555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

391. What Is Transubstantiation?




Transubstantiation (the term applied to the change of the substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the Sacrament) is a doctrine held by some, but not all, of the Christian churches. The Church of England and a large number of Protestant bodies hold that the bread and wine are sanctified symbols. Chrysostom wrote that after divine grace had sanctified the bread, "it is no longer called bread, but dignified with the name of the body of the Lord, although the nature of bread remains in it." Theodoret declared that the bread and wine remain still in their own nature, after consecration. Augustine taught that what they saw upon the altar was bread and the cup, as their own eyes could testify; but that their faith required to be instructed that the bread is the body of Christ; and he added, "These things are therefore called sacraments, because in them one thing is seen and another is understood. That which is seen has a bodily appearance; that which is understood has a spiritual fruit." Isidore of Seville said: "These two things are visible, but being sanctified by the Holy Ghost,' they become the sacrament of the Lord's body." Luther held the doctrine of the true presence of the body and blood of Christ, saying, "The bread is the body, the wine is the blood of the Lord," according to a sacramental union, but not in the manner of transubstantiation, adhering literally to the language of the Scriptures. The Catholic Church has always held the doctrine of the real, corporeal presence. With a few exceptions, the Protestants interpret the Saviour's language figuratively, and hold that Jesus intended to convey to men the lesson that unless they voluntarily appropriated to themselves his death and sacrifice, so that they become their very life and nourishment, they can have no spiritual and eternal life at all.