Marijuana in the Bible?

Marijuana in the Bible?

Both in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament and in the Aramaic translation, the word ‘kaneh’ or ‘ keneh’ is used either alone or linked to the adjective bosm in Hebrew and busma in Aramaic, meaning aromatic. It is ‘cana’ in Sanskrit, ‘qunnabu’ in Assyrian, ‘kenab’ in Persian, ‘kannab’ in Arabic and ‘kanbun’ un /chaldean. In Exodus 30: 23, God directed Moses to make a holy oil composed of “myrrh, sweet cinnamon, kaneh bosm and kassia.” In many ancient languages, including Hebrew, the root ‘kan’ has a double meaning — both hemp and reed. In many translations of the Bible’s original Hebrew, we find ‘kaneh bosm’ variously and erroneously translated as “calamus” and “aromatic reed,” a vague term. Calamus, (Calamus aromaticus) is a fragrant marsh plant. The error occurred in the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, in the third century B.C., where the terms ‘kaneh, kaneh bosm’ were incorrectly translated as “calamus.” And in the many translations that followed, including Martin Luther’s, the same error was repeated. In Exodus 30: 23 ‘kaneh bosm’ is translated as “sweet calamus.” In Isaiah 43: 24 ‘kaneh’ is translated as “sweet cane.” although the word “sweet” appears nowhere in the original. In Jeremiah 6: 20 ‘kaneh’ is translated as “sweet cane.” In Ezekiel 27: 19 ‘kaneh’ is translated as “calamus.” In Song of Songs 4: 14 ‘kaneh’ is translated “calamus.”

Another piece of evidence regarding the use of the word ‘kaneh’ in the sense of hemp rather than reed among the Hebrews is the religious requirement that the dead be buried in ‘kaneh’ shirts. Centuries later, linen was substituted for hemp (Klein 1908).

In the course of time, the two words ‘kaneh’ and ‘bosm’ were fused into one, ‘kanabos’ or ‘kannabus,’known to us from Mishna, the body of traditional Hebrew law. The word bears an unmistakable similarity to the Scythian “cannabis.” Is it too far-fetched to assume that the Semitic word ‘kanbosm’ and the Scythian word ‘cannabis’ mean the same thing?

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