Thursday, July 09, 2020

The women at the tomb

Over the years, I've gone back and forth on whether I think the argument for the empty tomb from the fact that the gospels report that women were the first to discover the tomb empty is a good argument or not. The argument is that the authors of the gospels would not have included the story unless it really happened because the story would've been an embarrassment since women had no credibility among Jews, Greeks, or Romans in the first and second centuries. Today, I'm in favor of the argument, but I want to give you my thoughts on both sides of it.

The reason I sometimes don't think it's a good argument is because it's just a narrative. The gospels are not meant to serve as evidence of the empty tomb or the resurrection. The women are never offered as evidence for the empty tomb. So the fact that a first century audience wouldn't have put any confidence in the testimony of women doesn't strike me as being relevant. Why would it be embarrassing to say that women were the first to discover the empty tomb if it's just part of the story and is not being offered as evidence? The fact that women weren't to be trusted hardly seems like a good reason for the author to have left that part out since the author isn't asking the readers to believe in the empty tomb on the authority of those women.

The reason I sometimes think it is a good argument is because I can imagine an outsider in the first century reading the gospels and saying, "Now, wait a minute. You're saying this whole story of the empty tomb originated with women?" In their mind, if all the hysteria surrounding the empty tomb, which lead to belief in the resurrection, started because a bunch of silly women claimed to have found the tomb empty, then that discredits the whole story since women can't be trusted. The authors of the gospels would surely have anticipated this kind of reaction, in which case saying that women were the first to witness and report the empty tomb is kind of embarrassing. The fact that they reported it anyway serves as evidence that it actually happened. And since we in the modern world respect the testimony of women, that gives us good reason to think they actually did find the tomb empty.

Right now, I'm leaning in favor of that second argument, but just a few weeks ago, I was leaning toward the first argument. I guess it's still something I need to think through. Or maybe I should just throw up my hands and admit that I don't know whether it's a good argument or not. It surprises me sometimes how an argument can seem very persuasive to me at one time, then years later, it doesn't seem persuasive anymore. It really makes me doubt myself.

Let's suppose the story of the women finding an empty tomb is not historical. Where might it have originated? One possibility is that there were some women who dishonestly claimed to have found the tomb empty. If that were so, I would expect the first person they told to have wanted to check it out, so this is a no go for me.

Or maybe they mistakenly thought Jesus was buried in a tomb that they found empty. Would everybody else be likely to have mistakenly thought the same thing? If they were mistaken to think Jesus was buried in a tomb, it doesn't seem likely they would've honed in on a particular tomb, so I don't see how finding a random empty tomb would've made them think Jesus' tomb was empty. But even so, this seems like a mistake that would've easily been corrected for anybody who was actually curious about it.

Maybe Jesus was buried in a tomb, but they didn't know which one. Maybe they thought they did know, and they went to the wrong tomb. Again, this could've easily been corrected, especially if they knew who buried Jesus or whose tomb Jesus was buried in. They could just find out which tomb Jesus was buried in.

Another possibility is that Mark or some earlier person made it up. But why would they? What purpose does it serve? Maybe it's just to demonstrate the devotion they had to Jesus since they were going to the tomb to anoint his body. It doesn't seem like it would've been made up as a way of saying, "Look, we have all these witnesses to the empty tomb." If that were the purpose, it's more likely they would've had all the apostles find the tomb empty. Unless Mark has an ending that was lost, he didn't even say the apostles found the tomb empty, only the women. The same thing is true of Matthew. Only Luke and John have men visiting the empty tomb. In Luke, it was just Peter, and in John, it was just Peter and an unnamed disciple (presumably John).

