The External Elements in the Lord’s Supper

By Johann Gerhard

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Johann Gerhard’s Loci Theologici cum pro Adstruenda Veritate tum pro Destruenda Quorumvis Contradicentium Falsitate per Theses Nervose Solide et Copiose Explicati (Theological Topics, Vigorously and Thoroughly Unfolded through Theses Intended both to Establish the Truth and to Destroy the Falsehood of Every Possible Opponent), vol. 5 (Berlin: Gustav Schlawitz, 1867), p. 12-14. For more on the author, see his biography.

I prepared this translation in preparation for, and as an appendix to, a conference paper on the liquid element in the Lord’s Supper.

The endnotes are, for the most part, my attempt to verify or correct Gerhard’s citations. (I feel that this is one of the glaring weaknesses in Concordia Publishing House’s Theological Commonplaces series, which simply leaves Gerhard’s abbreviated citations in parentheses the way they are. That is not to say that the series does not have its many merits or that I am not overwhelmingly glad that Gerhard’s Loci are finally being offered to the English-speaking world at large.) There are a handful of endnotes that belong to the original editor (possibly Gerhard himself). These are noted as such, though they are often accompanied by more complete citations, which belong to the translator.

Perhaps one of Gerhard’s most useful accomplishments is that he connects the reader to the historic Catholic Church (not to be confused with the Roman Catholic Church) from which the Lutheran Church was born and with which she still identifies herself. Our doctrine is obtained from Scripture alone (and one word of Scripture can overturn centuries of writings by Christian Fathers), but it certainly can only help a person to check whether the convictions of Spirit-filled Christians throughout the centuries line up with his own.

The Lord conveys rich and eternal blessings through his Holy Supper, but, as with baptism, he attached those blessings to specific elements when he instituted it. May the Spirit grant wisdom to the reader to discern what is scriptural and what is not when it comes to the earthly elements we offer in the Supper. And may he graciously preserve the Supper in our midst after Christ’s own intent.

The External Symbols or Earthly Matter in the Lord’s Supper (Locus 21, Chapter 5)

Just as in all the other sacraments, so too in this most holy mystery Christ willed to impart heavenly things to us through earthly things or external symbols. Those external symbols are bread and wine. This is clear from…

  1. the description of the Evangelists, who unanimously testify that Christ took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19). In describing what took place afterward they make mention of the cup, τοῦ ποτηρίου (Mt 26:27; Mk 14:23; Lk 22:20). They testify that there was wine in the cup when they relate Christ’s words to the disciples either after the distribution of the Holy Supper or, as some conclude from Luke, spoken just before the institution of the Supper: “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine [ἐκ τούτου τοῦ γεννήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου] from now until the day I drink it anew in the kingdom of my Father.”
  2. the repetition of the apostle Paul, who had been instructed in the third heaven (2Co 12:2). As he recounts Christ’s institution in exactly the same words, he testifies that Christ used bread and wine (1Co 11:23-25).
  3. a comparison of other passages of Scripture which talk about the Holy Supper, yet do not mention any external element other than bread and wine (1Co 10:16,17; 11:26-28; etc.).

The following inquiries are made on this topic:

