(Caʹna) [probably from Hebrew qa·nehʹ, meaning “reed,” hence, a place of reeds].
The hometown of Nathanael. (John 21:2) Evidently it was just the third day after Nathanael’s introduction to Jesus and his becoming a disciple that Jesus was in Cana and attended a marriage feast, at which his mother and brothers were also present. Here he performed his first miraculous sign, that of changing water into fine wine. From here he and his family and disciples “went down to Capernaum.” (John 1:43-49; 2:1-12) Later, when again in Cana, Jesus was approached by an attendant of the king, begging him to “come down” to Capernaum to heal his dying son. Without making the trip Jesus performed the cure.—John 4:46-54.
The town is called “Cana of Galilee” in each case, evidently to distinguish it from Kanah in Asher. (Josh. 19:28) Kefr Kenna, a town about four miles (6.4 kilometers) NE of Nazareth, is the traditional site of Cana. Springs provide an ample water supply there. However, lexicographers consider the form Kenna to be a very unlikely transition from Cana (or Qa·nahʹ in Hebrew), particularly due to the doubling of the “n.” Even though Kenna could be shown to be a possible derivation of Cana, the name would not be descriptive of the present site, as it is not a “place of reeds.” There is reason to believe that Kefr Kenna’s claim to being Cana stems largely from its being easily accessible to pilgrims from Nazareth, causing it to have the favor of church authorities.
Hence, the balance of opinion and the weight of evidence favor an identification with Khirbet Qana, about nine miles (14.5 kilometers) N of Nazareth. Here the ruins of an ancient village lie on a hill at the edge of the Plain of Asochis, modernly called el-Battuf. Reeds are abundant in a nearby marshy plain, making the name Cana very fitting. It is still known in Arabic as Qana el-Jelil, equivalent of Cana of Galilee. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century C.E., speaks of residing “in a city of Galilee, which is named Cana” and later makes mention of the “great plain, wherein I lived, the name of which was Asochis.” (The Life of Flavius Josephus, pars. 16, 41) This testimony would also favor the location of Cana of Galilee at the site of Khirbet Qana, rather than Kefr Kenna. Although no spring is found at Khirbet Qana. the ruins reveal the remains of ancient cisterns; potsherds (fragments of earthen vessels) and coins believed to date from the first century C.E. have also reportedly been found there.
In ancient times a road led past Khirbet Qana down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and along the shoreline to Capernaum, which lay some 676 feet (206 meters) below sea level; hence the expression to “come down” to Capernaum. The distance by road was about twenty-five miles (40.2 kilometers).