Is the Eucharistology of the Anglican Reformation Patristic? – Part 1

I of III: Fathers vs. Reformers

The Challenge

“Show that Hooker and Jewell and Ussher don’t know what they’re talking about. Until that happens, it is hard to take seriously these arguments that one cannot hold both “the faith” of the Fathers and of the Reformers.”

Thus Mr. Ramsey threw down a gauntlet back in September of 2019, which I gladly now pick up, as it concerns the true and orthodox doctrine of the Holy Eucharist.

Ramsey was asserting, against my earlier contention, that the Reformation Anglican Divines (Jewell, et al) held substantially [pun not intended] the same eucharistology as the Fathers of the early Church (c.100-600), and that I was creating a needless and false dichotomy between them. I do not believe that those great Reformation luminaries named above “don’t know what they’re talking about,” but I do believe, and will here demonstrate, that when it comes to the Eucharist they speak otherwise than the Fathers of the Church.

Now, to be sure, they did not think they differed from the Fathers. Indeed, Reformers of most every stripe believed that they were honest tradents of the patristic faith, lately corrupted by the Church of Rome. Just like Luther and Calvin on the continent,[1] Cranmer and Jewell et al. claimed, over and against their Roman Catholic interlocuters (Gardiner, Harding, etc. Who themselves made the exact same claim), that their doctrine was the faith of Chrysostom and Augustine, etc.[2] Manifestly then, asserting that the Fathers are on “your side” does not make it so.[3]

Nevertheless, Jewel thought (and Ramsey continues in this vein) that his claim was unassailable, as he said in his famous challenge sermon of 1559, he was sure that there was not “any one example of the primitive church, whereby it may be clearly and plainly proved that…for the space of six hundred years after Christ…that the people was [sic] then taught to believe that Christ’s Body is really, substantially…in the sacrament.”[4] I shall attempt to satisfy both Bishop Jewel’s and Mr. Ramsey’s challenge.

A Working Distinction

Provisionally, let it be conceded — as I shall in the next two essays demonstrate — that when it comes to a doctrine of the Eucharist, there is a small but real difference between the following two bodies of doctrine:

(A) Doctrine that Anglican formularies are patient of,


(B) Doctrine that was held by many (though not all) individual Anglican Theologians in the era when Anglican theology was being hammered out (1559-1662), such as are named above (Hooker, Jewell, etc).

I shall refer to (A) simply as “the Formularies” and, for ease-of-reading, shall refer to (B) as “the Jewel School” as a short-hand way of referring to authors who self-consciously aligned their eucharistic theology with Reformed doctrine.

So as not to bury the lede of this triptych of essays, my arch-thesis is that the Formularies are patient of what the Jewel School specifically and intentionally rejects: A realist doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, which I shall show is the actual teaching of the Fathers.

I assume as a point of fact that the Jewel School was self-consciously Reformed,[5] utilizing identical language as that of Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer, etc. as well as the Reformed Confessions. As Quantin put it of Jewel himself, “There is however no indication that Jewel considered the position of the Church of England to be different from that of the continental Reformed Churches.” [6] It must also be recognized that the majority of Anglican theologians from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century belonged to this school. Cranmer, is unquestionably one of them, as is Hooker, though he is less pugalistic. Laud seems to acquiesce into it, Taylor certainly is in, Cosin’s later writings certainly qualify him, as well as many others.[7] I place them under the name of Jewel because it was Jewel who clarified the Reformed-Anglican view of the sacraments, and argued it with a systematic depth and engagement with the Fathers on which all later treatises (like Hooker’s Laws, or Cosin’s History of Popish Transubstantiation, etc) would build.

But the Jewel School was not the only school in town. At least five names from the same period clearly distinguish themselves as teaching otherwise than Jewel and in a patristic direction: Bishop Gheast (1514-1577, Salisbury), Bishop Andrewes (1555-1626, Winchester), Bishop Overall (1559-1619, Norwich), Adrien Saravia (1532-1612), and Herbert Thorndike (1598-1672). These figures will be significant in later essays.

