In the course of my writings, I sometimes refer to the Son of God as Jesus, Christ, Yeshua, or the Mashiach. Some people are uncomfortable with one and some are uncomfortable with the other, depending on whether they worship in the traditional way or the Hebrew/Messianic way. I go back and forth between them understanding that one is merely the Greek/English translation, and one is the Hebrew transliteration. Hopefully people can learn to go back and forth with me. Now on to the subject at hand.
When it comes to the Lord's Supper or as some churches call it, the Eucharist, there are three different ways of believing what the bread and wine are. The first is the easiest to explain, as the belief is that the bread and wine are symbolic, spiritually representing Christ's body and blood which were sacrificed for the sins of mankind, but are nothing more than actual bread and wine. Transubstantiation, which is what the Catholic church teaches, says that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ in substance - that they literally change and become those things which they represent. The Episcopal (and others may also) church believes in consubstantiation. This basically means that the two pairs of substances (bread and body, and wine and blood) co-exist at the same time. It is sort of a compromise between the other two beliefs. The question is, which one is actually taught in the Bible.
Let's start by looking at the actual event which precipitated this ceremony or ritual.
Matthew 26:17-19 “Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.” Now I realize that there is much debate among scholars as to whether the meal was actually the Passover meal or just an evening meal the day before the Passover, as they like to have Yeshua crucified at the same time that the Paschal lamb is slaughtered, as He is the ultimate Paschal or Passover Lamb. I myself have struggled to try to reconcile the timing of all the events of the crucifixion week, but still have yet to fully understand the daily events of that week. What I do know is that Yeshua is not a liar and He said that He was going to keep the Passover meal with His disciples. Plus it says that it was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. This too implies that it was the Passover meal. So, it is established that the meal was going to be a Passover meal (whether you want to believe it was the day before the actual Passover, or the day of the Passover). To fully understand what the institution of the Lord's Supper is all about, one must first understand what the Passover meal, the way it was observed, meant.
While the first Passover in Egypt was a meal that required a lamb as its main course, the only other specifications about the meal was to eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Other than roasting the meat and burning up any leftovers by morning, that was all that God said about the food of the meal. Over time, in remembrance of the first Passover, other rituals became integrated into the Passover meal. When Yeshua had the Passover seder with His disciples, there were other rituals imbedded into the seder. An entire order of service, as it were, had developed. This included the washing of hands at a certain point in the ceremony, the dipping of the unleavened bread into the charoseth, or sop as it is referred to in the Scriptures, and the drinking of four cups of wine during the course of the evening. Also there is a ritual, which Jews do not understand of the breaking of a piece of unleavened bread or matzo into three pieces and hiding or “burying” the second piece, then finding or “resurrecting” it. It is in the symbolism of all of these rituals that we will find the answer to how we should view the Lord's supper.
Before going through the rituals, it is important to look at a few verses in Scripture that were laws for the Jewish people, and which are still laws for Christians today.
In Leviticus 17:10,11a,12, and 14 we read the following. “And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel or of the strangers (Gentiles) that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood…Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.”
In the Old Testament, Israel (and any Gentile that lived among them) was forbidden to eat any manner of the blood of anything. This is because the life is in the blood. To do so meant being cut off and having God turn His face against them. So what about in the New Testament? Was that restriction lifted? Acts 15:19-20, 28-29 “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God. But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall to well.”
It appears that the restriction against consuming blood has not been lifted, and in fact it is said to be one of the very few necessary laws that did carry over from the Old Testament laws. This in and of itself should be enough for anyone who is following their Scriptures to realize that there is a problem with transubstantiation, (and consubstantiation) for it is taught that the wine becomes the very blood of Christ (even though consubstantiation says that it also remains the bread and wine). Yet drinking blood, any blood, much less the blood of the Son of God, is completely forbidden by God. Why would God break the very law He specifically gave not only to Israel, but also imposed upon New Testament Christians? The answer is, He didn't. While He did not impose many of the laws upon New Testament Christians, He did impose this one, so obviously it is very important that we abide by this rule.
Now let's look at the Passover seder. Today the seder is slightly different than it was in Christ’s day, because of the destruction of the temple. In Christ’s day, the foods served at the meal consisted of the roasted lamb, the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, and some other ceremonial foods. These consisted of salt water in which to dip the bitter herbs and the charoseth - a sweet mixture of apples and nuts. It was into this mixture that they dipped the bitter herbs and unleavened bread. There were also four cups of red wine mixed with warm water to be drunk at specific times during the meal. These cups have the following meanings: The first cup is the cup of sanctification. The second cup is the cup of praise. The third is the cup of redemption, blessing, or Elijah, and the fourth is the cup of acceptance.
