Transubstantiation: Maybe Dositheos Got It Right

by the Very Rev. Christiaan Kappes, S.L.D., Ph.L., Ph.D.

Just out of curiosity, I tried my search engine on googlebooks with the word “transubstan­tiation.” Number two in my search was a howler: The History of Popish Transubstantia­tion (1840). Again, number four of my search looked intriguing: Transubstantiation Unscrip­tural: Proved in Two Letters (1833). Firstly, 4 of 10 books on my first search-page were positive, while 6 of 10 were books by anti-Roman Western Christian authors. The most interesting was Ierugia: On Transubstantiation (1851), which directly cited and correctly referred to the testimony of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. As we will see, despite the state of scholarship until this last century, there was a sense that the fourth century really marked a scientific advance of the discussion of Eucharistic change. Continuing on my googlebooks choose-your-own-adventure, I finally stumbled across the first Eastern Orthodox book to enter into the fray: The Panoplia Dogmatike by Euthymios Zygadenos (2014). Well, the good news is that something Eastern Orthodox on transub­stantiation existed (surprisingly) already on page two of a googlebooks search! The bad news: Would anybody in their right mind want to read something with this painfully esoteric title? 

In this book we learn that Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem (d. 1707) dealt with grumpy Eastern Orthodox confreres who accused him of being an innovator for not only compos­ing his own Creed of belief, but by daring to say that ineffable word: “transub­stan­tiation.” Moreover under his leadership, the 1672 Orthodox Council of Jerusalem (which was recently reaffirmed in its Orthodoxy by the Great and Holy Council in Crete) went further to defend the teaching as meaning that bread becomes body and the wine becomes blood substan­tially (ousiôdos) at the epiclesis or calling down of the Spirit onto the bread and wine in the Eucharistic prayer:

In the celebration whereof we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said con­cern­ing Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose, but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is trans­muted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven ; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world.

Further [we believe] that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remaineth the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord, under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread. (Decree XVII)

A canonical Orthodox council — shouldn’t this be enough to make Eastern Orthodox say: “Good enough for me, I believe it”? Nope: Neither St Gennadius Scholarius’s nor St. Athanasios Parios’s nor St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite’s endorsement of the term and its definition is good enough; “not patristic” the grumps say; “not Orthodox,” they say; “too Latin-minded,” they say; you get the picture. So, I’ve been asked by Fr Aidan to take you on an adventure to know the real historical journey of transubstantiation from its Jewish-Septuagint/Bible roots until the alleged betrayers of Holy Tradition (viz., the three aforementioned saints) – not to mention Dositheus – ruined the Orthodox Church for everybody between c. AD 1437–1809. 


Let’s start with the Bible, which reads thus: “These things saith the Lord: Hereby shalt thou know that I am the Lord: behold I strike with the rod that is my hand on the water which is in the river, and it shall change it into blood” (Ex 7:17). What’s the big deal? Well, God took one natural kind of thing (viz., an individual instance of a nature) and replaced it with another. I mean, God displaced the substance of water and replaced it immediately and miraculously with blood. Maybe you are not very impressed with God’s miracle; well neither were the Egyptian “charmers” who had a potion to do the same a few passages later (Ex 7:21–22). Still, this doesn’t by itself prove much except that Jews themselves understood and received this teaching as a case of transubstantiation by about 40 AD. Let’s take a look at Philo of Alexandria: “For, too, they trans-elementate (μεταστοιχειοῦσι) the frogs into the natures of serpents and turn water into bloody flesh […]” (Philo, De migrationi Abrahami, chapter 15, section 83). Let’s notice some key terms: nature #1 has its basic elements replaced by nature #2. This is, essentially, all that transubstantiation claims. There are a succession or a conversion of unrelated and disparate natures (both descriptions will do in the ancient and in the Medieval theories). Well, what about the appearances, characteristics, or accidents? Well, what about them? They are window dressing, not necessary, not key to one substance being instanta­neously changed into another; viz., they are pure accidentals in our conversation! If you want to talk about the appearances or whiteness, quantity, and other characteristics of substance #1 perduring, well that’s an added consideration but hardly at the root of the Scholastic, let alone the Philonian, theory of substance-to-substance change. I also underline that Philo combined water-to-blood kinds of change to be in the same category as (Mosaic) staffs-into-snakes kind of change. This is important, since the philosophical tradition of the pagan Eastern Roman Empire and even authors like St. John of Damascus (d. c. 753) consider snakes and Boucephalous (Alexander the Great’s horse [!]) to be hypostatic beings, or each to be an hypostasis, which will eventually be made inter­changeable with person (πρόσω­πον) at Christian Ecumenical Councils. I note, however, that Philo’s technical term is not the Exodus 7:17: “transmute (μεταβάλλω),” but the more precise “trans-elementate (μετασ­τοιχειόω) — that means to change the elementary nature of a thing into something else. Well, it’s not the Greek word “transubstantiate (μετουσιόω)” but not to worry, all in good time.


Basically, Philo’s fellow citizen of Alexandria, Origen had passing interest in the Nile-to-blood change and even passed on an obiter dictum here and there that became a tradition received by Eusebius in Palestine and by the aforementioned St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386). Well this tradition of changing one present substance or existent nature into another was fairly easy to absorb by the likes of Cyril. After all, Christ himself had foreshadowed such changes, saying: “And don’t opine to tell yourselves: ‘We have Abraham as our Father.’ Now, I say to you that God is able to raise out of these stones children who belong to Abraham” (Mat 3:9). The objection, here, might be raised (pardon the pun!) that Jesus is foreshad­owing his death and resurrection by typology: “to raise children from stones.” This is actually helpful, nonethe­less, for carcasses-being-raised is also a miraculous change of a dead non-personal, non-living substance into a living person. Here, taken literally, Jesus claims that non-personal, non-living rocks can become persons; so, too, bread becomes a divine person. I underline the fact that Jesus makes a claim that impersonal inanimate creatures can be instanta­ne­ously changed into personal natures by divine power. This is at the core of the notion of transubstantiation; namely, an instantaneous change of one substance into another whereby the former substance was unable to be naturally disposed toward the second by a successive form and as its potential end term (viz., natural stopping point for a new species) in the known physical order of nature. To produce young children from rocks would be a case of Jesus keying into this tradition of Nile-water turning into blood.

