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We read at John 2:1-2:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

Chapter 1 of Gospel according to John gives an account of John the Baptist giving testimony for Jesus, followed by two of John's disciples joining Jesus on the subsequent day, again followed by Jesus's visit to Galilee on the third day. It is possible that Jesus visited both Galilee and Cana which are approximately 5 miles apart, on the same day. If that was not the case, he attended the wedding at Cana on the fourth day counting from the day on which John the baptist testified for him, and on the third day counting from the selection of first two disciples. So what does the chronological term “on the third day” as recorded in John 2 indicate?

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  • Capernaum on the north west shore of the Sea if Galilee to Cana is about 25 miles journey. Also third day must be understood thus: the Jews spoke of today, tomorrow and the third day (Lev 7:16-17; Lev 19:6). Jan 25 at 12:37
  • @Andrewshanks, Capernaum is not even mentioned in this passage. Bethany is mentioned in ch 1 v 28- at least three days earlier. He went to Galilee on the second day- after calling Simon Peter and Andrew.
    – Tennman7
    Jan 25 at 15:04
  • @Tennman7 - Hi, I'm just saying that Cana is not "approx 5 miles from [the Sea of] Galilee" which is stated by the OP. From Bethabara-Beyond-Jordan it looks as if He went to Bethsaida. Bethsaida (John 1:44) is further away from Cana than Capernaum, and is about 18 miles from Cana as the crow flies and maybe 30 miles by road. I was just giving Capernaum as an eg of distance. Jan 25 at 18:03
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By verse John 1:19, John has been baptizing some 6 months before the time Jesus comes to him. The elders finally take notice and arrive to ask John who he is. John says I am not the Christ, but the voice of one crying in the wilderness as Isaiah prophesied. He basically has gone public; he has stood.

John 1:29 the next day, after the interrogation, Jesus comes to him and is baptized. John testifies that Jesus is the Christ. Christ's baptism is day one.

Day 1, baptism

John 1:35 then says “again the next day” and two disciples follow Jesus. Is this a new day or is it later the same day?

Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

There are three keys to understand.

One key is the word “again”. It is palin. This is what it means.

Strong’s: πάλιν pálin, pal'-in; probably from the same as G3823 (through the idea of oscillatory repetition); (adverbially) anew, i.e. (of place) back, (of time) once more, or (conjunctionally) furthermore or on the other hand:—again.

Vine’s: Again: the regular word for "again," is used chiefly in two senses, (a) with reference to repeated action; (b) rhetorically, in the sense of "moreover" or "further," indicating a statement to be added in the course of an argument,

In other words, by including the word “again”, John is telling us that two things happened on the same day. Christ was baptized and Andrew and Peter became disciples.

Furthermore, by indicating it was about the tenth hour (4-5pm), it tells us it was on the same day, else why even mention the late hour?

Lastly, the verse says John stood. What does that mean?

Strong’s †ἵστημι hístēmi, his'-tay-mee; a prolonged form of a primary στάω stáō stah'-o (of the same meaning, and used for it in certain tenses); to stand (transitively or intransitively), used in various applications (literally or figuratively):—abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set (up), stanch, stand (by, forth, still, up).

The tense is pluperfect. It means “In Greek occurs rarely. It corresponds in a single Greek word to the sense of the English pluperfect, which indicates an event viewed as having been once and for all accomplished in past time.”

The idea is when John had proclaimed once and for all publicly who he was on the day before that he was standing, he was appointed, he was established.

Day zero, John says he is the one prophesied.

Day 1, baptism, two recorded disciples

John 1:43 the day following at least two more people become Jesus’ disciples.

Day 2, more disciples

John 2:1 on day three, there is a wedding in Cana.

Day 3, wedding

So, the three days are in relation to Jesus as follows.

Day 1 baptism and disciples

Day 2 more disciples

Day 3 wedding at Cana

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Some have suggested that it means the third day of the week, which would be on a Tuesday, but it is difficult to see why that would be important.

Most commentators say that it refers to the third day after the last day mentioned in 1:43-51. In v. 43 we hear that Jesus wanted to leave for Galilee, so that was probably early morning. Two more disciples join him that morning: Philip and Nathanael. Then they leave for Galilee. After two days' journey they could have arrived in the evening of the second day and possibly stayed in Jesus' home in Nazareth. Cana is not far from Nazareth, and it is likely that it was Mary who was first invited and Jesus with his 4 disciples joined her. Maybe they were invited because they were home with Mary anyway, and Jesus might well have known the bride or bridegroom since his mother knew them.

There are several maybe's here, so we cannot be certain.

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In order to answer the question, we first have to consider two very important things.

    1. In interpreting scripture, one of the most foundational principles is Context. We look at the cultural context, historical context and grammatical context. In other words, who was the audience and who was the writer as well as was this a letter to real churches or just poetry.
    1. We have to remember that in the original scriptures, there were no chapter and verse divisions. These were added centuries later for convenience.
      So we have to look back at chapter one to see what was happening, what was significant. We find that the Context is Jesus calling his first disciples starting in John 1:35.
      It's a narrative - a real story in a real place with real people, and John uses the phrase the next day several times to separate the events.
  • Simon and Andrew - day 1 of this part of the narrative. John the Baptist was with 2 of his followers, Simon Peter and Andrew. John said Behold the lamb of God, and these 2 followed Jesus. This could be seen as day one. John mentions that is was about the tenth hour, which was 4:00 pm.
  • the next day, Jesus goes to Galilee. Calls Phillip and Nathaniel, starting v 43.
  • the third day, Jesus' first miracle, Wedding at Cana of Galilee. Same region. He was already in Galilee. Depending on which part Philip and Nathaniel were in, it could have fairly close to where the wedding was, or another part of the same region, a mile or two away, but the text doesn't say. We know from the text of John chapter 1 and 2 that Jesus was already in Galilee. We know that he had already chosen Simon Peter and Andrew the day before, and we know that these four disciples were mentioned by name before the wedding at Cana which was also in Galilee.

The phrase "on the 4th day, or on the 3rd day, or on the next day" is used over and over as a common device in narrative accounts all through the Bible.
*It's precisely this "context" of "on the third day" or "on the 2nd day" when Jewish inclusive counting is used, [any part of a day is counted as a day] which is totally different textual and hermeneutical context, as in passages where it explicitly says "3 days and 3 nights, or 40 days and 40 nights, which inclusive reckoning does not apply. Clear passages always trump or supercede vague passages.

In this particular narrative, there is nothing special about the term or phrase. John is simply stating the major events of Calling the first disciples, in the context of this happening right before his first miracle. It basically tells us that Andrew and Simon Peter were chosen one day before Philip and Nathaniel and 2 days before his first miracle.

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