THE UNDERSTANDING OF EUCHARIST IN ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL

(published in L. Padovese [ed.], Atti del VI Simposio di Efeso su S. Giovani Apostolo, Roma 1966, pp. 39-52).

    Concerning the teaching of the Church, whether publicly proclaimed or reserved to members of the household of faith, we have received some from written sources, while others through the apostolic tradition  have been given to us in mystery ( ).[1] With these words St.  Basil the Great in his treatise "On the Holy Spirit" has perfectly defined the foundations of our christian faith: Holy Scripture and Worship, apostolic tradition and liturgical experience of the christian self-consciousness, Gospel and Liturgy, in other words Word and Sacrament. Given the great emphasis given in modern times to the eucharistic ecclesiology, especially within the Ecumenical movement, as well as the fact that the traditional Churches (especially the Orthodox and the Catholic) underline the significance of the Sacrament, more precisely of the Eucharist, sometimes over and above the importance for the christian faith of the Word of God,[2] I believe it is necessary and urgent to re-examine in depth the meaning of Eucharist.

    The proper understanding of Eucharist has always been a stumbling block in christian theology and life; not only at the start of the christian community when the Church had to struggle against a multitude of mystery cults, but also much later when scholastic theology (mostly in the West) has systematized a latent "sacramentalistic" view of the Holy Mysteries of our Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  In vain distinguished theologians of the East (most notably in the case of Cabassilas) attempted to redefine the christian sacramental theology on the basis of the trinitarian theology. Seen from a modern theological perspective, this was a desperate attempt to reject certain tendencies which overemphasized the importance of Christology at the expense and to the detriment of the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit. The controversy between East and West on the issues of the filioque, the epiclesis etc. are well known,[3] though their consequences to the sacramental theology of the Church have yet to be fully and systematically examined.  The tragic consequences of those tendencies were in fact felt a few generations after the final Schism between East and West with the further division of Western Christianity. One of the main focuses during the Reformation, and rightly so, was the "sacramentalistic" understanding of the eucharist in the Western Church, which resulted,  among other things, in the departure of the mainstream protestant theology from the early christian sacramental theology.  The dialectic opposition between "sacramentantalism" on the one hand, and "the complete rejection of sacraments" on the other, was the main reason of the tragic secularization of our society and the  transformation of the Church into a religion, in some cases a cultic, and in other cases a merely proclaiming/ confessing, religion.[4]

    In order  to figure out the meaning, as well as the real nature and character of the christian sacrament[5], it is my firm conviction that we should first turn to the Bible.[6] And for our purpose there is no other text more suitable than the Gospel of John. This canonical book of the Bible, at least in its present and completed form,[7] is the first serious attempt at a theological understanding of the meaning of the christian sacrament. Along with the pauline interpretation of Baptism in terms of sharing Christ's death on the cross, the strange and peculiar johannine expression of "eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood" (6:54), has become the basis of all subsequent sacramental understanding of the Eucharist in both East and West.

    In other words we have only to search for the interpretation and understanding of the Eucharist by the Fourth Evangelist; after all the Eucharist is the "fullness of the mysteries" (Symeon of Thessaloniki); it is also the very expression of the Church, the Sacrament of the Church, which according to N.Cavassilas (is designated in the mysteries); but above all in the Gospel of John the Eucharist is presented as a Mystery, and in a mysterious way as the life giving sacrament.  The section of the Fourth Gospel which extensively deals with this subject is chapter 6.[8]

***

    Before we speak about this chapter, we need first say a few words concerning the way one can determine the theology of the Fourth Gospel.[9] Today it is unanimously accepted that the Fourth Evangelist approaches the enduring problems of history, of human destiny,  death and the salvation of the humankind  starting not from anthropology but rather from Christology.[10] Christology in the Fourth Gospel, however, cannot to be understood apart from its Pneumatology,  since "the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit" (Jn 14:26), according to the characteristic terminology of John, can be easily defined as the "alter ego" of Christ ("and I will ask my father and he will give you another Paraclete so that he might remain with you always", Jn 14:16)  This other Paraclete who "will teach you all things" (Jn. 14:26) is "the Spirit of truth" (Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13); and in the final analysis the one that will "guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:12).  Consequently human beings are in communion with  "the way, the truth and the life", who is Christ, only through the Holy Spirit, whom he bestows upon the world as a gift of God the Father.

