The Wedding at Cana and the Glory of God
“On the third day . . .” These words open the account of the Wedding at Cana, where Yeshua changed the water into wine (John 2:1–11).1 Noteworthy in this passage is the interaction between Yeshua and his mother over the shortage of wine. Yeshua’s reply to his mother is surprising, “Woman, why do you involve me? . . . My time has not yet come?” (John 2:4), but so is his mother’s reaction to her son’s answer. Mary responds with unconditional faith in the word of her son when she commands the servants to “do whatever he tells you to do.”
Mary’s faith initiates a series of events that lead to the revelation of the doxa (glory) of Yeshua. The revelation of the doxa (glory) of Yeshua as the Living Torah is the focal point of the passage. “This, the first of his signs, Yeshua did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11, emphasis mine). That this revelation occurs at a wedding is significant. It reminiscent of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19). The four preparatory days, mentioned in John 1:19–51, strengthens the connection between the two events and ties them to Shavuot.2
This article explores the literary connections between the wedding at Cana and the revelation of the doxa of Yeshua in its broader narrative setting (John 1:19–2:11) with the revelation of the kavod Adonai3 (glory of Adonai) at the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
The Week—Comparison of Exodus 19 and John 1:19–2:11
On Moses’ second trip up the mountain, he relates Israel’s confession that they are willing to do everything Adonai commands (Exodus 19:7–9). While there Adonai tells Moses to go to the people and sanctify them “today and tomorrow . . . and prepare for the third day, because on the third day, Adonai will come down on Mt. Sinai in the sight of all the people” (19:10–11). Moses descends the mountain and tells the people to prepare for the third day (v. 15). The story continues, “On the third day in the morning there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain” (v. 16). This is the biblical account of the giving of the Torah. By the late Second Temple period, the giving of the Torah was associated with the celebration of Shavuot, as evidenced in rabbinic literature (e.g. b. Shabbat 86b; Exodus Rabbah 31), especially in Mekilta d’Rabbi Ishmael (Mekilta) on Exodus 19. The Mekilta is considered a Second Temple Jewish source as the traditions and opinions preserved in it are from rabbis of the first two centuries ce, before the completion of the Mishnah.
The Mekilta and the Palestinian Targum (Pal. Tg.) on Exodus 19 demonstrate that the giving of the Torah was commemorated at Shavuot in the Second Temple period with seven preparatory days, the three days mentioned in Exodus 19, plus four additional days of remote preparation. According to these two texts, Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai on Rosh Hodesh (the first day) of the third month (v. 1). On the second day, Moses ascended the mountain to meet with Adonai (v. 3) and on the fourth day Adonai told Moses to go to the people and prepare them “today and tomorrow . . . and be ready for the third day, for on the third day, Adonai will reveal Himself to the people” (vv. 10–11). The two texts explicitly state that “the third day,” when there was thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud, was the sixth day of the month, the sixth of Sivan. The Bible does not specify the date of Shavuot, but ties it to the counting of the Omer (Lev 23:15–16). The passage in the Mekilta, however, shows that in the Second Temple period at least some Jews celebrated Shavuot on the sixth of Sivan, and observed the four remote days of preparation in addition to the three biblical days of preparation. From at least the fourth century ce, when Hillel II firmly fixed the Jewish calendar, Shavuot has been celebrated on the sixth of Sivan. 4
The phrase “on the third day” is significant because in both Exodus 19:10 and John 2:1 it heralds the revelation of the kavod Adonai at the giving of the Torah and the revelation of the doxa of Yeshua as the Living Torah. The time-scheme of three days of preparation, plus four additional remote preparation days, shapes the order of events recorded in John 1:19–2:11. Day-by-day the expectation of the reader builds until the climax “on the third day”—the revelation of the doxa of Yeshua, the Living Torah. The first day begins with John the Baptist’s testimony about himself (John 1:19–28). The next day, day two (vv. 29–34), records John’s testimony of Yeshua. The next day, day three (vv. 35–43), tells of the calling of the first disciples, and the next day, day four (vv. 43–51), completes the four remote preparation days with the calling of Nathanael and the first major self-revelation of Yeshua as the Son of Man. The narrative picks up again in 2:1, “And on the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.” The events that occur at the wedding culminate in the revelation of the doxa of Yeshua. The two events in Exodus 19 and John 1:19–2:11 are parallel in timing and terminology: the exact words used in the Septuagint in Exodus 19:16—“on the third day”—announce the wedding at Cana (John 2:1). More important is the parallel manifestation of the glory of God.
