In 1 Corinthians 10:16, the Apostle Paul says that:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (ESV)

Transubstantiation theology says that when the priest says the words of consecration, the substance, but not the accidents, of the bread and wine are changed to the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. However, Paul identifies the Eucharist as participation bread and wine and body and blood. How is this reconciled?

To clarify what exactly my question is, I need to make clear that I am not saying Paul is contradicting REAL PRESENCE theology. That is, I don’t think this verse in Paul’s epistle demonstrates that Christ is not physically present in the Eucharist. Instead, I am asking specifically about CATHOLIC real presence theology, which has transubstantiation built in. For a counter example, consider the general Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran views, which hold that bread and wine AND the body, blood, soul, and divinity are present in the communion meal.

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    Which Bible translation do you quote from here? I ask because the King James Authorised Version says "This cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" Seems to be a difference between "participation in "and "communion of".
    – Lesley
    Jan 6 at 13:17
  • 3
    @Lesley The word κοινωνία, koinonia , Strong 2842 denotes 'fellowship, communion, participation. It is the fellowship of the body of Christ that is to say the Church, with whom one joins in remembrance. To suggest that the 'participation' is some kind of 'fellowship with the material elements of wine and bread' is not a proper rendering of the Greek wording. It is a communal cup (and the communal fellowship with other believers) that is the grammatical subject of the sentence.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 6 at 13:44
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    If it helps, the Greek word underneath is koinonia, which properly means participation but is often translated as community, fellowship, or contribution in the NT. When Paul speaks of the fellowship of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9), he doesn't speak of joining an existing organization or singing along with the choir, but of becoming like a molecule of a larger thing and a molecule is the smallest bit of something having all the qualities of that something. Fellowship with Christ is being Christ; being Christ together with others who are also Christ so that together we are Christ. Jan 6 at 13:46
  • @Lesley I’ve updated to show that it’s the ESV translation.
    – Luke Hill
    Jan 7 at 17:56

4 Answers 4


How do advocates of transubstantiation understand 1 Corinthians 10:16?

The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? - 1 Corinthians 10:16 (DRA)

The above statement of the Apostle Paul is a rhetorical question to affirm that communion as seen through the eyes of the Church is a sacred communion known to those who believe in transubstantiation is in fact the Holy Eucharist. In the mind of the Church, transubstantiation has been so intimately bound up with the Real Presence of Holy Communion or the Eucharist, that both dogmas have been handed down together from generation to generation since the times of the Apostles. The is is how 1 Corinthians 10:16 is seem.

This verse in no way, contradicts the dogma of transubstantiation, but on Scriptural text should always be supported by more Scriptural references when possible.

Scriptures abound in examples to help aid in supporting the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Did not Our Lord himself say: “This is my body!”, thus the bread became, through the utterance of these words, by a Catholic priest, the Body of Christ. The same is said over the wine : ”This is my Blood!”

When a priest pronounces the word of consecration at mass, the very bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. This blessing of the bread and wine is known a consecration. Transubstantiation is, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, "the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of the Blood of Christ". According to transubstantiation, the accidentals of bread and wine remain, but in reality are no longer bread or wine, but have become the body and blood of Christ! This is a hard saying to accept for many: ” For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56-57)


The complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood by a validly ordained priest during the consecration at Mass, so that only the accidents of bread and wine remain. While the faith behind the term itself was already believed in apostolic times, the term itself was a later development. With the Eastern Fathers before the sixth century, the favored expression was meta-ousiosis, "change of being"; the Latin tradition coined the word transubstantiatio, "change of substance," which was incorporated into the creed of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The Council of Trent, in defining the "wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the wine into the blood" of Christ, added "which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation" (Denzinger 1652). after transubstantiation, the accidents of bread and wine do not inhere in any subject or substance whatever. Yet they are not make-believe they are sustained in existence by divine power.

From the earliest centuries of Christendom, the Catholic Church has spoken of the elements used in celebrating the Eucharist as being changed into the body and blood of Christ. Terms used to speak of the alteration included "trans-elementation." The bread and wine were said to be "made", "changed into", the body and blood of Christ. Similarly, Augustine said: "Not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ becomes the body of Christ." ( "Sermon 234". Fathers Of The Church. 1959.)

Now if the communion in we receive the body and blood of Christ were merely ordinary bread and wine, why would the Apostle St. Paul warn us not to eat it in an unworthy manner!

