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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Eucharist

The Meaning Of Galatians 3:1, which reads:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

Luther comments,

“So vividly had [Paul] described Christ to them that they could almost see and handle Him. As if Paul were to say: "No artist with all his colors could have pictured Christ to you as vividly as I have pictured Him to you by my preaching. Yet you permitted yourselves to be seduced to the extent that you disobeyed the truth of Christ."
 The Intervarsity Press Commentary concerning this passages says,

“This initial question reveals the nature of Paul's evangelistic preaching as he founded the churches in Galatia. His use of the term portrayed means that his preaching was like painting a picture with words or putting up a public poster for all to see. The perfect tense of the verb crucified indicates that Paul's vivid portrayal of Christ crucified was not only of the historical event but also of the present, saving power of the cross of Christ for all who believe in him.” [1]

James A. Fowler, says,

“This initial question reveals the nature of Paul's evangelistic preaching as he founded the churches in Galatia. His use of the term portrayed means that his preaching was like painting a picture with words or putting up a public poster for all to see. The perfect tense of the verb crucified indicates that Paul's vivid portrayal of Christ crucified was not only of the historical event but also of the present, saving power of the cross of Christ for all who believe in him.

“Paul is not implying that the Galatians saw the physical crucifixion of Jesus with their physical eyes, but that metaphorically with the "eyes of their heart" (Eph. 1:18) they understood the meaning of the death of Christ as he had powerfully placarded such to their minds. Christ did not die needlessly (2:21), but His death set in motion the "finished work" (Jn. 19:30) whereby God accomplishes the entirety of His work of redemption and restoration of man.”[2]
Roman Catholics and the Orthodox communities see it differently. Two prime examples are former Presbyterian ministers, Scott Haun and Marcus Grodi, now converts to Roman Catholicism, who both agree that Paul was referring to the eucharistic transformation of the bread and wine into the literal, sacrificial flesh of Christ as it occurred at the time of his death for our sins on the Cross of Calvary.[3]

So, in a real sense, they say, the Communion service was a reminder to the Galatians of an historical event as well as a current sacrifice that was tranformed in clear sight right before them through the eyes of faith.

In other words, they would argue, that since the Galatians were not at the Crucifixion, how could Paul have been referring to that when he said that Christ was crucified right before their eyes? He must have been referring to the Eucharist, they contend.

I, for one, must admit that that is a good point; however—and, this is a big ‘however’—if we are to take that literally, we too must be nailed to the Cross [in him] literally to make that more than just an analogy.

So, once again, we are at an exegetical stalemate that can only be broken by either a Roman Catholic or a Protestant eisegesis of the text; and, of course that is not acceptable.

There is, however, a tertium quid, I believe, that applies. And, that is, just plain common sense.

Briefly, I would argue that Jesus referred to himself as a door, a road, a vine, as bread and water; however, anyone through common sense can see that he was not a literal door, or a literal road, or vine, or bread or water—yet, it a real spiritual sense, he was all of these.

I am open for correction, but this is the way I see it.

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1. Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535) by Martin Luther Translated by Theodore Graebner (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949) Chapter 3, pp. 86-106
2. Quoted from James A. Fowler’s commentary on Galatians 3:1 @ http://www.christinyou.net/pages/galgbrbf.html
3. Journey Home, Marcus Grodi interview of Scott Haun on EWTN