Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 2

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John 2

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

1.  Christ Reveals His Mission and Divinity  1, 19 -- 4, 54 (continued)

2, 1-12:  The Marriage Feast at Cana.  Cana was a village in lower Galilee, about five miles northeast of Nazareth; it is now generally identified with Kefr Kenna.    1.  The third day, probably from the call of Nathanael.  A marriage, an occasion of great joy and feasting, the celebration lasting for seven days; hence the exhaustion of the wine can readily be explained.    3.  When the wine failed, Mary confided the situation to her Son.  The presence of the disciples suggests the nature of their attachment to Jesus, and provides His motive for the miracle, the first sign wrought to confirm their faith (cf. 1, 50-51).    4.  Woman was the customary respectful address, similar to our "Madam," though less formal; cf. 19, 26.  The question is a familiar Jewish phrase, its conciseness in Aramaic, "What to me and to thee?" is kept in the original Greek.  For its use in ordinary situations see Judg. 11, 12; 2 Kgs. 16, 10; 19, 22; 2 Par. 35, 21; Matt. 8, 29; Mark 1, 24; 5, 7; Luke 4, 34; 8, 28.  It commonly implies dissent, though not always of the same intensity.  Its true force in the present context is determined by the facts that Mary's suggestion could not involve a fault, that it could not be received with the least harshness, and that she at once understood that it had not been repulsed, as her order to the servants shows.  My hour has not yet come: St. Augustine and many of the Fathers understand by this the hour of His Passion, but this hardly fits the circumstances, which rather suggest His hour for the performance of such miracles, i.e., the public ministry.    6.  Manner of purification: the Jewish custom of washing the hands twice during the course of a meal was of ritual significance.  As the measure was about nine gallons, the quantity was considerable.    8.  The chief steward is a functionary not otherwise known from Jewish sources, but the Greek term indicates one in charge of the table arrangements.    11.  First of his signs: i.e., signs of His real nature, evidence of His divinity.  So Christ's miracles are usually termed by John.  In the later idiom of the Rabbis, "sign" meant "wonder," while in John it is almost a synonym for "evidence," a "manifestation of His glory."  His disciples believed in him: while the miracle may have had other motives, such as regard for His mother, kindness to His host, approval of the occasion, insinuation of the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, yet the Evangelist implies that the first motive was the confirmation of the incipient faith of the disciples.    12.  Most of the five disciples hitherto named were from the neighborhood of Capharnaum on the shore of Lake Genesareth.  This was to be the center of our Lord's activity in Galilee, of which John has little to tell.  Brethren: near relatives.

2, 13-25:  Cleansing of the Temple.  In John this event is clearly associated with the first Passover in Christ's public ministry (13).  A similar event is recorded in the Synoptics (Matt. 21, 12 f; Mark 11, 15 ff; Luke 19, 45 f), but assigned to the last Passover just before the Passion.  Some hold that all record the same occurrence, John giving it its proper place, while the Synoptics, which say little of Christ's visits to the temple, connect it with His last discourses there.  Others feel that the differences in detail between John and the Synoptics demand two distinct occasions.  But John places correctly the occurrence he records.

13.  What is now described took place before the opening of the feast, when the traffic in preparation for it was in full progress.    14.  In the temple: i.e., in the Court of the Gentiles.  Oxen and sheep were needed for the sacrifices, doves for the offerings of the poor (Lev. 5, 7; 12, 8; 15, 14; Luke 2, 24).  The money-changers were at hand to exchange foreign coins, which bore forbidden images, for the shekel required for the temple tax.  This traffic was generally under the supervision of the High Priest, and also for his profit.    15 f.  A whip of cords, probably for driving out the animals, the merchants being expelled by His authoritative command.  The scene recalls the prophecy of Zach. 14, 21.    17 f.  The event elicited different emotions in those who witnessed it.  To the disciples, recently confirmed in their attachment to Christ, it recalled a quality described in Ps. 68, 10, a psalm accepted as Messianic (John 15, 25; Acts 1, 20; Rom. 11, 9; 15, 3).  This light on the event confirmed their belief.  To the Jews, in this case the authorities of the temple, the act seemed a usurpation of their prerogatives which called for justification.  Hence their challenge, What sign dost thou show?    19.  Jesus' answer was enigmatic.  In Greek the words can mean more definitely, "When you have destroyed this temple," but still some ambiguity remains.  Both temple and raise could have two meanings.    20-22.  The Jews, and probably at that time the disciples also, thought only of the edifice in which they were standing.  Forty-six years: the conflicting dates for Herod's beginning of the building leave this passage of little value for the dating of Christ's ministry.  The true meaning of Christ's prediction became evident to the Apostles only after the Resurrection.  The Scripture: probably Ps. 15, 10; Isa. 53, 10-12.

