Munching on Jesus in John 6

Reading a student’s paper on the Gospel of John has prompted a string of thoughts that, similar to another student’s remarks on Anselm, stems primarily from a slight shift in emphasis. The string of thought is this: perhaps in the infamous passage on eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood, we need to emphasize the metaphor of eating. What do we do when we eat something? In a certain way, don’t we destroy it in order to get at what’s important to us, i.e., the nutrition it contains? And don’t we then excrete the useless leftovers?

Christ may be asking us in John 6 to digest his flesh — to use it as a path toward the “eternal” nutrition it provides, and then cast it aside. In this sense, the Eucharistic reading of the passage, particularly in its Roman Catholic variant, would be exactly wrong. Indeed, it might explain why the evangelist doesn’t include a “normal” Last Supper passage: chapter 6 isn’t his “idiosyncratic version” of such a passage, but rather a rejection of the sacramental order that grew out of the other Last Supper accounts.

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7 Responses to “Munching on Jesus in John 6”

  1. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Further evidence: in chapter 13, where one would expect the Last Supper scene, the only disciple to eat any bread distributed by Jesus is Judas Iscariot — and when he had eaten it, he became possessed by Satan himself.

  2. Brad E. Says:

    I’m intrigued by the alternative reading, but even more so by the implicit callback to Milbank’s (in my view justly!) ridiculed use, in an interview last year, of a similar metaphor — namely, that of “the continued event of the ingestion of the body of Christ” as a definition of the church. Rapprochement?

    Likely the stickler is the whole “continued event” bit. So close, yet so far . . .

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    There’s got to be something in the literature claiming that John actually has a polemic against the Eucharist, right? It’s impossible that I’m even remotely the first person to think of this.

  4. Brad E. Says:

    Well, I think the case is pretty thin in your post as it stands — the eating/digestion thing — but in relation to the connection you made with ch. 13, it becomes pretty intriguing. Surely someone has made note of the fact that the only eating-at-table-with-Jesus-on-the-night-he-was-betrayed in the Gospel of John is the Satan-possessed-Jesus-betrayer Judas!

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m surprised that you don’t recognize how decisively I’ve overturned a millenia-long interpretative consensus through a two-paragraph blog post.

  6. Daniel Lindquist Says:

    You probably should’ve had a third paragraph where you engaged with the literature.

  7. Rene Diebenkorn Says:

    Hey interesting idea, definitely, when you say,

    ‘…use it as a path toward the “eternal” nutrition it provides, and then cast it aside’

    I wonder, though, if it is eternal nutrition will there ever be left-overs?


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