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… 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. (Council of Jerusalem +1672, Decree 17)

That the Bible speaks of “transubstantiation” actually isn’t difficult to prove at all, when we simply consider what the word means. At its core, all it means for God to transubstantiate something is for Him to take the nature or substance of that thing, and replace it with a different nature or substance. The first time we see this happen is in Exodus 7:17 when God promised, “I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood.” When commenting on this passage in the 1st century, Philo of Alexandria described the water changing to blood as “transelementation” (μεταστοιχειοῦσι). Likewise, the 5th century St. Leontius of Jerusalem actually used the word “transubstantiation” (μετουσίωσιν) to describe this miracle. Whichever word you prefer, the point is clearly the same: by a divine miracle, God changed the element or substance of water into the element or substance of blood. Thus, the Bible teaches transubstantiation!

Okay, maybe you’re not convinced. So what if God performed the miracle of transubstantiation in His first plague against the Egyptians, what does this have to do with the “medieval doctrine” concerning the Eucharistic transformation? Well, consider the context of the ten plagues, and how the NT makes use of it. In Exodus 3:12-17, God revealed His name, “I am who I am,” to Moses, and called him to make this name “known” to all the earth through a series of “signs,” i.e. the ten plagues (cf. Ex. 7:3-5, 9:16). This revelation of the name then culminated in Exodus 34:5-7, when the name of God was fully manifested in a vision of divine glory. This is important because, as Seraphim Hamilton documents, St. John draws on all of this imagery in his Gospel. 

John’s prologue opens by telling us that Jesus has come to make the “glory” of the Father “known” to the world; and in order to present this, John structures Jesus’ ministry such that He identifies Himself with the divine name, “I am,” seven times (Jn. 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 8:28, 8:58, 13:19, 18:5-7), describes Himself with seven “I am the” statements (Jn. 6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 11:25, 10:11, 14:6, 15:1), and performs seven “signs” that “manifest His glory” (Jn. 2:1-11, 4:46-54, 5:1-15, 6:5-14, 6:16-24, 9:1-7, 11:1-45). This shows that the seven “signs” Jesus performed to manifest His name/glory in John’s Gospel, correspond to the ten “signs” Moses performed to manifest God’s name/glory in the book of Exodus (note the implication of Jesus’ divinity). 

With this in mind, consider the first of these signs in both cases. For Moses, it was the transformation of water into blood, and for Jesus, it was the transformation of water into wine at the Wedding of Cana. This tells us that Jesus’ miracle of changing water into wine is intentionally trying to remind us of God’s miracle of transubstantiating water into blood during the Exodus. As I’ve shown at length before, this connection between blood and wine goes all the way back to Genesis 49:11, and it’s brought to its fullest culmination at “the supper,” when Jesus brings out wine and alludes to Exodus 24:8, “this is my blood of the new covenant” (Matt. 26:28). The progression of miracles thus goes like this: water was changed into blood as the first sign of Moses’ ministry; water was changed into wine as the first sign of Jesus’ ministry; and now wine is changed into blood as the perpetual sign of Jesus’ on-going ministry.

This association between the miracle at the Wedding of Cana (and thus also the miracle at the river Nile) and the miracle at the Last Supper is further confirmed by the chiasm that exists between John and Revelation. In this chiasm, the Wedding at Cana corresponds to Revelation 21, which describes the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. Specifically, Revelation 19:9 informs us that this is the “δεῖπνον γάμου,” literally, the “wedding supper,” of the Lamb; and in the entire Johannine corpus, the only other usage of the term “wedding” is in John 2 to describe the Wedding at Cana, so we can be very confident that these two events are intentionally tied together. That this Wedding Supper of the Lamb is to be identified with the Lord’s Supper can be surmised from the fact that, with one exception, John exclusively uses the word “supper” (δείπνου) to refer to the Last Supper (Jn. 13:2, 4, 21:30), and the word is only used twice in Revelation, both of which refer to this eschatological banquet (Rev. 19:9, 17). 

To state my point directly, this is all important because, if Scripture wants us to see an association between the miracles that happen(ed) at the river Nile, the Wedding of Cana, and the Lord’s Supper, we should really think about why they’re all grouped together. What do they all have in common? If the first two miracles are similar because they both involved some kind of elemental or substantial change, then wouldn’t this suggest that the third miracle, the Eucharist, also involves some kind of transubstantiation? I think it does, especially in light of another astounding parallel that exists between the Lord’s Supper and the Wedding of Cana.

