1.There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. As this narrative contains the first miracle which Christ performed, it would be proper for us, were it on this ground alone, to consider the narrative attentively; though — as we shall afterwards see — there are other reasons which recommend it to our notice. But while we proceed, the various advantages arising from it will be more clearly seen. The Evangelist first mentions Cana of Galilee, not that which was situated towards Zare-phath (1Kg_17:9; Oba_1:20; Luk_4:26) or Sarepta, between Tyre and Sidon, and was called the greater in comparison of this latter Cana, which is placed by some in the tribe of Zebulun, and by others in the tribe of Asher. For Jerome too assures us that, even in his time, there existed a small town which bore that name. There is reason to believe that it was near the city of Nazareth, since the mother of Christ came there to attend the marriage. From the fourth chapter of this book it will be seen that it was not more than one day’s journey distant from Capernaum. That it lay not far from the city of Bethsaida may also be inferred from the circumstance, that three days after Christ had been in those territories, the marriage was celebrated — the Evangelist tells us — in Cana of Galilee. There may have been also a third Cana, not far from Jerusalem, and yet out of Galilee; but I leave this undetermined, because I am unacquainted with it.
And the mother of Jesus was there. It was probably one of Christ’s near relations who married a wife; for Jesus is mentioned as having accompanied his mother. From the fact that the disciples also are invited, we may infer how plain and frugal was his way of living; for he lived in common with them. It may be thought strange, however, that a man who has no great wealth or abundance (as will be made evident from the scarcity of the wine) invites four or five other persons, on Christ’s account. But the poor are readier and more frank in their invitations; because they are not, like the rich, afraid of being disgraced, if they do not treat their guests with great costliness and splendor; for the poor adhere more zealously to the ancient custom of having an extended acquaintance.
Again, it may be supposed to show a want of courtesy, that the bridegroom allows his guests, in the middle of the entertainment, to be in want of wine; for it looks like a man of little thoughtfulness not to have a sufficiency of wine for his guests. I reply, nothing is here related which does not frequently happen, especially when people are not accustomed to the daily use of wine. Besides, the context shows, that it was towards the conclusion of the banquet thatthe wine fell short, when, according to custom, it might be supposed that they had already drunk enough; for the master of the feast thus speaks, Other men place worse wine before those who have drunk enough, but thou hast kept the best till now. Besides, I have no doubt that all this was regulated by the Providence of God, that there might be room for the miracle.
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Chap. Joh_2:1-11. The Testimony of the First Sign
1. the third day] From the calling of Philip (Joh_1:43), the last date given, making a week in all; the first week, perhaps in contrast to the last week (Joh_12:1).
Cana of Galilee] To distinguish it from Cana of Asher (Jos_19:28). This Cana is not mentioned in O.T.; it was the home of Nathanael (Joh_21:2), and is now generally identified with Kânet el-Jelîl, about six miles N. of Nazareth.
was there] Staying as a friend or relation of the family; she speaks to the servants as if she were quite at home in the house (Joh_2:5). Joseph has disappeared: the inference (not quite certain) is that in the interval between Luk_2:51 and this marriage—about 17 years—he had died.
On the third day there was a marriage in Cana £ of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Should the supposed discovery of Bethabara or Bethany beyond Jordan, at a spot a short distance south of the Lake of Gennesareth, be verified, then there is no difficulty in accepting the view of Baur as to the identity of the “third day,” reckoning it as the morrow of the day on which Nathanael was called to be a disciple. The first day mentioned would be Joh_1:29; the second day, Joh_1:35; and the third identical with the day mentioned in Joh_1:43, Joh_1:45. There would be time for the rapid journey from the Jordan to Cana. But if the third day be interpreted more naturally, as the third after the day mentioned in Joh_1:44-51, time is given for the journey from the traditional site near Jericho to either of the sites which claim to be the scene of this earliest miracle. It is a march of twenty hours, which would occupy two or three days. Moreover, as wedding feasts often occupied in Palestine seven or even fourteen days (Gen_29:27; Jdg_14:15; Tobit 8:19; 9:4; 10:1), the festivities may have been advanced, and some explanation be thus given of the exhaustion of the supply of wine. Consequently, there are several justifications and explanations of that which is condemned by Baur and others as an unhistorical element. It’ the first day was that on which John bore his testimony before the Sanhedrin; the second, Joh_1:29; the third, Joh_1:35; the fourth, Joh_1:43, Joh_1:45;—the day of the wedding at Cana would be the seventh, and thus a sacred week, corresponding with the solemn week that terminated with Easter Day, would be seen to have found place in the earliest periods of the ministry. The mother of Jesus was there. Since Nathanael of Cana was summoned as a friend, and since the first group of the disciples were familiar with each other and him, the inference is that the bride or bridegroom was an intimate friend of the entire party. Weiss claims the reference to the little town of Cana “as another of those recollections, which testify indubitably to the historical character of the Gospel”. The presence of the mother of the Lord at Cana makes it also probable that she had, after the death of Joseph, removed from Nazareth to Cana. This is confirmed by the casual remark in Mar_6:3 that his sisters only were still resident in their former home. Moreover, it would explain the return of Jesus from the scene of his baptism to his temporary home. The traditional Kefr Kenneh is situated on rising ground four miles and a half northeast of Nazareth, and the remains of a Greek church are still to be seen there. The site is not inconsistent with the conditions. We may suppose it to be called “of Galilee” to distinguish it from a Cana in Peraea mentioned by Josephus; but more probably from the Kanah in the tribe of Asher, mentioned in Jos_19:28. The situation of this town in Phoenicia may have been so far from Galilee proper as to have rendered the expression desirable. Dr. Robinson believed that he had hit more certainly upon the site by finding a small village bearing the name Cana el Djelil, or Khurbet Kana, which lies some seven miles northeast from Nazareth beyond Sepphoris. The adjunct, el Djelil, suggested the preservation of the old designation drawn from this very narrative. This identification was accepted by Ritter and Meyer; Stanley considered it very doubtful, and so do Westcott (‘Comm.,’ in loc.) and Dr. Selah Merrill, in ‘Pict. Palestine,’ 2, pp. 59-63. The more recent investigations of the Palest. Expl. Society have led once more to the recognition of the traditional site, independently maintained by Hengstenberg, Godet, Moulton, and others. Its site is picturesque, and resembles the position of many Italian towns perched on the slope of a low hill at the head of valleys forming roadways to the coast and to the lake. Its Greek name, Cana, meaning “a reed,” was probably derived from the reeds which grow in the marshy plain below it (compare Cannae, Canossa, Cannes. So Hugh Macmillan).
3.The mother of Jesus saith to him. It may be doubted if she expected or asked any thing from her Son, since he had not yet performed any miracle; and it is possible that, without expecting any remedy of this sort, she advised him to give some pious exhortations which would have the effect of preventing the guests from feeling uneasiness, and at the same time of relieving the shame of the bridegroom. I consider her words to be expressive of (συμπαθεία) earnest compassion; for the holy woman, perceiving that those who had been invited were likely to consider themselves as having been treated with disrespect, and to murmur against the bridegroom, and that the entertainment might in that way be disturbed, wished that some means of soothing them could be adopted. Chrysostom throws out a suspicion that she was moved by the feelings of a woman to seek I know not what favor for herself and her Son; but this conjecture is not supported by any argument.
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3. when they wanted wine] Better, when the wine failed. Perhaps the arrival of these six or seven guests caused the want; certainly it would make it more apparent. To Eastern hospitality such a mishap on such an occasion would seem a most disgraceful calamity.
They have no wine] Much comment has here obscured a simple text. The family in which she was a guest was in a serious difficulty. Perhaps she felt herself partly responsible for the arrangements: certainly she would wish to help. What more natural than that she should turn to her Son and tell Him the difficulty? Probably she did not expect a miracle, still less wish Him to break up the party, or begin a discourse to distract attention from the want. The meaning simply is—‘They have no wine; what is to be done?’
