Re: [John_Lit] water to wine
- Dear Jeff, Mark, Bob, Bob, Jim, Eric, Frank and J-Lit Listers,
I have made a study of Johannine signs, particularly as
they relate to Mosaic oracles. My work also includes
a consideration of the temporal markers in the Fourth
Gospel. Some of my work may be of interest to you.
The word "hour (ora)" appears 24 times, and is scattered
throughout the gospel. I am writing a devotional guide to
the gospel called A Day with Jesus in which I have used
the word "hour" as an end marker within the text. Each
portion of text that ends when the word "hour" is used,
contains numerous signs that relate to Mosaic oracles.
I believe that the gospel was intended to be used as a text
book for the training of disciples in the discipline of
theological reflection, using the method commonly used
in rabbinic schools of that time: expounding upon the
meaning of a text, by using the language of sacred scripture,
especially the Torah.
The gospel is both an example of the product of such a
method and a means of prompting the reader to engage
in that method, first by discerning the signs that are being
used that way (in each "hour") and then expounding upon
the possible meanings of those signs.
With regard to John 2: 1-11 (or 12), the first sign is the
transformation of waters of purification into wine.
This establishes a pattern in which the oracles used in the
Mosaic texts with regard to the temple, the priesthood and
the rituals of sacrifice are used within the context of the
Jesus narrative in a way that suggests a new tradition is
being established out of the building blocks of the old one.
In this case, the stone jars used to contain the waters of
purification are used to supply the jars which are used to
poor the wine for the wedding feast.
I agree with James Rudolf that the reader is expected to
see this as a sacramental wine, even though the ritual of
the Eucharist is not explicitly presented as a part of the
narrative. (One could say that the entire gospel functions
as a haggada for the Passover of the Followers of Jesus).
In other words, the rhetorical transformation that takes
place is the replacement of water for purification with
(sacramental) wine for purification. The new tradition
comes forth from the old tradition, but takes on a new
In light of this approach, here are my responses to Jeff's
interesting set of questions:
> Jeff Staley writes:The sign is delivered as Jesus issues two commands.
> The "signs" in John are great places to explore, rhetorically.
> I wrote briefly about the rhetorical significance of this sign
> in my dissertation (published in 1988 by Scholars Press)
> entitled "The Print's First Kiss."
> A number of things in this miracle story interest me from a
> rheotrical standpoint:
> 1) Exactly when does the miracle occur?
1. Fill the jars with water.
2. Draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.
By filling the stone jars with water, especially as the reader is
told that the jars are filled to the brim, the reader is expected
to see that what is being transformed is the full tradition.
By drawing water out of these jars, the reader is expected to
see that what Jesus will offer comes out of the tradition. By
directing that it be taken to the wine steward (the ruler of the
feast), the quality of what is being offered is being submitted
for examination and evaluation.
The reader is allowed to see that the judge of this new tradition
will recognize its quality without knowing from whence it has
come or by whom. However, those who have obeyed the
commands of Jesus DO know from whence it comes and by
The source of the language / symbols used as "signs" in the
Fourth Gospel is the Pentateuch. (More specifically, the
Septuagint version of the Pentateuch). The Fourth Gospel
is a record of the theological transfer from the Mosaic
tradition to the Jesus tradition of sacred language, images,
names and symbols.
> 2) When do we as readers know that a miracle has occurred?The readers know that a miracle has occurred when the narrator
informs them that the water has become wine (vs. 9). That this
transfer (transformation) is an improvement is affirmed in the
response provided by the steward (vs. 10).
> 3) Who, among the characters in the story, know/s that aWe are only told that the steward knew, and that the steward
> miracle has occurred?
shared this knowledge with the bridegroom. This leads to a
pair of questions: Who is the wine steward? Who is the bride-
groom? In the Johannine community as now these questions
no doubt prompted some wonderful discussions, not only
because the possible answers are rich and varied, but because
extensions of the questions themselves can be rich and varied.
(Who is the judge of the tradition? Who is the bride?)
> 4) At what point do we as readers suspect that somethingWhen the mother of Jesus tells Jesus "They have no wine,"
> more than purification is at issue here?
and Jesus replies, "Woman, what concern is that to you and
to me? My hour is not yet come." Clearly there is a dis-
agreement between Jesus and his mother as to the significance
of the moment that is about to be described.
