Jesus's Last Days
I first contacted Dave with a question about how people cleaned their backsides throughout history in 2007. This was just idle curiosity on my part; I was working as a history teacher at that time. Like other Poopreporters, I suppose I sometimes think too much about shit and the customs associated with it.
During this time I learned the ancient Romans had a common practice of using vinegar-soaked sponges to clean up after their bowel movements. I was shocked this by this, and a spontaneous idea popped into my head.
As a boy attending church, I was often confounded by Bible stories. One odd detail about the crucifixion of Christ must have stuck somewhere in my subconscious. As Jesus was hanging on the cross, he complained of thirst. In response, it was written that a Roman soldier gave him a sponge soaked with vinegar to drink from. When I first heard the story so many years ago I wondered, "Why in the world would they give Jesus vinegar? Did people drink vinegar back then?"
It didn't occur to me that this may have been another form of torture. And I still wonder why that little detail is included in the story of the crucifixion. There isn't any explanation given in the Bible, even though it holds enough significance to be mentioned.
When I learned after contacting this site that vinegar soaked sponges were used by Romans to clean their asses, suddenly the memory of that little detail popped into my head, and I made a connection. Of course, I am not sure whether or not it's a valid connection, but the idea occurred to me that the vinegar and the sponge were one final sadistic act of degradation perpetrated against Jesus. And I pictured a thirsty Jesus, in agony, bloodied and dying on the cross, pleading for a drink, only to have a shit-stained, vinegar soaked sponge pushed into this face. Not a pleasant image – and obviously a detail that would certainly offend a lot of people.
I have read about holy relics being preserved after the death of Jesus. You have probably heard about the so-called true cross that was preserved after his death. The true cross was captured – and lost – and recaptured – during the Crusades, and at one time was transported all the way to Constantinople for safe keeping. Then it was sent back to the Holy land. Recently, while reading about the Byzantine Empire I also came across a reference to the sponge, which was also believed to have been preserved after the crucifixion and at one time was also considered a holy relic.
I never found the Bible easy to read, mainly because it never seemed to clearly explain a lot of what it recorded. This detail about Jesus pleading for a drink, and then being given vinegar from a sponge instead of water, is a good example of how vague the Bible can be. I have never heard anyone ever explain why the Roman soldier gave Jesus vinegar. And of course, I have never heard anyone report that this shit-stained sponge may have been the final insult of the crucifixion, not even in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.