A large accession of guests in such a humble home might easily be supposed to make a famine in the provisions, and so we read, And when the wine failed —either from this cause, or from the poverty of the hosts, whose willingness and welcome were larger than their means, or by reason of an advanced stage in the festival—the mother of Jesus saith to him, They have no wine. The simple presence of the Lord and of his mother, of such guests as these. at a wedding feast, is a Divine rebuke of all that morbid asceticism which crept from Essenism and Orientalism into the Christian Church, of all that false pietism and fancied purity which made marriage a contamination, and exalted virginity to an unnatural elevation. The tender hearted interest felt by the blessed mother of the Lord in the condition of the hosts, and her tone of authority towards the διάκονι, are eminently natural; her tacit request for help, though she does not specify the way in which the help should be given, implies on her part something of presumption in indicating to our Lord the course he should adopt. A question of great interest arises—What did she mean by her appeal? Bengel suggested that Mary simply intended: “Let us depart before the poverty of our hosts reveals itself.” This makes Christ’s reply an acceptance of her hint; but along other lines the rabbis were accustomed to say that wine and life were in the mouth of a rabbi (see Geikie’s ‘Life of Christ,’ 1:475; Wunsche, in loc.). We are expressly told that this is the beginning of signs, and therefore we have no right to conclude that, previous to this, in the home at Nazareth, Jesus had been accustomed to conquer fate and master poverty and compel circumstances by miraculous powers for his own or for his mother’s support. We know that it was a temptation of the devil that he should perform some such miracle for his own sustenance, and that he had sternly suppressed the suggestion of the evil one. The mother must have known his powers, and must have known his mind on this very matter. What did she suggest? Was she thinking mainly of the need of wine, or firstly and chiefly of the honour and glory of her Son? She supposed that a moment had arrived when he should by some royal act assert his imperial rights, and give an order which would be obeyed as that of Sovereign Prince. Precisely the same spirit prevailed always in his home and among his disciples—an eager desire that he should manifest himself to the world (cf. Joh_7:4-6). The disciples did not lose it on the night of the Passion, or the eve of the Ascension (Joh_14:22; Act_1:6). If this was the real meaning of the remark, “They have no wine,” it becomes singularly interesting to observe the method of our Lord. The request for a supply of additional solace and refreshment was complied with. The suggestion to show himself to the world was as resolutely withheld. There was no pomp, no claim, no self-assertion; there was quiet, boundless, affluent love. The glory of Divine love was manifested, the need was satisfied; but the impression was not intended to go beyond the hearts of those beings who would partially understand it, at the right time.
4.Woman, what have I to do with thee? Why does Christ repel her so rashly? I reply, though she was not moved by ambition, nor by any carnal affection, still she did wrong in going beyond her proper bounds. Her anxiety about the inconvenience endured by others, and her desire to have it in some way mitigated, proceeded from humanity, and ought to be regarded as a virtue; but still, by putting herself forward, she might obscure the glory of Christ. Though it ought also to be observed, that what Christ spoke was not so much for her sake as for the sake of others. Her modesty and piety were too great, to need so severe a chastisement. Besides, she did not knowingly and willingly offend; but Christ only meets the danger, that no improper use may be made of what his mother had said, as if it were in obedience to her command that he afterwards performed the miracle.
The Greek words (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοὶ) literally mean, What to me and to thee ? But the Greek phraseology is of the same import with the Latin — Quid tibi mecum ? (what hast thou to do with me ?) The old translator led many people into a mistake, by supposing Christ to have asserted, that it was no concern of his, or of his mother’s, if the wine fell short. But from the second clause we may easily conclude how far removed this is from Christ’s meaning; for he takes upon himself this concern, and declares that it belongs to him to do so, when he adds, my hour is not yet come. Both ought to be joined together — that Christ understands what it is necessary for him to do, and yet that he will not act in this matter at his mother’s suggestion.
It is a remarkable passage certainly; for why does he absolutely refuse to his mother what he freely granted afterwards, on so many occasions, to all sorts of persons? Again, why is he not satisfied with a bare refusal? and why does he reduce her to the ordinary rank of women, and not even deign to call her mother ? This saying of Christ openly and manifestly warns men to beware lest, by too superstitiously elevating the honor of the name of mother in the Virgin Mary, they transfer to her what belongs exclusively to God. Christ, therefore, addresses his mother in this manner, in order to lay down a perpetual and general instruction to all ages, that his divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honor paid to his mother.
How necessary this warning became, in consequence of the gross and disgraceful superstitions which followed afterwards, is too well known. For Mary has been constituted the Queen of Heaven, the Hope, the Life, and the Salvation of the world; and, in short, their fury and madness proceeded so far that they stripped Christ of his spoils, and left him almost naked. And when we condemn those horrid blasphemies against the Son of God, the Papists call us malignant and envious; and — what is worse — they maliciously slander us as deadly foes to the honor of the holy Virgin. As if she had not all the honor that is due to her, unless she were made a Goddess; or as if it were treating her with respect, to adorn her with blasphemous titles, and to substitute her in the room of Christ. The Papists, therefore, offer a grievous insult to Mary when, in order to disfigure her by false praises, they take from God what belongs to Him.
My hour is not yet come. He means that he has not hitherto delayed through carelessness or indolence, but at the same time he states indirectly that he will attend to the matter, when the proper time for it shall arrive. As he reproves his mother for unseasonable haste, so, on the other hand, he gives reason to expect a miracle. The holy Virgin acknowledges both, for she abstains from addressing him any farther; and when she advises the servants to do whatever he commands, she shows that she expects something now. But the instruction conveyed here is still more extensive that whenever the Lord holds us in suspense, and delays his aid, he is not therefore asleep, but, on the contrary, regulates all His works in such a manner that he does nothing but at the proper time. Those who have applied this passage to prove that the time of events is appointed by Fate, are too ridiculous to require a single word to be said for refuting them. The hour of Christ sometimes denotes the hour which had been appointed to him by the Father; and by his time he will afterwards designate what he found to be convenient and suitable for executing the commands of his Father; but in this place he claims the right to take and choose the time for working and for displaying his Divine power.
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4. Woman, what have I to do with thee?] S. John alone of all the Evangelists never gives the Virgin’s name. Here, as so often, he assumes that his readers know the main points in the Gospel narrative: or it may be part of the reserve which he exhibits with regard to all that nearly concerns himself. Christ’s Mother had become his mother (Joh_19:26-27). He nowhere mentions his brother James.
Treatises have been written to shew that these words do not contain a rebuke; for if Christ here rebukes His Mother, it cannot be maintained that she is immaculate. ‘Woman’ of course implies no rebuke; the Greek might more fairly be rendered ‘Lady’ (comp. Joh_19:26), At the same time it marks a difference between the Divine Son and the earthly parent: He does not say, ‘Mother.’ But ‘what have I to do with thee?’ does imply rebuke, as is evident from the other passages where the phrase occurs, Jdg_11:12; 1Ki_17:18; 2Ki_3:13; Mat_8:29; Mar_1:24; Luk_8:28. Only in one passage does the meaning seem to vary: in 2Ch_35:21 the question seems to mean ‘why need we quarrel?’ rather than ‘what have we in common?’ But such a meaning, if possible there, would be quite inappropriate here. The further question has been asked,—what was she rebuked for? Chrysostom thinks for vanity; she wished to glorify herself through her Son. More probably for interference: He will help, but in His own way, and in His own time. Comp. Luk_2:51.
mine hour] The meaning of ‘My hour’ and ‘His hour’ in this Gospel depends in each case on the context. There cannot here be any reference to His death; rather it means His hour for ‘manifesting forth His glory’ (Joh_2:11) as the Messiah by working miracles. The exact moment was still in the future. Comp. Joh_7:8, where He for the moment refuses what He soon after does; and Joh_12:23, Joh_17:1, which confirm the meaning here given to ‘hour.’
Ver. 4. “Jesus saith to her: What is there between me and thee, woman? My hour is not yet come.”