I think it is significant that Jesus addresses his mother as
"Woman." (Note that he does this again when hanging on the
cross.) I have drawn a connection between these two
passages and Genesis 3: 15, which would suggest that Mary
KNOWS that Jesus is the offspring of Woman, who will
strike the head of the serpent, while the serpent will strike
against his heal. She is apparently ready to get on with the
plot, while Jesus knows that some time will pass before the
ancient divine prophesy is fulfilled. Still, at this moment in
time, the fulfillment of that prophesy begins.
> 5) What is the significance of these?This story serves to announce the beginning of the mission of
Jesus, which is the transformation of a system of worship that
has become dysfunctional into one that can maintain a renewed
and living covenant with God.
Yours in Christ's service,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Thanks to all for the very interesting replies in this thread.
"Draw some out, and take it to the chief steward."
I think we have drawn some out and I think I have tasted here some very good
wine. Frank has pointed out before some of the literary affinity that Philo
has with John. The depth of the flavour of the Tanach (Psalm 42, Song, and
This being a literature dialogue - I have a trouble with scholarship and the
use of imagery. There seems to be a severe tension here. Without some care,
we might extend an image too far. With too much care, we might miss the
How does one know how far to stretch a metaphor?
+ + + Victoria, B.C., Canada + + +
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes that make havoc of the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in flower. (Song 2.15)
- At 08:19 PM 6/29/2002 -0700, Bob MacDonald wrote:
>Thanks to all for the very interesting replies in this thread.Only as far as the author intended! :-)
>"Draw some out, and take it to the chief steward."
>I think we have drawn some out and I think I have tasted here some very good
>wine. Frank has pointed out before some of the literary affinity that Philo
>has with John. The depth of the flavour of the Tanach (Psalm 42, Song, and
>This being a literature dialogue - I have a trouble with scholarship and the
>use of imagery. There seems to be a severe tension here. Without some care,
>we might extend an image too far. With too much care, we might miss the
>How does one know how far to stretch a metaphor?
- James and others,
I'm partially through Jeff's dissertation, very stimulating. Perhaps now
would be the time to see how many on the list are in the Seattle area and
would be interested in meeting for coffee (or whatever your cup of tea might
be) and conversation. Anyone who is interested please email me with
suggestions for a time and place.
And yes, I am familiar with Culpepper's work. P. Duke and M. Stibbe have
also been helpful to me for the literary approach.
> As far as John 2:1-11, from a literary perspective, have you consideredYour point on the ignorant beneficiaries is something I have been thinking
> what the miracle "does?" Why is this miracle here? What purpose does
> it serve? No one is healed. The only people who benefit from this
> miracle do so unwittingly. From all appearances, no "sign" is done to
> point to Jesus as God in the flesh, or to show His power in some
> extraordinary way.
about. All of the sign-miracles benefit someone, whether a healing or a
feeding, etc., but at the wedding in Cana the met need seems somewhat
superficial in comparison. In considering the honor/shame aspect of the
culture, however, perhaps the sign is just as compassionate as healing and
feeding. I'm curious how this aspect, that of always meeting a need, works
for the author to develop Jesus, the God-man - perhaps to show additional
motive characterization beyond his coming to do the Father's will.
Also, taking the healing of the blind man as an example - Jesus meets his
need both physically and spiritually, the healing directly corresponding to
the need(s) of the man. However, I'm missing the same connection in 2:1-11.
The need is more wine, and the sign itself seems to point to
replacement/transformation of purification rites. I'm curious about the
correspondence between the physical obvious need and the deeper spiritual
Are any of you familiar with Koester's work, 'Symbolism in the Fourth
Gospel'? I think he has a great introduction on the role of the signs in the
FG, but I was dissapointed in the commentary on the wedding pericope. I'll
review my notes on the book and see if there something beneficial for our
Your other comments were helpful. I'm curious about the connection/inclusio
formed by the use of 'mother of Jesus' and 'wine' in both the wedding
pericope and the crucifixion scene. Has anyone looked thoroughly at that?
Cut and pasted from Jeff Staley:
What I am saying, is that in my reading, this is perhaps the most
miracle in the FG--perhaps in all of the NT--perhaps in the ancient world.
It is purposefully difficult to pin down.
No good author gives the prize away so soon =) The difficulty for me is
having read the gospel so many times that I lose the feeling of suspense
during a first reading. I agree, the diffululty of this scene is purposeful,
incites/invites the reader to reread and move forward - indeed, I don't know
anyone who is not driven to reread the whole once he or she has come to the
Lastly, I was intrigued by Frank's use of Philo for understanding aspects of
the FG. Given the contemporaneity of the two authors and obvious parallels
between their work (some stronger than others), how does one make the jump
from observing similarity in the texts to comparison for the sake of better
understanding them both? This is more a question concerning hermeneutics
than one concerning the FG, but I'd be grateful for any thoughts on this
issue. Also, I'm not familiar with Philo's works - if there's anyone on the
list who disagrees with Frank's use of Philo, I'd like to hear from them.
