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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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WATERPOT (ὑδρία, freq. in LXX Septuagint for Genesis 24:14 כַּר, Judges 7:16, 1 Kings 17:12; 1 Kings 18:33, Ecclesiastes 12:6).—1. John 2:6-7 λίθιναι ὑδρίαι ἓξ κείμεναιγεμίσατε τὰς ὑδρίας ὕδατος. The stone waterpots (כְּלֵי אֲבָנִים in Rabbinic writings) were placed outside the reception-room, for the washing of the hands before and after eating, as well as of the vessels used (cf. Mark 7:2-4, Matthew 15:2, Luke 11:38). ‘For such an occasion the family would produce or borrow the largest and handsomest stone vessels that could be procured’ (Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] i. 357).

The view of Westcott, first put forth in 1859 in a note to his Characteristics of the Gosp. Mir. (p. 14), and afterwards stated more fully in his Com. on St. John (37, 38), that it was not the water in those vessels that was changed into wine, but the water which the servants drew from the source after having filled the vessels, has commended itself to many students of the Gospels. But it has not superseded the traditional view, which must be acknowledged to have in its favour the first impression produced on the minds of readers of the narrative in all ages,—a fact of great weight. Readers in general have understood that the number and capacity of the vessels were stated immediately before the command to fill them, in order to convey the idea that their entire contents were changed into wine (Dods, Expos. Gr. NT i. 704), and also that the clause ‘they filled them up to the brim’ was added in order to exclude all possible suspicion of collusion (Trench, Mir. 104, after Chrys.). Such are the principal objections to Westcott’s view, which, however, must not be hastily pronounced to be inadmissible, or even improbable. When the arguments in its favour are carefully weighed, the balance seems to lie almost equal between it and the ordinary view.

(i.) ‘It is unlikely that water taken from vessels of purification should have been employed for the purpose of the miracle.’ This argument holds good even supposing that the vessels had already been partially or wholly emptied by pouring water on the hands of the guests (Plummer, in loc.). (ii.) The words ‘Draw out now,’ etc., are perhaps most naturally understood to mean that the same action of drawing water from the source was to be carried on as before, but that the water so drawn was now to have a different destination. In like manner John 2:9 seems to imply that the servants who had drawn the water had borne it, in obedience to Jesus’ word, straight from the source to the ruler of the feast. It may, however, be argued that the νῦν may equally well mean, ‘Now that the vessels are quite full, bear from them to the ruler of the feast’ (in pitchers out of which he would fill the cups of the guests, Meyer, in loc.). (iii.) Though it would be hazardous to say that the words οἱ ἠντληκότες τὸ ὕδωρ in John 2:9 render it probable that ὕδωρ (also from the source) is to be understood after ἀντλήσατε in John 2:8, it may yet be stated that ἀντλεῖν is frequently used of the drawing of water (cf. Genesis 24:13, Exodus 2:16, Isaiah 12:3, John 4:7; John 4:15), but rarely of the drawing of wine, so that on the whole the use of the word is in favour of Westcott’s view.* [Note: Giles of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, has favoured the writer with the following note on the use of ἀυτλεῖν. ‘I do not know of any example in Attic Greek of ἀυτλεῖν in the sense of ‘draw wine’ (for which ἀρύτω or ἀφύσσω (in poetry) would be expected) except the following from a fragment of Pherecrates, the comic poet, κόραιπληρεις χύιχας σἴνου μέλαιδς ἀνθοσμίου ἤυτουν διὰ χώνης τοῖσι βουλομένοις πιεῖν (Meineke, Frag. ii. 300). Though the comic poets have so much to say of wine, this, apparently, is the sole instance. It was possibly slang, and the verb is certainly used by the Alexandrian writers as a slang word, as in the recently discovered Herodas, iv. 14, οὐ γάρ τι πολλὴν οὐδʼ ἔτοιμον ἀντλοῦμεν (like our ‘raking in the shekels’). The use for wine had also continued, because in Theocritus x. 13 occurs the proverb ἐκ πίθω ἀντλεῖς (like our ‘going it’). Something nearer NT times would be useful, but I cannot discover that it occurs in the Papyri.’] (iv.) It is suggested that this view is most in keeping with the symbolical and spiritual character of the miracle. The turning of the water into wine was a σημεῖον by which Jesus manifested His glory. The filling of the vessels with water was part of the ‘sign,’ and pointed to the fulfilling of the Law (cf. Matthew 5:17). At the command of Jesus ‘they filled them up to the brim.’ This may have been designed to show that the preparation of the Law was now complete. It had reached its high-water mark, if we may so speak. The number and capacity of the vessels, and their being utilized for ‘the purifying of the Jews,’ may thus be regarded as providentially ordered circumstances, designed to bring out the significance of Jesus’ act in its relation to the Law. The vessels were filled and then left as they stood, while the water which the servants, in obedience to Jesus’ word, drew from the source was carried past them and delivered to the ruler of the feast, who on tasting it said to the bridegroom, ‘Thou hast kept the good wine until now.’ Full justice, it may be argued, is thus done to the spiritual import of the miracle, which was intended to represent that what the Law with its elaborate ceremonial could not do, Jesus could now do for those unto whom He had come—impart to them the true joy of salvation (cf. Psalms 104:15, Mark 2:22 and parallels). The views set forth in the Encyc. Bibl. ii. 1796, 1800, 2539; Wendt, St. John’s Gospel, 83, 240, may be compared with the foregoing statement.—‘The symbolical interpretation of Scripture must not be hastily set aside because it has been often disfigured by unlicensed fancies’ (Westcott, Char. Gosp. Mir. xii). A symbolical interpretation may also be quite consistently held by those who maintain the traditional view. But apart from symbolism altogether, the miracle taken by itself is comforting and edifying in the highest degree, as a proof that Christ’s hallowing presence is with us in our common interests and enjoyments, and that He blesses all life’s relationships.—It may be added that if it was the entire contents of the vessels that became wine, the magnitude of the gift is an example of our Lord’s abundant mercies, with which we may compare the miracle of the loaves and the twelve baskets of fragments that were left.

2. John 4:28 ἀφῆκεν οὖν τὴν ὑδρίαν αὐτῆς ἡ γυνή. The waterpot of the woman of Samaria was one of those Jars of sun-dried clay which are still in use in the East, and which are carried upon the head or on the shoulder (Encyc. Bibl. i. 887, iii. 3818; Land and Book, 576; Lane, Mod, Egyptians5 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , i. 187–188, who calls attention to the word garrah or jarrah for a water-pitcher, from which our word ‘jar’ is derived). Her leaving her waterpot was not, as some say, because her faith in Christ made her forget the purpose for which she had originally come, but because it impelled her to announce her discovery of Him to others without delay; and in her haste to return to Sychar with the news, she did not choose to be encumbered with her heavy waterpot, which could be fetched at any time.

Literature.—Westcott, Characteristics of the Gosp. Miracles, and Com. on St. John; Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] ; Dods, EGT [Note: GT Expositor’s Greek Testanent.] ; Dictionaries of the Bible; Lane, Modern Egyptians.

James Donald.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Waterpot'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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