water into itself as the spiritual wine.
At Golgotha, physical water and physical blood flow from the physical body
of Jesus as the Word to illustrate that the Spirit, the spiritual water and
the spiritual blood, resides within the words of God that constitute the
spiritual body of Jesus as the Word and, so, can also spiritually flow from
In the feeding of the multitude, the bread is indicated by several clues to
be physical unleavened bread. The time of Passover was near--a time when
unleavened physical bread was eaten. The remainder left over had to be
gathered by the disciples to prevent its immediate perishing--just like the
ancient Israelites had to gather the unleavened physical manna to prevent
its immediate perishing. The remaining bread filled 12 baskets--alluding to
the 12 unleavened loaves of the physical shew-bread. Possibly, that the
bread is said to be barley bread rather than wheat bread is also an
indication that it is unleavened, but I am not sure on this.
In the feeding of the multitude, the increase in the amount of the physical
unleavened bread and of the fish available to the people by Jesus as the
Word illustrates how Jesus, as this Word, increases the amount of the
spiritual unleavened bread and spiritual fish available to us by spiritually
speaking these words of God to us.
APPLICATION OF THE HYPOTHESES TO 6:27
Let us look at John 6:27, where the Johannine Jesus tells some of the people
who had participated in the feeding of the multitude, "Do not work for the
perishing food, but the food remaining to eternal life, which the Son of Man
will give you--for God the Father has sealed (esphragisen) this one."
Here, Jesus, as the Son of Man, is the Word--who has been sealed by God.
So, in Plant (19), Philo speaks about "the seal of God (sphragidi theou),
the stamp (charakter) of which is the eternal Word (Logos)."
Further, in 6:27, the contrast is between perishable physical unleavened
bread they had physically eaten and digested the previous day and the
imperishable spiritual unleavened bread, consisting of the words of God,
that Jesus, as the Word, can spiritually give to them to spiritually eat and
APPLICATION OF HYPOTHESES TO JOHN 6:30-33
Next, let us turn to 6:30-33, "Therefore they said to him, 'What sign do
you perform, that we may see and may believe you? The fathers of us ate the
manna in the wilderness, as it has been written, He gave them bread from
heaven to eat.' Therefore, said Jesus to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you,
Moses has not given you the bread out of heaven, but the Father of me gives
you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that (or: he)
coming down out of heaven and giving life to the world.'"
The Jews refer to the physical manna their ancestors ate in the wilderness.
Further, they identify this physical manna with the bread from heaven that
is given to us by God.
The Johannine Jesus, however, makes a distinction between the physical manna
and the bread from heaven--stating that it is the bread from heaven that is
the "true" bread.
This distinction, I suggest, is basically the same distinction made, in
5:27, between the perishable physical unleavened bread and the imperishable
spiritual unleavened bread that consists of the words of God. In
particular, it is a distinction between the perishable physical unleavened
manna eaten by the ancient Israelites and the imperishable spiritual
unleavened bread that is, in an ultimate sense, given to us by God because
it consists of His words. This imperishable spiritual unleavened bread,
then, is the "true" bread.
The last sentence by the Johannine Jesus, is ambiguous in that it is not
clear whether this spiritual unleavened bread is a "that" or a "he". The
ambiguity is deliberate. The words of God that are this spiritual
unleavened bread and make it a "that" are, as a totality, personified in the
Word--thereby making this imperishable spiritual unleavened bread also a
This last sentence ends with the thought that this imperishable spiritual
unleavened bread gives life to the world. Here, "life" is eternal life"
and "the world" is "the world of mankind". When a human being spiritually
eats and digests this spiritual unleavened bread, then the Spirit within
this bread, as the bread is now within the human being, is within the human
being and, so, imparts immortal life to this human being.
APPLICATION OF HYPOTHESES TO JOHN 6:35
Next, let us look at 6:35, where the Johannine Jesus states, "The one coming
to me never hungers, and the one believing in me will never thirst."
One who believes in Jesus spiritually comes to him. Since Jesus, as the
Word, is the spiritual unleavened bread, this person, by spiritually coming
to Jesus, spiritually comes to the spiritual unleavened bread that this
person can spiritually eat and spiritually digest. So, this person will
never spiritually hunger. Further, since within the spiritual unleavened
bread is the Spirit who is the spiritual water, wine, and blood, this
person, by spiritually eating the spiritual unleavened bread, also drinks of
the spiritual water, the spiritual wine, and the spiritual blood and, so,
never spiritually thirsts.
APPLICATION OF HYPOTHESES TO JOHN 6:47-51
Next, let us turn to 6:47-51, where the Johannine Jesus states, "Truly,
truly, I say to you, the one believing has eternal life. I am the bread of
life. The fathers of you ate the manna in the wilderness and died. This
one is the bread out of heaven coming down, that anyone may eat of it and
not die. I am the living bread, the one having come down out of heaven. If
anyone eats of this bread, he will live into the age. And, indeed, the
bread which I will give for the life of the world is the flesh of me.'"
