Fortress Press

My Flesh Is Meat Indeed: A Nonsacramental Reading of John 6:51-58

My Flesh Is Meat Indeed

A Nonsacramental Reading of John 6:51-58

Meredith J. C. Warren (Author)


Readers have long puzzled over the absence from the Johannine “Last Supper” of any words by Jesus over bread and wine—suggesting to some that John is indifferent or even hostile to sacramental thought or action—and the apparent dislocation to the feeding miracle, in John 6, of Jesus’ declaration that believers must eat his flesh. Meredith J. C. Warren argues that in fact, the “bread of life” discourse in John 6:51c-58 does not bear any Eucharistic overtones. Rather, John plays on shared cultural expectations in the ancient Mediterranean world about the nature of heroic sacrifice and the accompanying sacrificial meal, which established the identification of a hero with a deity.

From Homer and continuing through Greek romances like Chaereas and Callirhoe, An Ephesian Tale, Leucippe and Clitophon, and An Ethiopian Story, Warren traces a literary trope in which a hero or heroine’s antagonistic relationship with a deity is resolved through the sacrifice of the hero. She argues that seen against this milieu, Jesus’ insistence that his flesh be eaten serves to demonstrate his identity and confirms the Christology of the rest of the Gospel.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451490244
  • eBook ISBN 9781451496697
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 304
  • Publication Date June 1, 2015


“With insight and judgment, Meredith Warren solves a major problem in the Gospel of John—why does John 6:51c-58 appear to refer to Eucharist if there is no Eucharist per se in the last meal in John?—and opens up important new resonances in the process. The relationship of the Gospel of John to Jewish, Greek, and Roman tradition is greatly illuminated in this groundbreaking volume.”
—Lawrence M. Wills
Episcopal Divinity School
"In comparing John's Gospel to Hellenistic romance novels, Warren has drawn attention to intriguing parallels regarding divine-mortal relationships and their relevance for understanding Johannine Christology, particularly the incarnation of the divine Word. She also poignantly reminds Johannine (and New Testament!) scholars that they neglect Greco-Roman sources at their peril."
—Benjamin E. Reynolds
Tyndale University College
“Warren’s study offers a refreshingly new approach to centuries-old debates around the Johannine Jesus’ humanity, divinity, sacramentality and sacrifice. I dare say that the argument for a Christological reading of John 6:51c-58, judiciously informed by a comparison of literary tropes from contemporaneous Greco-Roman novels, is well worth chewing over.”
—Colleen M. Conway
Seton Hall University