The instruction to drink the blood of the Son of Man is first given in John 6:53:

εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ φάγητε τὴν σάρκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ πίητε αὐτοῦ τὸ αἷμα, οὐκ ἔχετε ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς [NA 28]

Most translations express the negative μὴ at the beginning of the verse ("not eat the flesh") in terms of a positive command. For example the ESV:

So 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.

Young's Literal Translation retains the negative language:

Jesus, therefore, said to them, `Verily, verily, I say to you, If ye may not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and may not drink his blood, ye have no life in yourselves.

However, there is no second "not" before "drink his blood" and the literal translation is:

Jesus, therefore, said to them, `Verily, verily, I say to you, If ye may not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and may drink his blood, ye have no life in yourselves.

This seems to describe a different condition, namely someone who has not eaten the flesh but has drunk the blood. The next verse makes it clear both eating and drinking are required, so the outcome, "have no life in you" is not changed because someone only drank.

The next verse appears to be restatement where the requirements are given in positive terms:

ὁ τρώγων μου τὴν σάρκα καὶ πίνων μου τὸ αἷμα ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον, κἀγὼ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ.

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (6:54 ESV)

However, the word for eating in verse 54 is now τρώγων which means to crunch or gnaw and is different from the word in verse 53 φάγητε which means to eat.

What exactly is the difference between eating and drinking in the two statements?

  • 1
    Both the KJV and the EGNT (Englishmans Greek New Testament Interlinear) express the negative as the introduction of the entire sentence. 'Except' (KJV) and 'unless' (EGNT) both express ἐὰν μὴ (if not) as a logical exception to the whole sentence that follows. It does not appear to me that the 'negative' attaches to the first of the two coupled statements. The 'negative' is attached to the conjunction 'if' and postulates the not eating and the not drinking. Which is perhaps why Young tries to attach the negative to both, despite it only appearing once.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 1 '18 at 3:16

There can be no doubt about the intended meaning here. The negative is actually a phrase, ἐὰν μὴ (= unless), not just one negative word as the question implies. This combined with the cumulative coordinating conjunction, καὶ (= and) means that the "unless" applies equally to both eating flesh and drinking blood.

This is confirmed by the very next verse (see also the Pulpit Commentary) where the same idea is presented in only slightly different terms.

v54 "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will have eternal life …"

  • The negative is eat, φάγητε. The positive is eat, τρώγων. So it is not correct to say the following verse restates the negative in positive terms. Nov 7 '18 at 6:28
  • Jesus actually repeats Himself: (a) if you do eat and drink you will not inherit eternal life (b) if you do eat and drink you will have eternal life. SAME THING.
    – user25930
    Nov 7 '18 at 9:28
  • The same general idea is there. But IMO you are not addressing the actual text. Jesus used a different verb in a different tense in a different mood, one expressed in the second person plural and the other in the masculine singular. Nov 7 '18 at 14:19
  • Quite true: "feed" vs "eat", but this does not change the central idea.
    – user25930
    Nov 8 '18 at 4:12

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