One of my favorite young scholars is Brant Pitre, a Roman Catholic New Testament professor at Notre Dame in New Orleans, and so I’m excited to share with you his new book: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper. Brant is a dedicated Christian and a devout student.
When Brant was in college and ready to marry Elizabeth, they went to her pastor for pre-marital counseling. Her pastor was a Southern Baptist and the session turned into a lengthy (unresolved) debate and both Brant and Elizabeth ended in tears, and that day changed Brant into a quester. This book is in some ways the result of that encounter.Here’s an opener: “Over the centuries, most Christians have taken Jesus at his word, believing that the bread and wine of the Eucharist really do become the body and the blood of Christ. Others, however, especially since the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, think that Jesus was speaking only symbolically” (14).
So, let’s start right here: What difference does this make? The real absence or the symbolic view. (My colleague refers to the symbolic view the “real absence” view.)
And I’ll tell you what I think, though I’m always willing to rethink this one: the later articulations in both the Real Presence tradition (both transubstantiation and consubstantiation) go beyond the New Testament into the mysteries that are not revealed, while the symbolic view tends, in my judgment, to get too flippant and irreverent with the sacredness of the bread and wine. But, do you think taking a position on this debate is necessary? important? why or why not?