- Christogenea Internet Radio
On the Gospel of John, Part 6: The Wedding Feast at Cana
In John chapter 1 the apostle had made many bold statements proclaiming the deity of Jesus, or Yahshua Christ. The assertions that He is the Word made Flesh, the Light of the World, the Lamb of God, and the declaration of the purpose of the ministry of John the Baptist all assert that Yahshua Christ is indeed Yahweh God incarnate. He is THE Son of God because He is the manifestation of God Himself, as it was promised in the Psalms and the prophets. This is better understood once the many passages from the Old Testament which also refer to these things are examined and considered, even if they were not all explicitly cited by John himself. The New Testament cannot be properly understood outside of the context provided by the Old Testament, and we sought to elucidate many of those passages as we presented John chapter 1 over the first five parts of this series.
The gospels of Luke and Matthew open with accounts of certain events from the birth and early life of Christ. But in the third chapter of each of those gospels there is the testimony of John the Baptist. The gospel of Mark, similar to that of John, says nothing of the birth or early years in the life of Christ, and opens with the testimony of John the Baptist. So the testimony of John is the event by which all four gospels open their descriptions of the beginning of the ministry of Christ. Doing so, all four gospels cite Isaiah 40:3, attributing the words to John as they are spoken in reference to Christ, where it describes “3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” and explains that John the Baptist was that voice. If John was that voice, then Yahshua Christ must be Yahweh incarnate, the God for whom he prepared the way.
Mark, in that first chapter, also cited Malachi 3:1 in reference to John the Baptist, where it says “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” Yahshua Christ Himself had later cited this also, in reference to John, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 11 and Luke chapter 7. Both of these passages, from Malachi and from Isaiah, are prophecies of John the Baptist and of Yahshua Christ, and if John was the messenger to prepare the way before the Lord (Hebrew, adon) who would come to His temple, then Yahshua Christ is Yahweh Himself, who came to His temple in fulfillment of that prophecy. Once again, if we believe the testimony of Isaiah and Malachi, then Yahshua must be God incarnate.
While the other gospels do not explain the introduction of the first disciples to Christ, we see here in John that some of them were originally disciples of John the Baptist, and that is how they knew enough to follow Christ. So we explained from John’s account that the first disciples were Andrew and John himself, who were with John the Baptist, and then Andrew’s brother, Simon Peter. According to this gospel of John, these three men became disciples of Christ the very next day after He was baptized by John the Baptist, and was declared by him to be the Lamb of God. Then Christ, returning to Galilee with His new companions, was introduced to Philip, and then to Nathanael, where John related an account which demonstrates the prescience of Christ. With that Christ Himself revealed His divine nature where He said “Truly, truly I say to you: You shall see the heaven having been opened and the messengers of Yahweh ascending and descending before the Son of Man.”
Now as we commence with chapter 2 of John’s gospel, he turns to the more mundane aspects of the early days of the ministry of Christ, while describing some of the miraculous things which He had done, things which also establish the fact of His divine nature.
1 Then on the third day there was a marriage-feast in Kana of Galilaia, and the mother of Yahshua was there.
This third day seems to be counting from the day when Christ was baptized by John, which is when John started counting in chapter 1 where he referred to “the next day”. However he might be starting to count from that next day, when Christ was joined by Andrew and John, and therefore this wedding-feast would be three days after that day in which Andrew, John and Simon Peter had begun to follow Christ. This method of counting the “third day” as three days after the first would also agree with the counting method which can be discerned from Luke 24:21. The day following, when Yahshua departed for Galilee as it is described at John 1:43, would be the first of those three days.
This leads us to a lengthy digression. According to the earliest manuscripts of this Gospel, the place where John had baptized Christ is near a place called Bethania. But the town of Bethany which is most familiar from the gospels was not even two miles east of Jerusalem, and that is perhaps 68 miles from the site of Cana in Galilee. It would have been difficult, and very unlikely, while on foot to cover such a long distance in only two days. Such a distance could easily be covered in short time – a day or a day-and-a-half – in a chariot or light wagon, but these things were rarely mentioned in Scripture. The original language of Acts chapter 8, verse 30, reveals that Philip had used a chariot in his evangelical travels, but there is no indication that such a method of travel was ever available to the disciples in the travels which are described in the gospel accounts.
