“This Is My Body”: Literal or Figurative?

This is My Body_Literal or Figurative

Why dost thou prepare thy teeth and belly? Believe, and thou hast eaten.
(Augustine, Tractate 25).

Daniel Featley,
Transubstantiation Exploded
pp. 154-189.

That the words of the institution, “This is my Body,” are to be taken in a tropical [from trope. Figurative; rhetorically changed from its proper or original sense] and figurative sense, is proved: 1. By testimony of Scripture. 2. By authority of Fathers. 3. By the confession of our adversaries. 4. By force of reason.

Now I will ascend from the troubled brook to the spring, from the Canon Law to the divine, from Gratian to the Author of all grace, Christ Jesus himself, whose words “This is my Body,” you lay as the ground whereon you build both your carnal presence and Transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the Mass, and the adoration of the Host. But it will bear none of them, nay rather as ground shaken by an earthquake, it will utterly overthrow them all, as may appear by this Syllogism:

If in this sentence “This is my Body,” the meaning be “this Bread is my Body,” the speech cannot be proper, but must of necessity be figurative or tropical.

But in this sentence, “This is my Body,” the meaning is, “This Bread is my Body.

Ergo this speech cannot be proper, but must of necessity be figurative and tropical; and if so, down falls Transubstantiation built upon it, and carnal presence built upon Transubstantiation, and the oblation and adoration of the Host built upon the carnal presence.

In this Syllogism the consequence of the Major is so evident, that Cardinal Bellarmine affirmeth, that it is impossible that bread should be called Christ’s Body otherwise than by a figure, for bread and Christ’s Body are things most divers, and if disparate substances, such as bread and Christ’s body are, might be affirmed one of the other, by the same reason we might affirm something to be nothing, light to be darkness, and darkness to be light, &c. Bread is a substance inanimate, Christ’s Body is animate; bread of the figure of a loaf, or wafer, Christ’s Body of the figure of a man; bread inorganic or without organs or members, Christ’s Body Organical; bread made of wheat flower, Christ’s Body of Virgins blood; bread therefore in propriety of speech, can no more be Christ’s Body, than Christ himself a Vine, or a Door, or a Way, or a Rock, all which speeches our Adversaries themselves confess to be tropical and figurative.

The Minor or Assumption is proved four manner of ways.
1. By testimony of Scripture.
2. By the authority of Fathers.
3. Confession of our Adversaries.
4. Force of reason.

1. By testimony of Scripture.

1. The Text is plain, Christ took bread, and blessed, and brake, and said, This is my Body, what he took, he blessed, he brake, he gave of that he said, This is my Body. But he took, he blessed, he brake, he gave bread, of bread therefore he said, This is my Body. When he said hoc or This, he pointed to something, not to mere accidents as you a confess, for then he would have said hac not hoc, these not this, nor pointed he to his own body sitting at Table, for neither did the Apostles, nor could they doubt whether the body sitting at Table were his body; neither were there any coherence in the words, take this bread, break and eat in remembrance of me, for this is my body which you see sitting at table with you. He pointed therefore to the substance of bread, when he said hoc This, and consequently the meaning of his words are, This bread is my Body.

2. By the authority of Fathers.

2. You take an oath to expound Scriptures juxta unanimē consensum Patrum, according to the unanimous consent of Fathers, and therefore unless you will incur the censure of perjury, you must allow of this interpretation of Christ’s words, This is my Body, that is, This bread is my Body, for so they are expounded by:

1. Justin Martyr. “After the presiding officer had given thanks, they, who among us are called deacons, distribute the bread, wine, and water to each one present and carry them to the absent. And this food is called among us the Eucharist… For we take these not as common bread or common drink; but as by the word of God, Jesus Christ, our Savior, made flesh, had both flesh and blood for our salvation; so also we are taught that by the prayers of the word which is from him, both the flesh and blood of the incarnated Jesus are made food, from which by a change our blood and flesh are nourished.”(First Apology, 65-66). [1]

2. Irenaeus. “How did the Lord rightly, if another were his Father, taking bread of this condition that is usual amongst us, confess it to be his body?” (Against Heresies 4.33.2).

“Just as what is the bread of earth, receiving the blessing of God, is not now common bread, but Eucharistical, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly, so also our bodies receiving the Eucharist, are not now corruptible and have the hope of resurrection” (ibid., 4.18.5).

“That cup which is a creature, his own blood which was shed, from which he increases our blood; and that bread, which is from a creature, confirmed his own body from which he increases our bodies” (ibid., 5.2.2).

3. Clement of Alexandria: “Christ blessed the wine and said, take, drink, this is my blood, a useful fruit, for it allegorically signifies the sacred fluent of the church, the Word shed for many for the remission of sins” (Instructor 2.2, ANF 2:246).

4. Tertullian: “Then, having taken the bread and given it to his disciples, he made it his own body, by saying, ‘this is my body,’ that is, the figure of my body.” (Against Marcion, ANF 3:418).