Jesus makes Mary sensible of her incompetency in the region into which she intrudes. The career on which He has just entered, is that in which He depends only on His Father; His motto henceforth is: My Father and I. Mary must learn to know in her son theservant of Jehovah, of Jehovah only. The expression “What is there between me and thee?” is a frequent one in the Old Testament. Comp. Jdg_11:12; 2Sa_16:10; 1Ki_17:18; 2Ki_3:13. We even meet it, sometimes, in profane Greek; thus the reply of a Stoic to a jester is quoted, who asked him, at the moment when their vessel was about to sink, whether shipwreck was an evil or not: “What is there between us and thee, O man? We perish, and thou permittest thyself to jest!” This formula signifies, that the community of feeling to which one of the interlocutors appeals is rejected by the other, at least in the particular point which is in question. Mary had, no doubt, well understood that a great change was being wrought in the life of her son; but, as often happens with our religious knowledge, she had not drawn from this grave fact the practical consequence which concerned her personally. And thus, as Baumlein says, Jesus finds Himself in a position to reject the influence which she presumes still to exercise over Him. The address γύναι, woman, is thereby explained. In the language in which Jesus spoke, as well as in the Greek language, this term involves nothing contrary to respect and affection. In Dio Cassius, a queen is accosted by Augustus with this expression. Jesus Himself uses it in addressing His mother at a moment of inexpressible tenderness, when, from His elevation on the cross, He speaks to her for the last time, Joh_19:26. Here this expression, entirely respectful though it may be, gives Mary to understand, that, in the sphere on which Jesus has just entered, her title of mother has no longer any part to play.
“Here for Mary,” as Luthardt well observes, “is the beginning of a painful education.” The middle point of this education will be marked by the question of Jesus, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?” (Luk_8:19 f.) The end will be that second address: Woman (Joh_19:26), which will definitely break the earthly relation between the mother and the son. Mary feels at this moment, for the first time, the point of the sword which, at the foot of the cross, shall pierce through her heart. After having made her sensible of her incompetency, Jesus gives the ground of His refusal.
The words: “My hour is not yet come” have been understood by Euthymius, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Lange and Riggenbach (Leben des Herru Jesu, p. 374), in a very restricted sense: “the hour for performing the desired miracle.” The following words of Mary to the servants, according to this view, would imply two things: the first, that Jesus received a little later from His Father an inward sign which permitted Him to comply with His mother’s wish; and the second, that by a gesture or a word, He made known to her this new circumstance. This is to add much to the text. Besides, how could Jesus, before having received any indication of His Father’s will, have said: “not yet,” a word which would necessarily mean that the permission will be granted Him later. Finally, this weakened sense which is here given to the expression “my hour” does not correspond with the solemn meaning which is attached to this term throughout our whole Gospel. If it were desired to hold to this weakened meaning, it would be still better to give to this clause, with Gregory of Nazianzum, an interrogative turn: “Is not the hour (of my emancipation, of my autonomy) come?”
Let us remark that the expression “my hour” is here connected with the verb is come, as in all the passages in John where it is taken in its weightiest sense: “His hour was not yet come” (Joh_7:30; Joh_8:20, comp. Joh_13:1); “The hour is come” (Joh_12:23; Joh_17:1). His hour, in all these passages, is that of His Messianic manifestation, especially through His death and through the glorification which should follow it. The analogous expression my time, Joh_7:6, is also applied to His Messianic manifestation, but through the royal entry into Jerusalem. This is the meaning which seems to me to prevail here. Jesus makes known to Mary, impatient to see Him mount the steps of His throne, that the hour of the inauguration of His Messianic royalty has not yet struck. It is in His capital, Jerusalem, in His palace, the Temple, and not in the centre of His family, that His solemn manifestation as Messiah must take place (Mal_3:1 : “And then He shall enter into His temple”).
This sense of the expression “my hour” could not be strange to the mind of Mary. How many times, in her conversations with Jesus, she had doubtless herself used this expression when asking Him: Will thine hour come at last? That hour was the one towards which all her desire as an Israelite and a mother moved forward. Jesus rejects Mary’s request, but only so far as it has something of ambition. How often in His conversations, He replies less to the question which is addressed to Him than to the spirit in which it is put (comp. Joh_2:19; Joh_3:3; Joh_6:26). He thus lays hold of the person of His interlocutor even in his inmost self. Mary desires a brilliant miracle, as a public sign of His coming. Jesus penetrates this ambitious thought and traces a boundary for Mary’s desires which she should no more attempt to cross. But this does not prevent His understanding that along with this, there is something to be done in view of the present difficulty.
With this thought, the reply of Jesus to the premature suggestion of the mother becomes perfectly comprehensible. What is there to me and thee, O woman? Mine hour has not yet come. The appellation “woman” was used by him upon the cross, when he was concerned most humanly and tenderly with her great grief and desolation, and therefore had no breath of unfilial harshness in it. But the proverbial Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί; wheresoever the words occur, imply, if net personal estrangement, yet as to the matter in hand some divergence of feeling. Almost all commentators seem to suggest that our Lord refused to be guided by a mother’s direction; that he wished her to understand that he was breaking off from her control and from that silent submission which he had hitherto willingly yielded (so Meyer, Hengstenberg, Godet, Westcott, Tholuck, Ebrard, and Lange). Schaff has quoted from the Fathers before the Nestorian controversy dear proof that they admitted censure, and therefore blame, in the blessed virgin Mary. Still, it seems to me that the cause of the censure, coupled with an immediate response to her special request about the wine, has not been sufficiently appreciated, he said, “Mine hour is not yet come.” It would have come if the provision of wine was the ground of divergence of sentiment; if the moment for the supply of these temporal wants were the point of difference between them. The “hour” for Christ to tell the world all that Mary knew had not come. The hour of the full revelation of his Messianic claims had not come, nor did it come in the temple, or by the lake, or in the feast day; not till the awful moment of rejection, when death was hovering over him, and the blow was about to fall, did he say, “The hour has come” (see Joh_12:23; Joh_17:1)—the hour of his greatest glory. “The hour had not yet come.” The hour would come when rivers of living water would be supplied to all those who come to him; when the blood he would shed would be a Divine stream, clear as crystal, for the refreshment of all nations; when at another marriage supper of a saved humanity the precious blood should be an ample supply of costly wine for all the world. Moreover, the link at the present moment between our Lord and his mother must begin to shade into something more spiritual. It was not possible that he should be holden by it. A sword would pierce through her maternal heart when she became gradually alive to the fact that they that do the will of his Father, the same were his “brothers, sisters, and mother.”
5.His mother saith to the servants. Here the holy Virgin gives an instance of true obedience which she owed to her Son, when the question related, not to the relative duties of mankind, but to his divine power. She modestly acquiesces, therefore, in Christ’s reply; and in like manner exhorts others to comply with his injunctions. I acknowledge, indeed, that what the Virgin now said related to the present occurrence, and amounted to a declaration that, in this instance, she had no authority, and that Christ would do, according to his own pleasure, whatever he thought right. But if you attend closely to her design, the statement which she made is still more extensive; for she first disclaims and lays aside the power which she might seem to have improperly usurped; and next, she ascribes the whole authority to Christ, when she bids themdo whatever he shall command. We are taught generally by these words, that if we desire any thing from Christ, we will not obtain our wishes, unless we depend on him alone, look to him, and, in short, do whatever he commands On the other hand, he does not send us to his mother, but rather invites us to himself.
His mother saith unto the servants (διάκονοι, not ὑπηρέται, not δοῦλοι). The habits of Oriental life at the present day make it extremely probable that the disciples of Jesus were themselves taking the place of those who graciously waited upon the guests. If so, the language of Mary to them, and the special effect of the whole scene upon their minds, become marked and suggestive. Be that as it may, the mother of Jesus clearly understood by the gentle rebuke she received, that Christ, her Son, had read her heart, and was going in some way, not to gratify her darling wish, but at least to take her hint for the consolation of her young friends, and to attend to her suggestion. Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. Though in some sense slighted or reproved, she exhibits the most entire confidence in her Son and Lord. She encourages the servants to do whatever he might command. More may have passed between them than is reported. The evangelist often suggests omitted details (as in Joh_11:28; Joh_3:1, Joh_3:2; and elsewhere). The faith of Mary was not depressed by the discovery that there were depths of character in her Son which she could not fathom. Obedience to Christ will always be our duty, even though we cannot penetrate the reasons of his command. An interesting illustration of Mary’s words may be seen in Gen_41:55, where Pharaoh gives the like injunction to his servants concerning Joseph. Archdeacon Watkins records a curious tradition, mentioned by Jerome in his Prologue to the Gospel, that John was himself the bridegroom, but that, guided by the miracle, he left all and followed Christ.
