|3361. Tue Dec 16, 2003 5:57 pm
|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.
|3377. Tue Dec 16, 2003 10:24 pm
|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.