E. W. Bullinger, a noted vicar of the Church of England and biblical scholar, gives his reasons for not believing in the Real Presence of Christ.
Having been sent Bullinger’s argumentation, Robert Sungenis was asked to comment on Bullinger’s assertions. The arguments and counter-arguments will be presented in dialogue format.
For those unfamiliar with E. W. Bullinger, here is a short biography:
Ethelbert William Bullinger (December 15, 1837 - June 6, 1913) was a Vicar of the Church of England and Biblical scholar. Born in Canterbury, England, his family traced its lineage back to the noted Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1557). He was educated at King's College, London, and gained recognition in the field of Biblical languages. This recognition was world-wide in spite of some sniping from the so-called "Plymouth Brethren" due to his having a different interpretation of the Dispensations to many of them.
He became Secretary to the (British) Trinitarian Bible Society and rescued it from bankruptcy by his untiring money-raising efforts and extensive travels to promote their aims, including writing the music for some hymns known among the Bretons only by memory! The Bible in the Breton language was also due largely to his efforts and friendship with Pastor LeCoat.
E.W. Bullinger was noted broadly for three works: A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (1877); for his ground-breaking and exhaustive work on Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1898); and as the primary editor of The Companion Bible (published in 6 parts, beginning in 1909; the entire annotated Bible was published posthumously in 1922). He was also responsible almost single-handed for the magazine "Things To Come" from which many of the articles we have are reproduced.
All three of these works, along with numerous of his books and pamphlets, remain in print (2003). In 1881, four years after the publication of the Lexicon and Concordance, Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury conferred upon Bullinger a Doctor of Divinity degree, citing Bullinger's "eminent service in the Church in the department of Biblical criticism." and "in recognition of his biblical scholarship".
Bullinger: The figure lies wholly in the verb, or copula, which must always be expressed and never understood by Ellipsis. For example, “All flesh IS grass.” Here “flesh “ is to be taken literally as the subject spoken of, and “ grass” is to be taken equally literally. All the figure lies in the verb “is.” This statement is made under strong feeling, the mind realising some point of association, but instead of using the more measured verb, “resembles,” or “is like,” which would be truer to fact, though not so true to feeling, the verb “is” is used, and the meaning of one thing is carried across and transferred to the other. It is not, as some might think, a mere Hebrew idiom to use “is “ for “represents,” but it is a necessity of language arising from the actual condition and character of the human mind.
R. Sungenis: Bullinger’s analysis just proves, once again, why Catholicism is right and Protestantism should be forsaken at its roots.
Let’s take Bullinger’s example: “All flesh is grass.” There are two places in Scripture where this phrase appears
1 Peter 1:24: For all flesh is as grass and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass.
Notice here that the Greek adds the comparative particle “as” (the Greek word “hos”) to the sentence. Unfortunately, Bullinger didn’t tell his audience this crucial fact of the Greek language. In other words, the very example he brings to his aid, is the one that totally demolishes his argument.
The other place “All flesh is grass” appears is Isaiah 40:6:
“All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field.”
Notice that in the second stanza (“and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field”) the Hebrew includes the comparative particle “as” (the Hebrew prefix PE attached to the Hebrew word SIS, that is, “flower”), thus showing that a metaphor is intended. Hebrew doesn’t need to repeat the particle, for the context of its singular usage suffices to indicate that a metaphor is intended in both stanzas.
Bullinger: What a solemn and instructive lesson as to the importance of a true understanding of the figures of language! The whole figure, in a metaphor, lies, as we have said in the verb substantive, “ IS,” and not in either of the two nouns, and it is a remarkable fact that when a pronoun is used instead of one of the nouns (as it is here), and the two nouns are of different genders, the pronoun is always made to agree in gender with that noun to which the meaning is carried across, and not with the noun from which it is carried, and to which it properly belongs. This at once shows us that a figure is being employed when a pronoun which ought, according to all the laws of language to agree in gender with its own noun, is changed and made to agree with the noun which, by metaphor, represents it. Here, for example, the pronoun, “this” (touto, touto), is neuter, and is thus made to agree with “body” (owjua, soma), which is neuter, and not with bread (aprog, artos], which is masculine?
