Roman Glass Tear Bottles from the First Century

Take this Cup from Me: A Look at Roman Glass Tear Bottles from the First Century
Tear bottles and Jesus: 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). 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.

Tear bottles in New Testament

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…”  This “cup” that Jesus refers to, could possibly be a reference this type of bottle.

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. It may have been she had a “tear bottle” that was filled with tears of repentance. Her tears were worth more to Jesus than all of her past mistakes.

Zak’s Antiquities shop established in 1964 is located on the Christian Quarter road of the Old City in Jerusalem.

You are invited to visit Zak and feel the bustling surrounding his store. Come and enjoy a cup of tea and chat about the vast range of antiquity. His knowledge of antiquity and Roman glass tear bottles shall fascinate you.

Zak Mishriky

Old city Jerusalem Gifts