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What is the doctrine of Consubstantiation?


Consubstantiation is a philosophical theory that attempts to describe the nature of the Christian Eucharist in concrete metaphysical terms. It holds that during the sacrament the basic substance of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present. Consubstantiation is held by some Eastern Orthodox churches and liturgical Christian denominations.


The doctrine of Consubstantiation is often held in contrast to the doctrine of Transubstantiation which suggests that, through consecration by the priest, one set of substances (bread and wine) is exchanged for another (the actual Body and Blood of Christ) or that, according to some, the reality of the bread and wine become the reality of the body and blood of Christ. The substance of the bread and wine do not remain, but their accidents (superficial properties like appearance and taste) remain.

Historical background to Consubstantiation

In England in the late 14th century, there was a political and religious movement known as Lollardy. The Lollards asserted a form of Consubstantiation and their belief survived up until the time of the English Reformation. Consubstantiation was considered a heresy by the Roman Catholic Church. It was later championed by Edward Pusey of the Oxford Movement, and is therefore held by many high church Anglicans.

Martin Luther

The doctrine of Consubstantiation, promoted by the medieval scholastic theologian Duns Scotus, is incorrectly identified as the Eucharistic doctrine of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. Lutheran teachings oppose any attempt to explain philosophically the means by which Christ is present in the Eucharist. Luther did teach that the body and blood of Christ are present “in, with, and under the forms” of bread and wine, and present-day Lutherans believe in this statement while disputing about its precise meaning.

Luther illustrated his belief about the Eucharist “by the analogy of the iron put into the fire whereby both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron and yet each continues unchanged” a belief which he called sacramental union.

What does the Bible teach?

In the Bible, Jesus asked the believers to partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Luke 22:18-20 and Matthew 26:26-28). The bread and the wine remain bread and wine they don’t change to the actual body of Christ as the Catholic Church teaches (Catechism of the Catholic, paragraph 1366, 1367). Thus, the practice of the Eucharist is not Biblical because it is impossible for man (the priest) to create His Creator. Further, the Bible affirms that “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28; Hebrew 10:10,12; Hebrew 7:27) and not every time during mass.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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