This is the case always in metaphors, and a few examples may be cited here, instead of in their natural order and place.
In Zech. v. 6, “This is wickedness.” Here “this” does not agree with “ephah “ (to which it refers), which is neuter but with “wickedness,” which is feminine.
In Zech. v. 3, “This is the curse.” “ This” agrees with “curse,” which is feminine, and not with “flying roll,” which is neuter (to which it refers).
R. Sungenis: I’m only going to address the Greek examples Bullinger gives. As a biblical scholar, he should have known better than to compare Hebrew against Greek for technical issues.
Bullinger: In Matt. xiii. 38, “ The good seed are the children of the kingdom.” Here “these” (masc.) agrees with “children of the kingdom” (masc.), and not with seed, which is neuter.
R. Sungenis: This is a fallacious argument. Mt 13:38 is assigning real identities to the metaphors that Jesus employed in his parable. Mt 13:38 is not using metaphors.
Bullinger: Luke viii. 14, “These are they which having heard, &c.” Here “these” (masc.) agrees with the participle, “ they which having heard,” which is masculine, and not with the seed (to which it refers), which is neuter.
R. Sungenis: Same case here. Lk 8:14 is explaining the metaphor. It itself is not a metaphor.
Bullinger: All this establishes our statement that in a metaphor the two nouns (or pronoun and noun) are always literal, and that the figure lies only in the verb.
R. Sungenis: We have seen that this is precisely NOT the case.
Bullinger: Another remarkable fact is that in the vast number of cases where the language is literal, and there is no metaphor at all, the verb is omitted altogether. Even when a metaphor has been used, and the language passes suddenly from figurative to literal, the verb is at once dropped by Ellipsis as not being necessary for the literal sense, as it was for the previous figurative expression, e.g., in i Cor. xii. 27, “Ye ARE the body of Christ.” Here is a metaphor, and consequently the verb is used. But in verse 29, which is literal, the change is at once made, and the fact is marked by the omission of the verb, “ [Are] all apostles ? [are] all prophets ? [are] all teachers ? [are] all workers of miracles ? “
R. Sungenis: This argument has little to do with the specific discussion or the clause “This is my body.” Besides, Bullinger is incorrect. The use of the verb is arbitrary depending on the author, and is usually dropped when there is a succession of items in a list, as we find in 1Cor 12:29ff.
Bullinger: Next compare other examples of metaphors which are naturally used in the explanations of Parables. Note the Parables of the Sower, and of the Tares (Matt. xiii. 19-23, and 37-39).
“He that sowed the good seed IS (i.e., represents) the Son of Man.”
“The field IS (i.e., signifies) the world.”
“The good seed ARE the children of the kingdom.”
“But the tares ARE the children of the wicked one.”
“The enemy that sowed them IS the devil.”
“The harvest IS the end of the age.”
“And the reapers ARE the angels.”
In all these (as in every other metaphor) the verb means, and might have been rendered, “represents” or “signifies.”
R. Sungenis: Same fallacious argumentation he gave above. These are not metaphors. Real identities are being assigned to the metaphors, and thus the copulative is literal, not figurative.
Bullinger: The Apocalypse is full of metaphors, e.g.:
“The seven stars ARE (i.e., represent) the seven churches.”
“And the seven candlesticks which thou sawest ARE the seven churches” (i. 20).
“The odours ARE the prayers of the saints” (v. 8).
“They ARE the spirits of devils” (xvi. 14).
“The seven heads ARE (i.e. represent) seven mountains (xvii. 9), &c., &c.
R. Sungenis: Same fallacious argument. The context shows that the metaphors are being explained as real entities. Any Greek scholar worth his salt would have picked this up. In fact, it actually disproves Bullinger’s argument, not support it. The copulative is being used to assign a real identity to something that was not previously identified.