6.And there were there six water-pots of stone. According to the computation of Budaeus, we infer that these water-pots were very large; for as the metreta (μετρητὴς) contains twenty congii, each contained, at least, a Sextier of this country. Christ supplied them, therefore, with a great abundance of wine, as much as would be sufficient for a banquet to a hundred and fifty men. Besides, both the number and the size of the water-pots serve to prove the truth of the miracle. If there had been only two or three jars, many might have suspected that they had been brought from some other place. If in one vessel only the water had been changed into wine, the certainty of the miracle would not have been so obvious, or so well ascertained. It is not, therefore, without a good reason that the Evangelist mentions the number of the water-pots, and states how much they contained.
It arose from superstition that vessels so numerous and so large were placed there. They had the ceremony of washing, indeed, prescribed to them by the Law of God; but as the world is prone to excess in outward matters, the Jews, not satisfied with the simplicity which God had enjoined, amused themselves with continual washings; and as superstition is ambitious, they undoubtedly served the purpose of display, as we see at the present day in Popery, that every thing which is said to belong to the worship of God is arranged for pure display. There was, then, a twofold error: that without the command of God, they engaged in a superfluous ceremony of their own invention; and next, that, under the pretense of religion, ambition reigned amidst that display. Some Popish scoundrels have manifested an amazing degree of wickedness, when they had the effrontery to say that they had among their relics those water-pots with which Christ performed this miracle in Cana, and exhibited some of them, which, first, are of small size, and, next, are unequal in size. And in the present day, when the light of the Gospel shines so clearly around us, they are not ashamed to practice those tricks, which certainly is not to deceive by enchantments, but daringly to mock men as if they were blind; and the world, which does not perceive such gross mockery, is evidently bewitched by Satan.
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6. six waterpots of stone] As an eyewitness S. John remembers their number, material, and size. The surroundings of the first miracle would not easily be forgotten. It is idle to seek for any special meaning in the number six. Vessels of stone were preferred as being less liable to impurity.
purifying] Comp. Mat_15:2; Mar_7:3 (see note); Luk_11:39.
two or three firkins] ‘Firkin’ is an almost exact equivalent of the Greek metrçtes, which was about nine gallons. The six pitchers, therefore, holding from 18 to 27 gallons each, would together hold 106 to 162 gallons.
8.And carry to the master of the feast. For the same reason as before, Christ wished that the flavor of the wine should be tried by the master of the feast, before it had been tasted by himself, or by any other of the guests; and the readiness with which the servants obey him in all things shows us the great reverence and respect in which he was held by them. The Evangelist gives the name of the master of the feast to him who had the charge of preparing the banquet and arranging the tables; not that the banquet was costly and magnificent, but because the honorable appellations borrowed from the luxury and splendor of the rich are applied even to the marriages of the poor. But it is wonderful that a large quantity of wine, and of the very best wine, is supplied by Christ, who is a teacher of sobriety. I reply, when God daily gives us a large supply of wine, it is our own fault if his kindness is an excitement to luxury; but, on the other hand, it is an undoubted trial of our sobriety, if we are sparing and moderate in the midst of abundance; as Paul boasts that he had learned to know both how to be full and to be hungry, (Phi_4:12.)
Draw out (ἀντλη ́σατε)
From ἄντλος, the hold of a ship where the bilge-water settles, and hence, the bilge-water itself. The verb, therefore, originally, means to bale out bilge-water; thence, generally, to draw, as from a well (Joh_4:15). Canon Westcott thinks that the water which was changed into wine was not taken from the vessels of purification, but that the servants were bidden, after they had filled the vessels with water, to continue drawing from the well or spring.
Ruler of the feast (ἀρχιτρικλι ́νῳ)
From ἄρχω, to be chief, and τρίκλινον, Latin, triclinium, a banqueting-hall with three couches (see on Mar_6:39). Some explain the word as meaning the superintendent of the banqueting-chamber, a servant whose duty it was to arrange the table-furniture and the courses, and to taste the food beforehand. Others as meaning one of the guests selected to preside at the banquet according to the Greek and Roman usage. This latter view seems to be supported by a passage in Ecclesiasticus (35:1, 2): “If thou be made the master of a feast, lift not thyself up, but be among them as one of the rest; take diligent care for them, and so sit down. And when thou hast done all thy office, take thy place, that thou mayst be merry with them, and receive a crown for thy well ordering of the feast.” According to the Greek and Roman custom, the ruler of the feast was chosen by throwing the dice. Thus Horace, in his ode to his friend Sestius, says, moralizing on the brevity of life: “Soon the home of Pluto will be thine, nor wilt thou cast lots with the dice for the presidency over the wine.” He prescribed the proportions of wine and water, and could also impose fines for failures to guess riddles, etc. As the success of the feast depended largely upon him, his selection was a matter of some delicacy. Plato says, “Must we not appoint a sober man and a wise to be our master of the revels? For if the ruler of drinkers be himself young and drunken, and not over-wise, only by some special good fortune will he be saved from doing some great evil” (“Laws,” 640). The word occurs only here and Joh_2:9. Wyc. simply transcribes: architriclyn.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
9. ruler of the feast] Perhaps manager of the feast would be better. It is doubtful whether the head-waiter, who managed the feast and tasted the meat and drink, is meant, or the rex convivii, arbiter bibendi, the guest elected by the other guests to preside. The bad taste of his remark inclines one to the former alternative: Sir_32:1-2 is in favour of the second. In any case the translation should be uniform in these two verses, not sometimes ‘governor,’ sometimes ‘ruler.’ It is the same Greek word in all three cases, a word occurring nowhere else in N.T. The words also for ‘water-pot’ or ‘pitcher’ and for ‘draw out’ are peculiar to this Gospel; but they occur again Joh_4:7; Joh_4:15; Joh_4:28.
the water that was made wine] Or, the water now become wine. The Greek seems to imply that all the water had become wine; there is nothing to mark a distinction between what was now wine and what still remained water. It is idle to ask at what precise moment the water became wine: nor is much gained by representing the miracle as a series of natural processes (rain passing through the vine into the grapes, being pressed out and fermented, &c.) compressed into an instant. Such compression is neither more nor less intelligible than simple transition from water to wine. Moreover there was no vine.
which drew] Better, who had drawn.
called] Rather, calleth.
When the governor of the feast tasted the water which had become wine. Luther translated, “Den Wein der Wasser gewesen war”—”The wine which had been water.” No other explanation is possible than one that asserts an astounding contravention of the ordinary evolutions and sequences of nature. If wine has taken the place of water, there has been added to the water that which was not there before. The vine, with all its wondrous processes—the vineyard, the wine press, and other appliances—have all been dispensed with, and the same power which said, “Let there be light,” called these additional elements together, originated them by his will. The new properties presented themselves to the percipient senses. In this respect the transformation is profoundly different from the supposed change which occurs in the Holy Eucharist. There the accidents and elements all remain; the substantia underlying them is supposed to be replaced by another substantia; but neither the one nor the other substance has ever been present to the senses. Here a new substance, with previously undiscovered attributes, presents itself. The uncompromising opponents of the supernatural will accept almost any interpretation but that which lies on the surface. The rationalistic, mythical, poetic mystic explanations all alike are encumbered with special difficulties. The evangelist who held Christ to be the Logos incarnate saw nothing inconceivable in the event. It was one of many phenomena which accompanied his life as the “Son of man,” which helped to create the underlying presupposition on which the Gospel was written. Like the testimony of the last of the prophets and the earliest of the disciples, it is part of the evidence that the Logos dwelt among us. When the governor tasted wine drawn from these water pots, and knew not whence it was. He had known all the resources of the feast, but this puzzled him by its novelty. “Whence has it come? Where has it been stored? Whose is it?” An interesting parenthesis is here introduced, to contrast the ignorance of the ruler of the feast with the overwhelming mystery of knowledge given to the servants (the disciples of Jesus himself), [But the servants (διάκονοι) who drew the water knew]; knew, i.e., whence it was and, it seems to me, what it was. Meyer and others say they did not know that they had brought wine. It is impossible to assert as much as this. They knew the plain feel that it was not a wine vat or wine cask, but a water jar, from which they had drawn in order to fill the chalices in their hands. They became, therefore, guarantors of the mysterious sign. How much more than “whence” it was bad dawned on their mind we cannot say. The governor of the feast calleth the bridegroom. We may judge from this that this responsible person was not in the room where the six water jars were placed, and that he either approached the bridegroom in his seat of honour, or called to him from his own, and expressed, by a convivial boast and equivocal compliment, his sense of the excellence of the wine which had thus, at the end of the feast, been lavished on the guests, who had been hitherto kept strangely ignorant of the resources of the host. It is unnecessary to put into the words any meaning deeper than the epigrammatic humour in which he revealed his sense of the reality of the objective fact which had been brought to his knowledge.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
10. when men have well drunk] Our translators have timidly shrunk from giving the full coarseness of the man’s joke: it should be when they have become drunken, when they are drunk. In Mat_24:49; Act_2:15; 1Co_11:21; 1Th_5:7; Rev_17:2; Rev_17:6, we have the same word rightly translated. Tyndall and Cranmer were more courageous here; they have ‘be dronke;’ and the Vulgate has inebriati fuerint. The error comes from the Geneva Bible. Of course he does not mean that the guests around him are intoxicated: it is a jocular statement of his own experience at feasts. Omit ‘then.’
