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John Wyclif$
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Stephen Edmund Lahey

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195183313

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195183313.001.0001

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Physics, Eucharist, and Apostasy

John Wyclif

Stephen E. Lahey (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Wyclif is infamous for being the first to deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the bread and wine are held to become the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of Eucharist. This doctrine has its roots in high medieval theology and had been an important topic in which theologians employed their metaphysical approaches in practical articulation of what had become the central sacrament of Christianity. By the 14th century, some had begun to assert that resolving the problems associated with Eucharistic theology was hampered by difficulties in understanding the nature of time. Wyclif seems to have employed his conception of spatio-temporal indivisibles in arguing that the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation was, as normally held, impossible, arguing that the indivisibility of temporal units, as well as the eternality of divine knowledge, made the annihilation of created substance impossible. Later, he would incorporate his radical critique of Eucharistic theology into his wider criticisms of the papacy and the church, accusing his critics of being creatures of Antichrist.

Keywords:   Eucharist, transubstantiation, spatio-temporal atomism, indivisibles, annihilation, Antichrist

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