The Great Keneh Bosem Debate – Part 1

Recently, while roaming the net, I came across some criticisms regarding the various theories identifying references to cannabis in the Bible, such as the etymological research of Sula Benet. I will be answering the questions raised by these criticisms in this three-part article “The Great Keneh Bosem Debate”, which will break the elements down into the Old and New Testament accounts.

In the first part, I will focus on the claims of Tim at and his article disputing the research of Sula Benet, Does the Bible talk about Marijuana?.

Although Tim claims to be on a quest for the truth, it seems at, the truth is the first victim of foul play in this debate. I tried to post well written responses to Tim’s article on his site, but these were held up for days with the comment, “Your comment is awaiting moderation”, and then later deleted. Tim posted one small comment I made and wrote back “If you’ve written an article you want to link to, that is fine. Please do not paste entire articles in the comments or the comment will be deleted. Point by point debate is acceptable, and welcomed, but make it that – a point by point debate.”

Then I attempted a point by point debate, only to watch each point disappear from the thread. I will now post my complete response here and hopefully Tim’s commitment to the Truth returns and he is man enough to post it on his site and finish the debate which he first initiated.

The comment section for this thread will remain open and unedited. Feel free to jump into the debate, but if your responses contain personal attacks and off topic insults, (we have Trolls!) then do not expect an answer. May the truth prevail. If you know any other researchers who would like to take part in the debate, let them know.

My responses are taken from my books Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible (2001) and the forthcoming Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010)

The Great Keneh Bosem Debate!

Opening comments from Tim’s article “Does the Bible talk about Marijuana?” posted on

Someone said that Jesus used marijuana; that the anointing oil contained cannabis. Interesting.

Many who believe this cite the work of Dr. Sula Benet, an etymologist from Poland. In 1936 she concluded that the Hebrew words “q’nah-bosem” (Exodus 30:23Your browser may not support display of this image. ) were etymologically related to “cannabis” and then reached the further conclusion that the anointing oil included marijuana. She noted the similarities with words from other Middle Eastern language groups. She further noted that the word could be used to reference a reed plant or a hemp plant, but she reached the definite conclusion that in the Exodus passage it meant the hemp plant.

We find Benet’s arguments weak. Her logic fails in many areas.

We believe there are two fundamentals approaches to Scripture. One is to look for support for what you already believe. The other is to seek to find in Scripture how we should be changed. Those who use this second approach in their reading of the Bible may find this article of interest.

Read our article and tell us what you think.

Marijuana in Scripture:

My point by point Breakdown of Tim’s criticisms:

You state that there are Christians who use Scripture to justify the use of marijuana. There are also people who claim to know Christ and use Scripture to justify everything from racial hatred towards others to turning a deaf ear to the cries of the immigrant and the poor. Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21).

There are also people who have used the Bible to justify the drug war, the burning of witches and other crimes. I’m not really sure what your point is, that there is a lot of mean stuff in the Bible?

Paul tells us in Titus 1:16 that there are people who profess to know God but in their works they deny Him. I say this, not to state that everyone who uses marijuana is going to hell, but to say that people have long twisted the words of Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

There are two fundamental ways of approaching Scripture. The first way is to seek to find in Scripture support for what we want to do. The second way is to seek to find in Scripture how we should be changed (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). For those who follow the first way, I suspect there is nothing that I or others can say to change their minds. For those who follow the second, I offer the following.

Paul never met Jesus, initially he was persecuting Christians, and then when he converted, he is shown throughout the New Testament t be in conflict with Christians who were practicing the faith before his own timely conversion. The Roman Catholic church is based around the teachings of Paul and it was clearly in conflict with other early Christian groups now known by the collective name of Gnostics. These are key elements in the later suppression of cannabis and the Christian groups that used it, as well as the development of the Christian Dark Ages

As we shall see in this debate, these themes also play out in Tim’s analysis of the biblical references to cannabis, and are telling by what he leaves out of the discussion. One is left wondering if he was really on a quest for the truth of the matter, or merely out to discredit a perceived threat?

Scripture never mentions marijuana directly. You will not find it on the pages of either the Hebrew or the Greek texts. But then, neither are oranges, bananas, peaches, asparagus, spinach, artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes, rosary peas, castor beans (perhaps the most poisonous plant known to man), yews, poison ivy, poison oak, and numerous other plants both good and bad for health.