    The crucial question, of course, is how and on what condition can one become bearer of the Spirit, according to johannine theology, i.e. how he can be saved. To answer this question modern exegetes are  dramatically divided. Conservative scholars insist that according to the johannine theology this can only happen within the Church through the sacraments, whereas liberal critics argue  that it is in keeping the word of God and being in communion with Christ that salvation can be accomplished. Both views converge in presenting the johannine ecclesiology just as in the pre-johannine tradition, i.e as an eschatological reality; the only difference perhaps being that in the Fourth Gospel the members of the Christian community (i.e. the Church) are not designated by the current early Christian predicates (Israel of God, saints, a royal priesthood  etc., and even Church); the real members of the Church are only those who  keep the word of Jesus. In this respect John develops even further the ecumenical character of the Church first expounded by St. Paul (in his Epistle to the Romans [ch. 11]).  For this reason the faithful are simply called disciples (Jn 13:35; 15:8 etc.) friends (15:13ff), and are said to be united with Christ just as vine branches are to the vine. (15.1ff). In other words the Church, as in the early Christian tradition, is not perceived as a mere organization with a specific order, but rather as a communion with Christ.  The faithful are in communion with Christ, just as Christ is in communion (or to be more exact in unity) with the Father (10:30;[11] 17.21f) when they keep his word, and believe in him who had sent him. They are of the truth when they hear his voice, just as the sheep hear the voice of the good shepherd (10:1ff).  All these happen, when they change their lives i.e. when they are born from above (3:3), by the Spirit (3:5f), something which is experienced as an eschatological act and gift of God.  This birth by the Spirit, unlike natural birth, is the work of God which no one can control just as so happens to the wind. "The Spirit blows where it wills (and here the evangelist moves from the meaning of the Spirit to that of the wind, since the Greek can have both meanings) and you hear its sound but you do not know from where it comes or where it goes.  Thus it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (3:8).[12] For this reason the proper worship of the community has to be a worship "in spirit and in truth" (4:24).

    This extremely charismatic ecclesiological view, which the Fourth Evangelist seems to exhibit, is completed altered in a number of seemingly strong sacramental references (as e.g. vv. 3:5f, with the reference to the rebirth of water and of the Spirit; or v. 19:34, the reference to the flow of blood and water from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus; and above all in the so-called "sacramental" section (vv. 6:51b-58) of the "eucharistic" or "Bread-of-Life" discourse (vv. 30ff), and in fact in the entire sixth chapter).

***

    St. John the Evangelist, although he omits the words of institution of the Eucharist is rightly considered the sacramental theologian par excellence.[13] One can only read carefully the reference to the new commandment of love (13:34-35), and will immediately recall the institution narrative, since the (new commandment)[14] sounds very similar to the (the new testament) of the synoptic tradition.[15] Furthermore the symbolism of the vine and the branches in the "Farewell Discourse" (ch. 15), the washing of the disciples feet (ch. 13), which actually replaces the synoptic account of the Institution of the Eucharist,[16] the aforementioned flow of blood and water from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus (19:34) and above all Chapter 6  with its "Eucharistic Discourse" (especially 6:51b-58); they all make the sacramental, or rather eucharistic, character of the Fourth Gospel more than inescapable. Not to mention, of course, the miraculous change of the water into wine at the Wedding in Cana (2:1-11) at the outset of Jesus' earthly ministry, as well as many other cases. The issue at stake, however, is whether this sacramental dimension, and more precisely the johannine understanding of the Holy Mysteries of initiation, is at all related to the "sacramentalistic" views of the ancient, contemporary to the early Church, Hellenistic Mystery Cults.

    Coming back to the narratives in the sixth chapter we must  note that the entire section  consists of corresponding smaller units,[17] which are linked together through their sacramental/eucharistic point of reference.[18] Only the passage of the walking of Jesus on the lake of Genesaret (6:16-21) seems to be outside this scheme.  This is probably due to the fact that this very unit was preserved in the earlier synoptic tradition (Mk 6:30-52 = Mt 14:13-27) coupled with the account of the multiplication of loaves.[19] At any rate, the entire eucharistic discourse on the "bread of life" (6:22ff) is actually a continuation of, and a commentary on, the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (which by the way had already in the synoptic tradition been given an accented eucharistic dimension [Mk. 6:41]).[20]

    Reading carefully through the entire johannine eucharistic discourse (6:22-71) we are struck by the dramatic change  of vocabulary and content  in vv. 52-58, the transition point being v.51b, where a more direct and clear sacramental symbolism appears.[21] Whereas the eucharistic motifs previously played only a secondary role, from 6:51b onward they become the predominant and eventually the exclusive subject.  Faith in Christ is no longer spoken of as a basic presupposition for eternal life ("he who believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life 6.47-48; see also 6.35);  eternal life now is linked with the sacramental eating of the flesh and the drinking of the blood of Christ (truly truly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will not have life in yourselves. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life....he who eats me, shall live by me" 6:54f, 57; cf. also 6:56).[22] I do not propose to proceed to an enumeration of similar quite sound arguments, evidenced in the text itself, which lent support to the hypothesis of an editor/redactor of the Fourth Gospel.[23] 

    In contemporary biblical scholarship chapter 6  of St. Johns Gospel has become a locus classicus of the most diverse exegetical and theological views, concerning its sacramental or non-sacramental character. The whole issue is part of a long and heated discussion which centered around the alleged influence of the oriental/hellenistic  mystery cults on christianity.[24] We have to remind ourselves that the most moderate views of the History-of-Religions School (Religionsgeschichte) range from the theory that "christianity became sacramental - or mystery religion - on passing from Jewish to Greco-Oriental surroundings",[25] to the theory that holds that "apostolic christianity separated itself from all ancient religions by not being magical, no deus ex machina, no ex opere operato...until the 'change' to a 'sacramental' doctrine, which became characteristic from the fourth century".[26] It is quite interesting to review in brief the different interpretations which have been given to the problems related to the philological unity and theological meaning of John ch.6. The main theories can be classified as follows:[27]

(a) The allegorical interpretation,[28] which holds that Jesus was exclusively speaking about faith in his person, and that verses 51b-58 refer to this faith without alluding in any way to the eucharist.

