Stone Jars

The well known story of Jesus turning water into wine is found in the second chapter of John. In the account is what I always thought a curious feature: stone water pots for cleansing-Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washing, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. (John 2.6)

The rationale of strictly observant Jews (Pharisees and others) is a parenthetical explanation in Mark 7.3-4: For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they perform a ritual washing, holding fast to the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They hold fast to many other traditions: the washing of cups, pots, kettles, and dining couches.

Yardenna Alexandre, an archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority who specializes in the study of Roman Era Galilee adds: “Throughout the years we have been discovering fragments of these kinds of stone vessels alongside pottery in excavations of houses in both rural and urban Jewish sites from the Roman period, such as at Kafr Kanna, Sepphoris and Nazareth. Now, for the first time, we have an unprecedented opportunity to investigate a site where these vessels were actually produced in Galilee”. According to Alexandre, “The fact that Jews at this time used stone vessels for religious reasons is well attested in the Talmudic sources and in the New Testament as well”. She explains that the phenomenon appears in the Wedding at Cana narrative in the Gospel of John, where the water-turned-to-wine is told to have been held in six jars made of stone: “Now there were six stone water jars set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each” (John 2:6).
A tantalizing link to the Gospel narrative lies in the location of the excavations at Reina just south of the modern village of Kafr Kanna, identified by many scholars as the site of Biblical Cana. “It is possible that large stone containers of the type mentioned in the Wedding at Cana of Galilee story may have been produced locally in Galilee” says Alexandre.

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