Anne Askew and Transubstantiation

On this day, June 18th, 1546, Anne Askew was convicted of heresy after being tortured for her outspoken beliefs on the false doctrine of transubstantiation.  She is one of only two women who have been tortured in the Tower of London and then burned at the stake.  On, July 16, 1546 Anne Askew was martyred for her Baptist faith in Smithfield, London.  She had refused to recant her witness under extreme torture of the rack.  This torture has so disfigured her body that she had to be transported to the stake via a wheel chair. 

Transubstantiation is the belief that during the communion of the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine actually become the spiritual blood and body of Christ.  This teaching has no doctrinal proof found in scripture.  In scripture at what we call “the Last Supper”, which took place on the Jewish Passover, Jesus instituted the “Lord’s Supper” as a memorial service that is to remind us that sin causes death, and he sacrificed himself to pay the debt of sin for us.  His death is what brings us life.  His body was broken and his blood spilled out on our behalf.  Jesus calls this process exchanging his death for ours, the New Covenant. (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; John 13:1-7) It is his blood that the New Testament is written in.  His blood was shed for the remission of sins. The wine is to remind us of this blood that he poured out for us.  In Luke 22:19, Jesus himself says, “Do this in remembrance of me”.  Clearly this is meant as a symbolic ceremony to ensure that we do not forget that the Son of God himself gave his life for ours.  Much like we put flowers of a grave to remember a loved one who has passed.  The flowers do not become the loved one, nor do they become the center of affection. 

I know that this is hard for some believers to accept.  So let’s take a look at what Paul writes when he spoke to the Corinthians.  For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) 

You see the Corinthians had a misunderstanding of what the “Lords Supper” was also.  This came from their pagan beliefs. They were mixing pagan rituals into the ordinances of the church. Paul addresses these by clarifying the purpose of the ceremony.  First, the apostle says that he is passing on to then exactly what he was received directly from the Lord.  In these few sentences Paul says that this ceremony is for a “remembrance”, just like Jesus did.  The purpose “remembrance of me (Jesus)”… “to show the Lord’s death until he returns”. 

We do not conjure up the Lord, as if any man could conjure the living God, and then force him to be re-sacrificed on our behalf.  The epistle to the Romans say, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.  For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” (Romans 6:9-10) Something very important is revealed in this passage.  Sin is payed for.  Since Jesus died for sin, and then rose from the dead, sin has no hold on him, or those who believe on him.  He lives to God.  We who believe in him, so likewise, live unto him (Jesus Christ) and so then to God.  We are alive already, in Christ.  Sin no longer has the ability to hold us under the bondage of death.  This is why we do not need to fear death.  This is why Anne Askew did not need to fear death.  Taking of the communion does not wipe away our sins each time we partake of it.  Instead it is a reminder that our sins have already been wiped away, once and for all times.  “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). 

Our problem is that we are still in this corruptible flesh.  Because we are in this flesh, we do not see the spiritual realm around us.  We cannot see the glorified Christ yet.  We need to be reminded of our hope.  When we forget God and his grace, we tend to walk away from him.  This has been demonstrated in the history of Israel.  It has likely been demonstrated in your own life history also.  God knows this and in his love, he instituted this memorial service, not just to remind us that he died, but that he arose and is returning!  “Ye do show the Lord’s death till he come”; what an excellent reminder to us to not give up the hope that we have inside.  We then can endure the horrible tortures of the rack like Mrs. Askew, if we, like her, keep the knowledge that Jesus lives, and he is returning for us. 

8 thoughts on “Anne Askew and Transubstantiation”

  1. The Corinthians were basically gluttonizing communion. Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist involves re-sacrificing Christ, but that His one single sacrifice is being re-presented. In other words, the doctrine is that God, being above time, makes Our Lord’s single sacrifice on Cavalry present at every Mass. Thus, they believe it is a memorial as well, but not a symbolic or empty memorial. I wouldn’t say so much that the doctrine says the bread and wine become the spiritual Body and Blood of Our Lord, as sacramentally the literal Body and Blood.
    It’s an interesting story about this Mrs. Askew. How was she martyred for her Baptist faith? Did Baptists believe in the Catholic doctrine about the Eucharist at the time?

