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Lost jars of Cana

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The Lost Jars of Cana (also known as Waterpots of Cana, Water Vessels of Cana, Holy Jars, Wine Jars or Water Jugs of Cana) is the name given to the jars Jesus used to perform his first miracle in the Book of John.

Book of John Account

According to an account in the Book of John, Jesus was attending a wedding feast in Cana, Galilee, with his disciples. When the hosts ran out of wine, Jesus' mother said, "They have no more wine." Jesus replied, "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come." Jesus' mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:3-5). Jesus ordered the servants to fill the empty jars with water. When they had done so, Jesus told them to draw out some of it and take it to the chief waiter. After tasting the water that had become wine and not knowing what Jesus had done, he told the bridegroom that he had departed from the custom of serving the best wine first by serving it last (John 2:6-10). This was the first miracle of Jesus and it was performed to reveal his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him (John 2:11).

The story has had considerable importance in the development of Christian pastoral theology. Jesus’ attendance of a wedding (and use of his divine power to save the celebrations from disaster) is taken as evidence of his approval for marriage and earthly celebrations. It has also been used as an argument against Christian teetotalism (see Christianity and alcohol), and in Roman Catholicism, the Wedding at Cana is one of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

Christian theologians attach great significance to the water-to-wine miracle, which came at a crucial point in the early days of Jesus’ ministry when his reputation was growing. [1] Jesus had just selected his disciples and was under pressure to demonstrate his divinity. [2]

Some scholars believe John's account of the Cana Wedding reflects the Synoptic Gospels' parable of New Wine into Old Wineskins -- a saying of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew 9:17, Gospel of Mark 2:22 and Gospel of Luke 5:37-39. The wording is similar in all three gospels except for the additional verses recorded by Luke. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

In the Synoptic Gospels

The account is not mentioned in the Book of Matthew, Mark or Luke.

In Archeology

Many ancient and modern archaeologists have sought to recover the lost jars. On December 21, 2004, archaeologists reported finding “pieces of large stone jars of the type the Gospel says Jesus used when he turned water into wine”[3] But American scientists excavating a rival site several kilometers to the north also claimed to have found pieces of stone jars from the time of Jesus.[4] Expert Archaeologist Shimon Gibson cast doubt on the find at modern Cana, since such vessels are not rare and it would be impossible to link a particular set of vessels to the miracle. "Just the existence of stone vessels is not enough to prove that this is a biblical site."[5]

Professor Alan Millard describes how archaeologists found stone jars similar to the Lost Jars of Cana in Jerusalem: “Archaeologists have found several stone jars in the ruined houses of first-century Jerusalem. At least six of them stood in the basement kitchen of the 'Burnt house'. They were shaped and finished on a very big lathe, given a pedestal foot and simple decoration. Such stone jars would hold large quantities of water for washing and kitchen needs. Flat discs of stone served as lids. The jars at Cana may have been similar to these.”[6]

Locating Cana

There has been much speculation about where Cana might have been. Several modern scholars have asserted that since the Fourth Gospel was addressed to a group of Jewish Christians, it isn’t likely that the evangelist would mention a place that did not exist.

Four villages in Galilee are candidates for historical Cana:

  • Kafr Kanna, Israel
  • Kenet-el-Jalil, Israel
  • Ain Kana, Israel
  • Qana, Lebanon.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1914, a tradition dating back to the 8th century identifies Cana with the modern Arab town of Kafr Kanna, about 7 km northeast of Nazareth, Israel. Recent scholars have suggested alternatives, including the ruined village of Kenet-el-Jalil (also known as Khirbet Kana), about 9 km further north, and Ain Kana, which is closer to Nazareth and considered by some to be a better candidate on etymological grounds. While the village of Qana, in southern Lebanon, is considered an unlikely candidate for the location, many local Lebanese Christians believe the village to be the correct site.

A discussion on the geographical location of Cana is offered as part of a doctoral dissertation from the Dallas Theological Seminary by J. Carl Laney (1977).[7] He concludes, "The evidence, then, clearly favors the identification of Khirbet Kana with Cana of Galilee.[8]

In Art

The account is depicted in numerous major artworks. Most notable are Marriage at Cana by Giotto and The Wedding at Cana, by the late-Renaissance or Mannerist Italian painter, Paolo Veronese on display in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.


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