Lucas Banzoli Misrepresents Chrysostom’s Eucharistic Theology

Lucas Banzoli Misrepresents Chrysostom’s Eucharistic Theology September 14, 2022

+ An Overview of St. John Chrysostom’s Catholic View of the Eucharistic Sacrifice

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Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian theological writer, who denies that Jesus is immutable in His Divine Nature (i.e., judging by the standard of trinitarian classical theism, he denies that Jesus is God; hence cannot be classified as either a trinitarian or a Christian). 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 25th 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.

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I’m replying to a portion of Lucas’ article, “Os Pais da Igreja e a transubstanciação – Parte 1” [The Church Fathers and Transubstantiation (Part 1)] (8-22-12). Citations of St. John Chrysostom (in Lucas’ text and my own) are from the standard Schaff collection of the Church fathers, unless otherwise indicated.

The position adopted by Gelasius in the 5th century goes against what current popes accept on the subject. Pope Gelasius I believed that bread and wine remained like bread and wine in the same substance and nature; today’s popes claim precisely the opposite: that the bread and wine go through a process called “transubstantiation”, where the bread and wine are transformed in substance to literally become the body and blood of Christ.

Who was right? Pope Gregory I, who in the 5th century was against transubstantiation, or Pope Innocent III, who by decree instituted transubstantiation in 1215 CE? One way or the other, Catholics are not on good terms.

Both were right, because Pope Gelasius I didn’t deny it, as I proved in my paper, 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.

John Chrysostom (349 – 407) was another who made it clear that while the bread may be called the “body of Christ”, it is not because it literally changes its nature or substance, as the nature of the bread continues in it:

Before the consecration we call it bread, but afterwards it loses the name of bread and becomes worthy to be called the Body of the Lord, although the nature of the bread remains such in it (Chrysostom, Epistle to Caesarion)

I can’t find this citation, and Lucas doesn’t adequately document it. Maybe that’s because Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff believed that the “authenticity of the letter of Chrysostom to Cæsarius is doubtful” (he cites it in footnote 90 for St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, Book III, in his famous 38-volume collection of the Church fathers). So that’s impressive: Lucas provides us with one disputed alleged letter from St. John Chrysostom and expects informed readers to then believe as a result that he rejected the Real Presence and the transformation of the bread and wine into the literal Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Even if we take it at face value and assume for the sake of argument that it’s genuine, and intends to mean what Lucas claims it means (consubstantiation), it’s by no means a compelling proof, because of the following reasons:

[I]t is assumed wrongly that by the words “nature” and “substance” the Fathers cited, writing centuries before heresies had made accurate definition and precise terminology necessary, intended to mean what the Tridentine Fathers meant by them. This is demonstrably untrue. The words ‘substance’ and ‘nature’ are synonymous with what at Trent were called the ‘species’ or ‘accidents.’ This is surely evident (a) from the context of the various passages, where a conversion (metabolen), to use Theodoret’s word, of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, is mentioned; (b) from the fact that they constantly and uniformly speak of such ‘nature’ and ‘substance’ as symbols; (c) from Leibnitz’ (a Protestant authority) well-known observation that the Fathers do not use these terms to express metaphysical notions. (W. R. Carson, “The Antiquity of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation”, in American Ecclesiastical Review, Dec. 1903, pp. 421-439)

The doctrine of transubstantiation, of course, developed just as all other doctrines develop. It is a particularly mysterious mystery: up there with other exceedingly complex doctrines like predestination, the two Natures of Christ, and trinitarianism (all quite difficult to express in any language whatever). Therefore, we would especially expect in this instance some imprecision and more primitive forms of language and expressions and descriptions (i.e., more than usual) in the Church fathers.

So if the Chrysostom citation is actually authentic, I submit that “nature of the bread” very likely was intended to mean (as W. R. Carson  explained above), what we now mean by “accidents” or the outward physical qualities of a thing. In other words, it still looked outwardly like bread, tasted the same, smelled the same, got moldy when old, etc., while at the same time being in essence “the Body of the Lord”: which the citation also stated.