  1. Why was it Christ’s will to use these external elements and not others?ANSWER: Christian simplicity responds properly and best: This is what God was pleased to do. Who has known the mind of the Lord? His ways cannot be traced and his works are exceedingly wonderful (Ps 139:17; Isa 40:13; Ro 11:33,34). Nevertheless, it is not absurdly said that Christ used bread and wine…
    1. on account of the Old Testament types already enumerated.
    2. on account of the very close communion of Christ, whose sign and testimony was instituted in the Holy Supper. Nothing is more united to Christ nor is anything closer to him than his flesh and blood. These are in fact personally united to him. On the other hand, nothing is closer to us nor is anything more united to us than food and drink. We in fact take these inside our bodies and they are fused to the substance of our bodies. Now among food, bread stands out – it “fortifies the heart of man” – and among drink, wine stands out – it “gladdens the heart of man” (Ps 104:15). So when Christ wanted to institute and seal a very close communion of himself in this mystery, it pleased him to do so in this way, by giving us his body and blood by means of the blessed bread and wine. This is Tauler’s reasoning in his sermon on the Supper. On this point, one should carefully consider the emphasis in the following passages: “The one who eats of this bread shall live forever” (Jn 6:51). “I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5). “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph 3:17).
    3. because of how well these external elements correspond to the heavenly things distributed by means of those elements in the Holy Supper. For even though the bread and wine in the Holy Supper are used not for signifying, but for imparting the body and blood of Christ, as the apostle testifies (1Co 10:16), yet the striking analogies should not be despised, as long as one does not think that the entire sacramental duty of those symbols consists of signifying.Just as bread is made from kernels of wheat, so Christ’s body is that kernel of grain that bore much fruit when it died (Jn 12:24). Just as bread is baked and prepared for food in an oven in the heat of fire, so Christ was roasted, as it were, on the altar of the cross in the heat of love (Ex 12:9). Just as bread nourishes and fortifies the heart of man, so Christ’s body feeds us for eternal life (Jn 6:50,51). Cyprian in his sermon on the Supper: “Just as bread is common food for the body that we eat every day, so this essential bread is life for the soul and health for the mind.”1 Just as bread does not cause any sickness or disgust by daily use, so the body of Christ is the most delightful food for hungry hearts and causes no sickness whatsoever.Just as wine is the most noble drink, produced from the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth (Gen 27:28),2 so Christ is the true vine (Jn 15:1) from whose side flowed forth the blood which we drink from the eucharistic cup. Just as wine quenches thirst and gladdens the heart of man (Ps 104:15), so Christ’s blood quenches eternal thirst and refreshes souls (Jn 6:53-55). Peter the Venerable in his first book of epistles, folio 29: “Eternal life is placed in the present world spiritually and invisibly, but it shall be enjoyed physically and visibly in the world to come. Now in order that eternal life might be signified in the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s flesh is given to humans under the form of bread for eating, and Christ’s blood is given to them under the form of wine for drinking. In this way, just as humans chiefly use bread and wine to sustain their mortal life, so too they are fed Christ’s body and blood for life immortal (which is Christ himself) – here spiritually, but afterwards both spiritually and physically into eternity.”3
    4. because of the reminder that these external symbols give to those attending the mystical banquet. Just as one loaf of bread is made from many kernels and one cup prepared from many grapes, so in the Holy Supper we take food and drink into one body, that we may pursue love and harmony as members of one body. We who are many are one loaf, one body, because we partake of one loaf (1Co 10:17). “We have all taken drink into one Spirit” (1Co 12:13). Just as bread and wine do little good for those who are already full, so the heavenly food and drink accomplish little for those who approach without spiritual hunger and thirst. To him who thirsts I will give the water of life without cost (Rev 21:6). “Whoever is thirsty, let him come” (Rev 22:17).
    5. to exclude any idea that they are mere representations, figures, or signs. For if it was not Christ’s intent to offer his body and blood, but just to represent them, not to institute his very body and blood, but to institute merely a figure and sign of them, then he certainly would not have abrogated the Passover lamb or used bread and wine in this New Testament sacrament in its place. After all, slaughtering the Passover lamb and pouring out its blood, eating its flesh and sprinkling its blood on the doorposts and above the lintel of the house, would in many ways be a clearer and more obvious analogy to Christ’s passion and its spiritual fruition than bread and wine.
  2. May we change these external elements or earthly things, or substitute anything else similar in their place?ANSWER: No.
    1. The description and repetition of the institution mention only bread and wine; they do not mention any other element whatsoever. Therefore it is not sound practice for Christ’s faithful to stray from this path of the divine institution. “If you continue in my teaching, you will truly be my disciples” (Jn 8:31).
    2. Since Christ used no external symbols other than bread and wine in his original institution, by no means should we rashly depart from this example of Christ.
    3. In the sacrament of baptism, it is not permitted to use any other liquid in place of water. Therefore, by a certain analogy, the external symbols in this sacrament also should not be exchanged.
    4. In all the passages of Scripture that talk about the Holy Supper, mention is made of bread and wine, not of any other element.
    5. The promise of Christ concerning the eating of his body and the drinking of his blood in the sacrament is confined to the use of eucharistic bread and wine. Therefore whoever uses other external symbols in the administration of the Holy Supper does not proceed from faith, whose perpetual correlative is the word of promise.
    6. Bread and wine are the material or earthly matter of this sacrament. They therefore belong to the sacrament’s essentials. And when it comes to the essentials of a sacrament, no human may make any arbitrary change.

