John 2
ICC New Testament Commentary
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
The First Sign: The Marriage at Cana (2:1-12)

2:1. Cana of Galilee, to which the narrative now brings us, is named twice again in Jn. (4:46, 21:2), but nowhere else in the N.T. It is mentioned by Josephus (Vita, § 16) κώμη τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἣ προσαγορεύεται Κανά, and is not to be confounded with another Cana in Cœlo-Syria. Its exact situation is not certain. The traditional site is Kefr Kenna, 3 1/2 miles N.E. of Nazareth; but ˓Ain Kânâ, a little nearer Nazareth, and Khirbet Kânâ, 8 miles N. of Nazareth, have also been suggested.

τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ. So אALΔW, but BΘ and fam. 13 have τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ.

Jesus reached Cana on the third day after the call of Philip and Nathanael (1:43), when a start was made from the neighbourhood of Bethabara for Galilee. This is a journey that would occupy two days (1:28), and no incident is recorded of the last day of travel.

It has been pointed out (on 1:19) that we have in the first section of the Gospel (1:19 to 2:11) a record of six or (more probably) of seven eventful days at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Which of these days was the Sabbath? Most probably it was the day of the call of Andrew and John, who “abode with Him that day” (1:39). There was no travelling, such as there was on the days of the journey from Bethany to Cana. If this be so, we reach an interesting coincidence, for then the day of the Marriage at Cana would be the fourth day of the week; and a Talmudical direction ordained that the marriage of a virgin should be on the fourth day,1 or our Wednesday. Marriage feasts in Palestine were, and are, generally held in the afternoon or evening.

ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰη. Jn. never gives her name (cf. 2:12, 6:42, 19:25), just as he does not mention the name of John the son of Zebedee or that of James his brother. Mary, who had apparently some special interest in the wedding (2:3, 5), had come over to Cana from the neighbouring village, Nazareth, or from Capernaum (see 2:12). Perhaps it was the wedding of a relative, which would account for Jesus being invited to attend.

Joseph is not mentioned, and it is probable that he was dead at this time.

In a Sahidic apocryphal fragment edited by Forbes Robinson,1 Mary is said to be the sister of the bridegroom’s parents. The fragment (which seems to be part of a ermon on the Marriage at Cana) adds that the parents told Mary that the wine was failing, and asked her to use her influence with Jesus, who replied to her “in a kindly voice, Woman, what wilt thou with me?” (see on v. 4 below). According to this account, the waterpots were prepared that the guests might wash before the meal (see on v. 6).

The Monarchian Preface to the Gospel (see Introd., p. lvii) begins: “Hic est Iohannes euangelista unus ex discipulis dei, qui uirgo electus a deo est, quem de nuptiis uolentem nubere uocauit deus, etc.” This legend that the bridegroom was John the son of Zebedee (whose mother Salome was sister of Mary) had much currency in later times. That Jesus had dissuaded John from marriage is told in the second-century Gnostic Acts of John (§ 113).

2. μαθηταί. In all the Gospels the followers of Jesus are so described, the title sometimes indicating members of the apostolic Twelve or all of them, sometimes being used in a wider sense. Thus in Mark 2:15, Mark 3:7, Matthew 8:21, Luke 6:13, John 6:60, John 6:61, John 6:66, John 6:20:30, μαθηταί is not restricted to the Twelve.

At first the followers of Jesus were called of οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, thus distinguishing them from the disciples of other Rabbis (cf. on 1:35); but as time went on they began to be described absolutely as of οἰ μαθηταί, “the disciples” being a Christian phrase which no one would mistake. The earlier description is found in Mk., as is natural, much oftener than the later, and the same habit of phrase is found in Joh_2

Thus of οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ stands for the general body of the apostles in 6:3, 8, 12, 16, 22, 24, 12:4, 16, 13:23, 16:17, 29, 18:1, 19, 25, 20:26, and perhaps 21:2. The phrase is used in a wider sense at 2:17, 22, 4:2, 6:60, 61, 66, and perhaps 3:22. At 4:8, 27, 9:2 it is not clear which or how many of οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ were present, and the same is true of the present verse.

The later phrase, οἱ μαθηταὶ, used absolutely, is only applied once in Jn. to the collected Twelve (13:5, followed consequentiallyby 13:22). It often stands for the disciples already mentioned, e.g. 20:10 (two), 21:4, 12 (seven), 20:19, 20 (ten). At 4:31, 33 and 11:7, 8, 12, 54 (and perhaps 20:18), in like manner, οἱ μαθηταί indicates only the disciples present on the occasion, whose number is not specified. οἱ μαθηταί is used in the widest sense at 20:30, as including all the eye-witnesses of Jesus’ works.

It is plain from a comparison of these passages that not only does Jn. follow the earlier rather than the later phrase when speaking of the Twelve, but that μαθηταί is often used by him when the Twelve are not in the picture.

Jn. tells nothing of the selection of the Twelve, although he has οἱ δώδεκα as a distinctive description of them (6:67, 70, 71, 20:24; cf. 6:13). He never gives the title ἀπόστολοι to the Twelve, the word ἀπόστολος only occurring 13:16 in its general sense of “one that is sent”; cf. 20:21.

There is nothing to indicate that of οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ in this verse is meant to include all the new disciples, five in number, that have been named in the preceding chapter. Jesus asked Philip (1:43) to accompany Him to Galilee, and Nathanael was himself of Cana. These two may be assumed to have been present. Perhaps, also, John the son of Zebedee, whom we have identified with the unnamed disciple of 1:37, was there; for there are hints that the narrative goes back to an eye-witness (see on v. 6). But there is nothing to suggest that the brothers Andrew and Peter were present. And the absence of any mention of this incident in Mk., which is based on Peter’s reminiscences, would be natural if Peter was not a witness of it.

In any case, as Jesus had not yet declared Himself for what He was, and as the “disciples” had been attracted only during the previous week, it is not likely that they were invited to the wedding in their capacity as His disciples. They were probably present as friends of the bride and bridegroom. Nothing in the narrative supports the suggestion of some commentators that they were unexpected guests, and that the failure of the wine was due to this sudden addition to the wedding party.

ἐκλήθη is perhaps to be rendered “there had been bidden,” as if it were a pluperfect.

3. For ὑστερήσαντος οἵνου אaABLWΔΘ is found in א* a b ff2 a Western paraphrase, οἶνον οὐκ εἶχον, ὅτι συνετελέσθη ὁ οἶνος τοῦ γάμου, εἶτα … For οἶνον οὐκ ἕχουσιν at the end of the verse, א* has accordingly substituted οἶνος οὐκ ἕστιν.

Wine was always provided on occasions of rejoicing (cf. Genesis 14:18); and there was a Jewish saying, “Without wine there is no joy” (Pesachim, 109a). That there should not be enough for the guests would be deemed unfortunate; and Mary, who is represented as having some kind of authority in the house, or at any rate as sufficiently intimate to give orders to the servants (v. 5), calls the attention of Jesus to the deficiency. That she should tell Him of this, rather than the host or the “governor of the feast,” suggests at least that she had unbounded trust in His resourcefulness. But probably something more is meant. Jesus had now for the first time gathered disciples round Him, and Mary may well have thought that the time had come for Him to show Himself for what she knew Him to be.

γέγει … πρὸς αὐτόν. The more usual constr. λέγει αὐτῇ occurs in the next line. The constr. πρός τινα after λέγειν is not found in Mk., Mt., the Apocalypse, or the Johannine Epistles, but it is often found in Jn. (3:4, 4:15, 48, 49, 6:5, 7:50, 8:31) as well as in Lk.

4. τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί; is a phrase, translated from the Hebrew, occurring several times in the Greek Bible, and always suggestive of diversity of opinion or interest. Thus in Jdg 11:12 Jephthah says τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί; in hostile challenge to the King of the Ammonites. David (2 Samuel 16:10) says τί ἐμοὶ καὶ ὑμῖν; to the sons of Zeruiah, meaning that he does not agree with their advice. The Woman of Sarepta (1 Kings 17:18) reproaches Elijah with the same phrase. Elisha uses it in declining to help King Jehoram (2 Kings 3:13). Neco, King of Egypt, says to Josiah, τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοι; meaning, “Why should we fight? I am not marching against you” (2 Chronicles 35:21). And in Mark 5:7 the man with the unclean spirit says the same thing to Jesus, “Why do you concern yourself with me? Let me alone” (cf. Mark 1:24, Matthew 8:29).