We know beyond a doubt that St. John Chrysostom believed in the real, substantial bodily presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, from many of his statements. Fortunately for me, I had already collected them in my book pictured at the top of this article (this allowed me to go hiking in the woods today instead of laboriously looking for what turned out to be some dozen or so citations):

Oh! what a marvel! what love of God to man! He who sitteth on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him. (Treatise Concerning the Christian Priesthood, Book III, 4; NPNF1-9)

In that what was more precious to Him than all, even His only-begotten Son, Him He gave for us His enemies; and not only gave, but after giving, did even set Him before us as food . . . (Homily XXV on Matthew 7:28, 4; NPNF1-10)

Let us also then touch the hem of His garment, or rather, if we be willing, we have Him entire. For indeed His body is set before us now, not His garment only, but even His body; not for us to touch it only, but also to eat, and be filled. . . . much more will He not think scorn to distribute unto thee of His body. . . . That table at that time was not of silver nor that cup of gold, out of which Christ gave His disciples His own blood . . . (Homily L on Matthew 14:23-24, 3-4; NPNF1-10)

And He Himself drank of it. For lest on hearing this, they should say, What then? do we drink blood, and eat flesh? and then be perplexed (for when He began to discourse concerning these things, even at the very sayings many were offended), therefore lest they should be troubled then likewise, He first did this Himself, leading them to the calm participation of the mysteries. Therefore He Himself drank His own blood. (Homily LXXXII on Matthew 26:26-28, 1; NPNF1-10)

Look therefore, lest thou also thyself become guilty of the body and blood of Christ. They slaughtered the all-holy body, but thou receivest it in a filthy soul after such great benefits. For neither was it enough for Him to be made man, to be smitten and slaughtered, but He also commingleth Himself with us, and not by faith only, but also in very deed maketh us His body. What then ought not he to exceed in purity that hath the benefit of this sacrifice, than what sunbeam should not that hand be more pure which is to sever this flesh, the mouth that is filled with spiritual fire, the tongue that is reddened by that most awful blood? Consider with what sort of honor thou wast honored, of what sort of table thou art partaking. That which when angels behold, they tremble, and dare not so much as look up at it without awe on account of the brightness that cometh thence, with this we are fed, with this we are commingled, and we are made one body and one flesh with Christ. “Who shall declare the mighty works of the Lord, and cause all His praises to be heard?” What shepherd feeds his sheep with his own limbs? And why do I say, shepherd? There are often mothers that after the travail of birth send out their children to other women as nurses; but He endureth not to do this, but Himself feeds us with His own blood, and by all means entwines us with Himself. (Homily LXXXII on Matthew 26:26-28, 5; NPNF1-10)

Ver. 16. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the Blood of Christ?” . . . Very persuasively spake he, and awfully. For what he says is this: “This which is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and of that do we partake.” But he called it a cup of blessing, because holding it in our hands, we so exalt Him in our hymn, wondering, astonished at His unspeakable gift, blessing Him, among other things, for the pouring out of this self-same draught that we might not abide in error: and not only for the pouring it out, but also for the imparting thereof to us all. “Wherefore if thou desire blood,” saith He, “redden not the altar of idols with the slaughter of brute beasts, but My altar with My blood.” (Homily XXIV on 1 Corinthians 10:13, 3, v. 10:16;  NPNF1-12)