Furthermore, the familiar Bethany is not very close to the River Jordan. So if at John 1:28 we chose to follow the 5th century Codex Borgianus and the manuscripts of Origen which read Bethabara rather than Bethania, we have a place which may be only about 20 miles from Cana, and which is also situated on the east bank of the Jordan, close to the Sea of Galilee. This is seen on a 6th-century Byzantine map of Palestine, which is partially preserved in an ancient floor mosaic which has been named the Madaba Map, and it provides a compelling argument for reading Bethabara rather than Bethania in John chapter 1. Bethabara was technically in the Decapolis, and not in Galilee, so John would remain accurate where he said in John 1:43 that “Jesus would go forth into Galilee”, as the King James Version has it. The King James Version has Bethabara, however it was my method to follow the readings of the oldest available manuscripts, even where it seemed inconvenient to do so, and therefore I wrote Bethania. If I ever departed from that method, it was only on rare occasion.
A reproduction of the Madaba Map, so called because it was discovered in Saint George Church in Madaba, Jordan:
This subject is well-known among Biblical archaeologists, and there are other factors to consider. The exact location of ancient Bethany in Judaea is disputed by some archaeologists, although in any event it is less than two miles from Jerusalem, according to John 11:18. So that location must be ruled out as a candidate here. But the Bethania of John 1:28 is not necessarily the same as the Bethany which is near Jerusalem, and for that reason we did not comment on its location when we presented that portion of our commentary on John chapter 1. On the other hand, the name Bathabara may itself be an early corruption, according to some commentators who seek to identify it with places mentioned in Judges 7:24, Joshua 13:27 or Joshua 18:22, as certain names of towns appear in either the Masoretic Text or in the Septuagint.
The name Bethany is defined by Strong to mean date-house, referring to the fruit, for which he provides no exact etymology. Later editions add house of misery to the definition. In the Wikipedia article for Bethabara, we see a line which appears in several different articles on the Internet that reads “G. A. Smith suggests in his ‘Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land’ (HGHL; 1915) that Bethany (house of the ship) and Bethabara (house of the ford) are names for the same place.” Now the content of the statement may be credible, but the citation is wrong in more than one respect.
George Adam Smith had at least two books on the subject, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, published in 1897, and an Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land, published in 1915. The former is quite extensive, being 761 pages. The latter, consisting mostly of maps, is quite concise at 116 pages. (We have obtained copies of both books from Archive.org and they will be available here.) However we cannot find the text reflected in the sloppy citation anywhere in the pages of either book.
What we do find, on page 496, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, is the following footnote:
The place of our Saviour's baptism is quite uncertain. The traditional site is at the Makhadet Hajle. The Bethabara, where the Baptist is said by some MSS. of the Gospel of John (i. 28) to have been baptizing about the time that Jesus came to him, is placed by Conder at the ford 'Abarah, just north of Beisan (T. W. 230). But it must be kept in mind that a name like that, meaning ferry, or crossing, or ford (see p. 337), probably occurred more than once down the river. The other, and more authentic reading, Bethany, is offered by Conder as a proof of the nearness of the place of baptism to Bashan. There is, however, no argument, only a suggestion. On the other hand, the proofs which the author of Supernatural Religion bases on the word Bethany against the Evangelist's knowledge of Palestine only reveal his own ignorance both of the possibilities of the country in which many Bethanys may easily have lain, and of the rest of the Gospel, the writer of which expressly states that he knew the other Bethany near Jerusalem (xi. 18).