In general, the seder meal followed this order. At the beginning of the seder, the host or head of the household would recite the kiddush (ritual blessing) over the first cup of wine. This was followed by the ceremonial washing of hands by the host only. This set him apart as the most important person at the table. Then a servant brought in a portable table of food and the first dipping of food took place. This was the raw vegetable, usually lettuce, which was considered a bitter herb. The host dipped it into the salt water and passed it around to all at the table. After this, the food was removed from the table and the host poured the second glass of wine, which was not drunk at this time. The food was removed before eating to raise curiosity, which was reflected in the youngest boy asking some ritual questions such as “Why is this night different from all other nights?“ and some other questions, so that the story of the Passover from Abraham to the giving of the law could be related. Then the food was brought back and the host would explain the symbolism of the food. Then they would sing Psalm 113 and 114 and drink the second cup of wine. They all then washed their hands as an act of respect for the unleavened bread. The host would break the bread and say two blessings over it. The first was a prayer of thanksgiving to Him who brings forth the bread, and the second was thanking for the commandment to eat it. The host gave a piece bread dipped in bitter herbs and charoseth to each person. Then the Paschal lamb was eaten. The hands would be washed again. After this the host poured the third cup of wine and they all recited the after dinner blessings. This cup has three names, the cup of blessing as it follows the dinner blessings, the cup of redemption, as it would be the cup that represents Christ blood shed for our redemption, and the cup of Elijah, as Elijah heralds the coming of the Messiah, plus one of the after dinner prayers is a prayer for the coming of Elijah. At this point a child was sent to the door to see if Elijah was coming. Then they chanted another blessing for the wine and drank the third cup. After that they recited Psalms 115-118 (in Psalm 118 we find one of the Messianic prophecies. Vs. 21-23.) and drank the fourth cup of wine. The seder ended with a closing song or hymn.
When knowing the seder ritual, it makes it easier to understand the Lord’s Supper. Many think that Christ instituted a new type of ritual at the Passover meal, and in one sense, he did, but what he really did was to reassign the symbols which already existed within the meal to himself. By piecing together the four gospel stories of the Last Supper, it would appear that it might have gone something like this. The Kiddush was recited over the first cup of wine. This first cup was known as the cup of sanctification. It sanctified the entire Passover ritual. Then came the ceremonial washing. This washing would have been done by Christ alone and set him apart from the rest of the company as the most important person there. Then the food would have been brought and the bitter herbs dipped in salt water. The green herbs represented life, the salt water the tears of life. The food was removed and the second cup of wine poured. The ritual questions would have been asked by John (the youngest) and answered by the Lord, as the host. The food was brought back, the explanation of the lamb, bitter herbs, and the unleavened bread would have been given. Now it must be remembered that the lamb was a spiritual symbol, just as the other foods of the seder were. The lamb's blood at the original Passover was symbolic for Christ's blood which would be shed many centuries later. The lamb's blood did not become Christ's blood. It was spiritually symbolic of the blood of the real Lamb that would actually save them. Passover was spiritually symbolic of Yeshua's first coming. So we are speaking of spiritual symbolism being very important here.
After the explanation of the food (lamb, maror (bitter herbs), chasoreth, etc.) was given, the first part of the Hallel or Psalms 113 and 114 was recited, the second cup was drunk, then the second washing of hands done. This time instead of the usual hand washing, Christ washed the disciples feet for the illustration of serving one another. This is the first mention that something is amiss. He said that not all of them were clean. At some point after they were reclining, before Christ dipped into the charoseth or sop, He said that He would be betrayed. Apparently not all of the disciples heard him, as later when Judas left, they thought he was just going to get something for the feast. John and Peter did hear him and asked who it was. He told them the one to whom he would give the sop after he dipped it. The bread was broken, and thanks for the bread recited. It was at this point that Christ related that it was His body which would be broken for them. Now, did the bread become Christ's body at that point? No, of course not. Christ had referred to Himself as the bread of life during the course of His ministry. He was making a spiritual reference speaking metaphorically. He had not died yet, so this could not have turned into His body. Therefore Yeshua was relating a symbolic spiritual truth, not a physical transformation of the bread into His body. Christ then dipped the bread into the herbs and charoseth and gave it to Judas. He told him to do what he had to do, and Judas left. They then ate the Passover meal. After this Christ poured the third cup of wine and they all recited the after dinner blessings. He related to them that this was His blood as this was the cup of redemption. Did it actually turn into Yeshua's blood? No. First, He had not died yet, so His blood had not yet been shed, and second, as we have already read, it was forbidden for man to drink blood. Therefore Yeshua would never have turned the wine into blood. It would have been blasphemous. He was telling His disciples that from this point on, the third cup of the Passover seder, the cup of redemption would now refer to the sacrifice of His blood that was about to take place for their redemption. They did not yet understand what that truly meant, but they shortly would, and from that point on they would know that when they partook of that cup of redemption, it symbolically and spiritually stood for Yeshua's blood that was shed on the cross. After this explanation they chanted another blessing for the wine and drank the third cup. Then they recited Psalms 115-118 and drank the fourth cup of wine. There was more discussion as Christ had some last minute things he wanted to tell them, then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
So in looking at the original Lord's Supper, we see that Yeshua, in teaching His disciples about the bread and the wine, was teaching them that these two elements spiritually and symbolically, not literally, stood for His body and blood. Now we need to look further.
