Associate professor of church history princeton theological seminary baker book house

Download 4.25 Mb.
Size4.25 Mb.
1   ...   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   ...   38

Purpose them. What he now does stands on

‑ is the an entirely different footing from his

Institution. discourse at Capernaum (John vi.).

There he spoke, indeed, of the eating and drinking of his flesh and blood; but he spoke symbolically, with reference to the paradox of his


lowly appearance, under which men must find the bread of heaven and of life. The image of eating and drinking represents the faith which lives by the humility of Jesus. Even verses 51 aqq. go no further than this, but declare that his humiliation must terminate in his death, and that men moat accept him as he is, in flesh and blood, in order to live by him. The thought of a sacrifice does not appear. All this is merely symbolic. The institu­tion of the Lord's Supper is entirely different. Here he acts, not merely talks. To be sure, both speech and action are primarily symbolical, but what he symbolizes is the sacrifice then approaching comple­tion, and the appropriation by man of the benefits of that sacrifice. The symbol is but the means by which he gives them what he means to give them. He, who is about to offer himself in sacrifice, gives himself not only for but to his disciples for their own, in a way in which he has never before given himself to them. The last barrier which has sepa­rated them is removed. He has reached his goal; the old is past. He is, not only is about to be, the sacrifice; the few hours that intervene before the crucifixion do not count. The sacrifice is pre­pared‑such a sacrifice as has never before been offered, and one in which they are to take part as none have ever taken part in any previous sacri­fice. As their act of eating and drinking is both the symbol and the putting into operation of the faith by which they accept him, so his gifts are both the symbol and the realization of his utter self‑devotion for them and to them. The distinc­tion between these two latter aspects is that be­tween the provision of salvation and its appropria­tion; and the appropriation takes place now. When they see the sacrifice offered, they can now say to themselves that it is theirs, that they have part in it. Thus the institution of the Lord's Sup­per is the extension of the line which passes through the language of John vi. about the eating and drinking of his flesh and blood. The gift of him­self, as a sacrifice, for us and to us is the comple­tion of his appearance in flesh and blood. The eat­ing and drinking of his gifts in the Supper is the highest point of the eating and drinking men­tioned in John vi.; and this may account for the fact that John's Gospel does not describe the in­stitution. On this fact, then, that Jesus (as the new covenant requires) does not merely symbolize but gives what he symbolizes, rests the understand­ing of the words which he used, and the concep­tion of the sacrament as an institution destined for all who accept the new covenant. Accordingly, wherever the Lord's Supper is celebrated after his institution, he gives himself in the manner in which he symbolizes his gift; symbol and reality are joined; he is present exactly as he said, as he sym­bolized, and as he accomplished‑no otherwise and no less. There can be no question of the imparting of higher powers of life, as they are found in him, nor of nourishment for the resurrection body; but there is the sacrifice for the remission of sine, which he is for us, and which is ours.

The question remains how to understand the communion with Christ effected by the Lord's Sup­per, in what way the sacramental union with him

takes place in it. Of course, if Christ is no more than any other man, distinguished. from the rest of

humanity only by his mission and his

g. Signifi‑ work, there can be no question of a

cance for partaking of his body and blood, and

Humanity. the conception of the thing which ap­

pears in all the accounts falls to the

ground. The occurrences of that night must have

been different, must mean something different, from

what these accounts imply. The New‑Testament

view of the institution is indissolubly bound up with

the New‑Testament conception of the person of

Christ expressed in the New Testament, proclaimed

by the apostles, and received by the primitive

Church. By entering human life and the human

mode of existence, he has so completely incorpo­

rated himself with man that he is what he is to man

through his human nature. As through and in this

nature, in inseparable union with mankind, he be­

came a sacrifice for us, so he continues to make

us partakers of him under this same aspect of sacri­

fice. This is the meaning of his bodily presence

in the Lord's Supper. In this gift of himself is

concentrated all that he is and forever means to be

to mankind in perpetual union. We can have him,

we are meant to have him, for our own, as we can

have no one else. It is no new relation into which

he enters. That which he is for man, and (by vir­

tue of his community of blood) with man, finds in

this sacrament its highest expression, as the re­

ception of the sacrament is the highest expression

of the faith by which we accept him. And so the

Lord's Supper, although, or rather because, it is

the memorial of his death, is no mysterium

tremenclum, but something to be received, as

the first Christians received it (Acts ii. 46), " in

gladness." (H. CREMERt.)

