The Forest…Through the Trees

One of the easy things to do when we study the Bible is to get so lost among the beauty of individual trees that we forget we are in a forest.  When we come out of the forest, we have a great description of the trees to be found there, but no concept of the actual…you know…forest.  This would be like reading the fantastic book Ben Hur and coming away saying, “Wow, that chariot race description was amazing!  I was totally sucked in and mesmerized by it.”  “But what was the point of it,” your friend asks.  “Huh?” you answer.

Tom Constable gives us an excellent birds-eye view of the Cana cycle in the Gospel of John.  The book seems to be organized [at least the first half] around cycles, with the Cana cycle [stories centered around Cana and Galilee] coming in chapters 2-4.  John constructs it in what they call a chiastic structure [I know, more theological obfuscation, but that is what the structure is called], with which anyone who was familiar with the Tanakh [the Jewish Scriptures] was familiar.

A Jesus’ first sign in Cana 2:1–11
B A reference to Capernaum, Jesus’ headquarters 2:12
C Hostility toward Jesus in Jerusalem 2:13–25
D Nicodemus’ response to Jesus 3:1–15
E The importance of Jesus’ mission 3:16–36
D’ The Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus 4:1–38
C’ Acceptance of Jesus in Samaria 4:39–42
B’ A reference to Galilee, Jesus’ major ministry arena 4:43–45
A’ Jesus’ second sign in Cana 4:46–54

In a chiastic structure, the middle of the structure is the most important point, which is why the constructor of the chiastic structure constructs it that way!  [So for the Marines out there, letter E. is the center and most important point of the Cana Cycle].

As an interesting side note, the book of Esther has a chiastic structure with the center point being Esther 6.1: On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring othe book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king (ESV).  Everything! in Esther hinges upon the king having insomnia at the right time and deciding that he will have his slaves read to him and choosing the right book and reading about a little guy named Mordecai who had saved the king’s life.  What a coincidence, eh?  Almost as if it was planned…

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