[The Leaven – exploring the relationship between science and religion (cont)]
The Jewish word for leaven is chametz. This is not normally thought to be yeast but naturally fermenting grain, particularly wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. In this respect, wine being fermented from grapes would not be considered leavened but beer probably would, as it is likely to contain barley. Sour wine or vinegar was also likely to be considered leavened. The Hebrew for vinegar is chometz meaning sour. This is almost the same as the word chametz which is probably derived from a similar meaning. Vinegar is made by fermenting an alcoholic substance, such as wine, a second time with acetic acid bacteria to convert ethanol into acetic acid. Turning wine into vinegar can be avoided by excluding air from the process as these bacteria are predominately aerobic. It is likely that wine frequently turned to vinegar in the Biblical era as a consequence of contamination and therefore it was thought to simulate corruption in a similar way to leaven. It has been suggested that when the term chometz is used in the Bible it refers to both leaven and vinegar as they are both considered to be sour. The Hebrew word for wine was yayin derived from the word yaneh meaning to squeeze or press. Sour wine was usually referred to as chometz yayin or chometz yin.
It is believed that vinegar or sour wine was offered to Jesus before and after the crucifixion:
And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, the place of the skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. They crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, they parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Golgotha was thought to be called the place of the skull because it was a hill that resembled a skull although it may have also been called this because it served as a place for executions. It was located at the entrance of Jerusalem. Some translations say that Jesus was offered vinegar while bearing the cross to Golgotha whereas others say it was wine containing gall. Gall was often referred to as anything that was bitter so it was more likely to be sour wine or vinegar. In his gospel, Matthew states that this was done to fulfil a prophecy. The particular prophecy that Matthew refers to is in the Old Testament. It describes the demeaning manner by which vinegar is offered to quench a thirst. The guards further demean Jesus by removing his clothing in order to share them between themselves. This is also predicted in a prophecy:
When I was hungry they gave me poison. When I was thirsty they offered me vinegar.
The gamble for my clothes and divide them among themselves.
In the Gospel according to John, Jesus drank vinegar just before he died whilst on the cross in order to fulfill the prophecy.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
It would seem that vinegar could be more likely to be viewed as a leavened drink than either wine or grape juice as it was synonymous with a corruptive influence in the same way as leaven.