Let us draw nigh to Him then with fervency and with inflamed love, that we may not have to endure punishment. For in proportion to the greatness of the benefits bestowed on us, so much the more exceedingly are we chastised when we show ourselves unworthy of the bountifulness. This Body, even lying in a manger, Magi reverenced. Yea, men profane and barbarous, leaving their country and their home, both set out on a long journey, and when they came, with fear and great trembling worshipped Him. Let us, then, at least imitate those Barbarians, we who are citizens of heaven. For they indeed when they saw Him but in a manger, and in a hut, and no such thing was in sight as thou beholdest now, drew nigh with great awe; but thou beholdest Him not in the manger but on the altar, not a woman holding Him in her arms, but the priest standing by, and the Spirit with exceeding bounty hovering over the gifts set before us. Thou dost not see merely this Body itself as they did, but thou knowest also Its power, and the whole economy, and art ignorant of none of the holy things which are brought to pass by It, having been exactly initiated into all. . . . Make thy soul clean then, prepare thy mind for the reception of these mysteries. For if thou wert entrusted to carry a king’s child with the robes, the purple, and the diadem, thou wouldest cast away all things which are upon the earth. But now that it is no child of man how royal soever, but the only-begotten Son of God Himself, Whom thou receivedst; dost thou not thrill with awe, tell me, and cast away all the love of all worldly things, and have no bravery but that wherewith to adorn thyself? (Homily XXIV on 1 Corinthians 10:13, 8, v. 10:23-24;  NPNF1-12)

But what is it which He saith, “This cup is the New Covenant?” Because there was also a cup of the Old Covenant; the libations and the blood of the brute creatures. For after sacrificing, they used to receive the blood in a chalice and bowl and so pour it out. Since then instead of the blood of beasts He brought in His own Blood; lest any should be troubled on hearing this, He reminds them of that ancient sacrifice. (Homily XXVII on 1 Corinthians 11:17, 5, v. 11:25;  NPNF1-12)

Thou hast tasted the Blood of the Lord . . . having partaken of the Blood, . . . thou hast been counted worthy to touch His flesh with thy tongue. (Homily XXVII on 1 Corinthians 11:17, 6-7, v. 11:27;  NPNF1-12)

But why doth he eat judgment to himself? “Not discerning the Lord’s body:” i.e., not searching, not bearing in mind, as he ought, the greatness of the things set before him; not estimating the weight of the gift. For if thou shouldest come to know accurately Who it is that lies before thee, and Who He is that gives Himself, and to whom, thou wilt need no other argument, but this is enough for thee to use all vigilance; unless thou shouldest be altogether fallen. (Homily XXVIII on 1 Corinthians 11:28, 2, v. 11:29;  NPNF1-12)

. . . as many of us as partake of that Body and taste of that Blood, are partaking of that which is in no wise different from that Body, nor separate. Consider that we taste of that Body that sitteth above, that is adored by Angels, that is next to the Power that is incorruptible. . . . I observe many partaking of Christ’s Body lightly and just as it happens, and rather from custom and form, than consideration and understanding. . . . Consider those who partook of the sacrifices under the old Covenant, how great abstinence did they practise? How did they not conduct themselves? What did they not perform? They were always purifying themselves. And dost thou, when thou drawest nigh to a sacrifice, at which the very Angels tremble, dost thou measure the matter by the revolutions of seasons? and how shalt thou present thyself before the judgment-seat of Christ, thou who presumest upon His body with polluted hands and lips? Thou wouldest not presume to kiss a king with an unclean mouth, and the King of heaven dost thou kiss with an unclean soul? It is an outrage. (Homily III on Ephesians, v. 1:21-22;  NPNF1-13)

From the mouth that has been vouchsafed such holy Mysteries, let nothing bitter proceed. Let not the tongue that has touched the Lord’s Body utter anything offensive, let it be kept pure, let not curses be borne upon it. (Homily VI on 1 Timothy, v. 2:1-4;  NPNF1-13)

[I]t is necessary to understand the marvel of the Mysteries, what it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action. We become one Body, and “members of His flesh and of His bones.” ( Eph. v. 30.) Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into that flesh. This is effected by the food which He hath freely given us, desiring to show the love which He hath for us. On this account He hath mixed up Himself with us; He hath kneaded up His body with ours, that we might be a certain One Thing, like a body joined to a head. For this belongs to them who love strongly; this, for instance, Job implied, speaking of his servants, by whom he was beloved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt, “Who would give us to be satisfied with his flesh?” ( Job xxxi. 31.) Wherefore this also Christ hath done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He hath given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love. (Homily XLVI on John, v. 6:52;  NPNF1-14)