To all - thanks for the great thoughts - I didn't expect my introduction to
start a dialogue - so if my posts are infrequent, it's just that I'm more
comfortable listening than 'speaking' - I'm still a child in the world of
Northwest Theological Seminary
- Just a thought and perhaps in left field. But here goes.
Christ came to fulfill the law to perfection. When his mother asked him
to do something to help, he did what was required by the law to honor
his mother. The further meaning then is that God hears all our requests
no matter how mundane or trivial in the eyes of others. If the request
is important to us it is important to Him and He will honor them if they
are within his permissive will.
- It seems to me that the rhetorical analysis is a synonym for metaphor
stretching - and Bob Schacht has pointed to the author as authority for the
limits on stretching. (Lots of scope for stretching with John).
Yesterday I was at a wedding and a little boy stretched his balloon too far
with predictable results - a loud bang and tears of shock. But if he had
not stretched it at all, authority of the material aside, he would not have
learned as much about balloons.
This is the second wedding in two days, the earlier one very traditional
Cranmer prayer book service (with reference to Cana of course and Ephesians
5 and so on), the second otherwise. The second conflicted with a funeral -
my wife and I attended both, singing at one and eating at the other. How far
can I stretch the wedding metaphor in John? What was really going on in
Cana? Did the 16th century interpretation of the lawfulness of marriage have
anything to do with it? Or was that a 16th century binding only. Each of
these words requires a book.
The issue of metaphor and usage is very dear to me and my understanding of
the Bible. Many have stretched the metaphors in ways that clearly need
correction; yet many have not stretched sufficiently and end up with an
impoverished tradition. We are bound (religio) by the stretching we
achieve. And as Jesus says - what we bind here is bound in heaven; what we
loose here is loosed in heaven.
Now to answer the rhetorical questions as Tom Butler did but with variation.
1) Exactly when does the miracle occur?
When we begin to hear the story not just as consecrating a wedding but as
foreshadowing Jesus' death. It is good that the process of marrying and
being given in marriage can continue (though some would forbid it) - but the
real marriage is otherwise - all whom the Father gives me shall come to me.
(6:37) This is our 'bridegroom of blood' (Exodus 4).
2) When do we as readers know that a miracle has occurred?
When the disciples believe. - These are the same disciples as the synoptic
gospels! They have hard hearts and get it all wrong. So it is with us.
John is not writing about those same quarrelsome disciples.
3) Who, among the characters in the story, know/s that a miracle has
The Father (the steward) and the Son (the bridegroom) know when we (the
bride) are ready. The bride (Mary, us, the reader) know also. But the mass
of the tradition does not.
4) At what point do we as readers suspect that something more than
purification is at issue here?
When we are born. The morality of our traditions is not adequate to the
variety of our conditions.
5) What is the significance of these?
The potential for life is here in abundance. The work of obedience to Jesus'
commands still needs to be done. The wine of God's wrath needs to be drunk.
The wine is the blood of the Eucharist by which our death is included in his
death, so that his life might be known in our life.
I think all these points could be supported by John's gospel - but whether
the balloon will break - ... maybe I have only just begun to blow it up -
tough material at first - hurts the cheeks.
abundant blessings of stretched metaphor to you all
+ + + Victoria, B.C., Canada + + +
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes that make havoc of the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in flower. (Song 2.15)
- The recent discussion of water in the wedding narrative has sparked
some thoughts which I would like to share, if somewhat belatedly.
Briefly, what is the connection between 2:1-11 and 7:37c-39? For
reasons which will become clear I had better offer a translation of the
latter passage: "If anyone is thirsty let them come to me, and let the
one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture says, 'Out of his
insides will flow rivers of living water.' He said this about the
Spirit, which those who believed in him would receive; for the Spirit
had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified."
There are several links between these two passages. The most
obvious is the water symbolism in each. In both passages Jesus is the
source of drink. At 2:7 the servants, at Jesus' instruction, fill the
water jars to the brim, which suggests abundance. And there is
something about the idea of "rivers of water flowing out" which also
suggests an abundance of what is supplied. Both passages also mention
believers in Jesus, and Jesus' glory (having read 2:21f, the implied
reader is able to guess that the glorification of Jesus mentioned at
7:39 refers to his death). I suggest that AUTOU at 7:38 refers to
Jesus, not the believer. Do these connections suggest that my
interpretation of 7:38 is correct?
