[XTalk] Re: [Synoptic-L] Mark Used CG in 15:42-16:8, Pt. 2-Fatigue in 16:6
- Ted Weeden has pointed out problems of so-called
inconsistencies in the "drink motif" in the "Crucifixion Narrative".
The following are some thoughts I have had on this subject.
1. Historical Background
Plato was the first author to use the term anaisthesia.
According to Isidorus, Serapion, and Pliny, Nat. hist. xxxv, 94 the
Romans used Mandrake or Mandragora juice and atropine as
an anesthetic. Nepenthes was a plant mixed with wine that was
drunk to remove sorrow. In the Odyssey it is referred to as an
Egyptian drug. It was given to Telemachus by Helen at the court
of Menelaus when he sought news of Odysseus. Xenophon, in
his history called the Anabasis tells us that story of how his
soldiers lay on the ground in a drunken madness after having
eaten some wild honey at Colchis. Pliny refers to such honey as
meli maenomenon or the mad honey. This honey was produced
by bees that gathered toxins from Nerium or dogbane, the
Mediterranean oleander, and from the Rhododendron ponticum,
among other such toxic plants of the region. Pliny tells us that
aged meli maenomenon was made into a mead-wine.
Although Romans developed various anesthetic drinks they
never offered them to prisoners to deaden or ease their pain at
execution. So, the significance of the drink offered to Jesus must
have another meaning. All four Gospels mention that Jesus was
offered a drink during the crucifixion. Luke 23: 36 and John 19:
29 both agree that it was vinegar. Historically, Roman soldiers
carried a potable tart or pungent wine used to quench or slake
their thirst when water was not readily available. Frequently they
washed down their food with this acetum or vinegar. The
presence of the acetabulum or oxybaphon (OXUBAFON) or
vinegar dipping vessel attested to by John 19:29 who uses the
word SKEUOS instead evokes the image that the Roman
soldiers had been eating and drinking as they guarded the
executed prisoners. We know that Roman soldiers made a fire
and cooked grain or meat for the afternoon meal. Luke is even
more precise about this. In 23:36 he mentions the vinegar and
in 23:44 says it was about the sixth hour. For the Romans the
sixth hour was the time for the prandium (PRWHN) or lunch.
This presence of the acetabulum is strengthened by Poll. 6.85
and Athen 11.494 b, who attest to the food at table was dipped or
sopped into the acetabulum. John relates that a soldier dipped
a spongia (SPONGIOS) into the acetabulum to soak up some of
the vinegar. The Greeks used OXALMH, a wine and brine
mixture, medicinally, as cited by Philumenus, Ven., 32.3, quoting
Apollonius. They also had OXOS a vinegar put to the nose as a
mode of torture mentioned by Aristophanes, Ranae, 620 . The
Romans putting the sponge to Jesus' lips would have not
necessarily served as a drink since he was far within reaching
distance to have easily offered him a cup. To press the sponge
to his lips was to force him to inhale the fumes of pungent OXOS
(vinegar) as a torture much like the quote from Aristophanes.
Then taking a small twig of hyssop he used it as a batillum or
scooper to press it against Jesus' lips, which were well within
arms reach. However, this twig of hyssop was more probably
the peniculi cited by Ter. Eun. 4.7,7; Martial 12.48; and Plautus
Stich. 2.2,23. These were sponges on short sticks Roman
soldiers carried for cleaning their boots described by Plautus in
Menaechm. 2.3, 40. Romans used three grades of sponges (1)
TRAGOS which was a hard and course variety, (2) MANOS a soft
type, and (3) ACILLEION, a fine variety. This latter type was also
used for fitting the ocrea or greaves which were leg armor, and
for lining helmets. So, the sponge on a short stick and
wine-viegar were commodities commonly held by Roman
soldiers and are in keeping with what we should expect to find if
the story is consistent with the historical facts.
