Blog 224: 4.17.21 - 4.17.24
November 18, 2009
What does "ís" mean in "This is my body"? Metonymy, Calvin answers in the same way that Scripture represents one thing by another in such expressions as, "circumcision is a covenant" (gen. 17:13), the "lamb is the Passover" (Exod. 12:11) etc. Had the Christian church followed this obvious path much damage would have been spared! Thus we might say that in reading Calvin's Institutes this year, Calvin has been with us - in our minds and hearts, instructing us, feeding us, rebuking us, encouraging us. Calvin's detractors lose all sense (of grammar and much else) in insisting on a special import to the verb "is", as though when Paul says "so is Christ" in 1 Corinthians 12:12 having spoken of the church, Christ is to be equated with the church's members. This is to fail to see the literary nature of Scripture, bearing marks of human (as well as divine authorship): thus we find acrostics, alliteration, analogy, anthropomorphism, assonance, cadence, chiasm, consonance, dialogue, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, meter, onomatopoeia, paradox, parallelism, repetition, rhyme, satire, simile and more. So why should we stumble over the meaning of "is" as metonymy? What hermeneutical hurdle have we jumped over? If this smacks of human reason (as Calvin's detractors alleged), suggesting that to fail to believe in transubstantiation is in some way to deny God his power, Calvin answers: it is not a matter of what God can do but what God has done. Our flesh is not ubiquitous and to suggest that Christ's flesh is removes from being our Elder brother. And if that is so, our salvation is lost.