The Seven Day Creation in the Gospel of John

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (Jn 1:1-5, 9-13)

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29)

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (Jn 1:35-36)

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." (Jn 1:43)

1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (Jn 2:1-11)

Recall the story of creation in Genesis. It begins with ,"In the beginning..." John's Gospel begins the same way, as above. Additionally, John's prologue references images from Genesis 1: light & darkness, things made, men, the world, life. V. 12 refers to "children of God," which is what Genesis meant by humans made "in his image and likeness." John's prologue is meant to recall the story of creation in Genesis.

Then follows a series of narratives over a seven day span. Again, this correlates with the seven day creation account in Genesis. On the first day (v. 19-28) John the Baptist was questioned by the Pharisees. On the second day (v. 29-34), Jesus went to John for baptism and the Holy Trinity was manifest. On the third day (v. 35-42), the first disciples join Jesus. On the fourth day, (v, 43-51), Jesus meets Philip and Nathaniel. Each of these stories begins with the phrase, “The next day” so that we can count each day. These stories do not match the first four days of creation in Genesis, but they do specifically reference eternal life, which is the new creation. (The last story about Nathaniel is obtuse; I’ll explain in another post.)

Then comes the first miracle of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel, the wedding at Cana. It begins with, “On the third day.” It means the third day after the previous story (remember: chapters were not part of the original gospels; that this begins chapter 2 is a later invention and we must see the text as it originally was). It was the seventh day. In Genesis, on the seventh day, God rested; there was peace. Then began the study of how Adam was created, how Eve was created, and their nuptial relationship. Likewise in John, this seventh day story is placed in a nuptial context.

In Genesis, the relationship was between Adam and Eve. In John, it is between the new Adam, Jesus, and the new Eve, Mary. Mary tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” What is the significance? Wine is our sacramental symbol of the blood of Christ, the sacrament and the grace which is salvation. It’s a very significant symbol. And Mary, the icon of the Church, tells the Lord that we have no wine for the nuptials, essentially asking him for wine. It is similar to the way the Church, in our liturgy, asks Jesus for his Body and Blood.

Jesus responds to Mary’s comment by calling her, “Woman.” This is also significant, as the Greek word used was gyne, which is exactly the same word used in the Greek LXX version of the OT in Gen 2:23 (‘Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."’) The use of this word implies Jesus is hearkening back to Genesis, referencing his mother as another Eve. He then uses a Hebrew idiom: “What is this to you and me?” (Note the RSV translation above is not exact.) This idiom was used when two people did not agree on something, in this case Jesus says something about “his hour.” In fact, he did what Mary asked and so his first miracle was seen by all. The Fathers of the Church saw in this an allusion back to Gen 3, when Adam ate the fruit as asked by Eve; here Jesus provides the wine as asked by Mary.

If Mary is the new Eve and this is nuptial imagery, then how is Jesus, the new Adam, marrying his own mother? Even using this as an image is odd and a bit upsetting. Compare with this analogy from Isaiah, where Zion is a beautiful bride:

For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Is 62:5)

This is an interesting text, where sons marry their mother, a virgin (how could she have sons if she’s a virgin?). As noted in another post, Mary is an iconic type of the Church, which is also the bride of God. The Church is both bride and mother – how? She is the daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son, and the bride of the Spirit. So Mary, quite literally the mother of Jesus, is also iconically his bride, to complete the analogy.

Mary tells the wait staff to do whatever Jesus says, to obey him, this in contrast to Eve who disobeyed God. Jesus then has the staff fill six large stone jars with water. These jars were requires for ritual purity, per the law given by God to Moses:

And this shall be to the people of Israel, and to the stranger who sojourns among them, a perpetual statute. 11 "He who touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days; 12 he shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean; but if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. (Num 19:10-12)

Note the ritual washing is on the third day and the seventh day, just as John’s narrative notes this wedding at Cana was “on the third day” and, as we followed his text chronology, it was also on the seventh day. Its purpose was to purify someone who had touched a dead body. We have here two sacramental images. First water is used to purify someone who has contacted death; this is an image of baptism. Second is the water is changed into wine by a miracle; this is an image of the Eucharist, another source of God’s life. Note that the water is first, as is baptism. We can also note the number of the stone jars was six, the same number as were the days of creation.

In conclusion, we see that John built into his introductory gospel images from Genesis 1-3. From Gen 1, we see the creation of light, of life, of man, of the world; we see the number six and we see the phrase “children of God.” From Gen 2, we see the nuptial imagery of the wedding. From Gen 3 we see a new Adam and a new Eve recreating what the old Adam and Eve damaged; we see sacramental images, which are the means of this new creation.