Saturday, July 05, 2008

Reading The Eucharist Into John 6

Peter Pike has suggested that I repost something I wrote in another thread on the subject of John 6 and the eucharist. Some of my comments and the comments of the person I was responding to might be difficult to understand without having read the surrounding context, but I think most readers should easily understand most of what's being said. I've added a small amount of material in brackets to correct an error in my original post.

LVKA wrote:

"The Psalms are prophetically charged: You know that, I know that, and Augustine definitely knew that, that's why He bothered writing an entire book about them, typologically interpreting there anything he was able to. You could've equally asked me: why do we interpret Isaiah's words (typologically) about Jesus, when they're literally referring to Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. :-\ (since that was the 'immediate', 'OT' meaning, and they lived in 600 BC also)."

You keep ignoring what people have written in response to you in previous posts. Again, even if we assume your interpretation of Isaiah, our acceptance of what you call a typological interpretation of Isaiah would be based on the authority of the entity giving us that interpretation (the authority of an apostle, the authority of scripture, etc.). To make your interpretation of Psalm 34 comparable, you would need to show that such an authority has given us that interpretation. Without the demonstration of such an authoritative interpretation, we would interpret the passage as we would any other historical document. You've given us no reason to think that Psalm 34:8 has the prophetic meaning you're assigning to it, and you've given us no reason to think that Augustine interpreted it that way. I've cited multiple passages in Augustine demonstrating that he didn't view the eucharist as you view it. If he didn't view the eucharist as you view it, then he probably didn't think of Psalm 34:8 as a prophetic reference to your view of the eucharist.

You write:

"The very words used: to believe and to come-to versus flesh and blood."

You're comparing the wrong objects. (You're comparing verbs to nouns, as you put it earlier.) The object in verse 35 of John 6 is Jesus. The object of verse 55 is His flesh and blood, defined in the context as His sacrificial work. Since both the person of Jesus and His sacrificial work are objects of Christian faith, there's no reason to think that faith couldn't be involved in both passages. Flesh and blood can refer to the eucharist, but the eucharist isn't the only context that involves Jesus' flesh and blood. The move from the person of Jesus to the sacrificial element of His identity doesn't single out the eucharist. You would need something more than that shift in focus to justify a eucharistic interpretation.

You write:

"What I meant was: just vecause these words [eat, drink] carry a spiritual conotation in John 6:35, it doesn't necessarily imply that they still do in John 6:55 -- because Your whole point relies on that, that they never change meaning: if their meaning is spiritual once, it's spiritual every time, 'cause it HAS to be so"

The issue is probability, not what's "necessarily" true or "has to be so". It's possible for terminology to be used in different ways within a brief period of time, but a consistent interpretation is preferable, all other factors being equal. You can argue that other factors support your interpretation, but the consistency of my view of John 6 is an advantage that supports my view.

I've already cited some evidence that John 6:55 has a meaning similar to verse 35. Verse 35 isn't the last verse to mention faith. References to faith continue in later verses, and [verses 63-64 conclude] the discussion with both a reference to faith and a reference to the spiritual nature of what Jesus had just said. One of the many problems with your interpretation is that it not only goes against what Jesus said 20 verses earlier, but also goes against what He said in later verses prior to verse 55 and what He said after verse 55. I've also discussed some other problems with your interpretation, such as the fact that the eucharist didn't yet exist and the fact that making the eucharist necessary for eternal life would conflict with verse 35 and with other passages of scripture that refer to people attaining spiritual life at the time of faith. Your interpretation requires a large amount of speculation and special pleading. It's the kind of interpretation that results not from exegesis, but from coming to the text with an overriding desire to find validation of your view of the eucharist.

You've repeatedly rejected probabilities in favor of possibilities. You tell us that it's possible that Jesus was changing His use of the relevant terminology later in John 6. He wasn't necessarily being consistent. You tell us that it's possible for somebody to speak of a ceremony that doesn't yet exist as if participation in it is a current requirement for salvation. You tell us that it's possible for a passage like Psalm 34:8 to be prophetic. What does it suggest about your beliefs when, in an attempt to justify those beliefs, you so frequently bypass a more natural way of reading the text in favor of a more distant possibility?

You write:

"And I would pretty much be still very interested in finding out Your interpretation about the meaning of the nouns food and drink"

I've already explained how I view the food and drink. Just as Jesus is spiritual food and drink in verse 35, the sacrificial element of His identity is spiritual food and drink in verse 55.

What you suggested earlier was that we substitute the terms "return" and "faith" for "food" and "drink" in verse 55 in order to test my interpretation. But I've explained why such a substitution doesn't make sense. In addition to what I said in my last response to you, let's try substituting your suggested words in verse 35 rather than verse 55. According to your description of my view of John 6, I think that Jesus is "return" and "faith" in verse 35. We can make any passage in any document sound awkward if we engage in the sort of word substitution you've suggested (with your malice and your poor communication skills choosing which words to use). Language doesn't work that way. Transitioning from a verb to a noun isn't necessarily a matter of one-to-one correspondence.

What we ought to ask is, does it make sense for Jesus' flesh and blood to be objects of faith, spiritual nourishment, etc. as Jesus is an object of such in verse 35? Yes, it does.

You write:

"And no, the phrase 'for My body is return-to-Me indeed and My blood is faith/belief-in-Me indeed' makes NO sense what-so-ever."

Readers should note how careless LVKA is in continuing to use the word "return" after I explained to him why his use of that term is problematic. Does he even attempt to interact with what I said? No.

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