For hundreds of years, Christians have visited the “Wedding Church” in Kafr Kanna, a town in northern Israel near the Sea of Galilee, to commemorate the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine.
The site of the actual event has been a topic of mystery and debate for centuries—perhaps until now.
The Gospel of John reports Jesus, his mother, Mary, and his disciples are invited to a wedding. When the wine runs out, Jesus delivers a sign of his glory by turning water into wine. John tells us the wedding was in the town of Cana.
Based on a new discovery, archaeologists believe the Cana of biblical times may be a dusty hillside five miles further north.
The location is the former site of Khirbet Qana, a Jewish village between the years of 323 BC and AD 324, where archaeologists have discovered a number of compelling clues.
Excavations there have revealed a network of tunnels used for Christian worship, marked with crosses and references to Kyrie Iesou, a Greek phrase meaning Lord Jesus.
There is also an altar and a shelf with the remains of a stone vessel, plus room for five more. Experts believe stone jars held wine in biblical times.
Dr. Tom McCollough, who is directing excavations at the site, said there were three other sites with a credible claim to being the Cana of scripture.
“But none has the ensemble of evidence that makes such a persuasive case for Khirbet Qana,” he said.
“We have uncovered a large Christian veneration cave complex that was used by Christian pilgrims who came to venerate the water-to-wine miracle.
“This complex was used at the beginning of the late fifth or early sixth century and continued to be used by pilgrims into the 12th Century Crusader period.
“The pilgrim texts we have from this period that describe what pilgrims did and saw when they came to Cana of Galilee match very closely what we have exposed as the veneration complex.”
Dr. McCollough believes the discoveries at Khirbet Qana could also bolster the case for the historicity of the Gospel of John.
“Our excavations have shown that this was in fact a thriving Jewish village located in the heart of much of Jesus’ life and ministry. For the Gospel of John, Cana is in some ways Jesus’ safe place or operational centre. It is a place he and his disciples return to when they encounter resistance in Judea. I would argue our excavations warrant at least a reconsideration of the historical value of John’s references to Cana and Jesus.”