I’ve explained before how John 1-2 follows out the creation week. John 1:1 opens with a quotation of Genesis 1:1, “in the beginning,” and then counts out seven days. The first day is the witness of St. John the Baptist to the Pharisees (Jn. 1:19), then we’re told about day two (Jn. 1:29), day three (Jn. 1:35), and day four (Jn. 1:43), until the Wedding of Cana takes place “on the third day” (Jn. 2:1), i.e. three days after day four, which would be the seventh day. Importantly, the sixth day of creation was the day on which Adam and the Woman got married (Gen. 2:23-25), and the seventh was the day of their wedding banquet. God was walking in the garden “in the Spirit of the day” (Gen. 3:8), i.e. on the Sabbath day of judgment, to meet Adam and the Woman for a meal at the Tree of Life, however He found something very different. Instead of having a marriage feast with God, Adam and the Woman ate at the table of the Serpent, and were cursed to die (Gen. 3:6-7, 16-17). This is what was symbolically reversed at the Wedding of Cana.

In John 2:1-5, we’re told about a new Man and a new Woman who are at a marriage feast on a new seventh day. This time, instead of tempting the Man to sin with a fruit, the Woman entreats the Man to do good by miraculously bringing forth the fruit of the vine. The Man obliges, and later on the wedding master addresses the bridegroom and thanks him for providing “the good wine” (Jn. 2:9-10). However, we know it wasn’t the earthly bridegroom who did this, rather it was Jesus who provided the wine, thus showing Him to be the true bridegroom, the true Adam. Instead of feasting at the table of demons and dying, Jesus’ first miracle was a prefigurement of the new table He would set, at which men could feast and never die. This is why the disciples first celebrated the Eucharist “on the third day” (Lk. 24:21), the same day as the Wedding of Cana (Jn. 2:21), and recall what happened there. Whereas eating the forbidden fruit “opened” the “eyes” of Adam and the Woman to see their sin (Gen. 3:7), eating of the Eucharist “opened” the “eyes” of the disciples to see the risen Lord Jesus (Lk. 24:30-31). The fruit, who is Jesus (Lk. 1:42), no longer leads to death, but rather eternal life: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:54). Once again, the miracle performed at Cana was merely a symbol of what Jesus would do at His Supper, which is the true reversal of Adam’s sin. 

Circling back to this article’s thesis, consider the implications of Jesus Himself being the fruit of the tree of life. This means that the great wedding banquet that God always intended to share with His people was and is the true body and true blood of His Son. If Adam had not sinned, this is what he would have eaten with his bride at the tree of life. That which he would have bitten into, that which we presently bite into at the Eucharist, and that which we will forever bite into at the Lamb’s Wedding Supper, is not a mere symbol of the Son’s flesh and blood, it’s not the instrument through which His flesh and blood are communicated to us, rather the very fruit we bite into is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is why the Lord’s Supper is consistently symbolized by miracles of substantial transformation, like those at the river Nile and Cana. Because, by the word of God, the bread and wine are truly changed into our Lord’s body and blood. I genuinely believe that anyone who denies that the Eucharist undergoes a substantial change must ask themselves this question: if Jesus performed the miracle of transubstantiation as a mere symbol of what He would do at the Last Supper, why would the Supper itself be anything less? 

Now, I realize that this raises an obvious question. Why did the miracles at the Nile and Cana involve a change of both substance and accidents (i.e. the water actually looked, felt, and tasted like blood/wine), whereas the Eucharist is only a change of substance? I certainly think there’s a discussion to be had here, and perhaps this is where the Lutherans could come in to advocate for their doctrine of consubstantiation. However, all I’m trying to do in this article is point out what the Scriptures teach about the miracle that occurs at the Eucharist. Scripture itself uses these miracles of substantial change as symbols and prefigurements of the Lord’s Supper, and so I believe it’s very reasonable to conclude that the Supper is also a miracle of transubstantiation. Later patristic writers such as Ss. Cyril of Jerusalem and Ambrose of Milan made this connection as well, and used it to uphold a Eucharistic doctrine that was much more “substantially objective” than the Reformed would be comfortable with. 

This is why I’m perfectly fine with saying that all biblical references to the Eucharist as “bread” (e.g. Acts 2:46) should be understood in the same way as the two “men” at Jesus’ tomb (Acts 1:10). We know from John 20:12 that these “men” were not actually men, but rather angels, which tells us that Luke’s description of these angels was only with respect to their appearance, not their actual being. So too, in light of the Eucharistic theology discussed above, I don’t see why the Lord’s Supper being described as “the breaking of bread” can’t just be a description of this ritual’s appearance, and not a statement about what’s actually taking place there. At the very least, I believe that this thesis should shift the burden of proof onto the “non-substantialists,” i.e. everyone other than Orthodox, RCs, and Lutherans, to prove why we shouldn’t take Jesus at His word: “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn. 6:55).