Makhadet Hajle, Hijla or Hajlah, is also known as Joshua's Crossing and is believed to be the site of the baptism of Christ. It was a strategic point in a battle between the British and the Ottomans in March of 1918. This is near Jericho, and still very far from Cana. It is also far from the familiar Bethany. The work referred to at the end of the note, Supernatural Religion, was a controversial book first published anonymously in 1874, and later, in 1895, it was rumored to have been written by Walter Richard Cassels. Smith may very well have known this, but it was not a certain identification, and it was probably not made in time to edit this voluminous book which was published in 1897.
If indeed Smith, in any of his many other books on Biblical subjects, had derived the name Bethany from the Hebrew words for house and ship, the derivation is very plausible. The Hebrew word for ship is ‘oniyah (Strong’s # 591), which in Hebrew would give us beth oniyah, a phrase which may easily be contracted to Bethania for Greek readers, which would also make sense if it described a place on the river where boats were either built or berthed. So we can see that Smith, or some other writer, may indeed have proposed that Bethany, which may mean house of the ship, and Bethabara, which apparently means house of the ford, or river-crossing, were names for the same place.
We took this long digression to help illustrate a few of the problems with Biblical geography, and ancient geography in general, as we do not always know exactly what places had once existed or, if they did exist, exactly where they had existed. The appropriate ancient records are often quite scarce, and just as often archaeologists can only guess the locations of ancient towns and villages. For that reason, I usually opted to follow the preponderance of evidence in the oldest manuscripts for place names, and resist innovations based on the incomplete understanding which we have of these things today. So the Christogenea New Testament has Bethania, rather than Bethabara, at John 1:28, although the presence of the label for Bethabara on the Madaba Map is very compelling. In any event, Yahshua and his disciples were able to travel from the place where John was baptizing to Cana in Galilee within a period of two days.
Now we shall commence with John chapter 2, where we see that there was “a marriage-feast in Kana of Galilaia”, and the people celebrating their marriage must have been familiar friends of Yahshua and His earthly family, as even His mother was invited to this feast. The presumed site of ancient Cana was only about eight-and-a-half miles from Nazareth, or if some archaeologists are correct in the identification of a different nearby town as Cana, then it was only four miles from Nazareth. It is also likely that, aside from His divine prescience, Yahshua had planned to attend this feast well ahead of his journey to be baptized by John. So we continue:
2 And Yahshua and His students had also [P66 wants “also”] been invited to the marriage-feast.
Notice that this is a marriage feast, a celebration, and not a sacramental ritual performed at a synagogue and officiated by some Levite. Neither was it at a church building or pagan temple officiated by some priest. That is not the way in which marriage was conducted, or even considered, until very recently in our history. In ancient times, pagans were married at the altars of Baal by engaging in open sexual acts at those altars. So only pagans were married by priests, and often it was in random acts for their pagan fertility rituals. The children of Israel and their ancestors were married in quiet arrangements made between a man and the family of his prospective wife. So while Christ performed His first recorded miracle at this wedding feast, a term which we should not interpret to include a formal wedding ceremony, that does not mean that He would approve of the modern, legalistic contractual arrangement which we now call marriage. Today the apparatus of the State has reduced marriage to a mere financial and legal agreement, which has degenerated into disgraceful expressions of contract law and legal haggling over property. And of course, once the State asserted its authority over the marriage tradition, now men can marry themselves to just about anything, and it often isn’t marriage at all.
The celebration of an arranged marriage with a wedding feast is first apparent in Scripture in Genesis chapter 29. Jacob was sent by his parents to the land of their fathers to obtain a wife, and ultimately he arrives at the home of Laban, his mother’s brother. So we read in that chapter: “10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. [This was an act of chivalry, Jacob watering the flock for Rachel as it was apparently her task to do so.] 11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother [actually, his nephew], and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father. 13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month. 15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be? 16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. 18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. 19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. 20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. 21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.” That would be a wedding feast, but it was not the act of marriage. Rather, it only celebrated the marriage, which happened later that evening in a bed, as the subsequent events prove sufficiently.