Ver. 55. “For My flesh is true meat, and My blood is true drink.” What is that He saith? He either desireth to declare that this is the true meat which saveth the soul, or to assure them concerning what had been said, that they might not suppose the words to be a mere enigma or parable, but might know that it is by all means needful to eat the Body. (Homily XLVII on John, v. 6:55;  NPNF1-14)

Anglican patristic scholar J. N. D. Kelly explains Chrysostom’s eucharistic views:

Chrysostom . . . states [De prod. Iud. hom. 1, 6] that the priest, standing in the Lord’s place, repeats the sentence, ‘This is my body’, and its effect is to transform the elements on the altar. (Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978 edition, p. 426)

Chrysostom exploits the materialist implications of the conversion theory to the full. He speaks [In Ioh. hom. 46, 3] of eating Christ, even of burying one’s teeth in His flesh. The wine in the chalice is identically that which flowed from his pierced side. the body which the communicant receives is identically that which was scourged and nailed to the cross. [In 1 Cor. hom. 24, 1-4] Thus the elements have undergone a change, and Chrysostom describes [In prod. Iud. hom. 1, 6; in Matt. hom. 82, 5] them as being refashioned (μεταρρυθμιζειν) or transformed (μεταοκευαζειν). in the fifth century conversionist views were taken for granted by Alexandrians and Antiochenes alike. (Ibid., p. 444)

Chrysostom . . . [refers] [De sacerdot. 6, 4] to ‘the most awesome sacrifice’ . . . , and to ‘the Lord sacrificed and lying there, and the priest bending over the sacrifice and interceding’. [Ib. 3, 4] He makes the important point [In 2 Tim. hom. 2, 4] that the sacrifice now offered on the altar is identical with the one which the Lord Himself  offered at the Last Supper. He emphasizes this doctrine of the uniqueness of the sacrifice . . . [In Hebr. hom. 17, 3] . . . ‘Do we not offer sacrifice daily? . . . it has been offered once for all, as was the ancient sacrifice in the holy of holies. This is the figure of that ancient sacrifice, as indeed it was of this one; for it is the same Jesus Christ we offer always, not now one victim and later another. The victim is always the same, so that the sacrifice is one. . . . It is one and the same Christ everywhere; He is here in His entirety and there in His entirety, one unique body. Just as He is one body, not many bodies, although offered in many places, so the sacrifice is one and the same. . . . The victim Who was offered then, Who cannot be consumed, is the self-same victim we offer now. . . . We do not offer a different sacrifice, but always the same one . . .’ . . . the whole action of the eucharist takes place in the heavenly, spiritual sphere; [In Hebr. hom. 13, 1; 14, 1] the earthly celebration is showing forth of it on the terrestrial plane. (Ibid., pp. 451-452)

‘It is not in vain’, remarked [In 1 Cor. hom. 41, 4] Chrysostom, ‘that we commemorate those who have gone from us at the divine mysteries and intercede for them, entreating the Lamb Who lies before us and Who bore the sin of the world.’ (Ibid., pp. 452-453)

Protestant historian Philip Schaff, in his History of the Church, cites St. John Chrysostom: “The wise men adored Christ in the manger; we see him not in the manger, but on the altar, and should pay him still greater homage.” [Hom. 24 in I Cor.] Schaff writes generally of the period including the time of Chrysostom, in the same work: vol. 3, A.D. 311-600, rev. 5th ed., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, rep. 1974, originally 1910, rather dramatically backing up Catholic claims for the Church fathers of this time:

The Catholic church, both Greek and Latin, sees in the Eucharist not only a sacramentum, in which God communicates a grace to believers, but at the same time, and in fact mainly, a sacrificium, in which believers really offer to God that which is represented by the sensible elements. For this view also the church fathers laid the foundation, and it must be conceded they stand in general far more on the Greek and Roman Catholic than on the Protestant side of this question.

. . . In this view certainly, in a deep symbolical and ethical sense, Christ is offered to God the Father in every believing prayer, and above all in the holy Supper; i.e. as the sole ground of our reconciliation and acceptance . . .

