John 2:4 - Jesus' response to Mary at Cana


I would appreciate some help from anyone knowledgeable in Greek regarding the RSV translation (and other Protestant translations) for John 2:4

[INDENT][INDENT]RSV translation:
And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me?..”

NAB translation:
…, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? …”

DR translation:
… "Woman, what is that to me and to thee?..
(According to my interlinear Greek/English text, this Douay version is the most literal translation.)[/INDENT][/INDENT]
My question: Is there any legitimate explanation/justification for the Protestant translation?
The Protestant translations certainly give the sense of Jesus putting down Mary.

Thanks for any help.


I’ve heard this question raised by many Catholics, but as a convert, I have to honestly say when practicing as a Protestant, the moral and spiritual lesson of this gospel passage was very much like the Catholic read on it, and there was no discussion lingering discussion on the merits, one way or another, of the Blessed Virgin.

I can’t help but thing that sometimes, just as when Catholics claim that most Protestants don’t really hate Catholicism, they just don’t understand it, that the same can be true of Catholics about Protestantism.

Peace and all good!


The RSV-CE translates that verse the same way as the RSV does. This is one uncommon case where I think the NAB translates a biblical verse better than the RSV-CE. But I think probably the DR translation of this verse is closer to the literal than how the NAB translates it.


What is the Catholic interpretation of this text?



I think they were trying to translate the phrase exactly the same way as similar phrases that they translated in other OT and NT contexts, so it came across wrong.

The problem is that any Christian group that doesn’t respect Mary wants to read the phrase in a hostile way, whereas any Christian group that does respect Mary will want to read it in a respectful way. It’s a Rorschach inkblot sort of a verse, and that applies to translators, too.

In this case, I think the translators were trying so hard to appear neutral and fair that they messed up the translation.




Here is the translation from my Greek-English interlinear NT:

‘And says to her the Jesus; what to me and to you, woman? Not yet is come the hour of me.’


Jesus was reluctant to start his public ministry. That’s all there is to it.

Mary ignores him and instructs the waiters to do what he says. Jesus complies. Mary is given the privilege of commanding the start of Jesus’ actions which ultimately lead to our salvation.



**QUOTE=spedteacherita;12506343]What is the Catholic interpretation of this text?


Mary is the “woman " from Genesis 3:15 " I will put enmity between you and the woman…” This is an elevation of her, not a ‘put down’.

To Jesus through Mary-Mary ALWAYS leads us to Jesus."…do whatever He tells you…" John 2:5


Thanks for all your responses.


That is what my interlinear shows also.
Here’s an internet link.
*Ti emoi kai soi gynai?*Ti (what)
emoi (to me)
kai (and)
soi (to thee/you)
gynai (woman)?I guess I just have a hard time understanding how that would get translated as “What have you to do with me”. In this translation Jesus separates Himself from a person - “you” - Mary. I’m wondering what in the Greek could show that as a possible meaning - rather than to the situation Mary mentioned (lack of wine).


Do you happen to know any of the similar phrases? I vaguely recall hearing that the phrase had been used once before in Scripture (seems like it was Scott Hahn), but when I looked it up, it was not the same Greek phrase. Unfortunately I didn’t make a note of the passage he referred to. :o


Jesus knew, as did Mary, that as soon as He revealed Himself publicly the road to the cross was entered, and there was no turning back. Mary had the joy of keeping Him to herself for 30 years and He was kind enough to allow her the occasion to release Him to the world. If she had decided not to reveal Him would He have waited? He gave her the privilege of deciding.

In John, Jesus refers to His mother as “woman”, which is where we draw the concept that she is the new Eve.


I don’t think it was a reluctance to start His public ministry - mainly because He had already started it by publicly being baptized and already choosing some to be His apostles and having them join Him in His travels.

He says “My HOUR has not yet come.” That is an expression used elsewhere to refer to His passion and death. There was an “hour” when Jesus would provide a living wine for those who had none, but the hour for that had not yet arrived at the time of the Cana wedding.
John 13:1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 13:2 And during supper, …

See also John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23,27; 17:1



If this passage is a put down, then when He is on the cross and He says: woman behold your son, would that also be an insult? Never see Protestants claim that with that passage.


Whatever it was - miracles, ministry, turning water to wine, helping the bride and groom - he didn’t want to do it.



If He didn’t want to do it, He wouldn’t have done it!


Mary is the “woman " from Genesis 3:15 " I will put enmity between you and the woman…” This is an elevation of her, not a ‘put down’.

To Jesus through Mary-Mary ALWAYS leads us to Jesus."…do whatever He tells you…" John 2:5

Since the Pope recently declared Big Bang and Evolution True and Gen is not literal.

Does Mary as the First Eve and the woman 3:15 being just metaphoric mean that Mary’s role as the new Eve is also metaphoric.


I like Pope St. John Paul II’s reflections on Mary in* Redemptoris Mater*:
In John’s text on the other hand, the description of the Cana event outlines what is actually manifested as a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh, that is to say Mary’s solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs. At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance (“They have no wine”). But it has a symbolic value: This coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind. And that is not all. As a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that salvific power of his which is meant to help man in his misfortunes, to free him from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon his life. Precisely as the Prophet Isaiah had foretold about the Messiah in the famous passage which Jesus quoted before his fellow townsfolk in Nazareth: “To preach good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind…” (cf. Lk. 4:18).

  • Another essential element of Mary’s maternal task is found in her words to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” The Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son’s will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested. At Cana, thanks to the intercession of Mary and the obedience of the servants, Jesus begins “his hour.” At Cana Mary appears as believing in Jesus. Her faith evokes his first “sign” and helps to kindle the faith of the disciples.


No sane person wants to die.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)


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