An allegorical interpretation of the Cana Miracle, 89 pages.

Download the paper in PDF or Word 97 format below.

The following are some propositions that I attempt to support in this interpretation of the Cana Miracle as a fictional allegory:

1) The Cana Wedding Story is a continuation of the New Creation story that the author of the gospel had begun in Jn 1:1. As such, it speaks symbolically of the New Creation (“water” [the Law and the Prophets] transformed into “wine” [the Holy Spirit]) that has come about via Jesus’ death and resurrection (= the filling of the jars with water “to the brim” [“the end of a period of time”]).

2) The Cana Wedding Story is a symbolic story of Jesus the Lamb wedding/marrying the people of God via his death and resurrection (= the filling of the jars with water “to the brim”).

3) The Cana Wedding Story is a symbolic story of Jesus both uniting and transforming the dispensation of the Law and the Prophets (= “water”) into the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (= “wine”) via his death and resurrection (= the filling of the jars with water “to the brim”).

4) The Cana Wedding Story symbolizes a spiritual famine for the Word of God (= the lack of “wine”) now having been quenched (= the abundance of wine”) via Jesus’ death and resurrection (= the filling of the jars with water “to the brim”). 

5) The phrase “the third day” in Jn 2:1 serves at least three purposes: a) it gives meaning to the story on its literal level; b) when summed together with the three previous “the next day” phrases, it completes the 7-day creation in the New Creation motif that John had begun in Jn 1:1; and, most importantly, c) it alludes to Jesus’ resurrection (while also, at the same time, reminding the readers of his crucifixion).

 

6) The phrase “What between me and you” is taken from I Kings 17:18, thus serving as an allusion to one O.T. famine situation and conveying that famine theme to the Cana Miracle text.

7) The phrase “Do whatever he tells you” is borrowed from Genesis 41:55, a second O.T. famine situation, again projecting the O.T. famine theme onto the Cana Miracle text.

8 ) John alludes to another O.T. famine situation, and to its quenching, as described in Amos 8:11ff and 9:13ff, via his lack, and then abundance, of wine in the Cana Miracle, further defining his famine situation as a spiritual famine (a famine for the Word of the Lord) .

9) This is the most significant discovery in this paper. The word “water” in Jn 1:26,31,33; 2:7,9; 3:5; 4:7,13,15; and 1 Jn 5:6,8 symbolizes “the Law and the Prophets” or “the Father’s means of revelation”. It receives this symbolic meaning from two sources that John has used: Ex 2:10, which tells where Moses received his name (he was “drawn from the water”), and the Synoptic material as found in Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; and Lk 3:16, where John the Baptist proclaims that he came baptizing with water. Thus the two greatest of the Law and the Prophets- significantly the first and the last- are identified with the word “water”. If this interpretation is correct (that “water” = “the Law and the Prophets” or “the Father’s way of revealing Himself”), then what we have in I John 5:6-8 is a Trinitarian statement.

10) Both John the Baptist and Moses, having been identified with “water”, are personifications of “the Law and the Prophets” in John’s gospel. Thus, for example, when we read of the Baptist’ testimony that Jesus is the Christ we are really reading of the testimony of “the Law and the Prophets”.

  

11) The word “wine” in Jn 2 symbolizes “the dispensation of the Holy Spirit”, and as such, is being compared/contrasted to “the dispensation of the Law and the Prophets” even as John the author had compared/contrasted the two in Jn 1:33; 3:5; 4:13-14 and 1 Jn 5:6-8.

 

12) The word “wine” in Jn 2 alludes to Amos 9:13-14, Joel 1:5,10; 2:19,24; and 3:18. Performing such function, it further alludes to the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32, which speaks of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is from Joel where John draws the symbolic meaning “Spirit” for the word “wine”.

 

13) Luke, in Acts 2, reveals his knowledge of John’s Cana Miracle Allegory. There Luke plays on the word “wine” to symbolize “the Holy Spirit”, the phrase “the third day”, and the Joel 2 prophecy to speak of what Jesus accomplished via his death and resurrection.

14) The “mother of Jesus”, also referred to as “woman”, symbolizes both the New Eve who gives birth to the New Adam, and the OT people of God who give birth to Jesus and believe in him.

15) The phrase “the Jews” in John’s gospel refers to a specific group in John’s day that misinterpreted “the Law and the prophets” and refused to see Jesus as the Christ.

16) The phrase “my hour” in Jn 2:4 refers to Jesus’ hour of crucifixion and resurrection.

17) The phrase “his glory” in Jn 2:11refers to Jesus’ glorification on the cross and to his resurrection.

18) The “six, stone jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial cleansing” in Jn 2:6 symbolizes the “imperfect Law as administered by the Jews” as described in II Cor 3.

19) The filling of these jars with “water” symbolizes “time” passing before our eyes. When the jars are “filled to the brim”, which should be interpreted “to the end of a period of time”, then has the dispensation of “the Law and the prophets” reached their fulfillment and come to an end, then has Jesus’ “hour” come (cf Jn 2:4), then is the “water” (the Law and the Prophets) transformed into “wine” (the Holy Spirit), and then is his “glory” revealed.