(b) The realistic interpretation,[29] which asserts that Jesus was solely speaking about the eucharist. This is clearly foreshadowed in the account of the multiplication of loaves and the feeding of the five thousand. The sacramental part of the eucharistic discourse in verses 51b-58 is nothing but the confirmation of this foreshadowing.

(c) Since both the above theories no doubt oversimplify the problem of the sixth chapter's philological unity, another theory has been suggested, which gained wide support, at least in Europe, that of the editor/redactor.[30] According to this theory vv. 51-58 are an interpolation by a later ecclesiastical redactor in order to harmonize the johannine teaching to the ignatian eucharistic understanding. For Bultmann the original author of the Fourth Gospel, while not manifesting any anti-sacramental polemic, nevertheless, certainly maintains a critical and at the very least a cautious stand regarding the sacraments.[31]

(d) As a reaction to this theory a number of scholars[32] suggested the theory of successive teachings of Jesus on faith  and on eucharist, the former, however, being given such prominence that almost eliminated the latter. But this theory, too, cannot be accepted, even by conservative exegetes. M.-J. Lagrange[33] e.g. felt it necessary to speak of different subject matter to different audiences; whereas J.Jeremias has advanced the hypothesis of a pre-johannine discourse in verses 51b-58, which the evangelist incorporated into his main "bread of life" eucharistic discourse (6:30-50).[34]

(e) Some scholars have pointed to the strong incarnational motifs of the Fourth Gospel[35] and suggested that the author of the Gospel understood the eucharist as a testimony to the reality of Jesus' human nature.[36] One finds this same idea in the account of the washing of the disciples' feet at the Last Supper. Whereas the Synoptic Evangelists describe the eucharistic words of Christ in this context, the Fourth Evangelist sets forth the example of Christ's extreme humility.  In this way he is attempting to emphasize the theological meaning which must be present in the eucharistic-liturgical praxis of the church.[37]

(f) Another group of scholars[38] desperately attempted to harmonize all those divergent views by  maintaining that in the sixth chapter John is treating neither just one only of the Church's perennial teachings, i.e. faith or the eucharist,  nor both of them in a successive manner; he rather speaks on both of them simultaneously in terms of mutual causality of faith and sacrament.  A. Feuillet e.g. mainly  based his argument on the results of the important study of P.Borgen, who in his book Bread from Heaven  argued that the entire sixth chapter of John, including the sacramental section, can be explained as a word-by-word midrashic exegesis of the Feeding-of-the-5.000 miracle on the basis of Psalm 78 (77 LXX).[39] Feuillet pointed out that the essence of Jesus' teaching in the sixth chapter indeed originates in the historical Jesus and was actually based on the Old Testament typological references (manna, messianic banquet, and the sophiological meal); but it was John who embellished this historical account with interpretative observations and comments, which he believed necessary, given the liturgical/eucharistic practice of his community. H.Schurmann, on the other hand, who subjected the entire chapter to a strict critical analysis, came to the conclusion that the final unit of the chapter (vv. 60-71), where the crisis which erupted in the community is described, is connected to the teaching on the bread of life in vv. 26-51. The intermediate discourse (vv 51b-58), i.e. the sacramental part of the eucharistic discourse, which is in between, is not a later interpolation, but was purposely supplied by the author as a "parenthesis" in order to elucidate the deeper significance of the Eucharist.  The mystery of the eucharistic praxis of the Church, Schurmann argued, is not exclusively an extension of the saving event of the incarnation.  It sustains, of course, the faith of the "here and now" of the incarnation, yet it is also something more: it is the communion of love, sacrifice, offering and thanksgiving as well as the representation of the salvation event.  Thus, faith is not suppressed by sacrament; it is its presupposition, and the latter is essentially an act of faith.[40]

(g) Finally quite recently J.M.Perry has advanced yet another theory on "The Evolution of the Johannine Eucharist", as he entitled his article.[41] He believes that the apparent discrepancies in ch.6 can be satisfactorily solved if we accept a legitimate development in the history of the johannine community from a non sacramental to a sacramental understanding of Eucharist. At the beginning, as it is evident in the miracle of the multiplication of loaves (6:1-15), the Eucharist was perceived in terms of the manna typology as an exclusively eschatological celebration of joy. The Bread-of-Life discourse (6:21-51a) was added at a later stage to equip the community with a theological response of a midrashic/polemic kind underlining the significance of the Eucharistic bread as a sign of the life giving word of God mediated definitely through the Risen Lord. This resurrection-oriented understanding of the Eucharist, acquired (after interaction with the pauline communities) also cross and passion sacramental elements, evident in vv.51b-58, a process which "altered but did not eliminate the original eschatological character of (the community's) Eucharist".[42] It was this re-orientation of the eucharistic understanding, Dr Perry argues, that caused the crisis in the community (cf. 6:60-66; also 10:16).[43]