II. The Church Doctrine (the teaching of the Fathers and the Early Church, the Greek Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Churches of the Reformation. See also the articles MASS and TRANSUBSTANTIATION).

1. In the East: Precisely because the New­Teatament exegesis of the past did not succeed in giving a decisive answer to the questions which have made the love‑feast of the primitive Church a battle‑ground for contending creeds, a constant

appeal to history has entered into the

1. Diiacnl‑ controversy. Early in the discussions

ties of the

Problem. of the sixteenth century, (Ecolam­

padius appealed to the vetustissirni

audores, and in 152'7 Luther found himself involved

in a learned discussion with him on passages in

Augustine, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Hilary, and Cyp­

rian. And so, in more recent times, the various

beliefs of the opposing religious bodies have been

found by their adherents mirrored in the history

of eucharistic doctrine. Ponderous treatises have

been written to prove that the Roman Catholic, Or

the Lutheran, or the Zwinglian view is that of an­tiquity; but they have not been fruitful in con­versions. This lack of result is scarcely surpri­sing, for little is really to be learned of the sense of the original institution from the history of the doc­trine. The student finds too soon misconceptions and perversions, which are the result of non‑Chris‑


tian influences and superstitions within the Church. But the study of the question will be wholly un­fruitful if it is pursued from the standpoint of six­teenth‑century controversies. The oldest non­Scriptural sources give too little material, and as soon as more abundant testimony becomes avail­able, it is in a world the civilization, education, and habits of thought of which are so totally different from those of the Reformation period as to give no premises for deducing the answer to the ques­tions which agitated that period.

There were, prior to Irenaeus and Tertullian, only three non‑Scriptural authors who can be brought into the discussion: the author of the Didache, Ignatius of Antioch, and Justin Martyr. The in­dications of the first‑named are particularly inter­esting. Here the Lord's Supper is still a family feast of the believers, taking its relig‑

2. The Di‑ ious character from the thanksgiving

dacha and (Gk., eucharistia) which precedes and

Ignatius. follows the eating and drinking; the

prayers, obviously received by the

author from tradition, are of venerable antiquity

and great beauty. But the treatise does not show

in what manner the eucharistic food was regarded,

except that it was considered as spiritual nourish­

ment unto everlasting life. Nothing is said of the

body and blood of Christ; and the total omission

of any reference to his institution or to his death

is so singular that the theory of these prayers form­

ing the close of the Agape (q.v.), and thus having

no reference to the sacramental feast which fol­

lowed it, is worthy of consideration. Ignatius has,

besides other brief allusions, two passages of espe­

cial importance, in which some have found a dis­

tinct affirmation of the real presence of the glori­

fied body of Christ (Ad Eph. xx.; Ad Smyrn. vii.

1; ANF, i. 57‑58, 89). But it is possible to lay

too much stress on them. According to Ignatius,

two special blessings‑eternal life and mystical

union with God‑are received by means of Christ's

incarnation and triumph over death. These latter

Ignatius is forced to emphasize by his opposition

to the Docetics; the flesh and blood of Christ are

to him the tangible security for the life‑giving union

with God. Thus, just as he calls the Gospel, the

proclamation of this tangible security, the " flesh

of Jesus " (Ad Phil. v. 1; ANF, i. 82), so bread and

wine, the tangible symbols of this blessing in the

Eucharist, might equally well be called the body

and blood of Christ: Ignatius preaches so strongly

the " bodily and spiritual unity," connects the

spiritual blessing so closely with its outward rep­

resentation, that the denial of the outward would

endanger for him the reality of the inward; yet

that does not mean that he confuses the two, or

considers the material elements as such to bring

with them the divine. His view of the Lord's Sup­

per, then, is certainly not purely symbolic; but it

would be rash to conclude from this that he

accepted the real presence of the glorified body

of Christ.

