Full Text for "Sola Scriptura" & the Interpretation Of the Eating & Drinking Of Jn. 6:51-53 (Text)

III IJ III III DR. WALTER A. MAIER II "SOLA SCRIPTURA" & THE INTERPRETATION OF THE EATING & DRINKING OF IN. 6:51-53 Concordia Theological Seminary Press Fori Wayne, Indiana IIJ IJ III III SOLA SCHlf'TURA AND THE INTERPRETATION OF THE EAT[NG Al'\D DRINKfNG OF JOII '\ 6:51-53 In our presentation today we return to the Bread of Life di~L'\ lUfse of Jesus, \vhich has been studied by the people of God ever since the report of Jesus' words was penned by the apostle John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Theologians of the church t1mlugh the centuries have poured over the discourse presented in ver.;;es 26-58 of John 6, as well as the related statements of the Lorcl following in versus 61 c to the enLl of the chapter, and offered varying explanations of the meaning of what Jesus was actually saying as He spoke to the crowd of Jews gathered in and around the synagog in Capernaurn on the oCl'asion inclicated in Jolm 6. Jesus had on the previous clay ancl nearby the distant eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee preached to, healed the sick among, and miraculously fed, and then left, the multitude \ { 5,000 men besides women anclchildren. Many in that multitude had sought Jesus thereafter and now found Him and his twelve disciples in Capernaum. One of the first questions on their minds \\hen they came to Jesus concerned the time when Jesus had arrived at the city after leaving them the night before, thus also inquiring implicitly as to how He had gotten there. After the miraculous feeding, they wanted to make Him their king, a bread-king. Jesus responded by speaking of things far more importalJt for the people to know than what they sought. The brief gist of Je"us' words was that their quest for Him following the feeding miracle was prompted by their desire tl) have their stomachs continually fi lied in that wonderful way; that the miracle had not led them t(l think of the teaching of Him whp performed it and the other might) works. He stated that there \\a.~ a food which satisfies forever and endures to life everlasting which they should strive to acquir,': that the Father had sent Him, Je~ll', to dispense this food, this Bread from the Father in heaven; trut the people could receive this food by believing on Himself, for He. III IJ III III -2­Jesus, was the heaven-sent Bread \lfLife. So, let his hearers come til Him and believe on Him as the Son ofOod, their r-.1essiah and Savior, as He had been proclaiming tl) them, and obtain everlasting life and the resurrection from the: dead at the last day. Despite the Jews' murmuring because Jesus said "I am the Bread which came' down from heaven."l He declare','> plainly "Most assuredly. " he who believes in Me has everlastin~ life." This brines us to the verc;c':; of the discourse. 51-53. which '-t.;;' , we would touch upon exegetically today, as Christ says (51) "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. Ifanyone eats of this bread, he \Vlll1ive forever; and the bread that I shJll give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." (52) The Jews theref,lre quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Alan give His flesh ti) eat?" (53) Then Jesus said h) them "Most assuredly, I say to Yilt!, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of \1un and drink His blood, you have IlO life in you." The particular topic of i,lur paper is "Sola ScnjJtura and the Interpretation of the Eating and Drinking of John 6:51-53." At the outset of our di:-'l'ussion let me note that. while much modern scholarship questions the Johannine apostolic authorship (in whole or in part) and/or the integrity of Jesus' discourse on the Bread of Life, I maintain both: the entire discourse, in my view, is surely the accurate written report of the apostle John as to wtwt Jesus actually said in Capernaum (possibly in condensation). This paper propose" w deal with two principal understandings of the verses at hand and of the kind of eating of the flesh IIf Christ and the kind of drinking nf his blood referred to in verses 51­53, as these interpretations h~I\C come down to us from the past. These views are (1) that the eating and drinking are a special (and miraculous, supernatural) eating and drinking of the divine elements which is by faith, and (2) tlwt Christ is speaking of the sacramental (miraculous, supernatural) III IJ III