The Glory—Comparison of Kavod and Doxa
“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Yeshua performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory [doxa], and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11). As mentioned above, the changing of the water into wine engenders the revelation of Yeshua’s doxa. But what does this mean? What is his doxa?5 In secular Greek doxa could mean “opinion,” “repute,” or “honor.” However, such usage in the Apostolic Writings is sparse, with “opinion” not used at all and “repute” or “honor” used only for natural things and with a negative connotation.6 The Apostolic Writings adopt the usage of doxa from the Septuagint (LXX). The LXX uses the Greek word doxa to translate the Hebrew word, meaning “radiance” or “glory.”7 For example, doxa is applied to the kings of the earth in Matthew 6:29, Luke 12:27, and in a quotation of Isaiah 40:6 in 1 Peter 1:24. Most often, however, the Apostolic Writings use doxa in a completely new sense, one that denotes “ ‘divine and heavenly radiance,’ the ‘loftiness and majesty’ of God, and even the ‘being of God’ and His world.”8 This new sense of doxa is directly related to the “glory (doxa)” of Adonai in the LXX, which is the translation of kavod Adonai in the Tanakh. Thus, the revelation of Yeshua’s glory (John 2:11) is connected to the revelation of the “kavod Adonai” in the Tanakh.9 To more fully understand the doxa of Yeshua as “kavod Adonai,” a further look at kavod in the Tanakh is in order.
Like doxa, kavod has the secular sense of “honor.” Etymologically kavod stems from the root, כבד kvd, meaning weighty or heavy. The adjective kaved is predominantly used figuratively;10 a “weighty” person in society indicates a wealthy, honorable, or impressive person, or one worthy of respect. This figurative understanding accounts for over half of the 376 times the root כבד kvd occurs in the Tanakh,11 and usually relates to a person or to human earthly glory. The noun kavod takes on its most unusual and distinctive meaning when applied to Adonai, as in the “glory of Adonai.” In this context kavod relates to the visible manifestation of Adonai’s majesty in acts of power, whether in the realm of nature—for example, a thunderstorm, cloud of glory, or pillar of fire in the desert wanderings—or in history, as in Exodus 16:10–17 when Moses, referring to manna, promised the people, “In the morning you shall see the glory of Adonai.”
In the Tanakh kavod Adonai is associated with acts of nature. The psalmist uses words such as clouds, lightning and fire, and the hills melting like wax to describe Adonai and his glory. The same features are seen in Exodus 24:15 (a devouring fire in a cloud on the mountain), Psalm 29 (thunder and flame), and Ezekiel 1:4 (storm, cloud, fire, and lightning). Chapter 1 of Ezekiel ends with a portrayal of kavod Adonai as the likeness of a human and like fire and radiant light, whose appearance is “the likeness of the glory of Adonai” (vv. 26–28).
At the dedication of the Tabernacle (Exodus 16:10) and again at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:10) the kavod Adonai is revealed in a cloud only, without other meteorological phenomena. “Moses went up the mountain and the cloud covered the mountain and the kavod Adonai resided on Mount Sinai” (Exod 24:15, 16a). To the Israelites, however, the kavod Adonai “looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” Of the many accounts of the visible appearance of kavod Adonai,12 perhaps the clearest example is Exodus 40:34–35 where the cloud covers the tent and the glory of Adonai fills the interior of the Tabernacle.
