Eucharist and Leviticus 17:10f


Didache asked this question on 7/7/2000:

In John's Gospel, chapter 6, Christ alledgedly stuns several who came to hear him preach by telling them in no uncertain terms that they must "eat his flesh and drink his blood" ... which is forbidden in Leviticus 17:10-12, in the Law ... the same Law Christ says he came to fulfill in the Sermon on the Mount ... the Law Christ must perfectly fulfill to be the ransom as per Paul's teaching in Romans 3:21-26 (and elsewhere).

The Question is:

How does a Roman Catholic theologian justify the Church's definition of Real Presence (as defined in "Trent") in light of Leviticus 17?

The Church teaches that when specific conditions are met, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ: Really, Truly, and Substantially - Body Blood Soul and Divinity. (The Bread and Wine retain their "form" after the "consecration" in this teaching). To drink fully human blood is at odds with the passage I cited in Leviticus. Yes, the blood is taught to be fully Divine also, but that hardly removes the problem.

I doubt that I'm the only person who every asked this question. (smile)



mscperu gave this response on 7/8/2000:


To answer your question let us first look at what the early Christians thought.

It is interesting that Christians of different regions seem to have observed the commandment you mention. Look at the letter regarding the martyrs of Vienne. The pagan slaves had been tortured and had testified that their Christian masters ate human flesh. The martyr Biblis under torture answered: "How can they eat (the flesh of) children when it is forbidden to eat the blood of irrational animals?" (Eusebius Ceas. Eccl. Hist. 5.1.26). Tertullianus (Apol. 9, 13) testifies that Christians in their diet don’t even eat blood buried in the tissues of the animals.

It is just the firm tradition of what was established by the Apostles (Council of Jerusalem, Acts 15, 29). They told the gentile Christians to "abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from BLOOD, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things". So they continued observing Lv.

I seem to bolster your objection, don’t I?

At the same time they celebrated the Eucharist. It never crossed their mind that the cup of His blood could be related with the Leviticus commandments.


Are you familiar with Jewish Pessah? Christ instituted the Eucharist during the celebration of the Passover. The unleavened "bread of hurry" that the presiding person breaks and distributes is a SIGN that Israel had been freed from slavery. The last cup, the cup of solemn blessing with praise words that we pronounce in the anaphora is the SIGN that Israel has reached the Promised Land. The covenant-promise has been fulfilled. The sign is en lieu of the much superior reality.

Jesus transforms it in the SIGN of the cup that "is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Cor 11:25). Now in Hebrew Aramaic the element as sign is often used "pars pro toto", i.e. the element represents the whole reality.

Look at the Jerome commentary: "Just as Nicodemus thought of rebirth in a purely physical sense (3:4) and as the woman at the well first thought only of natural water (4:11), so now some of the Jews take the reference to Christ’s flesh literally. The Semitic figure of speech, "eat someone’s flesh," which meant, "to slander" (Ps 27:2), obviously did not contribute in helping them to understand. 53. Neither do Jesus’ words in reply encourage any figurative understanding of his pronouncement; his reiteration only underscores the difficulty discerned in v. 52.

The flesh of the Son of Man: Since the Son of Man is he in whom God and mankind meet (see comment on 1:51), it is fitting that Jesus should identify the Eucharist with himself as Son of Man…

If the idea of eating a man’s flesh would appear repugnant to a Jewish audience, the idea of drinking blood would be even more so, because blood as food was forbidden under the Law (cf. Gn 9:4; Dt 12:16). "Flesh and blood" is the common OT expression for human life. More than likely the separate mention of the partaking of these two elements in the Eucharist stresses the fact that the whole living Christ is received (Barrett) rather than repeats (see v. 51) the connection of the Eucharist with the death of Christ (Bernard). 54-55. The repetitions contained in these verses have the effect of underlining the reality of the Christ-life that is received in the Eucharist. Because the possession of Christ is the earnest of eternal life in the resurrection (v. 40), the Eucharist is an eschatological sacrament. 56-57.

Reception of the Eucharist establishes communion of life between Christ and the Christian (cf. 1 Cor 10:16). Even as the life of the Son and the Father is one (14:10; 5:21ff.), a life that in turn they share with the Spirit (1:32f. 15:26), in the Eucharist the Christian receives the shared life of God himself. 58. Inclusively this verse sums up the argument of the preceding: The bread, of which Jesus first began to speak in v. 33, the true bread of God of which the manna was only a faint type, is pre-eminently the Eucharistic sacrament of life".

Your way of presenting the contradiction is ever the problem of taking a verse in its literal sense out of context and make a comparison that is not legitimate. That is not to say that the blood is not real. It is real but in a sacramental sense. Your argument is at the same level as those, which talk about anthropophagi, don’t you think so?

To understand the passage of John you cite you need to remember the parallel of Israel in the desert and the Jews that have been fed by Jesus. Jesus claims to give eternal life, to give this sacramental food in order that those who eat and drink Him be one with God and with Him. Isn’t that a greater scandal than anything else? You may argue that I introduce a retro projection using the word "sacramental". John’s Gospel is full of semeia, signs, and sacraments.

Why did Jesus not even try to explain Himself to His disciples? It was a test of faith. With whom do you want to commune? Peter answers: "Only you have words of eternal life".

My closing argument is that the early Christians did never relate the Eucharistic signs with the Leviticus precept. They continued observing part of the Leviticus precepts. So they were conscious too of the precept you mention. They saw no relationship. Ergo there is no relationship, not even today.










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