The Argument

I shall seek to demonstrate:

First, in this essay:

That the Jewel School, while claiming to have the Church Fathers on their side, does not actually harmonize with patristic thought, as evidenced by (I) Their Denial of things that the Fathers affirm, and (II) Patristic teaching that is stronger than their own. Some of the disharmony can be accounted for by the fact that patristic study was in its infancy in the 16th century, as W.P. Haaugaard demonstrated exhaustively.[8] Cranmer relied on a Catena compiled by Peter Martyr Vermigli in 1549, which itself contained citations that would be favorable to Vermigli’s agenda,[9] selected from a patristic corpus much smaller than is now recognized. While Jewel would investigate patristic evidence more widely than Vermigli’s catena, in the absence of critical editions or accurate authorial identifications, he would still mistake spurious writings for genuine (e.g. when he quotes “Chrysostom against Chrysostom”) in defense of his own particular non-realist eucharistic thesis.

Second, in the subsequent two essays:

That while the Formularies are suggestive of Reformed doctrine, they are patient of Lutheran doctrine, which, at the time, is sufficiently synonymous with patristic doctrine, and — at the very least — the Formularies do not deny it. Therefore, one can remain fully submissive to the Fathers as an Anglican, even while disagreeing with the eucharistology of the Jewel school.

Those who claim the Jewel school to be definitive frequently seek to dismiss the real weight of the strong and pious doctrinal statements of the Fathers by appealing to a common maxim of the Reformed school (purportedly based on Augustine’s meaning) that “The signs are called by the names of the thing signified”, as if this somehow waives away the Reality with which the Fathers spoke of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I leave it to you, dear Reader, to examine the following quotations, and to determine for yourself the answer to the question: “Did the Fathers believe that Christ’s body was in, with, and under, the form of bread and wine, once consecrated?” or, phrased more simply, “Did the Fathers believe the bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ in some real (objective, mind-independent) way?”

It should go without saying that all Reformed doctrines of the Eucharist (to be carefully distinguished from Lutheran doctrine) unequivocally reject the notion of a Real Presence under the form of bread and wine. All Reformed doctrine — even that of the highest kind: The “symbolic instrumentalism” of Calvin — agrees: The presence of Christ is not to be looked for “in” the elements of bread and wine, but in the soul of the faithful recipient of Holy Communion, having been imparted by the power of the Spirit, that communicates from on high. Therefore, Hooker, Jewel et al. insist that the Fathers do not actually teach what an earnest and comprehensive reading so readily reveals them as teaching.

I say ‘earnest and comprehensive’ because the earnest, simple interpretation of the strong realist doctrine of the Fathers is hermeneutically made apparent when we attend to the many statements here and there that can only be understood when a realist view is assumed, and therefore urge ambiguous statements to be interpreted as harmonious. These unarguably realist statements can be then juxtaposed with contrary statements by the Jewel school, and the distinction between their doctrines is readily apparent.

  1. Discrepancies between the Fathers and the Jewel School (I): The Jewel school denies things that the Fathers affirm [10]

Jewel: “The body of Christ is not eaten with the bodily mouth”[11]

Fathers: “Those mouths sanctified by heavenly food, after the Body and Blood of the Lord, loathed the profane contagion [of idol feasts]…A violence is offered to His Body and Blood, and they sin more now against the Lord with hand and mouth, than when they were denying him.” (St. Cyprian, On the Lapsed, 2, 11)

“Abstain from all uncleanness, and then receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and carefully guard thy mouth, through which the King hath entered.” (St. James of Nisibis, Sermon 3)

“How in such hands wilt thou receive the all-holy Body of the Lord? How wilt thou bear to thy mouth the Precious Blood?” (St. Ambrose, apud. Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 50, 5)

“For on this account it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, namely, that for the honour of so great a Sacrament, the Lord’s Body should enter the mouth of a Christian previously to other food.” (St. Augustine, Letter 54, 8)

“The Divine Word owneth the spiritual Food. The Word Himself saith that He is bread. ‘I am the Bread of life Who came down from heaven’ He saith also, ‘He that eateth my flesh hath life in himself.’ Eating Him, then, we burst forth into a hymn.” (St. Athanasius, Commentary on Psalm 119)