These verses show that the thunderstorm and the cloud are regarded as a revelation of Adonai’s glory. We must be careful, however, not to equate Adonai with these natural phenomena as though he is the God of thunder or thunderstorms or that every thunderstorm is a manifestation of his glory. Nevertheless, when a thunderstorm appears in connection with action on Adonai’s part, even if the words kavod Adonai do not appear, we need to look closely at the natural phenomena to see if they represent the glory of Adonai. For example, we read in Exodus 19:16–19, “there was thunder and lightning with a thick cloud over the mountain. . . . Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because Adonai descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently.” The words kavod Adonai do not appear anywhere in these verses, but the presence and glory of Adonai are there. For one thing, Adonai said that on the third day he would come down on the mountain. Adonai revealed his presence in a form that human eyes could perceive, through thunder, lightning, and a cloud.13 In this manner he, the invisible, made himself visible in order to meet with his people.
The cloud is also the unveiled glory of Adonai. The key to understanding the cloud as kavod Adonai, lies in the term “thick,” which is the Hebrew word kaved. The English translation does not convey the nuances of the Hebrew. When used as a noun in connection to Adonai, the root כבד indicates the kavod (glory) of Adonai. The writer of Exodus has simply taken the adjectival form of the same root and attached it to an inanimate object that represents Adonai. Exodus 24:15–16 clearly articulates this point: “the cloud covered it [the mountain], and the glory of Adonai settled on Mount Sinai.” The writer makes it clear that the cloud covering Mt. Sinai was the glory of Adonai.
Another relevant and important usage of the word kavod is found in the theme of hope embedded in eschatological expectations. This theme deals more with the manifestation of Adonai’s final claim to rule the world than with his nature. Isaiah (6:3) declares that the whole earth is full of his kavod (cf. Numbers 14:21). This prophetic proclamation or completion is more often expressed as a hope: “And the kavod Adonai will be revealed” (Isa 40:5); “May the whole earth be filled with his kavod” (Psa 72:19); “Be exalted, O God . . . let your kavod be over all the earth” (Psa 57:5, 11); “And I . . . am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my kavod. . . . To Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my kavod. They will proclaim my kavod among the nations” (Isa 66:18–19). The prophets often use the word kavod to show the excellence of the messianic kingdom in contrast to the limitations of the present worldly kingdom (Isa 60:1–3).
That the Hebrew word kavod and the Greek word doxa are interchangeable in usage as well as in meaning and nuance can be gleaned from the LXX. As in the Apostolic Writings, doxa is not used in the LXX to mean “opinion” as in secular Greek. Doxa usually means “honor ascribed to someone,” “reputation,” or in the sense of “power,” “splendor,” or “human glory.” However, the primary meaning of doxa in the LXX emerges in reference to Adonai, whose power is an expression of divine nature. It is “the ‘divine glory’ which reveals the nature of God in creation and in His acts which fill both heaven and earth.”14 When the LXX was translated, the Hebrew word kavod was rendered as doxa, instituting a linguistic change that gave the Greek term a distinct sense that greatly influenced the Apostolic Writings.
Doxa refers to the glory of God in every book of the Apostolic Writings,15 except the three Epistles of John, and is consistently applied to Adonai as it is the Tanakh. Moreover, doxa is applied to Yeshua in the same manner as to Adonai, indicating the divine relationship between Adonai and Yeshua, who is both the visible presence of the Divine (no longer does Adonai need to veil himself) and the embodiment of Adonai revealing himself in mighty acts. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, which, except for the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36), only manifest the revelation of Yeshua’s doxa after his resurrection, John firmly declares that Yeshua’s doxa is present during his visible ministry (John 1:14; 2:11; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1; 19:27). Although the writer of John does not mention the Transfiguration, he does stress the revelation of the divine doxa through the miraculous “signs” (2:11; 11:40, 17:4).