There are some who see Exodus 30:23 as a direct reference to marijuana. They cite Sula Benet, an etymologist from Poland who concluded in 1936 that the Hebrew words “q’nah-bosem” found at Exodus 30:23 were etymologically related to “cannabis” and then reached the further conclusion that the anointing oil included marijuana. She noted the similarities with words from other Middle Eastern language groups. She noted that the word could be used to reference a reed plant or a hemp plant, but she reached the definite conclusion that in the Exodus passage it meant the hemp plant. (I realize this was not the main point of her treatise, but it is the point that most impacts the present debate.) Others have stated that the Hebrew University supports this view, although no one apparently has been able to come up with a definitive source at that university for this statement. If you check out the Wikipedia article on cannabis (etymology), Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University suggests a different etymology for the word “cannabis.” [Please note that people differ on the way to transliterate the relevant Hebrew words (to show the Hebrew word using English characters). I use “q’nah-bosem” for the passage in Exodus (the only place where the basic Hebrew word “qaneh” appears with the Hebrew word “bosem”) and “qaneh” elsewhere. Some might use “kaneh” or other transliterations. The underlying Hebrew word “qof,” “nun,” “hey” (the three letters of the Hebrew alphabet used for “qaneh”) remains the same.]

In my view Dr. Benet’s evidence falls far short of proving the conclusion that “q’nah-bosem” was marijuana. The problem with her conclusion is at least seven-fold. First, there are no clear references that I have been able to find to cannabis in ancient Hebrew before the time of the Mishnah. The word “qaneh” is not associated with traditional aspects of hemp, either as rope, medicinal use, food use, or narcotic use in any of the ancient Hebrew texts, at least that I can find. Given this paucity of evidence, I do not think that anyone is able to reach a definite conclusion that the Hebrew word “q’nah-bosem” was a reference to cannabis.

Well, in this regard, there is not much evidence of Biblical events beyond the Bible itself, that can be documented by archaeology and other historical evidence. In regards to Benet’s identification to cannabis, it is not limited to Exodus 30:23 and it has garnered considerable support.

One of Anthropologist Sula Benet’s, original articles regarding the keneh bosem theory

As Sula Benet herself notes: “In the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament there are references to hemp, both as incense, which was an integral part of religious celebration, and as an intoxicant” (Benet 1975: 1936). Through comparative etymological study, Benet documented that in the Old Testament and in its Aramaic translation, the Targum Onculos, hemp is referred to as keneh bosem (variously translated as kaneh bosem, kaniebosm, q’neh bosm ) and is also rendered in traditional Hebrew as kannabos or kannabus. The root “kana” in this construction means “cane~reed” or “hemp”, while “bosm” means “aromatic”. This word appeared in Exodus 30:23, whereas in the Song of Songs 4:14, Isaiah 43:24, Jeremiah 6:20, Ezekiel 27:19 the term keneh (or q’aneh) is used without the adjunct bosem.

Anthropologist Vera Rubin (Jewish, so she knows the language)
Vera Rubin noted, that cannabis “appears in the OLD TESTAMENT because of the ritual and sacred aspect of it” (Rubin 1978).

The German researcher Immanuel Low, in his DIE FLORA DER JUDEN (1926\1967) identified a number of ancient Hebrew references to cannabis, here as an incense, food source, as well as cloth, noting the keneh, and keneh bosem references amongst others in this regard, independent of Benet . Interestingly, Immanuel Löw, referred to an ancient Jewish Passover recipe that called for wine to be mixed with ground up saffron and hasisat surur, which he saw as a “a kind of deck name for the resin the Cannabis sativa” (Low, 1924). Low suggests that this preparation was also made into a burnable and fragrant concoction by being combined with Saffron and Arabic Gum (Low, 1926\1967).

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a noted American Orthodox rabbi and author. In THE LIVING TORAH, Kaplan notes that “On the basis of cognate pronunciation and a Septuagint reading, some identify Keneh bosem with English and Greek cannabis, the hemp plant” (Kaplan, 1981). Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has also noted of early Kabalistic magical schools who used magic and other means of communion for mystic exploration, that “some practices include the use of ‘grasses,’ which were possibly psychedelic drugs” (Kaplan, 1993). The Kabalistic text the Zohar records:

“There is no grass or herb that grows in which G-d’s wisdom is not greatly manifested and which cannot exert great influence in heaven” and “If men but knew the wisdom of all the Holy One, blessed be He, has planted in the earth, and the power of all that is to be found in the world, they would proclaim the power of their L-rd in His great wisdom.” (Zohar.2,80B) Like the Zoroastrian royalty and priesthood, there are indications that early Kabbalists enjoyed the use of the herb, but prevented its consumption by the common people. In the P’sachim, “Rav Yehudah says it is good to eat… the essence of hemp seed in Babylonian broth; but it is not lawful to mention this in the presence of an illiterate man, because he might derive a benefit from the knowledge not meant for him.- Nedarim, fol. 49, col. 1” (Harris, et al., 2004). Other sources have noted a Kabbalistic comparison to the effects of cannabis with divine perception, noting an “intriguing reference to cannabis in the context of a fleeting knowledge of God: Zohar Hadash, Bereshit, 16a (Midrash ha-Ne’elam)” (Gross, et al., 1983). Thus, evidence for the use of cannabis in Jewish mysticism does exist,and this fits in well with the suggestions for the role of q’neh in pre-reformation Israel and Judea.

