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Bible Q

What was the vinegar offered Jesus to drink on the cross?

The Greek word here is oxos (ὄξος), a tonic drink which may or may not have had sour wine as one of the ingredients.

Oxos had a history as a tonic drink in classical Greek, and is mentioned by AeschylusHippocratesAristophanes, Xenophon, and others. Hippocrates recommend adding honey to the tonic drink to sweeten it. In the New Testament this appears to be equivalent to the Latin word posca which was a Roman drink made from diluted vinegar often with salt and often herbs, and sometimes, but not always, the addition of wine. It was drunk both by soldiers and by the lower classes.

Given that oxos sometimes but not always contained wine it is impossible to say simply from the text whether the oxos offered to Jesus on a sponge contained wine or not. It appears from Matthew that there were at least two mixes of oxos offered to those crucified on that day – one with gall (khole χολή ), a painkiller which Jesus refused, and one without.

This word occurs 6 times in the New Testament

They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. (Matthew 27:34)
And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. (Matt 27:48)
And one ran and filled a sponge 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. (Mark 15:36)
And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, (Luke 23:36)
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:29-30)
And 4 times in the Greek Old Testament: for the Hebrew ḥōmetṣ (  חֹמֶץ )

He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. (Numbers 6:3)
And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. (Ruth 2:14)
They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalm 69:21)
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart. (Proverbs 25:20)

The Psalm 69 references is often taken as Messianic.


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