The last most crucial part of this discussion comes from Scripture. As important as Ignatius is, he is no substitute for an apostle or those writing directly on their behalf. The words of Ignatius are fallible though it is his task to encourage those in the Church to “all run together in accordance with the will of God.” It is not outrageous to suppose that as a fallible person he too was mistaken in some of his practice and theology as those throughout the New Testament are prone to- even with the direct influence of the apostles (consider 1 Corinthians).
As for the “body and blood” of Christ, there are multiple passages referring to it. These are: Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, 1 Corinthians 10:16 and John 6:26-64. All more or less contain the same statements which the Church has interpreted and ironically brought more division than Christian unity.
While some may appeal to certain Protestant apologetics against the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic interpretations, I think it is unnecessary to bring out all of them. Perhaps it is my own naivety speaking but I do not see why it is a great crime for one to believe the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ- though I would take issue with those who wish to confine one’s salvation and growth in Christ to partaking of the elements in certain churches. Instead, I will be taking the position that Scripture does not indicate a literal transformation and does give indication to think otherwise. Whether or not the elements do go into the sort of transformation the EO and RC believe it does will not be addressed.
For now, the John passage will be considered and some of the intricacies will be ignored. The John passage is extremely helpful in the overall discussion because more of an explanation is given behind this language and John's influence was closer to Ignatius' time.
In the beginning of the John passage, Jesus has just fed the crowd and because of this they are looking for Him. Once He is found He recognizes that they are searching for Him because of the food He gave them earlier. He tells them they should instead be working for the food that gives eternal life which the Son of Man will give them. When asked how, Jesus tells them “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” They ask about the bread Moses gave them out of heaven and He attributes it to the Father and tells them He is the bread and that “he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe…For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” He then tells them they must eat His flesh and blood or reject eternal life. This caused many of the Jews to stumble since the idea of eating flesh and blood was abhorrent to them. Jesus tells them “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe…”
In this passage, Jesus tells them they must believe in Him in order to have life. They must eat His flesh and drink His blood. They are told that the words He has spoken to them are spirit and life…though some do not believe. There are no elements in this passage. He has already long fed them mirroring the gift of manna out of heaven. Now He tells them He is the bread out of heaven and that the words He speaks to them are life. His central message seems to be belief in Him and His words.
How does this play into the sacrament? It would seem as though Jesus is central to the sacrament. If a Protestant believes directly in Him and believes His words, it seems reasonable to suppose they will have partaken of Him just as those with whom Jesus was speaking to could have without any element around to partake of.
Still, what about the Jewish reaction? Does this indicate Jesus meant something literal? Not at all. Actually, throughout John up until this point in the book people have been mistaking His words for something literal. In John 2 Jesus declares, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews miss the point entirely, taking His words to be of the literal temple in Jerusalem. Or, take Nicodemus in chapter three. When Jesus tells him “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus replies back, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” This pattern continues to repeat as the Samaritan women wrongly assumes Jesus is speaking of water when He is referring to Himself or when soon after, the disciples think he went and got food since after all, He said He had food they did not know about. Sure enough, next in the sequence is our passage- which ought to now be interpreted literally? This would go against the flow of the passage and adds something that has been continually contradicted when Jesus gives one adequate explanation of what He means.
A Change of Heart:
Some time after this post was created I have changed my mind about the seriousness of the Roman Catholic belief about the body and blood being literal. It has been pointed out to me by a Roman Catholic that it is worshiped. If it is worshiped and is not Christ then the conclusion of idolatry is inescapable. I am not pleased with this idea but find this conclusion inescapable given what I hold to be true so far. It is my sincerest hope that I can be proven wrong on this point.