The phrase does not always imply reproach, but it suggests it. Here it seems to be a gentle suggestion of misunderstanding: “I shall see to that; it will be better that you should leave it to me.” This is the view of Irenaeus: “Dominus repellens eius intempestivam festinationem, dixit, etc.” (Hær. iii. 17. 7).

γύναι, as a vocative, does not convey any idea of rebuke or reproach, as is clear from the tender γύναι, ἴδε ὁ υἱός σου of 19:26. It was thus that Augustus addressed Cleopatra (Dio, Leviticus 12:5) and Ulysses addressed Penelope (Odyssey, 19. 555). But, nevertheless, that Jesus should call His mother γύναι, and not μήτερ, as would be natural, indicates that the time is past for the exercise of any maternal authority on her part.

οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου means primarily, in this context, that the moment had not come for Jesus to intervene; that He was conscious of the failure of the wine, and did not need to be reminded of it. At the proper moment, He would act, if necessary.

The evangelist, however, means something more by the record of this saying of Jesus. He places similar words in His mouth more than once. ὁ καιρὸς ὁ ἐμὸς οὔπω πάρεστιν (πεπλήρωται) (7:6, 8) means that the time had not come for the public manifestation of Himself as Messiah. At 12:23 Jesus says that the hour of His Death has come: ἐλήλυθευ ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (cf. 12:27); and, again, Πάτερ, ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα (17:1; cf. 13:1). Jn. in his own person speaks similarly of the appointed hour of the manifestation and death of Jesus, e.g. οὔπω ἐληλύθει ἡ ὥρα αὐτοῦ (7:30; cf. 8:20).

Twice in Mt.’s account of the Passion, similar phrases are used, viz. ὁ καιρός μου ἐγγύς ἐστι (Matthew 26:18) and ἤγγικεν ἡ ὥρα (Matthew 26:45, Mark 14:41); and Jesus frequently in the Synoptic narrative predicts death as the conclusion of His public ministry. But the Fourth Gospel is written from beginning to end sub specie æternitatis; the predestined end is foreseen from the beginning. (See on 3:14 for Jn.’s use of δεῖ.) It is as inevitable as is the hour of a woman’s travail (16:21). Bearing this in mind, it is probable that Jn. meant his readers to understand by the words “Mine hour is not yet come” spoken at the Marriage Feast at Cana, that the moment had not yet come for the public manifestation by Jesus of Himself as Messiah, the first sign of this Epiphany being the miracle of the water turned into wine.

5. Mary did not take amiss the words of Jesus. She has been assured that He is aware of all the facts, and that is enough for her. So she bids the servants to execute promptly any order that He gives, for she feels certain that He will intervene, when the time has come. She is represented in the story as expectant of some “sign” that will show Jesus for what He is.

ποιήσατε. In Jn., the aorist imperative often occurs, as “more authoritative than the pres. imper., which may denote continuous action.”1 Cf. vv. 7, 8 γεμίσατε … ἀντλήσατε, and also 2:16, 19, 4:16, 35, 6:10, 7:24, 9:7, 11:39, 12:27, 13:27, 15:9, 21:10.

6. ἦσαν δὲ ἐκεῖ κτλ. Jn. often uses δέ to introduce a new point: “Now there were six waterpots, etc.” Cf. 6:10, 18:40.

χωροῦσαι ἀνὰ μετρητάς κτλ., “containing two or three firkins apiece.” ἀνά does not occur again in Jn.; cf. Revelation 4:8. For this classical use of χωρεῖν (see on 8:37) cf. 2 Chronicles 4:5 χωροῦσαν μετρητὰς τρισχιλίους.

ὑδρίαι. It was customary to have large water-jars of stone in or near the room where a feast was being held, in order that water might be available for the ceremonial washing of hands prescribed before and after meals. The water was carried from the jars in pitchers or basins, and was poured over the fingers, so that it ran down to the wrist (cf. Mark 7:3); and it was a special duty of one’s servant to see to this (cf. 2 Kings 3:11, where Elisha is described as he “who poured water on the hands of Elijah,” i.e. as his servant). A “firkin” or bath (μετρητής; cf. 2 Chronicles 4:5) was about 81/2 gallons, so that the huge water-pots of the narrative (quite distinct from wine vessels) contained about 20 gallons each. A smaller sized ὑδρία was used for carrying water from a well (cf. 4:28).

κατὰ τὸν καθαρισμὸν τῶν Ἰουδαίων (cf. 3:25). The Fourth Gospel was written for Greek, not for Jewish, readers; and so, as at many other points, an explanatory note of this kind is added (cf. v. 13). The Jewish customs as to ceremonial washings were common to Galilee, as to the rest of Palestine; and no special emphasis should be laid here on the term “Jews” as distinguished from Galilæans. See above on 1:19, and cf. 2:13, 6:41.

7. εὥς ἄνω, “up to the brim” (cf. Matthew 27:51 for ἕως κάτω, “down to the bottom”). This is mentioned to show that no room was left for adding anything to the water in the jars.

8. ἀντλήσατε νῦν κτλ. “Draw out now, and bear to the governor of the feast.” The ἀρχιτρίκλινος is called the ἡγούμενος in Ecclus. 32:1. It was customary for one of the principal guests to preside as arbiter bibendi (Horace, Od. ii. 7) or συμποσίαρχος, and it is this person who is indicated here by ἀρχιτρίκλινος, a word which elsewhere means a butler who arranged the triclinium, or three couches, each for three, at the table.

ἀντλήσατε νῦν has been generally taken to mean that the servants were bidden to draw water from the great jars and convey it in pitchers to the ruler of the feast. Westcott argues that ἀντλήσατε νῦν means rather “draw out now from the well,” whence water had previously been taker to fill the jars “up to the brim”; and that no miracle was wrought upon the water in the jars, but only upon water freshly drawn from the well in response to the command of Jesus. It is true that ἀντλεῖν is naturally used of drawing water from a well (cf. 4:7 and Genesis 24:20, Exodus 2:19, Isaiah 12:3). But the difficulties of this interpretation are considerable:

(1) If Westcott’s view be taken, the act (v. 7) of filling the large jars with water was quite otiose and has nothing to do with the story. There was no reason to mention the waterpots at all, if the miracle consisted in the conversion to wine of water freshly drawn from the well in pitchers1 and brought direct to the ἀρχιτρίκλινος.

(2) ἀντλεῖν can quite properly be used of drawing or pouring a liquid from a large vessel into a smaller one; and in its compounds ἐξαντλεῖν, καταντλεῖν, it means “to pour out,” “to pour over.” The drawing from the large hydriæ in the story would have been done by ladles (κύαθοι).2

(3) That ἀντλεῖν could be used of drawing wine appears from a passage in the comic poet Pherecrates (see D.C.G. ii. 815); and that a hydria was sometimes used to hold wine can be shown from Pollux, Onomasticon, x. § 74, … ἔφη Ὑδρίαν δανείζειν πεντέχουν ἢ μείζονα, ὥστʼ οὐ μόνον ὕδατος ἀλλὰ καὶ οἴνου ἂν εἴη ἀγγεῖον ἡ ὑδρία. This last quotation shows that the ἀρχιτρίκλινος would have had no reason for being surprised at wine being brought from the waterpots.

Jn. clearly means his readers to believe that what was served to the ruler of the feast was drawn from the water—jars; and that it was then served as a beverage. Had it been brought by the attendants for the purpose of pouring it on the hands of the ἀρχιτρίκλινος, it would have been brought in a different kind of vessel, and he would not have proceeded to taste it.

We must further notice that Jn. does not say that either the ruler of the feast, or the wedding guests generally, found anything miraculous in the wine that was served at the end. It was the disciples only who are said to have “believed” in Jesus, in consequence of this “sign.” See Introd., p. clxxxii.

9. ὡς δὲ ἐγεύσατο ὁ ἀρχιτρ. κτλ., the aorist being used like a pluperfect: “when the ruler of the feast had tasted, etc.” Cf. 7:10.

τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον γεγενημένον. The words have been generally understood to imply that all the water in the six waterpots, amounting to about 120 gallons (see on v. 6), had been turned into wine. Jn. may have meant this; but if so, the new supply would have been a large over-provision for the needs of the guests at the end of the feast, when they had already consumed what had been provided by the host. In the story of Bel and the Dragon, six firkins, or 50 gallons of wine, offered daily to the idol are regarded as sufficient for 70 priests with their wives and families. A hundred and twenty gallons would be so unnecessarily large a supply that the residue of the twelve baskets left after the Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:13) does not furnish any analogy. Here there would have been a prodigality, not indeed inconceivable in the case of One whom the narrator describes as the Agent of creation (1:3), but without parallel in the record of the other “signs” of Christ.

The difficulty arising from the quantity of wine that would have been left over perhaps affects modern readers more than it would have affected contemporaries. Wine might be abused, and drunkenness was always blameworthy; but the idea that it is wrong to use wine in moderation, like any other gift of God, would have been foreign to primitive Christianity or to Judaism.1 The modern notion that “wine” in the N.T. means unfermented, non-intoxicating wine is without foundation.2 Indeed, it was just because Jesus did not condemn the use of wine that He was reproached as a “winebibber” (Matthew 11:9, Luke 7:34 by those who wished to disparage Him. Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus was not an ascetic.

It must, however, be observed that Jn. does not say explicitly that the entire contents of the water-jars were turned into wine. “The water which had become wine” was that which was served to the ruler of the feast, and Jn. says nothing of any other. Nor is it clear that he means us to understand that the servants had noticed any change in the beverage which they served. They knew that they had taken it from the waterpots (or from one of them); that is all.

To change one pitcher of water into wine is no less “super-natural” than to change 120 gallons; and we do not escape difficulty by refusing to exaggerate the story as it stands. Jn. certainly implies that some objective change took place in the water served for drinking purposes (cf. 4:46). To reduce the powers of Christ to human standards was no part of his design. It has been thought, indeed, by some that a suggestion made by Jesus that the water had become wine may have wrought so powerfully on the minds of those present that they were convinced that it was even so. The belief of the ἀρχιτρίκλινος that he had been drinking wine, when he had only been drinking water, may have been an illusion due to the magnetic and compelling force of the words of Jesus. But we cannot tell precisely what happened, and must be content here with the endeavour to discover what Jn. meant his readers to believe.

The indirect manner in which the statement of the miracle is made should be observed. “When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that had become wine.” The story is not told for the first time. It is recorded as if the facts were well known. The ἀρχιτρίκλινος on tasting the beverage served to him, not knowing anything of its source, says, “It is very good, even better than that which was served first.” It is this observation of the ruler of the feast that is emphasised by the narrator, rather than the extraordinary character of the “sign” which he records.

Another feature of this story is that it does not lead up to any great saying of Jesus or to any discourse like that which Jn. appends to the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Nor does the evangelist draw any moral from it. He notes it as the first of the “signs” of Jesus by which He exhibited His glory (v. 11), but he says no more. In short, the way in which the story is told goes far to support the view that it is a genuine reminiscence, or tradition, of an actual occurrence, although it is impossible now to discern exactly what took place. See Additional Note p. 81, and cf. Introd., p. clxxxii.

10. τὸν ἐλάσσω. The rec. text, with אcANΓΔΘ, prefixes τότε, but om. א*BLTbW.

The ἀρχιτρίκλινος speaks of a common practice at feasts as he knew them; viz. that when men’s palates had become dull by drinking—cum inebriati fuerint (vg.), “when men be dronke,” as Tyndale and Cranmer translate—inferior wine was served.

Schlatter quotes a Rabbinical tradition as to the wine drunk on the occasion of a boy’s circumcision: the father says to the guests as he offers it, “Drink from this good wine; from this I will give you to drink also at his wedding.” In the present case, the surprise of the ruler of the feast was due, not to good wine being served, but to its being served last. It was kept ἕως ἄρτι (cf. 5:17, 16:24 and 1 John 2:9 for this phrase).

For the adj. καλός, see further on 10:11. καλός is used of wine, as here, in a fourth-century papyrus quoted by Moulton-Milligan, s.v.

τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν. This suggests that the wine was placed on the table, as is our modern custom.

11. ταύτην ἐποίησεν ἀρχὴν τῶν σημείων. We have now passed from the “witness” of the Baptist to the “witness” of the works of Jesus (see on 1:7). The Miracle of Cana was the first of the “signs” which Jesus wrought during His earthly ministry. By them, according to Jn., “He made manifest His glory” (see on 1:14). They were not merely wonders or prodigies (τέρατα), but “signs” by which men might learn that He was the Christ (20:31) and “believe on Him.” (For the phrase πιστεύειν εἱς αὐτόν, see on 1:12.) The highest faith is that which can believe without a sign (20:29), but signs have a useful function as bearing their witness to the glory of Jesus. This aspect of His signs is asserted by Jesus Himself (5:36). When the tidings reached the disciples that Lazarus was dead, He said that it was well, for the miracle of his recovery would be all the greater (11:15). He rebuked the multitudes, because they followed Him for what they might get, and not because of His signs (6:26). Cf. 10:38, 14:11. And the same aspect of miracles appears in the Synoptists (Mark 2:10, Matthew 11:20, etc.).1 See on 4:48 and 10:25.

The “disciples” who are here said to have “believed on Him” as a consequence of what they saw at Cana, or rather whose new faith was thus confirmed, were, as yet, few in number, Philip and Nathanael and John being among them (see on v. 2).

Additional Note on the Miracle at Cana

Some exegetes have supposed that this incident foreshadowed (or was intended by the evangelist to indicate) the replacement of the inferior dispensation by the superior, the Law by the Gospel. Such a view of Jn.’s literary method has been discussed in the Introduction (p. lxxxv); but it may be pointed out that the arguments assembled to prove that this particular narrative is an invention of the evangelist, designed to teach spiritual truth in an allegorical way, seem peculiarly weak.

(1) Six, it is said, is a significant number—the perfect number—and so there are 6 waterpots. But there is no number from 1 to 10 which could not be given a mystical interpretation; and the idea that 6 represents the 6 days of creation, which is the best that Origen1 can do with the waterpots, is not very convincing.

Origen also suggests that the “two or three firkins” in each waterpot of purification intimate that the Jews are purified by the word of Scripture, receiving sometimes “two firkins,” i.e. the psychical and spiritual sense of the Bible, and sometimes “three firkins,” i.e. the psychical, spiritual, and corporeal senses. That is, he thinks that on occasion the literal or corporeal sense is not edifying, although it generally is (see Introd., p. lxxxv). But Origen does not say that he abandons the literal or historical sense of John 2:1-11, and it is probable that he did not mean this, while he found allegorical meanings in some details of the story.2 In the same way, Gregory of Nyssa is not to be taken as questioning the historicity of the narrative when he says that “the Jewish waterpots which were filled with the water of heresy, He filled with genuine wine, changing its nature by the power of His faith.”3 That an incident can be treated by a commentator in an allegorical manner does not prove that he regards it as unhistorical, and still less that the narrator had invented it to serve a spiritual purpose.

For example, there must be few preachers who have not drawn out lessons of a spiritual sort from the incident of the wine that was served at the end of the wedding feast being the best. It is a law of nature, and therefore a law of God, that the best comes last, being that for which all that goes before has prepared. So it is, to take the illustration suggested by the story, in a happy marriage. The best wine of life comes last. The fruits of autumn are richer than the flowers of spring. So perhaps it will be in the next life:

“… the best is yet to be,

The last of life for which the first was made.”

Such reflexions are legitimate. But there is nothing to show that they were in the mind of the evangelist, or that the story of the Marriage at Cana was invented to teach them.

(2) A modern attempt to explain the story of the Sign at Cana as merely a parable of edification is that of E. A. Abbott.4 He finds the germ of the story in the account of Melchizedek given by Philo, as bringing forth “wine instead of water” (Leg. Alleg. iii. 26); and he explains that “the six waterpots represent the inferior dispensation of the weekdays, i.e. the Law, preparing the way for the perfect dispensation of the Sabbath, i.e. the Gospel, of which the wedding feast at Cana is a type.” He adds a Philonic quotation about the number 6 “being composed of 2 × 3, having the odd as male and the even as female, whence originate those things which are according to the fixed laws of nature. … What the number 6 generated, that the number 7 exhibited in full perfection” (de septen. 6).

