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The Cannibalistic Christ:

A Survey of the Language and Rhetoric in the Bread of Life Discourse

C.R. Perkins

RLGN 301 – D01

Prof. Jill Hannity

April 29, 2017


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The Eucharist has been the crux of the Christian faith and liturgical life for nearly two

millennia, and various theological interpretations of biblical passages have forced alternative

readings of certain narratives. St. John the Theologian, referred to in his gospel as “the disciple

whom Jesus loved,” offers a unique narrative conveying the nature of Christ’s Last Supper

before the institution was officially initiated. Components of the purpose, function, and method

of the Lord’s Supper as understood in the Eucharistic institution are found in the Bread of Life

Discourse (Jn. 6:22-59). By analyzing the language and rhetoric employed by Christ in this

narrative, a foundation for accurately understanding the nature and meaning of His words can be

understood.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Johannine corpus is that it contains the only

gospel to not have a Lord’s Supper narrative as a grandiose theme during the Passover Feast

before Jesus’s death. Although a supper is passively mentioned, the apostle John emphasizes

instead the foot washing ceremony that Christ performed afterwards (Jn. 13:1-17). Despite the

absence of the Lord’s Supper in John’s gospel, it is invalid to argue that there exists a lack of

eucharistic theology in the Johannine corpus, because John 6 directs its readers to understand the

nature of the sacrament that Christians had been practicing for decades before the composition of

John’s writings. The Eucharist was a standardized Christian practice by the middle of the 1st

century, only decades after Christ’s death as witnessed in Paul’s liturgical evocation of a

commonly experienced eucharistic setting (I Cor. 11:23-28).1 Contextually, John would have

been familiar with catholic eucharistic theology and orthodox liturgical practices, and it is likely

that he intentionally omitted the Last Supper narrative from his gospel on the basis that the

1
Frank C. Seen, Introduction to Christian Liturgy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 5-
9.
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Synoptic gospel writers had already expounded on the event eloquently enough (Mt. 26:17-30;

Mk. 14:12-26; Lk. 22:7-39). Therefore, the Gospel is John is not inherently anti-sacramental, as

scholars such as Bultmann have purported,2 but it is written within the sacramental context of the

first century Christian Church evidenced in the liturgical reference of St. Paul:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that Jesus on the night when he
was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is
my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took
the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often
as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the
cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or
drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and
blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink
the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks
judgment on himself, (I Cor. 11: 23-29).

In this letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul is invoking a connection between this

sacramental meal and the Christ’s body and blood, linking the cup and bread to the body and

blood.3 Given that the apostle Peter, chief among the twelve, calls for the catholic Church to

submit to the teachings of Paul who “also wrote… according to the wisdom given to him [from

God],” St. John would have written His gospel within the context and under the theological

authority of the Pauline corpus (II Pet. 3:15b).

The Johannine emphasis on the foot-washing of the apostles by Christ rather than the

Last Supper itself on the night that Jesus was betrayed provides a framework for understanding

2
Paul N. Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in the
Light of John 6 (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1996), 115-119; For an elementary refutation of
Bultmann’s anti-sacramentalism, see D.E. Aune, “The Phenomenon of Early Christian ‘Anti-
Sacramentalism,’” in Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature, Essays in Honor
of A.P. Wikgren, eds. D.E. Aune, Leiden (Belgium: E.J. Brill, 1972), 194-214.
3
Andrew Brian McGowen, "The myth of the 'Lord's Supper': Paul's Eucharistic meal
terminology and Its ancient reception," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 77, no. 3 (July 2015),
503.
4

the divine condescension of God, the essential meaning behind the Eucharist itself. In his

commentary on the passage, St. Augustine of Hippo teaches that

we ought, dearly beloved, [to] carefully to mark the meaning of the evangelist; because
that, when about to speak of the pre-eminent humility of the Lord, it was his desire first
to commend His majesty… It is He, therefore, into whose hands the Father had given all
things, who now washes, not the disciples’ hands, but their feet: and it was just while
knowing that He had come from God, and was proceeding to God, that He discharged the
office of a servant, not of God the Lord, but of man. And this also is referred to by the
prefatory notice he had been pleased to make of His betrayer, who was now come as
such, and was not unknown to Him; that the greatness of His humility should be still
further enhanced by the fact that He did not esteem it beneath His dignity to wash also
the feet of one whose hands He already foresaw to be steeped in wickedness.4

St. Augustine makes it clear that John is not condemning sacramentalism, pietism, or

cultism. John’s purpose is altogether different, for it is his intention to convey the humility of

God before man. The crescendo of this movement, according to Augustine, is the washing of

Judas’s feet, revealing the humiliation of God as He descends to the feet of His betrayer (Jn.