We must therefore detest the following:

  1. The Gnostics, concerning whom Epiphanius recounts things horrible to tell in Adversus Hæreses, no. 26. They used human semen and menstrual blood in their sacred rites, saying of the former: τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (This is the body of Christ), and of the latter: τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (This is the blood of Christ).4
  2. The Cataphrygians, of whom Augustine writes in De Hæresibus ad Quodvultdeum, no. 26: “[Their] founders were Montanus (the supposed Paraclete) and his two prophetesses, Prisca and Maximilla. … [The Cataphrygians] are said to have deadly sacraments. For they are said to prepare their quasi-eucharist from the blood of year-old infants, which they obtain from the infant’s entire body by means of small puncture wounds. After mixing it with flour they make bread with it. If the child dies, they regard him as a martyr. If he lives, they regard him as a great priest.”5 6
  3. The Ebionites in Epiphanius, Adversus Hæreses, no. 30,7 the Tatianists in the same, no. 40,8 and the Aquarians in Augustine, De Hæresibus, no. 64,9 are all in error. On the pretext of sobriety, they only offered water in the chalice. Cyprian contends against them in Book 2, Epistle 3, to Caecilius.10 11
  4. The Pepuzians, who joined cheese with bread in their administration of the Eucharist, which is how they acquired the name Ἀρτοτυρίται (Artotyrites or Cheesebreadists).12 Augustine, De Hæresibus, no. 28: “There are the Artotyrites, who are thus named after their offerings. For they offer bread and cheese, saying that offerings were originally brought by humans from the fruits of the earth and of their flocks. Epiphanius lumps them with the Pepuzians.”13 See Philastrius, Basel edition, p. 58.14 15
  5. It is reported from Canon 28 of the Sixth Council in Decretum Gratiani, Division 2, Chapter 6, “that in some churches priests join[ed] grapes to the sacrifice of the offering16…and so distribute[d] both the sacrifice and the grapes to the people at the same time.”17 In the same division, Chapter 7, it is related that some priests were “consecrat[ing] milk instead of wine; others [were] offering an intincted Eucharist to the people instead of a communion where the elements complement each other; others [were] offering a squeezed vine18 in the sacrament of the Lord’s cup; while others [were] keeping a linen cloth dipped in must (or unfermented grape juice) available throughout the year, and when it [was] time for the sacrifice they wash[ed] part of it with water and offer[ed] it this way.”19
  6. In Chapter 4 of his first epistle, Alexander I, Bishop of Rome, specified that the wine had to be mixed with water. From Division 2, Chapter 1: “For, as we learned from the Fathers and as reason itself teaches, neither wine alone nor water alone ought to be offered in the Lord’s cup, but both mixed together, since we read that both flowed out from his side in his passion.”20 The papists maintain the necessity of this mixture right up to the present, which we will address more fully a little later.
  7. Volaterranus writes in his Commentaria Urbana, Tome 1, Book 7, that Pope Innocent VIII permitted the Norwegians to use another liquid in the Supper in place of wine, since wine is not produced in those parts, nor can it be preserved for a long time there.21 22
  8. Theodore Beza writes in his second letter to Tilius: “So if bread or wine isn’t used, or if there’s no supply of them at a given time, the Lord’s Supper really can’t be celebrated? By all means it can be duly celebrated, if what takes the place of bread and wine is used in their place either from common use or by reason of circumstance. For when Christ chose bread and wine for these mysteries, his intent was that, by setting out signs for these things (signs by which our body is nourished), he might, as it were, represent before our eyes the true spiritual nourishment. And so he who substitutes things for bread and wine that have a similar analogy to nourishment (even if not an equal analogy), and does so with no desire simply to innovate, does not stray from Christ’s purpose at all.”23 24 Antonius Sadeel, in Opera Theologica, folio 429, thinks it very difficult to overturn this counsel set forth by Beza.25 26

