The Wedding at Cana

“In the mean time there were gathered together as well such as had seditiously got out from among their enemies… and repaired Joppa… They also built themselves a great many piratical ships, and turned pirates upon the seas… Now as soon as Vespasian knew of their conspiracy, he sent both footmen and horsemen to Joppa… yet did they not endeavor to keep the Romans out, but fled to their ships, and lay at sea all night, out of the reach of their darts. Now Joppa is not naturally a haven, for it ends in a rough shore… there are deep precipices, and great stones that jut out into the sea… Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the morning there fell a violent wind upon them; it is called by those that sail there “the black north wind,” and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some of them against the rocks… for the shore was so rocky, and had so many of the enemy upon it… while they were thrust out of the sea, by the violence of the wind, if they staid where they were, and out of the city by the violence of the Romans. And much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed against one another… and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks. But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred. The Romans also took the city without opposition, and utterly demolished it. And thus was Joppa taken twice by the Romans in a little time… So these troops overran the country, as they were ordered to do, and every day cut to pieces and laid desolate the whole region.”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 3, 9:2-4

Joppa was taken twice? Not so, because there is actually a third time that Josephus describes Joppa being taken way back in Book 1:

“Yet did that Antiochus, who was also called Dionysius, become an origin of troubles again… Alexander was afraid of him, when he… was near the mountains, and the shores of Joppa… and fell upon Antiochus’s army while they were in disorder, and a terrible battle ensued… the greatest part of his army were destroyed… and for the rest, who fled to the village of Cana, it happened that they were all consumed by want of necessaries, a few only excepted.”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 1, 7:4

So the author of the Bible gives us a flashback to the time when the soldiers were attacking Joppa but fled to Cana and were there “consumed by the want of necessaries”, making a mockery of that by saying it was a wedding that ran out of wine.

“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 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 {this is book one, this is long before Josephus’ time, why is he even writing about this;}. 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 {i.e. dunking Jews in water;}, 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.”

– John 2:1-11

Josephus links Cana to Joppa by mentioning them both in the same passage in Book 1, that it was nearby and the soldiers fled to Cana from Joppa and “wanted necessaries”.  The book of John links together the two passages that mention Cana and Joppa with their want of necessaries and Jesus turns the water into wine in the stoney haven and brought it to Cana to save those Jews from their want of necessaries.

To understand this parallel, first remember again the definition of “irony”:

  • “Τhe expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”
  • “A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.”
  • “Α literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions is clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.”

In this case, it is ironic that the servants knew where the wine came from but the king did not.  The full significance of the actions is not clear to the king, he doesn’t know he is drinking blood, but to the astute reader and audience it should be clear.

Then, Josephus the author gets called a woman again, because he was taken alive in battle:

“…Jesus said to them, “… when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].””

– Thomas 1:22

The literary character Jesus asks why Josephus writes of this third time that Joppa was taken when it was actually before Josephus was born (“why do you involve me woman, this is before my time”) but agrees anyway and provides some necessaries for those in Cana. So Vespasian was just providing wine for the “feast” (or “slaughter”;) when he turned the water of the sea to blood (a bit late though), but he saved the best battle of wine for the last time that they pass through Cana in Book III. But finally, seriously, how stupid is it to have stone water pots; in the first century they had very advanced pottery which would be massively easier to make with bronze age technology, cheaper and lighter than stone. Sone water pots would be almost impossible to make with the tools they had in Israel at that time and so heavy as to be entirely useless. But the shores of Joppa are clearly described by Josephus as being quite like stoney water pots, and the Jews all got dunked in the water, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews which turned those water pots into wine.

All together, this passage from John is elegant and hilarious, especially if you are a misogynist and a bit antisemitic. Actually this is extremely offensive humor consider that these people had just been genocided.  But I am sure the author of the Bible thought him(er)self very clever indeed.

“…There have been indeed some bad men, who have attempted to calumniate my history, and took it to be a kind of scholastic performance for the exercise of young men. A strange sort of accusation and calumny this!…”

– Flavius Josephus Against Apion, Book 1, 1:10

And notice again, the King James Version gives us another little winky-face emoticon {my browser interprets the semicolon with the closing parenthesis as a smiley face, haven’t figured out how to deactivate that except by doing this;}, “(but the servants knew how that water got turned into wine 😉 {get it, wink-wink, nudge-nudge;}”. This King James translation would appear to contain the first ever emoticons; they must have recognized the irony that Jesus turned water into wine exactly at the same place the sons of the living God, Vespasian, Titus and Josephus, turned the sea to blood, if they had been well trained in Greek classics, to which Josephus certainly belongs.  The Wars of the Jews used to go hand-in-hand with the Bible for the educated upper class until very recently.  Those damn British bastards with their dark sense of humor would seem to have been the only ones who could understand biblical irony for what it is.

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