MYSTERY has surrounded the site of Jesus’s first miracle for centuries, but an answer may finally be at hand. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus changed water into wine during the Wedding at Cana.
Archaeologists believe the Cana could be the place of the miracle.
For hundreds of years, pilgrims have believed the site of the miracle to be Kafr Kanna, a town in northern Israel, where they visit the 20th-century Wedding Church.
But the true location has long been debated – and now archaeologists believe the Cana of biblical times may be a dusty hillside five miles further north.
It’s the former site of Khirbet Qana, a Jewish village between the years of 323BC 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 was also an altar and a shelf with the remains of a stone vessel, plus room for five more.
Six stone jars like this held the wine in the biblical account of the miracle.
Dr Tom McCollough, who directs 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.
There was also an altar and a shelf with the remains of a stone vessel (Image: Penmedia)
“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 beginning in 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.”
As part of his evidence, Dr McCollough points to the work of first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
He said: “His references to Cana align geographically with the location of Khirbet Qana and align logically with his movements.
“The reference to Cana in Josephus, the New Testament and in the rabbinic texts would argue the village was a Jewish village, near the Sea of Galilee and in the region of lower Galilee.
“Khirbet Qana fulfills all of these criteria.”
As for the better-known site at Kafr Kanna, Dr McCollough is sceptical.
“When tourists visiting Israel today are taken to Cana, they are taken to Kafr Kanna,” he said.
“However, this site was not recognised as a pilgrimage site for those seeking Cana until the 1700s.
It’s the former site of Khirbet Qana, a Jewish village between the years of 323BC and AD 324 (Image: penmedia)
“At this point the Franciscans were managing Christian pilgrimage and facilitating easy passage rather than historical accuracy.”
Dr McCollough believes the discoveries at Khirbet Qana could even bolster the case for the historicity of the Gospel of John.
He said: “Our excavations have shown that this was in fact a thriving Jewish village located in the heart of much of Jesus’s life and ministry.
“For the Gospel of John, Cana is in some ways, Jesus’s 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.”