    1. I understand the line you are drawing with the transubstantiation. I do not see that in scripture. I do see where Paul tells us that Christ cannot be sacrificed again for sin. If he were to be re-presented, then that would be that he was again re-crucified for sin. However, we do know that Christ did die once for all sin. So there would be no need to be re-presented. I also would say that not all Catholics believe in the distinction you are making. According to the Archdioceses in this article they believe the bread and wine so indeed become the body and blood of Christ. (https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/transubstantiation-for-beginnershttps://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/transubstantiation-for-beginners). Baptists has never believed in the transubstantiation, and have been martyred throughout history for this particular belief, or lack of it. We believe the communion is totally a memorial to remind us of the sacrifice for sin, and the atonement made by Jesus. Thanks for your comments. The real bottom line, is believing on Jesus as the Son of God, as Paul puts it, I know only Christ crucified. Peace and Grace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      1. I see what you mean, but that is not what I meant. I do believe that it becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, but my point was that the same sacrifice on Cavalry is being presented again, not that Our Lord is being crucified again, since Our Lord is above time and can make His sacrifice be in more than one time and place at once. Catholics take the second half of the Bread-of-Life Discourse literally.

  2. I am truly enjoying your comments. I appreciate your faith and openness. I know that neither one of us will convince the other, but it is good to express faith. I take comfort in knowing that the Lord has given you such a heart and ability in apologetic conversation, candor, and tact.
    I do not want to assume we are talking of the same scripture. Here is what I believe you are speaking of from John 6:48-51 “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Here Jesus is drawing a contrast and comparison to when the Hebrews were being sustained by God sending the bread from heaven. Jesus is saying that the bread they are perished, as did those who ate it. But Jesus offers life eternal. This is just after he fed the multitude with the 5 loves and two fish. At this time Jesus was called a prophet because of his miracles. Then Jesus walked across the sea to meat his disciples. When the crowds catch up with Jesus he is asked where did he come from? They are seeking a sign that he is from sent from God. Jesus tells them God gave the manna to Moses, but he is giving the actual source of life to men now in Jesus. As John says, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) John further tells us that all things were created by Jesus. Therefore the one who formed us and breathed life into us is Jesus. Man became a living soul. Just as physical bread sustains our life, even so Jesus is our source of life in truth. There is no life, and no salvation outside of Jesus Christ. In John 6 when Jesus refers to himself as being the bread which came down from heaven, it is because he is calling himself God. He then talks about his death and resurrection. So this bread, this faith, is what saves. See the Jews were in error in thinking though, they said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They thought Jesus was calling them to cannibalism and literal drinking of blood. Jesus reiterates that they must eat and drink of him, to say he is the source of life. Not their religion, not their priests, not their sacraments, but Jesus alone. But here is the bottom line. As long as one is not believing that they need to drink the blood and eat the body of Christ for forgiveness of sins than it is not worth the division. The death of Christ atones for our sin, and the resurrection testifies to our new life in the New Covenant signed with his blood. (Romans 6:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 15:21;1 Peter 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; John 11:25-26) It is clear that you are very learned in your belief and I respect that. May the God of Peace keep you.

    1. Thank you. I respect your own learnedness. Many Catholics are poorly catechized. That is what I meant by the Bread-of-Life Discourse, although I meant until the end of the chapter. Christ’s words were often misinterpreted by His listeners. However, I would think their words “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” would have been a perfect time to explain that it was symbolic, as He did when they misunderstood “Beware the leaven of the pharisees.” Notice what he says next: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven: not as the fathers did eat, and died: he that eateth this bread shall live for ever.” At least it seems to me like this is further insistence that His flesh must be eaten.
      They object again and Our Lord says: “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” The first part Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? seems to further insist. The listeners, of course, think it is an introduction to cannibalism. Here he says “it is the spirit that gives life. The flesh is of no avail.” Notice He says “the flesh” rather than “My flesh”. Obviously, “the Word became Flesh” is a cause of joy and He saved mankind through His flesh. They think it is just his dead body He wants them to eat and profane, rather than living body, blood, soul, and divinity, as Catholics believe. This is also the only place in the gospels where the disciples leave Our Lord for a doctrinal reason, I believe. But even when He went to the apostles, to whom it had been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom, He did not say that it was a metaphor, as he did in the business about the “leaven of the pharisees”. Here all He says is “Do you also wish to go away?” And all Peter says in reply is “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I actually wrote an article on this on my blog where I went into more detail recently. Feel free to look into that if you are interested.

