What is transubstantiation?
Question: "What is transubstantiation?"
Transubstantiation is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church defines this doctrine in section 1376:
"The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring:
'Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was
offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction
of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by
the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the
whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ
our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of
his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and
properly called transubstantiation."
In other words, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that once an ordained
priest blesses the bread of the Lord's Supper, it is transformed into
the actual flesh of Christ (though it retains the appearance, odor, and
taste of bread); and when he blesses the wine, it is transformed into
the actual blood of Christ (though it retains the appearance, odor, and
taste of wine). Is such a concept Biblical? There are some Scriptures
that if interpreted strictly literally would lead to the “real presence”
of Christ in the bread and wine. Examples are John 6:32-58; Matthew
26:26; Luke 22:17-23; and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. The passage pointed to
most frequently is John 6:32-58 and especially verses 53-57, “Jesus
said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son
of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my
flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life … For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me, and I in him … so the one who feeds on me will live
because of me.’”
Roman Catholics interpret this passage literally, and apply its message
to the Lord’s Supper, which they title the “Eucharist” or “Mass.” Those
who reject the idea of transubstantiation interpret Jesus’ words in John
6:53-57 figuratively or symbolically. How can we know which
interpretation is correct? Thankfully, Jesus made it exceedingly obvious
what He meant. John 6:63 declares, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh
counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they
are life.” Jesus specifically stated that His words are “spirit.” Jesus
was using physical concepts, eating and drinking, to teach spiritual
truth. Just as consuming physical food and drink sustains our physical
bodies, so are our spiritual lives saved and built up by spiritually
receiving Him, by grace through faith. Eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking
His blood are symbols of fully and completely receiving Him in our
The Scriptures declare that the Lord's Supper is a memorial to the body
and blood of Christ (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), not the actual
consumption of His physical body and blood. When Jesus was speaking in
John chapter 6, Jesus had not yet had the Last Supper with His
disciples, in which He instituted the Lord’s Supper. To read the
Lord’s Supper / Christian Communion back into John chapter 6 is unwarranted. For a more complete discussion of these issues, please read our article on the
The most serious reason transubstantiation should be rejected is because
it is viewed by the Roman Catholic Church as a "re-sacrifice" of Jesus
Christ for our sins, or as a “re-offering / re-presentation” of His
sacrifice. This is directly in contradiction to what Scripture says,
that Jesus died "once for all" and does not need to be sacrificed again
(Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18). Hebrews 7:27 declares, "Unlike the other
high priests, He (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after
day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He
sacrificed for their sins ONCE for all when He offered Himself."
What is consubstantiation?
Are Catholic beliefs and practices Biblical?
What is the Catholic sacrament of Holy Eucharist?
What is the importance of the Lord's supper / Christian Communion?
Is apostolic succession Biblical?
What is transubstantiation?
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