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 11:27

Thus St. Paul speaks of the reality of the bread and wine as being the veritable body and blood of Jesus Christ in the act of consecration by a valid minister of God (bishop or priest). Transubstantiation is the Church’s manner of explaining the reality of this in a manner conducive to Catholic intellectual thought.

The scientific development of the concept of Transubstantiation can hardly be said to be a product of the Greeks, who did not get beyond its more general notes; rather, it is the remarkable contribution of the Latin theologians, who were stimulated to work it out in complete logical form by the three Eucharistic controversies mentioned above. The term transubstantiation seems to have been first used by Hildebert of Tours (about 1079). His encouraging example was soon followed by other theologians, as Stephen of Autun (d. 1139), Gaufred (1188), and Peter of Blois (d. about 1200), whereupon several ecumenical councils also adopted this significant expression, as the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), and the Council of Lyons (1274), in the profession of faith of the Greek Emperor Michael Palæologus. The Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, cap. iv; can. ii) not only accepted as an inheritance of faith the truth contained in the idea, but authoritatively confirmed the "aptitude of the term" to express most strikingly the legitimately developed doctrinal concept. In a closer logical analysis of Transubstantiation, we find the first and fundamental notion to be that of conversion, which may be defined as "the transition of one thing into another in some aspect of being". As is immediately evident, conversion (conversio) is something more than mere change (mutatio). Whereas in mere changes one of the two extremes may be expressed negatively, as, e.g., in the change of day and night, conversion requires two positive extremes, which are related to each other as thing to thing, and must have, besides, such an intimate connection with each other, that the last extreme (terminus ad quem) begins to be only as the first (terminus a quo) ceases to be, as, e.g., in the conversion of water into wine at Cana. A third element is usually required, known as the commune tertium, which, even after conversion has taken place, either physically or at least logically unites one extreme to the other; for in every true conversion the following condition must be fulfilled: "What was formerly A, is now B." A very important question suggests itself as to whether the definition should further postulate the previous non-existence of the last extreme, for it seems strange that an existing terminus a quo, A, should be converted into an already existing terminus ad quem, B. If the act of conversion is not to become a mere process of substitution, as in sleight-of-hand performances, the terminus ad quem must unquestionably in some manner newly exist, just as the terminus a quo must in some manner really cease to exist. Yet as the disappearance of the latter is not attributable to annihilation properly so called, so there is no need of postulating creation, strictly so called, to explain the former's coming into existence. The idea of conversion is amply realized if the following condition is fulfilled, viz., that a thing which already existed in substance, acquires an altogether new and previously non-existing mode of being. Thus in the resurrection of the dead, the dust of the human bodies will be truly converted into the bodies of the risen by their previously existing souls, just as at death they had been truly converted into corpses by the departure of the souls. This much as regards the general notion of conversion. Transubstantiation, however, is not a conversion simply so called, but a substantial conversion (conversio substantialis), inasmuch as one thing is substantially or essentially converted into another. Thus from the concept of Transubstantiation is excluded every sort of merely accidental conversion, whether it be purely natural (e.g. the metamorphosis of insects) or supernatural (e.g. the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor). Finally, Transubstantiation differs from every other substantial conversion in this, that only the substance is converted into another — the accidents remaining the same — just as would be the case if wood were miraculously converted into iron, the substance of the iron remaining hidden under the external appearance of the wood.

In the mind of the Church, Transubstantiation has been so intimately bound up with the Real Presence, that both dogmas have been handed down together from generation to generation, though we cannot entirely ignore a dogmatico-historical development. The total conversion of the substance of bread is expressed clearly in the words of Institution: "This is my body". These words form, not a theoretical, but a practical proposition, whose essence consists in this, that the objective identity between subject and predicate is effected and verified only after the words have all been uttered, not unlike the pronouncement of a king to a subaltern: "You are a major", or, "You are a captain", which would immediately cause the promotion of the officer to a higher command. When, therefore, He Who is All Truth and All Power said of the bread: "This is my body", the bread became, through the utterance of these words, the Body of Christ; consequently, on the completion of the sentence the substance of bread was no longer present, but the Body of Christ under the outward appearance of bread. Hence the bread must have become the Body of Christ, i.e. the former must have been converted into the latter. The words of Institution were at the same time the words of Transubstantiation. Indeed the actual manner in which the absence of the bread and the presence of the Body of Christ is effected, is not read into the words of Institution but strictly and exegetically deduced from them. Transubstantiation


OP: Paul identifies the Eucharist as participation bread and wine and body and blood. How is this reconciled?