So Laban and Jacob had an agreement, and in order to receive his wife Jacob had to satisfy not the wife, but her father. The wife evidently had no say in the matter. Now Laban deceives Jacob, where we read: “23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. [This describes the act of intercourse, which is when the marriage of Jacob abd Leah occurred.] 24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. 25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? 26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. 28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. 29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. 30 And he went in also unto Rachel [which his when Jacob married Rachel, ostensibly without a feast], and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. 31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son…” and we have read enough for our purposes here. If there was an official marriage at the feast the evening before, how did Jacob marry Leah in the night, rather than Rachel? Because the act of marriage is the sexual consummation, and Jacob married Leah even though he anticipated marrying Rachel as he feasted earlier in the evening. This alone proves that there was no marriage ceremony associated with the marriage feast.
Of course, it is evident that if Jacob had refused Leah then he would never have had Rachel,as Laban would have been angered with him. But even though Jacob was deceived into taking Leah to wife, where he expected Rachel, he had unwittingly slept with Leah, and therefore he did the honorable thing by keeping her for a wife. With this we see that the feast which had occurred the evening before was not connected with any formal marriage ceremony. And as for the keeping of a woman with whom one has had sexual intercourse, we can see that same principal was later expressed as an element of the law. This is true even in cases of rape, if a man rapes a virgin. We read in Deuteronomy chapter 22: “28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” If the woman were married, or even promised in marriage, and a man raped her, the man is subject to the death penalty. A man who rapes a virgin is forced by the law to marry her and never put her away. Properly, marriage, in the Bible, happens in the act of sexual intercourse, and not at an altar. Therefore, in effect, in the eyes of Yahweh our God there is no such thing as “sex outside of marriage”, because the act of intercourse is the process of getting married. Any sexual act conducted with another outside of marriage is either adultery or fornication, or perhaps sodomy or bestiality, all of which are punishable by death.
Unlike his son Jacob, Isaac had no feast, as Rebecca’s family was not present to celebrate one. His father’s servant traveled to Padan-aram and arranged to take Rebekah back to Canaan to Abraham’s house so that she could be a wife for Isaac. When Rebekah was brought close to Isaac’s homestead, we read, from Genesis chapter 24: “64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. 65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. 67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.” Surely there was no pagan priest with an altar nor any justice of the peace, nor a clerk issuing licenses in that tent where Isaac and Rebekah were married.
Marriage happens in a bed. Any celebrations of the marriage, any rituals held by a minister or priest, and any government licenses are all separate from the actual act of marriage. While many people find comfort in a wedding celebration, or think it is necessary because of tradition, there is nothing wrong with such a celebration if that is what they desire. But it must be realized, that the celebration of a marriage and the marriage itself are two entirely different things. There is absolutely no Scriptural necessity to have a wedding celebration to commemorate a marriage, and the vast majority of our people throughout our history never had and could never even afford such a celebration.
Marriage, properly, is a sexual relationship between a man and a woman of the same flesh and bone, as it is required in Genesis 2:23 and as Laban had exclaimed to Jacob in Genesis 29:14. Traditionally, the marriage arrangement was made by a man and the father of the woman whom he sought to marry. An oldest brother or uncle stood in place of the father if he was deceased, because a woman was always properly under the authority of a man who was her husband, or her next-of-kin. As we see in the cases of Isaac and Jacob, the man may be lenient in his requirements, or he may be very demanding. So the price for marriage was only what a man agreed to with the prospective wife’s family. Once an agreement was made, the woman was consider to be betrothed, or promised in marriage. When the agreement is fulfilled, the man marries his wife in a bed. Once a woman was betrothed, the laws of Yahweh afforded her and her future husband all the same protections as if they were married.