Like kavod in the Tanakh, doxa is also used for eschatological glory, which is the hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2; Col 1:27) and the realization of the future messianic kingdom (Rev 21:23) that began at the incarnation of Yeshua (John 1). The Apostolic Writings portray Yeshua as the glory (kavod and doxa) of God in every aspect.
The Past—Revelation of Torah: the Union of Adonai and Israel as a Wedding at Mt. Sinai
The description of the relationship between Adonai and his people Israel as a wedding is a well-known theme running throughout the Bible16 and Rabbinic literature.17 In Jewish tradition the custom that every bridal pair on their wedding day symbolizes the union of Adonai and Israel derives from this biblical imagery. Traditionally the union between Adonai and Israel took place at the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Rashi captures this image of a bride and groom. He explains that after B’nei Israel sanctified themselves for three days, they went to the mountain to meet Adonai (Exod 19.17) and he went out towards them as a bridegroom goes out to meet his bride, denoting “two parties moving toward each other.”18 Israel’s sanctification at Mt. Sinai is also compared to the preparation of a bride for her wedding day.19 Exodus 19 is replete with wedding imagery, especially according to Second Temple wedding customs. A Jewish wedding, then and now, has four required elements—betrothal, sanctification, huppah, and ketubah—and takes place in two stages: the betrothal (erusin) and the wedding ceremony (kiddushin).20 The wedding ceremony consists of two additional elements: the preparation of the bride (mikveh; sanctification), and the huppah (canopy). Before we look at the wedding imagery in Exodus 19, a brief look at Jewish marriage customs in the first two centuries ce is in order.21
In the Second Temple period, the betrothal took place in the home of the bride’s father, where she would remain until the actual wedding ceremony.22 As a formal act of property transfer, the groom would give the bride a piece of money or an object of monetary value, declaring that through the gift she was betrothed to him. At this time a legal document, which included the amount of the dowry and mutual obligations, was negotiated. A get (divorce) would be necessary to break this legal contract.23 By Talmudic times, the ketubah was written and signed at the betrothal and confirmed at the wedding through its public reading. The time from the betrothal until the huppah (wedding ceremony) for a virgin was one year. During this time the bride prepared the items she would bring into her husband’s home, while the groom and his family prepared the couple’s home and the wedding feast.24
The first part of the wedding ceremony was the preparation of the bride (sanctification). She would bath, perfume, anoint herself, and put on fine clothing and adornment (Isa 61:10). Bathing includes much more than simply washing to be physically clean; it also implies spiritual cleanness (to be tahor) by immersing in a mikveh—the custom of Jewish brides immersing in a mikveh before the wedding is still observed today. With the bride’s preparations completed, she was led to the groom’s house accompanied by family and friends, and great fanfare, song, dance, and musical instruments (Jer 16:9; 1 Macc 9:37–39), and torches to light the way. At the same time, the groom would go out to meet his bride to bring her to his house, where under the huppah he would sanctify her “according to the Law of Moses and Israel.”25 The huppah was a festively decorated canopy under which the couple stood during the wedding ceremony. The poles of the huppah were often made from trees planted when the bride and groom were born, customarily a cedar tree for a son and an acacia for a daughter. After the ceremony under the huppah, the wedding feast began.
The ketubah, the last element in the wedding ceremony to be mentioned, was the formal, legally binding marriage contract given to the bride by the groom that spelled out the terms of the marriage. In antiquity, the ketubah included the amount to be paid to the bride in case of divorce, and their mutual responsibilities in the marriage. Since polygamy was allowed by law, the ketubah often included a statement prohibiting the groom from marrying another woman.
The betrothal of Israel to Adonai took place at the Exodus from Egypt. Before leaving Egypt, Adonai promised B’nei Israel, “I will take you to me for a people” (Exod 6:7). This verse introduces the biblical theme of marriage between Adonai and his people and initiates the betrothal. The Hebrew word translated “shall take” is the same word used for a man taking a bride for himself,26 and can, therefore, be applied to Adonai taking B’nei Israel as his bride—the betrothal.