But this idea in process of time became adulterated with foreign elements, and transformed into the Graeco-Roman doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass. According to this doctrine the Eucharist is an unbloody repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by the priesthood for the salvation of the living and the dead; so that the body of Christ is truly and literally offered every day and every hour, and upon innumerable altars at the same time. The term mass, which properly denoted the dismissal of the congregation (missio, dismissio) at the close of the general public worship, became, after the end of the fourth century, the name for the worship of the faithful, which consisted in the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and the communion.

. . . We pass now to the more particular history. The ante-Nicene fathers uniformly conceived the Eucharist as a thank-offering of the church; the congregation offering the consecrated elements of bread and wine, and in them itself, to God. This view is in itself perfectly innocent, but readily leads to the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass, as soon as the elements become identified with the body and blood of Christ, and the presence of the body comes to be materialistically taken. The germs of the Roman doctrine appear in Cyprian about the middle of the third century, in connection with his high-churchly doctrine of the clerical priesthood. Sacerdotium and sacrificium are with him correlative ideas,

. . . The doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass is much further developed in the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, though amidst many obscurities and rhetorical extravagances, and with much wavering between symbolical and grossly realistic conceptions, until in all essential points it is brought to its settlement by Gregory the Great at the close of the sixth century.

. . . 2. It is not a new sacrifice added to that of the cross, but a daily, unbloody repetition and perpetual application of that one only sacrifice. Augustine represents it, on the one hand, as a sacramentum memoriae, a symbolical commemoration of the sacrificial death of Christ; to which of course there is no objection. But, on the other hand, he calls the celebration of the communion verissimum sacrificium of the body of Christ. The church, he says, offers (immolat) to God the sacrifice of thanks in the body of Christ, from the days of the apostles through the sure succession of the bishops down to our time. But the church at the same time offers, with Christ, herself, as the body of Christ, to God. As all are one body, so also all are together the same sacrifice. According to Chrysostom the same Christ, and the whole Christ, is everywhere offered. It is not a different sacrifice from that which the High Priest formerly offered, but we offer always the same sacrifice, or rather, we perform a memorial of this sacrifice. This last clause would decidedly favor a symbolical conception, if Chrysostom in other places had not used such strong expressions as this: “When thou seest the Lord slain, and lying there, and the priest standing at the sacrifice,” or: “Christ lies slain upon the altar.”

3. The sacrifice is the anti-type of the Mosaic sacrifice, and is related to it as substance to typical shadows. It is also especially foreshadowed by Melchizedek’s unbloody offering of bread and wine. The sacrifice of Melchizedek is therefore made of great account by Hilary, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, and other church fathers, on the strength of the well-known parallel in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

. . . Cyril of Jerusalem, in his fifth and last mystagogic Catechesis, which is devoted to the consideration of the eucharistic sacrifice and the liturgical service of God, gives the following description of the eucharistic intercessions for the departed:

When the spiritual sacrifice, the unbloody service of God, is performed, we pray to God over this atoning sacrifice for the universal peace of the church, for the welfare of the world, for the emperor, for soldiers and prisoners, for the sick and afflicted, for all the poor and needy. Then we commemorate also those who sleep, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God through their prayers and their intercessions may receive our prayer; and in general we pray for all who have gone from us, since we believe that it is of the greatest help to those souls for whom the prayer is offered, while the holy sacrifice, exciting a holy awe, lies before us.

This is clearly an approach to the later idea of purgatory in the Latin church. Even St. Augustine, with Tertullian, teaches plainly, as an old tradition, that the eucharistic sacrifice, the intercessions or suffragia and alms, of the living are of benefit to the departed believers, so that the Lord deals more mercifully with them than their sins deserve. (§ 96. “The Sacrifice of the Eucharist”, pp. 503-508, 510)

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Summary: Brazilian Protestant apologist Lucas Banzoli pitifully provides one “citation” re St. John Chrysostom’s eucharistic theology, and even it is of dubious authenticity.

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