5. Origen: “It is not the material of the bread but the word which is said over it which is of advantage to him who eats it not unworthily of the Lord. And these things indeed are said of the typical and symbolical body. But many things might be said about the Word himself who became flesh, and true meat of which he that eateth shall assuredly live for ever, no worthless person being able to eat it.” (Commentary on Matthew, ANF 9:443).

6. Cyprian. “When the Lord calls his body the bread composed of the union of many grains, he indicates our united people whom he bore; and when he calls his blood the wine pressed out of many clusters and grapes and gathered into one, in like manner he signifies our flock joined together by the commixture of a united multitude” (Letter 75, To Magnus).

7. Athanasius. “What is the bread, Christ’s body.”

8. Cyril of Jerusalem. “Christ said of the bread, ‘This is my Body.'” (Catechetical Lecture 22). [2]

9. Ambrose. “Wilt thou know that it is consecrated by heavenly words? Hear what the words are. The priest speaks. ‘Make for us,’ he says, ‘this oblation approved, ratified, reasonable, acceptable, seeing that it is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…'” (On the Sacraments, ch. 5).

10. Jerome. “Let us hear that the bread which Christ brake and gave to his Disciples is his body as himself saith.” (Letter 120).

11. Eusebius. “Christ himself delivered to his disciples the symbols of the divine economy, ordering them to make the image of his own body. For since he wished no longer to attend to bloody sacrifices, nor to those which with Moses had been decreed by the law in the slaughter of different animals, he enjoined the use of bread as a symbol of his own body, he fittingly signified the splendor and purity of this food” (Proof of the Gospel 8.1).

12. Athanasius. “For how many bodies of him would be sufficient for eating, that there might be food for the whole world? But on this account he made mention of his ascension into heaven that he might draw them away from a corporal understanding and they might understand that the flesh of which he had spoken was the heavenly food and the spiritual nourishment to be given by him from above” (In Illud Evangelii, Opera omnia [1627], 1:979).

13. Macarius of Egypt. “In the church bread and wine were offered, the antitypes of his flesh and blood, and those partaking of this visible bread ate spiritually the flesh of the Lord” (Homily 27.17).

14. Chrysostom. “As before the bread is sanctified, we call it bread, but the divine grace sanctifying it through the mediation of the priest, it is indeed freed from the appellation of bread, and is considered worthy of the appellation of the Lord’s body, although the nature of the bread remains in it” (Letter to Monk Caesarius Against the Apollinarian Heresy). [3]

15. Augustine. “Whatever in a divine discourse can not be properly referred to honesty of morals, nor to truth of faith, you should acknowledge to be figurative…If the locution is preceptive either forbidding a flagitious or criminal act or commanding a kind one, it is not figurative. However, if it seems to command a base act or crime or to forbid usefulness or beneficence, it is figurative…‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,’ seems to command a crime or a baseness; it is, therefore, a figure commanding us to share in the suffering of the Lord, and to lay up in our memory sweetly and profitably, that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us.” (Christian Doctrine 3.10 & 3.16).

“The Lord did not hesitate to say, this is my body, since he would give a sign of his body” (Contra Adimantum 12; Patrologia Latin vol. 42, p. 144).

“If the sacraments did not have a certain resemblance to those things of which they are sacraments they would not be sacraments. Now from this similitude they often also take the names of the things themselves. As, therefore, according to a certain measure the sacrament of the body of Christ is the body of Christ, the sacrament of the blood of Christ is the blood of Christ, so the sacrament of faith is faith” (Letter 98.9, To Boniface).

16. Theodoret of Cyrus. “For He, we know, who spoke of his natural body as grain and bread, and, again, called Himself a vine, dignified the visible symbols by the appellation of the body and blood, not because He had changed their nature, but because to their nature He had added grace.” (Dialogues I).

“Eranistes [Eutychianist]— As the symbols before the sacerdotal invocation are not the same as the Lord’s body and blood, but after the invocation are changed, and are made another thing, so also the Lord’s body was changed after its assumption into the divine nature.

“Orthodox— You are caught in the nets, which you have yourself spread, for neither do the mystical symbols after sanctification depart from their own nature; for they remain in the former substance, and figure, and form, and are visible and palpable, just as they were before.”

Theodoret, Dialogues II.

17. “Pope” Gelasius. “Surely the sacrament we take of the Lord’s body and blood is a divine thing, on account of which, and by the same we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance of the bread and wine does not cease to be. And certainly the image and similitude of Christ’s body and blood are celebrated in the action of the mysteries” (Tractatus de Duabus Naturis Adversus Eutychen et Nestorium 14). [4]

18. Facundus of Hermia. “The sacrament of adoption can be called adoption, as the sacrament of his body and blood, which is in the consecrated bread and cup, we say is his body and blood: not that the bread is properly his body, and the cup his blood, but that they contain in themselves the mystery of his body and blood. Hence also the Lord himself called the blessed bread and cup, which he gave to his disciples, his body and blood” (Defense of the Council of Chalcedon 9.5; Patrologia Latin vol. 67, pp. 762-763).

