Catholicism to Christianity Part 3: Transubstantiation


                                                            (written with the assistance of J.P.Wilhelm)

Continuing on with the theology of the Mass, this week we will take a look into a closely related topic: the sacraments. In this section, we will cover  the topics of transubstantiation and communion. As with the previous lesson, this paper will state the factual differences between Biblical teachings and Catholic doctrine.

RCC teaching on the body and blood of Communion:

Roman Catholicism teaches that Christ instituted the Mass at the Last Supper. When He pronounced over the bread “This is My body” and over the wine “This is My blood” (Mt 26:26, 28) He changed them [621]. The bread became His literal, physical body; the wine became His literal, physical blood [1339]. Christ then offered them as a sacrifice to the Father and gave them to His disciples to eat and drink. Yet, logically, how can this be? Jesus Himself was literally, physically, present in person. How could He also be present at the same time in the bread and the wine? A closer examination at the words used explains what Jesus truly meant. Jesus did not say touto gignetai which means “this has become” or “is turned into”), but touto esti which means  “this is,” i.e. “signifies,” “represents” or “stands for”). In other words, Jesus was using figurative not literal language. (See below).

The climax of the Catholic Mass occurs during the consecration when the priest changes the bread and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. This is the doctrine of transubstantiation.

The bread and wine become “God and man” [136] for the Eucharist is considered to be the incarnate Christ.

In the most blessed  sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained.” [200] (emphasis in original) Council of Trent (1551)

In addition, the Eucharist, according to Catholicism, makes the Catholic more like Christ, for “partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ has no less an effect than to change us into what we have received.” [143]

Read that carefully. Can you see that it actually implies that each time a Catholic partakes of the wafer (hostia), he physically and spiritually becomes more like Christ? Does that seem possible?

Biblical response:

For a Jew, drinking human blood would have been more than repulsive; it would have been unlawful. The law of Moses strictly forbade it (Leviticus 17:10-14).

The disciples were accustomed to Jesus using figurative language in His teaching. On different occasions, Christ referred to His body as a temple (Jn 2:19), new life as living water (Jn 4:10), His disciples as salt (Mt 5: 13). The Gospel of John records seven figurative statements that Jesus made about Himself. Each uses the same verb that is translated “is” in Jesus’ words “ This is My body.” Jesus said:

  • I am the bread of life (Jn 6:48);
  • I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12);
  • I am the door (Jn 10:9);
  • I am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11);
  • I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25);
  • I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6) and
  • I am the true vine (Jn 15:1). (James G. McCarthy, The Gospel of Rome, 135-136)

All of these are meant to be understood in their figurative sense. Following the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples:

These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. (John 16:25)

When Jesus refers to the new covenant, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” (1 Cor 11:25), it is obvious the cup was not the covenant itself but the symbol of the covenant. In addition, at the Last Supper Jesus instructed His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The word translated “remembrance” means a calling to mind. Jesus wanted His disciples to call to mind His work of salvation on the cross. With the symbols of His body and blood before them – the bread and wine, they were to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

In part one of his masterful series The Catholic Chronicles, the late Keith Green gives us an in-depth commentary on verses John 6:54-55 which dispels all doubt as to their true meaning:

Food is eaten to satisfy hunger. And in verse 35 Jesus says, “He who cometh to Me shall never hunger.” Now, Jesus is not promising eternal relief from physical hunger pains. He is, of course, speaking of the spiritual hunger in man for righteousness and salvation, And He promises to those who will “come to Him” that He will satisfy their hunger for these things forever – therefore, to come to Him is to “eat”! (See also Matt. 5:6, 11:28; Jn. 4:31-34.)

We drink also to satisfy thirst, and again in verse 35 Jesus tells us, “He that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” Therefore, to believe on Him is to “drink”! (See also John 4:13-14.) No one can say that Jesus was here establishing the eating and drinking of His literal flesh and blood to give eternal life, for in verse 63 He says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Thus Jesus makes clear what we should be eating and drinking to have eternal life! Matt. 26:26 and 28: “This is My body…this is My blood.” (See also Matt. 4:4.)

The last entry is from one of four of the articles written by the late Keith Green. The other three cover the topics: The Mass, Salvation, and What did Vatican II Really Change. They are each excellent articles, full of information and Scripture references. I highly recommend them.


Information for the above was obtained from James G. McCarthy, author of The Gospel According to Rome and Conversations with Catholics.  All are former Catholics and present-day born-again Christians with ministries to Catholics. The classic book “The Two Babylons” by Alexander Hislop is also used as a reference.

Annotated bracketed references to Catholic doctrine were obtained from the current official Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Austin Flannery edition of Vatican Council II: The Concilar and Post Concilar Documents.

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