What is a…
firkin in the Bible

Greek: μετρητής —transliteration: metrētas, metretas, metrétés or metretes —meaning: a measure (referring to a particular volume)

The Greek word appears only in John 2:6.

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. —John 2:6 KJV

The word “firkin” is a King James english word for a similar volume of liquid. The following Bibles translate “metrétés” as “firkin”: King James Version, Authorized (King James) Version, 1599 Geneva Bible, American Standard Version, and the BRG Bible.

Although this word is still used in Britain and a few industries today, most readers are not familiar with a firkin and prefer are a more widely understood measure.

The measure referred to is the volume of an Attic wine amphora (Attic meaning of Greece’s Attica region). An amphora is a type of container with a narrow bottom and characteristic shape and size which allows them to fit tightly and safely against each other in ships, storage rooms and carts. This container’s capacity was about 8.75 gallons or 39.39 liters, or, according to the Britannica a “wine amphora was a standard Attic measure of about 41 quarts [39 litres].” Thus two or three of these wine amphora would hold roughly 20-30 gallons.

Thus, modern Bible translations say…

…containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. … —John 2:6 NKJV, NASB, ESV

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