 

    All these scholarly attempts to solve the problems of the literary unity of Jn ch. 6 have certainly shed some light to the theological understanding of johannine Eucharist and of the johannine Sacrament in general. No doubt, it is worth undergoing any kind of critical scrutiny for a biblical passage such as Jn 6, which in view of its unquestionable canonicity is the first serious attempt to approach the eucharistic experience of the Early Church from a theological perspective.  If the Synoptic gospels and the epistles of Paul have preserved the details of the liturgical praxis of the Church in a soteriological/sacramental way, it is John who answers the question of this liturgical praxis' nature, its profound meaning and the consequences of participating in it.[44]

    However, from the above short and fragmentary presentation of modern research on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, one cannot escape the impression that the old problematic of the scholastic period, as well as that of the subsequent reformation, concerning the nature of the Eucharist and of the sacraments in general, is more than evident.[45] The great change in sacramental theology and the understanding of the Eucharist that has taken place in Western Christianity especially since the twelfth century,[46] is still there.  That is why a widely accepted scholarly view on the issue, from all christian quarters (orthodox, catholic and protestant alike), has yet to be reached. According to the distinguished British scholar C.K.Barrett, specialist in the johannine literature, "what John means by eating and drinking the Son of Man's flesh and blood is a question that still has to be answered".[47] Without arguing that similar sacramentalistic phenomena did not appear in the East,[48] we can say with a fair amount of objectivity that they never had a catalytic effect on Eastern theology. In the remaining time we shall examine this alleged sacramentalistic interpolation, that seemingly destroys the extreme charismatic ecclesiology of the Gospel of John, without the above preoccupations.

     In my view the entire section can be reduced to the well known and oft repeated v. 6:56: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, a verse which in fact summarizes the entire sacramental part of the johannine eucharistic discourse, and is widely used in both eastern and western liturgical life.[49] The most crucial point for critical understanding of this passage - which calls to mind the words of institution of the earlier pauline (I Cor 11:23-26) and synoptic traditions (Mk 14:22-25=Mt 26:26-29=Lk 22:14-20) - is not merely the fact that the terminology used, especially the expression referring to the eating of flesh, is according to the Old Testament standard beliefs (Ps 26:2) an enemy action. We have now learned that this expression in the syriac/aramaic tradition eventually came to refer to the devil himself.  The most crucial point is the replacement by the author of the 4th Gospel of the traditional eucharistic term "body" (a term with specific ecclesiological connotations expressed in the pauline image of the Church as the "body of Christ"), with the expression "eating the flesh", an expression with heavy and intense mystery (magical[50]) connotation.  The explanation, which some scholars tried to give in the past, i.e. that no hebrew or aramaic word exists to render the term "body" as understood in the New Testament, proved inadequate.[51] In other words, the suggestion that Jesus used at the Last Supper the expression "take eat this is my flesh is most unlikely. In addition, the term "flesh" in all other christological usages in John is always associated with the incarnation (cf. e.g. "and the word became flesh and dwelt among us" Jn 1:14). In the Gospel of John we find a more direct correlation of the Sacrament of the Church (the community's eucharistic fellowship) with the "mystery" of the incarnation, than in the earlier christian tradition.  After all the johannine tradition has admittedly an anti-docetic character.

    Therefore, if we are to offer a sound explanation, we have to search elsewhere. First of all it is quite evident that in John we have a life-oriented understanding of the Eucharist, which without loosing its connection with Jesus' death (see 19:34), it is essentially distanced from death and associated rather with life (the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world , 6:51 see also 6:33,58).  The antithesis between bread and manna illustrates perfectly this fact; for whereas the Jews who had eaten the manna in the desert died, those who partake of the true bread will have life eternal (6:58,33).

    Of course phrases, such as "he who hears my word and believes the one who sent me has eternal life (5:24), which recur many times in John (cf.3:36; 11:25; 8:12) would definitely lead to the conclusion that the original johannine understanding of the Eucharist is beyond the sacramentalistic (magical in the final analysis) and the mystical (syncretistic) conceptions, which underlay the hellenistic mystery rites[52]. Without denying a sacramental nuance in the verse under consideration, we can argue that what makes it (and by extension the entire sacramental section 51b-58) also incompatible with similar views, is in fact its immediate context. And first the accompanying phrase: "he will abide in me and I in him" (Jn. 6:56). With this phrase, which denotes an unbroken relationship, communion and abiding presence of God, the author of the Fourth Gospel surpasses both the hellenistic concept of "ecstasy", and at the same time the classical conception of judaic prophecy; for he transforms the eschatological expectation from a future event to a present reality. But at the same time he avoids any trace of pantheism, since there is no hint to the idea of "identification" of the initiate with the deity, which was the principal teaching of all current mystery cults. In addition, if one connects this fundamental eucharistic logion of John with the next verse (6:57), one will easily come to the conclusion that in John we have the beginnings of what has become axiomatic in Christian (especially Orthodox) theology:  To have eternal life - in other words to live in a true and authentic way and not just live a conventional life -  one has to be in communion with Christ. Communion with Christ, however, means participation in the perfect communion, which exists within the Holy Trinity between the Father and the Son ("Just as the living Father sent me, and I live through the Father, he who eats me will live through me  6:57). What we have here in John, is in fact a parallel expression to the classic statement of II Peter " "  (partakers of the divine nature, 1:4), which has become in later patristic literature the biblical foundation of the doctrine of divinization (). In the case of the Gospel of John, however, this idea is expressed in a more descriptive and  less abstract way that in II Peter[53]. If we now take this argument  a little further, we can say that johannine theology more fully develops the earlier interpretation of the Eucharist as the continually repeated act of sealing the "new covenant" of God with his new people. This interpretation  is evidenced in the synoptic and pauline tradition, although there the covenantal interpretation of Jesus' death in the phrase "this is my blood of the covenant"  (Mk 14:24 par and I Cor 11:25), is somewhat hidden by the soteriological formula "which is shed for you" (ibid.).[54]