Israel’s betrothal to Adonai began with the plagues and culminated in the Exodus. After the betrothal, a bride was legally bound to the groom, prohibiting her from pursuing another man, and other suitors were prohibited from pursuing the bride. The process of making Israel unreachable to other pursuers is seen in the Passover story. Adonai separated Israel so she could become his sanctified bride, his Am Segulah, his treasured possession, as she is called in Exodus 19:5. B’nei Israel’s acceptance of the Torah, before it was actually given, is based on Adonai’s promise that they would be his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod 19:5, 8). Thus, the dowry was established and the general responsibilities of each party were set.
Israel’s mikveh is seen in Israel’s heeding of Adonai’s words to Moses: “Sanctify them today and tomorrow and have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day” (Exod 19:10). In Hebrew, the word translated “sanctify them” is קדשתם kidashtem, which is related to the word kiddushin, the Hebrew word for the wedding. Kidashtem refers to an ethical sanctification that includes the abstention from sin and inappropriate behavior, as well as immersion in a mikveh.27
Though Exodus does not specifically mention a mikveh, when the Torah speaks of Israel washing themselves or their clothes, it refers to a physical immersion in water.28 Ezekiel portrays Israel’s sanctification in Exodus 19:10 as a mikveh, which is part of the marriage process: “I swore to you, and entered into a covenant with you . . . and you became Mine. Then I bathed (immersed) you in water” (Ezek 16:8, 9). With her sanctification complete, Israel is ready to meet her groom.
As Israel drew near to the mountain, Adonai went out to meet his bride and bring her to the huppah and begin the wedding ceremony. Though the word huppah is used twice in the Tanakh in relation to a wedding (Joel 2:16 and Psa 19:6 ), it does not appear in any of the accounts of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19, 24 or Deuteronomy 4). So where is the huppah at Mt. Sinai? It is the “heavy cloud” that covered the mountain.29 Hence, the glory of Adonai is the huppah. Since a huppah represents the couple’s new home, the analogy fits well; Israel’s new home or place of dwelling is to be eternally in him.
No wedding is complete without the ketubah, the wedding contract. Symbolically, the ketubah at Mt. Sinai is the Torah itself.30 As with any ketubah, the Torah was and continues to be a legally binding agreement between Adonai and the people of Israel. Kavod Adonai was revealed to Israel at her wedding on Mt. Sinai when the Torah (ketubah) was given. After three days of preparation (sanctification) and anticipation, the groom (Adonai) went out to meet his bride. Accompanied by great fanfare—thunder, lightning, smoke, fire and a thick cloud—he revealed his glory to Israel. The ketubah was ratified and an everlasting covenant was made between Adonai and B’nei Israel. Though the people of Israel did not remain a faithful bride,31 the Groom has remained faithful to the ketubah.
Jeremiah predicted a time when the covenant (ketubah) would be renewed, transformed into a living ketubah written on people’s hearts. The Jewish people have expectantly looked forward to such a time. The Qumran community thought that they had the brit hadasha, the new covenant. This brings us to the revelation of the doxa of the Living Torah that took place at another wedding, only this time in Cana of Galilee.
The Present—Revelation at Cana, the Living Torah
The marriage at Cana, as recorded in John 2:1–11, would have resonated with Jewish readers of John’s Gospel.32 The event has many keys that unlock some of the mysteries surrounding the Messiah for the immediate historical audience, as well as the modern reader of the Gospel. The wedding motif and the week of preparation leading up to it recall the giving of the Torah. John’s early readers would have understood that the doxa of Yeshua applies to kavod Adonai revealed in Yeshua as the embodiment of the Torah. Changing the water into wine also reveals the messianic implications of abundance, joy, and feasting. Jeremiah’s prophecy (31:33) is acted out in the marriage at Cana where the Torah is enfleshed in the revelation of the Living Torah.