At any rate, when Cyril apparently got hold the Nile-to-blood tradition, he too thought Jesus was able to raise up hypostases from inanimate objects like rocks and water. Cyril writes: “The beginning of signs regarding Moses is blood and water, and the ultimate of all signs Jesus is the same. First, he transmuted (μετέβαλεν) the river of Moses into blood and Jesus ultimately brought out water from his side along with blood” (Catecheses illuminandorum XII–XVIII, 13.21). As we saw, the term “transmute” was biblical in Exodus 7:17. Now we are brought to look at Jesus’s water miracles as cases parallel to the Nile-to-blood miracles. Take a look at Cyril’s second application of the same principle: “Since then he himself has declared and said of the bread, ‘This is my body,’ who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since he has affirmed and said, ‘This is my blood,’ who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not his blood? He once turned water into wine, in Cana of Galilee, at his own will, and is it incredible that he should have turned wine into blood?” (Catéchèses mystagogiques, IV.1-2). Basically, Cyril took the production of water from Jesus’s side and the production of wine from water to be cases of substance to substance change and then compared these to the Eucharist, where Jesus took the substance of bread and made it flesh and took an aggregate of wine-natures and transmuted them into blood. 

Cyril’s contemporary, who was an avid reader of his works, St. Ambrose of Milan (d. c. 399) repeated Cyril’s doctrine, but noticed his own catechumens saying: “You assert to me that I am taking the body of Christ, but I see something else!” (On the Mysteries, 9.50). Ambrose solves the objection by claiming that the individual being (hoc esse) that nature has formed can be changed by the power of a benediction during the Eucharistic conse­cration, wherein “nature is transmuted (natura mutatur).” After all, says he: “Moses, when holding a rod, threw it and it was made (facta est) into a serpent; he took it back by the tail and it was reverted back (revertit naturam) into the nature of a staff” (ibid., 9.51). Not only can an inanimate object be instantaneously and miraculously converted into an hypostasis (e.g., Dr. Suesse’s Sis the snake!), but the prototypical Jewish transubstantia­tion example is cited: “The Egyptians were running to the purely flowing waters, then in the next instant (subito) blood began to erupt from the source-waters” (ibid.). Notice that the teaching of Ambrose is a virtual anticipation of the full definition that Scholastics will use: (1.) an individual nature is changed into another, (2.) this happens instantaneously, (3.) the succession of substances cannot be explained except for a divine miracle.

Despite the clarity of these examples and of this teaching, the Antiochene tradition never seemed to warm to a high Christology or Mariology from the fourth through the sixth centuries (for our purposes), let alone a “high” Eucharistic theology. During that time, Nestorius formed a sort of opposition to this realism and its notion of substantial change. His book that survives is the so-called Bazaar of Heracleides (pp. 327–328) (which has of course been dubbed Nestorius’s Bizarre self-defense!). Nestorius attacks not Cyril of Jerusalem, but Cyril of Alexandria. The Alexandrine saint developed his own conviction of substance-to-substance change (which St. Cyril of Alexandria had called: transmutation, trans-elementation, and transformation) of the Nile-waters and taken it a step further, suggesting in his letters attached to the Council of Ephesus, that every Eucharist was a mini-event of the Incarnation. Nestorius impugned this idea of Cyril’s by doubling down on the fact that just as Jesus’s physical human embryo was never divine (at conception, let’s say), neither is the Eucharist really anything else except the nature or substance of bread that has some sort of relation to or presence of the divinity in it. Of course, the oddball anti-Latins of the contemporary blogosphere have essentially resur­rected Nestorius (unknowingly one can hope) in order to pretend that Orthodoxy has some radically different commitment to transubstantiation or the theory thereof than any and all Roman Catholics; a strange point of departure – to say the least – for trying to make a contribution to theology as a positive theory and practice of Christian piety! 


It was likely in reaction to Nestorian Eucharistic theory that the famous miracle of St. Arsenius took place; namely, there was an ostensibly Nestorianizing monk in the desert who denied the physicality (viz., fleshly nature) of the body and blood in the Eucharist. The monk was challenged by fellow monks to a prayer-athon to resolve the issue, after which the Nestorianizing monk became enlightened as to the truth at Orthodox liturgy. The story goes thus:

They [monks] went on Sunday to the church, and the three [monks] set themselves up apart on a cushion […] Their noetic eyes were opened and while the bread was put onto the altar a child appeared (ἐφαίνετο […] παιδίον) only to these three. When the priest extended [his hands] to break the bread for distribution, behold: an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, having a sword, and sacrificed the child and emptied his blood into the chalice. When the priest broke the bread into small portions, the angel also cut small portions from the child. And as he went to receive from the holy mysteries, only bloody raw flesh-meat was given to him. And he saw, he feared, and cried out saying: “Lord, I believe that the bread is your body and the chalice is your blood.” And the raw flesh-meat in his hand immedi­ately became bread in accordance with the mystery, and he communicated while thanking God. And the old man said: “God knows human nature that it is not able to eat crude, raw flesh-meat, and because of this he trans­muted his body into bread and his blood into wine (μετεποίησε τὸ σῶμα εἰς ἄρτον, καὶ τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ εἰς οἶνον) for those who receive with faith.”

So much for Nestorius’s bread remaining after the consecration theory, right? No, it’s back in action as Nestorius redivivus in the blogosphere; apparently important to emphasize that to be Orthodox means to pick the opposite of whatever Roman Catholics either say or do; no matter the cost.


If the question was settled for pro-Cyrillians or the party of St. Cyril, a sort of aberration along different lines popped up in Constantinople around AD 448, wherein the famous Eutyches (excommunicated by the Chalcedonians and, later, even by the Coptic Orthodox) tried to deny the univocal or wholesale interchangeability of Mary’s biological flesh with that of Jesus at the Incarnation. Mary was a true mother and single donor and the connection whereby Jesus is consubstantial or of the same flesh as you and I. Well, to combat the heretical Eutyches both Orthodox and Miaphysites had to hone their Jesus-talk. In the midst of this, there began discussions in Jerusalem in the AD 530s about how to think about the mutually unacceptable theory of the Monophysites or Eutychians. They were condemnable for claiming that the Incarnation was an instant whereby either what was biological flesh was transubstantiated into another nature, viz., the very divine nature. On the opposite end, some of them wrote and argued in such a way that they could be accused of the opposite extreme; namely, that the Monophysite Jesus had one nature whereby divine substance or the divine nature was degraded or transubstantiated into the substance of flesh. In either case there was this process: (1.) A first substance belonging to an identifiable nature exists, (2.) An instant occurs where a divine miracle removes or changes the prior substance, (3.) At that moment a different form or form-matter being replaces the original substance miraculously. Let’s take a look at St. Leontios’s summarization of the Monophysite theory:

Eutyches says the same thing in that he uses the expression without any change, though the meaning doesn’t stay the same, for he uses ‘one incarnate nature of God the Word’ to mean that the nature of the Word was transub­stantiated (μετουσιωθέντος) into flesh, and that the Lord possesses nothing consubstantial with us. (Leontios, Testimonies of the Saints, p. 52)

This might be the same word and the same basic notion of change that Cyril of Jerusalem had, but some literalist and skeptics want to see in plain sight the obvious connection to Eucharist. After all, reasoning, inference, analogy, and implications are often deemed heretical in anti-intellectualist circles; a sort of Neanderthalic literalism and appeals to Mr. Obvious will only satisfy the anti-abstractionists. So, Leontios does not disappoint, for he calls upon the very image that his illustrious fellow Jerusalemite (Hagiopolite) Cyril had made famous in Greek and Latin in the fourth century:

Every union seen to complete some newer nature shows that nature to possess certain things which neither of the natures united possessed on its own. On its own, neither a soul’s nature nor a body’s is ever hungry or thirsty […] or just perceives a sense-object by means of its senses. It’s just as in the case of the flute and the fluteplayer: neither makes music on its own. What then was the Lord – who [by their argument] is neither God nor man – shown to possess on his own? “the reasonable answer,” they say, “is walking on the water in a bodily way, and that sort of thing.” One shouldn’t consider this to be a property of a compound nature, though, for God has often so arranged it that those of the saints who travel by water are carried bodily on it, though it’s agreed there’s no compounding by substance into either a nature or an hypostasis in their case! If, then, there’s no natural property (φυσικὸν ἰδίωμα) belonging to Christ in particular, neither is there any one particular nature that belongs only to him – not by a mixing together, as in the case of fermented liquors, not by transubstantiation (κατὰ μετουσίωσιν), as in the case of the Egyptians’ water that became blood, nor by transformation, as in the case of copper that turns into verdigris, nor yet by the necessity of a natural union, as in the case of a man’s soul that comes into existence in a body. Though a Billy goat has the ability to bleat […] it’s still not the case that, if [a mimicking] man also happens to bleat – being an imitator of things that that possess different natures from his – he’s plainly showing his nature to be compound! On the contrary, he’s revealing operations characteristic of two natures [of rational soul and irrational body] on the basis of that identical one nature of his. Similarly, the capacity to be moved from place to place belonged to human nature, but for the heavier [human] nature of the body not to sink, being carried by the lighter nature of water […] that belongs to a divine nature. It has the ability, and ability supremely characteristic of it, to make (ποιῶσαι) and to transmute (μεταποιῶσαι) all natures, to cause them to exist (οὐσιῶσαι) and to transubstantiate (μετουσιῶσαι) them, and to deprive them of substance (ἀποὐσιῶσαι), even though it springs from the same person. (Leontios, Aporiae, ch. 6)

So, there it is, the primary example of substance-to-substance or succession of two sub­stances change is the Eucharistic example of Nile-water being miraculously transformed into (human[?]) blood. So, should we now admit with the saints and Fathers that “tran­sub­stan­tiation” is not only Eucharistic, not only a properly defined substance-to-substance change, but that it is an invention of Leontios around AD 536? No, for Leontios himself attests that he’s using a term that has apparently been in existence for sometime, for he claims:

Again, was the one nature of the Word of God, now the incarnate nature, ever not incarnate, or was that never the case? If this is unambiguous issue for them, one needs to hear from them: if it belonged to God the Word, and was a nature, and was one even before the [accidental] taking on (ἐπεκτή­σατο) of flesh, what did it take on when it became flesh, or what did it lose? If it didn’t take anything on – for the term “incarnate” isn’t used in the sense of change and transubstantiation (μετουσίωσιν), as when we say of ice that water’s one nature “turned to stone” — it’s clear that it took on flesh, that is, humanity. But what is this humanity, a quality (ποιότης), or some nature? If this nature that’s taken on is unquestionably a nature in addition to the one nature of the Word of God that took it on, they’re going to have to tell us candidly just how many natures there are! (Leontios, Aporiae, ch. 59)

These two mega-quotes from Leontios require a lot of unwrapping. First, Leontios reveals that his term: “transubstantiation” is standard fare for talking about substance-to-sub­stance change in Late-Antique, Greek circles. We can’t know how old this word even is. A conservative guess would suggest, since Leontios attests that the word is common and known, that it should have been around during his educational years. This might move it back to the late-fifth century. Next, both of Leontios’s discussion are worried about acci­dents or qualities. Just as with Cyril of Jerusalem and Ambrose of Milan, a substantial change that is instantaneous can be one where the appearances (e.g., staffs-to-serpents) change or can be one where the original qualities remain the same. Leontios – for us twenty-first-century types – uses the unimpressive example of the single existent nature of a man bleating or producing the quality of a Billy goat. If our senses have access only to hearing, then we mistake a real substance (man) for being a different kind of nature. Even Leontios’s idea of the Word “taking on flesh” uses the verbal notion of taking on something as an accident in the Aristotelian categories. Basically, Leontios’s discussion of transub­stantiation includes the following: (1.) substance-to-substance instantaneous changes, (2.) the potential of such a change to look the same or to be accidentally different, (3.) the possibility of natural substances to be changed to supernatural ones, (4.) the natural possibility of natural substances to instantaneously change (water) into new substances (stone-like ice) (5.) The best example of transubstantiation is the biblical change of Nile-water into blood.


Yet, was Leontios forgotten during the course of the ages [as if Orthodoxy should be based upon how many times and by whom you are quoted]? After all, the Greek East doesn’t have a robust history of the use of the term transubstantiation. Well, despite the fact that we’ve already proven that the term might date to the AD 400s (certainly to c. 530), despite the fact that an Catholic/Orthodox Father and Saint used it by taking it from a Eucharistic context and applying it to Christ’s flesh in another context, and despite the fact that Leon­tios discusses accidents of such substances and their activities, it is true that Leontios’s works did not inspire the multiplication of the term transubstantiation among other Catholic/Orthodox authors.