thou hast kept the good wine until now] This was true in a sense of which he never dreamed. The True Bridegroom was there, and had indeed kept the best dispensation until the last.
And saith, Every man at the first setteth on the good wine, and when men have drunk deeply, then that which is worse (literally, smaller): thou hast kept (guarded) the good wine until now. The classical passages supposed to illustrate this jovial saying throw little light upon it. The meaning is obvious enough, and there is no need to search in ancient wit for the original of a speech which is not too recondite to have been originated on this occasion. The best wine is appropriately given when the seneca are keenest, but when the climax of the festival has come, when they have drunk too deeply, or are intoxicated, then the weaker, poorer, and less fragrant wine is acceptable. There need be no reference whatever to the present company. Tholuck and the Revised version modify the force of μεθυσθῶσι; Meyer, Godet, and others see no difficulty in assigning to the word its proper meaning (cf. Luk_12:45; 1Th_5:7; Eph_5:18; Rev_17:2). The whole saying simply asserts, by an outsider, the concrete reality of a wonderful change that had occurred. He knew nothing of a miracle. He merely guaranteed unwittingly the phenomena that came within the range of his senses. This becomes more impressive because he knew nothing of the cause, and was profoundly ignorant of the claims of his strange and wonderful Guest. No further remark is offered. We are not told how the fact was referred to the will or authority of Jesus, to the kindness or generosity of the mother; or whether the company generally learned the mysterious powers of their fellow Guest. The bridegroom thus honoured made no reply that is recorded; and, by emphatic silence, the impression is conveyed that this manifestation of the power of the Lord was not, in his opinion, the coming of his “hour.” Strange reticence is observed, but this is added—
Have well drunk (μεθυσθῶσι)
Wyc., be filled. Tynd., be drunk. The A.V. and Tynd. are better than the Rev. when men have drunk freely. The ruler of the feast means that when the palates of the guests have become less sensitive through indulgence, an inferior quality of wine is offered. In every instance of its use in the New Testament the word means intoxication. The attempt of the advocates of the unfermented-wine theory to deny or weaken this sense by citing the well-watered garden (Isa_58:11; Jer_31:12) scarcely requires comment. One might answer by quoting Plato, who uses βαπτίζεσθαι, to be baptized, for being drunk (“Symposium,” 176). In the Septuagint the verb repeatedly occurs for watering (Psa_65:9, Psa_65:10), but always with the sense of drenching or soaking; of being drunken or surfeited with water. In Jer_48:26 (Sept. 31:26), it is found in the literal sense, to be drunken. The metaphorical use of the word has passed into common slang, as when a drunken man is said to be wetted or soaked (so Plato, above). The figurative use of the word in the Septuagint has a parallel in the use of ποτίζω, to give to drink, to express the watering of ground. So Gen_2:6, a mist watered the face of the earth, or gave it drink. Compare Gen_13:10; Deu_11:10. A curious use of the word occurs in Homer, where he is describing the stretching of a bull’s hide, which, in order to make it more elastic, is soaked (μεθύουσαν) with fat (“Iliad,” xvii. 390).
Literally, smaller. Implying both worse and weaker. Small appears in the same sense in English, as small-beer.
Hast kept (τετήρηκας)
See on 1Pe_1:4.
11.This beginning of miracles. The meaning is, that this was the first of Christ’s miracles; for when the angels announced to the shepherds that he was born in Bethlehem, (Luk_2:8,) when the star appeared to the Magi, (Mat_2:2,) when the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, (Mat_3:16; Mar_1:10; Joh_1:32,) though these were miracles, yet, strictly speaking, they were not performed by him; but the Evangelist now speaks of the miracles of which he was himself the Author. For it is a frivolous and absurd interpretation which some give, that this is reckoned the first among; the miracles which Christ performed in Cana of Galilee; as if a place, in which we do not read that he ever was more than twice, had been selected by him for a display of his power. It was rather the design of the Evangelist to mark the order of time which Christ followed in the exercise of his power. For until he was thirty years of age, he kept himself concealed at home, like one who held no public office. Having been consecrated, at his baptism, to the discharge of his office, he then began to appear in public, and to show by clear proofs for what purpose he was sent by the Father. We need not wonder, therefore, if he delayed till this time the first proof of his Divinity. It is a high honor given to marriage, that Christ not only deigned to be present at a nuptial banquet, but honored it with his first miracle. There are some ancient Canons which forbid the clergy to attend a marriage. The reason of the prohibition was, that by being the spectators of the wickedness which was usually practiced on such occasions, they might in some measure be regarded as approving of it. But it would have been far better to carry to such places so much gravity as to restrain the licentiousness in which unprincipled and abandoned men indulge, when they are withdrawn from the eyes of others. Let us, on the contrary, take Christ’s example for our rule; and let us not suppose that any thing else than what we read that he did can be profitable to us.
And manifested his glory; that is, because he then gave a striking and illustrious proof, by which it was ascertained that he was the Son of God; for all the miracles which he exhibited to the world were so many demonstrations of his divine power. The proper time for displaying his glory was now come, when he wished to make himself known agreeably to the command of his Father. Hence, also, we learn the end of miracles; for this expression amounts to a declaration that Christ, in order to manifest his glory, performed this miracle. What, then, ought we to think of those miracles which obscure the glory of Christ?
And his disciples believed on him. If they were disciples, they must already have possessed some faith; but as they had hitherto followed him with a faith which was not distinct and firm, they began at that time to devote themselves to him, so as to acknowledge him to be the Messiah, such as he had already been announced to them. The forbearance of Christ is great in reckoning as disciples those whose faith is so small. And indeed this doctrine extends generally to us all; for the faith which is now full grown had at first its infancy, nor is it so perfect in any as not to make it necessary that all to a man should make progress in believing. Thus, they who now believed may be said to begin to believe, so far as they daily make progress towards the end of their faith. Let those who have obtained the first-fruits of faith labor always to make progress. These words point out likewise the advantage of miracles; namely, that they ought to be viewed as intended for the confirmation and progress of faith. Whoever twists them to any other purpose corrupts and debases the whole use of them; as we see that Papists boast of their pretended miracles for no other purpose than to bury faith, and to turn away the minds of men from Christ to the creatures.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
11. This beginning, &c.] Better, this, as a beginning of His signs, did Jesus in Cana; i.e. it is the first miracle of all, not merely the first at Cana. Thus S. John agrees with the Synoptists in representing the Messianic career as beginning in Galilee. This verse is conclusive against the miracles of Christ’s childhood recorded in the Aprocryphal Gospels. See on Joh_4:48. Our translators often in this Gospel, though very rarely in the other three, turn ‘signs’ into ‘miracles.’
manifested] The same Greek word occurs in connexion with His last miracle, Joh_21:1; Joh_21:14, and the same English word should be used in all the passages. Comp. Joh_7:4 and see on Joh_1:31.
his glory] This is the final cause of Christ’s ‘signs,’ His own and His Father’s glory (Joh_11:4), and these two are one.
and his disciples believed on him] What a strange remark for a writer in the second century to make! His disciples believed on Him? Of course they did. Assume that a disciple himself is the writer, and all is explained: he well remembers how his own imperfect faith was confirmed by the miracle. A forger would rather have given us the effect on the guests. Three times in this chapter does S. John give us the disciples’ point of view, here, Joh_2:17 and Joh_2:22; very natural in a disciple, not natural in a later writer. See on Joh_11:15 and Joh_21:12.