The beginning of faith in Christ.    23.  The Greek text can be read "during the feast," i.e., within the eight days through which it lasted.  John conveys to us the important fact of the motive of this faith, Christ's miracles.  In his name: i.e., in Him.    24.  The Evangelist, however, hastens to add that this was but an incipient faith, too weak for the full truth.  The sequel will prove it.  Jesus did not trust himself to them: did not clearly reveal to them His Messianic character, as He had to the disciples.  He knew all men, and understood the weakness of their present disposition toward Him.    25.  And He required no human assistance to this understanding, since He of Himself could read the hearts of men.  Cf. Matt. 4, 19-22; 9, 4; 12, 15.

Confraternity Bible:

The Marriage Feast at Cana  1* And on the third day a marriage took place at Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Now Jesus too was invited to the marriage, and also his disciples.  3 And the wine having run short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."  4* And Jesus said her, "What wouldst thou have me do, woman?  My hour has not yet come."  5 His mother said to the attendants, "Do whatever he tells you."

6 Now six stone water-jars were placed there, after the Jewish manner of purification, each holding two or three measures.  7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water."  And they filled them to the brim.  8 And Jesus said to them, "Draw out now, and take to the chief steward."  And they took it to him.

9 Now when the chief steward had tasted the water after it had become wine, not knowing whence it was (though the attendants who had drawn the water knew), the chief steward called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, "Every man at first sets forth the good wine, and when they have drunk freely, then that which is poorer.  But thou hast kept the good wine until now."

11* This first of his signs Jesus worked at Cana of Galilee; and he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.  12 After this he went down to Capharnaum, he and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples.  And they stayed there but a few days.

Cleansing of the Temple  13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 And he found in the temple men selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers at their tables.  15 And making a kind of whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, also the sheep and oxen, and he poured out the money of the changers and overturned the tables.  16 And to them who were selling the doves he said, "Take these things away, and do not make the house of my Father a house of business."  17* And his disciples remembered that it is written,
"The zeal for thy house has eaten me up."
18* The Jews therefore answered and said to him, "What sign dost thou show us, seeing that thou dost these things?"  19 In answer Jesus said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."  20 The Jews therefore said, "Forty-six years has this temple been in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?"  21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  22 When, accordingly, he had risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was at Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, many believed in his name, seeing the signs that he was working.  24 But Jesus did not trust himself to them, in that he knew all men, 25 and because he had no need that anyone should bear witness concerning man, for he himself knew what was in man.


1: The third day: probably from the call of Nathanael.  Cana: probably in Lower Galilee, some five miles north and east of Nazareth.

4: What wouldst thou have me do: literally, "What to me and to thee," is an expression which can vary in meaning with its context, and with the speaker's tone of voice.  It occurs several times in the Old and New Testament, practically always implying dissent.  Though there may be some disagreement in it even here, the circumstances show that it was not a rebuke.  Woman: an honorable address in the language spoken by our Lord.  My hour: could be said of any critical period in one's life.  Here it is used of the opening of Christ's public ministry, or of that ministry as a whole.

11: St. John speaks always of Christ's miracles as "signs" or "works."

17: Ps. 68, 10.

18: The Jews: here, as generally in the Gospel of St. John, are the officials of Judaism.  They held authority in such matters as are here described, and they asked a sign of Christ in justification of His apparent usurpation of that authority.