Still, St Gregory Palamas (d. 1357) was not adverse to using the term in order to describe the very same kind of Eutychian change that had been a problem about seven hundred years prior. He is extremely important because he shows us again that the term is a more specific and detailed concision of the wider terms for Eucharistic change like trans-elementation and transmutation. Against the anti-Palamite Gregoras, Palamas wrote:

For who among us says [viz., like Eutyches] that Transfiguration is divinity? For we not only ask about the Transfiguration absolutely, but regarding what was transfigured. Rather we do not believe this, hearing from the Gos­pel and our God-bearing Fathers. Who among us says that this metamor­phosis of Christ on the mountain is alteration and transub­stan­tiation (μετουσίωσιν) of the divine nature? For Christ was transfigured on the mountain not according to the divine nature belonging to him, but according to the dignity of his human nature which he took to himself for us, just as all of us faithful commonly sing harmoniously at church: “He trans-elementated (μεταστοιχειώσας) nature into the glory and brightness of his divinity (2nd apostichos Vespers of Transfiguration).” Who among us thought it fit that transmutation (μεταβολὴν) is of the human nature of Christ in relation to the divine nature, i.e., the Transfiguration of Christ on Tabor? (Palamas, Third Oration against Gregoras, sec. 4).

By now, it should be unsurprising that the more generic Eucharist-change-words of “trans­mute” and “trans-elementate” are given even better precision by Palamas, whereby the miraculous change of a natural substance into the divinity and the purported changed of the divinity (by Eutyches) into real flesh are meant by transubstantiation. Obviously, the first theory is exactly that of the Eucharist, while the second is that of the Eutychian theologians alone. However, for Palamas, Jesus did not change the nature of the flesh and blood of his mother by taking it up, but rather trans-elementated it (in accord with the feast of the Transfiguration) whereby the basic elements or substances that existence in their own right, or with their own proper subsistence, now exist in a new dependent non-substantial way. Basically, the Incarnation changed a human ovum so that in the next moment of its existence as incorporated into an embryo it was at that exact moment also made entirely dependent and utterly united to the person of the Word. Hence, the under­lying flesh and its activities remain (unlike bread and wine transubstantiating), but its outward appearance stays the same. Conversely, the bread and wine maintain (as with Ambrose) apparently the same qualities and quantity but their underlying natures are transformed.


It was in this context of transubstantiation that Scholarios (d. 1472) had grown up. The Byzantine state had been officially Palamite since 1368 and the Patriach Philotheos Kokkinos had quoted and spread the aforementioned citation of Palamas more than once. The language of transubstantiation was simply part of Palamite-speak. Scholarios had been trained in his youth by the Palamites: St. Mark Eugenicus, Macarius Makres, and Joseph Bryennius, not to mention his participation in the scholarly circle of Emperor Manuel II. Scholarios should have been exposed to the language of Palamas and Kokkinos, heroes of Orthodoxy that they were. It is also in this context that his fellow Palamite (for the time), Bessarion of Nicaea acquired a manuscript between the 1420s–1440s that contained the only extant works of Leontios of Jerusalem that we have cited thrice above. Bessarion made his personal notes in the manuscript (Marc. gr. 69) but has so far not been provent to have read Leontios’s works where transubstantiation would have been found about a half-dozen times.

Given the fact that in the 1420s Bessarion and Gennadius Scholarios were BFFs and studied together logic and rhetoric, it should come as no surprise that sometime after 1437 Scholarios was permitted to read his best friend’s manuscript containing Leontios’s works. Parsimony suggests strongly that it was here that Scholarios first saw the term “transub­stan­tiation.” Oppositely, he had read the Greek translations of Thomas Aquinas and others; the brothers Kydones provided Aquinas’s (and others’) accounts of transubstan­tiation from their 1354–1398 translations and writings. However, Demetrios and Prochoros Kydones, as translators, only employed the terms: “transmutation (μεταβολή)” and “transformation (μεταποίησις),” respectively, to signify conversio and transubstan­tiatio. If Scholarios were a Latin-thinker, he should have followed Demetrius’s and Prochoros’s celebrated translations that Scholarios himself possessed. Instead, Scholarios, when composing his in his own words and in his own phraseology, departed from Latin vocabulary in known-Greek for the last one hundred years (as used by his teachers Mark Eugenicus, Joseph Bryennius, and Macarius Makres) in their own writings. Instead, he picked up the term: “transubstantiation (μετουσίσωσις).” Interestingly, as an aside, the term had been translated into Greek in the third person singular (μετουσιοῦται) either around AD 1170 or perhaps, again, around the Council of Lyon (1274). Still, none of the authors mentioned in the Greek East ever showed any awareness of this little read reference to Lyon (1274). All the circumstantial evidence and parsimonious reasoning lead only to the conclusion that Scholarios had simply taken the patristic and Palamistic term, which he correctly defined as “changing from one substance into another substance in one instance by a miracle” as the proper meaning of the term. Thus spake Scholarios.


Dositheos of Jerusalem at the Pan-Orthdoox Council of Jerusalem (c. 1672) made a claim that not only was “transubstantiation” (which he defined as bread and wine being “sub­stan­tially (οὐσιῶδως)” converted into the body and blood of Christ) the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church but that it was patristic and had been used in Christology. Well, Dositheos was right and blogospheric Orthodox of the consubstantiationalist and anti-transubstantia­tiona­list sorts are wrong. The nature, substance, i.e., breadness and wineness, are no more and only the substance of Jesus’s glorified body underlies the species (per Ambrose) or phenomena of the bread and wine. Anything less is simply not Catholic, not Orthodox, not patristic, and not Palamistic, in short it goes against Pan-Orthodox councils and is the victory of Nestorian wish over Orthdoox reality.

* * *

Fr Christiaan Kappes is the Academic Dean of Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Many of his scholarsly works are available at See especially his essay “The Biblical Origen and Late-Antique Invention of the Eucharistic Term and Definition of ‘Transubstantiation.'” 

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21 Responses to Transubstantiation: Maybe Dositheos Got It Right

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Thank you, Fr Christiaan, for writing yet another piece for Eclectic Orthodoxy!