Moffatt1 favours yet a third Philonic explanation of the number 6, suggesting that the six ὑδρίαι correspond to Philo’s principle that six is the “most productive” (γονιμωτάτη) of numbers (decal. 30).

These are desperate expedients of exegesis, and if Jn. really had any such notions in his mind when he said there were six waterpots prepared for the use of the wedding guests, he wrote more obscurely than is his wont. The truth is that mention of this unusually large number of ὑδρίαι is more reasonably to be referred to the observation of an eye-witness, who happened to remember the circumstance, than to elaborate symbolism of the narrative.

(3) The case for treatment of the whole story as due to a misunderstanding of some figurative saying can be put more plausibly. Wendt2 puts it thus: “It is quite possible that an utterance which the apostle originally made in a figurative sense—Jesus turned the water of legal purification into the wine of marriage joy—was afterwards interpreted by the circle of Johannine disciples as recording an actual conversion of such water of purification into wine for a marriage.” This is not to say that Jn. did not mean to narrate the incident as historical; it is to say, on the contrary, that he was mistaken in doing so, and that the story, in all its intimate detail, has been built up from vague hearsay. Quite different is such a theory from that which would regard the narrative as invented in order to teach that the wine of the Gospel, which Jesus provides, is better than the unsatisfying water of the Law; but it has its own difficulties. See Introd., p. clxxxii.

Interlude at Capernaum (V. 12)

12. μετὰ τοῦτο. This phrase does not occur in the Synoptists, but appears 4 times in Jn. (cf. 11:17, 11, 19:28), and always connotes strict chronological sequence, as distinct from the vaguer μετὰ ταῦτα (see Introd., p. cviii). μετὰ ταῦτα is read here in the fourth century Pap. Oxy. 847 and also in M 124* with b f ff2 q.

κατέβη εἰς Καφαρναούμ (this is the best attested spelling). Jesus “went down” to Capernaum, Cana being on higher ground: Jn. uses the same phrase again (4:47) for the journey from Cana to Capernaum. The distance by road is about 20 miles. To assume that the party walked by way of Nazareth (which is in a different direction), and that this journey to Capernaum is to be identified with that mentioned Matthew 4:13, lacks evidence.

Capernaum is to be located at Tell Hum (more properly, Telhum); or, less probably, at Khan Minyeh.1 These places are about 3 miles apart, both on the N. shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Nothing is told about this short visit to Capernaum, so that mention of it has no allegorical significance. V. 12 is merely an historical note.

It will be noticed that the mother and “brethren” of Jesus were with Him now, on the return of the wedding guests from Cana; but thenceforth they do not travel about with Him. His public mission has begun.

They stayed at Capernaum “not many days” (οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας), the note of time being characteristic (see Introd., p. cii) of the Fourth Gospel.

After ἀδελφοί, BLTbW, with Pap. Oxy. 847, omit αὐτοῦ, but ins. אANΓΔΘ, and most vss. א a b e ff2 l q, with some cursives and the Coptic Q, Omit καὶ οἰ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

Additional Note on the Brethren of Jesus

The mother and “brethren” of Jesus accompanied Him on this journey. The “brethren” are always (except in John 7:3f.) mentioned in the Gospels in connexion with Mary (cf. Mark 3:31, Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19 and Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55); and it is not unlikely that she shared their home until (see 19:27) she was entrusted to the care of her nephew, John the son of Zebedee. The evangelists consistently represent them as incredulous of the claims of Jesus (see reff. above), and as regarding Him as out of His mind (Mark 3:21, for “His friends” here are apparently to be identified with “His mother and His brethren” in v. 31). Their names were James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude (some of the commonest names in Palestine), and they had sisters (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). James, “the Lord’s brother,” became a believer after the Resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:14); St. Paul reports that the Risen Lord appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:7); and he was the first bishop of Jerusalem (see Acts 12:17, Acts 15:13). Grandsons of Jude (who probably also confessed Christ afterwards, Acts 1:14) were leaders of the Church in the time of Domitian (Eus. H.E. iii. 19, 20, 32).

The ancient problem as to the “brethren of the Lord” cannot be fully discussed here. (1) The theory known as the Hieronymian, because it was started by Jerome, is that they were the sons of Alphæus, who is identified with Clopas, and Mary, who is regarded as the Virgin’s sister (but see on 19:25 as to both these equations). Thus they were maternal cousins of Jesus, and were loosely called His “brethren.” This would involve the identification of “James the Lord’s brother” with James the son of Alphæus, who was one of the Twelve. But the Lord’s brethren remained incredulous throughout His public ministry, and could not therefore have been numbered among the Twelve (see on 7:5). That James the Lord’s brother is called an “apostle” at Galatians 1:19 is nothing to the point, for the circle of “apostles” was much larger than the circle of the Twelve. Further, despite the vague use of ἀδελφός in a few passages in the LXX, where a cousin is addressed or indicated (cf. 2 Samuel 20:9, 1 Chronicles 23:21, 1 Chronicles 23:22, Tobit 7:2, 4), we cannot equate ἀδελφός and ἀνεψιός or give any reason for the evangelists’ use of the word “brethren” when “cousins” would have been more literally exact. (2) The Helvidian theory, against which Jerome’s polemic was addressed, is that these “brethren” were sons of Joseph and Mary, born later than Jesus, and appeal is made by its advocates to the phrasing of Matthew 1:25 as indicating that Mary did not remain a virgin. But it is difficult to understand how the doctrine of the Virginity of Mary could have grown up early in the second century if her four acknowledged sons were prominent Christians, and one of them bishop of Jerusalem. (3) The most probable, as it is the most ancient, view is that expounded by Epiphanius, viz. that the “brethren of the Lord” were sons of Joseph by a former wife. Thus they were really the stepsons of Mary, and might naturally be called the “brothers” of Jesus; the fact, too, that Mary shared their home would be accounted for. Hegesippus (fl.150; cf. Eus. H.E. iii. II, iv. 22) stated that Clopas (John 19:25) was a brother of Joseph, a view which Epiphanius adopted.

It thus appears that we have to distinguish three groups of persons bearing the same names, viz.:

i. James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphæus; Simon Peter, Simon Zelotes; Judas the son of another James, also called Thaddæus, and Judas Iscariot, were all of the Twelve (Matthew 10:2f., Mark 3:16f., Luke 6:14f.).

ii. James called the just, the first bishop of Jerusalem, Simon, Judas, and Joseph, the Lord’s brethren, were sons of Joseph by his first wife (Mk. Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55).

iii. James the Little (ὁ μικρός), of whom we know nothing more, and Joses were sons of Clopas and another Mary (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56; see on John 19:25). They had another brother, Symeon, who was second bishop of Jerusalem, and was appointed to that office, according to Hegesippus, because he was the Lord’s “cousin” (Eus. H.E. iii. II, iv. 22). This phrase is used because Clopas was brother of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.

Hence it would seem that James, Joses, and Symeon in Group 3. were first cousins of James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas in Group ii.1

The Cleansing of the Temple (Vv. 13-22)

13 ff. This incident is placed in the traditional text of Jn. at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (2:13-17), while the Synoptists place it at the end (Mark 11:15-17, Matthew 21:12, Matthew 21:13, Luke 19:45, Luke 19:46). Before examining this discrepancy, we must review the differences between the Synoptic and Johannine narratives, and also come to some conclusion as to the significance of the action of Jesus on this occasion.

The Synoptic tradition is based on Mk.; Mt. and Lk. having no details that are not in Mk., and omitting some of his. It is convenient, then, to begin by comparing Jn. with Mk.; and it appears at once that Jn. (as often elsewhere2) knows Mk.’s narrative, which he amplifies and alters in some details.