We as Christians must seek to please God and not men, so any compulsion to satisfy the legal requirements of any particular government is another matter entirely, but it is not marriage in the eyes of God. Sadly, most people today are married many times before they actually think they are married, because the denominational churches as well as governments have perverted the law. Until relatively recently, people were married in the same manner that Isaac or Jacob were married. All of the modern concepts of marriage were developed slowly over the last few centuries, beginning from the year 1538, which is when the Church of England began requiring that local churches start recording the marriages which occurred in their communities. The churches were not officiating marriages in 1538, but merely recording them. Before that time, the churches had nothing at all to do with marriage.
On the other hand, if a man and his wife desired to ensure to one another certain legal entitlements according to the laws of their particular government, because that assurance may benefit one spouse or the other in cases such as inheritance or other property rights, then getting "married" according to the procedures of that government is an economic decision between that man and his wife which in reality has nothing to do with the fact that the couple may already be married in the eyes of God. The man and his wife should therefore understand that the marriage commitment which they have is governed by God and not man. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. It is God, and man's love and fear of God, which makes and keeps a marriage. So any government license, or even any wedding celebration, is superfluous to the substance of the act of marriage itself. The government and the churches have not been able to keep people married as they attempt to replace God. In fact, far fewer people manage to stay married since the government has made its own laws concerning marriage and divorce. So the government is an abject failure at playing god.
Now after another long digression, we shall proceed with John chapter 2:
3 And being short of wine the mother of Yahshua says to Him “They do not have wine!” 4 And [P75, א, and the MT want “and”; the text follows P66, A and B] Yahshua says to her: “What is there with Me and with you, woman? My hour has not yet come!”
The Codex Sinaiticus (א) has verse 3 to read: “And they had no wine because the wine of the wedding feast was finished, the mother of Yahshua says to Him ‘There is no wine!’”
Mary must have had some esteem among the families of those celebrating their marriage, for her to even get involved in attempting to solve the dilemma of a lack of wine in the first place, and for their servants to obey her. There certainly were connections to Cana, which was not far from Nazareth, since Christ returns there after His sojourn in Capernaum, which is recorded in John chapter 4, and Nathanael was a native of Cana, which is recorded in John chapter 21. A later disciple, Simon, who is mentioned in Matthew chapter 10 and Mark chapter 3, was also from Cana.
What is there with me and with you…? Or in other words, What have you to do with me, or with my purpose? Yahshua is admonishing His mother for putting herself where she does not belong: in a position of authority over His supernatural talents, over the divine aspect of His person as God incarnate. She must have known that He was able to do something unnatural or unusual to remedy the lack of wine at the feast. But even if He admonished His mother, Yahshua was her son, and His Own law demands that He respect her wishes, so she must also have known that. Rather confidently, and without a direct answer from Him, she proceeds with an assurance of His compliance to her wishes, where we read in the next verse that:
5 His mother says to the servants “Whatever He should say to you, you do.”
The first concept expressed in the ten commandments in Exodus chapter 20 is that men must honor God. This is found in the first four commandments. The second concept expressed in those commandments is to “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Here we have a signal example, that even Yahweh God keeps His Own laws.
6 And there were six stone urns [or water-jars, ὑδρία] sitting [א wants the verb for “sitting”] there, in accordance with the purification of the Judaeans, each having space for two or three amphorae.
The word amphorae, from the Greek word ἀμφορεύς, is here translated from a Greek equivalent, μετρητής (Strong’s # 3355), which is also the equivalent of the Hebrew bath, for which Luke writes βάτος in chapter 16 of his gospel (16:6). The King James Version has firkins here rather than amphorae, which is a rather strange word. The archaic firkin was equivalent to about 11 gallons. Typically, amphorae were pottery bottles used to store oil or wine, and they usually held about 9 or 10 gallons each. Being commonly used in trade, they were often transported by merchant vessels, and many examples have been discovered at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. This must be a rather large wedding feast, since 6 urns of 2 amphorae would each hold at least 18 gallons. If half of them held 27 gallons, or 3 amphorae, there would be 135 gallons of wine, and that is the low estimate.
