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The Passion Story, Part 12

August 14, 2011

Before I go on to the fourth saying (although I’m not counting these in the chronological order that an attempt at harmonization would probably come up with), I want to say something more about the scene with the reed and sour wine. I will also include my comments about the different versions of Jesus’s last words (pre-resurrection, of course).

The first thing that needs to be considered about this scene is the narrative and textual relationship it has with John 19:28-30. John was probably using the story model of Mark, although John has few textual similarities with any Synoptic Gospel. If that is the case, John is aware of Mark 15:35-36. I don’t suppose John had any compunction, though, about creating a different event from similar details. However, there isn’t necessarily a contradiction between the two stories. They both could have happened; there’s just some tension between the two that I will note.

John gives me the idea that Jesus hadn’t yet been given a drink of the sour wine. The best way, I think, to harmonize this story with Mark’s is to make them almost the same event. After Jesus’s cry of “My God, my God,” he would say, “I thirst.” This scenario would just have to suppose that any inference that the cry had something to do with prompting the giving of sour wine is just a mistaken understanding. Then after Jesus receives the sour wine, he cries out again. The problem here is that John puts Jesus’s death immediately after the receiving of the sour wine, although it doesn’t mention a cry.

Instead, John has a different saying, “It is finished.” John gives no indication that this saying is a loud cry. This change is the most interesting departure John takes from Mark in this passage. It may be that the writer of John didn’t like the idea of Jesus crying out during the crucifixion.

However, if Mark’s story in 15:33-39 (which is mostly the same as Matthew 27:46-50) were first instead, the “loud cry” would have to be before the saying of “I thirst.” Would this have caused the soldiers (assuming the “they” in John are soldiers) to have given Jesus more sour wine, since he had just gotten some and his thirst was not quenched? Of course, I guess the time duration between these events could be a while, if they are to be split apart. A straightforward reading of them indicates immediacy, but that would not allow for the different last words both to be spoken.

This brings me to the other version of last words. Luke 23:46 has “a loud voice” of the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” I think, though, that this “loud voice” can easily be reconciled with the loud cry of Mark and Matthew.

And now that I’m speaking of Matthew and Mark, I will say that I am intrigued by the difference in the “Wait, let us see” comments in those two Gospels. In Mark, that comment comes from the same person who is taking sour wine to Jesus. In Matthew, it comes from “the rest” (NASB/HCSB/NIV) or “the others” (ESV). The Matthew reading seems to be a little smoother, which adds to the evidence that it was the later version. Of course, we have to remember that Mark’s version of the false witnesses in the Trial Story seemed to be smoother.

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