13:1-21). Therefore, it is right to assume that the apostle John should not be understood as an

anti-sacramentalist due to the unique nature of his corpus, but should instead be approached as an

epistler attempting to convey a familiar message with an alternative cosmological perspective to

the Christian world in the first century.

It is in John 6:31-33, the purpose of the Eucharist is given by Christ, who typologically

likens Himself to the manna given to Israel for sustenance. In referring to Himself as the bread of

life in similar and signifying Himself to be the antitypical manna from God, the purpose of the

Eucharist is understood to be inherently “life-giving” (see Jn. 1:4). The same deity that declared

the powerful “I AM” in Exodus 3:14 now pronounces in the gospel, “I am the bread of life,” (Jn.

6:31-33). The language employed in the Bread of Life Discourse does not indicate symbolism

4
The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo: A New Translation, ed. Marcus
Dods (Edinburgh: T&T Clark: 1884), 194.
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but rather a type of being. A.J. Harill has suggested that the entire dialogue found within the

Bread of Life is reminiscent of a revelation discourse, arguing that the language used by Christ in

this passage is unmistakably cannibalistic.5 The meaning behind Jesus’s words in John 6:22-59

can be understood by surveying the exchange by Jesus, who is the teacher, and His followers,

who are students. This exchange is (1) the language employed by Christ and (2) the reaction of

His followers.

Firstly, it is clear that Jesus was intentionally choosing to avoid speaking parabolically,

because the strict and literal sense in which He spoke is not threatened or perturbed by the falling

away of thousands of his accumulated followers. Upon referring to the consumption of his body

and blood with strictly cannibalistic terminology, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my

blood has eternal life [Gk. ὁ τρώγων μου τὴν σάρκα καὶ πίνων μου τὸ αἷμα ἔχει ζωὴν],” (Jn.

6:54a).

In this text, Christ is conveying the concept of bodily consumption as a predicator to

eternality. It is unlikely that he uses this phrase euphemistically to infer belief, because to eat a

man’s flesh and to drink his blood would have had a recognizable Semitic axiom. “[They] the

flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them

in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the cauldron,” (Mic. 3:3). When Jesus then

commands his followers to “eat” of his flesh to achieve salvation, he is essentially claiming that

he must undergo extreme physical pain and martyrdom in order for his followers to achieve

salvation. His followers would not have understood these words metaphorically, rather, they

would have assumed that Jesus was, at least, referring to himself as a divine martyr who would

Albert, J. Harill, “Canniblaistic Language in the Fourth Gospel and Greco-Roman


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Polemics of Factionalism (John 6:52-66), Journal of Biblical Literature 127, no. 1 (2008): 135.
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be put to death by the Jews.

Secondly, the literal understanding of Christ’s words lies dormant in the reaction of the

students in the narrative. Christ’s followers, when hearing Christ explain this concept, deserted

him upon understanding what was being implied. When Jesus speaks parabolically throughout

many gospel accounts, he often elaborates on the meaning of the parable, at least to two the

beloved twelve, explaining the teaching that he sought to convey with images and symbols. In

the case of the Bread of Life Discourse, however, Jesus offers no further understanding of his

teaching. His followers abandoned him for this very reason, because they realized that he was

not speaking metaphorically with symbols and images; rather, they were keenly aware that Christ

was teaching a pseudo-cannibalistic doctrine that was incompatible with Hebrew theology (Gen.

9:6; Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53-57; Ezek. 5:10). Instead of beckoning to his deserters to return and

understand some esoteric meaning behind his words, he then turns and asks his disciples, “You

do not want to go away also, do you?” (v. 67). The language of Christ in this narrative directs the

reader to deny the possibility that the prototypical Eucharistic teachings of Christ in John 6 was

not metaphorical or parabolic, as Jesus deems it unnecessary or impossible to further extrapolate

the concept to the twelve. This infers that that which Christ taught in the Bread of Life Discourse

is not parabolic in its nature, because it does not follow the biblical parabolic structure of

Parabolic Message/Confusion of the Followers/Explanation to the Followers (Matt. 13:10-17).6

Instead, this typical progression ceases after his followers are confused, predicating that Jesus’s

message is not intended to fit within the general parabolic category and that the concept he seeks

to convey is straightforwardly literal.