Presumably, the OP is asking how/why Paul apparently separates the two items (bread and wine) into two items (body and blood), while the Catholic Church teaches the two are fully present in each item.

Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species [of bread and wine] and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ. CCC 1377

This is a "just so" Catechism statement that is based on another "just so" statement from the Council of Constance Session 13 in 1414 CE.

... just as this custom [mentioned prior] was sensibly introduced in order to avoid various dangers and scandals, so with similar or even greater reason was it possible to introduce and sensibly observe the custom that, although this sacrament was received by the faithful under both kinds in the early church, nevertheless later it was received under both kinds only by those confecting it, and by the laity only under the form of bread. For it should be very firmly believed, and in no way doubted, that the whole body and blood of Christ are truly contained under both the form of bread and the form of wine. -Session 13-

The admission that originally the church received both bread and wine, but "later" only under bread has its source, in my opinion, to this from the early church, from Pope Sixtus I circa 120 CE.

Sixtus I instituted several Catholic liturgical and administrative traditions. According to the Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne, I.128), he passed the following three ordinances:

that none but sacred ministers are allowed to touch the sacred vessels; -Pope Sixtus I

Obviously, to drink wine, one must touch the sacred vessel. The Liber Pontificalis has a varied history, but predates the Council of Constance.

So, to answer the OP, within each of the two species of bread and wine are found undivided and whole of Christ Jesus within each separate and unique species. This is so because it is so.

  • You misunderstood my question. The question isn’t about Christ being fully present in both elements, it’s about both the elements and Christ being substantially present in the Eucharist, while the Catholic Church teaching Christ is substantially present but not the bread and wine.
    – Luke Hill
    Feb 8 at 18:51

You are asking two questions:

  • what does the RCC teach?
  • What does Paul teach?

What does the RCC teach concerning Transubstantiation?

Typically, the RCC folks I bump into lean on and fall back on Aquinas:

Christ's body is substantially the same in this sacrament, as in its proper species, but not after the same fashion; because in its proper species it comes in contact with surrounding bodies by its own dimensions: but it does not do so as it is in this sacrament, as stated above (Article 3). And therefore, all that belongs to Christ, as He is in Himself, can be attributed to Him both in His proper species, and as He exists in the sacrament; such as to live, to die, to grieve, to be animate or inanimate, and the like; while all that belongs to Him in relation to outward bodies, can be attributed to Him as He exists in His proper species, but not as He is in this sacrament; such as to be mocked, to be spat upon, to be crucified, to be scourged, and the rest.

As was said above (III:76:2), in virtue of the consecration, the body of Christ is under the species of bread, while His blood is under the species of wine. But now that His blood is not really separated from His body; by real concomitance, both His blood is present with the body under the species of the bread, and His body together with the blood under the species of the wine. But at the time when Christ suffered, when His blood was really separated from His body, if this sacrament had been consecrated, then the body only would have been present under the species of the bread, and the blood only under the species of the wine.

To those in the RCC, they are taught that where there is a body, there, of necessity also be blood. They have used this as a reason for withholding the wine/blood from the laity. The laity doesn't need the wine/blood because in every body there is also blood.

But the same sort of logic applies when it comes to the bread/wine issue that you bring up. The RCC folks I have encountered stated that, "is" doesn't mean "is." Instead, is = "changed into." As a result, it looks like bread, but has been changed essentially (but not accidentally) into Jesus' body. They would respond to your question by letting you know that it has essentially/substantially changed into Jesus' body and blood. To them, there's no need to ask the question you ask, because there is no substance of bread left. There is only the accidents.

What does Paul say?

In the context of 1 Cor. 10-11, we note several details.

1 Cor. 10

1 Cor. 10 Paul speaks of sharing four things:

  • Jesus' body
  • Jesus' blood
  • bread
  • wine

The questions are phrased as questions which expect a "yes" answer:

  • Isn't the cup we drink out of a sharing of Christ's blood? (“οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστιν τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ χριστοῦ;” (Κορινθίους α 10·16 THGNT-T))
  • Isn't the bread that we break a sharing of the body of Christ? (“τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ χριστοῦ ἐστιν;” (Κορινθίους α 10·16 THGNT-T))

Note how clear Paul is in his words. All four of these elements are present.