Endnotes

1 This was not penned by Cyprian († 258), as was generally held in Gerhard’s time, but by Ernaldus Bonaevallis (c. 1156), a Benedictine monk in the Marmoutier Abbey outside Tours, France, and friend of Bernard of Clairvaux. “De coena Domini, et prima institutione consummantis omnia sacramenta” (“The Lord’s Supper, and the Original Institution of the Sacrament that Completed Them All”) was the sixth chapter of his Liber de cardinalibus operibus Christi usque ad ascensum eius ad Patrem (Book on the Cardinal Works of Christ up to His Ascension to the Father). Gerhard’s citation can be found in Patrologia Latina (hereafter PL), vol. 189 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1854), col. 1644.

2 The wine referenced in this passage is תִּירוֹשׁ, must (grape juice before or during fermentation) or new wine (wine still in the early stages of fermentation).

3 Gerhard cites the correct author, Peter the Venerable († 1156), but this quote is found not in his collection of epistles, but in his Tractatus contra Petrobrusianos (Tractate Against the Petrobrusians). The Petrobrusians were the followers of the heretic Peter of Bruys († c. 1125), who, among other errors, “denied all sort of real presence in the Eucharist. Whether or not he retained the office of the communion as a memorial rite is not known” (Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, ad “Petrobrusians”). Gerhard’s citation can be found in PL, op. cit., col. 818.

4 Patrologia Graeca (hereafter PG), vol. 41 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1863), col. 337-340.

5 PL, vol. 42 (Paris: L. Migne, 1865), col. 30.

6 See also Eusebius, Church History, 5, 14 & 16 (www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.x.xv.html and www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.x.xvii.html [accessed 18 Feb 2013]), and Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos, Ecclesiastica Historia, 4, 22 (PG, vol. 145 [Paris: Garnier Brothers, 1904], col. 1033-1036). – endnote original

7 PG, vol. 41, op. cit., col. 431,432.

8 Ibid., col. 839,840.

9 PL, op. cit., col. 42.

10 Epistle 62 in the Paris edition, 63 in the Oxford and Leipzig editions. PL, vol. 4 (Paris: Garnier Brothers, 1891), col. 383-401. The English translation from the Schaff edition of the Fathers can be found at www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.iv.lxii.html (accessed 18 Feb 2013), where it is dated 253 AD.

11 The Severians similarly condemned wine in the celebration of the Supper “because they assert, with deceitfulness beyond belief, that the grapevine sprouted from Satan and the earth,” as Augustine reports (De Hæresibus, no. 24; see endnote 5). – endnote original

12 From ἄρτος (bread) + τύρος (cheese)

13 PL, vol. 42, op. cit., col. 31.

14 This probably corresponds to no. 74 in PL, vol. 12 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1845), col. 1186,1187.

15 Scaliger, Exercise 158, sect. 1: “On the island of Vendemao [probably Mindanao] they not only use sagu [sago] for bread, but they also make oil from the same tree. Sagu is the tree from which the bread gets its name. They take a piece of wood and remove the thorn-like things from it. Then they beat it, reducing it to fine flour. With this they prepare bread for sailors to use as provisions” (Julius Caesar Scaliger, Exotericarum Exercitationum Liber XV de Subtilitate, ad Hieronymum Cardanum [Fifteenth Book of Exoteric Exercises on Subtlety, to Gerolamo Cardano] [Frankfurt: Heirs of Andreas Wechel, 1582], p. 525). Cardano, in De rerum varietate, Book 1, Chapter 4, folio 18, says that on the islands “bread is prepared from dried fish” (Gerolamo Cardano, De Rerum Varietate Libri XVII [Seventeen Books on a Variety of Subjects] [Avignon: Matthew Vincent, 1558], p. 26). He also testifies from experience that some people make bread from beans and millet. But would such bread really be suitable material for the Eucharist? – endnote original

16 Oblatio in the Fathers is often a synonym for the Lord’s Supper. Cf. Adolf Hoenecke, who includes θυσία and προσφορά in the names given to the Lord’s Supper by the Greek Fathers. He says that it acquired this name “either with reference to the offering of Christ on the cross, or on account of the offering of thanks that is given” (Ev.-Luth. Dogmatik, vol. 4 [Milwaukee: NPH, 1909], p. 100).