The modern church has taken the two elements (the bread and wine) out of the seder and turned it into the Lord’s Supper. When Christ said, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine, do it in remembrance of me.” He was establishing this as a memorial, not a ritual that was essential for salvation. Actually I believe He may have been referring to this being within the entire Passover seder. I don’t know if it was his intention that it be turned into a mini ceremony that some churches have on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. On the one hand it certainly does not hurt that we do this act of remembrance more often than once a year; however, the loss of separating it from the Passover seder has been the knowledge of what the entire meaning behind the Lord’s Supper is, and that is the connection to the Passover seder and its importance as a foreshadow of His First Coming. This loss is significant, as when we do not realize the original intent with which Yeshua imbued this ceremony, man ends up adding his own beliefs and interpretations to the ritual.
One of the passages that is used to try to prove transubstantiation is found in John 6:30-63 “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
It is said that because Yeshua said that He was the bread of life and that if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, that this proves the bread actually becomes His flesh. Further Christ says that His body is this bread and unless you eat His body and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life. Based upon these verses, the conclusion is made that He is speaking literally, therefore the wine and bread of the Eucharist is turned into His actual body and blood. The problem is, first you have to ignore the clear teachings about eating blood that God has made quite clear, and second you have to ignore the symbolic way that Yeshua introduces the new association to the unleavened bread and cup of redemption at the Last Supper which was a seder meal. Last, you have to ignore the end of the very passage that is being used as a defense. As the saying goes, a text out of context is a pretext. All of Scripture must be used to come to a belief on any subject. Clearly in this passage the listeners were upset with what He said about eating His body. And well they should be. That would be cannibalism. Most certainly God does not endorse cannibalism. Yeshua asks them if they are offended at what He is teaching, as He understands that they do not grasp the spiritual application. They are understanding Him to be speaking literally, which is very upsetting to them as it is against God's laws. So He straightens them out to allay their distress. He tells them that it is the spirit which makes one truly alive or quickeneth, that nothing of the flesh (including eating it) can profit us anything. It is not the flesh which can be saved. It is the spirit. Then He comes right out and tells them that He has been speaking spiritual things to them, not things of the flesh and not literally. They are to understand that He is speaking metaphorically of bread. Obviously He must be, for He is not a literal loaf of bread. Scripture as a rule should always be taken literally unless it is simply senseless. And this is senseless if one takes it literally. Yeshua was not a loaf of bread. He was a man, God incarnate. It is the message He brings, and the sacrifice He makes that saves us, not literally eating his flesh or drinking His blood. He is a type of spiritual food to us, as without this food (the sacrifice He made that satisfied God) we die spiritually, just as without literal food we would die physically. One needs to understand spiritual references in a spiritual sense and literal references in a literal sense. Oddly the churches that take this passage, which should be understood metaphorically, as literal, yet the rest of the Bible they treat in the most non-literal way, when it should be taken literally.
To add to all this, let us look what Yeshua said to them three times in that passage “he that believeth on me shall never thirst.... every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life....... He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Three times He tells them that those who believe on Him have everlasting life and those who believe will never thirst. It is the belief in Him that is essential for salvation. Is it speaking of a literal thirst? No, obviously not. It is speaking of thirsting for eternal life. And what quenches that thirst is belief, not wine and not literal blood. It does not say that those who literally drink of His blood will never thirst, nor even wine that symbolically stands for His blood. It says those who believe will never thirst. Added to that is the fact that if transubstantiation or the turning of the bread and wine into the actual body of Yeshua is true, do we not re-crucify Him every single time we do that? It is said that Christ was crucified once for our sins, and once only. He cannot be crucified again.
