The transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John. In the Gospel account, Jesus, his mother and his disciples are invited to a wedding, and when the wine runs out, Jesus delivers a sign of his glory by turning water into wine.
John 2:1-11 states that while Jesus was at a wedding in Cana with his disciples, the party ran out of wine. Jesus' mother (unnamed in John's Gospel) told Jesus, "They have no wine," and Jesus replied, "Oh Woman, what has this to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother then said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:3-5). Jesus ordered the servants to fill containers with water and to draw out some and take it to the chief steward (waiter). After tasting it, without knowing where it came from, the steward remarked to the bridegroom that he had departed from the custom of serving the best wine first by serving it last (John 2:6-10). John adds that: "Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and it revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him" (John 2:11).
Although none of the Synoptic Gospels mentions the marriage at Cana, Christian tradition based on John 2:11 holds that this is the first public miracle of Jesus. It is considered to have symbolic importance as the first of the seven signs in the Gospel of John by which Jesus' divine status is attested, and around which the gospel is structured.
Interpreted allegorically, the good news and hope implied by the story are in the words of the steward of the Feast when he tasted the good wine, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now" (John 2:10, NRSV). This could be interpreted by saying simply that it is always darkest before the dawn, but good things are on the way. The more usual interpretation, however, is that this is a reference to the appearance of Jesus, whom the author of the Fourth Gospel regards as being himself "the good wine".
The story has had considerable importance in the development of Christian pastoral theology. Fulton J. Sheen thought that it is very likely that it was one of Mary's relatives who was being married. This would mean Mary and her relatives would be embarrassed if they appeared inhospitable by running out of wine, giving Mary a reason to ask Jesus to intercede. The gospel account of Jesus being invited to a marriage, attending, and using his divine power to save the celebrations from disaster are taken as evidence of his approval for marriage and earthly celebrations, in contrast to the more austere views of Paul the Apostle as found, for example, in 1 Corinthians 7. It has also been used as an argument against Christian teetotalism.
According to Bill Day, the miracle may also be interpreted as the antitype of Moses' first public miracle of changing water (the Nile river) into blood. This would establish a symbolic link between Moses as the first saviour of the Jews through their escape from Egypt and Jesus as the spiritual saviour of all people.
Some commentators have speculated about the identity of the unnamed bridegroom. One tradition, represented by Thomas Aquinas among others, holds that the bridegroom was St John the Evangelist himself. Bishop John Spong suggests in his book Born of a Woman that the event was actually the wedding of Jesus himself to Mary Magdalene. In 1854, at a time when polygamy was an element of mainstream practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Latter-day Saint elder Orson Hyde made a similar suggestion, arguing that Jesus was a polygamist and that the event at Cana was his wedding to Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary of Bethany.
Geography and archaeology
The exact location of Cana has been subject to debate among scholars. Modern scholars maintain that since the Gospel of John was addressed to Jewish Christians of the time, it isn’t likely that the evangelist would mention a place that did not exist.
Locations which are candidates for historical Cana are:
- Kafr Kanna, in Galilee
- Khirbet Qana, also called Kenet-l-Jalil, also in Galilee
- Ain Qana, Southern Lebanon
- Qana, Southern Lebanon.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1914, a tradition dating back to the 8th century identifies Cana with the modern Arab town of Kafr Kanna, in Galilee, about 7 km (4.3 mi) northeast of Nazareth, Israel. Other suggested alternatives include the ruined village of Khirbet Qana, also called Kenet-l-Jalil, about 9 km (5.6 mi) further north, and Ain Qana, in Southern Lebanon, which is closer to Nazareth and considered to be a better candidate on etymological grounds. Some Christians, especially Lebanese Christians, believe the southern Lebanese village of Qana to have been the actual location of this event.
In the journal Biblical Archaeological Review, Michael Homan argues that many biblical scholars have misinterpreted early texts, translating to 'wine' when the more sensible translation is 'beer'.
Depictions of Marriage at Cana are numerous in art history.
The calling of Apostle John at the Marriage at Cana, c. 1530, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen
Marriage at Cana, 1561, Jacopo Tintoretto
Marriage at Cana, 1566, Giorgio Vasari
- Chronology of Jesus
- Life of Jesus in the New Testament
- Ministry of Jesus
- Miracles of Jesus
- Parables of Jesus
- H. Van der Loos, 1965 The Miracles of Jesus, E.J. Brill Press, s of Christ ISBN 0-88141-193-0 page 71
- , Towner, W. S. (1996), Wedding, in P. J. Achtermeier (Ed.), Harper Collins Bible Dictionary (pp. 1205-1206), San Francisco: Harper
- e.g. Smith, D. M. (1988), John, in Mays, J. L. (Ed.), Harper's Bible Commentary (pp. 1044-1076), San Francisco: Harper.
- Sheen, Fulton J., The World's first Love (1952)
- 1 Corinthians 7
- e.g. Geisler, N. L. (1982), A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking, Bibliotheca Sacra, 49
- Day, Bill, The Moses Connection in John's Gospel, Mariner Publishing (1997) ISBN 0-9662080-0-5
- John Shelby Spong, Born of a Woman (Harper, 1992) pages 187-199.
- Orson Hyde, Conference message, October 6, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:82
- Inside Today's Mormonism by Richard Abanes 2007 ISBN 0-7369-1968-6 page 239
- A Disparity in Doctrine and Theology by E Roberts 2011 ISBN 1-4497-1210-X page 54
- Jesus and archaeology by James H. Charlesworth 2006 ISBN 0-8028-4880-X pages 540-541
- Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible 2000 ISBN 90-5356-503-5 page 212
- "Catholic encyclopedia: Cana". Newadvent.org. 1908-11-01. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- "Lebanese Town Lays Claim To Jesus Christ's First Miracle", Associated Press, January 12, 1994.
- Homan, Michael M. “Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Sep/Oct 2010.
- Adomnan of Iona. Life of St Columba. Penguin books, 1995
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- Shea, Mark. "The Significance of the Wedding at Cana", National Catholic Register, September 10, 2012
Marriage at Cana
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