Of course the fact that I can't come up with a good reason for the gospel authors to have included the story of the women finding the tomb empty doesn't mean there isn't one. But it does make me think it really happened. The historicity of it does a better job of explaining why it's in the gospels than anything else I can come up with.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

An argument against transubstantiation

About 20 or more years ago, Stand to Reason used to have an open discussion forum. One time I had a semi-formal debate with a Catholic guy about transubstantiation. It was semi-formal in the sense that we didn't agree to any format or length restrictions, but we treated it like a debate, and we got an equal number of posts. There were also some other people who chimed in. Anyway, I printed out the discussion before STR deleted the forum, so thankfully I still have a copy of it. I'm just going to post my opening statement arguing against transubstantiation. All the terrible parts can be chalked up to the fact that I wrote this 20 or more years ago. All the good parts can be chalked up to me. :-) It's long, too, so I'm cutting out all the pleasantries and stuff.

I've been looking forward to Matt starting a thread about transubstantiation because I think it's a really interesting subject. The doctrine differs from consubstantiation in that while consubstantiation is the belief that Christ is present in, with, and under the bread and wine, transubstantiation is the belief that the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine and literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus even though it retains the properties of bread and wine such as appearance, texture, and taste. I guess the best thing to compare it to would be petrified wood. Each molecule of wood is replaced one at a time with minerals until there is no wood left--only rock--but it still looks like wood. The interest thing about this doctrine is that if it is true, then every time the priest says his incantation over the Eucharist, a divine miracle takes place. Transubstantiation isn't just something that happens in the spiritual world; it happens in the physical world. There is a miraculous physical change from the constituents of bread and wine into the constituents of human flesh and blood.

It's my belief that there are no good reasons to believe that a divine miracle happens in the physical world when the priest consecrates the Eucharist.

I'm sure we all come to the table with our preconceived ideas. Bias is something we all have to deal with when exegeting the scriptures, and I don't claim to be an exception. I do, however, believe it would be easier to convince a protestant that transubstantiation is true than it would be to convince a Catholic that it's not. The reason for that is because of why protestants and Catholics believe what they do. Protestants believe that scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and that any doctrine or teacher ought to be tested in light of what has already been revealed. In Acts 17:11, the Bereans were commended for searching the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true, and he was foundational to the church. How much more should we test traditions and modern church leaders in light of what has already been revealed! So all one need do to convince a protestant of transubstantiation is reason from the scriptures with him and demonstrate that the scriptures really do teach transubstantiation. Catholics, however, don't believe in transubstantiation because the Bible says it. They believe it because the Catholic Church says the Bible says it. Their understanding of what various passages and themes in the Bible mean is based on the authority of the church to accurately translate it for them. So it's almost impossible to convince a Catholic that transubstantiation is a false doctrine by reasoning from the scriptures with them because for them, it's a matter of authority. In the Catholic's eyes, the protestant simply doesn't have that divinely inspired light to give an infallible interpretation of the scriptures. The protestant is wrong, not because his arguments fail, but because he contradicts what the Catholic Church says, and the Catholic Church is right because they are infallible. So the only way to convince a Catholic that any of his doctrines are wrong is not to reason with them from the scriptures, but to shake their faith in the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Since Catholics understand the scriptures in light of how the Catholic Church interprets them, Catholic apologetics consists of digging up reasons to confirm what they already believe. So it's much easier for Catholics to be guilty of eisegesis than it is for protestants. Of course, there's a downside to that for protestants. Since protestants attempt to exegete the scriptures, and since they are not perfect, denominationalism is inevitable. People are going to read the scriptures and interpret them in different ways--especially where there is ambiguity. Catholics maintain doctrinal unity because they have a central governing body who interprets the scriptures for all Catholics. Catholics are then spoon fed these interpretations. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons maintain unity the same way. They have a governing body who claims exclusive divine authority to interpret the scriptures, and the members are spoon fed. Actually, the unity among Jehovah's Witnesses is much more impressive than it is among Catholics. You can go to a Kingdom Hall anywhere in the world, and they are all exactly the same (except for the language). Most of them are probably having the same lesson on any given Sunday, too. The downside for Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics, though, is that they have to come up with clever ways of changing their views without compromising their authority to correctly interpret the scriptures. Jehovah's Witnesses used to do it by making an analogy of a light getting brighter and brighter. They denied actually changing their views about anything and claimed that their understanding of it simply became more clear. Later, however, they had to start being more honest and apologize for changing their views. The Watchtower Society used to call itself a prophet and God's mouthpiece. In their apology for changing their views, they said they were not inspired prophets (as if there were such a thing as an uninspired prophet who wasn't a false prophet), and they attributed their failed dates to "false expectations" rather than false prophecies. I think Catholics have done a much better job of changing their views without looking like false prophets or something. The way they do it is by reinterpretation of earlier teachings. For example, in the council of Trent, there were lots and lots of anathemas and the Catholic Church taught that if you were not Catholic, you were not saved. They now teach that protestants and even Muslims can be saved. They didn't change that view by overturning Trent, but rather, they changed the view by reinterpreting Trent. Now they say that the anathemas of Trent do not actually mean that only Catholics will be saved. So now you've got interpretations of interpretations. The modern interpreters are interpreting the past interpreters who were interpreting the Bible so they can claim that they've always taught the same thing. It's a clever method for Catholics to use, but it undermines their argument for the need for an infallible interpreter. Ya see, having an infallible interpreter of the Bible doesn't help you if the interpreter himself is subject to interpretation. Who's going to interpret him? I am willing to believe in transubstantiation if Matt or anybody else can give me a convincing argument from the scriptures for it. Will Matt or anybody else be willing to stop believing in transubstantiation if I can give a convincing argument that it is not true? Will reason prevail in our effort to understand the scriptures or will the authority of the Catholic Church prevail? I look forward to you answer.

