Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cannabis used in Biblical Annointing Oil? Maybe, Maybe Not.

I've been reading quite a number of articles lately claiming that cannabis was one of the ingredients of Holy Anointing Oil that is described in the First Testament (Exodus 30:23).

On the one hand, pro cannabis groups claim that the translation of Sweet Cane (Acorus camalus) was a mis-translation and that it was actually kineboisim, the Hebrew word for cannabis. The explanations are expanded to show that 'Jesus' used the oil and the arguments go on to state that Jesus and his mates were stoners (not the rock throwing type) and used the oil to get their visions etc. Personally, I'd love to believe this theory for two reasons. One, it would give more weight to the argument for removing pot prohibition, especially amongst the god fearing politicians around the world. Secondly, I kind of like the idea that a major religious figure in Western society might have been using cannabis as a healing herb.

On the other hand, some Christian groups claim that it is all poppycock and that Acorus camalus was indeed the herb used in the anointing oil mix, and that the only reason the cannabis argument is being pushed is so that 'drugees' and 'pot-head stoners' have another excuse to push for legalization.

Unfortunately, it is hard to prove one way or the other whether cannabis was used.

I'll list some extracts and links from the pro 'camalus was cannabis' arguments first. Please note that many of these links lead to Christian and non-Christian discussion forums. If you want to read further, please follow the links as I don't want to start ripping selected passages from each link, lest I be accused of pulling paragraphs out of context.

One of the more compelling arguments, and the one that most pro groups rely on is that the 'Sweet Camalus' referred to in the Exodus description of the Annointing Oil was mis-translated and actually means 'kineboisin'. In fact, in 1980, the Hebrew University made this translation official.

Links that argue the Hebrew University ruling:

A Post on 'Debating Christianity'

The Green Earth Ministries

The Book of Thoth site

Cannabis Culture covered this theory in detail:

Now, let's look at some of the sites that denounce the theory:

Wayne Blank, the author of the Daily Bible Study pulls the theory apart:

Chris Tilling does similar:

An argument on 'Talk' that turns nasty:

Jesus is also denounces the theory

What I find a little disconcerting about the anti-'camalus is pot' arguments is that there seems to be a general trend to make abusive statements about those that agree with the idea that the anointing oil contained cannabis. I won't enter into the argument, because I don't really care what was in the oil. However, if the folks who vehemently argue that cannabis was NOT used in the oil and say that it must have been 'Sweet Camalus' or Sweet Cane, they may be shocked to know that Acorus camalus is a well known hallucinogenic plant:

Have a little look at this page:
Here is an extract:

"ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Asarone and beta-Asarone

"EFFECT: A piece of 5cm (thick as a pen) is stimulating and evokes cheerful mood. A 25cm piece may lead to altered perception and hallucinations. Calamus is also an aphrodisiac, especially when used as an additive in your bathing-water

The most balanced description of calamus as used in Exodus' description of anointing oil is this:

fragrant cane
Keneh bosem in Hebrew. Ancient sources identify this with the sweet calmus (Septuagint; Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1; Saadia; Ibn Janach). This is the sweetflag or flag-root, Acoras calamus which grows in Europe. It appears that a similar species grew in the Holy Land, in the Hula region in ancient times (Theophrastus, History of Plants 9:7). Other sources apparently indicate that it was the Indian plant, Cympopogan martini, which has the form of red straw (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3). On the basis of cognate pronunciation and Septuagint readings, some identify Keneh bosem with the English and Greek cannabis, the hemp plant. There are, however, some authorities who identify the 'sweet cane' with cinnamon bark (Radak, Sherashim). Some say that kinman is the wood, and keneh bosem is the bark (Abarbanel).

This information is available at the Navigating The Bible site where it describes much of the bible in a matter of fact way.