Jewel: “The very body of Christ is not in the Holy vessels, but the sacrament of that body is therein contained”[12]

Fathers: “Nought richer than he who carries the Body of the Lord in a wicker basket, His blood in a glass.” (St. Jerome, Epistle 125, 20)

“That Bread, which ye see on the Altar, sanctified by the Word of God, is the Body of Christ. That Cup, rather, what the Cup holds, sanctified by the Word of God, is the Blood of Christ.” (St. Augustine, Sermon 227, on Easter Day, 4)

“But the soldiers, of whom some, as we knew, were unbaptized, entered the place where the holy gifts were reserved, and saw all things that were within; and, as might easily happen in such a tumult, the most holy blood of Christ was spilt on the garments of these soldiers” (St. John Chrysostom, Letter to Innocent, I)


Cranmer: “The miraculous working is not in the bread, but in them that duly eat the bread”[13] “Figuratively Christ is in the bread and wine…but really, carnally, and corporally, he is only in heaven.”[14]

Fathers: “What lieth there [on the Altar] is no work of human power. He who then did all things at the feast, He now also worketh there. We [bishops] have the rank of servants; He who sanctifieth them and transformeth them, is Himself.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 82 in Matthew)

“So often as we receive the Sacraments, which, by the mystery of the sacred prayer, are transfigured into Body and Blood, we show forth the Death of the Lord.” (St. Ambrose, On the Faith, 4)

“Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these gifts lying here, and make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup, the Blood of Thy Christ, changing by Thy Holy Spirit.” (The oldest form of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

“I hear they [some trouble makers in a neighboring diocese] say that the sacramental consecration does not avail for hallowing if a portion of it be kept for another day. In saying so they are mad. For Christ is not altered nor will His holy body be changed; but the power of the consecration and the life-giving grace are permanent in it.” (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letter to Calosyrius)

“In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the body of Christ, saying over it, “Amen.” So then, after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the holy body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23)


Who, reading these quotes side by side, could still maintain that the Fathers and the Jewel school were of one mind?

Discrepancies between the Fathers and the Jewel School (II):
Patristic teaching that is stronger than their own.

The language of the Fathers concerning the Holy Eucharist is so potent, and comes so early, and with such clarity, that the positive force of it is impossible to ignore. It is hard to imagine the Reformers, apart from controversy, speaking with such strength.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing around a.d. 105 would argue against the heretics from the assumed orthodox understanding of the Eucharist,

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2…7:1)

St. Irenaeus, writing in the late 2nd century, would continue in this tradition, of refuting heretics from the verity of Christ’s Body in the Eucharist,

“Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.” (Against Heresies, IV.18.5)

And later,

“When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?— even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones — that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body. And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a grain of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time.” (Against Heresies,V.2.3)

St. Irenaeus understands the consecrated bread and wine to so truly be the real body of Christ that it imparts vivifying life into our bodies as well as our souls. Where is such realist teaching to be found among the Jewel School?

And not just against the heretics, but as an in-house pastoral concern, who among the Jewel school would feel the weight of the necessity of a death-bed Communion the way the canons of Nicea enjoin it?

“Concerning those who are departing from this life, the old and regular law shall still as heretofore be observed, so that if any is departing he shall not be deprived of the last and most necessary Viaticum.” (Council of Nicea, Canon XIII)

While I intend for these early witnesses to show how deep in the Tradition a view of the Eucharist higher than that of the Jewel-school goes, it might be objected that these were intemperate over-statements, corrected by later more careful fathers. Indeed, St. Augustine is often brought out by the Jewel-school as being on “their” side, due chiefly to some of his explanations in his Tractate 26 on John. However we might understand Augustine’s meaning there, it is well worth taking note of what else Augustine teaches on the Eucharist, a teaching which is evidently “higher” than the Jewel-school, in perfect harmony with the witnesses that came before him. A fact that the Reformed who claim Augustine often overlook:

“Christ was carried in his own hands, when commending his own body, he said, ‘This is my Body.’ For that Body he carried in his own hands. That cup, rather, what the cup holds, sanctified by the Word of God, is the Blood of Christ.” (Sermon 1 on Psalm 33[34])

“That bread which ye see on the Altar, sanctified by the Word of God, is the Body of Christ.” (Sermon 227, On the Day of Easter)

Where are comparable statements — not comparable in piety or devout intent, because doubtless those exist — but comparable in terms of assumed dogma, among the Jewel-school? They do not exist.