Transubstantiation causes a dilemma for Catholics. If it turns out to be true, then Catholics violate the scriptures by drinking blood. If it turns out not to be true, Catholics are guilty of idolatry because they worship inanimate objects.

The Old Testament command to abstain from eating blood (Leviticus 3:17) is repeated in the New Testament (Acts 15:29). The fact that Jesus is God does not nullify this command because (1) there is no disclaimer that says, "unless it's God's blood," and (2) Jesus came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3). Jesus took on the nature of a servant, "being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:7). He was incarnated in human flesh and was conceived in the womb of Mary, who was also human, and "as to his human nature [he] was a descendent of David," (Romans 1:3) who was also human. In his flesh, he shared a common ancestor with all humans. He was flesh as much as we are flesh, and his flesh came from the same place as ours did. If it is wrong to eat human flesh or drink human blood, then it is wrong to drink Christ's blood or to eat his flesh.

Because Catholics believe Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist, they actually do worship it. In 1378 of the Catechism, it says, "Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord." Again in 1418, it says, "Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the alter, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration."

If transubstantiation is true, then Catholics are guilty of consuming blood. Or if it is not true, then Catholics are guilty of idolatry.

Belief in transubstantiation is counter intuitive. It's equivalent to claiming that your computer is a Christmas tree. It may look like a computer, smell like a computer, and taste like a computer, but it's really a Christmas tree. The Eucharist retains all of the physical properties of bread and wine. If you look at it under a microscope, you will find that it is still made of wheat and grapes. If the Eucharist really is Jesus, then it would be more accurate to say that Jesus turned into bread and wine than to say bread and wine turned into Jesus. If we don't define things by their properties, then how do we define them? If we start saying a computer is a plant that grows in the forest and has to be cut down and decorated, and a Christmas tree is something with a central processing unit, a keyboard, and a monitor, then words will cease to have any meaning. Bread by any other name is still bread because it has the properties of bread. Bread is something made of wheat, water, and other things. Wine is fermented grape juice. If they retain those properties, then they are still bread and wine. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck. To claim that flesh and blood can have all the properties of bread and wine, and none of the properties of flesh and blood is just counter intuitive.

