Bread of Life Discourse

The Bread of Life Discourse is a portion of the teaching of Jesus which appears in the Gospel of John 6:22–59 and was delivered in the synagogue at Capernaum.[1]

Early third century depiction of eucharistic bread and fish, Catacomb of San Callisto, Rome.

The title "Bread of Life" (Ancient Greek: ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς, artos tēs zōēs) given to Jesus is based on this Biblical passage which is set in the Gospel of John shortly after the feeding the multitude episode (in which Jesus feeds a crowd of 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish), after which He walks on the water to the western side of Sea of Galilee and the crowd follow by boat in search of Him.[2]

Biblical accountEdit

In the Gospel of John:

Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

— John 6:32–35, New Revised Standard Version)[3]

Church FathersEdit

Augustine of Hippo in his Tractate on John 6 teaches that Jesus was speaking mystically and not literally: by eating his flesh and drinking his blood Jesus meant abiding in the church, not actually consuming Jesus' body and blood.[4] Augustine in Sermon 227, however, teaches that the bread and wine is the same body that Jesus gave up and the same blood that he shed on the cross.[5] John Chrysostom in Homily 47 on the Gospel of John teaches that Jesus' words are not an enigma or a parable, but to be taken literally.[6]


John's Gospel does not include an account of the blessing of the bread during the Last Supper as in the synoptic gospels e.g. Luke 22:19. Nonetheless, this discourse has often been interpreted as communicating teachings regarding the Eucharist that have been very influential in the Christian tradition.[7]

Meredith J. C. Warren and Jan Heilmann have challenged the Eucharistic interpretation of this passage. Warren argues that it reflects ancient Mediterranean traditions of sacrificial meals that identify a hero with a divinity.[8] Heilmann argues that the imagery of eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood is to be understood against the background of the conceptual metaphor.[9]

In the Christological context, the use of the Bread of Life title is similar to the Light of the World title in John 8:12 where Jesus states: "I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."[10] These assertions build on the Christological theme of John 5:26 where Jesus claims to possess life just as the Father does and provides it to those who follow him.[10][11] In John 6:33 the alternative wording, "bread of God" appears.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Thomas L. Brodie (1997). The Gospel According to John: A Literary and Theological Commentary, p. 266. ISBN 0-19-511811-1
  2. ^ Jack Dean Kingsbury, Mark Allan Powell, David R. Bauer (1999). Who Do You Say That I Am?: Essays on Christology, p. 83. ISBN 0-664-25752-6
  3. ^ a b "John 6:24-35 (New Revised Standard Version)". Oremus Bible Browser.
  4. ^ New Advent: Augustine Tractate 27 (John 6:60-72)
  6. ^ Nw Advent: Chrysostom Homily 47 on the Gospel of John
  7. ^ The Eucharist in the New Testament by Jerome Kodell 1988 ISBN 0-8146-5663-3 page 118
  8. ^ Warren, Meredith (2015), My Flesh is Meat Indeed: A Non-Sacramental Reading of John 6: 51–58, Fortress Press, ISBN 1451496699
  9. ^ Heilmann, Jan (2014). Wein und Blut. Das Ende der Eucharistie im Johannesevangelium und dessen Konsequenzen. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag. ISBN 978-3-17-025181-6.
  10. ^ a b Christology in Context by Marinus de Jonge 1988 ISBN 978-0-664-25010-2 page 147
  11. ^ The Person of Christ by Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer 1954 ISBN 0-8028-4816-8 page 163