Bullinger: So in the very words that follow “this IS (i.e. represents or signifies) My body,” we have another undoubted metaphor.” He took the cup ... saying . . . this IS My blood.” Here we have a pair of metaphors. In the former one, “this” refers to “bread,” and it is claimed that “IS “ means changed into the “body” of Christ.
R. Sungenis: No, this is precisely what the Greek text of Mt 26:26 does NOT say. Bullinger already admitted this fact in his first paragraph. He wrote:
“Here, for example, the pronoun, ‘this’ (touto, touto), is neuter, and is thus made to agree with ‘body’ (owjua, soma), which is neuter, and not with bread (aprog, artos], which is masculine....”
We hold the same, as I stated in Not By Bread Alone, p. 144, that is, “this” does not refer to the “bread” but to “body,” since both “this” and “body” are neuter.
Bullinger: In the latter, “this” refers to “the cup,” but it is not claimed that the cup is changed into “blood.” At least, we have never heard that such a claim has been put forward. The difference of treatment which the same figure meets with in these two verses is the proof that the former is wrong. In i Cor. xi. 25 we read, “this cup IS the new covenant.” Will Romanists, in and out of the Church of England, tell us how this “cup” becomes transubstantiated into a “covenant”? Is it not clear that the figure in the words, “This is My body,” is forced into a literal statement with the set purpose and design of making it teach and support erroneous doctrine?
R. Sungenis: I cover this fallacious argument on pages 144-145 in Not By Bread Alone. It is the same argument that Robert Zins attempted to use. Here are the paragraphs:
“Robert Zins objects: “Secondly, the word ‘is’ is used by Jesus to define the New Covenant in His blood. ‘This cup [is] (estin supplied) the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you’ (Luke 19:20) [sic]. No one in the Romanist community wants to say the cup is actually the New Covenant. Obviously it is a figure for the New Covenant. Likewise, Paul in 1 Corinthians says, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood’ (1 Corinthians 11:25). Here, too, the ‘is’ estin is used in a figure representing the spiritual truth of a New Covenant having been inaugurated” (ibid., p. 125). Notice what the apologist has attempted to do. In his previous argument (see above), he claimed that the clause “this is My body” would be too literal to support the Catholic position, since, in his words, it “would have to make the bread the actual body of Jesus” (ibid., p. 124). But in the present argument he says that “this cup” makes the verse too figurative to support the Catholic position. The apologist fails to realize that even if the verse stated “this blood is the new testament” instead of “this cup is the new testament” the same difference would hold, for just as he claimed the “cup” is not a testament, neither is the blood a testament. Thus, it is fallacious to argue on the basis that the “cup” of 1 Corinthians 11:25 is figurative.
Irrespective of the quandary he created for himself, the apologist also fails to recognize that “cup” is not a figure of speech in the sense that it refers to a mere concept or abstract entity, but a figure which represents the very thing it symbolizes. This is commonly known as a synecdoche. The Greek ποτήριον (“cup”) is often used as such in the New Testament (cf., Matthew 20:22-23; 26:39, 42; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). When Luke’s and Paul’s passages are synthesized with the clearer account in Matthew 26:28 (“This is my blood of the testament,” which, by the use of the Greek genitive, it is clear that the blood is not the testament but the blood of the testament), then it is easily understood that the “cup” is a synecdoche for the blood of the new testament.”
Bullinger: Other examples of metaphor in this immediate connection are:
i Cor. x. 16. “ The cup of blessing which we bless, IS it not (i.e. does it not represent) the blood of Christ, “through which all blessing comes to us?
“The bread which we break, IS it not (i.e., does it not represent) the communion of the body of Christ ?” i.e. does it not signify the fellowship of all the members of Christ’s mystical body, who, being many, ARE one body (i Cor. xii. 12) ?
R. Sungenis: Obviously, Bullinger is wrong, since, as I have shown above, he can’t prove that the copulative denotes that a metaphor is present.
Bullinger: “For we, being many, ARE one bread and one body,” as i Cor. x. 17 declares.
