Marriage at Cana

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"Wedding at Cana" redirects here. For the Veronese painting, see The Wedding at Cana.
Marriage at Cana by Giotto, 1st century

In Christianity, the transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John.[1][2] In the biblical account, Jesus and his mother are invited to a marriage, and when the wine runs out, Jesus performs a miracle by turning water into wine.

The exact location of Cana has been subject to debate among biblical scholars and archeologists; several villages in Galilee are candidates.

Biblical account[edit]

John 2:1-11 states that while Jesus was attending a marriage 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, "O 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)".


The Marriage at Cana by Marten de Vos, c. 1596

Although none of the synoptic gospels records the event, mainstream Christian tradition and John 2:11 holds that this is the first public miracle of Jesus.[3] However 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.

It is still a matter of discussion among theologians whether the story talks of an actual material transformation of water into wine, or is a spiritual allegory. Interpreted allegorically, the good news and hope implied by the story is in the words of the Governor 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] It has also been used as an argument against Christian teetotalism.[7]

The miracle could also be seen 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 savior of the Jews through their escape from Egypt and Jesus as the spiritual savior of all people.[8]


The miraculous claims of water into wine are arguably discredited by the known existence, at the time and in the same area, of multiple types of trick amphora, drinking horns, and other drink dispensers that would have been used for just that purpose. These were explicitly detailed in the writings of Hero of Alexandria (c. 10-70 AD).[9]

Early Latter Day Saint (Mormon) views[edit]

Early Latter Day Saint Apostle Orson Hyde taught that the marriage at Cana was Jesus' own marriage, that Jesus was a polygamist and that Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary of Bethany were his wives.[10][11][12] This teaching has never been accepted as part of official Mormon doctrine by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is not held to be true by Mormons today.[13][14][15] Anti-Mormon critic Floyd McElveen argues against this hypothesis based on John 2:8-10, which states that the ruler at the feast (unaware of the miracle) congratulated "the bridegroom" for the wine, not Jesus, and on John 2:2, which states: "both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage", because one does not "get an invitation to one's own wedding".[16]

Geography and archaeology[edit]

The "Wedding church" in Kafr Kanna, Israel, a pilgrimage site believed by many Christians to be the site of the biblical marriage.

The exact location of Cana has been subject to debate among scholars.[17] 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. Villages in Galilee which are candidates for historical Cana are: Kafr Kanna, Kenet-l-Jalil (also called Khirbet Kana) and Ain Qana and Qana in southern Lebanon.[18]

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, about 7 km northeast of Nazareth, Israel.[19] Other suggested alternatives include the ruined village of Kenet-el-Jalil (also known as Khirbet Kana), about 9 km further north, and Ain Qana, 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.[20]

Many ancient and modern archaeologists have sought to recover the jars used at Cana, but no specific archeological data have confirmed their discovery.

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'.[21] If the celebration at Cana had served beer rather than wine, it is far less likely that archaeological evidence of the vessels will ever be discovered. As Homan discusses, beer was usually consumed quite soon after its making, leaving less evidence in the vessel containing it. Further, the tools used in its creation are often the same as those used in bread-making, obscuring their likely alternative use in beer brewing.

In art[edit]

Depictions of Marriage at Cana are numerous in art history.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ H. Van der Loos, 1965 The Miracles of Jesus, E.J. Brill Press, Netherlands page 599
  2. ^ Dmitri Royster 1999 The miracles of Christ ISBN 0-88141-193-0 page 71
  3. ^ Towner, W. S. (1996). Wedding. In P. J. Achtermeier (Ed.), Harper Collins Bible dictionary (pp. 1205-1206). San Francisco: Harper
  4. ^ e.g. Smith, D. M. (1988). John. In Mays, J. L. (Ed.), Harper's bible commentary (pp. 1044-1076). San Francisco: Harper.
  5. ^ Sheen, Fulton J., The World's first Love (1952)
  6. ^ 1 Corinthians 7
  7. ^ e.g. Geisler, N. L. (1982), A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking. Bibliotheca Sacra, 49
  8. ^ Day, Bill. The Moses Connection in John's Gospel. Mariner Publishing (1997) ISBN 0-9662080-0-5
  9. ^ of Alexandria, Hero. "THE PNEUMATICS OF HERO OF ALEXANDRIA". The Hopkin Thomas Project. TAYLOR WALTON AND MABERLY. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Orson Hyde, Conference message, October 6, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:82
  11. ^ Inside Today's Mormonism by Richard Abanes 2007 ISBN 0-7369-1968-6 page 239
  12. ^ A Disparity in Doctrine and Theology by E Roberts 2011 ISBN 1-4497-1210-X page 54
  13. ^ Gibson, Stephen R. "Was Jesus Married?". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  14. ^ "Was Jesus Married?". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  15. ^ "Guidelines regarding how statements by past church leaders affect modern-day church doctrine". 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  16. ^ McElveen, Floyd C. (1985), The Mormon Illusion: What the Bible Says about the Latter-Day Saints, Kregel Publications, p. 107, ISBN 978-0-8254-9684-4 
  17. ^ Jesus and archaeology by James H. Charlesworth 2006 ISBN 0-8028-4880-X pages 540-541
  18. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible 2000 ISBN 90-5356-503-5 page 212
  19. ^ "Catholic encyclopedia: Cana". 1908-11-01. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  20. ^ "Lebanese Town Lays Claim To Jesus Christ's First Miracle", Associated Press, January 12, 1994.
  21. ^ Homan, Michael M.. “Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Sep/Oct 2010.

External links[edit]

Marriage at Cana
Preceded by
Return of Jesus to Galilee
New Testament
Succeeded by
Jesus and Nicodemus
John 03:01–21