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Cana of Galilee. Holy land photographed by Daniel B. Shepp. 1894
This article is about a place mentioned in the New Testament. For other uses, see Cana (disambiguation).

The Gospel of John refers a number of times to a town called Cana of Galilee.

Written references to Cana[edit]

Biblical references[edit]

Main article: Marriage at Cana
Cana is very positively located in Shepherd's Historical Atlas, 1923: modern scholars are less sure.

Among Christians and other students of the New Testament, Cana is best known as the place where, according to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus performed his first public miracle, the turning of a large quantity of water into wine at a wedding feast (John 2:1–11) when the wine provided by the bridegroom had run out. Although none of the synoptic gospels records the event, mainstream Christian tradition holds that this is the first public miracle of Jesus.[1]

The other biblical references to Cana are from John too. John 4:46, which mentions Jesus is visiting Cana when he is asked to heal the son of a royal official at Capernaum; and John 21:2, where it is mentioned that Nathanael (usually identified with the Bartholomew included in the synoptic gospels' lists of apostles) comes from Cana. The Book of Joshua mentions one city (19:28) and one brook (16:8; 17:9) named Cana – neither is likely to be the Cana of Galilee.[2]

Other references[edit]

In secular history, the annals of Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, who conquered the Galilee in a 733 BC campaign, contain a badly preserved list of cities[3] that had been thought to mention a certain Kana.[4][5] It relates 650 captives were taken there. However, a revised transliteration revealed the one well preserved syllable to be Ku, not Ka.[6]

Flavius Josephus mentions more than one place named Cana;[7][8] in the context of the Galilee there are two mentions in his Life. Once, a place on the road from Iulias,[9] and again, a place where he resided, about a day's walk from Tiberias.[7][10]

The name possibly derive from Hebrew or Aramaic for either reeds[7] or nest.

Locating Cana[edit]

Map of the Lower Galilee with possible locations of Cana:
Kafr Kanna, blue; Khirbet Qana, red.

There has been much speculation about where Cana might have been. In his Gospel, the author makes no claim to have been at the wedding, and the gospel is not a reliable topographical source. Many would regard the story of the wedding at Cana as of theological rather than historical or topographical significance; it is the first of the seven miraculous "signs" by which Jesus's divine status is attested, and around which the gospel is structured.

The consensus of modern scholarship is that the Fourth Gospel was addressed to a group of Jewish Christians, and very possibly a group living in Judea province; so it is unlikely that the evangelist would have mentioned a place that did not exist.[citation needed] There is a minority view that the gospel was written for a gentile audience, and those who take this view assert that the description in the passage about the marriage at Cana of "six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification" is specifically for a gentile audience, who would not know the topography of the Holy Land. On this hypothesis the name "Cana" might have some purely symbolic significance.[citation needed]

There are two locations in the Galilee which scholars consider for biblical Cana:

  1. Kafr Kanna, Israel;
  2. Khirbet Kana, or Kana-el-Jalil, Israel;

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a tradition dating back to the 8th century[11] identifies Cana with the modern Arab town of Kafr Kanna, on the feet of Nazareth range, about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) northeast of Nazareth. The ruined village of Khirbet Qana, overlooking Beit Netofa Valley from north, is about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) further north, and has also been noticed by pilgrims since the 12th century or earlier.[12] Its Arabic name Kana-el-Jalil, although it parallels the gospel of John, can either be an ancient retention, as Edward Robinson maintained,[12] or it was attached to the place in conversation with querying pilgrims.[7]

Bas-Relief of the Apostles in Qana, Lebanon.

Geographers since the 19th century had tended toward the latter, but in the 21st century, excavations in the west of Kafer Kanna tilted their views once more.[13] Ain Kana, closer to Nazareth, is considered by some to be a better candidate on etymological grounds.[citation needed]

In Lebanon, the village of Qana, near Tyre, is traditionally held to be the correct site, and is Eusebius's pick in his Onomasticon.[7][14][15]


  1. ^ Towner, W. S. (1996). Wedding. In P. J. Achtermeier (Ed.), Harper Collins Bible dictionary (pp. 1205–1206). San Francisco: Harper
  2. ^ Ewing, W (1915). "Kanah". In James Orr (ed.). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  3. ^ Tadmor, Hayim; Yamada, Shigeo (eds.). "Tiglath-pileser III 22". RINAP: Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period. ORACC. Retrieved 13 May 2014. , also in ISBN 978-1-57506-220-4, p. 61ff.
  4. ^ Benjamin Mazar identifies it with Cana "without doubt": Maisler, B (April 1933). מסע תגלת פלאסר השלישי לא"י בשנת 732 [The expedition of Tiglath Pileser III to Palestine in 732 B.C.]. Yediʻot ha-Ḥevrah ha-ʻIvrit la-ḥaḳirat Erets-Yiśraʼel ṿe-ʻatiḳoteha [Bulletin of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society / Bulletin of the Israel Exploration Society] (in Hebrew) 1 (1). OCLC 7858680. Retrieved 2014-05-15.  In Digital Library for International Research Archive, Item #1599.
  5. ^ The translations of the inscription by Smith, Rost and Oppenheim all sport the same name.
  6. ^ Tadmor, Hayim (1967). "כיבוש הגליל בידי תגלת פלאסר הג'" [The conquest of Galilee by Tiglath-Pileser III]. In Hirschberg, Haïm Zeev; Aviram, Yosef. כל ארץ נפתלי / Kol erets Naftali [All the land of Naphtali : the twenty-fourth Archaeological Convention, October 1966] (in Hebrew). Yerushalayim: ha-Ḥevrah la-ḥaḳirat Erets-Yiśraʼel ṿe-ʻatiḳoteha. pp. 63–64. OCLC 19147471. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Ewing, W (1915). "Cana". In James Orr (ed.). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  8. ^ Williams, George (1854). "Cana". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography – via Perseus Project. 
  9. ^ Mason, Steve (ed.). The Life of Flavius Josephus. Brill/PACE  Missing or empty |title= (help); |section= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Mason, Steve (ed.). The Life of Flavius Josephus. Brill/PACE  Missing or empty |title= (help); |section= ignored (help)
  11. ^ Ward, B (1908). "Cana". Catholic Encyclopedia 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  12. ^ a b Robinson, Edward; Eli Smith (1841). Biblical researches in Palestine (1st ed.). Boston: Crocker & Brewster. OCLC 586068890. Retrieved 2014-06-21.  pp. 204-208.
  13. ^ Arav, Rami (2014). "Cana in Galilee". In Craig A. Evans (ed.). The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. Routledge. ISBN 9781317722243. 
  14. ^ Eusebius, of Caesarea (2006) [manuscript, 1971]. Wolf, Carl Umhau, ed. "THE ONOMASTICON OF EUSEBIUS PAMPHILI, COMPARED WITH THE VERSION OF JEROME AND ANNOTATED". Retrieved 7 May 2014.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  15. ^ Eusebius, of Caesarea (1904). Klostermann, Erich, ed. Das Onomastikon der Biblischen Ortsnamen. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (in Greek and Latin). Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs. pp. 116–117. OCLC 490976390. Retrieved 2014-05-06. 

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