A careful reading of the hundreds of like pages adduced by Pusey (Contrary to Ramsey, who I can only assume didn’t actually read all of them) make the same point: The Fathers taught that the Real Body and Blood of Christ Jesus are Really and Objectively present under the form of Bread and Wine, following upon consecration. In short, that the “Real Presence” of Christ is annexed to the consecrated elements themselves.

This is patently not the teaching of the Jewel School.

Thankfully, the very careful wording of our Anglican formularies do not bind Anglicans to believe the same doctrine as the Jewel School, but in fact leave plenty of space to hold the Faith of the Fathers, as I shall explore in Parts II and III of this essay.

  1. Although, the insistence on patristic support has a depth and longevity in the English Reformation that exceeds the case on the continent. “Both Lutheran and Reformed apologetics appealed to a purer age of the early centuries, but English reforming rhetoric pressed historical precedent with a singular intensity.” (Hauugard, William P. “Renaissance Patristic Scholarship and Theolgy in Sixteenth-Century England” in The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Autumn, 1979), 51)
  2. Between the two of them, Augustine and Chrysostom make up almost half of the patristic corpus, as it was reckoned in the mid to late 16th century in England. (Haaugard, 43,47)
  3. It is a counsel of despair to suppose that, because of this fact, there must be no “patristic consensus” on matters of doctrine. While the Fathers certainly have a complexity and range to them, common patterns nevertheless emerge, and, at the very least, there has been a functioning consensus patrum since as early as the Council of Nicea, when the delegates were each asked what the Faith was that they had received, when it came to the divinity of Jesus. Bishops and Scholars ever since patristic times have likewise discerned and utilized the evidence of a consensus patrum, with more or less polemic and subtlety in individual cases.
  4. The full quote goes on, “substantially, corporally, carnally, or naturally, in the sacrament”, but this is a conflation of Jewel’s that catholic apologists have always objected against. “Substantially” and “carnally, naturally” are not synonyms. On the contrary, the best of Roman Catholic interlocuters (e.g. Bellarmine) would very specifically reject a “carnal, natural” presence, while full-throatedly endorsing a “real and substantial” presence. Jewel understands the presence as “spiritual”, but specifically not real (mind-independent). In the passage quoted by Mr. Ramsey in his essay, quoted Jewel as saying “Further we may say, that Christ’s Body is in the Sacrament itself, understanding it to be there as in a Mystery. But to this manner of Being there is required, neither circumstance of place, nor any Corporal, or Real Presence.” which ends with the denial of the conflated “Corporal-Real” presence, but leaves open the idea of a “Spiritual-Real” since it is described as being “in the Sacrament”, but when the passage is examined in its content, it is clear that Jewel means “in” only in a loose metaphorical sense, comparing it to the way a Father elsewhere writes, “Paul is present in his letters.” If it were the case that Jewel’s view as spiritual-realist, then he would have had no quarrel with Harding (his antagonistic interlocuter) who declared in his essay which Jewel is “answering”, “To conclude, the being of Christ’s body in the sacrament is to us certain, the manner of his being there to us uncertain, and to God only certain.” (Harding’s 26th Article)Jewel’s challenge sermon can be read here:
  5. There is a good deal of distinction within what can be called “Reformed doctrine of the Eucharist”, and even within that, not all “Receptionism” is the same. There is a Receptionism — even of the symbolic-parallel variety — that is capable of a very warm and lively eucharistic piety, and a realism of encounter with Christ, as was in fact demonstrated by most of the Anglican divines in the Reformed school listed above. While it could be argued that the Prayer book imparted a devotion and a reverence independent of and deeper than Reformed doctrinal statements, nevertheless, it must be admitted that to fall short of patristic doctrine is not to mean one’s doctrine is cold and barren.
  6. Quantin, Jean-Louis, The Church of England and Christian Antiquity (OUP, Oxford: 2009), 31
  7. Many Anglican divines sometimes claimed by Anglo-Catholics as predecessors to Tractarian thought, upon examination of their clearest (and often more mature) writings, are clearly Reformed. That is, Bishops Cosin and Taylor and Archbishop Laud should be grouped with Jewel and Hooker, as they all maintained and taught a doctrine of Holy Communion that John Calvin could happily affirm, and even wrote much which Bullinger (a symbolic parrallelist) could also affirm. There are Anglican divines who did maintain doctrine that Pusey and Keble would later teach as comporting with patristic thought (Gheast, Saravia, Andrewes, etc.)
  8. Hauugard, W. P. “Renaissance Patristic Scholarship and Theolgy in Sixteenth-Century England”, passim.
  9. Quantin, Jean-Louis, The Church of England and Christian Antiquity (OUP, Oxford: 2009), 29
  10. All Patristic citations are taken from E.B. Pusey’s The Doctrine of the Real Presence As Contained in the Fathers (John Henry Parker, Oxford: 1855) but may be verified in any of the many editions of the Fathers now available.
  11. Jewel, John Defence of the Apology of the Church of England, Book II. Note the alignment with Reformed Doctrine, as exemplified in the Belgic Confession of 1561, “but the manner in which we eat it [the Body of Christ] is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit.”
  12. Jewel, John Defence of the Apology of the Church of England, Book II. Bp. Jewel quotes “The author that beareth the name of Chrysostom” as a statement of his own opinion concerning the sacrament against M. Harding, but the quotation that Jewel relies on is from the Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum, which were written in Latin in the 6th century by an Arian. (vide, “Chrysostom, Pseudo-” in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church) It is not, as Jewel alleges, “Chrysostom against Chrysostom”, but an Arian heretic against Chrysostom. It is unsuprising that Arian Eucharistology was anti-Realist. Doubtless, if Bp. Jewel knew the real provenance of his citation, he would not have relied on it. Without it, his argument on this question falls apart.
  13. Cranmer, Thomas An Answer to a Crafty and Sophistical Cavillation devised by Stephen Gardiner, Book I:The Sacrament
  14. Cranmer, Thomas An Answer to a Crafty and Sophistical Cavillation devised by Stephen Gardiner, Book III:Of the Presence of Christ


