Justin Martyr, Real Presence, & Eucharistic Sacrifice (vs. Lucas Banzoli)

Justin Martyr, Real Presence, & Eucharistic Sacrifice (vs. Lucas Banzoli) September 13, 2022

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian anti-Catholic polemicist, who holds to basically a Seventh-Day Adventist theology, whereby there is no such thing as a soul that consciously exists outside of a body, and no hell (soul sleep and annihilationism). This leads him to a Christology which is deficient and heterodox in terms of Christ’s human nature after His death. He has a Master’s degree in theology, a degree and postgraduate work in history, a license in letters, and is a history teacher, author of 25 books, as well as blogmaster (but now inactive) for six blogs. He’s active on YouTube.

This is my 24th refutation of articles written by Lucas Banzoli. As of yet, I haven’t received a single word in reply to any of them (or if Banzoli has replied to anything, anywhere, he certainly hasn’t informed me of it). Readers may decide for themselves why that is the case. His words will be in blue. I use RSV for the Bible passages unless otherwise indicated. Google Translate is utilized to render Lucas’ Portugese into English.


I’m replying to Lucas’ article, “Justino Mártir sobre a Eucaristia” [Justin Martyr on the Eucharist] (April Fool’s Day, 2011). Citations of St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) are from the standard Schaff collection of the Church fathers.

Lucas claims, citing Justin’s First Apology (65-67) and Dialogue with Trypho (41 and 117):

In his writings there are several references to the Eucharist, how it was practiced and what its meaning was. Bread and wine, which are capable of nourishing the body, also nourish souls as they are consecrated by thanksgiving. It is precisely this thanksgiving that constitutes a sacrifice pleasing to God (Dialogue with Trypho, 117). . . . 

The idea here is that in the same way that, through metabolism (“transformation”), that is, through the physiological process of digestion, absorption and incorporation of substances, bread and wine are a source of physical nourishment, by being sanctified these elements through prayer and thanksgiving have a similar effect in the spiritual realm. Justin says that they nourish our bodies, and therefore retain their chemical properties; but he asserts that by virtue of their consecration the bread and wine become more than ordinary bread and wine. This view of the Eucharist, called metabolic, seems to have been the most common at first.

The translator and editor of Apology in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series quotes Pope Gelasius I of the late fifth century: “By the sacraments we are made partakers of the divine nature, and yet the substance and nature of bread and wine do not cease to be in them…” It is not surprising that this statement of Gelasius was not included in the Denzinger… Nor does his decree (against the Manicheans) ratifying the reception of the Eucharist under both species [mentioned in The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Gelasius I, pope]. On the other hand, yes, other documents from him appear.

The statement about Denzinger (Enchiridion symbolorum, or Compendium of Creeds) is simply ignorant and out to sea. It’s not required to include every utterance by every pope (nor could it possibly do so, for lack of space: that would require maybe 100 long volumes). It includes statements that are deemed to be part of the magisterium, and therefore, binding on Catholics (which is its purpose). That’s not everything; it’s selective, based on what the Church decides is magisterial.

That said, it’s not beyond argument that Pope Gelasius I opposed transubstantiation. Typically of Protestant polemical arguments from the Church fathers, a brief snippet is cited and then it’s assumed that it supports Protestantism (or opposes Catholicism). There is no depth or deeper, substantive analysis. I provided that, when I wrote at length on this issue: Did Pope Gelasius (r. 492-496) Deny Transubstantiation? [3-24-21] This article of mine was in response to Protestant apologist Matt Hedges. He never responded (in the spirit of Lucas!); and I notified him of my response in the combox under his article, as anyone can see for themselves.

As can be seen [citing Trypho, 41], Justin in no way denies, but rather affirms, that what is offered in the Eucharist is not bread and wine, although he believes that after the Eucharistic prayer these elements should not be taken for ordinary bread and wine (with the which I fully agree). . . . 

Here [Trypho, 117], as in the previous text (Dialogue with Trypho 41) it repeats that what is offered in the name of Christ is bread and wine. There is not the slightest hint of the idea of ​​repeating the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. . . . 

What Justin says here conforms to the metabolic interpretation already mentioned. Precisely prayers and thanksgiving (which means “Eucharist”) are the valid sacrifices; the eucharist is, moreover, synaxis (gathering) and anamnesis (memory) of the passion of Christ. Nothing about the Eucharist as an “actualization” of Christ’s sacrifice; of transubstantiation, even less!

Alright. We’ve heard and noted Lucas’ opinion. Now let’s see what actual patristic scholars think of Justin’s views. J. N. D. is a very well-known Anglican church historian. Here’s what he believes:

Justin speaks [Dialogue with Trypho, 117, 1] of ‘all the sacrifices in this name which Jesus appointed to be performed, viz. in the eucharist of the bread and the cup, . . .’. Not only here but elsewhere [Ib., 41, 3] too, he identifies ‘ the bread of the eucharist, and the cup likewise of the eucharist’, with the sacrifice foretold by Malachi. (Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised edition of 1978, p. 196)

Here are the two passages from St. Justin Martyr referred to:

Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him. But He utterly rejects those presented by you and by those priests of yours, saying, ‘And I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles (He says); but you profane it.’ Malachi 1:10-12 (Dialogue with Trypho117, 1)

Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but you profane it.’ Malachi 1:10-12 [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. (Dialogue with Trypho41, 3)

Kelly continues his lengthy commentary on Justin’s views:

It was natural for early Christians to think of the eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfilment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering, and the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmosphere with which our Lord invested the Last Supper. The words of institution, ‘Do this’, must have been charged with sacrificial overtones for second-century ears; Justin at any rate understood [1 apol. 66, 3; cf. dial. 41, 1] them to mean, ‘Offer this’. . . . Justin . . . makes it plain [Dial. 41, 3] that the bread and wine themselves were the ‘pure offering’ foretold by Malachi. Even if he holds [Ib., 117, 2] that ‘prayers and thanksgivings’ are the only God-pleasing sacrifices, we must remember that he uses [1 apol. 65, 3-5] the term ‘thanksgiving’ as technically equivalent to ‘the eucharistized bread and wine’. The bread and wine, moreover, are offered ‘for a memorial of the passion’, a phrase which in view of his identification of them with the Lord’s body and blood implies much more than an act of purely spiritual recollection. Altogether it would seem that, while his language is not fully explicit, Justin is feeling his way to the conception of the eucharist as the offering of the Saviour’s passion. (Kelly, ibid., pp. 196-197)

Justin actually refers to the change [cites 1 apol. 66, 2] . . . Like Justin, too, he [St. Irenaeus] seems to postulate a change . . . (p. 198)

Here are the passages in Justin Martyr that Kelly cites in the above two portions of his book:

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [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. 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 in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 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. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn. (First Apology, 66, complete)

And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, . . . (Dialogue with Trypho, 41, 1)

Yet even now, in your love of contention, you assert that God does not accept the sacrifices of those who dwelt then in Jerusalem, and were called Israelites; but says that He is pleased with the prayers of the individuals of that nation then dispersed, and calls their prayers sacrifices. 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, whose name the high priests of your nation and your teachers have caused to be profaned and blasphemed over all the earth. (Dialogue with Trypho, 117, 2)

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, 65, 3-5)

When referring to the second century in general, Protestant scholars familiar with the topic concur that eucharistic beliefs concerning the Real Presence and eucharistic sacrifice (the sacrifice of the Mass) were thoroughly Catholic, even at that relatively undeveloped period in the history of theology (remember: St. Justin Martyr died around 165 AD):

1) Otto W. Heick, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 1, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965, 221-222:

    The Post-Apostolic Fathers and . . . almost all the Fathers of the ancient Church . . . impress one with their natural and unconcerned realism. To them the Eucharist was in some sense the body and blood of Christ.

2) Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, revised by Robert T. Handy, New York: Scribners, 1970, 90:

    By the middle of the 2nd century, the conception of a real presence of Christ in the Supper was wide-spread . . .

3) F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, editors, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford Univ. Press, 2nd edition, 1983, 475-476, 1221:

That the Eucharist conveyed to the believer the Body and Blood of Christ was universally accepted from the first . . . Even where the elements were spoken of as ‘symbols’ or ‘antitypes’ there was no intention of denying the reality of the Presence in the gifts . . .

It was also widely held from the first that the Eucharist is in some sense a sacrifice, though here again definition was gradual. The suggestion of sacrifice is contained in much of the NT language . . . the words of institution, ‘covenant,’ ‘memorial,’ ‘poured out,’ all have sacrificial associations. In early post-NT times the constant repudiation of carnal sacrifice and emphasis on life and prayer at Christian worship did not hinder the Eucharist from being described as a sacrifice from the first . . .

From early times the Eucharistic offering was called a sacrifice in virtue of its immediate relation to the sacrifice of Christ.

4) Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971, 146-147, 166-168, 170, 236-237:

By the date of the Didache [anywhere from about 60 to 160, depending on the scholar]. . . the application of the term ‘sacrifice’ to the Eucharist seems to have been quite natural, together with the identification of the Christian Eucharist as the ‘pure offering’ commanded in Malachi 1:11 . . .

The Christian liturgies were already using similar language about the offering of the prayers, the gifts, and the lives of the worshipers, and probably also about the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass, so that the sacrificial interpretation of the death of Christ never lacked a liturgical frame of reference . . .

. . . it does seem ‘express and clear’ that no orthodox father of the second or third century of whom we have record declared the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist to be no more than symbolic (although Clement and Origen came close to doing so) or specified a process of substantial change by which the presence was effected (although Ignatius and Justin came close to doing so). Within the limits of those excluded extremes was the doctrine of the real presence . . .

Liturgical evidence suggests an understanding of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, whose relation to the sacrifices of the Old testament was one of archetype to type, and whose relation to the sacrifice of Calvary was one of ‘re-presentation,’ just as the bread of the Eucharist ‘re-presented’ the body of Christ . . .

5) Carl Volz, Faith and Practice in the Early Church, Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1983, 107:

    Early Christians were convinced that in some way Christ was actually present in the consecrated elements of bread and wine.

6) J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978, 447:

    One could multiply texts like these which show Augustine taking for granted the traditional identification of the elements with the sacred body and blood. There can be no doubt that he [Augustine] shared the realism held by almost all of his contemporaries and predecessors.

Now the ball’s in Lucas’ court. He can (pray hard, folks!) interact with the above information and knowledge and exhibit the courage of his convictions, or he can flee to the hills in terror yet again, as he has, the previous 23 times that I have offered critiques of his dubious anti-Catholic contentions, since 25 May 2022 (almost four months ago, as I write).


Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!


Photo credit: Lucas Banzoli, Facebook photo as of 5-3-22, dated 15 January 2018.


Summary: Brazilian Protestant apologist Lucas Banzoli deals in a cursory & insufficient way with the data concerning what St. Justin Martyr believed about the Real Presence.


Browse Our Archives