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In the Gospel of John, we read something that many disciples found hard to accept:

John 6:54: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Similarly, Christ makes another such proclamation late in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 22:19-20: "And when [Jesus] had taken some bread and 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.' 20And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood'" (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16).

Are we to view these as parallel statements by the Lord?

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  • The first is the reality. The second is symbolic. They are not 'parallel'.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 5 '21 at 4:37
  • Hi @Nigel, how do you explain the reality of eating Jesus' flesh...? In any case, I vote to keep this question open because the meaning of the texts can be discussed and hermeneutical principles applied to ascertain if there is a parallel. Nov 6 '21 at 3:20
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    @MartinHemsley The only way I can eat the flesh of one who left earth two thousand years ago . . . . is symbolically. And I do.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 6 '21 at 3:29
  • @Nigel It's an inestimable privilege. But don't you think he was speaking symbolically in both instances? It's just that in the first case, he didn't explain what he meant. Nov 6 '21 at 4:33
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The concept of one 'eating' another has several possibilities :

  • cannibalism : when one species eats another of its own species.

  • metaphor : one concept is used in place of another.

  • symbolism : one material thing represents another material thing.

  • spiritualisation : something spiritual is represented in material terms.

  • supernaturalism : one material is miraculously transformed into another


Cannibalism is mentioned in scripture, as in Jeremiah 19:9.

In metaphor, God says that certain adversaries 'eat up' his people 'like bread', Psalm 14:4 ; Paul says that certain brethren should beware lest they 'devour one another', Galatians 5:15 and Peter warns that the Adversary seeks 'whom he may devour', 1 Peter 5:8.

Symbolically, Jesus took a loaf, broke it and offered it, saying 'this is my body' whilst yet his body was intact and whole in front of them. Clearly, the loaf signifies a body and its breaking symbolises the future rending of Jesus' body. Thus the 'eating' must be symbolic also.

Spiritually, the epistles teach that a believer 'partakes' of the Christ, by faith and in the Holy Spirit, and is unified with Christ in his death, his resurrection, his ascension and his enthronement, for example in Romans 8:10,11 and Ephesians 2:5,6 and many, many other places.

Some conflate the last two (symbolic and spiritual) and make another supernaturalistic category in which they assert that a ritual is to be performed wherein bread becomes flesh miraculously, that is to say carbohydrate and gluten become protein by a divine and supernatural act and that the actual flesh of Christ is consumed and digested.


My own apprehension is that John 6:54 expresses that a believer in Jesus Christ partakes of the benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, partakes of his sufferings, his death, his resurrection, his ascension and his enthronement and is become part of the Body of Christ in union with Christ, by the unity of One Spirit.

And that Luke 22:19-20 is the inauguration of a symbolic act whereby believers, corporately, remember, in memoriam, the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus, until he come.

Usually, the idea of 'parallel' passages is, particularly between the synoptic gospels, but John also, when two narratives appear to cover the same event, often from different aspects.

I would suggest that these two are not 'parallel' as they are two discourses of Jesus with differing content : one of spiritual reality and one of symbolic memorial.

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Indeed, many have observed that all the synoptic gospels contain a record of the last supper or first communion service, but John's gospel does not explicitly. However, John 6 contains all the same elements of the communion service as follows:

  • It was Passover time (v4)
  • Jesus handed out bread to feed people (v10-14)
  • There is a connection between feet and water (v16-21, see also John 13:3-15)
  • Jesus states that He is the bread of life (v33, 35, 41, 48, 51)
  • He also says that we must eat His flesh as the bread of life (v53-58)
  • Jesus discusses drinking His blood (v53-58)
  • Jesus also declared that His flesh and blood are the source of eternal life (v53-58)

Thus, John's Gospel contains the same elements and message about Jesus as the other synoptic Gospels, even using the same symbols.

Therefore, I would regard John 6:54 and Luke 22:19, 20 as parallel messages.

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  • Interesting points. +1
    – Xeno
    Nov 5 '21 at 3:31
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The subject matter of the two passages is the same, but the events are different. John 6:54 occurs in Capernaum in Galilee.

Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:59, ESV)

Jesus' audience was a larger crowd than his disciples.

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. (John 6:22–24, ESV)

Luke 22:19-20 was in Jerusalem during the Passover with his disciples, just before Jesus was crucified.

and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ (Luke 22:11, ESV)

Here's an answer to a previous question that addresses the meaning of these passages. What does John 6: 57 mean?

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Though some of the content, language, and symbolic elements are similar I think these passages are complimentary rather than parallel. The scene in Luke, as well as every other instance where the establishment of the "Lord's Supper" is recorded or revisited, describes a repurposing, by the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Passover meal.

The original Passover meal centered around an hastened meal and an application of blood which covered the adherents, allowing God's judgement to pass by. The judgement of God then cleared the way for deliverance from slavery and the journey towards the land of promise.

A yearly memorial of God's deliverance was then commanded to the people by God:

And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. - Exodus 12:14

The stated purpose of this memorial feast is given later in the same chapter:

And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. *And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt", when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped. - Exodus 12:24-27

The Israelites who kept the feast in later generations did not somehow participate in the Exodus event; they memorialized it (by the command of God). The Luke passage, therefore, describes a service memorializing a one time past event (God's deliverance of His people) with the Lord Jesus claiming to be the anti-typical fulfillment of that deliverance. His is the blood which covers. He is the Passover lamb.

In the John passage Jesus is not claiming to be the means of deliverance (as the Passover) but the means of sustenance between deliverance and promise. The fulfillment He claims to embody here (as the bread from heaven) is the manna in the wilderness; that miraculous food which sustains in the desert:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. - John 6:32-33

The initial correspondence between this "bread" and the sustenance it imparts is coming and believing:

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. - John 6:35

Immediately and increasingly some do not believe (v. 36) and Jesus words become more parabolic and inaccessible to them as their murmuring increases until finally they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, which they obviously cannot do. Coming to Him and believing on Him are the eating and drinking which gives life in the desert and sustenance unto the promise. As in the wilderness, some may eat wrongly (without faith) and perish.

In summary, the Luke passage has to do with memorializing a single past act which produces deliverance from judgement and the John passage has to do with provision from that deliverance unto the realization of promise. Theologically they would correspond to justification (an act) and sanctification (a process), respectively. The passages are, therefore, complimentary rather than parallel and the conflation of the two can lead to much danger and dissension when the faith necessary to survive the wilderness is turned into a repetitive, mystical, religious act for the retention of what is already accomplished.

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