Romans 6:10 “For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” Hebrews 7:26-27 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” This last verse tells us that not only was the sacrifice a one time only thing, but that he does not need to offer it daily (as some churches do the transubstantiation mass), as once was enough. Hebrews 10:10-12 “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, and every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins; but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Christ’s blood and body were offered once for all. One sacrifice was sufficient. He need not be crucified over and over. In fact, he cannot be. Hebrews 10:18 “Now where remission of these (sins) is, there is no more offering for sin.” Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” This last verse refers to those who would walk away from Christ, so it is a little out of context, but notice that Christ cannot be crucified a second time, as it would put Him to open shame. Every time someone thinks they are literally eating and drinking Christ’s flesh and blood, they are crucifying Him again, which is not possible. His sacrifice was a one time thing. We are repeatedly told that. Not to mention that what we are speaking of here is cannibalism. This is something God would never sanction. He did not even allow the eating of animal blood.
Over the centuries, the church has been guilty, just as Israel was, of incorporating things into our belief system that have come from other sources. Israel brought paganism into Judaism in the form of Kabbalah. The church, in spite of its best intentions has done the same. For the first three hundred years, believers essentially remained faithful to what was taught by the apostles and worshiped as the first generation of the Church did, which was Jewish in conception. After the so-called conversion of Constantine, when he declared Christianity the state religion for political reasons, all the people were forced into being baptized into the church. As it was not the true desire of many to become Christians, Constantine, in order to make this transition easier on them (according to Eusebius) transferred many of the customs which they had observed in paganism into the church. The temples and statues were renamed and dedicated to saints of the Christian church, and a lot of the trappings and ornamentations such as incense, candles, offerings for various reasons, indulgences, holy water, holy days (Mithra's birthday became Christmas, even though it is known Yeshua was not born December 25, Passover became Easter, Halloween became All Saint's Day, etc.), seasons (lent, advent), processions with statues being carried, vestments, rosary, and etc. There are many things that have not even been mentioned here. All of these things were incorporated into the Christian church from paganism. They were not of Jewish origin, which is the foundation of Christianity.
Having studied much of the occult in the course of my studies, I have found that one more of these rituals that was brought into the church this way was the “eating of gods” or transubstantiation. Transubstantiation was never, ever a part of what Yeshua taught His disciples, and was never a practice of Judaism, nor the early Christian church. It is actually an occult practice and comes originally from the Babylonian mysteries which is the oldest pagan religion (having begun with Nimrod and Semiramis) and the ultimate source of all pagan religions. Several thousand years before Yeshua came on the scene, and long before it became part of the Church, transubstantiation was being practiced all over the world by pagans. In Egypt priests consecrated cakes which were believed to become the flesh of Osiris. It was also a part of the religion of Mithra, whose sacraments of eating cakes which “turned into flesh”and drink which “became blood” closely resemble the Eucharist of the Catholic church today. The practice of eating the flesh of their deity was very popular in Central and South America long before the Christian missionaries came along. The missionaries were quite astonished to find the people observing a religious rite where an image was made of flour, consecrated by their priests, and given to the people, who ate it declaring it to be the actual flesh of their deity. So the practice of bread and wine (or strong drink) becoming the flesh and blood of a deity was a regular occult practice that was followed by pagans for millennia. It was thought that by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of another that one received their “power”. Thus many pagans also practiced cannibalism, as well as the “eating of the gods.”
As to how and when it entered the church, transubstantiation as a doctrine did not officially become an article of faith (meaning it is essential for salvation according to the churches who trust to earn salvation through their rites) until A.D. 1215, although it was advocated in A.D. 831 by a Benedictine monk, who published a treatise on the subject. It was re-emphasized in the Council of Trent as being dogma. So if transubstantiation was an essential element to salvation, there was a period of at least over a thousand years when it was not practiced widespread as being essential, and therefore nobody would have had entry to heaven for that period of time had it been true. It is obvious that it cannot be true.
So, we have seen that transubstantiation is not scriptural, and we have seen that it is a pagan rite that was introduced as a dogma well over a thousand years after Christ. As consubstantiation makes the bread and wine be literally the body and blood of Yeshua alongside it being actual bread and wine, consubstantiation is likewise unscriptural. The only acceptable practice according to Biblical standards is that of the bread and wine being taken in a symbolic way as a remembrance or memorial to what Christ did. This is the way He introduced it to His disciples. We should not deviate from His teachings. It is not the means of entering heaven by helping to bestow salvation by the ingesting of the literal flesh and blood of Christ. It is an ordinance that is a memorial only, just as the Passover seder is a required memorial, but only a memorial.