The narrative of the story begins in John 1:19 with John’s testimony of himself on the first of the four additional days of remote preparation. The fourth day of remote preparations recounts the calling of Nathanael and the first self-revelation of Yeshua as the Son of Man (John 1:51). Building an air of expectancy the writer continues, “on the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.” The stage is set, the scene is in place and the background is fully established for the enacting of the revelation of the doxa of the Living Torah. The words “on the third day” set the stage and background; they are the exact same words as those in Exodus 19:16 (LXX) that call to mind the giving of the Torah. The phrase “on the third day” is a pivotal hinge that connects back to the manifestation of kavod Adonai at Mt. Sinai and points forward to the revelation of the doxa of Yeshua.
During the wedding feast, Yeshua’s reply to his mother introduces another great theme in the Fourth Gospel—his “hour.” At the wedding Yeshua states that his hour had not yet come. But, it was about to begin. Yeshua’s “hour” comes at his death and resurrection in his final glorification. However, his hour begins at the revelation of his doxa at the wedding in Cana. After telling the servants to do whatever Yeshua commands, Mary exits the scene.
The expectation of the readers continues building, waiting to see what will happen. They are not disappointed. Fulfilling certain messianic expectations, Yeshua changes six pots of ceremonial washing water into wine—and choice wine at that. Then the story abruptly ends. After the shocked steward speaks to the bridegroom, nothing more is said, except “This, the first of his signs, Yeshua manifested his glory” (John 2:11). The climax of the story does not lie in the physical execution of the miracle, but in the revelation of the doxa of Yeshua. The water-to-wine miracle is a step leading to the “revelation of his glory,” the beginning of his hour that will culminate in his death and resurrection.
Yeshua’s doxa is the same as kavod Adonai. Just as kavod Adonai is revealed in mighty acts and authority over nature in the Tanakh, so it is with Yeshua at the wedding. Changing the water into wine is a mighty act that demonstrates Yeshua’s preeminence over nature. Since no one before Yeshua had ever seen Adonai (John 1:18), Adonai’s kavod was always veiled. In the past his kavod was revealed as a thunderstorm, a cloud, or a still small voice. At the coming of Yeshua, Adonai’s glory is revealed in Yeshua whom Adonai has made known. The doxa attributed to Yeshua is the same as the kavod attributed to Adonai in the Tanakh.
Jewish readers of John’s Gospel understood the implications of Yeshua revealing his doxa at a wedding that took place after seven days of preparation. Yeshua is the Word (Torah/ketubah) made flesh (John 1:14). Adonai was no longer veiled nor was his Word written only on tablets of stone. Yeshua opened a new and living way (Heb 10:20) in which the Torah (ketubah) is written on peoples’ hearts.
The Future—Revelation of the Messianic Kingdom
On the fourth day of the remote preparations (John 1:50–51) Yeshua emphasizes “the need to transcend contemporary messianic expectations. Faith based on miracles will not suffice; something more is needed.”33 This greater faith mentioned in v. 51 is acted out in the wedding at Cana of Galilee where the revelation of Yeshua, the Son of Man occurs. The manifestation of the doxa of Yeshua initiated the eschaton that will culminate in the messianic banquet.
The abundance of wine at the wedding in Cana is a “sign” of messianic fulfillment (cf. Hos 2:19–20; Isa 25:6–8; Jer 2:2; Song of Songs). Abundance is a recurring theme related to the eschatological age that is often expressed in the form of a banquet (Isa 25:6; 65:11–15; Psa 22:5). Isaiah uses wedding imagery to symbolize messianic days (Isa 54:4–8; 62:4–5). People are invited to the eschatological banquet of divine joy (Isa 55:1–13). Yeshua uses images of both weddings and banquets when speaking of the eschaton (Matt 8:11, 22:1–14; Luke 22:16–18).The imagery of a celestial banquet as a symbol of eternal happiness is not new to either the prophets or Yeshua; it can be traced back to Canaanite literature. Revelation 19:9 encapsulates this symbolism, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.”