Both evangelists tell of the upsetting of the tables of the moneychangers. Jn. omits, as do Mt. and Lk., a point preserved by Mk., viz. that Jesus forbade the carrying of goods or implements through the Temple courts, a practice probably due to the desire to make a short cut between the city and the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:16). Jn. alone states that sheep and oxen were being sold in the precincts (τὸ ἱερόν), the sale of pigeons only being mentioned by Mk. Jn. adds that Jesus used a whip to drive out the beasts, while he ordered their owners to take the pigeons away, with the rebuke, “Make not my Father’s house a house of business.” The rebuke in Mk. is different, being made up of quotations from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of thieves.” That is to say, Mk. represents Jesus as denouncing the dishonesty of the traffic which was carried on within the Temple precincts; while from Jn. it would seem as if the traffic itself, apart from its honesty or dishonesty, were condemned. The Scripture which the burning zeal of Jesus recalls to Jn. is Psalm 69:9; and he notes that the Jews asked for a sign of His authority, to which Jesus replied by saying, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days”—enigmatical words which (according to Jn.) the Jews misinterpreted. None of this is in Mk., who adds, however, that the chief priests and scribes began to seek the death of Jesus, fearing Him and being alarmed at the effect of His words upon the people.

What was the meaning of the action of Jesus in “cleansing” the Temple? It does not seem to have been suggested by any special incident. According to all the accounts, it was quite spontaneous.

Perhaps the best answer is that the action of Jesus was a protest against the whole sacrificial system of the Temple.1 The killing of beasts, which was a continual feature of Jewish worship, was a disgusting and useless practice. The court of slaughter must have been like a shambles, especially at Passover time. And Jesus, by His bold action, directed public attention not only to the impropriety of buying and selling cattle in the sacred precincts, with the accompanying roguery which made the Temple a den of thieves, but also to the futility of animal sacrifices. He had declared Himself against Jewish Sabbatarianism. He now attacks the Temple system. This it was which set the temple officials against Him. The cry, “Thou that destroyest the temple,” disclosed the cause of their bitter enmity.

There is, indeed, no hint that Jesus interfered directly with the work of the priests.2 He quoted a prophetic passage (Hosea 6:6) which deprecated the offering of animal victims (Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7), but not on this occasion. Nor is He said to have prevented any animal from being led to sacrifice. What He interfered with was a market, not held in the court where the altars were, but in the outer Court of the Gentiles. Yet some such market was necessary, if animal sacrifices were to go on. It was inevitable that oxen and sheep and pigeons should be available for purchase, in or near the precincts of the Temple, by the pilgrims who came up to worship at the great feasts, and particularly at the Passover. If this practice were stopped, the whole system of sacrificial worship would disappear. It may therefore have been the purpose of Jesus, by His action of “cleansing the Temple,” to aim a blow at the Temple system in general (cf. 4:21). But if so, it was not immediately perceived to be His purpose by His own disciples, who continued to attend the Temple worship after His Passion and Resurrection (Acts 2:46, Acts 2:3:1; cf. 6:7).

Whether this be the true explanation of the drastic action of Jesus, or whether we should attach a lesser significance to it by supposing that His purpose was merely to rebuke those who profaned the Temple courts by chaffering and bargaining, it is not possible to decide with certainty. We pass on to consider whether it is more probable that the incident occurred at the beginning or at the end of His ministry. Mk. (followed by Mt. and Lk.) places it at the end; Jn. seems to place it at the beginning. Which is more likely?

It is true that Mk. only tells of one visit of Jesus to Jerusalem; and so, if he mentioned the Cleansing of the Temple at all, he had to put it at the end of the ministry. Nor is the Marcan dating of events in the last week always to be accepted as accurate. As to the date of the Day of the Crucifixion, e.g., Jn. is to be preferred to Mk. (see Introd., p. cvi). So that it is not to be taken for granted that, in a matter of this sort, Mk. must be right and Jn. wrong. But if we reflect how deep must have been the indignation aroused by such an act as that recorded in John 2:15, how the vested interests of the cattle-dealers must have been affected by it, how little disposed men are to yield to opposition which will bring them financial loss, we shall find it hard to believe that Jesus was a comparatively unknown person in Jerusalem when He “cleansed” the Temple. The one moment at which such an action could have been carried through without instant retaliation was, apparently, the moment after His triumphal entry, when even the Pharisees began to despair of diverting the crowds from following Him (12:19). On psychological grounds, the incident is hardly credible, if it is to be put at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. At that time the Temple officials would have made short work of any one who attempted to stop the business of the Temple courts by violence.

Our conclusion accordingly is that there is some mistake (which cannot now be explained) in that account of the Cleansing of the Temple which places it immediately after the miracle of Cana, as the traditional text of Jn. places it.1 Some expositors have postulated two cleansings, one at the beginning, the other at the close of Jesus’ ministry; but, apart from the fact that this duplication of similar incidents is improbable, we find it difficult to suppose that this particular incident, or anything like it, could have happened at so early a stage in the ministry of Jesus as is suggested by the traditional order of the chapters in the Fourth Gospel.2

13. ἐγγὺς ἦν τὸ πάσχα τῶν Ἰουδαίων. ἐγγύς is used again 6:4, 7:2, 11:55 of the approach of a feast; elsewhere in the Gospel it is used of proximity in space, not time.

τὸ πάσχα τῶν Ἰουδαίων. Jn. is accustomed to describe the Passover festivals which he mentions as “of the Jews” (cf. 5:1, 6:4, 11:55), and he speaks in the same way of the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2). The Synoptists never speak thus. Westcott suggested that the qualifying phrase “of the Jews” implies the existence at the time of writing of a recognised Christian Passover, from which Jn. wishes to distinguish those which he records. But this explanation will not cover the language of 7:2, for there was no Christian Feast of Tabernacles. It is simpler to say that Jn. is writing for Greek readers, and that the qualifying clause is explanatory for them (cf. v. 6 and 19:40). Paul. was proud of being a Jew, but he speaks nevertheless of Ἰουδαϊσμός (Galatians 1:13) as something quite foreign to his present religious convictions; and so there is nothing in the addition “of the Jews” inconsistent with the nationality of John the son of Zebedee, even if we were to suppose that he wrote these words with his own hand, at the end of a long Christian life, lived for the most part out of Palestine, during which he had dissociated himself from his Jewish past.

ἀνέβη εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. ἀναβαίνειν is the verb regularly used of “going up” to Jerusalem for the feasts (5:1, 7:8, 11:55, 12:20). In this context it does not connote the idea of ascending from lower to higher ground (as in v. 12), but of journeying to the metropolis.

14, 15. The ἱερόν, or sacred precinct, must be distinguished from the ναός, or Temple itself. Here, the ἱερόν is the Outer Court, or Court of the Gentiles, where the animals needed for sacrifice or offering were bought. To those coming from a distance, as well as to Jews of Jerusalem, it was a convenience to be able to buy on the spot the oxen or sheep or pigeons (Leviticus 5:7, Leviticus 5:15:14, 29, Leviticus 5:17:3, etc.) that were required for sacrifice or for offerings of purification. So, too, the trade of the moneychangers was a necessary one, because Roman money could not be paid into the Temple treasury. The capitation tax or “atonement money” of half a shekel (see Exodus 30:13, Nehemiah 10:32, Matthew 17:24) had to be tendered in the orthodox coinage.

κέρμα signifies a small coin, and hence we have κερματιστής, “a moneychanger.” So too, κόλλυβος, κολλυβιστής, with like meanings (v. 15). Lightfoot quotes1 a Talmudic rule: “It is necessary that every one should have half a shekel to pay for himself. Therefore, when he comes to the exchange to change a shekel for two half-shekels he is obliged to allow him some gain, which is called קולבון or κόλλυβος.” That is, the κόλλυβος was the discount charged by the moneychanger for exchanging a shekel into two half-shekels.

For τὰ κέρματα (BLTbW 33, with Pap. Oxy. 847) the rec. has τὸ κέρμα with אAND&Θ, apparently treating it as a collective noun: “He poured out the coin (pecuniam) of the moneychangers.”

For ἀνέτρεψεν (BWΘ, with Pap. Oxy. 847) the rec. has ἀνέστρεψεν with אLND, א fam. 13 having κατέστρεψεν (from Mark 11:15). ἀναστρέφειν is not used in the N.T. in the sense of “upsetting”; for ἀνατρέπειν, cf. 2 Timothy 2:18.

