Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Was St Ignatius a Wayward Disciple? An Unusual Proof of Eucharistic Doctrine


Many non-Catholic Christians insist that the meaning of John 6 regarding the body and blood is strictly metaphorical and that the early Christians always and only believed in a symbolic interpretation of the Lord's supper.

Now we know that most of the New Testament epistles were written as corrective exhortations, encouragements or gentle rebukes, and sometimes not so gentle ones ; "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?" If a congregation of the early church was doing something wrong, Paul or John or James was going to send them a letter letting them know how it should be. When Paul encouraged the believers to "not walk in the lust of the flesh", you know they were having problems with greed and lust and immorality. When he rebuked the Galatians for listening to the Judaizers who insisted they needed to be circumcised in order to be Christians, he straightened them out with pretty emphatic language: "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Yikes!

Another time, when the heresy arose that Jesus didn't come in the flesh, but was spirit only(Docetism), John wrote his epistle to clarify what the true apostle's teaching was.

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. "

So if the true apostolic teaching espoused that the Eucharist was strictly symbolic, why didn't any of the epistles include rebukes and corrections to those "heretics" in the early Church who believed in a literal interpretation of John 6? From Ignatius, a disciple of John we actually read the opposite scenario:

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again... Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (Epistle to the Smyreans)

"Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God." (Epistle to the Philadelphians)

John wrote his epistles around the same time that Ignatius wrote this 100-110 AD. It is possible John wrote his gospel in 90 AD but his epistles came a bit later. It is clear that being Ignatius's teacher, John would be aware of his teachings and letters and vicea-versa.
So why in the world didn't John set him straight and tell him he was wrong about his view of the Eucharist? Was Ignatius a "wayward" disciple? Maybe John would have said something like this to him: (Pretend there is a flashback dream sequence here)

"Hey Ignatius, how long have I been with you? Man! Are you dense or something? Too much olive oil in your ears? I just read your letter rebuking those who thought that the Eucharist wasn't Jesus' body and blood! No, my young friend! I told you that the bread and wine at communion are not the flesh and blood of Christ, just symbols! How could you mess this up so soon after I told you how it was? Ignatius, I don't want to brag or anything, but just to refresh your obviously faulty memory- I was "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and he let me lay my head on his breast at our last supper together. If anyone understood Jesus teaching about his body and blood it would be me. Yeah I know that my gospel makes it sound like Jesus meant to eat his actual body and blood, (he did tell us 4 times), but I got the straight scoop from him later on."
(End of flashback sequence)

If the early Church was in error by believing that Jesus body and blood were truly present in the Eucharistic celebration, the apostle John would have known about it and surely would have been the one to set them straight. Moreover he would have ensured his disciples, such as Ignatius, understood the teaching that the Lord gave to him and the other 11 disciples.
Yet we read nowhere that John, nor Peter, nor James nor Paul, or any other New Testament letter rebukes the Church for their belief in the Real Presence of Christ in communion. To the contrary, we read Paul's letter to the Corinthians sternly warning them that they were abusing the Lord's supper and incorrectly discerning His body! No stricter warning can be found given that he justified the authenticity of this teaching by telling them that the Lord himself gave him this:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In 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." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

So in conclusion, no where do we see the New Testament writers describing Communion as symbolic and all Christians after John until the 1500's teach that the Eucharist was indeed the body and blood of our Lord, not just a symbolic commemoration. As I have said before, If Christ promised to lead his Church in all truth , how could they have gotten such a crucial doctrine wrong so soon, and how could this false doctrine have then continued unchallenged for almost 1500 years?

6 Comments:

Blogger Magister Christianus said...

Of course those going the route of _sola scriptura_ would deny use of the Ignatius epistle anyway. What is telling is that the Corinthians passage says basically the same thing.

June 27, 2010 8:11 AM  
Blogger Brian Sullivan said...

Interesting, although argumentum a silentio tends not to prove anything.

June 28, 2010 11:40 AM  
Blogger George Weis said...

ALL SMILES :)

June 28, 2010 9:18 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Well, I thought, if this doctrine of the real presence was considered to be heresy by the early church they would have quashed it right quick. Just as they did with montanism pelgianism, Docetism, monophysitism,
arianism, ISmism :)
The fact that we can find no writings that attempt to dispel it, makes me think it was a no-brainer that everyone accepted it.
just sayin'

June 28, 2010 9:41 PM  
Blogger George Weis said...

I'm thinking exactly the same thing! You just put in a way that makes me chuckle :)

Love ya Russ!
-g-

June 28, 2010 10:07 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

thanks George!
Good to see hear from you. Write to me offline sometime and let me know what's shakin
God bless
russ

June 29, 2010 9:53 AM  

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