A Look at Roman Glass Tear Bottles from the First Century

Roman Glass

Take this Cup from Me: A Look at Roman Glass Tear Bottles from the First Century

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olives, he prayed to God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Before the Roman period, glass was made with a sand core mold, and was extremely expensive (more expensive than gold), but during the Roman period, glass blowing was invented, which changed the entire glass industry. Glass became much more common, and one of the first types of vessels to be made using this new blowing technique is the small elongated bottle that we call the “tear bottle.” This is not only because of the shape of the bottle, but also because of its use to collect tears as a part of a Roman tradition during this time. Romans would use this bottle as a type of camera to remember times of joy, sadness, or repentance in his or her life. These bottles were often then buried with the individual to remember these events. The mourners would also collect their tears in these bottles and place them in the tomb as a way of showing respect for the deceased. These bottles are almost always found in tombs today.

This type of bottle was being made and used during Jesus’ time, and we see allusions to the tear bottle in the Bible. When Jesus was on the Mount of Olives, just before his death, he prayed “…take this cup from me…” and in the next verse, Luke tells us that Jesus’ tears turned to blood. This “cup” that Jesus refers to could very well be a reference to this Roman tradition of collecting tears. Luke tells us that Jesus’ tear bottle was filled not only with tears, but also with his blood. In addition to this, a sinful woman comes and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), and dries them with her hair. Her “tear bottle” was filled with tears of repentance, which was worth more to Jesus than all of her past mistakes.

Zak Mishriky

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