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to salve his credit, nay his faith.

First, in this answer you contradict the Tenet of your Church and yourself. For if by hoc or this as the Fathers teach, we are to understand hic panis, this bread, and the sense of the whole is, this bread is my body, and bread here stands not for bread in substance, but in appearance only, or in the exterior form, or that which is made of bread as your Chaplain hath it, then the words of institution are not taken in the proper sense, but are absolutely and simply figurative, which yourself denies, and Fisher the Jesuit of Transubstantiation, Sess. 2. and Bellarmine of the Sacrament of the Eucharist (the words this is my body ought to be taken and expounded properly, not figuratively) and Alfonsus a Castro, and Sanctesius, and Salmoron, and Costorus, and Gardinerus, and Tonstallus, and Panegyrolla, and Roffensis, and Suares, and Uasques, and other Papists named and confuted by Chamierus.

Secondly, this your interpretation no better agreeth with the Fathers’ words, than a wet mold doth with running metal which makes it fly back with a great force; for instance, Justin Martyr, in the words above cited, by bread or food, understandeth that whereby as he saith our bodies are nourished, quae mutata nutrit carnes nostras, but that is not bread turned into Christ’s body; for Christ’s body is no meat for the belly, nor is it turned into our flesh. Irenaeus speaketh of bread, ejus conditionis quae secundum nos, of bread that is usual among us, l. 4. c. 57. c. 34. of bread, qui est e terra, which is taken from the earth, such is not super-substantial bread, or transubstantiated into Christ’s body. Clement by wine understandeth wine allegorically termed Christ’s blood, but that is not wine really turned into Christ’s blood, for that is Christ’s blood in propriety of speech, not by a Metaphor or Allegory. Tertullian as you expound him speaketh of bread which was vetus figura, an ancient figure of Christ’s body, but that could not be bread transubstantiated into his body, for before his Incarnation he had no body into which bread could be then turned. Cyprian speaketh of bread made of many corns or grains, and of wine pressed out of many grapes. Ambrose speaketh of bread broken, but super-substantial bread or turned into Christ’s body is not broken bread. Saint Jerome likewise speaks of broken bread, and consequently not of the heavenly bread which is Christ’s flesh. Epiphanius speaks of that which is of a round figure and without sense, and such is baker’s bread, but not that bread which Christ said he would give us, to wit, his flesh for the life of the world (John 6). Gaudentius speaks of bread consecrated, before he gave it or said, “This is my Body;” but it was not according unto your doctrine turned into Christ’s body before the words this is my body are uttered, neither doth the Priest consecrate Christ’s body but the bread, for consecrare is ex communi sacrum facere, of a thing common before, to make a thing Sacred or a Sacrament. Saint Chrysostom and Saint Augustine both speak of terrestrial bread, or as you call it baker’s bread, not of transubstantiated or celestial bread, for both of them observe in the bread and in the wine a representation of Christ’s mystical body which is one consisting of many members, as a loaf of bread is [singular], yet made of the flower of many [grains] or corns, and the cup of wine is one [draught] made of the juice of many grapes. Isidore speaketh of bread which strengtheneth the body, and therefore of bread in substance and not in appearance only. Lastly, Arnoldus Carmotensis whom you mistake, for Saint Cyprian saith, not that bread is called Christ’s flesh because it is turned into it, but because the thing signifying and the thing signified are called by the same names.

Now to the shreds of sentences of Fathers which your Chaplain takes from your bulk, I will return as short answers in the order as he hath laid them. Irenaeus saith, that the bread in the Eucharist is not common bread, so say we also, for it is consecrated to a holy and heavenly use. Tertullian saith, that he made the bread his own body, that is, as he expoundeth it himself in the same place, the figure of his own body. Saint Jerome saith, the bread came down from heaven, but he meaneth Christ himself, not the Sacramental bread, for that came not down from heaven but was made of wheat growing upon the earth. Saint Augustine as you quoted but indeed Ambrose speaketh of super-substantial bread, thereby he meaneth Christ’s flesh or the heavenly Manna, not that bread eaten in the Sacrament with the mouth as he admonisheth in the next word, it is not the bread which goeth in the body, but the bread of eternal which supporteth the substance of soul, with whom Saint Augustine himself accordeth. Thy Shepherd and thy giver of life is thy meat and eternal bread, learn and teach, live and feed, what is sufficient for thee if thy God be not. Epiphanius saith, that he who believed not the bread to be as our Saviour said (his body) falleth from salvation; ’tis true he that believeth not the bread to be our Saviour’s body, as our Saviour said it to be his body endangereth his salvation, for he questioneth the truth of our Lord, but Epiphanius saith, not that Christ’s words are to be taken literally, nay in that very place he proveth the contrary: for the bread round and without sense, but our Lord know is wholly sensitive or rather all sense. Saint Cyril saith, that which seems bread, is not bread, but Christ’s body, but he in the words going before, and in his Catechism plainly sheweth his own meaning, Come not therefore as unto simple bread and wine, or [r]are bread and wine. The bread after the calling upon of the Holy Ghost, is no more common bread, as the ointment after benediction is no more common ointment but chrism. Yet oil after benediction still retaineth the substance of oil, and so doth the bread after consecration the substance of bread.