τράπεζα is classical for a moneychanger’s table, and we have τὴν τράπεζαν ἀνατρέπειν “to upset the table” in Demosthenes (403.7).

For the redundant ἐκβάλλειν ἐκ, see on 6:37.

σχοινιά means “a bunch of rushes,” while σχοινίον is a “cord”; and some have thought that the scourge or whip used by Jesus was made from the rushes used for bedding for the cattle. It may have been so, but φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων is adequately translated by “a whip of small cords.” The whip is not mentioned by the Synoptists, and the detail is suggestive of the recollections of an eye-witness.

πάντας ἐξέβαλεν … τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας. It would seem that the whip was used on the owners of the cattle as well as on the sheep and oxen. πάτας ἐξέβαλιν in the Synoptist accounts (Matthew 21:12; cf. Mark 11:15, Luke 19:45) certainly applies to the men; the Synoptists do not mention the driving out of the cattle.

Jerome (in Matthew 21:15) says that the cattle-dealers did not resist Jesus: “a certain fiery and starry light shone from His eyes and the majesty of Godhead gleamed in His face.”1

16. The doves or pigeons could not be driven out as the cattle were; but the order to those who sold them is peremptory: ἄρατε ταῦτα ἐντεῦθεν, “take them hence.” For the aor. imper. ἄρατε, see on v. 5.

The reason given for this action is different from that given by the Synoptists. They represent Jesus as indignant at the dishonesty of the traffic pursued in the Temple: “Ye have made it a den of thieves.” According to Jn., Jesus seems to object to the traffic in itself, honest or dishonest, as secular business that ought not to be transacted in a sacred place: “Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” (but see above, at p. 87). The remarkable phrase “my Father”—not “our Father”—is not found in Mk., but it occurs 4 times in Lk., 16 times in Mt., and 27 times in Jn. We have thus the authority of Mt. and Lk., as well as that of Jn., for regarding it as a phrase which Jesus used habitually. It indicates a peculiar relationship between Him and God, the Father of all, which is not shared by the sons of men (cf. John 20:17).

ὁ οἶκος τοῦ Πατρός μου is the earthly Temple. So the Lord is represented by Lk. (2:49) as saying, “Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” (ἐν τοῖς τοῦ Πατρός μου). But ἡ οἰκία τοῦ Πατρός μου (14:2), “the Dwelling Place of my Father,” in which are many mansions, is the heavenly temple, the Eternal and Changeless Home of the Eternal.

The Temple is often described in the O.T. as “the house of God,” and Jesus so described it (Mark 2:26, Matthew 12:4, Luke 6:4). It was to make an unmistakable claim for Himself to substitute for this familiar expression the words “the house of My Father.” Here is an express assertion that He was Messiah, the Son of God, as Nathanael had already perceived Him to be (1:49). Cf. 5:17.

17. οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, sc. who were present (see on 2:2). They saw in the action of Jesus in purifying the Temple courts an illustration of that burning zeal of which the Psalmist had sung, “The zeal of thy house hath consumed me” (Psalm 69:9). No Psalm is so frequently quoted in the N.T. as this. The rest of v. 9, “The reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me,” is applied by Paul to the Christ (Romans 15:3). Jn. represents Jesus as citing v. 4, “They hated me without a cause,” as fulfilled in His own experience (15:25), and as saying, “I thirst,” on the Cross in fulfilment of v. 21.1 It appears, then, that Psa_69 was regarded as prophetic of Messiah, and the disciples, as they watched Jesus, seem to have regarded His Cleansing of the Temple as a Messianic action (cf. Malachi 3:1-5). They foresee that the fiery energy which He displays will wear Him out at last, and they substitute for the past tense of the Psalmist, “hath consumed me” (κατέφαγεν), the future καταφάγεται, “will consume me.”

The rec. text here has (κατέφαγε), but the uncials give καταφάγεται. The true text of the LXX at Psalm 69:10 seems to be κατέφαγε (following the Hebrew), but B reads καταφάγεται.

Other citations from Psa_69 are found, Acts 1:20 (v. 25), Romans 11:9, Romans 11:10 (vv. 22, 23). Cf. also Matthew 27:34, Matthew 27:48.

The Synoptists always have γέγραπται for citations from the O.T.; Jn. prefers γεγραμμένον ἐστίν (as here and at 6:31, 45, 10:34, 12:14; but see 8:17 and critical note there).

18. The Jews (see on 1:19, 5:10) did not view the action of Jesus as His disciples did. They wished to know by what authority He had taken upon Himself the rôle of a reformer (cf. Mark 11:28, Matthew 21:23, Luke 20:2). If He had authority, what “sign” could He perform in proof of it? It has always been true of uneducated people that “except they see signs and wonders, they will not believe” (4:48). And even the educated Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus for “signs,” although, probably, they asked because they did not think that He could gratify their request (cf. Mark 8:11, Matthew 16:1). See on v. 11 for the value of the witness of such signs.

Jesus gave no sign such as the crowds asked for. His words (see on v. 19) did not provide anything more than a fresh assertion of His power. This is quite consistent with the Synoptic reports of His refusal to work “signs” for Herod (Luke 23:8) or for the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 12:39).

19. λύσατε τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον κτλ. We must distinguish this saying of Jesus from the interpretation which the evangelist puts upon it in v. 21. That it is an authentic saying is plain from the fact that, perhaps in a distorted form, it was made a topic of accusation against Jesus at His trial before the high priest (Mark 14:58, Matthew 26:61; cf. Mark 15:29, Acts 6:14). That by the ναός which would be destroyed Jesus was understood to mean Herod’s Temple is certain from the retort of the Jews (see on v. 20). But the precise form of words is uncertain, nor were the witnesses at the trial agreed about this. According to Mk., the witnesses falsely reported the saying in the form, “I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days (διὰ τριῶν ἡμερῶν) I will build another made without hands” (Mark 14:58). This is softened down by Mt., according to whom the witnesses alleged that Jesus said, “I can destroy the temple of God and build it in three days” (Matthew 26:61). According to Jn. in the present passage, Jesus only said that if the Jews destroyed the Temple, in three days He would raise it up. It is a question whether any of these reports precisely reproduces the words of Jesus at the Cleansing of the Temple. On another occasion He is reported by the Synoptists (Mark 13:2, Matthew 24:2, Luke 21:6) to have predicted the downfall of the Temple, and this is undoubtedly authentic. But it is not probable that He should have declared that He would rebuild it or raise it up again.1 A rebuilding of the Temple would mean the restoration of the old Jewish system of ritual and sacrifice, and we know that this was not the purpose of Jesus (see above, pp. 87, 88). He told the Samaritan woman that He did not accept the principle which she attributed to Him, that Jerusalem was the special place where men ought to worship (4:20, 21). The worship of the future was to be of a spiritual sort, and not to be confined to any one centre. To the vision of the seer of the Apocalypse, there was no temple in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22). That Jesus should have said that He would rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem if it were destroyed, is not credible. The Temple was, indeed, the chief obstacle to the acceptance of His gospel by the Jews.

But the Marcan version of His words, or rather the Marcan version of the witnesses’ report of His words (Mark 14:58), has no such improbability. It lays stress on the contrast between the temple made with hands and the temple made without hands (cf. Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24, Hebrews 9:11), between the temple built by Herod, which was the centre of Jewish worship, and the “spiritual house” of Christian believers, which was to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16). That Jesus foresaw the passing of the Temple, and its replacement by a less exclusive and less formal worship is certain, however we try to explain His prescience.

Next, we observe that it is common to all the reports of this saying of His that He asserted that the replacement of the old by the new would be “in three days.” Salmon suggested1 that Jesus may have had in His thoughts the words of the prophet about reconstruction after apparent destruction “After two days will He revive us: on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live before Him” (Hosea 6:2). The Synoptists, however, tell again and again that Jesus predicted that His Death would be followed by His Resurrection “on the third day” (Mark 8:31, Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22; Mark 9:31, Matthew 17:23; Mark 10:34, Matthew 20:19, Luke 18:33; cf. also Matthew 27:63). It is more natural to bring the “three days” of Mark 14:58, Matthew 26:61, John 2:19 into connexion with these passages than to presuppose a reminiscence of Hosea 6:2—a prophetic text which, it is curious to note, is never quoted of the Resurrection in the Apostolic age.2

We conclude, then, that Jesus at the Cleansing of the Temple declared (1) that the Temple, the pride and glory of Jerusalem, would be destroyed at no distant date, and that the Temple worship would pass away; (2) that He would Himself replace it by a spiritual temple; and (3) that the transition from the old order to the new would occupy no more than “three days.” His hearers were at once indignant and incredulous, for they understood His words as a threat, and that the rebuilding of which He spoke was a literal rebuilding with stones and mortar.