The context for understanding the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 11 starts at verse 17 and ends with verse 34. The problem was that the Corinthians were treating the Lord's supper like a regular meal. Paul said, "It is not the Lord's supper you eat, for each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody" (vs. 20-21). Paul was using the Lord's supper to promote unity among the Corinthians. He starts off in verse 18 mentioning the divisions, then he explains what he means, then he quotes the oral tradition, then he warns them of the consequences of the way they have been conducting the Lord's supper. Then he closes in verse 33-34 by telling them to do the opposite of what he said they were doing in verse 21. That is the context with which we must understand verse 29. "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself" (v. 29). In another post, Joe gave the correct meaning of the Greek word, but his definition was misleading because he gave an incomplete definition of it. Like most words, the Greek word used in this passage means different things in different contexts. In this context, it means to distinguish. Since the context is making a distinction between the Lord's supper and a regular meal, the context dictates the we understand "diakrinon the body of the Lord," to mean we should make a distinction between eating the Eucharist and eating a regular meal. To argue that recognizing the body of the Lord means realizing that the bread is literally Jesus' flesh begs the question. The question is not whether, "the bread is the body of Christ," for even protestants acknowledge that, because the Bible is explicit that the bread is his body, and the wine is his blood. The question is over whether or not we should take that literally. So taking "diakrinon the body of the Lord," to mean "realize that the bread is Jesus' body," still leaves us with the question of whether or not it is literally his body. The context has everything to do with making a distinction between the Lord's supper and a regular meal. It has to do with eating the Lord's supper with reverence and not in an unworthy manner. More specifically, it has to do with treating each other as equals during the Lord's supper.

If the Bible is explicit that the bread is Jesus' body, and the wine is his blood, then it is also explicit that the bread is bread, and that the wine is wine. In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul writes, "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." Paul is saying the exact opposite of what the Catholic Church says. The doctrine of transubstantiation says that it is no longer bread; it's literally Jesus' flesh. But Paul says it is still bread, so it's obvious that Paul did not take Jesus literally when he said, "This is my body" (v.24). Even Jesus showed that he was not being literal about the bread and wine. In Matthew 26:27-29, it says, "Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." If it literally changed from wine into blood, Jesus would not have called it the fruit of the vine. Clearly he meant it metaphorically. Furthermore, he says that it is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Are we to believe that Jesus actually poured out his blood and atoned for sins before ever going to the cross? Of course not! The broken bread was a symbol for his broken body to be eaten in remembrance of his sacrificial death (1 Cor 11:24-26). The last supper foreshadowed the actual death. In Matthew, Jesus predicts that he himself will drink it with his disciples in his Father's kingdom. Are we to believe that Jesus is going to drink his own blood? Surely not!

When Jesus said, "This is my body," and "this is my blood," he was sitting right there with them in the likeness of sinful flesh. He had not yet received his resurrection body. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that a resurrection body can be in two places at once. The resurrection body is just as physical as the natural body, and physical objects are limited to being at once place at one time because if there was a physical object in two places at the same time, it would be two separate physical objects. Since Jesus was sitting there with his disciples, he could not have been speaking literally when he called the bread his body and the wine his blood.

If John 6 were to be taken as a prediction of Jesus instituting the Lord's supper, you would expect him to fulfill that prediction by instituting it, yet interestingly enough, in the gospel of John, Jesus does not institute the Lord's supper. John's silence on the Lord's supper begs for an explanation if we are to understand chapter 6 as having anything to do with it. The explanation is simple. John 6 has nothing to do with the Lord's supper, and therefore, it does not necessitate a narrative of the Lord's supper. If John 6 did have to do with the Lord's supper, then John would've given us a narrative of the Lord's supper in order to make sense out of John 6.

In John 6, Jesus was using a metaphor that wasn't that uncommon in the ancient world. The shock it evoked had more to do with the fact that it was being applied to a human being and was therefore misunderstood. The metaphor of eating things was more often used of teachings, words, sayings, etc. or simply ordeals. For example, when making an allusion to his passion, Jesus said, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" (John 4:32), and when Peter tried to prevent his arrest, he said, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11). To say that you were eating somebody's words meant that you were taking them into your thoughts, meditating on them, making them part of your life. We have a modern version of it ourselves. when people tell us what wonderful people we are we say we are, "eating it up." Likewise, the Bible tells us that "man doesn't live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deut 8:3, Matt 4:4, Luke 4:4). Jeremiah is even more explicit about it. He says, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty" (Jeremiah 15:16). It is appropriate that Jesus apply the metaphor to himself because John refers to Jesus as the Word of God (John 1:14, Rev 19:13). Instead of saying, "I will raise him from the dead," he says, "I am the resurrection" (John 11:25). It is appropriate, therefore, that instead of saying, "I can give you the bread of life," he says, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), and instead of saying, "eat my words," he says, "eat me" (John 6:51). In the context of John 6, to eat Jesus means to make him our teacher and our master. We are to be his slaves, and we are to live by every word he speaks. He asks us to have undivided loyalty to him because he is the revelation of the Father (John 14:9). To know Jesus is to know the Father (John 8:19). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father (John 12:44-45).