  2. Christiaan Kappes says:

    Dear Fr. Aidan,

    Just for thoroughness, I finished translating the other night the Council of Constantinople 1691. Patriarch Callinicus II of Constantinople followed Dositheus’s lead in 1691 by writing a marvelous document that included a detailed description about substantial change of the Eucharist:

    The holy Catholic Church of Christ […] believed and still has the mindset […] that the bread is transmuted and transformed after the hallowing of the bread and wine into the very true body [and blood] of Christ born of the virgin […] and that the substance of bread and wine does not remain any more, but that it is truly and really the very body and blood of the Lord in the visible species of bread and wine; it is not a piece of the body and blood of Christ, but entirely the whole Master Christ substantially (ἡ ἁγία καθολικὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκκλησία […] ἐπίστευσε καὶ φρονεῖ […] μετὰ τὸν ἁγιασμὸν τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ τοῦ οἴνου μεταποιεῖσθαι καὶ μεταβάλλεσθαι τὸν μεν ἄρτον εἰς αὐτὸ τὸ ἀληθὲς καὶ ἐκ τῆς παρθένου γεννηθὲν σῶμα [καὶ αἵμα] τοῦ Χριστοῦ […] καὶ οὐκέτι μένειν τὴν οὐσίαν τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ τοῦ οἴνου, ἀλλ᾽εἶναι ἀληθῶς καὶ πραγματικῶς αὐτὸ τὸ σῶμα καὶ αἵμα Κυρίου ἐν τοῖς φαινομένοις εἴδεσι τοῦ ἀρτοῦ καὶ τοῦ οἴνου· προσέτι ἐν ἐκάστῃ μερίδι τοῦ ἁγιασθέντος ἄρτου καὶ οἴνου, μὴ εἶναι μέρος τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ ὅλον ὁλικῶς τὸν δεσπότην Χριστὸν κατ᾽οὐσίαν […])

    Of course, he “confesses” transubstantiation (2.) condemns all opponents of the term and its definition (3.) lists about 7 saints and theologians from Scholarios till present who use and endorse it (4.) list the canonical punishments on clergy and laymen for denying it.


    • E.T. Ybarra says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Fr.

      It just wish there was a better way to “gauge” (forgive me for such a humanistic term) what achieves a doctrinal status in the Orthodox Church. I am currently reading many books on the subject, and it is certainly a bit more daunting than the same pursuit in Catholicism. It seems as though the Orthodox can just retort that the Easterners don’t have a visible criteria or an external norm which guarantees the content of Orthodox doctrine, but rather that the internal participation in the divine directly brings a compenetration of the whole body into one mindset, namely, the mind of Christ. And since “transubstantiation” has not achieved this, the argument goes, the amount of legal and visible confessions of it still don’t make it a doctrine of Orthodox. Your thoughts?


      • Christiaan Kappes says:

        Dear Eric,
        Thanks for the note. As far as I can tell the modern (non-former-soviet-bloc-country) narrative has gone thus: (1.) The dogmaticians used to reign supreme (especially before the science of liturgiology was embraced after Western models starting in the 1950s/60s). (2.) The ressourcement in the 1950s-1960s led Orthodox theologians to question as well their own manualist tradition mainly based upon Lutheran/Jesuit publications and school materials (save the occasional Orthodox trained by a Dominican university). (3.) about a decade post ressourcement the old certainty about the confessions of faith as quasi-magisterium: Scholarios’s confession, Dositheos, the epistle of 1848, etc. began to suffer from being associated with the period of “captivity” to foreign intellectual forces. (4.) the status of all the old and fairly consistent dogmatic traditions (of pre-communist russia & post-Turkic greece) fell apart. (5.) The vacuum was filled by the liturgical movement (Schmemann et al.) and ressourcement theologians (Meyendorff) who were more historians or spirituality than dogmatics guys. (6.) Eventually, the pendulum internationally has swung in favor of Orthodoxy being a two-pronged theology: (1.) mysticism (2.) liturgy and that dogmatics must be somehow an experiential reflection on these. That’s my best guess of the trends. My questions way of posing the historical narratives are being sensitive where I think Eastern Orthodox are culturally but putting them back in touch with dogmatics theologians, but with a better historical/liturgical understanding of the old dogmatics-guys sources so that they can see that much of what the 14th-16th century was using real Eastern or bona fide sources, not parroted scholasticism. When Scholasticism was used, it tended to be ad hoc and some rare moments even creative but most just a better instrument that allowed them to ignore the pagan-scholiasts for a more baptized-philosophy using the ancient sources. My real project (with members of the Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus) is decades of mythbusting to allow for a dispassionate assessment of the lay of the land from 14th-16th centuries. We are far from that but it has been getting better.

        Liked by 1 person

        • E.T. Ybarra says:

          Thank you for your informed answer.

          In particular, I’m looking for an Orthodox work (book, article, etc,etc) which attempts to refute Alexei Khomiakov’s sobornostic ecclesiology, in particular his denial of a magiterium and his acceptance of a “receptionism” of ecumenical councils. I can only think of the late Archbishop Stylanios of Australia who wrote a book “Infallibility of the Church in Eastern Orthodoxy”, which I can’t find anywhere to purchase. Do you know any Greek works that try to answer Khomiakov on this?


          • Christiaan Kappes says:

            Dear Eric,
            Unfortuniately I have never re Khomiakov and know very little of Sobornost ecclesiology. I was at least going to start to engage the Russian ecclesiologist this summer since I was invited as keynote for a Russian Catholic conference in Czech republic, but the virus killed it. So, it’s postponed and I’ll be unlikely to have occasion to do much in ecclesiology that I can foresee. Sorry that I can’t be of greater help on this question.



  3. Iain Lovejoy says:

    I think my difficulty with transubstantiation as a transforming from one substance to another is less in bread and wine gaining the substance of the body and blood of Christ, and more in how it is said to *lose* its original substance of bread and wine. This assumes that ordinary bread and wine have some inherent bread and wine “substance” in addition to and separate from their accidental perceived external physical qualities and behaviours, which it then loses to be substituted for the “substance” of body and blood. The danger is that this then places the “substance” of bread and wine as being in the same category of thing as the “substance” of the body and blood. Either you are attributing to ordinary created things a spiritual, almost quasi-divine platonic-style form from which they derive their existence, rather than doing so from God, or you relegate the real presence to another straightforward piece of ordinary matter.