    What comes out of this understanding of the Eucharist by John with its more direct emphasis on the idea of the covenant and of the communion, is the transformation of Jeremiah's vision - which was at the same time also a promise - from a marginal to a central feature. Just as in the book of Jeremiah, so also in John it is the ideas of a new covenant, of communion,  and of the Church as a people , that are most strongly emphasized. Listen to what the prophet was saying: "and I will make a covenant. . . a new covenant", 38:31; and "I will give them a heart  to know that I am the Lord....and they shall be unto me a people", 24:7).

    This covenantal dimension of Eucharist, however, is not the only feature emphasized in the Gospel of John. The pericope of the Washing of the Disciples Feet (13:1-20)[55] reveals yet another dimension. The incident in question, which is preserved only by the St. John, is placed in the context of the Last Supper, and in direct connection with Judas betrayal; in other words, exactly in the place the Synoptic Gospels have recorded the so-called dominical sayings of the institution of the Eucharist (Mark 14: 22-25 par). Given John s almost certain knowledge of the synoptic tradition, one can fairly argue that he has actually replaced the account of the Institution of the Eucharist by the symbolic act of Jesus washing his disciples feet.  If so, the Eucharist is understood by the 4th Evagelist, also as an act of diakonia, humility and sharing with radical social implications; in other words an act of social diakonia. Cultural anthropology has shown that in Jesus contemporary society the washing of a disciples feet was not merely the ultimate act of humble and kenotic diakonia, but a act of social behaviour. In fact, as A.Destro-M.Pesce have argued,[56] In the 4th Gospel the incident is a rite of inversion of roles within the society.[57]

***

   If any conclusion is to be drawn from the above analysis of the johannine eucharistic understanding, this is an affirmation of the ecclesial and diaconal dimension of the christian Sacraments and of the Eucharist as a communion event and not an act of personal devotion; an expression of the Church as the people (laos) and household (oikos) of God and as the Body of Christ mystically united with its head and a proleptic manifestation of the Kingdom to come, and not a mere cultic and/or witnessing institution; an act of social diakonia and sharing, and not a sacramentalistic quasi-maginal rite.[58] More precisely, the eucharistic theology of the Gospel of John is beyond any notion related to sacramental practices of the ancient Mystery cults. The Eucharist as the unique and primary Sacrament of the Church cannot be related to "sacramentalism"; it is rather an expression of the communion of the people of God, that radically transcends (and transforms) the conventional social values, roles and structures, which in turn is a reflection of the communion that exists between the persons of the Holy Trinity.[59]  Just as Paul in his epistle to the Romans (see Rom 6:3-11) contends with the magical/sacramentalistic understanding of baptism, and for that reason he stresses the moral obligations of the believer  and exhorts them  to "walk in newness of life", 6:4 and "no longer be enslaved to sin 6:6),[60] in a similar way the  Fourth Evangelist goes beyond a analogous magical/sacramentalistic conception of the Eucharist, the other major sacrament of christian initiation.[61]



[1]St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit   27,  PG  vol  32, cl 188. Cf. also J.Petrou, The Unity and the Breaking of the Communion of Faithful according to S.Basil , Thessaloniki 1983 (in Greek).

[2]It is worth noting that most of the responses from the Orthodox Churches to the Lima document (BEM) underline the need for further examination of the significance of the christian understanding of the sacrament. See also Th.FitzGerald, "Faith, Sacraments, and the Unity of the Church: The Text and a Response," GOTR 34 (1989) 151-166.

[3]Cf. my "Orthodox Theology Facing the 21st Century," GOTR  34  (1990) 139-150; also my "Orthodoxy and the West," Orthodoxy at the Crossroad, 1992, 91-126.

[4]Unfortunately, this mounting sacramentalism of medieval Catholicism has also influenced Eastern Christianity, if not in theology at least certainly in piety and liturgical practice. (More on this in my "Orthodoxy and Liturgical Renewal," Lex Orandi. Studies of Liturgical Theology,  1994,  57-68).