1 Cor 11.

In 1 Cor. 11, just a few verses later on in Paul's letter, Paul writes these words:

  • “«23» ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου ὃ καὶ παρέδωκα ὑμῖν ὅτι ὁ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ᾗ παρεδίδετο ἔλαβεν ἄρτον, «24» καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν· τοῦτό μου ἐστὶν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. «25» ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι λέγων· τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε, ὁσάκις ἐὰν πίνητε, εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. «26» ὁσάκις γὰρ ἐὰν ἐσθίητε τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον καὶ τὸ ποτήριον πίνητε, τὸν θάνατον τοῦ κυρίου καταγγέλλετε ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ. «27» Ὥστε ὃς ἂν ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ κυρίου ἀναξίως, ἔνοχος ἔσται τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου. «28» δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν, καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω· «29» ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα.” (Κορινθίους α 11·23-29 THGNT-T)
  • “<23> For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, <24> and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” <25> In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” <26> For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. <27> So, then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. <28> Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. <29> For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–29 CSB17)

We note, that in these words Paul speaks about the real fact that those who receive the Lord's Supper really receive all four elements (body, blood, bread and wine).

Why not just bread and wine?

While the RCC stretches the text in one direction to conclude that "is" means "changes into", it is just as much of a stretch to conclude that "is" = "is a picture of." How do we know that all four elements (body, blood, bread, wine) are present?

  • In the 1 Cor. 10 context, Paul says that we share in in Jesus' body. But we also share in Jesus' blood. There is nothing in the text to lead us to conclude that Paul is speaking metaphorically.
  • The same is true in 1 Cor. 11. We note that in vs. 27, Paul says that those who partake unworthily sin against Jesus' body and blood. If Jesus' body and blood were not present, there would be no need for Paul to speak about sinning against Jesus' body and blood in the supper.

I do realize that these parts of the bible are some of the most fiercly-fought-over parts of the bible. But, at the very least, I thought it'd be good to set in front of you how those in the RCC camp approach the issue. But also, I wanted to put in front of you the fact that it is important to wrestle with what Paul says. For it's easy to explain away the text in the other direction too, concluding that there's no body and blood there in the Lord's Supper, or that they are only present metaphorically. Paul makes it clear that Jesus' body and blood are really, truly, actually there.

  • I think you’re misunderstanding my question. I’m not saying that Paul is denying real presence. I think I need to edit to clarify that it’s specifically a problem with transubstation, not real presence theology as a whole.
    – Luke Hill
    Jan 7 at 17:40
  • When Jesus gave the first cup of wine to his disciples, and the first broken bread, he had not yet died. His blood had not been shed, and his body had not yet been broken, so if the disciples literally ended up drinking blood and eating flesh, would that not have been cannibalism? This, though, seems to be outwith the scope of the Q but to my mind it is foundational to the whole question.
    – Anne
    Jan 12 at 19:13
  • @Anne In my last point, I address that issue. Paul clearly says that we share in Jesus' body and his blood (as opposed to just bread and wine), and even adds a warning that they will eat/drink harm on themselves (if they do so unworthily) because they are eating Jesus' body and blood. The that is clear. I leave the how to God. As to the Cannibalism point, this is nothing new. Tacitus accuses Christans of Cannibalism. But it didn't change the Christian practice.
    – user24895
    Jan 12 at 19:51
  • @Anne I don't know if I'm giving your comment due justice. It might be better to break your own comment out into its own question both so that people can give it justice and also because Cannibalism is not the main point of the OP.
    – user24895
    Jan 12 at 20:10
  • Agreed, and thank you. I'm just wondering how literal blood and flesh at the first event Jesus inaugurated before he died could work out, but that's not the text in question. I also wonder how "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor.15:50) might fit into all of this. Yes, a fresh Q (or two!) needs to be posted.
    – Anne
    Jan 13 at 10:19

Did not Jesus call Himself, "The Bread of Life?" If He refers to His Flesh as bread, who are we to contradict Him?

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    – Lesley
    Jan 7 at 10:51
  • This is not a helpful answer. I’m not talking MERELY about real presence theology. Lutherans and orthodox for instance wouldn’t be affected by the verse. It’s specifically Catholic transubstation
    – Luke Hill
    Jan 7 at 17:38
  • The Orthodox use different words to describe the Eucharist, but their meaning is the same as the Catholic teaching on Transubstantiation. As to Luther, the Catholic Church condemned his position as implying a second Incarnation. Regardless, the larger issue is that though Lutherans profess belief in the Real Presence, they do not have validly ordained priests to consecrate it. Only bishops can lay hands on a man to grant him Apostolic authority, and Lutherans never had bishops. While Luther, as a presbyter, could consecrate the Eucharist, he lacked the ability to transmit this power to others. Jan 11 at 6:06

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