The Author Decaen. Dom. who is so much in your Books, that we find him almost in every Section; is not the blessed Martyr Saint Cyprian, as Bellarmine proveth by many arguments, but a far later Writer by name Arnoldus Carmotensis, as the Epistle Dedicatory to Pope Adrian, who sate Anno 1154 extant in All-Souls Library in Oxford testifieth; but be he Cyprian or Arnoldus who wrote the Treatises de cardinalibus Christi operibus, he is no friend to your carnal presence, or Transubstantiation, for in the Chapter cited by you, he hath these words, “we whet not our teeth to eat, but by sincere faith wee break the holy bread.” And in the words immediately following those words which you allege, he saith, that Christ powereth his divine Essence into the Sacrament, even as in Christ under the human nature the divinity lay hid, therefore according to this Author, there remaineth the substance of bread, together with Christ’s Body Sacramentally united, as in Christ, the human and the divine nature remain united hypostatically. And moreover, that when he saith the bread is changed, not in shape, but in nature, and by the Omnipotence of the Word made flesh, that he speaketh of a Sacramental change and not substantial, and that by nature he meaneth the natural and common use, not the essence of bread, appeareth by his own words a little before in this Tract of the Supper of the Lord. That although the immortal food delivered in the Eucharist differ from common meat, yet it retaineth the kind of corporal substance. And in the Treatise following, Our Lord, saith he, at the Table in his last Supper, gave bread and wine with his own hands, and on the Cross he gave up his body to be wounded by the hands of the Soldiers, (pray take special notice that he gave bread at the Table, and his body on the Cross, not his body at the Table, no more than bread at the Cross) that he might expound to the Nations, how divers names or kinds are reduced to the same essence, and the things signifying and signified are called by the same names.

If Cyril would be coming in as your Chaplain speaketh with his Conversion, and Nyssen with his Transmutation, and Theophylact with his Trans-elementation, they shall be met with and repayed all three in their own coin. Cyril who in his Epistle to Colosyrius (if it be his, whereof Vasquez doubteth in his 180th Disputation, upon the 3rd part of Thomas his summa) saith, the bread and wine are changed into the verity of Christ’s flesh: in his second book upon John Chap. 42 saith, that the waters of Baptism are by the operation of the Holy Ghost changed into a divine nature. Nyssen who saith that bread is transmuted into Christ body, saith in the same Oration, that Christ’s human nature is transmuted into a divine excellency. And Gregory Nazienzes, saith, that by Baptism we are transmuted into Christ. Theophylact who upon the 6th of John saith, the bread is transelementated into Christ’s body, saith that we are transelementated into Christ. You see therefore that neither Cyril’sin non-Latin alphabet, nor Nyssen’sin non-Latin alphabet, nor Theopylact’sin non-Latin alphabetcome home to yourin non-Latin alphabet, they import no more than a spiritual Sacramental change. Were they be taken in the most proper sense for a substantial change, yet would they not help you a whit, for in the conversion of water into wine, or the transmutation of one element into another, the formed and accidents are changed, but the common matter remaineth the same, whereas in your Transubstantiation the whole matter and substance perisheth, and the accidents only remain.

3. Confession of our Adversaries.

Thirdly, I prove that the Pronoun (hoc) this standeth for hic panis by confession of our learned Adversaries Gerson, we must say that the Pronoun (hoc) demonstrateth the substance of bread. Gardiner, Christ saith plainly “This is my Body,” pointing to bread. Bellarmine, “The Lord took bread, blessed it, and gave it to his Disciples, and of it said, This is my Body.

4. By Force of Reason.

Fourthly, I prove it by force of reason, when this Pronoun hoc is uttered it must signify something then existent, but that could not be Christ’s body under the accidents of bread, for yourselves teach, that the bread is not turned into Christ’s body till the last instant, in which the whole proposition is uttered: it remaineth therefore that the Pronoun hoc stands for haec accidentia [these accidents] (which ye all disclaim) or hic panis, “this bread” as then unaltered. Hereunto you answer, that hoc doth signify and suppose, not for that instant in which it is uttered, but for the end of the proposition, when the praedicatum [proclamation] is in being, as when I say this is a cross and make it withal, the word “this” doth suppose for the cross, not which is when the word (this) is uttered, but which is within the whole time that I speak, so when I say taceo [nothing], I do not signify that I speak not while I am uttering this word, but that I am silent when I have done uttering.

So saith your Chaplain in these operative speeches of our Saviour, Lazarus come forth, young man arise, the words Lazarus and young man, did not signify persons existent then precisely when they were uttered, but when the speeches were complete.

