In part one of my response to Tom Nash, I answered to his claims regarding Ignatius of Antioch. Here, in part two, I will address his claims regarding Justin Martyr.
In my article, “Early Church Evidence Refutes Real Presence,” I give context and some background on Justin Martyr’s two apologies. It is by no means comprehensive, but it does help to better understand why Justin wrote these works. But as for squashing the claim that his works affirm the notion of real presence, well, that can be done with a single phrase from Justin: “Deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced.”
Here is the context…
“But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to γένοιτο [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.” (First Apology, Chapter 65; emphasis added)
Here is what Tom Nash had to say about it:
Citing Justin’s later words in chapter 65, Culliton argues that “Christians do not partake of flesh and blood in any carnal way, but rather bread and wine mixed with water: ‘to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water’” (emphasis Culliton’s). Yet, Justin affirms here both the symbolic nature of the Eucharist—its having the appearance of bread and wine—and also its being the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.
Astounding! There is not a single thing I need to say about Mr. Nash’s interpretation because anyone can see that it is just plain nuts. Justin said nothing about the elements being in appearance of bread and wine, nor did he say anything about it being the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. Putting those words into Justin’s mouth is deceitful and shameful.
The bread and wine mixed with water that was brought to the bishop was, according to Justin, the same substance when it was consumed by the brethren. The only difference is that it was blessed and sanctified for a specific purpose and a specific people. Justin went on to say that once the blessing was pronounced it was no longer common bread and common drink, but the Eucharist, which, from the Gospels, is what Jesus enjoined on the apostles as His body and blood. Justin made clear that it is a memorial ritual giving the emperor, to whom he was addressing, no reason to believe there was anything unreasonable about Christian gatherings.
Since Mr. Nash failed to offer anything other than rhetoric, if found a website that attempts to offer a bit more in the way of explaining why Justin could be interpreted as supporting Catholic real presence. There are a lot of acrobatics involved on the part of the author, but at least it gives me something to respond to.
The article is written by Joe Heschmyer and it can be read here. Mr. Heschmyer addresses Justin’s words about the distribution of the bread and wine mixed with water and affirms the obvious, that it sounds like a denial of real presence. As you might guess, however, Mr. Heschmyer immediately sets out to explain away the apparent refutation.
His approach to explain away Justin’s apparent rejection of real presence is to “get into the nitty-gritty of the Greek.” Because Justin said, “…the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced,” Mr. Heschmyer sees an opportunity to use the Greek word for thanksgiving as a way to connect with real presence in the minds of Catholics. This works for his purpose because Catholics always associate the word eucharist with the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine. He explains it this way:
Justin says “deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced.” At first, this sounds like he’s denying the Real Presence. But then you get into the nitty-gritty of the Greek, where thanksgiving means Eucharist. So he’s literally saying “deacons give to each of those present to partake of the ‘Eucharitized’ bread and wine mixed with water.”
Most Catholics will simply accept that explanation with no regard for the fact that it makes absolutely no sense. Justin made no suggestion that anything changed regarding the bread and wine mixed with water; in fact, by referring to it as bread and wine mixed with water after thanksgiving was pronounced over it, he refutes the notion of real presence. The only change that takes place is in the minds of those who are conditioned to believe in real presence.
Mr. Heschmyer continued:
He makes it more clear in the next chapter, which picks up immediately where that last quote left off:
“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.
For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, 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.” – (First Apology, 66)
So Justin is clear “that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word […] is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. ” The “prayer of His word” refers to the words of institution, which come from Jesus’ lips at the Last Supper. So after the words of institution, the bread and wine become the flesh and blood of “that Jesus.”
The problem for adherents of real presence is that Justin never said the bread and wine “become” anything other than “uncommon.” He said that we have been taught, according to the Gospels, that the food is the flesh and blood of “that Jesus” who was “made flesh by the Word of God, and had both flesh and blood for our salvation.” That is not the same as saying the food becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus. And Justin continued…
“For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone.”
What would make anyone think that the bread Jesus called His body, or the cup He called His blood, is literally his body and blood? Justin certainly wasn’t expecting the emperor, to whom he was writing, to believe that. Justin asked the emperor to judge them on reason. What reason did Justin give the emperor to suppose that Christians ate and drank literal flesh and blood? Justin continued…
“Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”
According to Justin, that over which thanks had been given is bread and wine mixed with water, and that which is offered are prayers and thanksgiving. This is radically different than what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. According to the Catholic Church Christ is the sacrificial offering at the mass:
“The Church, which is the Body and Bride of Christ, participates in the sacrificial offering of her Head and Spouse.” (USCCB, The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers)
In contrast, Justin asserted to Trypho the Jew…
“Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind.” (Dialogue with Trypho, 117)
Justin’s idea of offering sacrifice in the church was completely different than what the RCC teaches. The only sacrifice offered in Justin’s time was that of prayers and thanksgiving (the eucharist), not a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice (not the eucharist). And to absolutely seal the argument that Justin did not believe the elements to be the literal flesh and blood of Christ, here is what else he said to Trypho:
“The bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks.” (ibid, 70) /
You cannot get more non-real presence than to say, “…in remembrance of His own blood.” If the cup is supposed to be His own blood why would Justin say we drink in remembrance of it?
The acrobats involved in order for Catholic apologists to turn Justin’s words into something that supports their doctrine of real presence is nothing short of world-class! It takes incredible effort to contort Justin’s labors to defend the true Scripturally-based faith into support for a Roman Catholic tradition.
There is a reason Mr. Nash did not go into any detail regarding Justin Martyr, there is just simply no support in Justin’s writings for the Catholic doctrine of real presence.