  4. Christiaan Kappes says:

    Thanks, Iain, I followed you for most of this post; I’ll do my best to recapitulate then answer: I agree, transubstantiation is (philosophically) more problematic since it requires a lot of philosophical agreement about the basic structure of the real that simply cannot in many cases be (to my mind) objectively proven/disproven to a serious philosophers satisfaction. Tone’s rather humble artice: “Transbustanationism, essentialism, and substance,” Relgious Studies 47 (2011), simply tries to show philosophers who believe in Aristotelian-like substances that transubstantiation does not go against such possibilities in their system (for God) and that trope or bundle theorist of beings be said to be bundles or aggregates of identifiable properties don’t have a unified and therefore orthodox theory that excludes transubstantiation. In the end, his task is only to show that in both dominate approaches to talking about individual beings neither theory can see transubstantiation -in the sense that I have defined- contradictory.

    That said, you problem is pretty serious one: Aquinas’s modality doesn’t want bread to be literally annihilate, but he wants to talk in the term that ‘a’ in Time1 is a substance but in Time2 the supervening substance ‘b’ “converts” it into the body and blood. That doesn’t look like a prime matter of substance ‘a’ survives and undergoes a new form relationship at Time2 with ‘b.’ Instead, as some medievals interpreted it and hymned it, Aquinas is reduced to an annihilation of ‘a’ matter+form at T2 and there is no real relation between ‘a’ + ‘b’ and no real end term for a starting point of ‘a’ to become ‘b’. The other difficulty, for Medievals, is to claim that ‘a’ (which is in a place) at Time1 is no longer substantially present but that ‘b’ substance has converted ‘a’ into the body and blood at Time 2. But, for Aquinas, substance-to-substance supervention does not include ‘b’ being in a place. Hence, the ‘b’ substance (Jesus) is only in heaven and is nowhere where there is a host/lamb or chalice/wine. I do not even try to defend this theory, but I think there are some good attempts to try.

    However, the medievals are pretty eclectic, even Albert the Great ignores Thomas’s theory. Scotus, on the other hand, want to talk in terms of succession of substances, that there is a displacement of ‘a’ at Time1 and a replacement with ‘b’ at Time2. His entire argument hinges on whether or not you accept that “ubi/place” is truly accidental or a non-essential property of a substance in the sense that it is not contradictory for one categorical substance to be present in multiple places. I like the theory but it is purely concerned with not running into logical contradiction. The other problem, which is **your** problem (as far as I can tell), is that where does substance ‘a’ of Time1 go if it is “displaced” but without its dimensive/quantitative and qualitative and other features??? There is like a middle state or limbo for bread and wine (in Pittsburgh we might call it Burgatory!)? So, this collection of non-dimensive breads and wines are needed to be kept in existence, though apparently not “where” the substance ‘b’ is at Times2-consumption, only to be brought back to its proper place at the moment of digestion. It’s quite a lot of miracling for God and you’d think he like to take a Sabbath rest after every faithful eats a crumb or droplet of Eucharist.

    Lastly, however, I’m not sure that I understand you worry about bread-substance being equivalent categorically to flesh-substance. My mind goes to the most valid observation you might be thinking which is: Jesus’s humanity is not a substance, because it is in not a per se existent or subsistent, but it exists “in” or is directly and substistently dependent “on” the divinity in the person of the Word. So, Jesus’s whole flesh-blood-soul is not strictly speaking a substance. However, I would not extrapolate from that that he did not exist in time, at a place, and had a weight and dimensions. This is what categorical substances do, even if there are fetus’s that don’t share the definition of the person of their mother, they don’t subsistence, they aren’t robustly per se existents, but they do fit into categorical dimensions. However, your other point may be that flesh-blood is itself non-dimensive in the Eucharist and yet “there” or in a place, so the very mode of flesh-blood substance (viz., sacramental) does not compare to bread-wine mode. On this objection, however, I do think the Scholastics spend a lot of time trying to solve by talking about the fact that a “whole” is multiplied on many altars in every droplet existing separate from the pack of droplets and in every crumb existing separately from a slice of bread. So it is a very different kind of presence one-whole present in many places (maybe) where dimensive quantities are visible versus one aggregate of individual substances of bread-crumb and wine-droplets. So, philosophically, I think -like communion itself- its very messy, but theologically neither church has other dogmatic choices on the term + definition.


    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      The issue to me I suppose is that transubstantiation as described above involves attributing to *all* ordinary physical objects a sort of hidden internal hyper-real essence / substance independent of their specific physical characteristics (size, shape, location, appearance etc) which, rather than any of its observable features, is what an object “really” is, and which somehow generates the object that we actually see, in order that this hyper-real internal essence / substance of the bread and wine can be sort of swapped out for the internal essence / substance of the body / blood without its physical qualities being affected.
      The trouble to me is that this postulated internal essence / substance thing, if it is an inherent property of ordinary objects, is either a created thing or it isn’t: if it is a created thing, the “real presence” is just a slightly different created object than when you started (even assuming a thing with no inherent properties of its own can even be different from another identical thing also with no properties) and the whole thing is pointless. OTOH, if internal essences / substances of things are not themselves created things, God is no longer the creator of the universe, these internal essences / substances are.
      It seems to me though, there is a deeper issue, also: when we refer to the bread and wine being the body and blood of Christ, what to we actually mean? Christ’s physical, earthly body was the body of Christ because Christ and the essence of Christ was in it – the actual physical substance of that body was made up of the food he ate and the water he drank etc – it was not Christ’s body because it was something other than earthly, physical flesh. Is the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ because it has the essence / substance of / contains in some way the remnants of his former earthly body, or because it is the flesh with which Christ now clothes himself in the communion, in the same way as his earthly body once clothed him? If the latter, issues of the transubstantiation simply don’t arise.


      • John says:

        “The trouble to me is that this postulated internal essence / substance thing, if it is an inherent property of ordinary objects, is either a created thing or it isn’t: if it is a created thing, the “real presence” is just a slightly different created object than when you started (even assuming a thing with no inherent properties of its own can even be different from another identical thing also with no properties) and the whole thing is pointless.”

        That’s not what it implies, I think. When the bread becomes the body of Christ, it becomes the body of Christ – the internal essence is now that of Christ, so it is no longer bread, it really is Christ, purely and simply.

        The real presence in that case is a created object only in the sense that the body of Christ is a created object – the body of Christ is the body of the created human nature that God the Word assumed. It’s not some new and additional flesh that God then hypostatically unites Himself too. It is the substance of Christ.