[5]See the interesting article by M.E.Brikman, "Creation and Sacrament,"Exchange 19 (1990) 208-216, where a suggestion is made that the Orthodox understanding of Mysteries, if properly applied to all aspects of life, may lead us out of the dead locks and dillemas of the western sacramental theology, and the shortcomings of the conventional creation theology.

[6]For arguments of such an approach see my "Greek Theology in the Making. Trends and Facts from the 80s-Vision for the 90s," SVTQ  35 (1991) 139-153

[7]According to C.H.Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 1953, the hypothesis of two divergent views, one sacramentalistic and the other mystical, does not help to grasp the theology of the text as we have it today (p.342 n.3).

[8]M.Stanley, "The Bread of Life," Worship 32 (1958) 477-488, has rightly stated that in ch.6  John presents in a masterly way the christian view on the sacrament of the Eucharist

[9]Bultmann's presentation of the johannine theology on the basis of an existential interpretation of the N.T. (i.e. presenting theology as anthropology), has not been widely accepted by contemporary biblical scholarship; contrary to the impact which this prominent New Testament scholar made through his formulation of the pauline theology.

[10]E.Lohse, Grundrisse der neutestamentlichen Theologie, 1974 (all references here are from the Greek tr, 1980, pp. 184ff. Cf. however the interesting essay of C.K.Barrett, "Christocentric or Theocentric? Observations on the Theological Method of the Fourth Gospel,"Essays on John, 1982 pp. 1-18.

[11]In later patristic theology the neutral  was taken to mean unity in essence () but not in substance ().

[12]I. de la Potterie has brought to my attention, on the basis mainly of the very early patristic tradition in both East and West, the possibility of interpreting the entire verse pneumatologically, i.e. without reference to at all to the wind (cf. also his Nascere dall aqua e nascere dallo Spirito. Il teato battesimale di Giovanni  3,5 in I. de la Potterie-S.Lyonnet, La vita secondo lo Spirito. Condizione del cristiano,  1992 [revised edition translated from the original French book La vie selon l Esprit, condition du chrétien, 1965], pp. 35-74).

[13]Cf. O.Cullmann, Les Sacraments dans l'Evangile Johannique 1951, incorporated in his Early Christian Worship, 1953. The rediscovery of the sacramental characteristics in St. John's Gospel has in fact a long history in modern biblical scholarship: cf. S.Smalley, Liturgy and Sacrament in the Fourth Gospel, EvQ  29 (1957) 159-170; C.T.Craig, Sacramental Interest in the Fourth Gospel, JBL 58 (1939) 31-41; also J.M.Creed, Sacraments in the Fourth Gospel,The Modern Churchman 16 (1926) 363-372.

[14]More on this in A.Dalbesio, La concezione giovannea di comandamento quale anima della morale christiana, in this volume.

[15]For a connection between the new commendment and the Eucharist cf. D.Cancian, Nuovo commandamento, nuova alleanza, eucaristia. Nell interpretazione del capitolo 13 del Vangelo di Giovanni, 1978, pp. 168-250.

[16]More on this below.

[17]S.Agouridis, Why was Christ Crucified? Interpretations of Christ's Death by the N.T. Authors, 1990 (in Greek), p.56.

[18]According to R.E.Brown, "The Eucharist and Baptism in St. John," Proceedings of the Society of Catholic College Teachers of Sacred Doctrine 8 (1962) 14-37,  the correct understanding of the johannine mysteriology very much depends on the proper understanding of ch. 6 (and ch.3).

[19]For a different view on this issue see among others E.D.Johnston, "The Johannine Version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand - an Independent Tradition?" NTS 8 (1962) 151-154.

[20]Cf. however G.H.Boobyer, "The Eucharistic Interpretation of the Miracles of the Loaves in Mark's Gospel," JTS n.s. 3 (1952) 161-171, who suggested that Mark understood the miracle symbolically, but not eucharistically.

[21]Cf. P.Niewalda, Sakramentssymbolik im Johannes-Evangelium? 1958

[22]L.Goppelt, "" TDNT vol VIII, pp.236f.

[23]R.Bultmann's school is the main proponent of this view (cf. his commentary, The Gospel of John, p.218ff; G.Bornkamm, "Die eucharistische Rede im Johannes-Evangelium," ZNW  47 [1956] 161-169, and others; more on this theory below). E.Ruckstuhl, Die literarische Einheit des Johannes-Evangeliums, 1951, pp. 220-271, has argued against this theory on literary grounds; cf. also J.Racette, "L'unité du discours sur le pain de vie (Jean VI),"SciencEccl 9 (1957) 82-85.

[24]More on this in J.Z.Smith, Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religion of Late Antiquity, 1990.

[25]K.Lake, Modern Churchman 11 (1921-22), p.237; also his, The Earlier Epistles of S. Paul: The Motive and Origin, 1911; idem, Landmarks in the History of Early Christianity, 1920. Cf. H.A.A. Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery Religions, 1913.