      1. I think we see similar in that Jesus is saying that as the mana (bread) came from heaven, so does he. The mana (bread) gave the Hebrews life, so Christ, the true bread of life, gives life to the world. This is the truth. The physical bread can only give life to the physical man. The heavenly bread (Christ) gives true life (spiritual) to a man. This bread when eaten (taken in, believed and acted upon) brings eternal life (never to hunger). Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. Jesus said, “those who believe on me shall never thirst.” This is a spiritual matter. I think we both agree on this. I also see that we agree that whether we call it a memorial or a re-presentation, that would be the same thing. We are observing something that has already been accomplished in salvation. Here is where we seem to differ. The bread and wine do not become flesh and blood. When consumed it is still quite physically bread and wine. Spiritually there is no need for it to become blood and wine, because that sacrifice has already been made. The requirement for the Law has already been fulfilled in the blood sacrifice. In participating in Communion or the Lord’s Supper we are acknowledging that this atonement was made on our behalf by Jesus Christ. What I failed to proper explain earlier when talking about the Jews and the Pharisees was that they were looking for the needs of their flesh. Jesus was pointing them to something deeper. Like the vines and the root. Jesus is the root and we must be in him to live, or else we die. This is the same as the taking up of the cross. There is a change in life that occurs with true faith. This faith is in Jesus Christ as our only way to life. Then we must partake of his sacrifice to have this eternal life. We are expected to die to our flesh (ourselves) as a result. Some of us will even have to die for our faith. If we do not accept his coming down from heaven and nor do we believe in his death and blood being poured out for us, then we are not partaking in his sacrifice. We literally take part in this by our faith. We are, as Paul puts it, crucified with Christ in this manor. I will take a look at your paper. Peace and grace my brother in Christ.

  3. More specifically, Catholics believe that Jesus is eternally a priest, and a priest’s very nature is to offer sacrifice. In the case of Christ, the eternal sacrifice that he offers is himself. In Revelation 5:6, Christ is presented as “standing, as though it had been slain”. Catholics generally view that to mean that He appears in heaven in the state of a victim not because he still needs to suffer but because for all eternity he re-presents himself to God appealing to the work of the cross, interceding for us (Rom 8:34), and bringing the graces of Calvary to us. The Mass is a participation in this one heavenly offering. The risen Christ becomes present on the altar and offers himself to God as a living sacrifice. Like the Mass, Christ words at the Last Supper are words of sacrifice, “This is my body . . . this is my blood . . . given up for you.” So, the Mass is not repeating the murder of Jesus, but is taking part in what never ends—that being the offering of Christ to the Father for our sake. If Calvary was not sufficient, then the Mass wouldn’t help. It is precisely because the death of Christ was sufficient that the Mass is celebrated. So, it’s not exactly the same as re-sacrificing Him. I know this sounds weird, but I assume we both believe in an non-composite God who is three People, one of whom became man while remaining one with the Father.

    1. You made the statement, “the Mass wouldn’t help”. Could you clarify what the Mass is helping with regards to the transubstantiation. (the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine still remaining). The Celebration of the Christian Mystery in the Catechism of the Catholic Church ref 1436 Eucharist and Penance. “Daily conversion and penance find source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “it is a remedy to free us from out daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.” This would seem to say that the bread and water converted into the body and blood of Christ and taken by the believer is a remedy for daily sins, even mortal sin. This would make it a sacrifice, not a representation of a sacrifice already made.

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