This is My Body, This is My Blood. Literally?
A good email question asked if Christ was being literal when at the last supper he told the Apostles the following.
The idea that communion consisted of the actual body and blood of Christ was a common misconception during the early days of the church. In fact the idea that the bread and wine actually became Christ's body and blood led to the rumors that early Christians were cannibals. Catholics are taught that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ. It is called transubstantiation.
One way to consider this is to put yourself sitting next to one of the apostles at the last supper. The Christ is there as he takes a piece of bread and says, "This is my body". You are sitting there looking at him while he holds the piece of bread. Logically I would have thought that this had to be something symbolic. That was something that they would have been rather used to by then. An example would be the time that Christ told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. They didn't understand it at first, but later did.
We spiritualize far too many things in scripture that are meant for us to take very literally. In this case though it is proper to consider this symbolic.
One very interesting note about the word "is" that is used in the phrases, "this is my body" and "this is my blood". It is the word "esti" which is the third person singular present indicative of the word "eimi" which means "I exist" or I AM. Whether the apostles noticed this at the time is a guess for us, but afterwards as they wrote the new testament they had to know that Christ was indicating to them that symbolically the bread and wine represented the Great I AM, Yahweh God himself and that He, Christ, was claiming to be Him.
This word is also found buried in the word power or authority in Romans 13:1 indicating that the subject is God's Law, not man's law.
A recent email with a bad address disputed that eat my body and drink my blood was figurative. If Christ had meant it literally then he would have been promoting and committing sin. Human flesh is unclean by the food laws. Since Christ never sinned then one must draw the figurative conclusion.
That was a good simple study. The scripture is full of such interesting and helpful details.
Feel free to send your helpful comments.