20) John uses as some of his source materials in the writing of the Cana miracle a conglomeration of the following: Genesis 1-3; Mk 2:13-22; Mt 9:9-17; 22:1-4; Lk 5:27-39, I Kings 17:18; Genesis 41:55; Amos 8:11-12; 9:13-15; Joel 1:5,10; 2:19,24, 28-32; 3:18; II Cor 3; Gal 4:4-6; Ex 2:10-25, and 4:30-31.

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6 Responses to “The Cana Miracle: water symbolism in john (John 2:1-11 interpretation)”

  1. Dick Temple Says:

    Dear Mr Estrada,

    I am a part-time (mature) PhD student at the Prince’s Foundation in
    London under the supervision of Keith Critchlow. My thesis is the 16th
    century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It is not difficult to
    show that he was associated with one the heretical gnostic movements
    that thrived at that time in the no-man’s land between Catholics,
    Lutherans and Calvinists and I believe the ideas of the group to which
    he probably belonged provide keys to the interpretation of the symbolism
    in his paintings. I am sure that one of his most famous pictures, the
    so-called Peasant Wedding Feast in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in
    Vienna, is in fact an esoteric representation of the Marriage at Cana.
    Your ‘Allegorical Interpretation of the Cana Miracle’ has been a
    wonderful discovery for me and enormously helpful for my work on this
    painting.

    Your essay — for me, an amateur in bible scholarship and theology but a
    seeker none-the-less — though nearly overwhelming me, fascinates me and
    touches me deeply. I hope you find the support that you ask for and I
    wish you well in all your endeavours.

    Dick Temple
    (www.templegallery.com)

  2. Kristen Chittick Says:

    Dear Matthew,

    My name is Kristen Chittick, and I am an Honours (4th year undergraduate) student at Latrobe University Bendigo campus in Australia. My studies this year include completing a 15,000 word thesis. I have chosen to write my thesis on Midrash as an exegetical method. In the course of this study, I am looking at the tradition of Midrash as it developed in the rabbinic period in a variety of forms, and in particular the midrashic creation of new texts (in contrast to the midrashic interpretation of old texts) with a focus on the New Testament Gospels. In the final section of my thesis I am examining the Wedding at Cana as an example of a midrashic work. This examination involves an analysis of the literary, exegetical and theological formation of the passage.

    To my delight, I came across your article, “An Allegorical Interpretation of the Cana Miracle” on http://www.fourthgospel.com . This article is far more comprehensive than anything I could hope to do in the course of this study, and has also given me a far greater understanding of the Cana Miracle than I had prior to reading your article. I am very grateful. I was particularly interested in your identification of the source material for John in this story.

    I am hoping that you will give me your permission to quote from your work, with full reference and credit given to you for the sections I use.

    In anticipation,

    Kristen Chittick.

  3. Hernán Brajus Says:

    Hey Matt, great site! Thanks for making your papers public. What we need online is more thoughtful, honest, interpretations of the bible that take into account the historic and literary context of the works.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on your updates.

  4. Yves Peloquin Says:

    Hi Mattew,
    I have read ‘The Cana Miracle’ in November and I thought is was brilliant. More recently I read ‘Luke 10′ and I think it was even better. I listen to a series of lectures on ‘Joseph and his brother’ last summer and I was ablr to see the value of your arguments. My only regret is that you believe in the trinity and the divinity of Yeshua, but that doesn’t really lessen the strength of your argument. You were able to see what nobody else did and it was great that you share it with us.


  5. Ken At JNEj
    To Me
    Jan 24 at 4:37 PM

    Hi Matthew,

    I’ve just read your paper on the Cana Miracle and wanted to say I found it fascinating, scholarly, extremely well-argued, and ultimately, compelling.
    Thank you for making it available.

    Best wishes
    Ken

    http://www.jesusneverexisted.com

  6. Erich Mayne Says:

    Dear Matt,

    Thank you so very much for your wonderful work on the Cana miracle. God has used you most powerfully and in a way I cannot even begin to describe in my walk with Him. I have been going through a huge paradigm shift in how I view the New Testament writings and reading your thoughts and arguments on how John uses allegory to convey the deepest theological themes has fully restored my confidence in these writings. Literalism just has too many obstacles to clear when reading the NT in an honest and transparent fashion as a historically and factually correct body of literature.

    This whole subject of the Cana miracle being an allegory was broached this weekend in a sermon I heard on this very story of Jesus’ “first” miracle. In looking at it now, especially after reading your work, it is so obvious. I mean, really, what would anybody do with 180 gallons of wine to start out a wedding party with let alone 180 gallons in addition to what had already been consumed? Your God breathed insight is the only rational explanation of what John was teaching through a parable (just a Jesus taught).

    I also wanted to share one thing I see in this wonderful story regarding the 6 stone jars and your use of the Creation motif. I believe that the six jars also speak to the 6 days of creation and in this instance the completed “creation week” of the law and the prophets to bring about a complete and whole Jewish nation ready to receive their Messiah, Jesus. This dovetails fantastically with true seventh day and the true Sabbath rest of faith and grace in Jesus as noted in Hebrews 4. (Sorry, had to put in my 2 cents. :)

    In closing I just want to thank you again for the incredible undertaking you embarked on and the resulting work that ensued. You have been a true God-send. May God’s richest blessings upon you and yours.

    Your most grateful brother in Christ Jesus,

    Erich


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