It is just as difficult to draw precise conclusions from the words of Justin. Only one passage in his writings needs special consideration for our pur­pose‑the long‑debated 1 AlOOI. Lzvi., which is

worth quoting in full: " For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like

manner as Jesus Christ our Savior,

S. Justin having been made flesh by the word of

God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of his word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmuta­tion are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh " (ANF, i. 185 [where the remark is made in a foot‑note that " this pas­sage is claimed alike by Calvinists, Lutherans, and Romanists; and, indeed, the language is so inexact, that each party may plausibly maintain that their own opinion is advocated by it."]) It is per­fectly clear that Justin recognized the designa­tion of the eucharistic food as the body and blood of Christ for a universal Christian usage. It may also be admitted that the clause " from which," etc., stands in inseparable relation to the " food which is blessed "; in other words, that by the Eucharist our flesh and blood is nourished " by transmutation " (kata melabden). The most prob­able explanation of this is that through the Eucha­rist our bodies are so nourished that they experi­ence a change, namely, " so as to be incorrupti­ble." The " drug of immortality " of Ignatius (EPh. xx. 2) is more than a parallel; the depend­ence of Justin upon the prevalent teaching of Asia Minor, as met in Ignatius, may be shown from other passages. Justin, like Ignatius, sees in some manner the body and blood of Christ in the Eucha­rist; and, following John vi., while he says nothing of remission of sins as a benefit conferred by it, he regards it as the food of immortality. There is no question of a change of the elements either in the Roman Catholic or the later Greek sense; nor is the body and blood of Christ so really present that they pass into the partaker " by transmutation," or are carnally eaten and drunk. The probable sense of the whole passage is this: as Jesus became man by the power of the Logos, so also the bread which is hallowed by the words of blessing derived from him becomes his flesh and blood; the Logos joins himself to the bread, as in the Incarnation he assumed flesh and blood. This theory, involv­ing a real dynamic change of the elements, has been often repeated in later times; but it fails to tell anything of the fundamental meaning of the " this is " of the words of institution, and it is entirely foreign to the theories of the sixteenth century. So long as even the fuller expressions of later but still ancient times are studied in the light of that modern period, they can never be properly understood.

It will not do, then, to impale the Fathers upon the horns of a modern dilemma, BUt It T1111$t equally be admitted that the primitive Church spoke of the eucharistic elements as

4. Early the body and blood of Christ. Of

Designs‑ course the teaching of the Church in

tionaofthe the period about 150 did not bear the

Elements. aspect of the later formal conciliar ut­terances but Justin's word " we have been taught " shows that then (as thirty years later in Irenaeus, V., ii. 2, and in the Apostolic Constitu­tions, viii. 12) the Church reiterated what the Gos‑


pals gave it‑" this is the body of Christ "‑with­out troubling itself to reason at length on the meaning of the words. This view appears so self­evident in the above‑cited passage of Ignatius (Smyrn. vii. 1) that he says the heretics abstained from the communion because they did not believe " the eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior, Jesus Christ." And even the Gnostic heretics, who (in spite of what Ignatius says) had some sort of a Eucharist of their own, apparently all retained the designation of the elements as the body and blood of Christ, in spite of their dooetism and spiritual­ism; Ireneeus argues against them (IV., xviii. 4) as if this designation were common ground. The practise of the Church bears out the same conten­tion. . Tertullian (De corona, iii.) and Origen (on Eaod. aiii. 3) both speak, as of an old‑established tradition, of the great care taken that no crumb or drop of the elements should fall to the ground. The oldest formula of administration known, go­ing back certainly to the third century, is simply " the body of Christ, the blood of Christ, the cup of life." The same conception is evidenced by the reports of " Thyestean banquets " attributed by the heathen to the Christians in the second decade of the second century, in Asia (Pliny's letter to Trajan) and in Rome (Tacitus, Annalea, xv. 44). In a word, following the "this is " of the Gospels, in the methods of speech used by the Church, cate­ehetical as well as liturgical, in the popular belief, and in the practise based on that belief, the Eucha­rist was the body and blood of Christ.