Wedding imagery as a symbol of messianic fulfillment also appears in literature outside the Bible. The Qumran sectarians regarded their “common meal” as an anticipation of the messianic banquet (1QS 2). First Enoch 62:13–14 relates that the just ones will enjoy an eternal banquet with the Son of Man. Second Baruch records visions of the last times and the messianic banquet that resemble the Last Supper where Yeshua explains to the disciples that the meal they are sharing is a foretaste of the true messianic glory to come (Matt 26:27–29; cf. Luke 22:29f; Rev 3:20; 19:9). Reference to the eschatological banquet can also be found in Matthew 5:6, 8:11, and Mark 14:25.
The abundance of wine at Cana34 symbolizes the abundance of joy in the final messianic kingdom (Amos 9:13–14; Hos 14:7; Jer 31:12). Such an exuberant abundance is also described in 1 Enoch and 2 Baruch and by Irenaeus.35 Thus, the symbolism of the Cana miracle is also a sign of the messianic times and the establishment of the long-expected kingdom. The is an appropriate apocalyptic theme. The Tanakh promises that kavod Adonai will be revealed in the end times (Psa 97:6, 102:16, and Isa 60:1–2). The beginning of the fulfillment of this promise lies in the revelation of Yeshua’s doxa at the wedding in Cana and will culminate in the future revelation of his glory at the final marriage supper of the Lamb.
The wedding at Cana is more than Yeshua’s sanction of feasts and social events. It is the pivotal point in a line running from Mt. Sinai to the future messianic kingdom. Through the use of wedding imagery, abundance of wine, revelation of kavod Adonai and doxa of Yeshua, Torah and Living Torah, John’s Gospel weaves a thread from the past to the Gospel’s present and on to the future. The wedding at Cana brings to life the revelation of the glory of the Word that became flesh introduced in the prologue (John 2:14). Yeshua is the expected fulfillment of the new covenant (Jer 31:31–34) and the messianic kingdom. But most of all, Yeshua is the revelation of kavod Adonai in the flesh. Adonai no longer needs to reveal himself in nature or historical acts; he can be seen by all humanity through the revelation of Messiah Yeshua.
Dr. Vered Hillel is the Academic Dean of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute. She holds a PhD and an MA in Second Temple Jewish literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her areas of interest are Second Temple Judaism and literature, the Backgrounds to Early Christianity, Jewish/Christian Relations, and Messianic Jewish Theology. Vered teaches at MJTI and other colleges and universities. She has published scholarly books and articles relating to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Second Temple Judaism, and Messianic Judaism.
1 Unless otherwise noted, the biblical translations are mine and, as much as the text will allow, are literal translations that follow the syntax of the text.
2 Francis J. Moloney draws attention to these parallels to Shavuot but does not fully develop them in Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 4: The Gospel of John (Collegeville, MI: Liturgical Press, 1998), 49–51, 63 and 66–67.
3 This article uses ADONAI in small caps to designate the tetragrammaton, the name of the God of Israel, much as English translations use the word LORD in small caps.
4 Before the Jewish calendar was fixed by Rabbi Hillel II in the fourth century CE, a month fluctuated between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon. Thus, Shavuot could fall on the fifth, sixth, or seventh day of Sivan. Since then, the months of the Jewish calendar have been established to alternate between 29 and 30 days respectively, (i.e., Nissan has 30 days, Iyyar 29, Sivan 30, Tammuz 29, etc.). Heshvan and/or Kislev fluctuate between 29 and 30 days each year in order to prevent certain difficulties with the festivals, like preventing Yom Kippur from falling on a Friday.
