Dictionary Definition

consubstantiation n : the doctrine of the High Anglican Church that after the consecration of the Eucharist the substance of the body and blood of Christ coexists with the substance of the consecrated bread and wine

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An identity or union of substance.
  2. The actual, substantial presence of the body of Christ with the bread and wine of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; impanation; -- opposed to transubstantiation.

Extensive Definition

Consubstantiation is a theological doctrine that (like transubstantiation) attempts to describe the nature of the Christian Eucharist in concrete metaphysical terms. It holds that during the sacrament the fundamental "substance" of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present.
Transubstantiation, on the other hand, holds that, through consecration, the reality (the "substance") of the bread and wine - but not the "species" (Latin for "appearance") - is changed into that of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It denies that the substance of the bread and wine is exchanged for another substance (that of the Body and Blood of Christ), and insists that what occurs is a transformation, not a substitution. It holds that the accidents of the bread and wine (the appearances, even the molecular structures revealed under scientific scrutiny) remain quite unchanged, and are no illusion.
The doctrine of consubstantiation, advocated by the medieval scholastic theologian Duns Scotus, is erroneously identified as the eucharistic doctrine of Martin Luther, who defined his doctrine as the sacramental union. Lutherans reject the concept of consubstantiation because it substitutes what they believe to be the biblical doctrine with a philosophical construct and implies, in their view, a natural, local inclusion of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine of the eucharist.

History and culture

In England in the late 14th century, there was a political and religious movement known as Lollardy. Among much broader goals, the Lollards affirmed a form of consubstantiation -- that the Eucharist remained physically bread and wine, while becoming spiritually the body and blood of Christ. Lollardy survived up until the time of the English Reformation.
In literature the conflict between consubstantiation and transubstantiation was satirically described in Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" as war between Lilliput and Blefuscu.
consubstantiation in German: Konsubstantiation
consubstantiation in Spanish: Consubstanciación
consubstantiation in French: Consubstantiation
consubstantiation in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Consubstantiation
consubstantiation in Italian: Consustanziazione
consubstantiation in Dutch: Consubstantiatie
consubstantiation in Polish: Konsubstancjacja
consubstantiation in Finnish: Konsubstantiaatio
consubstantiation in Swedish: Konsubstantiation
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