The very circumstance, however, that this same fact is met alike among Gnostics and their oppo­nents, in the writings of an Origen and of a Tertul­lian, should warn against concluding from it the

prevalence of a realistic conception a• Oriental (whether of a Roman Catholic or a zann°no" Lutheran kind) in the early Church. Oon~oeDtion. The same thing may be inferred from

the fact that no early apologist thinks it necessary to defend this designation of the ele­ments se the body and blood of Christ against pagan opponents as anything irrational. Justin shows no consciousness that this must seem a stranger doctrine to the heathen than the inearnar tion or the resurrection; similar language is se much a matter of course to Origen writing against Celsus. But it would be equally unjustifiable to conclude that the language of the early Church may be understood in a Zwinglian or Calvinistic sense. The Fathers, whether Eastern or Western, must be interpreted by the presuppositions of their own times. Strauss draws a distinction (Leben Jean, ii. 437, let ed.) between the Oriental mind, which thinks in images, and the more abstract Western habit of thought. Yet it must be remem­bered that under the Empire the religious life of the West was permeated by Oriental influences. " Mysteries " were a natural concomitant of re­ligion; and the idea that in a mystery earthly ele­ments could " become " divine by the working of some invisible power without any change of their substance, was not unknown to the pagan philoso­phy of the West. It is now generally recognized that the Gnosticism of the second and third oen‑

turies understood or shaped Christian traditions according to the idea of mysteries; and, while it is not so universally admitted, it may safely be said that the same influence of pagan religious tradition which led in Gnosticism to " an acute Hellenizing of Christianity " (Harnack) began, about the same time, though more slowly and gradually, to have as effect on the Church which condemned Gnosti­cism. This is most clearly seen in the history of baptism and the Lord's Supper. The very name sacraments is a token of this. Tertullian is the first author who can be shown to have spoken of eacramentum boptisntatia et euchariatia'; but the idea is found in Clement of Alexandria, and is not far off in Justin. The developed Arcani Diaciplina (q.v.) of the fourth and following centuries must have been a consequence of this tendency, and thus later than the tendency itself. So, since the be­ginnings of the diaciptina are found in Tertullian, the beginnings of the development which led to the Hellenizing of Christian worship moat go back to the first half of the second century. The atmos­phere of mystery thus inherited from the ancient world favored the leaving of the questions about which after ages contended without a definite and precise answer. A " symbolic " conception of the sacramental gift by no means excluded one which might be called " realistic." Harnack points out that whereas by " symbol " now is understood a thing which is not what it signifies, then it meant (for many people, at least) a thing which was, in some sense, what it signified. That the bread and wine were, in some sense, the body and blood of Christ was accepted in the second century, as has been seen. But this affirmation lay within the sphere of mystery, meaning different things to different persons according to the extent of their spiritual attainment; it was in no sense a defined dogma. This explains the fact that the doctrine of the Eu­charist shows a much less regular development than the dogmas of the early Church, such as that of the Trinity or of the person of Christ.

The first important step in such development as there was is connected with the application of the idea of sacrifice to the Lord's Supper. The fact has often been overlooked that this application is unscriptural. It made its first appearance, to be

sure, under the aspect of New‑Testa­e. Entraaos went thoughts. Prayer was spoken

°_o'°rl' of as th0 sfterifiN ef the lips (HA. xui.

°ial 1& of. Rev. v. 8

conception. ~ , viii. 3; Hos. aiv. 2);

to do good and to communicate was to offer a sacrifice with which God was well pleased (Heb. xiii. 1(1). $o it was not far to considering in the same light the offerings of love which served for the Eucharist, and, so far as they were not needed for that for. the necessities of the poor (Polycarp, Ad Phil. iv. 2). But the thing soon went further than this; even the Didache (xiv. 3) regards the Lord's Supper, in the words of the famous prophecy of Malachi (i. 11), as the "pure offering " of the new covenant. This might have been of little consequence if the Eucharist had re­mained, as it appears in Ignatius and in the Di­dache, a real meal, or connected with one, and if the " giving thanks 11 had remained an act of the com.


