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Christ's 'beverage-based' Suffering

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3361.  Tue Dec 16, 2003 5:57 pm Reply with quote

Although Iím not from a religious family I was often packed off to Sunday school so my parents could read the papers without interruption.
I remember one Sunday lesson when a teacher described Christís suffering on the cross. The teacher told us that Jesus had been given a drink by a Roman soldier, but that the nasty Roman had soaked a sponge in vinegar and proffered it to the Son of God on the end of a stick. The fact that vinegar had been offered to a thirsty man struck my teacher as very cruel and I agreed with her Ė at the time.
Since then I have learned that Roman soldiers usually travelled with canteens filled with diluted wine, wine that often soured to vinegar. Whether this was a matter of tradition or habit I donít know, but the fact is that the alcohol/acetic acid would have had an antiseptic effect and purified any water it was mixed with. Perhaps the Romans knew of this without necessarily understanding why.
I have also learned that a Roman at the communal latrine would wipe his bottom with a sponge on a stick dipped in water. Fastidious Romans would carry their own sponge with them for this purpose so they didnít have to share.
As far as I can see the only reason a Roman soldier would be carrying a sponge is because he used it to wipe his arse on a regular basis.
Therefore the act of proffering a drink in a sponge soaked in vinegar was cruel, but not because the liquid was vinegar (the soldier was in effect sharing his rations), but because it was offered in an unsanitary and unwholsome receptacle.

...I just wanted to tell someone.

3365.  Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:08 pm Reply with quote

I knew about the sour wine, and about the sponges, but never put them together. However, given that the soldier wanted to give a drink to a bloke whose head was three or four feet above his own, how else could he have done it?

3377.  Tue Dec 16, 2003 10:24 pm Reply with quote

I checked the various accounts in the King James version (which I happen to have as a Gutenberg etext on my computer, handily enough). The four gospels differ slightly:

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew

27:33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to
say, a place of a skull, 27:34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled
with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

27:47 Some of them that stood there, when they
heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.

27:48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled
it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

The Gospel According to Saint Mark

15:35 And some of them that stood by,
when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.

15:36 And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a
reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether
Elias will come to take him down.

The Gospel According to Saint Luke

23:36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering
him vinegar, 23:37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save

The Gospel According to Saint John

19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

19:29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a
spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is
finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

So - three of them only say that it was 'them that stood by' or 'they' who offered him vinegar, and since 'them that stood by' included at least one disciple and Jesus' mother, and presumably the general riff-raff who gather at public executions to gawp, it doesn't have to have been Roman soldiers. The version that says it was soldiers who gave him vinegar just says they offered it to him, without saying how.

It's a great theory, but I have to say 'unproven' unless somebody has some more evidence on this one.

3380.  Wed Dec 17, 2003 4:18 am Reply with quote

I remember one theory, from my days as winner of the Junior Scripture Prize 1965ish, that the vinegar finished Hissonour off. A sharp intake of alcohol & vinegar fumes being enough to stop lungs stretched (literally) to (small) capacity. This was all brought home to me recently at one of the now regular delousings of the children. The really effective lotion comes in an alcohol base and has a warning AVOID WITH ASTHMATICS. And the lady (in the queue) in the pharmacy said her neice had had a near death experience from this cause.

From Godhead to Lice in one paragraph...thaaaaat's QI.


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