Two objections have been made to this miracle (1) on rationalistic, (2) on ‘Temperance’ grounds. (1) It is said that it is a wasteful miracle, a parade of power, unworthy of a Divine Agent: a tenth of the quantity of wine would have been ample. But the surplus was not wasted any more than the twelve baskets of fragments (Joh_6:13); it would be a valuable present to a bridal pair. (2) It is urged that Christ would not have supplied the means for gross excess; and to avoid this supposed difficulty it is suggested that the wine made was not intoxicating, i.e. was not wine at all. But in all His dealings with men God allows the possibility of a temptation to excess. All His gifts may be thus abused. The 5000 might have been gluttonous over the loaves and fishes.
Christ’s honouring a marriage-feast with His first miracle gives His sanction (1) to marriage, (2) to times of festivity.
Four hundred years had elapsed since the Jews had seen a miracle. The era of Daniel was the last age of Jewish miracles. Since the three children walked in the burning fiery furnace, and Daniel had remained unhurt in the lions’ den, and had read the hand-writing on the wall, no miracle is recorded in the history of the Jews until Jesus made this beginning of His ‘signs’ at Cana of Galilee. No wonder therefore, that the almost simultaneous appearance of a Prophet like John and a worker of miracles like Jesus attracted the attention of all classes.
Jesus made this beginning of signs in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory. The beginning, the earliest of the tokens which he gave of his higher nature and lofty claims and faculties. The word σημεῖα, corresponding with the Hebrew תוֹ), is generally, in the Acts as well as in the LXX., associated with τέρατα, or “portents;” when it occurs in the synoptists it is translated “signs.” The word by itself does not connote miraculous energies, but any event, natural or human, which becomes a token or witness to unseen or Divine energies. When Christ’s wonderful actions (often called δυνάμεις by the synoptists) are referred to by John, he calls them simply ἔργα; so that operations which, if wrought by other persons, might have been portents, miracles, or marvels, are to him perfectly normal, and are called simply “works.” Weiss leaves the question of the manner in which this supply of wine was provided entirely unsettled, but declares that, whether by some fortunate providential opportunity, by the forecast of the mother, or by concealed methods of meeting the exigency, this great gift was brought about by the Son of Mary, the effect was the same as if it had been wrought by the Creator’s hand. The glory of his power and love and sympathy was manifested. This appears to us utterly inconsistent with the intention or idea of tim evangelist. The impression previously made upon John the Baptist was of his supreme submission to the Divine will, his sacrificial yielding to that will for the taking away of sin; further, that in some sense he was Son of God, and Minister and Organ for the dispensation of the Spirit of God. The few disciples admitted that, by his penetration of their character and hidden inner life, his wisdom was of a different kind from that of men. Now, however, they see a manifestation of his glory as power. He has unlimited resources at his disposal, and his disciples believed on him to that extent. This expression asserts the truth of the selective and discriminating force of the mission of Christ, and the negative fact that the company assembled received no religious impression beyond the most superficial one. “The disciples” who came with him “believed” more than they had done before. It may be that they, especially John and Nathanael of Cana, were among the honorary διάκονοι who were alone fully conscious of what happened on the occasion. They apprehend the “glory,” and entirely trust themselves εἰς αὐτόν, to him, and follow him with an added momentum. There are new and wonderful suggestions made in this passage which unveil the glory of the Divine love and power now wrought in man. A point of connection with the synoptic Gospels is that they too record Christ’s own description of the contrast between the austere prophet and the Son of man (Mat_11:18, Mat_11:19) in terms almost taken from this very scene. Compare also the mode in which Christ vindicated his own social freedom from Pharisaic exclusiveness, and the conduct of his own disciples from that of John the Baptist’s disciples in the matter of ceremonial purifications, by his parable of the old wine skins bursting with the new and potent fluid put into them (Mat_9:14-17 and parallel passages). John gives here a deeper apprehension of the mystery, a keynote to a whole cycle of instructions, on the “glory” of his love. By manifesting his Divine sympathy with marriage, with human life and fellowship, with innocent gladness, he proves himself to be the same Christ of whom the synoptic tradition speaks, the same Jesus who took the children to his arms, and constituted a “marriage supper” the great type of the eternal union between God and man in the gospel of his love (cf. Mat_22:2, etc.). But this same evangelist is filled with the same imagery dating back to experiences of Caua, when he describes the final victory of the “Lamb of God” (Rev_19:7; Rev_21:2).
This beginning of his signs did Jesus (tautēn epoiēsen archēn tōn sēmeiōn ho Iēsous). Rather, “this Jesus did as a beginning of his signs,” for there is no article between tautēn and archēn. “We have now passed from the ‘witness’ of the Baptist to the ‘witness’ of the works of Jesus” (Bernard). This is John’s favourite word “signs” rather than wonders (terata) or powers (dunameis) for the works (erga) of Jesus. Sēmeion is an old word from sēmainō, to give a sign (Joh_12:33). He selects eight in his Gospel by which to prove the deity of Christ (Joh_20:30) of which this is the first.
Manifested his glory (ephanerōsen tēn doxan autou). First aorist (effective) active indicative of phaneroō, that glory of which John spoke in Joh_1:14.
Believed on him (episteusan eis auton). First aorist active indicative of pisteuō, to believe, to put trust in, so common in John. These six disciples (learners) had already believed in Jesus as the Messiah (1:35-51). Now their faith was greatly strengthened. So it will be all through this Gospel. Jesus will increasingly reveal himself while the disciples will grow in knowledge and trust and the Jews will become increasingly hostile till the culmination.
After this he went down—from the high lands of Galilee to the borders of the Sea of Galilee, depressed as we now know it to be below the level of the Mediterranean—to Capernaum.£ Three competing sites for this small town have been advocated by Eastern travellers; all of them on the shore of the lake, all near to Bethsaida and Chorazin, in “the way of the sea,” combining more or less the characteristics required by the New Testament narrative and the references in Josephus (‘Bell. Jud.,’ Joh_3:10, Joh_3:8). Keim is in favour of Khan, Minyeh; but there is no abundant spring such as Josephus describes, nor are there any ruins which indicate an extensive town. Caspari has argued in favour of Ain Mudawarah, a mile and a half to the west of Khan Minyeh, in which, though water is abundant, there are no remains of buildings. The old travellers, and the most recent explorations, have coincided in fixing on Tell-Hum as the site; and Dr. Farrar, Dr. Westcott, Major Wilson, incline to this conclusion. Abundant ruins are found there, and, what is more than probable, the remains of the very synagogue built by the Roman centurion, and one certainly dating back to the Herodian age. Tell-Hum, or “the Mound of Hum,” is an easy corruption of the Caphar, or village of Nahum. He, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples. They may have returned home to Nazareth, though some recent commentators suggest that Cana had become the home of his family in late years. This is contradicted by the express statement of Nah_1:1-15 :45, and the utter obliteration of the name of Cana from the synoptic narrative. We cannot identify this possible return to Nazareth with the account in Luk_4:16-20, because it assumes a previous period of activity in Capernaum, and further, because the commencement of Christ’s public ministry is expressly made synchronous with the imprisonment of the Baptist (Mat_4:12-15), which did not take place till weeks or months afterwards (Joh_3:24). Consequently, this journey to Capernaum preceded the journey to Jerusalem and the return to Nazareth, of which Matthew speaks. The fact that “the mother and brethren “of Jesus accompanied him, but not “the sisters,” suggests what is implied in Mar_6:3 that the sisters were married in Nazareth and in Mar_3:21-23 that they did not accompany the non-believing brothers in their endeavour “to lay hold of him.” The fact that Joseph is not mentioned induces the common assumption that he was already dead. Volumes have been written on “the brethren of Jesus.” The determination of their parentage is one of the most perplexing points in the evangelic history.£ There are three hypotheses, which are alike beset with difficulties.