R. Sungenis: This isn’t a true metaphor, since the text goes on to explain why we are one bread, that is, because “we all partake of that one bread.”
Bullinger: It is because those who eat of that bread do not “discern” or discriminate that “one body” (i.e., Christ mystical), that they are said to eat to their own condemnation; for they witness to the fact of that “great mystery” and yet are ignorant of its truth! And hence they condemn themselves.
R. Sungenis: Nowhere in all of Scripture is such harsh condemnation given for misunderstanding a metaphor. Christians aren’t linguists, nor are they judged on their ability to discern when a metaphor is being used. They are followers of what was handed down to them, and it is a fact that the Church taught the Real Presence of Christ in the very beginning centuries of its history, and it is a belief that has never changed.
Bullinger: Further, the verb, lam, or the infinitive of it, to be, means to be in the sense of signifying, amounting to. And that this is one of its primary senses may be seen from the following passages, where it is actually translated “to mean” and not merely to be
“But go ye and learn what that IS” (i.e., meaneth, as in A.V.), Matt. xi. 13.
“But if ye had known what that IS” (A.V., meaneth), Matt. xii. 7.
“He asked what these things WERE” (A.V., meant), Luke xv. 26.
“What IS this?” (A.V., “What meaneth this?”) Acts ii. 12.
“Now, while Peter doubted in himself what this vision WAS which he had seen” (A.V., “What this vision should mean”), Acts x. 17, &c.
R. Sungenis: More fallacious reasoning. If someone asks, “What IS the meaning?” he is inquiring about the real or literal understanding of a person, place or thing. He is not asking for a unreal or metaphorical understanding.
Bullinger: Just as when we are looking over a map and say, “This IS England,” “This IS America,” “This IS Palestine,” &c., we do not mean that that piece of paper is England, but we mean that those mark’s upon it represent those respective countries.
R. Sungenis: Granted, but that is because the listener already knows that those who point to maps do not mean that the figure on the map is the actual country. But that is not the case in Mt 26:26, which has no already-decided agreement or previous teaching from Jesus that the word “is” will be pointing out something that is not real or is a metaphor. The whole context of John 6:54-58 says otherwise, as do the Fathers of the Church, whose citations can be found on pages 195-296 in Not By Bread Alone.
Bullinger: On the other hand, if an actual change is meant, then there must be a verb which shall plainly and actually say so: for the verb “to be” never has or conveys any idea of such change.
R. Sungenis: “Change” is not the issue. Existence is the issue. “This” in the phrase “This is my body” denotes the existence of the body. Copulatives don’t “change” anything. They only point out what has already been changed or not changed, as the case may be.
Bullinger: The usual verb to express such a change is (ginomai), which means to be or become.
Mark iv. 39, “There was (i.e., there became) a great calm,” and the storm was changed into calm.
Luke iv. 3, “Command this stone that it be made bread.”
John ii. 9, “When the ruler of the feast tasted the water that was made wine.”
John xvi. 20, “ Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Acts xxvi. 28, Agrippa said, “ Almost thou persuadeth me to be (i.e., to become) a Christian.”
Rev. viii. 8, “The third part of the sea became blood,”’ and verse 11, “ Many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
In all these cases the verb is (ginomai), and if the Lord meant that the bread became His body, this is the verb He would have necessarily used. The fact that He did not use it, but used the simple verb, (eimi), instead, i.e., “ is,” proves conclusively that no change was meant, and that only representation was intended.
