(Mt. 26:26) Does this statement support the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation? (cf. Mk. 14:22; Lk. 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25)

CLAIM: Jesus said, “This is My body” (Mt. 26:26). A literal reading of the text would mean that the bread became Jesus’ body. Catholic apologist David Currie writes, “If he had meant to teach Evangelicalism, he could have said in a clear way ‘This bread only represents my body.’ But he didn’t say either. Yet he was clear. In the clearest way he could say it, he said, ‘This is my body’ (Mt. 26:26-28).”[1] Is this the case?

RESPONSE: A number of observations would disagree with this view:

First, the Bible is literally true, but it isn’t always true literally. After all, earlier Paul refers to Jesus as the “rock” (1 Cor. 10:4), but Jesus wasn’t made of stone. Jesus called himself the “vine” (Jn. 15:1), but he wasn’t like Gumby. He says that he lays his life down for the “sheep” (Jn. 10:11), but this would mean that he died for lambs—not humans. Obviously, such an extreme literalistic interpretation would result in nonsense.

Second, the Bible interprets Jesus’ statement as non-literal. The NT authors interpret the wine as “the blood of the covenant” (1 Cor. 11:25; Lk. 22:30; Mt. 26:28). The Passover itself was rich in symbolism, so it shouldn’t surprise us to see symbolism in Jesus’ words.

Third, the Bible continues to refer to the elements as bread and wine. Transubstantiation teaches that these materials change in essence to Jesus’ body and blood. Yet if this is the case, why would Jesus continue to call it “the fruit of the vine” (Mt. 26:29), and why would Paul continue to call it “bread” and a “cup” (1 Cor. 11:27-28)?

[1] Currie, David B. Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. San Francisco [Calif.: Ignatius, 1996. 35.