If Sophistry were the science of salvation, these knack and quirks of wit might be in high esteem, whereas they no more befit Divinity than it would become grave Cato to cut many a cross-caper [i.e. A leaping or dancing in a frolicksome manner]. I might justly remand you & your Chaplain to the disputations in parvis [i.e. church], where such cummin as this is tithed, or rather such gnats strained by puneys [i.e. weak] in Logic: yet because you shall not say that I let pass any apex or title in your book, I will examine all these your instances. To which I reply, first in general, that you beg what you ought to prove and use a base fallacy in all this [?] petitio principii  you take it for granted, that these words of our Saviour (This is my Body) are practical in your sense, that is, work a substantial and miraculous change, which we deny, and you will never be able to make good proof of.

For first, bare words as they are words, have no operative power, much less a virtue to work miracles, which cannot be effected without the employment of the divine Omnipotency.

Secondly, words that are practical, that is used by God or men as instruments to produce any effect of this nature, are imperative or uttered in the imperative mood, as Be thou clean, receive thy sight, Lazarus come forth, young man arise, sile obmutesce [hold still] and the like, not in the indicative, as This is my Body, This is my Blood.

Thirdly, the words of themselves can no more prove the bread to be turned into Christ’s Body than the accidents. For certain it is, and conceded on all sides, that when he uttered these words, “This is my Body,” he pointed to that which he held in his hands, which was a substance clothed with the accidents, color, quantity, taste and the like.

But yourselves confess, that by virtue of these words “This is my Body,” the accidents are not turned into Christ’s Body; therefore neither can it be proved, that by virtue of these words, “This is my Body” the substance of bread is turned into Christ’s Body.

In particular to your first instance in a Cross, which at the same instant you make, and say “this is a Cross.” I answer, first that if you could prove Christ had a purpose to make his Body in your sense, as you have to make a Cross, when you say this is a Cross, and make it withal, this instance of yours were considerable, but till you prove the former, ’tis nothing to the purpose. Secondly, either you have made the Cross with your fingers before, or at the instant when you say (this) or else your speech, this is a Cross, if it be true, is figurative, the present tense est being taken pro proximè futuro, that is, for the time immediately ensuing upon the uttering of your words.

To your second instance, in the word taceo, “I hold my peace.” I answer, that if you will make a proposition of it, you must resolve it into ego sum tacens, “I am silent,” and then the subject (I) is in being when this word (I) is uttered, and likewise the praedicatum [proclamation] “silent” is in being as soon as the word is uttered. Howbeit in ordinary and vulgar speech taceo is taken for jam nunc tacebo, “I hold my peace,” that is, I will utter not a word more.

To your third instance in Lazarus and the young man. I answer, that either Christ by a Metonymy, partis pro toto [part for the whole], called Lazarus his soul, or his body by the name of the whole Lazarus, or if Christ’s speech be proper, that both Lazarus and the young man, at that very instant when Christ called them were persons existent, their souls being returned to their bodies. For though the one came not forth out of his grave, nor the other arose till after our Saviour’s speech was complete and ended, yet I say, and you shall never be able to disprove it, that at the same moment when Christ called Lazarus, Lazarus was in being, and so likewise the young man and the damsel. In a proposition every part or word is vox significativa, as soon as it is uttered, as you may learn out of Aristotle’s book de interpretatione, and Augustine his Dialogue with Adeodatus, therefore as soon as this Pronoun hoc is uttered, it must then signify something then being. A proposition is a complexum, like to a heap, or a number of three grains, whereof though the number be not complete till the actual adding of the third grain, yet hath every grain his existence when it is first laid; if the parts of the proposition signified not the parts of our conception, the whole could not signify the whole, that which is in speech a proposition, is in the understanding a composition, and the simple must needs be presupposed existent, before we can actually compound them. If this will not satisfy you, I leave you to Cardinal Bellarmine and the Trent Catechism and Salmeron to be better informed in this point both of Grammar and Divinity.

Salmeron affirmeth with a profectò [i.e. progression] and full asseveration [i.e. solemn declaration], that the speech of him who in drawing a circle doth say this is a circle, cannot without trope or figure be judged true.

The Fathers of the Counsel of Trent in a Catechism, set forth by the commandment of Pope Pius the fifth, affirm directly against you and your Chaplain, that such is the force of this word hoc, that it demonstrateth the substance of a thing present.

Cardinal Bellarmine taketh you also to task, relates your opinion and professedly refuteth it. Some Catholics saith he answer, that in such propositions which signify that which is then done when it is spoken, the demonstrative pronouns do not demonstrate that which is, but that which will be, and they give these examples, as if one drawing a line or circle, saith, this is a line, this is a circle, as also the pronoun ought to be expounded in those words of Christ (John 15) “This is my commandment.” You cannot but say that this is your very opinion, and the grounds you lay down for it. Now observe I pray you how punctually the Cardinal answers them: Although saith he, the pronoun demonstrative demonstrates a thing future when there is nothing present which may be demonstrated by it as in the former examples: Yet if a man should point to something with his finger when he uttereth the pronoun hoc or this, it seems to be very absurd to say that the pronoun this doth not demonstrate something present. But our Lord took bread, and reaching it, said, “Take eat this is my Body;” he seems therefore to have demonstrated bread, neither is it any thing against which they allege for themselves, that a proposition doth not signify till the end of the proposition, when the whole is uttered, for though that be true of a preposition which is a kind of Oration, yet the demonstrative pronouns presently signify some certain thing even before the other words follow, & verily ’tis exceeding harsh to say that in these words, “Drink ye all of this,” the pronoun this doth not demonstrate the thing which then was, but only that which should be afterward.