Here, Jesus speaks as the Word--who is the living bread in the sense that he
personifies the totality of the words of God that are spiritual unleavened
bread which eternally exists because within it is the Spirit that imparts
immortal life to whatever it is within.
Those who believe in Jesus as the Word spiritually come to him and
spiritually eat and digest him as the personification of the spiritual
unleavened bread. Anyone thusly spiritually eating and digesting this
spiritual unleavened bread, as the Spirit is within this spiritual
unleavened bread, will have this Spirit within oneself and, so, will gain
eternal life because the Spirit imparts eternal life to whatever it is
In contrast, the physical unleavened bread of the manna ate by the ancient
Israelites did not bring them eternal life.
When Jesus, as the Word, spiritually gives this spiritual unleavened bread
of the words of God to one, then. as these words of God are his spiritual
body/flesh, he spiritually gives one his spiritual body/flesh.
This spiritual body/flesh he spiritually gives one is eternal life for the
world of humanity because within it is the Spirit which imparts eternal life
to whatever it is within. So, one who spiritually receives his spiritual
body/flesh from him and spiritually eats and digests it will have the Spirit
within oneself and, so, will gain eternal life.
APPLICATION OF HYPOTHESES TO JOHN 6:53-58
Next, let us turn to 6:53-58, where the Johannine Jesus states, "Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless you chew the flesh of the Son of Man and drink
his blood, you do not have life within yourselves The one chewing on my
flesh and drinking my blood abides in me, and I in him. As sent me the
living Father and I live because of the Father, also even that one chewing
on me will live because of me. This one is the bread of heaven, having come
down, not as ate the fathers and died. The one chewing this bread will live
into the age."
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you chew the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink his blood, you do not have life within yourselves." That is to say,
unless you spiritually chew the words of God that are the spiritual
body/flesh of me as the Word and spiritually drink the Spirit that is my
spiritual blood, you do not have the etermally living Spirit within
"The one chewing on my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life and I
will raise him up on the last day. For the flesh of me is true food and
the blood of me is true drink." That is to say, one who spiritually chews
on my spiritual body/flesh of the words of God, within which is the Spirit,
and drinks my spiritual blood which is the Spirit, has this eternally living
Spirit within him/herself and, since the Spirit gives eternal life to
whatever it is in, such a person will gain eternal life and, so, will
participate in the resurrection of the just at the End of the current era.
As a result, his spiritual body/flesh is the true food and his spiritual
blood is the true drink.
"The one chewing on my flesh and drinking my blood abides in me, and I in
him." That is to say, the one spiritually chewing on his spiritual
body/flesh of the words of God (within whom is the Spirit) and spiritually
drinking his spiritual blood of the Spirit has, within him/herself, the
Spirit that is within Jesus as the Word and, so, such a person abides in
Jesus. Conversely, as the Spirit that is within Jesus is within such a
person, Jesus abides within such a person.
"As sent me the living Father and I live because of the Father, also even
that one chewing on me will live because of me." This relates to John 3:34,
where John the Baptist states, "For whom God sent speaks the utterances of
God, for not by measure gives He the Spirit." So, it can be roughly
paraphrased this way, "As sent me the eternally living Father to speak His
words and I eternally live because He has given me the Spirit through which
is eternal life, also even that one who spiritually chews on these words of
the Father that are my spiritual body/flesh will eternally live because,
since the Spirit is within these words of the Father, I have, in turn,
given this person the Spirit through which is eternal life."
"This one is the bread of heaven, having come down, not as ate the fathers
and died. The one chewing this bread will live into the age." That is to
say, I am the Word, who personifes the words of God, as a totality, that are
the spiritual unleavened bread and that has come down from heaven, not to
bring death as did the physical unleavened bread of the manna, but to bring
eternal life to whoever spiritually chews on it--meaning that such a person
will participate in the resurrection of the just at the End of the current
APPLICATION OF HYPOTHESES TO JOHN 6::61-63
Finally, let us turn to 6:61-63, where the Johannine Jesus tells his
disciples, "(Does) this cause you to stumble? (What) if you were to see
the Son of Man ascending where he was at first? The Spirit is the thing
making alive, the flesh does not profit anything. The speech (hremata)
which I have spoken to you is Spirit and is life."
Do not stumble by mistakenly thinking that I have been speaking about my
physical flesh. I am the Word, who has descended to earth and who will
return one day to heaven. It is the Spirit within my spiritual body/flesh
of the words of God that brings you eternal life, my physical flesh does not
profit you in any way. Since the Spirit is within these words of God I have
uttered, this makes these words, in their inmost being, this Spirit through
whom is eternal life.
When interpreted in terms of six hypotheses, 6:25-70 forms an organic unity
in which, in 6:51-56, the flesh of Jesus is his spiritual body/flesh, which
consists of the words of God, and the blood of Jesus is his spiritual blood,
which is the Spirit. One is to spiritually chew on these words of God, like
a cow physcially chews its cud, meditating on them over and over again
This suggests that the Johannine community likely believed the true rite of
the eucharist to be spiritual in nature.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
Maplewood, MN USA 55109