Besides having evidence of this custom practiced in his day
Luke and John also had the Sacred Scriptures. When they wrote
their Gospels they needed to discover how the events in Jesus'
life fulfilled the description of the messiah given in the
prophetical writings of the bible. This method "pesher" was
used by Jewish scholars who studied the scriptures to see how
they might be fulfilled in their day. The apostles used this
method to see how the events in Jesus' personal life were the
fulfillment of Sacred Scriptures in their day. These Evangelists,
therefore, cite vinegar as the drink offered to Jesus on the cross
since it serves as a pesher, or fulfillment of a prophecy about the
Messiah, proving once again that Jesus is it. In Psalm 69: 21-22
"In thy sight are all that afflict me; my heart hath expected
reproach and misery. And I look for one that would grieve
together with me, but there was none: and for one that would
comfort me and there was none. And they gave me gall for my
food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
Yet another meaning can be gleaned from Sacred Scripture that
does not refer to the Messiah but the disciples. Proverbs 10:26
"Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is the
dawdling messenger to the one who sends him."
The association of the vinegar in Luke's text to the Roman
prandium indicated the presence of smoke from the fire
customarily used for cooking in the field. The reference to
Proverbs 10:26, if it was intended, associated through the
imagery of Luke's text possibly drew the analogy that lacking true
devotion to Jesus by witnessing the Gospel with all due
diligence grieves him like that historical vinegar offering or the
smoke from the soldier's campfire.
Matthew 27:34, rather, says they offered him wine mixed with
gall. Here it is possible that Matthew was also referencing
Psalm 69. Matthew may have been trying to purposefully allude
to the manner of execution offered to the Greek philosopher
Socrates, who was given wine mixed with hemlock, since
hemlock was sometimes called gall (Hosea 10:4). The Greeks
had a variety of wine called ABROTONINOS since it was mixed
with wormwood from the Artemisia arborescens or ABROTON.
This way the parallel between Socrates and Jesus could easily
be accomplished. Socrates was put to death because he taught
virtue to the youth of Greece. By doing this he violated the
tradition of the Greek pagan polytheistic religion. Likewise,
Jesus also violated the human traditions that began to strangle
the spiritual life out of Judaism. He too taught people how to live
meaningful and virtuous lives. Creating this parallel between
these two great men would have facilitated the apostles to easily
convert the Greek speaking people who already knew about
Socrates. Recently, J. S. Kloppenborg (1992) pointed out that
Luke's attention to Jesus' final words was reminiscent of the
Greek manner of describing the last words of Socrates.
Mark 15:23, on the other hand, says it was wine mixed with
myrrh. Pliny Nat. Hist. 14.15;92, and 14.19,107 tells us that the
finest wines were scented with myrrh. The first thought is that
this was intended to have symbolic meaning and not be taken
literal. Why would Roman soldiers have on them the finest
wines at an executioners post? Furthermore, why would they
offer Jesus the finest wine? However, Roman soldiers imbibed
on perfumed wines during meals. Their jentaculum or breakfast
typically consisted of a wine scented with seselis or silis at
meal. It was from this scented wine that the jentaculum was
sometimes called silatum. Since Romans frequently consumed
scented wines at meals it seems only natural that at crucifixion
sites these wines served as an emunctary, an inhalant to
cleanse their noses like a snuffer, to fumigate the foul stench
from those crucified. This scented wine served as an aromatic
deodorant to freshen the air they inhaled. This was
accomplished by keeping the cups or goblets at their mouths
tilted upward so that the rim touched the bridge of their nose.
Consistent on the level of assonance puns or words of similar
sounds being associated the Aramaic or Hebrew word for myrrh
"mor" was associated with the Latin "morsus" meaning "a
pungent taste" as used by the Roman poet Marcus Valerius
Martialis (1st cent. B.C.-1st cent A.D.), commonly called Martial.
This would have been a poetic way of expressing the salvific
crucifixion of Jesus as a bitter cup whose fragrance is the
perfume of the tomb. Since myrrh was used for burial, as
attested to by John 19:39, the myrrh in the wine symbolizes the
death of Christ associated with the cup of wine or Eucharist.
This interpretation is reinforced by the use of the term for myrrh
in Latin. Since Roman goblets were made of a mineral called in
Latin "murrah' or `murra," meaning myrrh, a term also used by
Martial to signify the goblets themselves. Also mor may have
been targeted as an assonance pun on morus or the mulberry
tree. This black berry bearing tree was an arbor infelix, the type
used in the manufacture of the patibulum.
Just a few thoughts.
John N. Lupia
Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA
Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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- John Lupia wrote:
> Ted Weeden has pointed out problems of so-calledIf anyone's intersted, look at what I have to say on
> inconsistencies in the "drink motif" in the
> "Crucifixion Narrative".
the vinegar (and food and drink generally) in two SBL
papers. These are online:
Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
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