The Epistle of Barnabas (§ 16) states explicitly that the spiritual temple then being built up was the company of Christian believers: “I will tell you concerning the temple how these wretched ones [i.e. the Jews] being led astray set their hope on the building, and not on their God that made them, as if it were the house of God.” He quotes Isaiah 49:17 and Enoch lxxxix. 56 as predictive of the destruction of the Temple, and proceeds, “Let us inquire whether there be any temple of God.” He concludes that there is, quoting words of Enoch (91:13), “When the week is being accomplished, the temple of God shall be built gloriously.” He goes on, “Before we believed in God, the abode of our heart was corrupt and weak, a temple truly built by hands”; but the temple of the Lord is now built gloriously, for “having received the remission of sins and having set our hope on the Name, we became new, being created again from the beginning, wherefore God truly dwelleth in our habitation within us. … This is a spiritual temple built for the Lord.” The allusion to “the temple made with hands” is reminiscent of Mark 14:58, and the whole passage shows that the antithesis between the Jewish temple of stone and the Christian temple of faithful hearts was familiar to the sub-Apostolic age. We have it again in Justin (Tryph. 86), who says that Jesus made His disciples to be “a house of prayer and worship” (οἶκος εὐχῆς καὶ προσκυνήσεως). The idea probably goes back to sayings of Jesus such as Mark 14:58 and the present passage, although it is not suggested here that Barnabas knew the Fourth Gospel.

“In three days I will raise it up.” The Agent of the revival is to be Jesus Himself. This suggests at once that it was not to His own bodily Resurrection that Jesus referred here. For by the N.T. writers God the Father is always designated as the Agent of Christ’s Resurrection (Acts 2:24, Acts 3:15, Acts 4:10, Acts 10:40, Acts 13:30, Romans 4:24, Romans 4:8:11, Romans 4:10:9, 1 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 6:15:15, 2 Corinthians 4:14, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:20, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 1:21). Jesus is not represented as raising Himself. Hence we have a confirmation of the conclusion already reached, that it was not the resuscitation of the Body of Jesus from the tomb that was in His thought here, but rather the passing of the old (and material) temple and the beginning of the new (and spiritual) temple of Christian believers. See on v. 21, and note the passive ἠγέρθη at v. 22; but cf. also 10:18

20. Jn. relates several conversations of Jesus, cast in somewhat similar form to this. That is, there is first a difficult saying of His. It is misunderstood and its spiritual significance is not discerned, a too material interpretation being given to it by His hearers. Then either He Himself, or the evangelist, adds an explanatory statement. Cf., for instances of this, 3:4, 4:11, 33, 6:42, 51f. See Introd., p. cxi

ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις, “within three days,” not “after three days,” the preposition perhaps being significant.1

τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσοιν κτλ. Abbott (Diat. 2021-4) would refer these words to the original building of the Temple in the time of Ezra. If, with the LXX, we omit the words “of Babylon” after “Cyrus the king” at Ezra 5:13, and assume that “Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:1) is intended, we may take the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, i.e. 559 b.c., for the year in which the edict to build the Temple was issued. But according to Josephus (Antt. xi.i.1), it was completed in 513 b.c., i.e. forty-six years after; and so it is stated in the chronology of Eusebius. This is a summary of Abbott’s argument, which seems, however, to depend on too many subsidiary hypotheses to be satisfactory. Heracleon refers the words to Solomon’s Temple,1 which Origen refutes, but gives no satisfactory explanation of his own. It seems more likely, as has generally been held by modern editors, that Herod’s building is the subject of the allusion in this verse.

τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσιν οἰκοδομήθη κτλ. The aor. οἰκοδομήθη does not imply that the building was completed, as may be seen from a parallel sentence in Ezra 5:16 (appositely cited by Alford) describing the building of Ezra’s Temple, ἀπὸ τότε ἓως τοῦ νῦν ᾠκοδομήθη καὶ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη: it only implies that building operations had been in progress for forty-six years. In fact, Herod’s Temple was not completed until 64 a.d. in the time of Herod Agrippa.

According to Josephus, Herod the Great began to repair and rebuild the Temple in the eighteenth year of his reign (Antt. xv.xi.1), i.e. 20-19 b.c. This would give either 27 a.d. or 28 a.d. as the year of the Passover indicated in these verses.2 The year of the Crucifixion is not certain, but it was probably 29 a.d. or 30 a.d. It is not possible to draw exact chronological inferences from the “forty and six years” of this verse, but the phrase agrees well enough with the probable date, as gathered from other considerations. It is difficult to account for the attribution of so definite a statement of time to the Jewish objectors if it did not embody a reminiscence of fact. As to the fact itself, the Jews must have been well informed.

As at other points in the Gospel (v. 6, 5:5, 21:11), some critics have supposed that the number mentioned here is to be interpreted in an esoteric fashion, after the methods of Gematria. The name Ἀδάμ has 46 as its numerical equivalent, and thus the occult reference3 in “forty-six years hath this Temple been in building” would be to some contrast between the first and second Adam. It is unnecessary to dwell upon such extravagances.4 Hardly less fanciful is it to suppose, as Loisy does, that the forty-six years refer to the actual age of Jesus at the time, He being taken for a man forty-nine years old (8:57), near the end of His ministry.

21. ἐκεῖνος δὲ ἔλεγεν κτλ., “but He was speaking about the temple of His body.” ἐκεῖνος is emphatic, “but He, on the contrary …” See on 1:8, 19:35.

For Jn.’s habit of commenting on sayings of Jesus, cf. Introd., p. xxxiv. This comment seems to convey that by the words “Destroy this temple,” Jesus meant “Destroy this body of mine.” But this is hardly possible (see on v. 19). Had He meant that, He would have spoken with less ambiguity. He plainly meant Herod’s Temple, and was so understood. Christian believers are, indeed, spoken of as the “Temple of God” (2 Corinthians 6:16), but not Christ Himself. He was “greater than the Temple” (Matthew 12:6). But the comment is much condensed, and may mean only that the “temple of His body” of which Jesus spoke was the “spiritual house” of Christian believers (1 Peter 2:5), who are collectively the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27); the “three days” carrying an allusion to the interval between the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which marked, as it seems to the evangelist looking back, the watershed between Judaism and Christianity.

τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ. Jn. is not fond of the word σῶμα (see p. clxxi); he always uses it of a dead body, not of a living one (cf. 19:31, 38, 40, 20:12).

22. ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταί (see on v. 2) in v. 17 recalls what the disciples remembered at the time, i.e. they thought of Psalm 69:9 when they saw the burning zeal of their Master; in this verse it recalls what they thought after His Resurrection of the meaning of His words recorded in v. 19. So, again, in 12:16 Jn. tells that it was not until after Jesus was glorified that the disciples understood the forward reference of Zechariah 9:9;1 cf. Luke 24:8 and John 13:19, John 14:29.

ἐπίστευσαν τῇ γραφῇ. ἡ γραφή seems to refer in Jn. to a definite passage of Scripture,2 as it does throughout the N.T., rather than to the O.T. generally (which would be αἱ γραφαί) At John 10:35, John 13:18 (17:12), 19:24, 28, 36, 37 the actual passage is quoted; at John 7:38, John 7:42 (which see) the reference is not quite certain; while here and at 20:9 no clue is given to the passage to which allusion is made. But as it is plain from Acts 2:31, Acts 13:35 that Psalm 16:10, “Neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption,” was cited by Peter and Paul alike as predictive of the Resurrection of Christ, we may conclude that this is the verse in the evangelist’s mind when he says that the disciples after the Resurrection “believed the Scripture.” Psalm 16:10 was the “proof text” to which the Apostolic age referred.