6
Patrick J. Temple, “The Eucharist in John 6,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 9, no. 4
(1947): 446.
7

There is no further theological development given, and Jesus does not afterwards liken

himself to bread and wine, nor does he offer an “easier-to-digest” version of the teaching upon

witnessing the difficulty of its reception: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60).

The lack of progressing his disciples’ understanding can be attributed to the fact that the fullness

of Christ’s eucharistic theology in this narrative has already fallen upon the ears of his followers,

thousands of whom left him due to the difficulty of its reception.

Gerhard van den Heever, a South African Dutch Reformed New Testament scholar, has

analyzed John’s Christology and believes that an underlying theme of opposition (good-evil,

light-darkness, life-death) lays the entire foundation for John’s theology instilled throughout the

gospel. In John 6, gospel narrative reaches a climax as the Messiah who had accumulated a

massive quantity of followers forces a profound choice upon them.7 They must eat his flesh and

consume his blood or forfeit eternal life.

Heever claims that John is consciously aware of the Messiah’s enigmatic social situation,

meaning that the language used by John is intentional. By claiming a crypto-cannibalistic

understanding of the eventual Lord’s Supper, Christ is purposefully placing a stumbling block

before his Jewish followers. Because of this, John’s gospel can be considered the most anti-

Semitic, employing language that is intended to be offensive and scandalous. The followers who

left on the basis of the difficulty of receiving this doctrine were not rebuked by Jesus for their

inability to comprehend the fullness of this teaching, because the doctrine was intended to be

difficult to believe. The Christological reality that John consciously conveys in the Bread of Life

Discourse flew directly in the face of Second Temple Judaism, a theme that is echoes by Paul

7
Gerhard van den Heever, “Finding data in unexpected places (or: From text linguistics
to socio-rhetoric). Towards a socio-rhetorical reading of John’s Gospel,” Neotestamentica 33,
no. 2 (1999): 347.
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who claims that “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews,” (I Cor. 1:23a).

Because of the severe implications latent in asserting a highly literalistic Eucharistic

theology, it naturally follows that without “remembering” the Lord’s Supper during ecclesiastical

hours, one neglects the gift of God and starves by abstaining from the supernatural and eternal

bread of life. Because of the intensely literal language employed by Christ in this Johannine

narrative, the institution of the Holy Eucharist is essentially the bread and butter of the Church;

that is, the institution of the Lord’s Supper is that which makes an ecclesiastical community

canonically ecclesiastical. Without the manifestation of Christ in a consecrated Eucharistic host,

the fullness of Christian worship—minimally in the sense of eucharistic remembrance—is

absent.8 Because Christ’s body and blood is referred to in a cannibalistic fashion as being the

nourishing source for Christian sustenance, the Eucharist is necessarily the initiatory work of

God towards communion with mankind and predicates a communion’s canonical status before

God.

This initiated manifestation of grace on God’s behalf extended to the cloudy of the

darkness of the human soul proceeds from an unmistakably Johannine Christology. It is only by

understanding the institution of the sacrament itself that we can properly interpret the function of

the Eucharist. Its function is ontologically a procession from God, evident in vv. 32-33, wherein

Christ teaches that although Moses was an agent through which God provided the life-giving

miracle of manna in the wilderness, the ontological precedent was found in the vision of God. As

the neo-manna from God, Christ is also the neo-Moses, bringing before humanity the source of

life. That source is none other than the Christ, who is “the bread of God… who comes down

8
Maximos Aghiorghoussis, “Holy Eucharist in Ecumenical Dialogue: An Orthodox
View,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 13, no. 2 (1976): 204.
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from heaven and gives life to the world,” therefore, its function is plainly an extension of divine

mercy to the human race (v. 33).

