To the brim
- Dear Listers,
Cana: re "to the brim".
The following meditations are tendered on this theme.
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 or "measures". Teasing this out: Taking the brimful capacity of each of the six stone containers at Cana and dwelling on the liquid measure of the common hin of 1st. Cent. Palestine surprising facts emerge which I shall try here to present methodically and sequentially, for the entire discussion is quite complex in the various theme's interrelationships.
The Commentaries, although varying slightly in their estimates that deal with Hebrew liquid measurements provide information that the "three measures" of each jar at Cana multiplied by the six jars can add up quite comfortably to 153 hin -- granting of course that a "measure" equals exactly eight and a half hin in each jar. With each "measure" equalling 8.5 hin, the capacity of two "measures" jars = 17 hin. Overall with six stone jars the total capacity of the two "measures" containers = 102 hin. The ancient Hebrew hin = approx. the modern UK gallon. But what connection is there with these jars with the 153 fish in Ch. 21?
Proposed with weighty data from unexpected and convergent sources all focusing on a central point like spokes in a wheel, the following material will show us that 'John' knew that although "Cana" was an inhabited city etc., in 2.1, he has cleverly used the place-name "Cana" as a means of proselytizing his immediate recipients. The word "Cana", among other meanings means "a place of reeds". Taking this factor into account, I submit that this "Cana" in the author's intention was not to be understood as a place, city or village or an inhabited settlement at all. Nor was it intended that "Cana" was to be found as named after a local feature such as a water course, lake or a river. No! on the contrary, the author was thinking that the immediate recipients of his Gospel were meant to understand the word "Cana" as a Scriptorium or library where scrolls made of papyrus reeds were abundant enough to serve as a symbolic description of the very function and rationale of that Scriptorium's or library's existence.
I tentatively suggest that this "Scriptorium"/library was to be found at Qumran. I know of no other such-like place recorded of the 1st. century. I have often asked myself this question: "What prompted the Qumranites to choose such an arid totally inhospitable environment to live in and a place for a monastery"? Having visited the site, I can assure you it was far from a pleasant experience.
From my researches I have come to the judgement (until proven false) that it was chosen because they were awaiting Ezekiel's River of Life (see further below). I conclude this because Qumran was the same site or very close to it as En-Eglaim! 'John' appears to be engaged in inviting the Qumranite\Eglaimites in his 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 cleansing spiritual "New Wine" of the Eucharist brought about by Jesus' mission. I stress here that this is not to deny the reality of the basic historical event itself at Cana at which Qumranites were not personally present. In 'John's' eyes they were certainly present theologically and as will be seen were the Gedites!
Concerning the River of Life of Ezk. 47.12: Pliny in his Natural History, 5.15 reports that Essenes were settled in En-Gedi (as indeed were they solidly settled in the monastery at Qumran). The gematria of (Gedi (dropping the "En" is insignificant in Gematria) ) which appears in Ezk. 47.12 is the figure 17!
Gematria is found in use also in the place-name, "Eglaim" = 153. Both settlements were situated on the shore of the Dead Sea to where the River of Life begins and ends respectively. Gematria connections of 17 and 153 as related closely with John 21 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\library was situated precisely or very close to Eglaim! One can ask two questions here: Was Qumran\Eglaim widely identified as such by its Gematria numeral 153 and did 'John' know this? Again does this knowledge also apply to Gedi?
If 'John' meant the two "measures" water jars (gematria 17) to symbolize the inhabitants of En-Gedi and the three "measures" jars in their total capacity (153 hin) to symbolize the inhabitants of Qumran I tentatively propose that his entire Gospel was written to convert them to the true New Covenant (see below on the "Biblia" theme) . There is further data to be taken into account, not as a support so much for the above judgements but as direct evidence that those judgements are right on target.
'John' in 21.1-14 which has the reference to the 153 fish 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. 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 set of phenomena as in Ezk 47.1-12 (a lake, (the Sea of Tiberias) fishermen, fish, nets; boats. Omitted seemingly from Ch. 21 is the River of Life. I succumb to the temptation of saying here that Jesus risen on the shore 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 47.8 which is changed to "Sea of Tiberias" in John 21.1. 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.
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/Eglaim and En-Gedi was in progress. In support for these claims for a Qumran destination at least for the Fourth Gospel, I tender the following material:
A "literary inclusion" construct also appears in the Gospel which has close connections with Qumran. This inclusion's opening verse identifies Cana (John 2.1). The remote verse is to be found in John 21.24-25 -- interestingly the beginning and end of the Gospel , where 'John' could mean the already considerable Qumran Library would not be able to find the room to hold the papyrus scrolls that would have to be further written if all Jesus' doings were to be literally recorded.
At a lecture by R.E. Brown on the Johannine literature during question time at the Melbourne venue, I asked him this question: "As the religious language, and the terminology appearing especially in the Fourth Gospel -- in particular the opening 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 serving 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, the "inclusion" 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 the above meditations 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 here 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. Perhaps it might receive further thought upon scholars examining closely the contents of this offering.
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>found at Qumran. I know of no other such-like place recorded of the
> I tentatively suggest that this "Scriptorium"/library was to be
1st. century. I have often asked myself this question: "What prompted
the Qumranites to choose such an arid totally inhospitable
environment to live in and a place for a monastery"? Having visited
the site, I can assure you it was far from a pleasant experience.
>It is not now widely agreed that Qumran was a monastery, that it had
a "scriptorium" or that it had any direct connection with the
Scrolls. If De Vaux and the other early diggers had studied geometry
they would have been a little more chary of assuming what they were
trying to prove.