καὶ τῷ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπεν ὁ Ἰη., “and the saying which Jesus spake,” i.e. the saying in v. 19. ὁ λόγος is often thus used of a “saying” of Jesus; e.g. ἐπίστευσεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῶ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰη. (4:50); cf. 6:60, 7:36, 15:20, 18:9, 32, 21:23. ὅν is read by אBLTb, the rec. having ᾧ with ANWΓΔΘ.

Sojourn at Jerusalem (Vv. 23-25)

23. ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις. This is the true reading here, although rec. text with a few minuscules omits τοῖς, in accordance with Jn.’s usual practice. He has the article with Ἱεροσόλυμα (see on 1:19 for this form) 3 times only, viz. 2:23, 5:2, 11:18 (see on 10:22). No other N.T. writer has this usage, but it appears 2 Macc. 11:8, 12:9. Perhaps τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα means “the precincts of Jerusalem” in these exceptional passages.

If the traditional order of the verses 2:13-3:21 be correct, then the statement of v. 23 is not easy to interpret. Nothing has been said hitherto of “signs” at Jerusalem, and yet both here and at 3:2 they are mentioned as notorious. The only “sign” that has been mentioned is the “sign” at Cana of Galilee. There would be no difficulty if we could assume that vv. 2:13-3:21 belong to the last week in the ministry of Jesus. The “signs” would then be those which were wrought at Jerusalem or in its neighbourhood on His last visit, “the signs which He was doing” (ἐποίει). The Raising of Lazarus is given by Jn. special prominence among these (12:18), and there was also the Blasting of the Fig Tree (Mark 11:14), as well as others not described in detail (12:37; cf. 7:31).

But, as the text stands, we must suppose that Jn. refers here to “signs” at Jerusalem wrought at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, which he does not describe (cf. 3:2, 4:45).

πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν, including not only inhabitants of Jerusalem, but some from among those who had come up to the feast from the country parts.

For the phrase ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, see on 1:12. Although these people had been attracted to Jesus because of the “signs” that they saw, their belief was neither stable nor adequate. A similar thing happened in Galilee, ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς, ὅτι ἐθεώρουν τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει (6:2), the same phrase that we have here.

θεωρεῖν is a favourite verb with Jn., occurring 23 times; cf also 1 John 3:17. It only occurs twice in the Apocalypse (11:11, 12), and never in Paul. It may be used either of bodily vision (20:6, 14) or of mental contemplation (12:45, 14:17), but always connotes intelligent attention. The English word which most nearly represents θεωρεῖν, as used by Jn., is “to notice.” Here and at 6:2, 7:3 it indicates the notice which the observers took of the “signs” of Jesus. See for the difference between θεωρεῖν and ὄπτομαι on 1:51, and cf. 16:16.

24, 25. οὐκ ἐπίστευεν αὑτὸν αὐτοῖς, “He was not trusting Himself to them.” The kind of faith that is generated by “signs” is not very stable; cf. 4:48 and 6:14, 15.

διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν γινώσκειν πάντας, “because He knew all men.” See 1:48, 5:42 for other instances of this penetrating insight into men’s characters (γινώσκειν being used in both cases), and 6:61, 64, 13:11 (where οἶδα is used in the same way; see on 1:26 above). Another illustration of the same faculty of insight is found in 4:19, 29. Cf. Matthew 9:4, John 21:17.

αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐγίωσκεν τί ἦν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ “He knew what was in man,” ὁ ἄνθρωπος being used generically (cf. 7:51). This, to be sure, is a Divine attribute, and is so represented in the O.T., e.g. Jeremiah 17:10, Jeremiah 20:12, where Yahweh is said to “search the heart and try the reins.” But it is also, in its measure, a prerogative of human genius; and (with the possible exception of 1:48) it is not clear that Jn. means us to understand that the insight of Jesus into men’s motives and characters was different in kind from that exhibited by other great masters of mankind.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

A Alexandrinus (δ 4). British Museum. v. Cc. 6:50-8:52 are missing.

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20 21:15-25 are missing.

Δ̠Sangallensis (ε 76). St. Gall. ix-x. Græco-Latin.

W Freer (ε 014). Washington. iv-vi. Discovered in Egypt in 1906. The Gospels are in the order Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk. Collation in The Washington MS. of the Four Gospels, by H. A. Sanders (1912).

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

1 So Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr., in loc.; so too there is an old English rhyme which declares that for weddings Wednesday “is the best day of all.”

1 Coptic Apocryphal Gospels, p. 164.

2 Cf. Turner, J.T.S., April 1925, p. 236.

1 Abbott, Diat. 2437.

1 See Abbott, Diat. 2281-2.

2 Dr. L. C. Purser refers me to illustrations of hydriæ and cyathi in Daremberg and Saglio’s Diction. des antiq., Figs. 3921-3926, 2235-2239; and also to the passages next cited.

D.C.G. Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 2 vols. (1906).

1 There is a reference to the Marriage at Cana in a characteristic discussion of drunkenness by Clem. Alex. (Pæd. ii. 2. 184 P).

2 Cf. Unfermented Wine, by H. E. Ryle and others (1917).

N Purpureus Petropolitanus (ε 19). Dispersed through the libraries of Leningrad, Patmos, Rome, Vienna, and British Museum. vi. Some pages are missing. Edited by H. S. Cronin in Cambridge Texts and Studies (1899).

Γ̠(ε 70) Oxford and Leningrad. ix-x. Contains Song of Solomon 1:1-13 8:3-15:24 19:6 to end.

T Muralt (ε 31). Leningrad. vi. Contains cc. 1:25-42 2:Song of Solomon 1:9-14 4:34-50.

Moulton-Milligan Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, illustrated from the papyri, by J. H. Moulton and G.Milligan (1914-). This is being completed by Dr. Milligan; it is indispensable.

1 See further s.v. “Miracles” in D.B. iii. 388.

1 De princ. iv. 1. 12.

2 Hippolytus (Ref. v. 3) reports that the Naassenes allegorised the water turned into wine, but he gives no details.

3 Orat. in Meletium.

4 S.v. “Gospels” in E.B., 1796, 1800.

1 Introd. to N.T., P. 524.

2 St. John’s Gospel, p. 241.

1 Cf. Rix, Tent and Testament, pp. 285 ff., and Sanday, D.C.G., i.269.

1 For full treatment of this problem, see especially Lightfoot, Galatians, pp. 252-291; J. B. Mayor, Ep. of St. James, Introd., c. 1; and C. Harris, D.C.G., s.v. “Brethren of the Lord.” Dom Chapman defends the Hieronymian view in J.T.S., April 1906.

2 Cf. Introd., p. xcvii.

1 So Oesterley in D.C.G., 2:712; cf. Caldecott, J.T.S., July 1923, P, 382.

2 So Burkitt, J.T.S., July 1924, P. 387 f.

1 See Introd., p. xxx.

2 See Drummond (Character and Authorship, etc., p. 61) and Cadoux (J.T.S., July 1919).

1 Hor. Hebr., ii. 275.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

1 See James, Apocryphal N. T., p. 8.

1 Cf. Introd., p. clv.

1 Notwithstanding a suggestion in Enoch xc. 28 that Messiah was to reconstruct the Temple (based on Haggai 2:7f.).

1 Human Element in the Gospels, p. 218.

2 Tertullian (ad. Judæos 13) and Cyprian (Test. ii. 25) both cite it.

1 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 2331.

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

1 So also ps.-Cyprian, de montibus Sina et Sion, 4.

2 Turner (D.B. i. 405b) gives 27 a.d., and von Soden (E.B. 804) gives 28 a.d.

3 This is suggested in ps.-Cyprian, de mont. Sina, etc., 4.

4 Cf. Introd., p. 87.

1 Irenæus lays down the principle that no prophecy is fully understood until after its fulfilment: πᾶσα γὰρ προφητεία πρὸ τῆς ἐκβάσεωι αἴνιγμά ὲστι (Hær. iv. 26).

2 Abbott, Diat. 1722 a—l, argues, but unconvincingly, that ἡ γραφή means here “the general tenor of the Scriptures.”

And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
But he spake of the temple of his body.
When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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