[26]J.A.Faulkner, "Did Mystery Religions Influence the Apostolic Christianity," MethQuartRev 73 (1924) 387-403, p. 397; and idem, "Did Ancient Christianity Borrow from the Mystery Religions," ibid., 266-278, p. 274.

[27]A similar classification of current scholarly views has been suggested by X.Léon Dufour, "Le mystère du Pain de Vie (Jean VI)," RechSciRel 46 (1958) 481-523. For a history of interpretation see also C.R.Koester, "John Six and the Lord's Supper," Lutheran Quarterly n.s. 4 (1990) 419-437.

[28]Cf. among others H.Odeberg,The Fourth Gospel in its Relation to the Contemporaneous Currents in Palestine and the Hellenistic-Oriental World, 19292; A. Schlatter, Der Evangelist Johannes. Wie er spricht, denkt und glaubt, 19302; H. Strathmann, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, 1955.

[29]The main proponents of this theory are O.Cullmann, Urchristentum und Gottesdienst, 1944 and its translation into English The Early Christian Worship; and  J.Bonsirven, "Hoc est corpus meum," Biblica 29 (1948) 205-219.

[30]Cf. among others J.Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Johannis 1908; R. Bultmann, The Gospel of John, p.218ff; G.Bornkamm, "Die eucharistische Rede..,"; and E.Lohse, "Wort und Sacrament im Johannesevangelium," NTS  7 (1961) 110-125.

[31]R.Bultmann, Theology II, p. 59.

[32]Among others E.Schweizer, "Das johanneische Zeugnis vom Herrenmahl," Neotestamentica1963, pp. 371-373; idem, EGO EIMI. Die religionsgeschichtliche Herrkunft und theologische Bedeutung der johanneischen Bildreden, 1939; P.-H. Menoud, "Les études johanniques de Bultmann `a Barrett," L' Evangile de Jean, 1958, pp. 11-40; D. Mollat, "Le Chapitre VIe de Saint Jean,"  LumVie 31 (1957) 107-119.

[33] Evangile selon St. Jean, 19273, ad loc..

[34]J.Jeremias, "Joh 6,51c-58 - redaktionell?" ZNW  44 (1953) 256ff.

[35]R.E.Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol.I, 1966, ad loc, who nevertheless believes, as another Roman Catholic also does (R.Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, vol.II, engl. tr., 1980, ad loc) that vv. 52-58 were added later by the final redactor; G.H.C.MacGregor, "The Eucharist in the Fourth Gospel,"  NTS 9 (1963) 111-119; O.S.Brooks, "The Johannine Eucharist. Another Interpretation, JBL 82 (1963) 293-300.

[36]According to MacGregor (see previous n.) e.g.in order to fully understand the unique approach of John to the "mystery" we need take in to account the peculiar characteristics of his theology (incarnation, "the word became flesh", eternal life acquired through faith and sacraments, emphasis on life instead of death, hence the phrase "for the life of the world" [6:51] and the preference to symbolisms and references to life), as well as the pressing issues of his community when he wrote his Gospel (rejection of the Eucharist by the Jews and the danger of the infiltration of sacramentalistic/magical ideas into the christian rite). John's views are presented in some details to address these problems. Cf. also his Eucharistic Origins, 1928.  

[37]See, however, below.

[38]X. Léon-Dufour, "Le Mystère du Pain..,"; A Feuillet, "Les thémes bibliques majeurs du discours sur le pain de vie (jn 6). Contribution a l' étude de la pansée johannique," NRT 82 (1960), pp. 803ff; H. Schürmann, "Die Eucharistie als Repräsentation und Application des Heilsgeschehens nach Joh 6. 53-58," TrThZeit 68 (1959) 108-118.

[39]According to P.Borgen, Bread from Heaven, 1965 (cf. also his article "Unity of the Discourse in John 6," ZNW  50 [1959] 277-78), the entire unit 6:49-58 is to be read as a midrashic interpretation to v. 6:31 "he gave them bread from heaven to eat" (Ps 78:24).

[40]H. Schürmann, "Die Eucharistie.. ibid.

[41]NTS 39 (1993) pp.22-35.

[42]Ibid., p.29.

[43]According to Perry the final editor employed yet another earlier eucharistic tradition (21:1-14) art.cit., pp.32ff.

[44]T.Worden, "The Holy Eucharist in St. John," Scripture 15 (1963) 97-103.

[45]In an honest statement B.Lindars has admitted that the discussion on the issue "would never have arisen if it had not been for the effect of the Reformation on Western theology"(The Gospel of John, 1972, p.261).

[46]P.-M.Gy, "Liturgy and Spirituality: II. Sacraments and Liturgy in Latin Christianity," in B.McGinn and J.Meyendorff (eds.), Christian Spirituality I. Origins to the Twelfth Century, 1985, pp. 365-381.

[47]C.K.Barrett, "The Flesh of the Son of Man' John 6.53," Essays in John, 1982, pp. 1-18.

[48]Cf. P.Meyendorff, "Liturgy and Spirituality: I. Eastern Liturgical Theology," in Christian Spirituality I, pp. 350-363.

