My question is:
In checking Vine's Dictionary for "trogo" it says that it is used "metaphorically of the habit of spiritually feeding upon Christ", which is clearly the Protestant definition. It goes on to say "The use of 'trogo' in Mat.24:38 and John13:18 is a witness against pressing into the meaning of the word the sense of munching or gnawing; it had largely lost this sense in its common usage." How do I answer this above statement?
Here are some excerpts from an article I am writing titled: "The ‘trogo'
Experience of Contemplative Munching
First, Vines' Expository Dictionary is a Protestant work that is biased
against Catholic doctrine. Even the three volume Dictionary of New Testament
Theology (editor Colin Brown) is a biased work, especially in regards to the
words used in John 6. A better resource is a Greek lexicon, like Walter Bauer,
Liddell and Scott, Moulton-Milligan, or Reinecher.
Here is what Vine says of "trogo": (I will make comments intermittently)
"Primarily, to gnaw, to chew, stresses the slow process; it is used
metaphorically of the habit of spiritually feeding upon Christ, John
6:54,56,57,58 (the aorists here do not indicate a definite act, but view a
series of acts seen in perspective);
Comment: First of all, the "trogo" verbs in John 6:54-58 (pronounced
"troogoon;" the double o signifying the long-sounding Greek omega), are all in
the present participle form, not aorist, so Vine's comment here is irrelevant.
The only aorist is "phagete" in John 6:53, but that is a subjunctive in a
conditional clause, which would not support Vine's point. Second, notice how
Vine first admits to the very literal usage of "trogo" as "to chew," even
stressing the "slow process" of chewing, but then, out of nowhere, injects the
conclusion that "trogo" is used "metaphorically" of "spiritual feeding" in
John 6. He does not give any grammatical or historical rationale for his
abrupt shift in meaning, rather, he is forced to this conclusion by his
He continues: "of the constant custom of eating in certain company, John 13:18; of a practice unduly engrossing the world, Matt. 24:38."
Comment: Vine is picking out one dimension of the use of "trogo" in these
verses, but ignoring the other dimensions. It is the combination of these two
dimensions which gives "trogo" its special meaning. I will elaborate on this
in my latter paragraphs.
"In John 6, the change in the Lord's use from the verb esthio
(phago) to the stronger verb trogo is noticeable.”
Comment: At least he does recognize that the switch from phago to trogo is
"noticeable." We'll have to thank him for taking "notice," reluctant he may be
in doing so.
"The more persistent the unbelief of His hearers, the more
difficult His language and statements became. In vv. 49 to 53 the verb phago is used; in 54, 58 trogo (in ver. 58 it is put into immediate contrast with phago)."
Comment: Of course, Vine's reason for Jesus making his language "more
difficult" is that "trogo" is used spiritually while "phago," as noted in his
previous explanation above and in his description of "phago" in his
dictionary, is used physically. But what he misses is that "phago" is used
quite often in the spiritual sense in the New Testament (see below), and is
even used on par with "trogo" in John 6:53-54. So if Vine's argument is that
"trogo" is "more difficult" than "phago" because "trogo" is spiritual and
"phago" is physical (e.g., as "phago" is used physically to recount the giving
of manna to the OT Jews in John 6:49), this cannot be possible, since "phago"
must also, due its presence in John 6:53 as a lead in to "trogo" in John 6:54,
be used in Vine's "spiritual" sense. Vine cannot object to our critique of his
view because he has already committed to viewing John 6:54-58 as metaphorical
and spiritual, which also commits him to seeing "phago" in John 6:53 as
metaphorical and spiritual.
But if Vine were to claim that both "phago" and "trogo" are being used
spiritually in John 6:53- 54, then he would have no basis for saying, as he
earlier did, that the use of "trogo" is "more difficult" than "phago," since
both words would then be on an equal spiritual plane and point to the same
spiritual idea — that the bread is not Jesus but merely a symbol of Jesus.
Spiritually speaking, "trogo" could not be "more difficult" than "phago."
