Sunday, October 02, 2005

Did Jesus clarify how he would offer his flesh as food?

Johannine-Synoptic parallel. After Jesus distributed bread through the disciples in the season of Passover, he said the bread he would later give the world to eat was his body. Just before a later Passover, he said what he then gave his disciples to eat was his body. (Other parallels between John and the Synoptic gospel accounts are also striking, e.g., Matt. 11:28-30.) Colors bring out the commonalities:
"'... If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.'" (John 6:51)
"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'" (Matt. 26:26, excerpt from the words that instituted the Lord's Supper)

Scaer (p. 182) argued from the similarity of the passages that John's original audience, like the second-century church, would have interpreted his discourse on bread eucharistically since weekly celebration of the sacrament would have familiarized them with its words of institution. Since Jesus apparently had spoken of eating him by faith (6:35), the additional meaning of orally eating his flesh in his Supper seems to exhibit double entendre, a literary device commonly used by John (e.g., 11:48-52; 12:32-33; 18:8-9; 19:15; Blomberg on p. 102 cites 2:4; 7:6; 12:23;
NGSB cites 3:14; 6:62; Voelz cites 1:5). (A double entendre, or double meaning, tends to be less language-dependent than a pun, the use of a similarity in words' sounds for humor.)

Since the disciples did not even comprehend Jesus' clear predictions of his death and resurrection before Passion Week, they could not have understood the prediction of giving bread in connection with his sacrificial death (John 6:27, 51, 60; cf. 2:19-22). Thus, they could only have interpreted the words of institution as the explanation of that prediction.

Bischof, J. C. (1999) John 6 and the Lord's Supper, MST Thesis, Concordia Seminary: St. Louis; distributed by the Theological Research Exchange Network.
Blomberg, C. L. (1997) Jesus and the Gospels, Broadman & Holman Publishers: Nashville.
NGSB = New Geneva Study Bible (replaced by Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible), Introduction to the Gospel according to John (edited by R. C. Sproul).
Scaer, D. P. (2000) The Sermon on the Mount: The Church's First Statement of the Gospel, Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis.
Voelz, J.W. "The Discourse on the Bread of Life in John 6: Is It Eucharistic?" Concordia Journal, no. January (1989): 29-37.

Scripture translation: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.