- Dear Elizabeth,
It appears to me that in Jn 7:38 the subject, from whose
heart/belly will flow rivers of living water, is the 'He who believes
in me', not Jesus. If you throw into the equation 4:14, '...the water
I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up
to eternal life' I think the meaning is clear.
This is not to deny that Jesus, with the Father, is the ultimate
source of the living water/Spirit.
- Kym Smith responded to Elizabeth:
>>It appears to me that in Jn 7:38 the subject, fromwhose heart/belly will flow rivers of living water, is
the 'He who believes in me', not Jesus. If you throw
into the equation 4:14, '...the water I shall give him
will become in him a spring of water welling up to
eternal life' I think the meaning is clear.<<
I've often wondered if Jn. 7:38 is intentionally
ambiguous and thereby intended to refer to both Jesus
and the believer.
Has anyone suggested this or a category of ambiguity
in John? -- call it Johannine ambiguity, by analogy to
Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
Do You Yahoo!?
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- At 01:00 AM 8/19/2002 +0000, you wrote:
>Dear Elizabeth,Is the Greek sufficiently precise to distinguish whether the "He who..." or
>It appears to me that in Jn 7:38 the subject, from whose
>heart/belly will flow rivers of living water, is the 'He who believes
>in me', not Jesus. If you throw into the equation 4:14, '...the water
>I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up
>to eternal life' I think the meaning is clear.
>This is not to deny that Jesus, with the Father, is the ultimate
>source of the living water/Spirit.
Jesus is merely the *conduit,* or the *source*?
Robert M. Schacht
If I were a Rich Man...I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men,
several hours every day. That would be the sweetest thing of all.
Fiddler on the Roof
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Dear Bob,
<<< Is the Greek sufficiently precise to distinguish whether the
"He who..." or Jesus is merely the *conduit,* or the *source*?>>>
My post was, admittedly, only from looking at the English text. I
am no Greek expert. For me it is out with the exicons etc. But
from the brief look I have had I think the Greek is quite
unambiguous. Someone else may correct me but that is my
reading of it. Though the source must and can only be Christ, it
is the believer out of whom the living waters flow.
--- In johannine_literature@y..., Bob Schacht <r_schacht@y...>
> At 01:00 AM 8/19/2002 +0000, you wrote:believes
> >Dear Elizabeth,
> >It appears to me that in Jn 7:38 the subject, from whose
> >heart/belly will flow rivers of living water, is the 'He who
> >in me', not Jesus. If you throw into the equation 4:14, '...thewater
> >I shall give him will become in him a spring of water wellingup
> >to eternal life' I think the meaning is clear.who..." or
> >This is not to deny that Jesus, with the Father, is the ultimate
> >source of the living water/Spirit.
> Is the Greek sufficiently precise to distinguish whether the "He
> Jesus is merely the *conduit,* or the *source*?learned men,
> Robert M. Schacht
> Flagstaff, AZ
> If I were a Rich Man...I'd discuss the holy books with the
> several hours every day. That would be the sweetest thing ofall.
> Fiddler on the Roof
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I read 7:37 with 7:39 which speaks about a later time when the Spirit will
be given, compared with the now time.
In this context in the present time Jesus is the source of living water as
he promised the Samaritan woman.
But there will be a time in the future when the historical Jesus will no
longer be present and in that future time he promises that
believers, because of the gift of the SPirit, will become sources of living
water. Behind both statementsI have argued lies the image of the Temple.
Jesus as the new Temple (2:21) is able to provide waters (Ez 49), but as he
promises when this temple of his body is destroyed he will raise a Temple
in its plcae (2:19).
This Temple is the Temple of the believing community, transformed through
the 'Hour' into the new house(hold) of God.
If you would like to see more detailed arguments and references to the
above lines of thought may I suggest my book, God Dwells with us - Temple
Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel - Loturgical Press, 2001.
In emails its just not possible to give the details of the exegesis.
Dr. Mary Coloe pbvm
Australian Catholic University Limited
(ABN 15050 192660)
Locked Bag 4115
Fitzroy. VIC 3065 AUSTRALIA
ph (61 + 3) 99533137 Fax (61 + 3) 99533245
- kymhsm wrote:
> If you throw into the equation 4:14, '...the waterBut even in this verse it is said, twice, that it is Jesus who gives the
> I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up
> to eternal life' I think the meaning is clear.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Elizabeth Danna" <ejdanna@...>
Sent: Sunday, August 18, 2002 1:05 PM
Subject: Re: [John_Lit] water to wine
> The recent discussion of water in the wedding narrative has sparked
> some thoughts which I would like to share, if somewhat belatedly.