In John 6, Jesus starts off with a soft metaphor and beings to push it. First he says, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life" (v. 27). This begins his "eat me" conversation. If we misunderstand Jesus in the beginning of it, we will misunderstand him at the end. If we understand him at the beginning, then we have a much better chance of understanding him at the end. Now let's think about this for a minute. Jesus contrasted the food he would give them with natural food. Natural food spoils, but the food Jesus gave them would endure to eternal life. If Jesus was talking about the Eucharist, we should expect that the bread, if not eaten, would endure forever. Is that the case? No, it's not. Jesus is using bread in chapter 6 in the same way that he uses water in chapter 4. He used the same kind of language with the Samaritan woman he met at the well. He said, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13). The girl's response makes it obvious that she misunderstood him because she thought that if Jesus gave her that water, she wouldn't have to keep going to that well to get water. Jesus didn't correct her, either. Instead, he changed the subject. It shouldn't surprise us, then, that he was also misunderstood when he started calling himself the bread of life that people should eat. Their response was the same as the woman at the well. They said, "From now on give us this bread" (v. 34). Notice the striking parallels between his bread of life conversation and his conversation with the woman at the well.

Woman: Whoever drinks the water will never thirst (John 4:14).
Others: Whoever comes to Jesus will never go hungry or thirst (John 6:35).

Woman: Give me this water (John 4:15).
Others: Give us this bread (John 6:34).

Woman: Water will give eternal life (John 4:14).
Others: Bread of God gives life to the world (John 6:33)

If this bread is metaphorical, how do we get it? Well in verse 29, it says, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." In the previous verses, Jesus was telling them to work for the bread the lasts forever, which is Jesus himself. So we acquire Jesus, and therefore eternal life, not by eating the eucharist, but by believing in Jesus. John 6 has nothing to do with the eucharist. It has to do with believing in Jesus for eternal life. Jesus reiterates that fact in verse 40 and then again in 47. If John 6 were talking about the Eucharist, then we should believe that our salvation is gained by eating the Eucharist (John 6:54), but it's not. It's gained by believing in Jesus. I just challenge anybody to read John chapter 6 carefully because if you do, you will see that it is about believing in Jesus for eternal life--not about eating the Eucharist for eternal life. The eating part is a metaphor. Jesus is the bread of life, but he's not literally a loaf of bread. Likewise, the bread of the Eucharist is the body of Christ, but it's not literally Jesus' flesh. Think about it. Transubstantiation claims that there is no bread, only Jesus' flesh. But in John 6, Jesus didn't say bread will turn into flesh. He said, "I am the bread." How can he be bread if the bread was turned to flesh? Even if taken literally, Jesus is saying the opposite of what the Catholic Church is saying in John 6. If Catholics want to continue calling the Eucharist bread after it has changed to the body of Christ, then they are just reversing the metaphor. Instead of literal bread and figurative body, they are saying it is literal body and figurative bread.

The fact that Jesus said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), is no more literal than when he said, "I am the light" (John 9:5), or "I am the vine" (John 15:5). Neither one of those is in the context of a parable, so Hal's analogy still works. Saying, "This is my body," is no different than saying, "I am the vine," because in both cases, Jesus is saying what one thing is, the other is. What the bread is, the body is, and what the vine is, Jesus is. The fact that Jesus called himself the true bread and the true drink does not help Matt's case because Jesus also called himself the true vine (John 15:1). All parables contain metaphors, but not all metaphors are parables, so Matt's argument that Jesus is not telling a parable in John 6 doesn't help his case either.