munity, or of members specially adapted to it or visiting prophets (Didache, a. 7). To realise the significance of the change from this to the speak­ing of the eucharistic words as a specialised funo­tion of the officials, it is necessary only to remem­ber how utterly distinct from what was called wor­ship in heathen tradition, from all sacerdotal and theurgic action, were the earliest Christian assem­blies‑‑the gatherings " to edifying " of I Cor. siv. 23, 26 and the agape' of I Cor. xi Z(). The distinc­tion, then, grew less when the administration of the Eucharist became the function of appointed offi­cials (of. Ignat., Ad Smyrn. viii. 2; ANF, i. 89, " Let that be deemed a proper euchariat which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it"). It grew still less when the Agape (q.v.) was gradually separated from the Lord's Supper. Alms and oblations, at first connected closely, began to be separated, the latter term designating the eucharistic elements, which alone received the mystical blessing of the bishop (Justin's " chief," Gk. proeatae); and it was an easy step to finding the sacrificial act in this blessing, instead of in the free‑will offering by the members. But, however this development is traced, the terms used by Justin are certainly note­worthy. If it was the Proeataa who "made the bread of the Eucharist a memorial of the suffering of Christ," it can hardly be denied that the dis­tance is but short from this to the words of Cyp• rian: "the priest imitates that which Christ did and offers a true and complete sacrifice in the Church to God the Father" (Epiat, btiii.). Re­membering that many of the ancient mysteries had their dramatic representations of sacred cult­legends, that the conception of the unbloody re­newal of the sacrifice of Christ continued to shade off from a symbolic‑imitative commemoration feast until after the time of Gregory the Great, and that the Greek Church in the final development of its mass approaches closely to a dramatic representa­tion of the Passion, it will seem not too much to say that the above‑quoted formula of Justin is is the direct line of development that leads to the Roman mass. The really important thing is that in the interval between Justin and Cyprian, the "sacrifice of praise" had become a priestly "sacri­fice of propitiation." Immense as the change seems when judged by the New‑Testament standard, it will not surprise any one acquainted with the Greco­Roman world of that period; the conception of sacrifice, once admitted, brought with it all its natural concomitants. Nor were connecting links wanting. Prayer was made for those who brought the oblations; to emphasise the communion with the departed, oblations were made foe them too; and the " offerings for the dead " which Tertullian knows as a custom already ancient (De omona, iii.) show a more propitiatory character than those for the living. Tertullian still considered the giver of the oblations as the one who offered the sacrifice; commending his dead to God "through the priest" (De ezhortatione caatilalia, ai.). But even here s priestly mediation is assumed, and it is but a short step to the priestly sacrifice as the Church of the latter half of the third century knew it.

It has been necessary to disease this develop­ment of the sacrificial conception of the Eucharist because it was the deciding factor in the final shape assumed by the conceptions of the early Church as to the sacramental gift. In attempting to discover

what this latter was, it is expedient 7. Doctrine to discuss separately the develop­otIrenesne. ment in the East and the West,

though the examination will not be detailed. All that may be expected is a gradual assimilation of various views, without deliberate discussion, but under the influence of liturgical forms and popular conceptions; it is necessary here only to take up such views as offer a notion of one or other of the fundamental conceptions that were to be assimilated. Irenajus gives the first of these. He was appealed to in the Formula Concordica of Wittenberg (1536), as ha had already been by Luther in 1527, to support the Lutheran view; and it was not difficult for those who then read his words in the light of their own beliefs to find such support. His words, however, must be considered is their simple objective mean­ing, apart from modern ideas. Irenmus' words are (Her. IV., aviii. 5): "Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with his blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? . . . For, as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer com­mon bred, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity" (ANF, i. 486). And again (He=r. V., ii. 3), of the bread and wine, that, " having received the Word of God, they become the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ " (ANF, i. 528). The interpretation of the first quotation hinges on the meaning given to the " heavenly reality," which has bean variously explained by those who have forgotten the caution just given. If one must define precisely the " heavenly real­ity," it will appear, from the parallel between the " becoming the Eucharist " of the elements and the " becoming incorruptible " of the body, as well as from Hnr. V., ix. 3, to be the Spirit of God, who is invoked upon the elements. But so precise a definition is not really needed. It is sufficient to observe that by the ekkleaia or epikleais (Hcer. IV., aviii. 5) something heavenly is added to the ele­ments, by which they become what they were not before‑‑a food that guarantees the partaking of eternal life to the receiver. If this were the whole of Irenseus' conception, it would not be difficult to find in it a Greek view of the eucharistic mystery modified by the primitive thoughts about the resur­rection of the ffeeh. But it is not the whole. Other passages, such as Htsr. V., ii. 2, must be taken into account in the attempt to determine the teaching of Irenmus. As s theologian familiar with the Greek culture of his time, he took the view which he found in common Christian tradition (speci­fically that of the school of John and of Asia Minor) ‑that the Eucharist is in eon sense the body and blood of Christ, intended as a food unto eternal

1   ...   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   ...   38

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page