        “The issue to me I suppose is that transubstantiation as described above involves attributing to *all* ordinary physical objects a sort of hidden internal hyper-real essence / substance independent of their specific physical characteristics (size, shape, location, appearance etc) which, rather than any of its observable features, is what an object “really” is”

        That’s not exactly what the substance-accidents distinction implies. Accidents are real because they inhere in the substance. A material substance necessarily has material accidents. It’s not as if the observable features aren’t the material object at all – the object does have these features, the material object as a substance truly does have the accidents.


  5. Christiaan Kappes says:

    Dear Iain, I’ll do my best to get the gist of what you saying: First, again it is fine as philosophers or as non-believers, for us to puzzle on this, even if Catholics and Orthodox only have one option theologically. Secondly, your major point seems to be here:
    “if it is a created thing, the “real presence” is just a slightly different created object than when you started (even assuming a thing with no inherent properties of its own can even be different from another identical thing also with no properties) and the whole thing is pointless.”
    So, substance ‘a’ (bread0 is created (matter+form form ancients and medievals – and for us until you tell me otherwise); ‘a’ post-transubstantiation “is just slightly different.” Hmmm…for me there are two answers, but both of which disagree with this observation: (1.) 5-senses-wise its not different at all (2.) “hyper-real internal essence-wise” is completely different. So, I think that I’d disagree with this summarization. “What’s the point?” is rhetorical; maybe you could help me see wherein the rejection lies? Is it, something like: “what’s the point of God changing something’s in-most hyper-reall essence?” If that is, perhaps, the question, then only a theological answer can be given: “God can and did raise up children from stones to make ‘x’ point about sacrament ‘y.'” My guess would be though that you have more of a philosophical objection and aren’t asking for a religious-Bible answer?

    As far as my article, I’m not sure how non-created or infinite/eternal/uncreated essences enter in, save for the fact that there is a relation of direct dependence (viz., hypostatic union) by the human nature of Jesus on the divine nature in the Word. So, in fact, there is -essence/nature-wise- both an uncreated divinity and a created humanity in one person per Christian dogmatic claims. So, at least here, either or doesn’t work for Christians, it’s a both&.

    On the last topic, the Fathers of the Church mentioned (e.g., Cyril of Jerusalem & Ambrose) are adamant that the flesh must be identical to that born of the virgin (just as the statement by Patriarch Callinicus). So, the corporal reality or essential/natural reality is that this is the flesh and blood that was born of Mary, walked the earth, and was crucified, and like resurrected flesh, is the same of which Christ was born. The patristic authors are -besides Eutychians- to my knowledge unanimous on this virgin-flesh = resurrected flesh = eucharist flesh; such that the flesh is genetically or substantially univocal, even if we wanted to propose an accidental or less-than-substantial modification of any one of the these “fleshes” (e.g., Transfiguration) during the course of Jesus’s life before or after the resurrection. It’s the sacramental realism that unites the Fathers who have been sainted by both Latin and Greek calendars so far as I have been able to discover.

    Finally, if you are puzzling about this from a Christian perspective, I would note that though substances and essences (besides definitions of geometric figures, moral acts, and the definition of a human) are not strictly provable to exist, such are theologically presumed in Christian doctrinal formulations. The existence of natures, hypostases, and essences are a sort of “perennial philosophy” without which the Ecumenical Councils cannot be read. However, if you are puzzling from an atheistic, or non-Catholic/Orthodox, or non-Christian perspective, obviously I am happy to grant you whatever latitude you wish in the discussion.


    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      I am an Anglican Christian, which is where I am coming from. My thoughts are that the real presence of Christ, to be the presence of *Christ* in the Eucharist, rather than some alternative created thing, must be additive rather than substitutative, simply because there is and can be nothing present in ordinary bread and wine which is the thing analogous to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist that is required to be substituted for Christ to come in instead. There was an earlier article on this site about the thoughts and approach of Bulgakov to the Eucharist which (in so far as I understood it) appeared to be making a similar point, so I don’t think I am straying particularly far from at least one Orthodox perspective in this view.


      • Christiaan Kappes says:

        Thanks Iain, so would you affirm the Council of Jerusalem 1672, Callincus II 1691, and as a matter of faith do you presuppose that natures and substances exist or do you consider those optional to be Orthodox? Forgive me, but I’m not familiar how Anglicans determine Orthodox dogmatics.


        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          Ask two Anglicans a theological question and you will get three different answers – on the whole the Anglican communion isn’t big on definitive doctrinal statements. We affirm the Creeds and the Bible and tend to leave it at that. That being said we generally recognise the ecumenical Councils prior to the east / west split as broadly authoritative. I am not really aware of the various Councils of the eastern Orthodox church subsequent to that.
          I’m slightly puzzled at your remark about Anglicans determining Orthodox dogmatics – I only mentioned the early article because I wanted to understand the range of what was and was not believed by the Orthodox church and was interested in your take on it. I meant no offence at all.


          • Christiaan Kappes says:

            Dear Iain, no offense taken! My remarks are due to my poor knowledge of Anglican dogmatics! I remember reading some things in the now (irrelevant?) Oxford movement. I ran across Dom Gregory Dix who seemed like many (I think) in this movement to see a three-branch theory: Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox = one church. So, for me -in my ignorance- my best guess is that Anglicans can determine from the Catholic and the Orthodox tradition what they consider to be universal/binding (I don’t know by what methodology by clearly -if my above references are accurate- then these scientific writers did pretty well in publishing and theory). Next, I would say if an Anglican does/can hold (forgive me if I’m wrong): “We are three branches,” then an Anglican would seem to be able to take something like Callincus, for example, and say (my best guess): “I don’t agree with Callincus because, like Dr. Pusey [sorry if he is a bad guy], Callincus is parroting a doctrinal development that has been shown not to exist in the first x-100 years of Christianity. Therefore, if it didn’t exist for salvation from year 33-ADxxx, then it’s clearly not salvific but a theologoumenon/opinion.” So, I hope this give you an idea where I’m coming from. I fear that I will show my dated and irrelevant analogies have very little to do with Anglican thought in 2020. At any rate, I am not opposed to Anglicans weighing in on either Catholic or Orthodox theology. Although more of an historian, I have been impressed by Beeley’s work in Christology and would guess that he is in a better position to weigh in than most whether a current Orthodox Patriarch is inside/outside his own Christological tradition/commitments than most Orthodox theologians. So, opine away!


