Gospel writer John included the specific detail of quantity six containers for holding water.
The King James version describes them as “waterpots of stone.”
The New Jerusalem version (1985) calls them “stone water jars.”
Their function is explained as for ritual cleansing by the Jewish faithful. Stone implies that these vessels were crafted from rock. And so, the water jars were not ceramic.
Objects from this era are on display. Below is a photo of stone water jars found at the site of a fourth century CE synagogue at Capernaum.
Photo courtesy of samsontours.com
An in-depth study of the stone vessel industry thriving in Jerusalem at this time was produced in a chapter called “Jerusalem as the Center of the Stone Vessel Industry during the Second Temple Period” by Yitzhak Magen . This article is available from the journal Biblical Archaeology Review 24.5 (1998) pages 46-52.
It is clear that the practice of ritual purity among Jews in the Second Temple era was widespread. The relationship of stone vessels and purity is explored in the concise study “Purity Broke Out in Israel”, by Norman A. Rubin in The Anistoriton at www.anistor.gr/english/enback/o024.htm .
On my trip to Galilee I found ancient stone vessels in two churches in the town of Kafar Kanna, Israel.
At a Franciscan Church, I found a sign giving this building the name The Sanctuary of Our Lord’s First Miracle. This church is known as the “Wedding Church” due to the many wedding reenactments and renewals of wedding vows held there for the visiting pilgrims. On a door off the courtyard is this sign which still doesn’t name the church but does offer more clarity – The Latin Parish — Cana of Galilee.
Photos by Tim Wojcik
In a gallery area on the church grounds a large stone vessel is on display. It stands about three feet tall.
The sides of this jar were decorated in a kind of herringbone design. From this photo it appears a finish was applied and then etched.
The inside was rough.
About one city block away from the Wedding Church stands the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George. Inside the chapel sized church sit two stone water vessels. Each vessel is protected by a plexiglass case. Both vessels are used as a backdrop for a variety of items of supplication and donation placed by the faithful.
Travel to Kafar Kanna from Tel Aviv is about a 75 minute drive. Map courtesy of Google Maps.
The Pottery from Ancient Sepphoris – authors Marva Balouka, , Anna de Vincenz, Eric M. Meyers, and Carol L. Meyers. Published by Eisenbrauns, 2013. Print and ebook. ISBNs 9781575062693, 9781575066998 .