The fact that Jesus didn't correct doesn't help Matt's case either because he didn't correct the woman at the well either. As a matter of fact, Jesus made a point out of cloaking his teachings in parables and metaphors. He admitted that, "I have been speaking figuratively" (John 16:25). He did this because he didn't intend for everybody to understand him. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. . .This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand" (Matthew 13:13). It continues with an explanation of why they don't understand. It says, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them" (v. 15). By not explaining the metaphor to everybody, Jesus was weeding out those who were not devoted to him wholeheartedly. Only those who confessed, "You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69), remained loyal to Jesus. God will continue using the same methods of weeding out the loyal from the fickle. In 2 Thessalonians we find that some will be deceived by counterfeit signs and wonders. It says, "They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12).

Jesus never says anything remotely like, "I mean this literally," in John 6. He repeats himself, which is hardly cause for believing either way, but he never says that he was speaking literally. Instead, he says, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). If anything, Jesus was admitting to speaking figuratively.

Since the web site Joe gave was way too long to respond to, I'll just respond to what he posts. Joe says that the Eucharist held extreme significance for the early church, which I don't dispute at all. But the debate isn't over how important the Eucharist was. The debate is over transubstantiation. Joe also argues that the preservation of scripture would not have occurred had it not been for the Catholic and Orthodox churches. I don't dispute that either, but I don't see what bearing that has on whether or not the Catholic Church has correctly interpreted those scriptures throughout its history. If I had a book written in Chinese, and it was the only copy of it in the world, that wouldn't mean I understood what was written in it.

We hardly know anything at all about Clement of Rome except that he was the Bishop of Rome around 100 CE. Scholars speculate that he may have known Paul because Paul mentioned a Clement in Philippians 4:3 as one of Paul's fellow workers. We have no way to know whether or not it's the same Clement, but it's possible. Philippians was written around 55-56 CE. If Clement was 20 when Paul wrote that letter, he would've been 64 at the turn of the century. 1 Clement, which was written to the Corinthians, is the only authentic letter we have from him, and it was written around 95-100 CE, which is pretty early relatively speaking. 2 Clement was not written by Clement, as practically all scholars agree. Clement of Rome never said anything about the Eucharist, so I don't know why Joe envoked him as an authority on it.

The first quote Joe gave from Augustine merely says the the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. To use this as an argument for transubstantiation begs the question because the issue is whether or not such terminology ought to be taken literally or figuratively.

I don't see how the second quote is even relevant. The third quote might be used in support of the Mass, but I don't see how it supports transubstantiation.

In the third quote, Augustine seems to refute Joe. Augustine says the sacrament is a sign for the invisible sacrifice, and that the daily sacrifice of the church is the sign for Jesus offering himself as the sacrifice. Augustine is making a direct allusion to Hebrews 9:11-14 where it says Jesus offered himself in the Most Holy Place once for all. I don't see what it has to do with transubstantiation.

Not all of the early church leaders believed in transubstantiation. Clement of Alexandria wrote that, "Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when he said, 'Eat my flesh and drink my blood,' describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith." (c. 195)

Tertullian didn't appear to take John 6 as a reference to transubstantiation. He wrote, "They thought his discourse was harsh and intolerable, for they thought that he had really and literally directed them to eat his flesh. . .His word is spirit and life. So he likewise called his flesh by the same description. Since the word has become flesh, we should desire him in order that we may have life. We should devour him with the ear and feed on him with our understanding. We should digest him by faith." (c. 210)

Lactantius wrote, "The bread signifies his body. For he himself is the food and the life of all who believe in the flesh that he bore." (c. 304-313).

Studying the writings of the early church is useful for finding out what people believed, but they were not infallible, and they diverge quite a bit on a lot of issues. I meant to discuss early church fathers a little more, but I've been writing this post for a long time, and I'm kind of tired now.

For further reading:

"Catholic vs. protestant interpretation of John 6"