Lastly, whether hoc signify as soon as it is uttered, or after the whole proposition is pronounced, I demand of you what it signifieth, not these accidents, for the accidents are not Christ’s Body. Aquinas, Suarez, and Bellarmine, not only reject that Exposition, but also brand it with the name of a most absurd conceit. Of the same judgment are Soto and Jansenius. If the pronoun hoc demonstrate not accidents it must demonstrate the substance; either of bread then or Christ’s Body, if the substance of bread, then is there in the words necessarily a Tropology; if of Christ’s Body, then you make of them a Tautology or Battology [A needless repetition of woods in speaking]. And here again you stick in the mud, and though your Chaplain labor with might and main to pull you out of it, yet he plucks you not out, but you draw him in, and both are swallowed up in the same quagmire. For if this your interpretation be admitted, this body of mine is my body, these absurdities will necessarily ensue upon it:

1. That these words are not consecratory.
2. That they are not at all [efficacious].
3. That they are not argumentative or [predicable].
4. That they are mere identical and nugatory.

Absurdities of the Papist Interpretation

1. Consecratory words are such, whereby something which before was common is made sacred, according to the words of Saint Augustine, accedit verbum ad elementum & fit Sacramentum. But if the meaning of these words, “This is my Body” be this body of mine is my body, nothing by them of common is made sacred. For Christ’s body was never common, but always most sacred, and by your explication hoc “this” hath no reference to bread but to Christ’s body.

2. You teach generally that these words of the institution are not contemplative, but practical and operatory, that is, they effect what they signify, and indeed upon this hinge hang all your doctrine of Transubstantiation and carnal presence: but glossing the words with your paraphrase, viz. This body is my body, you break down this hinge. For all words which are operatory, or practical, produce something by their prolation, which was not before: but Christ’s body was his body before the prolation of these words; therefore by the prolation of these words it is not made. If you answer as your Chaplain doth, that Christ by these words made not indeed his body, yet thereby he made his body to be under the shape of bread: you quite overthrow your doctrine of Transubstantiation. For the putting a body which was existent before, in a place or under a shape where it was not before, as for example, a candle under a bushel, or a picture under a curtain, or a face under a mask, is a trans-location, or transposition, or alteration of habit, or whatsoever rather than a Transubstantiation. This your acute Schoolmen well saw, Aureolus, Vasquez, and Suarez, and therefore contend for a new production of Christ’s body in the Sacrament. For a mere succeeding of it in the place of bread, or union thereof with the accidents, or bringing it to, and placing it on the Lord’s Table will not infer a Transubstantiation, their reasons are good. Aureolus thus argues, when one thing precisely succeeds another, it is not true to say that that thing to which another succeedeth doth come, and is converted into that which succeedeth: that thing doth not pass into another which ceaseth to be before it come to that other; as for example, we say not that the Sea or a river passeth into another, which is dried up before it can come to it: as you say the substance of bread is abolished before the substance of Christ’s body succeed. Vasquez thus impugneth your assertion, if Christ’s body be produced de novo [from the beginning] but only united and applied to the Sacramental signs to which it was not before, this union, by whatsoever means it be wrought is only accidental, and consequently cannot make substantial conversion. Suarez drives this nail to the head, by a mere addictive action (whereby Christ’s body brought to be under the shape of bread) the true nature of Transubstantiation is not unfolded, such an adduction importeth only a trans-location and not a substantial conversion, when one substance only succeeds in the place of another, the one cannot properly be said to be converted into the other. For how absurd were it to say that D. Bishop were transubstantiated into D. Smith, because D. Smith succeeds him in the See of Chalcedon; or that when your four Lecturers at the Sorbonne one after another read in the same pew, that at every new Lecture there is a new Transubstantiation, and by name that D. who at seven o’ clock, is transubstantiated into D. Filsac, who takes his room and reads at nine o’ clock.

3. By this your Exposition you cut yourself in the hammes, and enervate your main argument for Transubstantiation. For as I told you in the Conference, the bare affirming Christ’s body to be his body, proves not that any thing is turned into it. If Christ were now coming in the clouds, and any pointing to the cloud should say this or there is Christ’s body, could any from thence conclude the conversion of the cloud into his body? Every proposition which is of use in argumentation, and can afford or minister a reason to prove anything, must consist of one or more of the four praedicata topica, or at least one of the quinque praedicabilia [five predicables], as every young Sophister can inform you: but in this proposition “This is my Body,” as you expound it, this my body is my body, there is none of the four praedicata topica, or quinque praedicabilia. For the predicate herein is neither genus, nor species, nor differentia [difference], nor proprium [property], nor accidents of the subject, but the self same with it re and ratione [reason].