5 Matthew Collins, “The Question of Doxa: A Socioliterary Reading of the Wedding at Cana.” BibTheolBull 25, no. 3 (1995): 100–109, sees the changing of the water into wine as the actual revelation of Yeshua’s glory.
6 See, for example, Luke 14:10; John 5:41; 7:18; 1 Cor 11:15; 1 Thess 2:6, 20; Eph 3:13; Phil 3:19.
7 The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, eds. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, s.v. כבד.
8 The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 3:237.
9 On the link between Sinai, the Hebrew kavod, and the Johannine use of doxa, see Francis J. Moloney, Belief in the Word: Reading the Fourth Gospel: John 1–4 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, reprint 2004), 57–59.
10 Kaved is used literally only twice: 1 Sam 4:18, “Eli was old and heavy,” and 2 Sam 14:26, “Absalom’s hair was heavy.”
11 It is especially prominent in Psa (64 times), Isa (63), Exod (31), Ezek (25), and Prov (24).
12 Exod 16:10, 29:43; Lev 9:6, 23f; Num 1:10; 17:7; 20:6, passim.
13 J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs: Hebrew Text, English Translation, and Commentary (London: Soncino, 1988), 293.
14 Kittel, Theological Dictionary, 3:244.
15 For example, Luke 2:9, 9:31; John 1:14; Acts 22:11; 2 Pet 1:17; Rev 15:8; 21:23.
16 The likening of ADONAI’s taking Israel as his nation to a marriage is significant. See for example, Isa 16:59–60, 54:5; Hosea 1:1–3:5; Mal 2:11–12; Jer 3:3–20, 31:32; Ezek 16:59–60.
17 To start with, see Yalchut Shimoni on Isaiah 61:10, which records that Israel is called the “bride” ten times in the Scripture (six times in Song of Solomon, three times in Isaiah, and once in Jeremiah).
18 Rashi: Commentary on the Torah, vol. 2: Shemos/Exodus, Artscroll: The Saperstein Edition, ed. Yisrael Herczog (Brooklyn: Mesorah, 1994), 229.
19 An example is Elie Munk, The Call of the Torah, Vol. 2: Shemos, Artscroll Mesorah Series, trans. E. S. Mazer (Brooklyn: Mesorah, 1994), 251.
20 Deut. 22:23; Song of Songs 3:11.
21 Information on wedding ceremonies in the Second Temple period is far from complete. As a result slightly earlier and later references will be relied upon.
22 In modern Jewish weddings, erusin (betrothal) and kiddushin both take place at the wedding.
23 It is not clear whether the document signed at the betrothal was a ketubah or the shtar erusin (an engagement contract).
24 A widow or divorcee only waited three months before the huppah.
25 t. Ketub. 4:9.
26 Gen 4:19, 6:2, 11:29, 12:19; 1 Sam 24:43, etc.
27 Seder Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 18.
28 The Talmud testifies to this understanding, but “how much more should immersion be required where washing of the garments is required?” b. Yebam. 46b.
29 See above section, “The Glory.”
30 Rabbi Kaplan explains, “Since the bride and groom represent Israel and God at Sinai when the Torah was given, the ketubah represents the ‘Book of the Covenant’ that Moses wrote . . . at Sinai.” Aryeh Kaplan, Made in Heaven: A Jewish Wedding Guide (New York: Moznaim, 1983), 99.
31 See for example, Jer 2:23–5:10; Ezek 16:1–63, 23; Hos 2.
32 On the Jewish context of John’s Gospel see, Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 1:171–228.
33 Moloney, John, 57.
34 Each of the six stone pots is said to have contained two to three firkins of water. Each firkin is equivalent to nine to ten gallons, which is about 800 to 880 gallons of wine.
35 1 Enoch 10:18–19; 2 Baruch 29:5–8; and Irenaeus, “Fragments of Papias,” section IV in Ante-Nicene Fathers to A.D. 325: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0125.htm, accessed 11/1/20.