When speaking of the function of the Eucharist, one is predominately concerned with

discerning the nature of its procession, reception, and nature. The Eucharist is gift proceeding

from the Divine Trinity itself, for the will of God can be understood as singular and not threefold

or distributed amongst his persons; rather, it is located within His sole essence, wherein the three

exist as one. This is perhaps the most popular interpterion, for the Son is offered to mankind as a

Paschal Lamb in accordance with the Trinitarian will of God, proceeding from the Father,

through the incarnation and ministry of the Son, and regularly officiated by the Holy Spirit. This

orthodox Christological procession of the Son and Spirit from the Father and the Spirit through

the Son must be applied to the eucharistic host as well if a highly literal understanding of the

eucharistic host as the real presence of God the Son is to be assumed.

The Eucharist, then, is not a work of humanity’s volition offered to God in good service.

It is a syncretic collaboration of God initiating the participation of Christ’s incarnated and broken

body and blood to the entirety of the human race. The apostle Paul understood this function of

the Eucharist, writing that before the Advent of the Messiah, every priest would stand daily at his

service, “offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins,” (Heb. 11:11

emphasis added). But when Christ became incarnated, he “offered for all time a single sacrifice

for sins… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,”

(Heb. 11:14). Notice that Paul is not teaching that the office of a ministerial priesthood has been

entirely revoked, nor is he eliciting the ritualistic sacrificial system of the Jews during the first

century as inherently invalid before the inception of Jesus. Instead, he paints a portrait of Jesus’s

broken body and blood as a singular sacrifice, in which the entire Christian faithful participate in
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through the liturgical life of the Church.

Continuing in the train of thought regarding Christ’s singular sacrifice, Paul writes that

“since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living

way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a

great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in a full assurance of faith,”

(Heb. 11:19-22a). A characteristic eucharistic theology can be seen as developing in the Pauline

corpus, as he refers to both entering “the holy places by the blood of Jesus” through “his flesh,”

and that because of this divine gift, the Christian faithful can “draw near” with a “full assurance

of faith.” This teaching would have surfaced in mainstream Christian thought by the time of the

Gospel of John’s composition, and the apostle would have been familiar with this distinguished

teaching given to the Hebrews. In accordance with the priesthood of Christ, by which Christians

are permitted to enter into the holy places through his eucharistic institution, the apostle John

records Jesus as saying, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” (Jn.

6:51b).

The prolific structuralist scholar J.D. Crossan points out a strong connection between the

Johannine and Pauline eucharistic traditions can be seen in Jn. 6:49-58 and I Cor. 11:27-29,

where a liturgical formula appears to be passively reminisced: Eat/Body/Drink/Blood and

Eat/Bread/Drink/Wine.9 The similarities here point to a mutually shared practice and

understanding of the eucharistic function. The language employed is remarkably formulaic

considering that there is a sense of repetition or evocation of a common source. The formulae

imply a sense of permanence and repetitious invocation via the clear correlation of Christ’s body

John Dominic Crossan, “It Is Written: A Structuralist Analysis of John 6,” Semeia 26
9

(1983): 7.
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and blood with bread and wine.10 This correlation provides a steady foundation for accepting the

function to be a literal “feeding” upon Christ’s broken body and blood through the consumption

of the eucharistic host (i.e. consecrated bread and wine).

The function of the Eucharist as understood within the context of God coming to man is

supported by the prominent 13th century theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas. According

to Aquinas, the Bread of Life Discourse is significant because its protagonist is the incarnated

Word of God, emphasizing the entrance of God into the world. Aquinas taught that to achieve

salvation, one needed to be nurtured and sustained by the person of Christ, and as a human

person is a composite being possessing both body and soul, the agent through which Christ

would nurture mankind would necessary be both material and spiritual.11 This opens up another

dimension into the rhetoric employed by Christ in this narrative, for He is referring to Himself as

both “food” and the harbinger of “eternal life,” leading us to a naturally Thomistic and

psychosomatic understanding of the eucharistic theology present in this passage. Christ as the

food for humanity and harbinger of eternal life is a necessarily spiritual implication of Christ’s

eucharistic sermon in the Bread of Life Discourse.