"Chewing spiritually" cannot be any more difficult than "eating spiritually,"
since both point to the same spiritual reality. The "more difficult" nature
of "trogo" in contrast to "phago" can only be in the PHYSICAL realm of
meaning, that is, "phago" refers to "physical eating" but "trogo" refers to
"intense physical eating." This is confirmed by the fact that the Jews,
according to John 6:52, understood "phago" as referring to physical eating,
not spiritual eating. Mr. Vine is trapped, but he doesn't realize it.
"The use of trogo in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18 is a witness
against pressing into meaning of the word the sense of munching or gnawing; it
had largely lost this sense in its common usage."
Comment: The assertion that "it had largely lost this sense in its common
usage" is mere conjecture based on his wish to dispense with the Catholic
usage of "trogo" in John 6. There is absolutely no evidence for Vine's claim
in either koine or classical literature. What Vine misses is that "trogo"
connoted more than "munching" or "chewing," but a special kind of munching or
chewing, which I will explain below.
Here is some additional information:
Contrary to Vine, "trogo" is never used metaphorically in either koine or
classical Greek. "trogo" (= "I eat," present indicative) is used six times in
various verb forms in the New Testament:
John 6:54, 56, 57, 58
As a preliminary matter, the main issue is not whether "trogo" can refer to
something other than munching or chewing, but whether "trogo" is ever used in
a non-physical sense. The meaning in the above passages concerns only the
physical act of eating, which distinguishes the meaning from being merely
symbolic, as is true of its counterpart "phago" which is sometimes used
symbolically (cf., John 4:32; 1 Cor. 10:3). In fact, there is no symbolic
usage of "trogo" in the New Testament or in classical literature, and "trogo"
is not used in the LXX. In classical literature, according to Liddell and
Scott, "trogo" referred mainly to biting into a piece of fruit or vegetable
and eating it. Of the two, "phago" is the more general, since it can refer to
physical or spiritual eating, but there are other reasons I will state below.
Vine tries to turn "trogo" in Matt 24:38 and John 13:18 into metaphors by
claiming that the physical eating is merely representative of the social
scene, but this is illegitimate, since that is not how a true metaphor is
defined. The ante-deluvian people were literally "eating and drinking, and
marrying and giving in marriage" right up until Noah entered the ark, since
the ark door was shut on the very day it started raining; and Judas did share
an intimate meal with Jesus right before he betrayed him. In fact, as I will
show below, the social context of Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18 is only made
possible by the fact that "trogo" is taken in its literal sense.
"Phago" and "trogo," when used in the physical sense, can be used
interchangeably. For example, in John 6:53-54 Jesus says, "Except you eat
("phagete" - aorist, subjunctive) the flesh of the Son of Man....He that eats
("trogon" - present, participle) my flesh." Likewise, Jesus uses "phago" in
Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; when he says, "Take, eat, This is my body."
Another interchange is in John 6:58: "Not as your fathers ate ("ephagon" -
aorist, indicative) the manna and died. He that eats (" trogon " - present,
participle) this bread shall live forever." Notice that "phago" in John 6:58
is understood in the physical sense, which would also point to its being used
physically in John 6:53. This is so because "phago," used in both John 6:49
and 6:58 when Jesus is speaking of the Jews eating manna in the desert, is
sandwiching John 6:53 which uses "phago" in reference to eating Jesus. It
would be grammatically incongruous for Jesus to switch from a physical meaning
in verse 49, to a spiritual meaning in verse 53, and back to a physical
meaning in verse 58.
Notice also that "trogon" in John 6:54 and 6:58 is a present participle, which
refers to an ongoing eating, whereas the aorist indicative of "phago" in 6:58,
which describes the eating of the manna, refers to a past, discontinued event.
In fact, all the uses of "trogo" in John 6 are present participles, which
means that the eating of Jesus must be continual.
All in all, "trogo" carries the meaning not just of "chewing" or "munching"
but also of "intimate, sustained, eating and total consumation," as opposed to
"phago" which is usually only a general reference to eating without further
description. One way to distinguish the two, using our everyday language, is
to say "phago" refers to "eating for essential nourishment," while "trogo"
refers more to "dining, with the express purpose of masticating all the food
so that one can savor it," as when we go to a fine restaurant to eat our
favorite meal, perhaps making groans of pleasure as we eat. This puts a little
distance from defining "trogo" as mere "chewing" or "munching," since animals
do the same kind of chewing but without being cognizant of a fine gourmet meal
shared with another.