In 1980 the respected anthropologist Weston La Barre (1980) referred to the Biblical references in an essay on cannabis, concurring with Benet’s earlier hypothesis. In that same year respected British Journal New Scientist also ran a story that referred to the Hebrew OLD TESTAMENT references: “Linguistic evidence indicates that in the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament the ‘holy oil’ which God directed Moses to make (Exodus 30:23) was composed of myrrh, cinnamon, cannabis and cassia” (Malyon & Henman 1980).

As well, William McKim noted in DRUGS AND BEHAVIOUR, “It is likely that the Hebrews used cannabis… In the OLD TESTAMENT (Exodus 30:23), God tells Moses to make a holy oil of ‘myrrh, sweet cinnamon, kaneh bosem and kassia’” (McKim, 1986). A MINISTER’S HANDOOK OF MENTAL DISORDERS also records that “Some scholars believe that God’s command to Moses (Exodus 30:23) to make a holy oil included cannabis as one of the chosen ingredients” (Ciarrocchi, 1993).

Independent support for Benet’s view of the Semitic origins of the term kaneh can be found in THE WORD: THE DICTIONARY THAT REVEALS THE HEBREW SOURCE OF ENGLISH, by Isaac E. Mozeson. In reference to Hebrew kaneh, Mozeson follows a similar view to Benet’s that the “so-called IE root kanna… is admitted to be “of Semitic origin”….the IE word kannabis (hemp – a late IE word borrowed from an unknown source)” (Mozeson, 1989)….KANBOOS is an early post biblical term for hemp… The word HEMP is traced to Greek kannabis and Persian kannab… The ultimate etymon is conceded by Webster’s to be “a very early borrowing from a non-IE, possibly Semitic language…. In seeking related words… consider Aramaic… KENABH… and [Hebrew] KANEH…” (Mozeson, 1989) Interestingly Mozeson makes no reference to calamus in the context of the term kaneh.

Prof. Carl Ruck, Classical Mythology, Boston University , (also a linguist)

Cannabis is called kaneh bosem in Hebrew, which is now recognized as the Scythian word that Herodotus wrote as kannabis (or cannabis). The translators of the bible translate this usually as ‘fragrant cane,’ i.e., an aromatic grass. Once the word is correctly translated, the use of cannabis in the bible is clear. Large amounts of it were compounded into the ointment for the ordination of the priest. This ointment was also used to anoint the holy vessels in the Inner Sanctum or Tabernacle (‘tent’). It was also used to fumigate the holy enclosed space. The ointment (absorbed through the skin) and the fragrance of the vessels (both absorbed by handling and inhaled as perfume) and the smoke of the incense in the confined space would have been a very effective means of administering the psychoactive properties of the plant. Since it was only the High Priest who entered the Tabernacle, it was an experience reserved for him, although as the chrism of priestly ordination it was probably also something experienced in a different way by the whole priesthood. This same psychoactive chrism was later used for the coronation of the kings.

As well, my co-author of Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible, Neil McQueen, who has a Masters in religious Studies and a degree in Hebrew, is also a supporter of Benet’s theory

As well, there is other linguistic evidence:

In different publications of A Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, the 19th century scholar John Kitto put forth two, potentially related, etymologies for “hashish”, through Hebrew terms Shesh, which originates in reference to some sort of “fibre plant”, and the possibly related word, Eshishah, (E-shesh-ah?) which holds connotations of “syrup” or “unguent”.

“SHESH… also SHESHI, translated fine linen in the Authorized Version, occurs twenty eight times in Exodus, once in Genesis, once in Proverbs, and three times in Ezekiel. Considerable doubts have, however, always been entertained respecting the true meaning of the word; some have thought it signified fine wool, others silk; the Arabs have translated it by words referring to colours in the passages of Ezekiel and of Proverbs. Some of the Rabbins state that it is the same word as that which denotes the number six, and that it refers to the number of threads of which the yarn was composed. … This interpretation, however, has satisfied but few….