The theological inferences that can be obtained from the Gospel of John are far more

significant than those obtained from other gospels, for while the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and

Luke are primarily concerned with providing a coherent narrative of Christ’s birth and ministry,

John’s utmost concern is in providing the theological framework of recreation. Because of the

intense theological aptitude contained within his gospel, the Eastern Orthodox Church has

10
Ibid.

11
Reading John with St. Thomas Aquinas: Theological Exegesis and Speculative
Theology, Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering, eds. (Washington: Catholic University of
America, 2012), 43.
12

bestowed to the apostle the title of “Theologian,” a title bestowed only to two other canonical

saints.12 The understanding Christ as the recreator of the cosmos is illumined by the apostle John

by the opening words in his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word,” directly evoking the

opening of Genesis, “In the beginning God,” (Jn. 1:1; Gen. 1:1). Throughout his entire gospel,

John revisits this idea of God becoming man to recreate, restore, and redeem the fallen created

order, and this is seen in the symbolism of a light illuminating the darkness.

In the Johannine corpus, God and Man are often paired with the symbol of light and

darkness. The theological mindset of John depicts a dichotomic battlefield laid for the forces of

good and evil, life and death, light and darkness. In 1:5, it is written that “[i]n [Christ] was life

(Gk. ζωή; zōē), and the life was the light of all men,” and in 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of

life (Gk. ζωή; zōē); whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall

never thirst,” painting the purpose of the Eucharist as a harmonious portrait of Christ’s life-

giving light received via the consumption of His body and blood. It appears that the very

prologue of John’s gospel directs the reader to the Bread of Life Discourse and that eucharistic

theology is latent even within its opening sentences. Still in the prologue, John records that

“[Christ] came to his own, and his people did not receive him,” (Jn. 1:11). Later in this gospel

narrative, “the Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his

flesh to eat?’” and afterwards “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with

him,” (6:52, 66).

In light of these connotations, G.A. Kennedy, a Harvard-trained classicist, highlights the

literary aspects of John’s gospel by directing readers to understand the presence of John’s theme

12
Nicolas Laos, Methexiology: Philosophical Theology and Theological Philosophy for
the Deification of Humanity (Eugene: Pickwick, 201), 161-162
13

of recreation.13 The entire gospel of John constantly refers to its prologue that stresses a high

Christology. The rhetoric employed by the apostle is intended to instill the message of Jesus as

the life and light of all men, and it is within this Christological framework that the entirety of

John’s gospel should be read. Therefore, when Jesus claims to be the corporeal bread from

heaven in the likeness of the manna received by the Israelites in the Old Testament, the

Johannine depiction of Christ as the life and light is intended to mean that he is the essential

sustenance for God’s people. Kennedy also argues that it is only by understanding Jesus as the

Son of God—that is, God Himself—that we can arrive at the intended meaning of the text. The

bread of life is the life of all men, and in 6:35, John is evoking 1:5; furthermore, the falling away

of the masses in 6:52, 6 is a direct reference to 1:11, and it is entirely possible that John penned

these verses with such connotations in mind.

The method of the Eucharist, that is, how it should be performed, is understood only by

understanding the formula, language, and context wherein John penned his gospel narrative. To

recall the structural nature of the narrative as pointed out by Crossman, the method of the

Eucharistic institution is evidently formulaic in John 6:49-58 (Eat/My Flesh//Drink/My Blood),

as it is also invoked by St. Paul in I Cor. 11:27-29 (Eat/Bread//Drink/Cup), indicating a

commonly-acknowledged eucharistic consecration.14 Because this formulaic expression of

Eucharistic language is a recurring trend in the structuralist nature of the biblical record, it is

reasonable to believe that during the composition of the Johannine corpus there was a

recognizable liturgical shape to the Church. The Liturgy of St. James (or the Jacobite Liturgy) is

George A. Kennedy, “An Introduction to the Rhetoric of the Gospels,” Rhetorica: A


13

Journal of the History of Rhetoric 1, no. 2 (1983): 18.


14
Ibid, Crossan.
14

the earliest known Christian liturgy, considered by some sources to have been drafted by the

apostle himself who repeats the Pauline evocation in his liturgical composition.15 The post-

apostolic era of the Christian Church is filled with references to the methodology of Eucharistic

practice, teaching that a proper Eucharist is exclusively concelebrated upon an altar, under the

authority of a bishop, within a presbytery, and accompanied by priests and deacons. 16 It is clear

that before the close of the first century, Christianity had developed a recognizable liturgical life

that revolved around sacramental theology.