Where it says “in accordance with the purification of the Judaeans”, we see a reference to the man-made traditions imposed by the Pharisees, which Christ had criticized in the gospel, for example in Luke chapter 11, and which He and His disciples also disregarded, which is evident in Mark chapter 7, where we read in part: “2 And seeing some of His students, that with profane hands – that is, unwashed – they eat bread (3 for the Pharisees and all the Judaeans if they do not wash the hands to the elbow they do not eat, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and from the marketplace if they do not rinse they do not eat, and there are many other things which they undertook to hold to, washings of cups and pitchers and pots) 5 and the Pharisees and the scribes questioned Him: ‘For what reason do Your students not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but with profane hands they eat bread?’” So here we see that these regulations of men were extended to jars as well as to cups and pitchers and pots. Evidently, the regulations developed out of an insane paranoia for adhering to the dietary laws, as later in the gospel Christ had admonished them for straining out gnats, but swallowing camels, which is recorded in Matthew chapter 23: “24 Blind guides, straining out the gnat, but swallowing the camel! 25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, but the insides are filled from rapine and incontinence! 26 Blind Pharisees, cleanse first the insides of the cup and the dish, in order that the outsides of them shall be clean!”.
7 [א adds “And”] Yahshua says to them: “fill the urns with water.” And they filled them to the top. 8 Then He says to them: “Now draw and bring it to the table-master.” And they brought it.
The Greek verb for draw here is ἀντλέω, which is generally to draw water, and which implies that the water should be drawn from an urn into whatever vessel the servant customarily used to serve wine at the table, which is left unmentioned here.
The ἀρχιτρίκλινος (Strong’s # 755) is literally the “leader of a room with three couches”, which Liddell & Scott define as the “leader of a banquet”, but it is not the host. Thayer defines the word as “the superintendent of a dining-room… table-master… It differs from ‘the master of a feast,’ συμποσιαρχης, toast-master, who was one of the guests selected by lot to prescribe to the rest the mode of drinking; cf. Sir. 35:1 (Sir. 32:1). But it was the duty of the ἀρχιτρίκλινος to place in order the tables and couches, arrange the courses, taste the food and wine beforehand, etc. (Heliodorus 7, 27.)” From the context here, it seems that the table-master is a guest, and not a servant or a member of the household, which is especially evident here in verse 10.
At this point it is evident that the servants of the household must have had great faith in Mary, and also in Yahshua, since if they brought mere water to the table-master, or as we may call him today, the master of ceremonies where the King James Version has “governor of the feast”, they would have certainly been ridiculed. Rather, having faith in something they could not have known, John records:
9 And as the table-master tasted the water it became wine, and he knew not from where it is (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the table-master calls the bridegroom 10 and says to him: “All men set out the good wine first, and [A and the MT add “then”; the text follows P66, P75, א and B] the inferior when they are drunk. You have kept the good wine until now!”
This last exclamation supports the reading of verse 3 as it appears in the Codex Sinaiticus, which says that the original wine procured for the feast was finished.
The phrase “all men” in verse 10 is literally singular, “every man”, yet the verb τίθημι, to set, is in a 3rd person plural form.
Here we see that in this particular instance it was the bridegroom who held the feast, and not the father of his bride. Some commentators interpret the description in verse 9 to mean that none of the water became wine until each individual at the feast drank from his own cup. With this we do not agree, since it would require a lack of observation on the part of each individual not to notice that there was only water in his cup in the first place. I would rather believe that all of the water somehow became wine as the table-master took that first sip from his own cup. Of course, the difference in the interpretation in that regard is insignificant to me, but others make entire analogies out of that interpretation.
Of course, Solomon in both the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes had frequently warned of the troubles which an excess of wine may cause a man, and especially a king. Both Peter and Paul also warn Christians to be sober, and not given to excessive wine, but they certainly do not forbid wine. Praising the works of Yahweh, we read in the 104th Psalm: “13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.” The law also establishes that wine is a gift from God, as we read in Deuteronomy chapter 7: “12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: 13 And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.” Similar promises are stated elsewhere in Deuteronomy.