Shesh… must… be taken into consideration. In several passages where we find the word used, we do not obtain any information respecting the plant; but it is clear it was spun by women (Exod. xxx. 25), was used as an article of clothing, also for hangings, and even for the sails of ships, as in Ezekiel xxvii. 7. It is evident from these facts that it must have been a plant known as cultivated in Egypt at the earliest period, and which, or its fibre, the Israelites were able to obtain even when in the desert. As cotton does not appear to have been known at this very early period, we must seek for shesh among the other fibre yielding plants, such as flax and hemp. Both these are suited to the purpose, and were procurable in those countries at the times specified. Lexicographers do not give us much assistance in determining the point, from the little certainty in their inferences. The word shesh, however, appears to us to have a very great resemblance, with the exception of the aspirate, to the Arabic name of a plant, which, it is curious, was also one of those earliest cultivated for its fibre, namely hemp. Of this plant, one of the Arabic names is… husheesh, or the herb par excellence, the term being sometimes applied to the powdered leaves only, with which an intoxicating electuary is prepared. This name has long been known, and is thought by some to have given origin to our word assassin, or hassasin. Makrizi treats of the hemp in his account of the ancient pleasure grounds in the vicinity of Cairo, “famous above all for the sale of the hasheesha,, which is still greedily consumed by the dregs of the people, and from the consumption of which sprung the excesses, which led to the name of ‘assassin’ being given to the Saracens in the holy wars.”

“Hemp is a plant which in the present day is extensively distributed, being cultivated in Europe, and extending through Persia to the southernmost parts of India. There is no doubt, therefore, that ‘it might easily have been cultivated in Egypt. We are, indeed, unable at present to prove that it was cultivated in Egypt at an early period, and used for making garments, but there is nothing improbable in its having been so. Indeed, as it was known to various Asiatic nations, it could hardly have been unknown to the Egyptians. Hemp might thus have been used at an early period, along with flax and wool, for making cloth for garments and for hangings, and would be much valued until cotton and the finer kinds of linen came to be known…. There is no doubt… that it might easily have been cultivated in Egypt.”

“…Indeed, as it was known to various Asiatic nations, it could hardly have been unknown to the Egyptians, and the similarity of the word hasheesh to the Arabic shesh would lead to a belief that they were acquainted with it…” (Kitto, 1856)

“ESHISHAH, eshishah, once translated ‘flagon’ only: in three passages ‘flagon of wine’ and once ‘flagon’ with grapes joined to it in the original, as noticed in the margin (Hosea iii. 1). The Sept. renders it in four different ways, viz. … ‘a cake from the frying- pan’ (2 Sam. vi. 19); in another part, which narrates the same fact…, ‘a sweet cake of fine flour and honey’ (1 Chron. xvi. 3)… a cake made with raisins (Hos. iii. 1), *raisins here corresponding to ‘grapes’ in the Hebrew ; and by one copy…, ‘sweet cakes’ (Cant. ii. 5) ; but in others ‘unguents’ [!-emphasis added]. In the Targum to the Hebrew… tzappikhith. in Exod. xvi. 31, the Chaldee term is… [Hebrew] ethiilian, ‘a cake,’ rendered in our version by ‘wafers.’ Eshishah has been supposed to be connected with [Hebrew]… ash, ‘fire’ and to denote some sort of ‘sweet cake’ prepared with fire; but the second part of the word has not been hitherto explained.”

“Perhaps the following extract from Olearius (1637) may throw light on the kind of preparations denoted by shemarin [preserves or jellies]and eshishah: ‘The Persians are permitted to make a sirrup of sweet wine, which they boyl till it be reduc’d to a sixth part, and be grown as thick as oyl. They call this drug duschab [debhash], and when they would take, of it, they dissolve it with water.’ ‘Sometimes they boyl the duschab so long that they reduce it into a paste, for the convenience of travellers, who cut it with a knife, and dissolve it in water.’ At Tabris they make a certain conserve of it, which they call halva… mixing therewith beaten almonds, flour, &c. They put this mixture into a long and narrow bag, and having set it under the press, they make of it a paste, which grows so hard that a man must have a hatchet to cut it. They make also a kind of conserve of it, much like a pudding, which they call zutzuch, thrusting through the middle of it a small cotton thread to keep the paste together… Amongst the presents received by the ambassadors there is enumerated ‘a bottle of scherab [syrup]or Persian wine’… This zutzuch is but a harsh corruption of the Hebrew eshishah, and is by others called hashish and achicha. Even this substance, in course of time, was converted into a medium of intoxication by means of drugs. Hemp is cultivated and used as a narcotic over all Arabia. The flowers, when mixed with tobacco, are called hashish. The higher classes eat it (hemp) in a jelly or paste called majoon mixed with honey, or other sweet drugs’ … De Sacy and Lane derive the name of the Eastern sect of ‘Assassins’ (Hashshusheen). ‘hemp- eaters,’ from their practice of using shahdanaj [Persian – cannabis] to fit them for their dreadful work. El-ldreesee, indeed, applies the term Hasheesheeyeh to the ‘Assassins.’” (Kitto, 1845/1854)