4. Hence it followeth, that the proposition is merely identical and nugatory, which to affirm of any of the words of the word of life especially of these whereby he instituted a most divine Sacrament were blasphemy, this fearful consequence thus I infer upon your interpretation.

Every proposition in which the subject and predicate are the same, not only quoad suppositum, but also quoad significationem, is merely Identical and nugatory. In this proposition “God is wise,” the subject and the predicate are the same, quoad suppositum, but not quoad significationem, for the subjectum “Deus” signifieth God’s Essence in general, the predicate “wise” signifieth but one Attribute in particular; which though in regard of the simplicity of the divine Essence, it be all one with God himself, yet is it distinguished from God quoad nostrum modum concipiendi, according to our apprehension. Likewise in this proposition, Petrus est Apostolus, “Peter is an Apostle,” or “a man is a living creature,” the praedicatum and subjectum are the same, quoad suppositum, for Peter is that Apostle, and that Apostle is Peter, a man is that living creature, and that living creature is a man, yet they differ, quoad significationem, for the subject signifieth the person of Peter, the predicate his office, and in the other proposition the subject signifieth the compositum, the predicate an essential part only; and so in all other instances your Chaplain brings: neither can any one instance be brought of a proposition which is not merely nugatory, in which the praedicatum and subjectum are not distinct quo ad significationem.

But according to your exposition in this proposition, “This is my Body,” the subject this and the predicate body are the same, not only quoad suppositum, but also quoad significationem, not only quoad rem, but also quoad modum; for i… it idem numero, which is maximè idem [mainly the same] is predicatum de eodem numero, the subject hoc standing for and signifying bread actually turned into Christ’s Body, and the predicate Christ’s Body made of bread.

Ergo according to your interpretation, the words of institution, contain proposition merely identical or nugatory.

If I thought you had not already you full […]ad. I could add more weight to my former replies, from the authority of your great Gamaliels, at whose feet you and your Chaplain were brought up, I mean Aquinas, Soto, Durand, and Bellarmine.

Aquinas thus loads you. Some have said that the pronoun this is to be understood not for the instant in which the word is uttered, but for the last instant of the whole speech, as when I say taceo [nothing], I do not signify that I speak not while I am uttering this word, but that I am silent when I have done uttering of it, (is not this your own instance, p. 127.) But saith Aquinas this cannot stand, because according to this gloss, the sense of Christ’s words should be my body is my body, which the above named speech doth not make to be so, because it was so before the uttering of these words.

Soto thus presseth you. This opinion saith he, (which referreth the pronoun hoc to that which is accomplished after the pronunciation of the whole proposition, that is, to bread actually turned into Christ’s Body) is not consonant to the truth, for the pronoun should demonstrate Christ’s body, and make this sense the body is the body. Now this form of speech is no way operative, nor doth it turn bread into Christ’s body, because, before the uttering of them it was true that Christ’s body was his body.

Durand thus chargeth you. If the pronoun hoc points to Christ’s Body, the proposition maybe true, referring the pointing thereof to the last instant of the prolation of the words, because then Christ’s body begins to be under the accidents of bread, and the sense may be, this that is my body, is my body, but this form of speech is not agreeable to the Sacrament, because this Sacrament doth not make Christ’s body to be his body, but only makes it to be in the Sacrament or under the accidents of bread, now the proposition so understood as above is expressed, only implies that Christ’s body is his body, and not that it is made by this Sacrament, which is against the nature of every Sacrament all form wherein that is effected, by the uttering of the words which they signify.

Bellarmine thus clearly confutes you, and cuts your throat as it were with a knife whet upon your own grindstone. Sacramental words according to Catholics, are not speculative but practical, for they effect that which they signify, whence they are called operatory, but if the pronoun hoc demonstrate only the body, the words will be speculative not practical, for ’tis always true, pointing to Christ’s body, to say this is the body of Christ, whether the words be spoken before Consecration or after, either by a Priest or a Lay person, but the Sacramental words, because they are operatory, or working words have not their force unless they be spoken by a lawful Minister, neither are they true before the Sacrament is administered.

[1] “Here he speaks of the bread and wine after consecration and of the nourishment of the flesh resulting from them. Hence it follows according to him that the bread and wine are not common as to use, but still remain as to substance and are not converted substantially into the body and blood of Christ. Thus it is not a change of nature, but of use by the signification, which he wishes however to attach to the incarnation of Christ by the hypostatical union, although a memorable distinction occurs between them.” (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology XIX.xxvi.xvii, vol. 3, p. 475).

[2] cf. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Eucharistic Doctrine by Phillip Schaf (NPNF2, vol. 7, pp. 60-67).

[3] cf. The Tale of John Chrysostom’s Letter to Caesarius: Eucharist, Dogma, Textual Criticism, and Propaganda by Steven Wedgeworth.

