Re: John 2:8

From: Jim West (jwest@Highland.Net)
Date: Wed Sep 16 1998 - 09:13:11 EDT

At 09:59 AM 9/16/98 -0700, you wrote:

>Well, you see ~ that is a most reasonable inference ~ at least a
>nearby well ~ one would imagine ~ Yet on that point the text is silent
>~ I assume the silence has purpose ~ I do not know what that assumed
>purpose might be. To guess or infer either the source well or the
>assumed [by me] purpose seems to go beyond the text, which simply says
>that He told the servants to fill those large stone pots with water to
>the top, which they did. For reasons best known to John, the source
>of the water is left out of the text.

It may perhaps help to realize that the purification rites would have been
fairly well known to John's readers- who though probably not predominantely
Jewish would have probably seen some Jews purify themselves.

> Perhaps they had water on hand
>in barrels.

No- it wouldn't have been. Barrels are wooden- and wooden vessels cannot be
purified- thus jars for purification would not have made use of water from a
barrel. Purification jars had to be filled with water from a well or river
or flowing stream. This is the way purification was in 1st c. Judaism.

> It was a lot of water, and perhaps would have taken a
>long time to obtain from a well. We just do not know from the text.

But, you see George, we do know the practices of purification carried out by
Jews. And we do know that water in jars was drawn from wells, streams, or
rivers. In the event at Cana, which is not close to a river, it is most
likely that the source of the water was a well. John does not say all this
because it is not necessary. His readers would have known it.

>> The sequence of vv 7-8 indicate that the jars were empty- Jesus ordered them
>> to be filled, they were, and the water was drawn from them. On the way to
>> the chief steward the water became wine. That is the whole gist of the
>> narrative.
>Again Jim, this seems to go beyond the text. The text is silent on
>the issue of when the water became wine. I assume that silence is for
>a reason, and do not know what it might be.

No, I do not think so. The sequence I outline above is simply the way the
text describes it.

> This silence is part of
>the MU of the mystery of this passage to me. The servants filled the
>pots with water, and the servants drew out and carried [it] to the
>steward, who tasted it and pronounced it a fine wine. The point of
>the water's conversion to wine is not indicated with more precision
>than this. Is there a process involved here? A sequence that
>includes the filling, the drawing off, the carrying and the giving to
>the steward? I want to think so, but the text is silent.

I think you are looking for mystery when none is intended.

>The text does not say that water was drawn up from the jars, you

Yes it does.

>> But, George, there is nothing spare or enigmatic here, at all!
>Bless you, Jim. Your vision is clearer than mine. I see mystery in
>every direction, and live in a profound personal sense of inadequacy
>and awe with this passage.

Well it is an awe inspiring passage- but not for the reason you suspect. In
fact, the purification jars are the key to the story. In the rite of
purification, one hin (about the amount of water one could hold in a chiken
egg) was enough to purify 100 people. Why? Because purification involved
simply dipping the tip of the finger in the water, tilting the hand up until
the bead of water ran to the wrist, and then tilting the hand back down.
THAT is the rite of purification.

Now imagine that you have 6 stone jars filled with 25-30 gallons of water.
how many fok can be purified by that? Well, I am not real good at math- but
a hin is about 1/4 of a cup. Multiply that by how many cups are in a
gallon, and multiply that 6 times (the number of jars) and multiply that
number by 100- and you have the number of folk who could be purified by
those 6 jars.

The point of the story, then, is that Jesus provides purification for
everyone! And that purification is not wrought by mere water, but by wine
(blood- as we all know from the Eucharist).

That, my friend, is the point of the story.



Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

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