In a 1903 essay, Indications of the Hachish-Vice in the Old Testament A British physician, Dr. C. Creighton, concluded that several references to marijuana can be found in the Old Testament. Examples are the ‘honeycomb’ referred to in the Song of Solomon, 5:1, and the ‘honeywood’ in I Samuel 14: 25-45” (Consumer Reports 1972). Creighton felt that in “the O.T. there are some half-dozen passages where cryptic references to hachish may be discovered… But that word, which is the key to the meaning, has been knowingly mistranslated in the Vulgate and in the modern version, having been rendered by a variant also by the LXX in one of the passages, and confessed as unintelligible in the other by the use of a marginal Hebrew word in Greek letters” (Creighton 1903).

“Hachish, which is the disreputable intoxicant drug of the East…is of unknown antiquity. It is known that the fiber of hemp-plant, Cannabis sativa, was used for cordage in ancient times; and it is therefore probable that the resinous exudation, “honey” or “dew”, which is found upon its flowering tops on some soils, or in certain climates (Cannabis Indica), was known for its stimulant or intoxicant properties from an equally early date…we may assume it to have been traditional among the Semites from remote antiquity. There are reasons, in the nature of the case, why there should be no clear history. All vices are veiled from view; they are sub rosa; and that is true especially of the vices of the East. Where they are alluded to at all, it is in cryptic, subtle…and allegorical terms. Therefore if we are to discover them, we must be prepared to look below the surface of the text.” (Creighton 1903)

Dr. Creighton put forth the idea that the tale of Nebuchadnezzar eating grass gave indication of cannabis use. He stated that “in the case of Daniel’s apologue of Nebuchadnezzar’s fall, it arises from the eating of ‘grass’, the Semitic word having both a generic and a colloquial meaning (hachish), as well as from the introduction of the subjective perceptions of hachish intoxication as gigantic or grotesque objects” (Creighton 1903).

The German researcher Immanuel Low, in his DIE FLORA DER JUDEN (1926\1967) identified a number of ancient Hebrew references to cannabis, here as an incense, food source, as well as cloth, noting the keneh, and keneh bosem references amongst others in this regard independent of Benet . Interestingly, Immanuel Löw, referred to an ancient Jewish Passover recipe that called for wine to be mixed with ground up saffron and hasisat surur, which he saw as a “a kind of deck name for the resin the Cannabis sativa” (Low, 1924). Low suggests that this preparation was also made into a burnable and fragrant concoction by being combined with Saffron and Arabic Gum (Low, 1926\1967).

Botanist William Emboden the “shamanistic Ashera priestesses of pre-reformation Jerusalem… anointed their skins with… [a cannabis]mixture as well as burned it” (Emboden 1972).

Professor Stanley Moore, chairman of the philosophy department of the University of Wisconsin-Olatteville, has stated that Biblical references to “aromatic herbs” and “smoke” could mean psycho-active drugs used in religious observances that Moore said are as old as religion itself. “Western Jews and Christians, who shun psycho-active drugs in their faith practices, are the exception, not the norm.”