> Briefly, what is the connection between 2:1-11 and 7:37c-39? For
> reasons which will become clear I had better offer a translation of the
> latter passage: "If anyone is thirsty let them come to me, and let the
> one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture says, 'Out of his
> insides will flow rivers of living water.' He said this about the
> Spirit, which those who believed in him would receive; for the Spirit
> had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified."
> There are several links between these two passages. The most
> obvious is the water symbolism in each. In both passages Jesus is the
> source of drink. At 2:7 the servants, at Jesus' instruction, fill the
> water jars to the brim, which suggests abundance. And there is
> something about the idea of "rivers of water flowing out" which also
> suggests an abundance of what is supplied. Both passages also mention
> believers in Jesus, and Jesus' glory (having read 2:21f, the implied
> reader is able to guess that the glorification of Jesus mentioned at
> 7:39 refers to his death). I suggest that AUTOU at 7:38 refers to
> Jesus, not the believer. Do these connections suggest that my
> interpretation of 7:38 is correct?
Dear Elizabeth Danna:
That there are connections between 2:1-11 and 7:37c-39 is undeniable.
2:1-11, though, ISTM, gives us a mixed message as respects the question of
whether the AUTOU of 7:38 refers to Jesus or to a believer.
In 2:1-11, it is the servants who pour the water into the stone water jars
and who take this water become wine to the master of the feast.
To the extent that 2:1-11 and 7:37c-39 are connected, this suggests that the
AUTOU refers to a believer: for if a number of people are involved in the
giving of the water in 2:1-11, then this should be the case in 7:37c-39--and
there are many who are believers, but only one Jesus.
On the other hand, in 2:1-11, the bridegroom is praised for saving the good
wine till the end--which suggests that he alone is the source for the water
To the extent that 7:37c-39 are connected, this suggests that the AUTOU
refers to a single individual, i.e., Jesus.
So, ISTM, on one level of 2:1-11, there are a number of people responsible
for the giving of the water become wine while, on another level of 2:1-11,
only the bridegroom is responsible for the giving of the water become wine.
The first level of meaning lends support to the idea that the AUTOU of 7:38
is a believer, while the second level of meaning lends support to the idea
that the AUTOU of 7:38 is Jesus.
If you could establish that (1) the second level of meaning to 2:1-11 is the
only true level of meaning, so that, in it, it is *only* the bridegroom who
is truly responsible for the water become wine and that (2) on this second
level of meaning the bridegroom is the Bridegroom of 3:29 (i.e., Jesus) and
that (3) on this second level of meaning the water become wine is the
Spirit, then, ISTM, you could use the connections betwen 2:1-11 and 7:37c-39
as supporting evidence for your suggestion that the AUTOU of 7:38 is Jesus.
Just a thought--hopefully a helpful one.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
Maplewood, MN 55109
- Dear Elizabeth,
<<<But even in this verse (i.e. Jn 4:14) it is said, twice, that it is
Jesus who gives the water.>>>
I am sorry if I am missing something, but I am not sure what the
need for your comment is. I have responded twice, both posts
are very short, and in both posts I have insisted that God/the
Father/Jesus is/are the source of the living water.
A number of OT references such as Jer 2:13; 17:13; Ezek 47
also make it clear that God is the source of the living water.
The issue is that we are not given the Spirit to keep to ourselves.
Jesus' promise of the Spirit / living water in the passages under
discussion indicates that the life he gives us is to be lived out.
Through us that life, the life of the Spirit, is to flow out into the
world in which we live. We are never the source of that life / Spirit,
but we are called to be healthy springs issuing forth that which
God, the 'fountain of living waters' (Jer 2:13), has given to us.
- kymhsm wrote:
> Dear Elizabeth,You have, and I should have made a note of that in my own post - my
> You wrote:
> <<<But even in this verse (i.e. Jn 4:14) it is said, twice, that it is
> Jesus who gives the water.>>>
> I am sorry if I am missing something, but I am not sure what the
> need for your comment is. I have responded twice, both posts
> are very short, and in both posts I have insisted that God/the
> Father/Jesus is/are the source of the living water.
apologies. My point is that while you stress one aspect of 4:14, I stress
- fmmccoy wrote:
[interesting post snipped for space reasons]
> Just a thought--hopefully a helpful one.Helpful indeed - thank you, Frank.