III -3­eating and drinking, orally, with the elements of Christ's b(ldy and blood received in the communicant's mouth, which \'Lcurs in the celebration of the eucharist. The former view is distinctively Lutheran. It has been enunciated and championed by numerous early church fathers. by Luther, Chemnitz, and LutherJl1 theologians. pastors, and ChristiJI1 people (among such, members of the Lutheran Church-Mi'isomi Synod) and also by Refored theol,lgians until the present day, The other view, that John 6 is speaking of the eating of Christ's flesh and drinking of His blood which takes place in the Lord's Supper. has been the teaching and belief uf numerous early church fathers. of the Eastern and Western ChUlL'hes of old, of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches subsequently, and of certain 1l11ldern scholars until the present time.2 Among recent arguments offered in behalf of the Eucharistic interpretation are these: -Beginning with verse SO, new words are introduced into the sermon-~"eat," "drink," "feed," "flesh," "blood"-which are held to be sacramental and referring to Holy Communion, Raymond Brown, for example, \\-Tites: "They [Jesus' words in verse 53] simply reproduce the words, we heal in the Synoptic account of the institution of the Eucharist (Matthew xxvi 26-28): 'Take, eat; this is my body; . . . drink . .. this is my blood.'" 3 -Much is made of the fact that the Gospel of John does not record the words of the sacrament's institution as d(l the Synoptics. Brown states: "The second indication of the Euchari st is the formula found in verse SI : 'The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.' If we consider that John does not report the Lord's words over the bread and the cup at the Last Supper, it is possible that we have preserved in verse 51 tbe lohannine form of the words of institution. In particular, it rc~embles the Lucan form of institutic1o: 'This is my body which is given for you. ",4 III II III III -4­-Another Roman Catholk theologian, Andre FeuilIet, hokb that the eucharistic theme is found throughout the John 6 di,course and thus continues to be the subject in verses 51-53. He writes: It ... seems evident to us that the eucharistic theme, alre~ldy prepared by the word eucharistesas in verses 11 and 23 (deliberately repeated), is announced from the beginning (verse 27 with br{)Sis; dosei used in this verse, recurs in verse 55),5 He is the opinion that The Christian cannot he lp seeing in these verses the body and blood of the Christ of the Eucharist. Even the tirst part of the Discourse, which speaks of bread and drink, takes on a new meaning, or rather a more exact one, for it is principally by the sacrament of the Euchari st Christians receive this heaven] y bread which is the Logos incarnate.6 Feuillet adds this idea, amon::: others: Christ had to prepare hi.\ disciples for the great event of the Last Supper. ... As for the Discourse on the Bread of Life in John, there are two possibilities: either the evangelist has added to Jesus' discourse following the multiplication of the loaves some of the tidings whil'h He said at the Last Supper, or e be the miracle of the loaves was already the preparation for the institution of the Eucharist.7 -Lutheran exegete James Voelz, taking a different appr\lach. asks the question "Does the Bread of Life discourse refer to the oral eating of the Lord's Supper or does it not?" and responds: "The answer, I believe, is '{c-:, but not simply Yes-rather, Yes in a complex way.,,8 He explains: I believe that in the discourse on the Bread of Life, our Lord is speaking of heavenly sustenance which H: gives for His own, for the people of God. What is that heavenly sustenance? It can properly be thought of, I believe, in specifically eucharistic (i.e., oral eating) terms: (\crse 54) "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and will raise him up on the last day." But it can 17m only be thought of in such specifically euchari~tic terms: (Verse 47) "He who beline's has eternal life." Yet, the Sacrament of the Altar is one means--and it is the only means of oral eating and drinking-for the R \dy of Christ to be fed with the body of Christ, by the living food of the Lord, her Ih ing Savior.9 III 11 III III -5­Again: This dil,course is worded ill such a way that its words cause Christian hearers to think about the oral eating of the Sacrament of the Altar, and ('~lting which occurs in the case of all conununicanh. while at the same time they point beyond the oral eating to the spiritual eating. an felting which occurs only in the case? nf believers. Io Voelz suggests that the words (if Christ in the discourse are, in short, a sort of double entendre, with some parts l)f the discourse applying more strongly to one member of the meaning (the ver<;c') before verse 51, e.g., applying more strongly t,) the more general spiritual eatinf I, and other parts applying more strongly to the (ltiler member (the verses following verse 51 applying to the more specifically eucharistic oral eating). 