More recently, as Tim notes, Raphael Mechoulam and associates at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have suggested the following etymology for cannabis: Greek cannabis < Arabic kunnab < Syriac qunnappa < Hebrew pannag (= bhanga in Sanskrit and bang in Persian). Mechoulam explains that in Hebrew, only the consonants form the basis of a word and the letters p and b are frequently interchangeable. The authors think it probable that pannag, which they saw as indicating a preperation of cannabis rather than whole plant, mentioned in the Bible by the prophet Ezekiel as being an item of trade on an incoming caravan (Ezekiel 27:17) (Mechoulam, et al., 1991). Mechoulam’s suggestion of ‘pannag’ may have some support through its similarity to the Egyptian Ne-penthe, which has long been suggested as a reference to a powdered cannabis preparation, possibly hashish, and which was mixed with wine. “It is generally assumed that the drug, which Helen is supposed to have learned in Egypt, was opium, but the effects as described in the poem are much more like Cannabis, which was also widely employed in Egypt and throughout the Near East” (Ruck, et al., 2007). Numerous researchers have seen nepenthe as a cannabis concoction. An idea first put forth by the French Pharmacist Joseph Virey (1775—1846) who suggested in 1813 that hasheesh was Homer’s nepenthe (Bulletin de Pharmacie). Many others have since concurred: “The opinions entertained by the learned, on the nature of the Nepenthe of the ancients have been various. By Th. Zwinger, and… by Sprengel, in his history of botany, it is supposed to be opium… But the best authorities, with whom our author coincides, are of opinion that the Nepenthe was derived from the Cannabis sativa of Linnaeus” (Christen, 1822); “the famous nepenthe of the ancients is said to have been prepared by decocting the hemp leaves” (Watt, 1853); “nepenthe which may reasonably be surmised was bhang from the far east” (Benjamin, 1880). As the authors of The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians also concluded: “Nepenthes… Perhaps the Bust or Hasheesh, a preparation of the Cannabis sativa” (Wilkinson & Birch, 1878). See also (Walton, 1938; Burton, 1894; Lewin, 1931; Singer and Underwood, 1962; Oursler, 1968; Wills, 1998). It is clearly the Nepenthe that Prof Richard Evans Schultes and Prof. Albert Hofmann are referring to when they wrote in a chapter on cannabis “In ancient Thebes the plant was made into a drink with opium like effects” (Schultes & Hofmann, 1979). In A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, Yule and Crooke note an interesting connection between a Coptic (Greek-Egyptian) term and the nepenthe; “Bhang is usually derived from Skt. Bhanga, ‘breaking,’ but [Sir Richard] Burton derives both it and the Ar. Banj from the old Coptic Nibanj, ‘meaning a preparation of hemp; and here it is easy to recognize the Homeric Nepenthe’1” (Yule, et al., 1903/1996). As Abram Smythe Palmer also notes in Folk-etymology: “Nepenthe, the drug which Helen brought from Egypt, is without doubt the Coptic nibendj, which is the plural of bendj, or benj, hemp, ‘bang,’ used as an intoxicant” (Palmer, 1882). When one returns to the contemporary Avestan term for cannabis, b’a?’ha, the similarity in this context, ne- b’a?’ha, brings us to an even closer to the cognate pronunciation ‘nepenthe.’ One can also note a similarity to the Indian term ‘panga,’ which refers to a paste made from pounded cannabis leaves mixed with water (Watt, 1908). (It should be noted that by the time the pyramids were built, there had already been large cities in India’s Mohenjodaran-Harappan in India, [geographically close to Mesopotamia and Scythian southwest Asia], for some centuries). The Hebrew term ‘pannag,’ which Dr. Raphael Mechoulam believes identifies a preparation of cannabis (Mechoulam, et al., 1991) is also similiar. Interestingly, as nepenthe was a powder it is notable that both of these terms are believed to identify prepared forms of cannabis as well. This word may have come into the Hebrew through Indo-European traders such as the Scythians. It is interesting to note that it has been suggested that “Scythians took cannabis into Egypt via Palestine…” (Feinberg & Keenan, 2005). Indeed from what we have seen such etymology could have easily carried over. A cultural connection between the Scythians and Hebrews, including trade, has long been suggested, and the Polish anthropologist Sula Benet felt that cannabis was an important item of trade between the two cultures. The possibility that raw cannabis may have been distinguished from prepared cannabis resin, as is suggested by the name such as ‘pannaq’ is clearly plausible, as this was the practice in other cultures of the ancient world, and today.

Second, the fact that the Mishnah used a different word spelled with different Hebrew characters to reference marijuana lends support to a conclusion that the rabbis did not think that the word “q’nah-bosem” was a reference to marijuana. This is not a situation where the words “qaneh” and “bosem” ceased to exist and were replaced by “qanabos.” The words “qaneh” and “bosem” continued to be used by Hebrew writers at the same time that “qanabos” came into the Hebrew vocabulary. And the words “qaneh” and “bosem” in post Biblical writings are not associated with hemp. Dr. Benet’s thesis that “q’nah-bosem” over time became “qanabos” is undermined by this continued use of “qaneh” and “bosem” to mean something other than “qanabos.”

Hebrew language changed throughout the period, just as English language has, compare words from just a few centuries ago. Such changes are even used to decipher the different periods texts were written in. The term qanabos is an obvious etymological evolutionary cognate development of q’aneh bosem. The term q’aneh bosem itself means “fragrant cane”, both words came to be used independently. Kaneh, meaning cane in references to the useful stalks of cannabis, came to be a generic term for stalks used for measuring, and the term later came to denote a measure. Bosem continued in its role as a reference to fragrance.

Third, the support for linking “qanabos” to “q’nah-bosem” is not particularly strong. Of the six letters in the two Hebrew words “q’nah-bosem” (Hebrew words do not include the vowels), that is, the letters “qof,” “nun,” “hey,” “bet,” “shin,” and “mem,” only three of them appear in the word “qanabos.” The letters shared are qof, nun, and bet. The letters hey, shin, and mem are not shared. Further, the word “qanabos” contains the letters “vav” and “samech,” letters not contained in the earlier “q’nah-bosem.” Given that three letters from the earlier word are left out and two letters are supplied, in a five letter word, does not provide great confidence to me that the source word for “qanabos” is “q’nah-bosem,” even if the sounds are somewhat the same. While I acknowledge that the loss of the “hey” and the inclusion of the “vav” may be due to shifts in spelling, and while I acknowledge that the letters “shin” and “samech” sometimes cross over into each other’s territory, I am at a loss to explain the loss of “mem.” The “mem” in “bosem” is not a plural or other additive to a stem as it is in “elohim,” as some sites wrongly state. It is the basic stem of the word.