Thus, Jesus can use "phago" in John 6:53 when he is referring to the
Eucharist, since "phago" refers to "essential nourishment," which is true of
the Eucharist — it leaves us with God's grace. In fact, Jesus completes John
6:53 with "unless you eat (phagete) the flesh of the Son of Man....you have NO
LIFE IN YOU," showing a lack of nourishment (sanctifying grace) if one refuses
But in the next verses, John 6:54-55, Jesus says, "Whoever eats (trogon) my
flesh...has eternal life...for my flesh is REAL food" (Greek: aleethos =
truly, really). Notice that now the emphasis is on "REAL" food. In other
words, Jesus is saying, "Look, I'm not kidding when I say I, personally, am
food for you [as he just intimated in John 6:53]. In fact, I am so REAL that
you will actually have to chew me [trogon me] as you would dine at a meal."
This distinction between "phago" and "trogo" wherein the latter refers more to
intimate dining, would also explain why John 13:18 and Matt. 24:38 can opt to
use "trogo" instead of "phago." John 13:18 uses "trogo" as a translation for
the Hebrew "akal" in Psalm 41:9. "Akal" is the normal Hebrew word for "eat,"
being used in various forms about 800 times in the OT. But the Jews did not
have a specific word for "chew" or "gnaw," which is probably why the LXX
(Septuagint) never translated "akal," or the other Hebrew words for "eat" such
as "barah," "lacham," "raah," "team," or "okel," into the Greek word "trogo."
The Greeks had a word for everything.
John 13:18 is the scene in which Judas is betraying Jesus after sharing a most
intimate meal with him. The horror of the betrayal is made even more severe by
its stark contrast to the intimacy of dining together. Colloquially, Jesus
would be saying, "The one with whom I shared a most intimate meal, is the very
one who will betray me." This is why some translations render John 13:18 as
"He who SHARES MY BREAD has lifted up his heel against me" (NIV). Although it
would still be possible to use "phago" in John 13:18, "trogo" puts more
emphasis on the intimacy of dining together.
In Matthew 24:38, we have almost the same picture. The scene is of an intimate
wedding in which people are eating and drinking, oblivious of the coming
deluge of Noah's flood. The use of "trogo" here portrays an intimate,
sumptuous meal, which is common at weddings and which occupies the guests time
and interest. In fact, much of the ceremony/celebration revolves around the
food and drink, as was the case in the marriage feast of Cana in John 2.
Matthew is trying to draw our attention to the act of enthusiastic dining
among the guests, which in turn shows us why the guests are oblivious to their
coming misfortune. It is also significant that there is not another instance
in the New Testament in which "eating and drinking" is coupled with "marrying
and giving in marriage," which shows that the intensity or emphasis afforded
by "trogo" allows it to be uniquely coupled with an intimate marriage
Hence, in using "trogo" in John 6:54-58, Jesus is not merely saying that the
Jews must "chew" him (like animals chewing a cud, or like humans taking a
vitamin pill), but that they must chew as if they were dining at a fine meal
of celebration, savoring every bite of him, thinking about the food as they
eat it. This is why the Jews are upset at Jesus -- not only because he is
telling them to eat him (phago, which, admittedly, could have been interpreted
either physically or spiritually), but because he is treating himself, without
equivocation, as if he were an intimate dining experience, which was indeed
the nature of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and continues to be in the
Mass. The Jews are no longer to eat like their ancestors who consumed manna in
the desert merely to fill their stomachs, and who even complained that they
didn't like the taste of the manna. No, the food that Jesus will give is a
savory meal which one must intimately chew, taste and enjoy. We do this by
contemplating who we are eating — God himself. Colloquially speaking, it is
gourmet food that must be chewed and savored; you must really know what you
are consuming, which starts by literally sinking your teeth into it. Since
chewing connotes the idea of getting into the inner essence of the object,
"trogo" is the most intimate and specific word afforded in the Greek language
to get this point across — that God himself wishes to become a physical part
of every part of our being. We can thus enjoy a "trogo experience" when we
receive the Eucharist, literally savoring the presence of God in our mouth and
then contemplating him permeating our entire body and filling us with his
grace. Wow, what a rush!!