R. Sungenis: Incorrect. Here is the answer to that line of argumentation, as presented in Not By Bread Alone, p. 145:
Protestant Bart Brewer mounts a different attack. Referring to Matthew 26:26, he argues: “Jesus did not say touto gignetai, this has become or is turned into, but touto esti [sic], which can only mean this represents or stands for” (Tract: The Roman Catholic Sacrifice of the Mass, cited by Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 235). As noted above, Brewer’s insistence that touto esti can only be symbolic is unsupported by the Greek grammar. In addition, if Matthew used τοØτό γενέται (“this becomes”), this would force an ambiguity into the passage, since the verb γενέται, which is not a copulative, leaves unanswered the question as to when the bread becomes the body. As it stands, τοØτό ¦στιν (“this is”) denotes that no time element exists, that is, the bread is instantaneously changed into the Body of Christ at the point of declaration. Keating also points out Protestant scholar James Moffatt’s original 1913 translation of Matthew 26:26: “Take and eat this, it means my body.” Moffatt later corrected this to “Take, eat; this is my body” in his 1922 edition, yet kept the translation of 1 Corinthians 11:24 as “after thanking God he broke it, saying, ‘This means my body broken for you’” and “‘...This means the new covenant ratified by my blood.’”
Bullinger: From all this it is philologically, philosophically, and scientifically clear that the words, “This is My body,” mean “This [bread] represents My body.” And as Professor Macbeth has put it, “We trample on the laws of nature, and we trample on the laws of language when we force the verb ‘is’ to mean what it never does mean.”
R. Sungenis: As I said in Not By Bread Alone, there are many words the Greek could have supplied in Mt 26:26 if it had intended a symbolic meaning. As the old saying goes ‘the Greeks had a word for everything.’ But there is no such word used in any of the Eucharistic passages. Moreover, the Fathers had over a dozen words they used to indicate the phenomenon of the Real Presence. As noted on page 141:
The Council of Trent, Session 13, Chapter 4. The term Transubstantiation was first used by Hildebert of Tours (c. 1079); followed by Stephen of Autun (d. 1139); and Peter of Blois (d. 1200). In 1202, Pope Innocent III used transsubstantiari (DS 416, 784), which led to the use of transsubstantiatio at the ecumenical councils of Fourth Lateran in 1215 and Lyons in 1274. Previous to this, the early Latin Fathers used “convertere” (Eng. “to convert”); “transmutare” (Eng. “to change”); “transformare,” “transfigurare,” and “transfundere.” The strongest designation used by the Greek Fathers was μεταουσιος (“change of substance”). Other Greek words appearing in reference to the Eucharist were: μεταβάλλειν (“to change”—Cyril of Jerusalem, Theodore of Mopsuestia); μεταβέβληται (“to change, to transform”—Cyril of Jerusalem) μεταποιεÃν (“to cast anew, alter”—Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, John Damascene); μεθίστησιν (“transmute”—Cyril of Alexandria); μεταστοιχειοØν (“transelemented”—Gregory of Nyssa); μεταρρυθμίζειν (“to change the form or fashion of a thing”—John Chrysostom); μετασκευάξειν (“to fashion differently, to transform, to disguise”—John Chrysostom).
Bullinger: And besides all this, to pass from the use made of this perversion, suppose for a moment that we grant the claim, and the words mean that the Lord Jesus then and there did transmute the bread into His own body (if we can imagine such an impossibility!), what then? Where is there a breath of His giving that power to any one else? Where is there one word about such a gift being conferred?” And if it be claimed, as it is by some traitors in the Church of England, that the words, “ Do this,” convey that power and authority, it could have been conveyed only to the eleven who were present. Where is there a breath about not only giving them power, but delegating it to them to give to others, and these to others again indefinitely?
There is not one single word expressed or implied that conveys the idea that one iota of such power was conferred or delegated. So that the whole fabric of transubstantiation rests on absolutely no foundation whatsoever! There is a “ missing link “ which is fatal to the whole position. And this is on the assumption which we have for the moment granted. But when it is seen that not only is there this missing link, which can never be supplied, but that there is also this claim which can never be substantiated, we have an explanation of the metaphor which sweeps the dogma out of the Scriptures, and proves it to be a fiction which is the outcome of ignorance, and this by arguments that cannot be overthrown, and facts that cannot be denied.
R. Sungenis: This is what happens when one regards Scripture and one’s idiosyncratic interpretation of it as one’s only authority. For those interested, read the rest of Not By Bread Alone and find out why Bullinger is wrong about the priesthood.