[4] cf. The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology by Edward J. Kilmartin pp. 33-34.


10 thoughts on ““This Is My Body”: Literal or Figurative?

  1. Christ is the yeast that is physically not there. Christ is there when he says so. He is the yeast like we are meant to be the salt. For bread is alive when the yeast is alive so Christ is the bread of life


  2. The original texts were written in koine Greek, not Latin, first and foremost. The refusal to use the original text shows that the author is not interested in getting to the truth, but proving his assertion through the use of reason and quotes taken out of context instead of rightly exegeting Scripture.

    εστιν = IS

    To discuss the grammar of the phrase requires examining the original text and language. In Greek, the phrase translated as “this IS My body,” is a literal statement. To disagree with that disagrees with the doctrines and teaching of Christianity for the first 1600 years of the Church’s existence. Besides, saying God cannot do something is not only illogical, but potentially blasphemous.

    The misappropriation of out-of-context quotes is egregious. For example, Irenaeus wrote against heretics saying “How did the Lord rightly, if another were His Father, taking bread of this condition that is usual amongst us, confess it to be His body?” The issue was not “how is this bread Christ’s body,” but “if Christ isn’t God, how is what He said true.” The over-reliance of Aristotelian logic is detrimental to the Christian faith since, like the Gnostics of old, if brings into question the very divine nature of Christ. Forcing God into a box built by reason limits God and results in the worship of Reason. If Christ’s words “this is My body… this is My blood” is not true, then how can “I am the resurrection and the life” be true? Moreover, how can “it is finished,” or “surely I am with you always, until the end of the age” be true?

    Either Christ is to be taken at His word and believed, or our faith is in vain, as St. Paul stated bluntly in his first letter to Corinth. If someone wishes to believe that the clear words of Scripture are not proclaiming what they unquestionably do, then that is their right. What is not appropriate is to claim to “prove” using Scripture something contrary to Scripture.


  3. I am an ex Roman Catholic and convert to the Reformed faith and Protestantism. I became a Presbyterian almost 8 years ago by making my affirmation of faith as Presbyterian on October 24th 2010 , the Sunday before Reformation Sunday. I always had difficulty with the RC teaching of the sacrament of the Lords Supper called transubstantiation. I simply said and believed while still a Roman Catholic that Christ is present in the Lords Supper but I rejected the teaching of transubstantiation because it was not even reasonable in any way. I believed even while still a Roman Catholic that how Jesus becomes present in the Lords Supper is a mystery of the infinite God. One of the reasons I became a Presbyterian was that after reading John Calvin’s teaching on the Lords Supper I discovered I believe as do Presbyterians in Christ’s presence in the Supper but I believe as Calvin taught that the Lords Supper is spiritual food for the soul, not carnal food for the body. I left the Roman catholic church because of many reasons but I definitely did not believe in transubstantiation even before I discovered John Calvin. However when I did read what Calvin taught I believed the same and thought I am really in many ways and particularly about the Lords Supper a Presbyterian, a Reformed Protestant. I did not as much convert as I discovered I was in essence in my belief about the Lords Supper a Reformed Protestant and I knew I was not any longer a Roman catholic according to her teachings. The Catholic church never rescinded the teachings of the Council of Trent. Rome’s reaction to the Protestant Reformation. regarding the Lords supper Trent said:”If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema” (Session Thirteen, chapter 8, canon 1). Anathema said I was cursed and was excommunicated from the RCC. So it was only sensible for me to also say at that point I excommunicated out of communion with the RCC fine, I consider Rome wrong and therefrom on I have said I have renounced my former Roman catholic faith completely and all her teaching and traditions which contradict the scriptures and the teaching of the gospel. I am really a Protestant Christian in my beliefs and I am in every way really a Presbyterian! So I also have said my conversions was gradual and more a process of discovering the true faith, the Reformed faith, the faith of the early church before Rome corrupted it with teachings like transubstantiation and adding additional sacraments above the only two in the bible, Baptism, and The Lords Supper. ~ Dudley Davis ~

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  4. “It is not true that the Papists retain the letter, seeing that they put in the place of the words of Christ, ‘this is my body,’ this gloss: ‘This thing, or indefinite substance contained under these forms is my body;’ much less, therefore, do the consubstantialists retain the literal and true meaning of the words of Christ, seeing that they substitute their own words in the place of what Christ said, saying, ‘in, with, and under this bread is my body;’ or, ‘the bread and the body of Christ, which is invisibly concealed in this bread, is my body.'” —Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 410.

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  5. […] This question is similar to the controversy in the other sacrament about the meaning of “this is my body.” In arguing for Transubstantiation, Romanists perfidiously assert that they hold to the plain meaning of the text and that Protestants change the term “is” to “signifies,” i.e. “this signifies my body.” But in reality Rome changes the meaning of the term “this” from referring to the bread to referring to Christ’s body, i.e. “this body is my body” instead of the clear meaning, “this bread is my body,” which is obviously figurative. […]


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