Welcome—and thanks for visiting!

My most recent publication is the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the Book of Revelation. You can order it from Amazon and other online retailers (make sure you order mine, and not the previous edition by Leon Morris!), or directly from the publisher on the IVP website.

My other recent publications include:


Are the six stone jars in John 2 historic or symbolic?

The Sunday lectionary gospel in Year B (as well as in Year C) for Epiphany 3 is John 2.1–11, the ‘sign’ of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. It offers us a good example of John’s remarkable ability in story-telling, where he combines an intense attention to realistic detail with powerful evocation of the scene. In 11 short verses, we are taken into both the reality and the emotion of the event, so it is no wonder that the story is so well known that the phrase ‘turning water into wine’ (like ‘walking on water’) has become something of a cultural trope.

We have become used to reading John’s gospel on two levels, the literal and the symbolic, and so it is not surprising that we should be alert to anything that might suggest symbolic significance in this story. Already John the Baptist has proclaimed Jesus as the symbolic ‘lamb of God’ (so we are not surprised when we later read that Jesus dies in John’s chronology at the time of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs), and the first disciples ask Jesus ‘Where are you staying?’ (John 1.38) using the word later translated ‘abiding’, which becomes a symbolic term for the incorporation of the faithful disciple in the presence of God through Jesus in John 15.4. The Cana episode is introduced with one of John’s characteristic temporal markers: ‘on the third day…’ (John 2.1). Mark Stibbe and C K Barrett disagree on whether this implies the wedding takes place on the sixth or seventh day of the narrative so far, as indicated by the cumulation of temporal markers:

Day 1 John 1.19
John’s testimony to the Jewish leaders
Day 2 John 1.29 ‘the next day’ John’s declaration of Jesus as lamb of God
Day 3 John 1.35 ‘the next day’ The disciples seek Jesus
Day 4 John 1.43 ‘the next day’ Jesus leaves for Galilee
Day 5

The Sabbath?
Day 6 John 2.1 ‘on the third day’ The first day of the week?
(If ‘the third day’ implies and interval of two days between this and the previous event, then we are on to Day Seven in this ‘week’ of Jesus’ ministry. Jo-Ann Bryant, Paideia p 55 and other recent commentators agree with Stibbe, that this is indeed Day Seven.) But Stibbe and Barrett do agree on the significance of the phrase ‘on the third day’, anticipating the day of resurrection, the first day of the week and the first day of the new creation brought about by Jesus’ dying and rising again. Stibbe takes this further, and sees the wedding itself as presaging the eschatological wedding banquet of God with his people (compare Rev 19.7–9). We find this double meaning repeatedly as the gospel unfolds: Nicodemus, dimly grasping Jesus’ teaching, meets him in the twilight in chapter 3, the usual time for a meeting in a hot climate, whilst the woman by the well sees the light of the world by the light of the noonday sun in chapter 4, an unusual time demonstrating she is outcast; in John 9.7 the man born blind in chapter 9 is sent to the Pool of Siloam (which means ‘sent’, of course!); and when Judas goes out to betray Jesus ‘it was night!’ (John 13.30) which is was both literally and metaphorically.