(1) The view propounded by Helvidius in Rome, in the fourth century, and to which Jerome replied, that the “brothers” are brothers in the ordinary sense, children of Joseph and Mary. This supposition is sustained by the statement of Mat_1:25 and Luk_2:7, each of which implies that the mother of our Lord had other children. The sentiment of the Church in favour of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and in favour of the uniqueness of her maternity, has powerfully contested this supposition. Further, apart from any sentiment, it has been said that the Lord would not have commended the mother to the beloved disciple, if he had living brothers who had a previous claim. To this, however, it is replied that John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, may have been his near relative, if Salome were the sister of the virgin; and also that, up to the time of the Ascension, there is no proof that the brethren believed in him, but the contrary. The effect of a special manifestation to James (1Co_15:1-58.) may have led to a general admission of the brethren, who are distinguished from, but yet with, the eleven apostles and the mother on the eve of the Ascension (Act_1:14).
(2) To obviate the difficulties of a sentimental kind, it was suggested by Jerome, and it has been often assumed since, that these brothers were in reality first cousins, not the children of Salome the sister of the virgin, but of Mary the wife of Cleophas, who is supposed to be the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus (see ch. 20:25, note), and further that this Cleophas = Clopas = יפִלְחַ = Alphaeus = Chalphai for the Aramaic guttural might be omitted as in Alphseus, or turned into κ or χ in Clopas, found in John’s text. Jerome, however (Lightfoot), never referred to this confirmation of his theory; but it has been hence conjectured that James the son of Alphaeus was identical with the celebrated “James the brother of our Lord,” mentioned in Act_12:17; Act_15:13; Act_21:18; in Gal_1:19; Gal_2:9, Gal_2:12; and in ecclesiastical history. If, however, this James were the “son of Alphaeus,” then Judas (Joh_14:22) (not Iscariot)—”Judas of James” (Jud_1:1; Act_1:13)—was also one of the “brethren;” also Joses and Simon, sons of Cleophas, were of their number; and some have gone further, and made Simon the Canaanite the other brother. This might possibly be the solution of the puzzle, if the entire theory did not break down under the clear distinction drawn in evangelic narrative between the twelve apostles and the brethren. E.g. in this passage they are discriminated from “disciples.” In Joh_7:5 the “brethren” are said not to believe on the Lord. In Act_1:14 they are mentioned in addition to the apostles. Though in Gal_1:1-24 and Gal_2:1-21, James might seem from his great eminence to be classed with apostles in some wider sense, yet in Act_15:13; Act_21:18; Gal_2:12 he seems to take precedence of all the apostles, at the Council of Jerusalem, and in presidency of the Church there. Moreover, the identification of Cleophas with Alphaeus is very doubtful. Clopas is Aramaic, Cleophas a Greek name; and the identification of his wife Mary with the sister of the virgin is also very doubtful; while to have two sisters of the same name in the same family is highly improbable. We cannot believe, further, that so distinguished a man as James the brother of our Lord could have been designated as “James the Less” in the evangelic narrative (Mar_15:40). If the “cousin theory” holds, this must have been the case. Finally, “cousins” would hardly so persistently have been spoken of as brothers, and this would be still less likely if their mother was living.
(3) The third hypothesis, which is the suggestion of Epiphanius, is that these brothers were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage, to whom the blessed virgin had acted the part of mother. This is based on a legend of the apocryphal ‘Protevang. of James’ (ch. 9. and 17.), where Joseph speaks of his “sons.” The theory saves the virginity of Mary, but sacrifices that of Joseph. Such a conclusion, in some ecclesiastic circles, is almost as unwelcome as the former. Against Jerome’s hypothesis the greatest number of difficulties present themselves, and it must be abandoned. Therefore the choice really lies between that of Helvidius (1) and that of Epiphauius (3). These are alike encumbered by the perplexity that among the twelve apostles there were two Jameses, two Judases, and two Simons; and among the “brethren” there must have been also a James, Judas, Joses, and Simon, with sisters. Moreover, there was a Joses or Joseph, who was son of Alphseus, and therefore a brother of James. This is not an insuperable difficulty, because of the frequency with which personal names recur in Oriental families. Whether this multiplicity be true or not, there are, at least, ten other Simons in the New Testament, and nearly as many Josephs or Joses; and Judas Barsabas (Act_15:22) must be discriminated from the two Judases here supposed. We must, however, choose between suppositions (1) and (3). On the one side, it is said, if the brethren of Jesus were not the own sons of Mary, the language of Jesus on the cross would be entirely explicable. This is true; but, on the other side, if John were indeed a blood relation and beloved disciple (even if James was so also, but did not believe on him), the difficulty of the language is reduced to a minimum. There is no scriptural authority for the Epiphanian theory, but it is made plausible by the ‘Gospel according to St. Peter’ and the ‘ Protevang. Jacobi,’ which refer to Joseph’s sons. The whole history of its reception in the Church may be seen in the masterly essay of Bishop Lightfoot. The view of Alford, Mill, Farrar, Coder, and many others is in favour of a plain common sense interpretation of the letter of Scripture. Christ, who honoured marriage by his first display of miraculous power, and this at the suggestion of his own mother, and in the society of those who passed undoubtedly as his brothers, would not feel that the faintest shadow of a shade fell on the lofty purity of his mother by this hypothesis. Certainly the Evangelist Matthew had not a vestige in him of that adoration of virginity, or Mariolatry, which has led ecclesiastical historians and commentators to reject the Helvidian hypothesis. Godet and some other harmonists endeavour to find, during the residence in Capernaum, the occasion for the first miraculous draught of fishes, and the final call of the two pairs of brothers; but it is. excluded by the notes of time subsequently given.
13.And the passover of the Jews was at hand; therefore Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The Greek words καὶ ἀνέβη, may be literally rendered, and he went up; but the Evangelist has used the copulative and instead of therefore; for he means that Christ went up at that time, in order to celebrate the passover at Jerusalem. There were two reasons why he did so; for since the Son of God became subject to the Law on our account, he intended, by observing with exactness all the precepts of the Law, to present in his own person a pattern of entire subjection and obedience. Again, as he could do more good, when there was a multitude of people, he almost always availed himself of such an occasion. Whenever, therefore, we shall afterwards find it said that Christ came to Jerusalem at the feast, let the reader observe that he did so, first, that along with others he might observe the exercises of religion which God had appointed, and, next, that he might publish his doctrine amidst a larger concourse of people.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
Joh_2:13 to Joh_3:36. The Work among Jews
13. And the Jews’ passover] Or, the Passover of the Jews. An indication that this Gospel was written outside Palestine: one writing in the country would hardly have added ‘of the Jews.’ It is perhaps also an indication that this Gospel was written after a Passover of the Christians had come into recognition. Passovers were active times in Christ’s ministry; and this is the first of them. It was possibly the nearness of the Passover which caused this traffic in the Temple Court. It existed for the convenience of strangers. Certainly the nearness of the Feast would add significance to Christ’s action. While the Jews were purifying themselves for the Passover He purified the Temple. S. John groups his narrative round the Jewish festivals: we have (1) Passover; (2) Purim (?), Joh_5:1; (3) Passover, Joh_6:4; (4) Tabernacles, Joh_7:2; (5) Dedication, Joh_10:22; (6) Passover, Joh_11:55.
