Water, wine, fish
- Dear Listers,
I am wandering far from the original thread which was the catalyst for the present postings on jugs, jars, water etc. but hope the following material justifies somewhat my meanderings. I am totally unaware of it but has any 'Johannine' scholar in the past 200 years drawn a numeric and thematic connection between the capacity of the stone water jars at Cana and the number of fish caught in John 21.1-14? The latter pericope tells us that there were 153 fish caught through Jesus' agency while the former pericope gives modest numerals relating to the jars of two or three METRHTHS. Teasing this out: Taking three not two as the brimful capacity of the water in the stone jars at Cana and dwelling on the liquid measure of the common hin of 1st. cent. Palestine a surprising fact emerges.
The Commentaries although varying slightly in their estimates that deal with Hebrew liquid measurements provide information that the "three measures" multiplied by the six jars in 1st. Cent. Palestine can add up quite comfortably to 153 hin -- granting of course that a "measure" equals exactly eight and a half hin in each jar. This observation depends entirely on the ancient Hebrew hin equalling in capacity its relatively modern counter-part such as the firkin or the present day gallon (UK). If 'John' meant it to be understood as 153 hin it is not rampant eisegesis in his (and us) seeing an inner connection in its theme with the 153 fish in Ch. 21. But what is the connection?
Proposed here is that 'John' knew that the place-name "Cana" among possibly other meanings = a "place of reeds" -- not as situated near a water course like a lake or a river as one would expect and in the process leaving ?????? in its wake -- but a Scriptorium where scrolls made of reeds were abundant enough to serve as a symbolic description of the very function and rationale of that Scriptorium's existence. I tentatively suggest that this "Scriptorium" was to be found at Qumran and 'John' in his proselitizing is inviting the Qumranites in this Cana pericope to forsake among many other matters such as their cherished ideology etc. etc. the Old Law powers of water purification (as practiced daily at Qumran) and any symbolism it conveyed to them and instead share in the spiritual "New Wine" brought about by Jesus' mission. This is not to deny the reality of the basic historical event itself. at which Qumranites were not present.
'John' in 21.1-14 is engaged in presenting a midrash on Ezk. 47.1-12 within which is a repeat revelation of the purpose of the entire Gospel as proposed for John 2.1-6, namely to convert those at Qumran! I say this, however wild a claim it may seem (see below). We have in those verses of Ezekiel the following phenomena: (1) a lake (the Dead Sea); (2) fishermen; (3) fish; (4) nets; (5) implicitly, boats from which to spread the nets.
In John 21.1-14 we have precisely the same phenomena as in Ezk 47.1-12 except seemingly the River of Life. I am tempted to say here that Jesus risen replaced the Ezekelian River of Life that issued originally from the Temple -- the "New Temple" in the blood and water happening (see Rev 22.1-2 itself possibly a midrash on Ezk. 47.1-12). But the location of the lake has changed from Judaea to Galilee. This is in perfect accord with midrashic techniques.
A possible Midrashic technique could be in use where a changed reading in the NT appears as one word or concept in an obscure OT reference. The OT word (s) and concept concerned here is "the Dead Sea" in Ezk 47.12 which is changed to "Sea of Tiberias" in John 21.This is an application of the 'al tiqrey technique, which means in effect, "Do not read so and so but ..." Any OT source text that an Evangelist cryptically alludes to in the form of an isolated word or phrase can nevertheless prove decisive in discovering his intended meaning, no matter the obscurity of that source.
The literary device called "Gematria" where Hebrew consonants for literary purposes are given a numeral to convey a hidden meaning apart from the literal is found in the place-name, "En-Eglaim" situated on the shore of the Dead Sea. The Gematria = 153!! En-Eglaim was the depository of the "River of Life" of Ezekiel in Ch. 47. Gematria connections of 153 have been noted by OT scholars such as Emerton and Ackroyd. It is not too hard to note that the Qumran monastery with its Scriptorium was situated precisely at En-Eglaim! One can ask the question: Was Qumran widely identified as such by its Gematria numeral 153 and did 'John' know this?
It is to be noted that of the 153 fish in Ch. 21 not one was eaten. Why should Jesus then bid them be brought to the fire? All these questions can be adequately answered I suggest, by realizing that the spiritual modus vivendi of those at Qumran promised very fertile ground for the implantation of the Christian seed. What I am saying here is that by the time (ca. 60 AD or earlier) the Fourth Gospel in its entirety was being written, a definite proselitizing of the spiritual men of Qumran was in progress. In support for these claims for a Qumran destination for the Fourth Gospel, I tender the following material:
At a lecture by R.E. Brown on the Johannine literature during question time I asked him this question: "As the religious language, and the terminology appearing especially in the Fourth Gospel -- in particular the Logos pericope -- has remarkable affinities in many ways with Qumran literature such as the phrases, "walking in the truth", light and darkness etc. while at the same time non-assenting to its theology, can we say that 'John' uses the terminology and form of these phrases but changed (or better, Christified and therefore replaced) their content or meaning in order to convey to the Qumranites the treasures of the Christian Revelation"? I added: "In its pedagogy it would have proved a very effective didactic medium iserving as an apologetic purpose of wholesale conversion of the people of Qumran with their elevated modus vivendi. Paul in his address to the intellectuals at Athens provides an example of and is a Christian precedent for this procedure". I put all the above (except the Gematria and Midrashic material) to Fr. Brown in its substance many years ago. He said that it was a remote possibility. Needless to say, there are so many seeming 'coincidences" in this posting that in your charity I trust that I can be forgiven when I say that I am very wary of such 'coincidences.' A cluster of 'coincidences' homing in from unexpected quarters as related in this posting do not make, generate nor form another 'coincidence' otherwise the definition of the word merits thorough revision. I am rather disappointed in Fr. Brown's verdict having never been followed up. I present it anew to the List members to mull over.
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- Kevin O'Brien wrote:
> [H]as any 'Johannine' scholar ... drawn a numericand
> thematic connection between the capacity of thenot
> stone water jars at Cana and the number of fish
> [= 153] caught in John 21.1-14? .... Taking three
> two as the brimful capacity of the water in thestone
> jars at Cana and dwelling on the liquid measure ofWhy take three instead of two as the capacity? If the
> the common hin of 1st. cent. Palestine .... the
> "three measures" multiplied by the six jars ... add
> up ... to 153 hin -- granting ... that a "measure"
> equals exactly eight and a half hin in each jar.
evangelist had intended his readers to focus upon
three, why did he give the range 2 to 3?
Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
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