But an even bigger problem exists when one realizes how shaky the historical connection really is. Once, in the 15th century B.C., if one accepts a traditional dating for Moses, or in the 5th or 6th century B.C., if one accepts a post-exilic view of the dating for the Torah, the term “q’nah-bosem” is used. This is the only use of this term ever cited. The term does not appear again in ancient Hebrew. Somewhere around 200 A.D., in the Mishnah the word “qanabos” appears in the tractate Kil’ayim and in the tractate Nega’im. There is no evidence that the term “q’nah-bosem” or any intermediate forms of the term were ever used by the Hebrews during the intervening 7 to 17 centuries between the time the term was used in Exodus and when the new term appeared in the Mishnah. But we are asked to believe that the similarities of sounds in a word used centuries before supports a conclusion that it was the derivative of the word “qanabos.” Borrowing from the prophets, this is a shaky reed.

This linguistic shift is not hard to understand when you take into account that much of the Hebrew language was transmitted orally. First, it should be noted that Tim is clearly being disingenuous with his presentation. Benet clearly refers to the term q’neh being used without bosem in Song of Songs 4:14, Isaiah 43:24, Jeremiah 6:20, Ezekiel 27:19. The combined term q’neh bosem itself only appears in Exodus 30:23

Tim’s language problems disappear when the intervening use of q’eneh put forth by Benet are included. As Tim notes, the loss of the ‘hey’ in q’aneh and the inclusion of the ‘vav’ in qanabos “may be due to shifts in spelling”.

Further, the indications from the references to q’aneh cited by Benet, which Tim fails to acknowledge, indicate that use of the plant fell into disfavour and it was eventually prohibited. So its not like that cannabis or its name was widely being used.

To make matters worse, Dr. Benet ignores the most obvious source of “qanabos,” that is, the Greek word “cannabinos” widely used at that time to mean “hemp” (Liddell and Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, published by Oxford press). The Mishnah was composed when the prevalent language in the area was Greek. Speculation this thin is hardly the stuff to warrant hard conclusions.

Fourth, as a general rule, one can spot foreign words in ancient Hebrew by the number of letters in the stem of the word. The Hebrew language is marked by words with three letter stems. Both “qaneh” and “bosem” have three letter stems. the word “qanabos” is a five letter stemmed word. As such, the possibility of a foreign origin for the word must be seriously explored. Given that the word in the surrounding culture for marijuana was “cannabinos,” it seems more likely to me that the Hebrew “qanabos” is simply a transliteration of the Greek word into the Hebrew language, rather than a derivative of an older Hebrew form.

Tim’s point about the Mishnah word being a foreign word in Hebrew is correct, but what he failed to notice is that that this is also true of Keneh Bosem, and the Old Testament references as well. Benet’s etymological research regarding the Hebrew terms ‘keneh bosem’ and ‘keneh’ was based upon tracing the modern word ‘cannabis’ back through history to show the similarities between the cognitive pronunciation of ‘cannabis’ and ‘keneh bosem’ and as well as comparing the term to the names used for cannabis by contemporary kingdoms, such as the Assyrian and Babylonians terms for the plant ‘qunubu’. In fact the term ‘keneh bosem’, also rendered q’neh bosem’ is the Hebrew transliteration of an earlier Indo-European term for the plant ‘canna’. This term left traces through the vernacular ‘an’ seen in various modern terms for cannabis, such as the Indian bhang, the French chanvre, the Dutch canvas and the German hanf and Greek. Kannabis The adjunct Hebebrew “bosem” is used as an adjective, in way of “fragrance”, likely something similar and related occurred in the Assyrian Qunubu, which is also known to have been derived from the same Indo-European root word.

