Wednesday 31 October 2018

The marriage and miracle at Cana - Fourth Gospel

After Jesus was identified as the Messiah and baptised by John, and after he had collected some disciples; the first incident in the Fourth Gospel is the marriage at Cana, the turning of water into wine; which is described as the beginning of the miracles.

The marriage at Cana describes Jesus's wedding (i.e. it identifies Jesus as the bridegroom - this interpretation being confirmed later in John 3:29). And then Jesus does his first miracle; why then?

My understanding is that the marriage was the moment when Jesus assumed his ministry - at the late age of thirty. I assume that the baptism by John what made it possible; the marriage was what made it happen. This is my interpretation of the governor's comment, addressing Jesus: 'thou has kept the good wine until now'.

Presumably, this was why this miracle was done at this time - as a sanctification of the marriage; that this marriage was, compared with an ordinary marriage - symbolically and literally - as wine is to water.

Otherwise, this miracle of transformation seems rather a rather feeble, even trivial, achievement; at least by comparison with Jesus's miracles of healing. Yet we are told that it 'manifested forth his glory' - so there must have been something very important about it.

(Note: Unfortunately, I get the feeling that there is something wrong with the Biblical text of this episode - especially 2: 3-5, where there is both an impression of alien interpolation and of omission.) 
Note added: I suspect that the marriage of Jesus being followed by the performance of miracles is related to the dyadic nature of fully creative divinity. This is implied by Mormon theology, with its assertion that celestial-eternal marriage is required for full divinity; and full divinity is characterised by the procreation of spirit children. This would suggest that it was necessary that Jesus was celestially-married in order that he would attain full divinity, with the same fullness as his Father (albeit, the Son lives and creates within the creation of the Father). 

John. 2: [1] And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: [2] And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. [3] And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. [4] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. [5] His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. [6] And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. [7] Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. [9] When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, [10] And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. [11] This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.(...) John. 3: [27] John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. [28] Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. [29] He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage" (John 2:1-2). Don't you think that's an awfully strange way of referring to Jesus' role in his own marriage?

We see something similar in John 11:5 -- "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Very odd wording if, as you hold, "her sister" refers to Jesus' own wife!

If the marriage in Cana was in fact the wedding of Jesus and Mary, why does the text seem to be deliberately misleading, going out of its way to portray Jesus as just another wedding guest and Mary as just another member of a family that he loved? (And the same method, that of sandwiching the downplayed person between two others in a list, is used both times!)

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - As I said, there is something that stands out about some parts of the marriage description; it has several odd elements. In that sense, it doesn't stand up to precise analysis in the way that nearly of the this Gospel does.

However, the level of analysis you are suggesting is probably very seldom appropriate; we are supposed to read and allow the meaning to form in our minds.

But more fundamentally, my assumption is that there is no misleading; but that the Gospel was written for people who already knew the story of Jesus's life; including that he was married and to whom. So there was no need to define who was Mary Magdalene, or the disiciple who Jesus loved etc. The Gospel was to explain what these things meant.

The family of Lazarus is clearly very special indeed.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - "we are supposed to read and allow the meaning to form in our minds. "

Once we have decided that something is divinely inspired scripture, we would naturally read it in a different way from the way we read anything else. And that way could not be captured by any system.

And for this reason, we can't argue anybody else into agreeing with our intepretation - just suggest it, and allow them to discover for themselves. Which is what I try Not to do/ to do here.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce, I'm not trying to argue you out of your interpretation or asking you to argue me into it. I'm just wondering how, from within your assumptions, you explain the very strange wording. Mere corruption of the text? Deliberate secrecy?

Chiu ChunLing said...

I doubt that this was the first miracle Jesus did, but the first shown to people who did not already know Him as the Christ. Mary seems confident enough in leaving the wine up to Jesus' miraculous power to suggest that she had been witness to many miraculous solutions to relatively mundane problems.

This also has bearing on the issue of Jesus' wife and children, it was probably not spoken of publicly for similar (but even more pressing) reasons as the miracles of Jesus' childhood mostly were kept private.

Wes S said...

Mr. Charlton, are you familiar with the 2003 film The Gospel of John? It is intriguing in that it follows the book of John exclusively, and mostly verbatim. They do use a bland modern Bible translation for the script, very unlike the majestic KJV, though this does give the movie an immediacy to modern viewers that older diction can keep loftily distant. (An example being the many "Verily, verily I say unto you" replaced with "I am telling you the truth", with Jesus then trying to explain difficult or confusing ideas and concepts to often unreceptive audiences.)

Some of the few actual deviations from the gospel include the addition of Mary Magdalene in a number of scenes where she would not normally be, including at the Last Supper. This would be an intriguing element from a "Charlton Hypothesis" perspective, if Lazarus and John weren't distinct characters, along with Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene. One could easily imagine an alternative edit that had these elements in place, however.

I also mention it because I find actor Henry Ian Cusick very compelling in the role of Jesus. I have always identified with Jesus having brown eyes, and the actor also readily conveys a joy felt by Jesus when he encounters and interacts with those truly receptive to Him, unlike most portrayals where Jesus is uniformly stoic.

Gyan said...

I had the impression that Mary Magdalene was a different individual from Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I don't have an explanation; there are several possibilities - but I feel that this text has been tampered with. It's like a modern conspiracy in the Fake News - we may know for sure that the official story is wrong, but seldom know what really happened (if anything).

@Wes - Thanks for this. I don't know the movie.

@Gyan - This has been disputed for centuries in the mainstream churches - if you follow the links, I give my reasons for assuming them the same.