  6. Alexander says:

    Thank you, Fr. Kappes, for your research and taking the time to write it for this blog. In fact, my only criticism is that I desire more content from it! I have found this issue particularly puzzling as it exists in certain Orthodox circles. Philosophically and theologically I have been unable to discern what the objection to transubstantiation could in principle be. However, this is how I feel with most East / West dichotomies (and perhaps many theological dichotomies in general!). It is a curious state of affairs that the Roman Catholics are capable of incurring everyone’s ire, so much so that non-Catholic theological discourse tends to define itself by pure negation, i.e. not-Catholic.


  7. Christiaan Kappes says:

    Dear Alexander, thanks for the note. I’m glad you find it engaging…that’s partially why I do what I do. The other reason is that I just like to find issues that allegedly separate Christians and then go to all the sources and down all the rabbit holes and see what I can find. I started out on this topic just by chance running accros Leontios when teaching the seminarians Christology. I wanted to know more about why it had been noticed. I ended up finding out by looking at the Nile-river-to-blood that an entire history opened up just by trying to find how a metaphor was being used through the Christian centuries. So, given the fact that my narrative is brand new, I sort of get it why there is an internal tension among some contemporary Eastern Orthodox since the lack of finding these histories of terms and metaphors in their own authors makes some feel existentially vulnerable to being mere imitators of Latins (which are often considered with sacramental grace which makes it very nerve racking). I have been invited by a Russian Orthodox journal (often the mainline Russian church is pretty comfortable with historical scholarship and totally unapologetic for its use of Scholasticism exemplified by canonizing Peter Moghila who was big-time Scholastic). So, my hope is that the published and scholarly version of this piece -once subjected to scrutiny- will simply have to enter into the accepted narrative. Maybe in 20 years then transubstantiation will be taken off of the index of forbidden words since its entirely “Greek” & “Orthodox” pedigree has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of Eastern Orthodox scholars who try to find errors in my historical research (as they should as good scholars).


  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Is Eucharistic speaking of ‘substances’ and ‘transubstantiation’ distinct from any (or ‘all varieties’ of) Aristotelian ‘substance metaphysics’? Is it, e.g., something like an ‘analogical “substance” language’? And, is there a (largely – or even wholly – mistaken) fear by various Orthodox that Latin Eucharistic theology is reductively Aristotelian? And how does the Biblical-exegetical language you discuss relate to ‘all this’? E.g, is Philo being ‘strictly Aristotelian’ (assuming there is such a thing)?

    What is the date of the St. Arsenius miracle account? In its Child it would seem to present Totus Christus, yet again in its dismemberment and blood draining it would seem far from every morsel and droplet as Undivided Wholly (if not locally) Present Totus Christus. The 1691 Patriarch Callinicus II document seems explicit and emphatic about Totus Christus – “entirely the whole Master Christ substantially”. Is there a discernible ‘history’ of such Greek-speaking clarity?


    • Christiaan Kappes says:

      Dear David,
      The speaking of substances in each given person above is, sadly, messy. if we start with Philo, he is an eclectic mixer and masher of Stoic and Platonic themes. I have simply not seen the literature out their that attempts nail down his commitments. Like Seneca and Musonius Rufus et al, his contemporaries shared a broad series of assumptions but the details and gists about substances need to be taken one author at a time. I think the main thing that will likely **not** make them **adequately** Aristotelian is that many authors don’t feel the need to limit one indeterminate “aggregate” of material (materia prima) to being informed by one form only. Many of them seem to have a richer notion of beings being complicated. So, even the Franciscan school of transubstantiation, speaks of two “forms” to make “one Eucharist.” I think that “Aristotle” is a cultural contributor and point of reference but hardly dominant until Miaphysite theologians exploit him over an above eclecticism.

      I suppose that many Orthodox who rely on spirituality texts, blogs, and apologists, do likely get a solid message that Thomism is Catholicism and the Catholicism is invalidly baptized Aristotelianism. There are actually ways in which I sympathize with aspects of this generalization in Thomism, but I think it is clearly wrong as a reduction of RC believe. Hence, the term transubstantiation (dated to 1140, 100 years before Aquinas was in University) has been associated with his alleged modality by which it is said to be true. Of course, there were crude and brilliant competitive theories and many of them are still technically valid if ignored since the 19th century. So, I think your questions likely are asked about the right pulse that you are feeling: Aristotle is a sort of boogeyman and the admission of Aristotle (or even Plato) as underlying philosophical contributors to Christian theology tends to threaten the established order whereby experience in prayer and liturgy are more comfortably the source of theological knowledge (despite the inherent risk of everybody claiming to be a prophet).

      The Arsenius account is alleged to about 425 AD. However, the story cannot be substantiated on parchment with reed until post-500. This baby-Eucharist miracle gets pretty popular: It then gets put into an apocryphal life of St. Basil (c. 690) and then gets translated into Latin (c. 850) then both Latins and Greeks have a series of such miracles (depicted all over Byzantine churches for communion -pretty striking to see the cut up baby part on a wall!). Then, because of its established street cred, Even Aquinas has to give a tip of the hat in his “totus Christus” discussions of the Eucharist where he mentions that Eucharist miraculously appears sometimes as “puer” (bambino Jesus).

      Per your Callinicus 1691 question, I simply don’t know when and where the totus Christus comes into Orthodox theology. I suspect that the discussion would be unusual before the 14th century reception of Aquinas. I’ll maybe one day find out myself!


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        My hearty (if belated) thanks for such rich and detailed answers (as for the article itself, which I should have begun by saying, before)!

        One thing I had in mind in my first batch of questions was the late Dr. Johannes P. M. van der Ploeg, O.P. writing in an short Dutch book on the Nicene Creed, the Sacraments, and the Blessed Virgin that the Council of Trent had no intention of giving the term ‘transubstantiation’ any specific philosophical sense nor of taking any philosophical concept of ‘substance’ up into the doctrine of the Church.

        Tangentially, my first encounter with something like the St. Arsenius account was the translation of a sermon ascribed to Gregory Dekapolites as found in PG 100, cols. 1201-12, in Daniel J. Sahas, “What an Infidel Saw that a Faithful Did Not: Gregory Dekapolites (d. 842) and Islam”, in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review 31 (1986), 47-67 and Orthodox Christians and Muslims (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986), reproduced online here with the permission of the translator – and an interesting introductory note:


  9. E.T. Ybarra says:

    Reblogged this on errrr and commented:
    Very Rev. Christiaan Kappes, S.L.D., Ph.L., Ph.D. on the doctrine of Transubstantiation


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