[49]See also P.Vassiliadis, "The Anti-sacramentalistic Dimension of the Christian Mystery (A Comment on Jn 6,56)," Gregorios ho Palamas 73 (1990) 859- 866 (in Greek).

[50]H.-D.Betz, "Magic and Mystery in the Greek Magical Papyri, in C.A.Faraone and O.Obbink (eds.) Magica Hiera. Ancient Greek Magic and Religion, 1991, pp. 244-259, has recently convincingly showed how heavy the influence of Egyptian magic has been on the hellenistic Mystery cults.

[51]More on this in B.Vawter, "The Gospel According to John, New Jerome, II ad.loc.

[52]Cf. also the interesting recent book of G.M.Burge, The Anointed Community. The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition, 1989.

[53]According to L.Bouyer,The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, 1963, the union of the Son with those who believe in him in Jn 6 has been prepared by the incarnation but is eventually realized through the sacraments, the spiritual dimension of which one can only grasp with faith; it is in this way only that humanity can participate in the communion that exists between the Father and the Son (p. 130).

[54]Cf. my Cross and Salvation, 1983 (in Greek), an english summary of which can be found in a paper of mine delivered at the 1984 annual Leuven Colloquium (: Centre of the Pauline Soteriology and Apostolic Ministry, A.Vanhoye [ed.], LApôtre Paul. Personnalité, Style et Conception du Ministère, 1986, 246-253).

[55]More on this pericope in J.D.G.Dunn The Washing of the Disciples Feet in John 13,1-20,  ZNW 61 (1970) 247-252; D.Tripp, Meaning of Foot-Washing: John 13 and Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 840, ET 103 9 (1992) 237-239.

[56]A.Destro-M.Pesce, Gestualità e ritualità nel Vangelo di Giovanni: la lavanda dei piedi, in this volume.

[57]It is to be also noted that the redaction by the author of the 4th Gospel of another full of ritual connotation pericope - and closely related  to the eucharistic incident of the washing of the disciples feet - namely that of of the Anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:1ff), may not be accidental. The evangelist not only placed this famous pericope in the same Passover setting as the pericope of the Washing of the Disciples Feet (Jn 13:1ff); he also replaced the unknown woman by Mary, a figure from within the most beloved by Jesus family of Lazarus, and in fact in contrast with her sister Martha, who according to an account in  St. Lukes Gospel was anxious and troubled about many things (except) the one thing...needful (Lk 10:41).What is, however, even more important for our case,is that by actually replacing the original, and by all means more authentic,  place of the pouring of the costly ointment of pure nard from Jesus hair (Mk 14:3=Mt 26:7, originally understood as a prophetic act of messianic character, parallel to St. Peter s confession at Cesarea of Philip (Mk 8:27ff par) to Jesus feet (Jn 12:3), John made a woman proleptically anticipate the incident of the washing by Jesus Himself of His disciples feet. By so doing, John changed even an act of witness into an act of  diakonia.

[58]Cf also J. Zizioulas affirmation that "when it is understood in its correct and primitive sense - and not how it has come to be regarded even in Orthodoxy under the influence Western scholasticism - the eucharist is first of all an assembly (), a community a network of relations..."(Being as Communion. Studies in Personhood and the Church, 1985, p.60). Cf. also his interesting remark:"the Fourth Gospel identifies eternal life, i.e. life without death, with truth and knowledge, (which) can be accom≠plished only if the individualization of nature becomes transformed into communion - that is if communion becomes identical with being. Truth, once again, must be communion if it is to be life" (p. 105).

[59] It is almost an assured result of modern theological scholarship (biblical and liturgical) that the Eucharist was lived in the early Christian community as a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God, a proleptic manifestation within the tragic realities of history of an authentic life of communion, unity, justice and equality, with no practical differantiation (soteriological and beyond) between Jews and gentiles, slaves and freemen, men and women. This is, after all,  the real meaning of what St. John has called eternal life. And because of this eucharistic experience, according to some historians, the Church was able later in the golden era to come up with the doctrine of trinity, the  supreme expression ever produced in theology.

[60]E.Lohse, Grundrisse, pp.155ff (of the Greek tr.)

[61]There are some indications from the evidence of I Cor that in the early Church some circles were using elements from the mystery cults to interpret the meaning of Eucharist. As a result, it was believed that mysteriously a definite salvation was granted to the initiates . This view St. Paul tried to correct on the basis of ecclesiological criteria and his teaching on spiritual gifts and of the Church as the "Body of Christ". These ecclesiologically oriented views, which the entire early christian community shared, were of course contrary to the sacramentalistic/magical views of the Mystery cults. There it was believed that man through the sacrament acquired a power of life that is never lost. It was a widely held view that through initiation  one shared the fate of deity, and by participating in his death and resurrection one acquired eternal salvation (cf. S.Agouridis, who in his commentary on I Corinthians, 1982 [in Greek] pp.161ff, entitles ch. 10 of the epistle: "Mysteries are not a guarantee for the future", and "Christianity is incompatible to Idololatry"). Later, the Gnostics  following these sacramentalistic views celebrated baptism even for the dead, in an effort to energize this invincible power of baptism over death.