Certain teetotalers reject the notion that Yahshua actually turned the water into authentic wine here, or even that He and His disciples drank wine at all. They would rather believe that this was grape juice. They interpret the admonitions to be sober as requirements for complete abstinence. That belief is wrong. The Greek word οἶνος is wine, and it refers to fully fermented wine, which was routinely consumed by the disciples of Christ. The Greek word γλεῦκος, which appears in the Book of Acts, describes new wine is not yet fully fermented, but which may be expected to ferment. It could refer to grape-juice, but was typically in the beginning of the fermentation process, and therefore not as strong as wine. It was frequently served in the morning, or to children at any time. That is why it was used in reference to the apostles in Acts chapter 2, of a time early in the day. Among other Greek words for vinegar, or for wine in various stages of production, is τρύξ, a word which does not appear in the New Testament and which describes grape-juice recently prepared for fermentation. Here the word is always οἶνος, it describes wine which is fully fermented, and the apostles would have used other terms if they intended to describe any juice of the grape which was not fully fermented.
John concludes the account:
11 This was the first of the signs which Yahshua had done in Kana of Galilaia, and He made manifest His honor, and His students believed in Him.
Varying slightly, the 3rd century papyrus P66 and the Codex Sinaiticus (א) have the beginning of this verse to read “This first was the beginning of signs...”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P75, and the Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Vaticanus (B), and the Majority Text which also varies slightly.
Many denominational commentators draw allegories from the marriage feast at Cana which are based on false interpretations of Scripture, and many of them imagine that Yahweh somehow changed the people of His promises just like Christ had changed the water into wine. That is an absolute heresy, and nothing could be further from the truth.
After this wedding feast, John informs us that Yahshua along with His family and disciples goes to Capernaum, and while here in his gospel John does not record all of the events of this time, Luke tells us more in chapter 4 of his gospel, as does Matthew, where we read in part that Christ went first to Nazareth from Cana, and attended the synagogue on a Sabbath. Then He went to Capernaum.
But while He was still in Nazareth he stood to read, where Luke wrote: “17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” The citation is from Isaiah 61:1-2, except for the line which says “to set at liberty them that are bruised”, which is from Isaiah 58:6, which is made evident by comparing the New Testament Greek to that of the Septuagint in Isaiah.
According to Luke, this event in Nazareth occurred just as Christ had completed His forty days’ fasting in the desert. This is not a coincidence. Now we shall read a larger portion of the Scripture from Isaiah chapter 58, of which Christ Himself had said “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”: “1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. 3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. 4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? 6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free [this is the line which Christ borrowed from Isaiah 58:6 and inserted into His reading of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth, recorded in Luke chapter 4], and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. 9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; 10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: 11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. 13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
The children of Israel failed to attain to righteousness in their own fasts, however Yahshua Christ attained righteousness for them by His own fasts, through which He did “let the oppressed go free”, “to set at liberty them that are bruised”, who are those same children of Israel whom He punished in captivity in the days of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
And now the shorter pericope, from Isaiah chapter 61, which contains the rest of the reading from Isaiah by Christ in Nazareth which is recorded in Luke chapter 4: “1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
While in Nazareth Yahshua Christ had cited from Isaiah chapters 58 and 61, we see similar language in Isaiah chapter 49 which also informs us of the identity of the prisoners whom He intended to release: “5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Nations, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. 7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. 8 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” Paul cites this same passage, Isaiah 49:8, in 2 Corinthians chapter 6: “1 Now working together we also exhort you not to accept the favor of Yahweh to no purpose. 2 (For He says, “In an acceptable time I have listened to you, and in a day of deliverance I have come to help you.” Behold, the present time is well acceptable. Behold, the present day is of deliverance.) ” Yahweh was speaking to the dispersed of ancient Israel through Isaiah, and Yahweh was writing to some of those same dispersed of ancient Israel through Paul of Tarsus.