17 Pope Gregory XIII, ed., Decretum Gratiani Emendatum et Notationibus Illustratum (Rome: In Aedibus Populi Romani, 1582), col. 2507,2508.

18 Gratian’s note on “squeezed” reads: “That is, a pressed cluster of grapes, for this wine would be made from a squeezed vine according to any man’s fancy; or it could mean that the wine was squeezed [from the grapes] after consecration…” (s. previous endnote, col. 2508). However, Gratian’s text is corrupt; cf. Herm. Theod. Bruns, ed., Canones Apostolorum et Conciliorum Saeculorum IV. V. VI. VII., part 2 (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1839), p. 97,98.

19 Pope Gregory XIII, ed., op. cit. Gratian, following his predecessor Burchard of Worms († 1025 AD) erroneously cites the source for Chapter 7 as “Pope Julius, Bishop throughout Egypt” († 352 AD). The original source is actually Canon 1 of the Third Council of Braga in Portugal (675 AD). However, the part about the linen cloth dipped in must was inserted by Burchard. Rf. Unfermented Wine: A Report Published by Request of His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917), p. 23-27.

20 Ibid., col. 2503,2504.

21 Raphael Volaterranus, Commentariorum Urbanorum Libri Octo et Triginta, Accuratius quam Antehac Excusi (Claudius Marnius and Heirs of Johann Aubrius, 1603), col. 248.

22 Yet it is well known that the Norwegians and inhabitants of the islands have a perpetual abundance of wine in their cities, which is annually imported there in large quantities. – endnote original

23 Théodore Bèze, Correspondance, tome 12, ed. Alain Dufour, Béatrice Nicollier-de Weck, et al. (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1986), p. 198. Penned in 1571.

24 But Beza is simply following the advice of Calvin, for Beza writes in his twenty-fifth letter: “Dr. Calvin, man of blessed memory, was asked by brothers who were at that time in America, where wine isn’t used, if it were permitted to use in the Lord’s Supper either plain water, which is in common use there, or some other kind of drink not unusual there. He replied that Christ’s intention in instituting this sacrament was to represent for us, under the symbols of common food and drink, the κοινωνίαν [joint partaking] of spiritual nourishment, that is, of himself. Accordingly, if the use of wine had not been common in Judea in his day, he would doubtless have used some other common drink, as is clear from his goal and intention. Therefore those who, in place of wine, make use of some other kind of drink customary in those regions, and are driven to do so not by contempt or rashness, but by necessity itself, seem to be doing nothing inconsistent with Christ’s intention and will. This reply of Master [Domini] Calvin, since it was grounded on supreme reasoning and in harmony with Christ’s intention, our assembly approved so much that we will judge men to be acting superstitiously if they depend on the symbol of wine so much that they would rather omit the second part of the Supper than make use of some other ἀνάλογον [analogous] symbol in such a compelling necessity” (Bèze, Correspondance, tome 9, ed. Claire Chimelli, Alain Dufour, et al. [Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1978] p. 60; penned in 1568). – endnote original

25 Antonius Sadeel, Opera Theologica, 4th ed. (Isaias le Preux, 1614), folio 429.

26 Johann Heinrich Alsted in Theologia Polemica, Part 5, Division 7, Question 8: “But if a church is to be gathered to God in a place where wine cannot be obtained in any way, another comparatively noble [nobilior], customary drink should be substituted in keeping with the Savior’s purpose, and the assembly should be instructed, lest it take offense” (Theologia Polemica, Exhibens Praecipuas Huius Aevi in Religionis Negotio Controversias [Hanau: Conrad Eifridus, 1620], p. 603). - endnote original

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Red Brick Parsonage Printing is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the Midwest.

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