He found in the temple (ἱερο ́ν); the vast enclosure, surrounded by colonnades, where the courts of the Gentiles were situated beyond and outside the courts of “the women” and “the priests.” Within the latter was the sanctuary (ναός), or sacred adytum, where the altars of sacrifice and incense faced the veil of the holiest of all. In the court of the temple had been allowed a secular market for sacrificial beasts. An exchange for money was also set up,where Jews were ready to furnish, on usurious terms, the proper coin, the sacred half shekel (value, one shilling and threepence), in which form alone was the temple tax received from the provincial visitors or pilgrims from distant lands. No coin bearing the image of Caesar, or any foreign prince, or any idolatrous symbol then so common, would be allowed in the sacred treasury. So the Lord found those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the exchangers of money sitting; a busy bazaar, deteriorating the idea of the temple with adverse associations. The three sacrificial animals mentioned were those most frequently required. The strangers, doubtless, needed some market where these could be obtained, and where the sufficient guarantee of their freedom from blemish could be secured. It was also indispensable that exchange of coins should have been made feasible for the host of strangers. The profanation effected by transacting these measures in the temple courts was symptomatic of widespread secularism, an outward indication of the corruption of the entire idea of worship, and of the selfishness and pride which had vitiated the solemnity and spirituality of the sacrificial ritual. Geikie has given a very brilliant description of this scene; so also Edersheim, ‘Life of Jesus the Messiah.’ The money (κέρμα) was probably derived from a word (κείρω) meaning “to cut,” and referred to the minute coins which were required for convenient exchange. The κόλλυβος, which gives its name to κολλυβιστής of the following verse, is also the name of a small (κολοβός, equivalent to “mutilated”) coin used for purposes of exchange. The smaller the coin the better, as the minute differences of weight of the foreign coins would thus be more easily measured.
Found in the temple … – The transaction here recorded is in almost all respects similar to that which has been explained in the notes at Mat_21:12. This took place at the commencement of his public ministry; that at the close. On each occasion he showed that his great regard was for the pure worship of his Father; and one great design of his coming was to reform the abuses which had crept into that worship, and to bring man to a proper regard for the glory of God. If it be asked how it was that those engaged in this traffic so readily yielded to Jesus of Nazareth, and that they left their gains and their property, and fled from the temple at the command of one so obscure as he was, it may be replied,
1. That their consciences reproved them for their impiety, and they could not set up the “appearance” of self-defense.
2. It was customary in the nation to cherish a profound regard for the authority of a prophet; and the appearance and manner of Jesus – so fearless, so decided, so authoritative led them to suppose “he” was a prophet, and they were afraid to resist him.
3. Even then, Jesus had a wide reputation among the people, but it is not improbable that many supposed him to be the Messiah.
4. Jesus on all occasions had a most wonderful control over people. None could resist him. There was something in his manner, as well as in his doctrine, that awed men, and made them tremble at his presence. Compare Joh_18:5-6. On this occasion he had the manner of a prophet, the authority of God, and the testimony of their own consciences, and they could not, therefore, resist the authority by which he spoke.
Though Jesus thus purified the temple at the commencement of his ministry, yet in three years the same scene was to be repeated. See Mat_21:12. And from this we may learn:
1. How soon people forget the most solemn reproofs, and return to evil practices.
2. That no sacredness of time or place will guard them from sin. In the very temple, under the very eye of God, these people soon returned to practices for which their consciences reproved them, and which they knew that God disapproved.
3. We see here how strong is the love of gain – the ruling passion of mankind. Not even the sacredness of the temple, the presence of God, the awful ceremonials of religion, deterred them from this unholy traffic. So wicked men and hypocrites will always turn “religion,” if possible, into gain; and not even the sanctuary, the Sabbath, or the most awful and sacred scenes, will deter them from schemes of gain. Compare Amo_8:5. So strong is this grovelling passion, and so deep is that depravity which fears not God, and regards not his Sabbaths, his sanctuary, or his law.
And when he had made a scourge of small cords (σχοινία of twisted rushes from the scattered fodder or litter of the cattle). This feature of the Lord’s action was not repeated at the close of the ministry. Observe that John singles out this punitive element in the first public appearance of the Lord for especial notice, and adds it to the otherwise resistless force which he was accustomed to wield by the glance of his eye or the tones of his voice. The “scourge,” as Godet says, is a symbol, not an instrument. It was in Christ’s hands a conspicuous method of expressing his indignation, and augmenting the force of his command, by an indication that he meant to be obeyed there and then. He drove them all out of the temple court (ἱερόν); that is, the intrusive sellers of the sacrificial beasts, the herdsmen, and traffickers. Also (τὰ τε) the sheep and the oxen, which moved at once in a vast group, turning, fleeing to the great exits; and he poured out on the ground, and with his own hand, the coins£ of the exchangers (κολλυβιστῶν), and overthrew the tables. “Christ had,” as Hengstenberg says, “a powerful confederate in the consciences of the offenders.” The presentiment of coming revolution and overthrow aided the impression produced by that majestic countenance and commanding glance, manner, and voice, that so often made men feel that they were utterly and absolutely in his power (cf. Joh_18:6, note).
A scourge (φραγέλλιον)
Only here in the New Testament. Only John records this detail.
Of small cords (ἐκ σχοινίων)
The Rev. omits small, but the word is a diminutive of σχοῖνος, a rush, and thence a rope of twisted rushes. The A.V. is therefore strictly literal. Herodotus says that when Croesus besieged Ephesus, the Ephesians made an offering of their city to Diana, by stretching a small rope (σχοινίον) from the town wall to the temple of the goddess, a distance of seven furlongs (i., 26). The schoene was an Egyptian measure of length, marked by a rush-rope. See Herodotus, ii. 6. Some find in this the etymology of skein.
Drove out (ἐξέβαλεν)
Literally, as Rev., cast out. See on Mat_10:34; see on Mat_12:35; see on Mar_1:12; see on Jam_2:25.
Referring to the animals. The A.V. makes the reference to the traders; but Rev., correctly, “cast all out – both the sheep and the oxen.”
See on Joh_2:14.
Wyc., turned upside down the boards. See on Luk_19:23.
16.Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise. At the second time that he drove the traders out of the Temple, the Evangelists relate that he used sharper and more severe language; for he said, that they had made the Temple of God a den of robbers, (Mat_21:13;) and this was proper to be done, when a milder chastisement was of no avail. At present, he merely warns them not to profane the Temple of God by applying it to improper uses. The Temple was called the house of God; because it was the will of God that there He should be peculiarly invoked; because there He displayed his power; because, finally, he had set it apart to spiritual and holy services.
My Father’s house. Christ declares himself to be the Son of God, in order to show that he has a right and authority to cleanse the Temple. As Christ here assigns a reason for what he did, if we wish to derive any advantage from it, we must attend chiefly to this sentence. Why, then, does he drive the buyers and sellers out of the Temple? It is that he may bring back to its original purity the worship of God, which had been corrupted by the wickedness of men, and in this way may restore and maintain the holiness of the Temple. Now that temple, we know, was erected, that it might be a shadow of those things the lively image of which is to be found in Christ. Thai; it might continue to be devoted to God, it was necessary that it should be applied exclusively to spiritual purposes. For this reason he pronounces it to be unlawful that it should be converted into a market-place; for he founds his statement on the command of God, which we ought always to observe. Whatever deceptions Satan may employ, let us know that any departure — however small — from the command of God is wicked. It was a plausible and imposing disguise, that; the worship of God was aided and promoted, when the sacrifices which were to be offered by believers were laid ready to their hand; but as God had appropriated his Temple to different purposes, Christ disregards the objections that might be offered against the order which God had appointed.
The same arguments do not apply, in the present day, to our buildings for public worship; but what is said about the ancient Temple applies properly and strictly to the Church, for it is the heavenly sanctuary of God on earth. We ought always, therefore, to keep before our eyes the majesty of God, which dwells in the Church, that it may not be defiled by any pollutions; and the only way in which its holiness can remain unimpaired is, that nothing shall be admitted into it that is at variance with the word of God.
A marketplace. Zec_14:20-21, in context, is clearly a picture of the messianic kingdom. The Hebrew word translated “Canaanite” may also be translated “merchant” or “trader.” Read in this light, Zec_14:21 states that there will be no merchant in the house of the Lord in that day (the day of the Lord, at the establishment of the messianic kingdom). And what would Jesus’ words (and actions) in cleansing the temple have suggested to the observers? That Jesus was fulfilling messianic expectations would have been obvious — especially to the disciples, who had just seen the miracle at Cana with all its messianic implications.