There is nothing about replacing the children of Israel. The prophets, in the very passages cited by Christ as being fulfilled in Himself, only inform us of the purposed restoration of the same ancient children of Israel who were punished in the days of the prophets and taken into captivity. The prisoners of Luke chapter 4 and Isaiah chapter 61 are the ancient children of Israel who were alienated from their God in that captivity. For their punishment, we read in Amos chapter 8: “11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”
If Christ is the Bread of Life, then He is the allegorical bread which remedies the famine described in Amos. If the wine of communion should represent the blood of Christ, then He is the water turned to wine which also alleviates that same famine, and that is the analogy we can draw from the miracle of Cana, that the blood of the Covenant in Christ is better than the allegorical water of the Word of God which the children of Israel had done without since the nation was taken into captivity. But according to Isaiah and Amos, these things only relate to the ancient children of Israel, and therefore no other people can claim them for themselves. That all of this happens at a wedding feast may be symbolic of the fulfillment of the promise which Yahweh made to Israel in Hosea chapter 2: “19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. ”
Thus we read in Joel chapter 3: “16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. 17 So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. 18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” Strangers are not going to be made into Christians. Rather, strangers are going to no longer be permitted among true Christians, which are the seed of the ancient children of Israel.
In Jeremiah chapter 31, the House of Israel and the House of Judah were promised a new covenant: “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” In Ezekiel chapter 34 there is another promise of a new covenant: “ 22 Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. 23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24 And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. 25 And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.”
This is the covenant of which Christ was the messenger, as we already read in Malachi chapter 3: “1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” None of these promises of a new covenant can possibly be construed to include anyone but the physical descendants of the ancient children of Israel, the allegorical prisoners in the allegorical prison house since the days when their fathers were put off in captivity for their sins.
Now, John neglects to include the accounts of Yahshua’s temptation in the desert and His sojourn in Nazareth, and he says:
12 After this He went down into Kapharnaoum, and His mother and [א, A and the MT add “His”; the text follows P66, P75, B and 0162] brethren and His students [א wants “His students”; the text follows P66, P75, A, B, 0162 and the MT], and they [A has “He”] abode there for not many days.
Among the brethren of Christ who accompanied Him to Capernaum would have been James the elder, the James of Acts chapters 15 and 21 and of the epistle which bears his name, and Jude his brother, who is also the author of the short epistle bearing that name. Where it says “for not many days” we see that they did not stay very long in Capernaum. Christ had made several stops in Capernaum during His ministry, and the people were evidently quite stubborn to hear His gospel, on which account He says in Matthew chapter 11: “23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”
Here John does not tell us what had transpired in Capernaum, or in Nazareth after He left Capernaum. He also omits the account of the forty days in the desert and the temptation of Christ during that time, which is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels. This is persuasive evidence that John’s gospel, written last of the four, was intended to inform Christians of things that the other gospels did not recount, especially where the other gospel writers were not eye-witnesses, but John himself was present for these events.
Matthew has nothing between the baptism of Christ by John, and the temptation in the wilderness. From the rather concise gospel of Mark, one may be led to believe that the temptation in the wilderness happened immediately after that baptism. Both men do recount some of the things which transpired during the first visit of Christ to Capernaum following the wedding feast at Cana. Luke informs us that after the baptism of Christ, He fasts forty days in the desert where he is tempted, and then goes to Nazareth, where the people wanted to slay Him, then He went to Capernaum, and also preached elsewhere in Galilee. Matthew supports this sequence of events, and adds that after the temptation in the wilderness, Christ had heard that John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod. So from John we may fill in further details of this early portion of the ministry of Christ, but John did not repeat much of what is already found in the other gospels. That does not mean that any of the gospels are inaccurate, but only that each writer had a different recollection of these events from which to create his narrative, and while they are all accurate none of them by themselves are complete. This is true even though for the other three gospel authors, the recollections they had were vicarious, as none of them were eye-witnesses of this early period in the ministry of Christ. As we have already said, it may well have been intentional, that John did not repeat the other gospels.