11 Before proceeding nll\V, two things may be parenthetically noted. First, numerous theologians, ancient and modern, simply aSSllme that Jesus "peaks of the Sacrament of Holy Communion throughout the J"im 6 discourse and present their l'llmments without endeavoring tu supply reasons for this assumptill11. Secondly, the fact that some liberal scholars do not regard Jesus as Himself having spoken the words of the Bread of Life discllUfse, but attribute it to someone else-for example, a fmal redactor of Fourth Gospel material-substantially affects their interpretation of what is said 111 the discourse. In contrast to the view that Jesus was speaking of the eudlarist in John 6, the present writer states that he is in agreemcnt with the traditional Lutheran interpretation which sees the Lord speaking here exclusively of till' spiritual reception of Christ by faith and, specifically, of the spiritual eating of Christ's body and drinking of His blood that occurs thr,mgh faith in Jesus. Guided by the principles of the traditional Lutheran Bibical herrnenuetics, I respcdfully defend this viewpoint on the basis of the considerations \\hich follow (among others). III 11 III III -6­(1) Surely, Jesus Him"elf :l(:tually spoke the words of the John 6 Bread of Life discourse, and at the time in his ministry and ilt the place mentioned in John 6: 1--+ The Gospel text says so! (2) The apostle John, \\ih, was with Jesus, gave a fully truthful report of what Jesus actually did and said on the specified occasion, we know, because he wrote his report under divine inspiration. (3) Surely, Jesus had the desire to bring, and was intent upon bringing, people in the multitude gathered in Capern;lum to faith in Himself and to etenul life and salvation. Surely, He chose the best words to spea~ to the crowd. so that the Holy Spirit could accomplish in many the miracle of conversion. While rh(: church of the future would study His words and receive benefit, He spoke at that time to help ane! :;ave the people to whom He initially addressed them.12 (4) When Jesus spoke llfHimselfas the Bread of Life which should be eaten for the reception of eternal life, adding later ah\1 that His blood should be drunk to the same end, He assuredly wa\ speaking of a reception of the,,", divine entities by faith, because \ If his clear, preparatory indication of this to be His meaning in th:' heart of the discourse, verses 29.+ 7. When at the beginning of Hi, address Jesus counsels His ; Baker Book House, 1')':'.7), page 239, points out that the kws of Christ's day "often used the language of eating and drinking when they wanted to rder to taking teaching into theil innermost being." He directs attention in this connection also to such Old Testament passages as Proverbs l):5 and Isaiah 55:1, with which the Jews were acquainted, and in which the word of God is "lik,'ned to food or drink which must be taken within," and then observes in a comment regarding the final portion of the John (l discourse: "Jesus is then using language that people \wuld appreciate and understand as ~ll[rething quite different from HoI y Communion. He ha~ already spoken in this discourse of people coming to him as the breUli of life (verse 35) and ,)f believing in him (vv. 40, 47), and he is saying much the same when III 11 III t., -17­he invites his hearers to tUKe him into their innermost being. There is the addition in this part of his address that the sep:llation of flesh and blood points to his death, as do different words in 3: 16. He is saying that he will die for the people and il1\ iting people to feed on him in a heavenly and spiritual I11dnner." (Page 239) 13. The impersonal "that \\hich" is a better rendering than "He \vho," which the NKJV has. While the predicate nominative ho katabainon in verse 33 is masculine and could refer to Christ, it is better construed with the nominative masculine .'