June 11, 2009

John 2.1-2.11

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana-in-Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples were guests also. The wine gave out, so Jesus's mother said to him, "They have no wine left."

He answered, "What does that matter to you or me? My hour has not yet come."

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

There were six stone water-jars standing near, of the kind used for Jewish rites of purification; each held from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water," and they filled them to the brim. "Now draw some off," he ordered, "and take it to the steward of the feast;" and they did so.

The steward tasted the water now turned into wine, not knowing its source, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. He hailed the bridegroom and said, "Everyone serves the best wine first, and waits until the guests have drunk freely before serving the poorer sort, but you have kept the best wine until now."

This deed at Cana-in-Galilee is the first of the signs by which Jesus revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.


At 3:44 p.m., Blogger Diane said...

Wine, symbolizing the transformation of truth into understanding, is my key takeaway here. This following on the possibility that Nathanael from the previous passage may (?) be the bridegroom, and I have no idea the meaning of a wedding. I have mulling over Nathanael as a collective character. The fish and bread, as food, and I found the meaning of Bethsaida where the disciples came from to mean “house of food.” If food as bread means Spirit, then I can understand the collective as having meaning as humans receiving Spirit in large numbers. The wedding perhaps is union of mind and spirit.

And then we have the disciples following Jesus.

One commentary contrasted the turning of water to wine, with Moses’ turning water to blood, in Exodus 7.20, the first of the plaques. Perhaps the intent of this “miracle” is to contrast the difference between the good nature brought at this time (truth into understanding) in contrast to what was then (via Moses and seemingly punitive).

In regard to what has that to do with me, my hour has not come yet, I guess it would imply that understanding will come to all at his death.

At 4:07 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

I've heard that this miracle was borrowed from Bacchus. And that part with "the mother of Jesus" (don't we have a name for her?) is odd.

Hmmm. Looking up Bacchus's pedigreed on wikipedia, it turns out uncertain. Zeus was supposed to have been the father, so that whether the mother was Semele or Persephone, staying incognito would have been a good idea.

Later in that article:

Parallels with Christianity

Martin Hengel argues that Dionysian religion and Christianity have significant parallels, stating that "Dionysus had been at home in Palestine for a long time".

The modern scholar Barry Powell thinks that Christian notions of eating and drinking the "flesh" and "blood" of Jesus were influenced by the cult of Dionysus. In another parallel Powell adduces, Dionysus was distinct among Greek gods as a deity commonly felt within individual followers. Another example of possible influence on Christianity, Dionysus' followers, as well as another god, Pan, are said to have had the most influence on the noncanonical depiction of Satan as animal-like and horned.

Wine was an important manifestation of Dionysus, imagined as its creator; the creation of wine from water figures also in Jesus's Marriage at Cana. In the 19th century, Bultmann and others compared both themes and concluded that the Dionysian theophany was transferred to Jesus. At Elis during the Thyeia, the festival of Dionysus, three pots would be placed by priests in a sealed room and the following day be found to miraculously be filled with wine. At Andros and Teos water flowing from the spring in the temple of Dionysus changed to wine on his feast days, January 5 and 6; the Marriage at Cana is placed on 6 January in the Christian calendar. Heinz Noetzel's Christus und Dionysos disagrees, arguing Dionysus never actually did turn water into wine. Martin Hengel replied that opposing traditions would be anachronistic, and that since all Palestinians were familiar with the transformation of water to wine as a miracle, it was expected from the Messiah to perform it.

Peter Wick argues that the use of wine symbolism in the Gospel of John, including the story of the Marriage at Cana at which Jesus turns water into wine, is intended to show Jesus as superior to Dionysus.
So, are we finding some of that real old time religion incorporated in John--not just in this chapter, but in much of the rest? Elsewhere in that wikipedia article, they speak of Dionysus as having been called 'the twice-born,' for example.

And aside from that, this story suggests heaps of symbolism!

But why is Jesus's mother involved, and why does he tell her "My hour has not yet come," whereupon she understands this as meaning that he is going to perform! Odd!

At 4:29 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Hmm, Diane,
Since your comment wasn't here when I posted mine, it looks as if I ignored you! Not intended.

We've got bread and wine being the necessary ingredients of a proper Sabbath meal. How spiritually anyone wants to interpret that, well, it could reasonably mean both spirit and physical nutrition?

