Cana and Apparent Age (was: Coal /YEC)

Tom Pearson (
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 13:52:32 -0500 (CDT)

At 09:54 PM 4/27/98 -0600, Bill Payne wrote:

>BUT, the wine Jesus created at Cana (John 2:1-11) had the
>characteristics of age when it was only a few minutes old. THEREFORE,
>things which appear old are not necessarily in fact old. Consequently,
>I do not take a position on the age of the earth.
>I've seen the arguments stating that the new wine example is not
>analogous to the "apparent" age of the universe/earth. I find those
>arguments hollow.

I'm out of my depth in complex cosmological arguments, such as the
age of the universe. But I do know a little about wine. Stop me if you've
heard this one before. . .
Here's one reason why the analogy between the miracle at Cana and
the age of the universe winds up failing.
Wine is, by definition, a beverage which is aged. Wine doesn't
simply have the "appearance" of age; it is necessarily aged. If it were not
aged, it would not be wine. In this sense, to say "This wine is aged," is
to utter a tautology. It is an analytic truth, much as "All bachelors are
unmarried males," is an analytic truth. Nobody will give me a grant so that
I may conduct the research to discover whether bachelors are really
unmarried males; this is true by definition, not by empirical observation.
The same is the case for "This wine is aged."
But this is not at all the case with regard to the age of the
universe. There is nothing tautological about the statement, "The universe
is aged." We might discover, by empirical observation, whether or not the
universe was very old. But there is nothing in the concept "universe" that
necessarily entails the concept "very old," in the same way that the concept
"wine" entails the concept "aged." Logically speaking, it's an open
question whether the universe is very old. But it's not an open question as
to whether wine must be aged. This is necessarily implicated in the very
concept of "wine."
I suppose a comparable claim here might be this. If someone was
arguing that universe was very old, and then said, "Of course, I'm talking
about a universe that contains no mass, no energy, and no motion," we would
be inclined to say that they are not actually talking about the universe as
it is normally defined. It is of the essence of the term "universe" -- its
very definition -- that it possess mass, energy and motion. The same is
true for the term "wine."
So what did Jesus do there in Cana? He made wine, which necessarily
contained the essential property of being aged. If it wasn't aged, it
wasn't wine. Someone might say that Jesus made real wine without one of the
essential properties of real wine (i.e., that it was aged), but this surely
would be highly unusual exegesis, and a miracle beyond the obvious one. At
the very least, it would demonstrate that God is not bound by logical
necessity, and is free to perform the logically impossible, even if only at
wedding parties.

Tom Pearson

Thomas D. Pearson
Department of History & Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American
Edinburg, Texas