Does Transubstantiation Really Happen?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Is Transubstantiation real during Communion?  In other words, do the bread and wine actually become the real blood and the real body of Jesus Christ?  What does the Bible say about transubstantiation?

What is Transubstantiation?

Transubstantiation is defined as an act or an instance of something being transubstantiated from one substance into another, completely different what it originally was.  In the case of the Eucharist in Catholicism and some other denominations, the belief is that the actual bread and wine that are dispensed at Communion become the literal blood and the actual flesh of Jesus Christ’s body.  They believe that a miraculous transformation or transubstantiation takes place where the bread becomes Christ’s literal body and the wine turns into the real blood of Christ. They believe it is the real presence of Christ.  Like the fish and the loaves were miraculously multiplied, the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ during the Eucharist or Communion. When an ordained priest blesses the bread and the wine, it is somehow transformed into Jesus’ actual flesh and actual blood, though it retains the odor, appearance, and taste of bread and wine. This doctrine is essentially and primarily that of the Roman Catholic Church.

Is Transubstantiation Taught in the Bible?

The Bible is written in many forms. It comes in poetic, literature, narrative, figurative, and literal.  A good student of the Bible must understand what genre and what context certain Scriptures are in and what the authors intended to says and to whom it was specifically written to.  We must read the Bible and then ask these questions; who was it written to; what was the authorial intent; why was it written; where does the verse or verses reside in the context of the chapter; when does this or these verses apply to the reader?  A key question or set of questions must always accompany the reading of the Word to make sense of what the Bible is saying.  When Jesus said that if your eye offends you then you must pluck it out, did He mean that we should literally gouge out our eye if we sin by seeing something sinful?  Most assuredly not and that is why we must take text and put them into proper context or we risk creating a pretext and when we create a pretext it is highly likely that we will be creating a false one.

Do the bread and wine actually become the real blood and the real body of Jesus Christ?

Do the bread and wine actually become the real blood and the real body of Jesus Christ?

Predominant Passage for Transubstantiation

The main passage of Scripture in which Roman Catholics use as a proof text that Transubstantiation occurs is John 6:53-57 where Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”

Taking a closer look at the entire chapter we can see the context of these verses.  Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were disputing Him for being the Bread of Life which was that manna coming down from heaven in the Wilderness (John 6:41, 50-51).  He was not speaking to the church or to the disciples (later apostles). Now if we take the rest of this chapter as the reason for the Transubstantiation to really occur, we must believe that Jesus was also the literal manna that came down from heaven and the Jews in the Wilderness gathered Him up and actually ate God up and then those who gathered too much their manna became maggot infested the next day. It seems preposterous to use one part of this text to prove that the Eucharist bread and wine literally turn into Jesus’ actual flesh and blood and they eat these things and so by extension He must also be the manna and the manna was transubstantiated into God’s body that the Jews ate.  This despite the fact that eating human flesh was an abomination to God.  And this command doesn’t’ just apply to the Old Testament since this go against one of the first commands to the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the New Testament as James wrote to “tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood” and we are expected to believe that in Jesus’ case, it’s permissible to drink His blood!?

The Lord’s Supper

When the Corinthians were abusing the Lord’s Supper, many became drunk on the wine and Paul criticized them for getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper or Communion (1 Cor 11:21) but could anyone ever get drunk on blood by drinking too much of it, if indeed the wine is supposed to be transubstantiated into Jesus’ blood?  More likely a person would get deathly sick from the consumption of blood besides the dozens of commands in the Old Testament that forbade the consumption of blood.

During the inaugural Lord’s Supper, see if you can see this as an actual description of His literal body or as being symbolic in Luke 22:19-20: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  This cup He spoke about was His blood “poured out for you” not drunk by you and it is for “the new covenant in [His] blood” but this blood was not for drinking but for the new covenant.  Can we drink what is to be poured out?  In the same way, the bread symbolized His body which was “give for you (and us).”  Paul never mentions that this is His literal body we are eating or that the bread is miraculously turned into His body.  And we are to do this in remembrance of Him…DO this and not drink or eat this.  The church is commanded to Do this as He did as a memorial until He comes again (1 Cor 11:26).

When Paul gave instructions for observing the Passover meal in 1 Corinthians 11, he was more concerned with them getting drunk by drinking too much wine and by eating before the others even got there for the service and being full.  Some came with little and were hungry while others came early and ate and drank until they were full or drunk.  Never is there a mention of Jesus literal body and blood being consumed.  He was talking about physical bread and literal wine because some were eating and getting full before the others got there while others were drinking too much of the wine and getting drunk on it. This doesn’t sound like the wine was transubstantiated because could a person get drunk on wine that was transubstantiated into blood?  I would think not.


Regardless of how we interpret the Scriptures, a person can be saved without perfect understanding, or we’d all be in trouble.  Even if you don’t believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, let it not be a stumbling block for you and don’t try to argue with others who believe differently than you do.  There is no good in that.  The main thing is that Jesus Christ came and lived a sinless life after being born of the virgin Mary, that He died for the ungodly, sinners like you and I, that He was raised on the third day, and that He ascended up to heaven and will come again to judge the world in righteousness.  The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing and dividing over non-essential doctrines is not the main thing.  Love is one of the main teachings of Christ, that and love of God and just as long as a person repents, confesses their sin, and trusts in Christ, they will be saved.  Isn’t that all that really matters?

More reading: How to Prepare for Taking Communion

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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