J. Ramsey Michaels on the Eucharsitic Interpretation of John 6

In light of my friendly disagreement with Brant Pitre’s rather wave of the hand dismissal of a non-eucharistic interpretation of John 6 in his recent book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, I want to quote  J. Ramsey Michael’s (2010) new commentary on John’s Gospel:

While the eucharistic interpretation makes some sense for even the earliest readers of the Gospel ( who may have known and practiced the Lord’s Supper), it makes no sense at all in the literary setting of the discourse at Capernaum . . . More likely, the sacramental or eucharistic interpretation of the text belongs to the “reception history” of the text rather than to the Gospel writer’s intention (much less the intention of Jesus within the story!). The text should be read if possible from within the horizons of the dramatic confrontation being described at Capernaum, so as to speak both to the “the Jews” on the scene (even if it gives offense) and to Christians readers after the fact (396).

My take is: while John 6 can and perhaps even should have eucharistic resonances when seen within its canonical setting, it is most unlikely that either John or Jesus was directly teaching on the Lord’s Supper. So I have little issue with seeing the connections and perhaps even exploiting them to illuminate the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper. But I do take issue with Brant’s dismissal.

There are good reasons to hold a non-eucharistic interpretation of John 6.

  • Pingback: Craig L. Adams

  • Pingback: Joel Willitts

  • Doug Chaplin

    I certainly think that Pitre over eggs the pudding on this topic, but I have never been able to understand the Protestant blinkers which allow people to say that language of eating flesh and drinking blood has no eucharistic connotations for the author – whom I take to be “John” the author of the gospel. I find the idea that these are Jesus’ words in context of the miraculous feeding as incredible as the attempt to pretend a lack of eucharistic implication.

  • Doug Chaplin

    I certainly think that Pitre over eggs the pudding on this topic, but I have never been able to understand the Protestant blinkers which allow people to say that language of eating flesh and drinking blood has no eucharistic connotations for the author – whom I take to be “John” the author of the gospel. I find the idea that these are Jesus’ words in context of the miraculous feeding as incredible as the attempt to pretend a lack of eucharistic implication.

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com/ John Thomson

    Michael

    Exactly. Well put.

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com/ John Thomson

    Michael

    Exactly. Well put.

  • Pauljwinterhalter

    Joel, I agree with you that John 6 has Eucharistic resonances when seen within its canonical setting. I may also be able to agree that neither “John nor Jesus were directly teaching on the Lord’s Supper” if we understand that by using “Eucharistic resonances” a form of indirect communication is being used.

    However, I have no trouble also understanding that those same Eucharistic resonances were “directly” intended by John and would have been recognized by his intended audience. Jesus’ miracle, after all, is described in terms of early Eucharistic action-he took bread, gave thanks, and distributed it (Jn 6:11).

    It is also possible to understand that Jesus may have directly intended those same Eucharistic resonances too. That the Lord’s Table had not yet been instituted does not seem, to me, to count against Jesus’ speaking of it here (at least indirectly). Jesus speaks on occasion, at least in the context of John’s Gospel, of things that would only really make full sense after his death and resurrection (e.g., the need to receive the Spirit, Jn 7:37-39).

    I wonder if the trouble that some may have stems from holding onto a memorialistic (sp?) styled understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps the very concept of feeding upon the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharistic elements, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, and ideally received through faith is problematic or objectionable.

  • Pauljwinterhalter

    Joel, I agree with you that John 6 has Eucharistic resonances when seen within its canonical setting. I may also be able to agree that neither “John nor Jesus were directly teaching on the Lord’s Supper” if we understand that by using “Eucharistic resonances” a form of indirect communication is being used.

    However, I have no trouble also understanding that those same Eucharistic resonances were “directly” intended by John and would have been recognized by his intended audience. Jesus’ miracle, after all, is described in terms of early Eucharistic action-he took bread, gave thanks, and distributed it (Jn 6:11).

    It is also possible to understand that Jesus may have directly intended those same Eucharistic resonances too. That the Lord’s Table had not yet been instituted does not seem, to me, to count against Jesus’ speaking of it here (at least indirectly). Jesus speaks on occasion, at least in the context of John’s Gospel, of things that would only really make full sense after his death and resurrection (e.g., the need to receive the Spirit, Jn 7:37-39).

    I wonder if the trouble that some may have stems from holding onto a memorialistic (sp?) styled understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps the very concept of feeding upon the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharistic elements, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, and ideally received through faith is problematic or objectionable.

  • Lucian

    John’s Gospel is modeled/patterned after the Sacraments. [The first chapters are themed after Baptism, the following ones after the Eucharist].

  • Lucian

    John’s Gospel is modeled/patterned after the Sacraments. [The first chapters are themed after Baptism, the following ones after the Eucharist].


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X