'Union of mind and spirit'? Or 'body and spirit'!! This guy is being billed as the word of God embodied in meat! And one interpretation of Christianity is that it offers a perspective in which embodied isn't necessarily a bad thing, that connecting with God doesn't
imply floating off into ethereal poof.

I still don't get the part about "My hour has not yet come;" she isn't asking him "When will we understand what you're doing here?"

Is this something like, "He gets so difficult when I just ask him to do a little miracle or two, but if I don't let him get away with it, he'll come around." ?

At 4:57 p.m., Blogger Diane said...

I didn't feel ignored at all. In fact, I've been looking into Dionysus without missing a beat. I've seen Dionysus mentioned but never followed up before.

Spirit and body, okay, I can see that. But if the Spirit was suddenly available to you, it may feel like drunkenness or a person may not handle it well ... in its newness. Something about the "laughter of the gods" reminds me that laughter was like inebriation, which also was more like ecstasy.

Twice born is a term used in the initiation of (Hindu) Brahmins, where the first is physical and the second spritual/mental. I'm back to my thinking these are stories describing initiation into the mystery teachings.

The mother is the feminine aspect, wisdom or intuition, perhaps. I'll think about it some more.

I'll also think about the possible significance of three pots turning into six.

Regarding "my hour" ... which I think is the crucifixion, which is WHEN everyone has access to the gift of the Spirit. I'm not sure what it would mean to an initiate, however. I may try to track down what is said in my study bible about initiates and get a handle on why this isn't discussed much in general.

I'll be signing off for the weekend tonight unless I find a computer to check in this weekend. But you've left me more to dwell on, so thank you so much. I hope to see what others add too since everyone has triggered more thought for me.

Have a good weekend.

At 10:15 a.m., Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Hello Forrest and Diane,

In Hebrew,the number six often stands for incompleteness, or at least 'human' since 'human' was created on the sixth day, so six may also mean finite, etc. (Another example of this is 666 in the Book of Revelation, the number of evil. Why? Six is incomplete, three means complete, so 666 is "completely incomplete:-) totally evil-- In other words "0".

As for the miracle relating to Pagan stories, it is highly likely, for the NT writers often made such parallels. In John the first several miracles are in intended opposition to the gods of famous Pagan religious stories. m(I forget which scholars have pointed this out).

The reason why it is the third day in Cana, of course, is that besides 3 meaning complete (or perfect), it is most likely also a reference to Jesus' resurrection. The six stone water jars represent the "incomplete" Jewish ritual system, while the new wine (a drinker points out that the best has been saved for last, i.e.the New Covenant opposed to the Old).

John's gospel is highly symbolic or allegorical. I often used such biblical stories when I taught world literature to show my students the importance of numbers and symbols in literature.

Daniel Wilcox

At 1:13 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Yes, Daniel, it is good to have you around... and now the 'but':

So this is basically saying, "Rah! Rah! Jesus!"? I think we got that aspect... The part I'm finding intriguing--How does this tie in to the old metaphor of Israel as God's vineyard? Likely this is also saying that the old vineyard-keepers blew it, not enough "wine" produced, so Jesus even gets "wine" from the goyim? Or from 'Jews' who'd been unable to meet the requirements of the Temple cult?

At 9:22 a.m., Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Jesus is the new wine because the old purification no longer "satisfies"
This is a new day--the wedding, not only of a couple in Cana, but God to humankind.

In the Light,


At 8:42 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

It may be so, but I don't see it.

There are plenty of hints, in Judaism & other religions, that God is embodied in us. I see no reason to suppose that God suddenly--due to the existence of one man, no matter how favored--came to inhabit a hitherto empty humankind.

If you are saying that this was how the author of this book saw things--All right, it likely was. But what interests me are not so much that "John's" view of things, which I find sometimes illuminating & sometimes not.

There are a great many people named "Jesus" in this time and place, and the fact that this "John" has particular reverence for one of them doesn't help me. I can't imagine the real Jesus talking the way his protagonist talks! I can see much of what this wooden Jesus says as an expression of what John believes about him--but I don't find that person himself much, outside the synoptics. Sometimes the fictional guy says wonderful, enlightening things, which tells me that the author of this piece must have had some insights. But so much of it just sounds like "Our guy is better than your guy," which really demands more evidence than some symbolic story of miraculous powers--the sort of "sign" he refuses to perform in the other gospels.


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