on Matthew 27 :34
They gave him vinegar - mingled with gall - Perhaps χολη, commonly translated gall, signifies no more than bitters of any kind. It was a common custom to administer a stupefying potion compounded of sour wine, which is the same as vinegar, from the French vinaigre, frankincense, and myrrh, to condemned persons, to help to alleviate their sufferings, or so disturb their intellect that they might not be sensible of them. The rabbins say that they put a grain of frankincense into a cup of strong wine; and they ground this on Proverbs 31:6 : Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, i.e. who is condemned to death. Some person, out of kindness, appears to have administered this to our blessed Lord; but he, as in all other cases, determining to endure the fullness of pain, refused to take what was thus offered to him, choosing to tread the winepress alone. Instead of οξος, vinegar, several excellent MSS. and versions have οινον, wine; but as sour wine is said to have been a general drink of the common people and Roman soldiers, it being the same as vinegar, it is of little consequence which reading is here adopted. This custom of giving stupefying potions to condemned malefactors is alluded to in Proverbs 31:6 : Give strong drink, שקר shekar, inebriating drink, to him who is ready to Perish, and wine to him who is Bitter of soul - because he is just going to suffer the punishment of death. And thus the rabbins, as we have seen above, understand it. See Lightfoot and Schoettgen.
Michaelis offers an ingenious exposition of this place: "Immediately after Christ was fastened to the cross, they gave him, according to Matthew 27:34, vinegar mingled with gall; but, according to Mark, they offered him wine mingled with myrrh. That St. Mark's account is the right one is probable from this circumstance, that Christ refused to drink what was offered him, as appears from both evangelists. Wine mixed with myrrh was given to malefactors at the place of execution, to intoxicate them, and make them less sensible to pain. Christ, therefore, with great propriety, refused the aid of such remedies. But if vinegar was offered him, which was taken merely to assuage thirst, there could be no reason for his rejecting it. Besides, he tasted it before he rejected it; and therefore he must have found it different from that which, if offered to him, he was ready to receive. To solve this difficulty, we must suppose that the words used in the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew were such as agreed with the account given by St. Mark, and at the same time were capable of the construction which was put on them by St. Matthew's Greek translator. Suppose St. Matthew wrote חליא במרירא (chaleea bemireera) which signifies, sweet wine with bitters, or sweet wine and myrrh, as we find it in Mark; and Matthew's translator overlooked the yod י in חליא (chaleea) he took it for חלא (chala) which signifies vinegar; and bitter, he translated by χολη, as it is often used in the Septuagint. Nay, St. Matthew may have written חלא, and have still meant to express sweet wine; if so, the difference only consisted in the points; for the same word which, when pronounced chale, signifies sweet, denotes vinegar, as soon as it is pronounced chala."
With this conjecture Dr. Marsh (Michaelis's translator) is not satisfied; and therefore finds a Chaldee word for οινος wine, which may easily be mistaken for one that denotes οξος vinegar; and likewise a Chaldee word, which signifies σμυρνα, (myrrh), which may be easily mistaken for one that denotes χολη, (gall). "Now," says he, "חמר (chamar) or חמרא (chamera) really denotes οινος (wine), and חמץ (chamets) or חמצא (charnetsa) really denotes οξος (vinegar). Again, מורא (mura) really signifies σμυρνα (myrrh), and מררא (murera) really signifies χολη (gall). If, then, we suppose that the original Chaldee text was חמרא הליט במורא (chamera heleet bemura) wine mingled with myrrh, which is not at all improbable, as it is the reading of the Syriac version, at Mark 15:23, it might easily have been mistaken for חמצא הליט במררא (chametsa haleet bemurera) vinegar mingled with gall." This is a more ingenious conjecture than that of Michaelis. See Marsh's notes to Michaelis, vol. iii., part 2d. p. 127-28. But as that kind of sour wine, which was used by the Roman soldiers and common people, appears to have been termed οινος, and vin aigre is sour wine, it is not difficult to reconcile the two accounts, in what is most material to the facts here recorded.
on Matthew 27 :34
They gave him vinegar ... - Mark says that, "they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh." The two evangelists mean the same thing. Vinegar was made of light wine rendered acid, and was the common drink of the Roman soldiers, and this might be called either vinegar or wine in common language. "Myrrh" is a bitter substance produced in Arabia, but is used often to denote anything bitter. The meaning of the name is "bitterness." See the notes at Matthew 2:11. "Gall" is properly a bitter secretion from the liver, but the word is also used to denote anything exceedingly "bitter," as wormwood, etc. The drink, therefore, was vinegar or sour wine, rendered "bitter" by the infusion of wormwood or some other very bitter substance. The effect of this, it is said, was to stupefy the senses. It was often given to those who were crucified, to render them insensible to the pains of death. Our Lord, knowing this, when he bad tasted it refused to drink. He was unwilling to blunt the pains of dying. The "cup" which his "Father" gave him he rather chose to drink. He came to suffer. His sorrows were necessary for the work of the atonement, and he gave himself up to the unmitigated sufferings of the cross. This was presented to him in the early part of his sufferings, or when he was about to be suspended on the cross. "Afterward," when he was on the cross and just before his death, vinegar was offered to him "without the myrrh" - the vinegar which the soldiers usually drank - and of this he drank. See Matthew 27:49, and John 19:28-30. When Matthew and Mark say that he "would not drink," they refer to a different thing and a different time from John, and there is no contradiction.
on Matthew 27 :34
27:34 They gave him vinegar mingled with gall - Out of derision: which, however nauseous, he received and tasted of. St. Mark mentions also a different mixture which was given him, Wine mingled with myrrh: such as it was customary to give to dying criminals, to make them less sensible of their sufferings: but this our Lord refused to taste, determining to bear the full force of his pains.