The Rev. Ben Jefferies

The Rev. Ben Jefferies is a sinner, grateful to the Lord for his mercy. He grew up in England, and emigrated to the United States in 1999. He went to Wheaton College, and several years later discerned a call to ministry and went to seminary at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Duncan in 2014. He currently serves The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Opelika, Alabama. He served on the Liturgy Task Force of the ACNA from 2015-2019, and was the lead designer for the production of the printed prayer book. He continues as the Assistant to the Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer (2019), and serves on the board of directors of Anglican House Media Ministries. He is married with three daughters.

'Is the Eucharistology of the Anglican Reformation Patristic? – Part 1' have 2 comments

  1. October 16, 2020 @ 11:56 am Curious

    Can you show that the church fathers believed in manducatio impiorum? I think that’s the real test for the Lutheran/Reformed divide, with Calvinists pointing to Augustine’s Tractate 59 and 62 on John (“The bread they ate was the Lord Himself; [Judas] ate the Lord’s bread in enmity to the Lord: they ate life, and he punishment.” and “But it was not then, as some thoughtless readers suppose, that Judas received the body of Christ.”).

    Also, on your quote of Augustine on Psalm 33/34, another translation has “Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, ‘This is My Body.'”, and as you can imagine, how to interpret “in a manner” means something very different form a Reformed perspective.


    • October 22, 2020 @ 4:06 pm Benjamin P Jefferies

      Dear Curious — I engaged with the manducatio question in part III. Hope that might be of help


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