In the Bread of Life Discourse, the method by which the Lord’s Supper ought to be

administered in can be understood by the epilogue of the narrative, where Christ says to his

apostles, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil,” (v. 70b). In this

passage, Jesus is foretelling the authority that will be invested in the apostolic office at a later

period. This is inferred due to the placement of this exchange. Upon teaching that his body and

blood must be consumed, Christ immediately turns to the twelve and tests them, so to speak,

15
The liturgy of St. James may therefore be considered to have originated near the time
of the birth of Christianity; at least in the first century of our ӕra.” Cyclopedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, eds. John M’Clintcock and James Strong, Vol. 4
(New York: Harper & Publishers, 1894), 761.
16
“And when the president [or one who presides] has given thanks, and all the people
have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to
partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced…
and this food is called among us εὐχαριστέω [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to
partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true… For not as common
bread and common drink do we received these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior,
having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so
likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer f Hiss word, and from
which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus
who made the flesh.” The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of The Writings of the Fathers
Down to A.D. 325, eds. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, A. Cleveland Coxe, Vol. 1 (New
York: Scribner’s, 1905), 181.
15

asking, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter characteristically speaks on behalf of the

twelve, pledging an undying loyalty to Jesus as a devoted zealot. Jesus’s response, however,

appears to be disappointed with the person of Judas. He had chosen twelve followers to whom he

would entrust with the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” yet one among them was destined to

betray him.

Because Jesus draws attention to the apostolic authority possessed by the twelve in this

narrative, it follows that the command to consecrate and remember the Eucharistic institution is a

command to this office (Lk. 22:19; cf. I Cor. 11:24). The method of administering the Eucharist

is therefore a matter of authority, for Christ entrusted twelve builders to construct His Church,

who then passed along this charismatic authority to their respective successors. The early

Christian theologian Irenaeus sheds light on the method of the Eucharist by explaining the

authority and succession of the apostolic office, writing that

we must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles, as we
have shown, who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the mark of
truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who
separated themselves from the principal succession.17

The apostle Paul speaks of this priesthood, writing that Jesus is now an eternal high priest

who has initiated a new priestly order to participate in his holy sacrifice (Heb. 7). In John 6:70b,

Jesus’s reference the apostles immediately after discussing the Eucharist directs the reader

towards an accurate understanding of the method of the Eucharist and its proper application.

In closing, it is important to remember that there are countless sources to be consulted

when dealing with the realm of biblical interpretation. This research paper has sought to

adequately call to the forefront of the theological battlefield several important notes that may be

Irenaeus, “Adversus Haereses,” Book IV, Chapter 26 in E. Christopher Reyes, In His


17

Name: Who Wrote the Gospels? (Trafford, 2014), 417


16

of use for theologians and interpreters in the days to come; however, there still remains vital

work to be done, especially in the field of historical contextualization and acquiring a better

theological understanding of Second Temple Judaism.

The Eucharist, however, as the pinnacle tenant of Christian liturgy and worship is

remarkably evident in the Johannine corpus, despite the glaring reality that John’s gospel is the

only one out of four to exclude a detailed account of the Lord’s Supper. The eucharistic theology

of John is recounted differently from the Synoptic gospels insofar that it is conveyed in a

theological message prior to the Passover Feast, and by surveying the language and rhetoric

employed by Christ during the Bread and Life Discourse, one can acquire a better understanding

of the mystical institution of Holy Communion. The purpose of the Eucharist as the life-giving

substance of God’s people is evident by understanding the typological references made by Christ

to the manna given to Israel in the Old Testament. By directing the faithful to acknowledge the

Holy Father as the supreme source of life, the Eucharist becomes recognizable as a Trinitarian

gift from God to humanity, and by analyzing Christ’s immediate reference to the apostolic office

directly after the discourse directs readers to understand the biblical method of administration

thereof. The language and rhetoric employed by Christ and recorded by the disciple whom Jesus

loved is therefore the crucial literary key to understanding the purpose, function, and method of

Johannine eucharistology.
17

Bibliography

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Compiled by John


M’Clintcock and James Strong. Volume 4. New York: Harper & Publishers, 1894.

Reading John with St. Thomas Aquinas: Theological Exegesis and Speculative Theology. Edited
by Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering. Washington: Catholic University of
America, 2012.

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