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The Passion Story, Part 10b

August 10, 2011
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Something I find very interesting in the Crucifixion Story is the change Matthew and Luke both have in many versions to the drink the soldiers offered Jesus when he was crucified. Mark 15:23 in the NIV says the soldiers “offered him [Jesus] wine mixed withmyrrh” and says in Matthew 27 and many versions agree with this understanding. In many versions, however, the soldiers offer Jesus “sourwine mingled with gall,” as in this quote from the NKJV. His was in fact the original reading this would be a strong problem for the combined theory of Markan priority and Lukan independence from Matthew.

If this verse is authentic, it would also be problematic for the idea of Biblical consistency, because Jesus, during his crucifixion, drinks some vinegar—or sour wine, as it is usually translated—in John 19:30. On the other hand, if the verse is authentic, that would seem to coincide well with the suggestion that the Gospel of Matthew was merely changing the description of the robe from “purple” (Mark 15:20) to “scarlet” (Matthew 27:28). This is just because Matthew could be understood as changing the description but not the intended meaning, as could have been the case with recording wine mixed with myrrh instead of wine with gall. Of course, this assumes it was common, or ever accepted, to put both myrrh and gall in wine.

The Gospel of Luke, of course, says that the soldiers offered Jesus sour wine (or vinegar), instead of wine. Now, I don’t even know if it’s possible that the wine was sour wine, but I think a different type of drink is intended. So the problem in the Gospels doesn’t go away, whether all three Synoptic Gospels disagree, or just Luke disagrees with the other two.

Likewise, many versions include the verse Mark 15:28, although many others do not or only include it in brackets, noting that it probably isn’t authentic. If it is authentic, it would destroy the theory that the Gospel of Mark did not bother to note its frequent similarity with passages of Hebrew scripture. However, its lack of authenticity must be fairly well established, because the observation that Mark doesn’t cite fulfilled prophecy seems to be common.

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