The Categories and Communion

Lots of the ideas in Aristotelian philosophy have parallels to theological concepts (logos, unmoved mover, first cause). Another that I would also add to the list is his philosophy of the categories. The categories gives us great insights into how knowledge is shaped and expressed by language. More over we see how the inner parts of the categories influenced the particular theological doctrine of transubstantiation.

Language: The Base of The Categories

Language has a huge role in our knowledge. Knowledge is communicable and we use certain terms to describe what we think, perceive, and experience. Aristotle sees that our awareness of something in reality, whether an ethereal concept or even something as mundane as a dog is distinguished by our language through expressing specific properties of the thing. We negate or affirm its similarities and differences to the rest of the world. Aristotle used this list of words as the categories:

The Categories

  1. Quantity
  2. Quality
  3. Relations
  4. Place
  5. Date
  6. Posture
  7. Possession
  8. Action
  9. Passivity

These categories are also called predicates to a subject. In our everyday language attach these categories to things: people, animals, concepts, and whatever else we might find worth knowing.

Subjects, Predicates, and Entelechy

In speaking of subjects and predicates we should understand that Aristotle saw that subjects were before predicates and saw them as distinguishable. That means that one can distinguish between two of the same subjects with the same substance but have different predicates. For example, we could look at two men but still distinguish them by their categories. Some men are large while others are small. We might say that man could be many different things categorically speaking, however they are all men.

This seems ultimately important to distinguishing and defining things the way God did. God has assigned things as particular subjects that cannot be changed or conflated with another subject. A man can't be a man and a mouse at the same time because they are fundamentally different.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:3

Aristotle doubles down by saying there is an 'entelechy' or form that exists in every subject. Every man has the form of man within them intrinsically, and that forms determines the material composition of man, even if they exhibit some different predicates. If one has the entelechy of man, they have the material composition of a man, and exhibit predicates that do not contradict being a man.

Case Use in Transubstantiation

The same words are used in the doctrine of transubstantiation. When one takes the Holy Communion, the bread and wine is transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ whilst still looking and holding all the predicates of the bread and wine. This is considered a double miracle! This is because according to the doctrine we have the substance of the body and blood of Christ without the predicates of it while also having the predicates of the bread and wine without the substance of it.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”- Luke 22:19

There is a departure from Aristotle to be noted because we have a complete separation of subject and predicates which he understood as impossible in a natural sense. Hence even the early Church fathers considered it a mystery and miracle that this could be possible as it transcended the normative connection between a subject and its predicates.

In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you." - Luke 22:20


The categories serve as nine ways we describe and distinguish between subjects. It is key because God also has designated every single subject and its entelechy (its essence) while also giving each person unique predicates. Moreover, the doctrine of transubstantiation had its language formulated from Aristotelian thought, regardless if their is variation in theological and denominational stance on the Holy Communion.

If for anything at all, this should serve as a great reminder of the deep connection between philosophical terms being brought into theological discussion, while also appreciating how concepts such as the categories can be used to reveal a mere perspective on God's infinite intelligence and wisdom.

He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Psalm 147:4