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Here's Why You Can Be Absolutely

Sure That Paul Believed in the


Eucharist
Karlo Broussard
https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/heres-why-you-can-
be-absolutely-sure-that-paul-believed-in-the-eucharist

March 02, 2017

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Catholics believe the Eucharist is Jesus, literally. But does this belief
have apostolic origins? St. Paul, an apostle, wrote vividly about the Real
Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, so I believe it does.
Paul talks about the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 10:16-21 and 1
Corinthians 11:27-30. These passages show that Paul was Catholic in his
belief.

Participating in what is real


Lets start with 1 Corinthians 10:16-21. Paul makes it clear that when we
partake of the Eucharist we partake of the body and blood of Jesus;
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of
Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of
Christ? (v.16).

How could we be sharing in the body and blood of Jesus unless his
body and blood were present? Paul underscores this truth in the
subsequent verses when he draws a parallel between the Eucharist and
pagan sacrifices:
[W]hat pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not
want you to be partners with demonsYou cannot partake of the table of
the Lord and the table of demons (v.20-21).

If communing with demons in pagan sacrifices implies that demons are


really present, then communing with the body and blood of Jesus in the
Eucharist implies that his body and blood are really present.
Pauls reference to the table of the Lord (v.21) also implies the real
presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If pagans offer a real victim (not a
symbol) on the table of demons, then how much more do Christians
offer a real victim, Jesus, on the table of the Lord?

The symbolism of bread


A Protestant may object that Paul refers to the Eucharist as bread and
therefore cant mean for the Eucharist literally to be Jesus body. But,
just because Paul describes the Eucharist according to how it appears
to his senses, it doesnt follow the Eucharist is not Jesus.
Biblical writers commonly refer to things according to their appearance.
Scholars call this phenomenological language. For example, angels are
referred to as men (see Genesis 18:2, Tobit 5:2-4), and death is referred
to as sleep (see Daniel 12:2). When Paul refers to the Eucharist as
bread he is similarly using phenomenological language.
Furthermore, as the late Jesuit Cornelius Lapide points out in his
commentary on St. Pauls first letter to the Corinthians, bread is a
Hebraism for food:
I reply that bread, by a Hebraism, stands for any food (2 Kings 2:22). So
Christ is called manna (John 6:31), and bread (John 6:41). The reason is
that bread is the common and necessary food of all.

One should also remember that Catholics dont deny that the Eucharist
has a symbolic value. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains
that the sacraments confer the grace they signify (CCC 1127). The
visible sign of bread signifies Jesus as our true food: My flesh is food
indeed and my blood is drink indeed (John 6:55). But the bread doesnt
just signify Jesus: it becomes Jesus. Therefore, Pauls description of the
Eucharist as bread doesnt negate Christs real presence in the
Eucharist.
Furthermore, three times in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 Paul uses language
that shows he believes the Eucharist is literally Jesus and not a mere
symbol.

The guilt of blood


The first example is Pauls use of homicidal language in his instruction
on receiving the Eucharist worthily:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the
Lord (v.27).

The Greek textenochos estai tou somatos kai tou haimatos tou kyriou
translates will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
The phrase guilty of blood is a figure of speech that connotes murder.
This language appears in the Old Testament, when God pronounces
judgment on the inhabitants of Mount Seir (Edom): you are guilty of
blood, therefore blood shall pursue you (Ezek. 35:27). In Numbers
35:27 the phrase is also used, but in the negative for those who
are not guilty of murder. In the New Testament, Pontius Pilate declares
himself innocent of Jesus blood (Matt. 27:24), meaning he is not guilty
of murder. We even use this language today when we say someone has
blood on his hands.
To incur the guilt of blood the victim has to be present. If someone
fires a gun at a picture of the president of the United States, that
person wouldnt be guilty of the presidents blood. He would only be
attacking a symbol. But if that person assassinates the president, then
that person would be guilty of the presidents blood.
Paul says that were guilty of Jesus blood if we partake of the Eucharist
unworthily. The only way to make sense of this belief is that Paul
believed the Eucharist is literally Jesus.

Eternal and temporal consequences


Paul taught that eating the Eucharist unworthily has both eternal and
temporal consequences, and these constitute our second example.
Regarding the eternal consequences, he writes, For any one who eats
and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon
himself (v.29). Elsewhere Paul uses the Greek word for
judgment, krima, to connote damnation:
Having damnation [Greek: krima] because they have made void their first
faith (1 Tim. 5:12 Douay Rheims).
Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.And
they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation [Greek: krima] (Rom.
13:2 Douay Rheims).

Regarding the temporal consequences, he writes, That is why many of


you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Cor. 11:30).
Why would Paul believe that sickness, death, and damnation result
from an unworthy reception of the Eucharist if it were merely a symbol?
Such consequences are unintelligible if the Eucharist is a mere symbol.

A peace offering of real flesh


The third example is the parallel Paul draws with the peace offering
described in Leviticus:
[T]he person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORDs peace
offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from
his people (Lev. 7:20).

Notice that both Leviticus and Paul speak of eating unworthily and
incurring a severe consequence. But in Leviticus one eats the flesh of
the offering and in Paul one eats the Eucharist.

Leviticus Paul

Eat flesh of peace offering Eat Eucharist

Eat unworthily Eat unworthily

Being cut off from Gods people Damnation

These parallels seem to suggest that Paul understands the Eucharist to


be a real flesh offering just like the real flesh offering in Leviticus. For
Paul, to partake of the Eucharist is to partake of the flesh of the true
peace offeringnamely, Jesus.
Protestants claim the Catholic Church teaches things not found in the
Bible. But, in this case, Pauls belief that the Eucharist literally is Jesus
body and blood proves otherwise. Catholics can be assured that if Paul
were here today they would see him in the Communion line
approaching the altar to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.