This use of an Indo-European word in the Semitic language shows that the ritual use of cannabis came to the Hebrews from foreign sources and, as an item of trade, likely via the Scythians, who are known to have spread the term canna around much of the ancient world, with established trade routes reaching through the mid east, into India, China and Europe. As an item of trade, cannabis retained the core aspects of its original name in the different areas where it arrived. As Benet notes,

“Since the history of cannabis has been tied to the history of the Scythians, it is of interest to establish their appearance in the Near East. Again, the Old Testament provides information testifying to their greater antiquity than has been previously assumed. The Scythians participated in both trade and wars alongside the ancient Semites for at least one millennium before Herodotus encountered them in the fifth century B.C.. The reason for confusion and the relative obscurity of the role played by the Scythians in world history is explained by the fact that they were known to the Greeks as Scythians but to the Semites as Ashkenaz. Identification of the Scythian-Ashkenaz as a single people is convincingly made by Ellis H. Minns (1965) in his definitive work on Scythians and Greeks. The earliest reference to the Ashkenaz people appears in the Bible in Genesis 10:3, where Ashkenaz, their progenitor, is named the son of Gomer, the great-grandson of Noah.” (Benet, 1975)

Indeed, in both the Jeremiah 6:20Your browser may not support display of this image. and Ezekiel 27:19 references referred to by Benet, (and notably excluded by Tim, in his alleged quest for the Truth) cannabis is identified as coming as an item of trade (“Danites and Greeks from Uzal bought your merchandise; they exchanged wrought iron, cassia and q’aneh [cannabis]for your wares.” Ezekiel 27:19) and also condemned as coming from from a foreign land, (“What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet q’aneh [cannabis]from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me” Jeremiah 6:20). It should be noted that “sweet” in the Jeremiah reference, is derived from the Hebrew term “towb”, which, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, also has connotations of “good, a good thing, cheerful, fine, kind, merry, pleasant, precious favoured”, and by no means necessarily refers to taste, making for the translation of “sugar-cane” in some modern Bibles and an unexplained an assumption that somehow sugar-cane was rejected by Yahweh, and an ingredient in Biblical incense. The indications from the Jeremiah reference also indicate the use of hemp in incenses. It should also be noted that the additional references noted by Benet, and not included by Tim, when put into the context of the Biblical storyline, indicate that this foreign association with the plant may in fact have been the cause of its disfavour amongst the ancient Hebrews. Certain researchers, who claim the designation of ‘calamus’ as keneh bosem stands correct, have failed to note this situation, which excludes ‘calamus’ by the fact that it was a common marsh root in the area, not a precious item of trade. The term also has some similarities with the contemporary Assyrian terms, as well as identical uses in both groups, as shown above.

It should be note that Sula Benet herself, missed a very important point regarding the Indo-European roots of the term cannabis, and instead tried to identify the word as a Semitic word, that made its way into a a variety of Indo-European dialects. As the anthropologist Weston La Barre notes of this:

“All the Indo-European languages have dialectically equivalent terms for hemp: Anglo-Saxon henep,… Middle English hemp, Danish and Middle Low German hennep, Icalandic hampr, Swedish hampa, German hanf, Polish konop, Bohemeian konope, Old Bulgarian and Russian konoplya, Lithuanian canapés, Lettish kenepa, Irish canaib, Persian qinnab, Greek kannabis, Latin cannabis, French chanvre, and Sanskrit cana. An earlier anthropologist, Berthold Laufer, believed that the Indo-Eoropean term for hemp was a loan word from ancient Finno-Ugrian and Turkic stocks of north central Eurasia; but “Scythian,” by some etymologists (doubtless influenced by a earlier mention in Herodotus), has also been the proposed donor of the term in several Indo-European languages independently. However, since the appropriate linguistic rules for sound-change appear to have been followed, the word would seem very old in Indo-European, rather than multiply borrowed. Again if as the anthropologist Sula Benet proposes, the cannabis terms are borrowed from a Semetic language, then there is the problem of a seemingly pan-Indo-European term diffused from ancient northern Eurasia. And cannabis, of course grows wild in north central Eurasia, whence the Indo-Europeans came. That the terms are manifest dialectic equivalents would constitute the solidest possible evidence for the antiquity of the word, since the undivided Neolithic Indo-Europeans began to migrate (spreading prehistorically all the way from Ireland to Ceylon) and to break up dialectically in the early Bronze Age.” (La Barre, 1980)

This is an important point, as much of the Indo-European mythology of cannabis, followed it with these linguistics, as it travelled around the world, deeply influencing the cosmologies of a number of existing religions, including those recorded in the Bible.

Fifth, cannabis or hemp has long been a source of rope and yet the words for rope or cord in the Hebrew have no correlation to the term “qaneh.”

Nor do the terms in the English language. Quite likely the cannabis that came as an item of Trade, came at a point the Hebrews had already come up with some sort of rope of their own. Other researchers have however, seen the use of cannabis fibres in both the more ancient and Midrashic periods of Judaism. As Benet noted “Another piece of evidence regarding the use of word kaneh in the sense of hemp rather than reed is the religious requirement that the dead be buried in kaneh shirts. Centuries later linen was substituted for hemp (Klien 1908)” referring to Sigfried Kleins Tod und Begrabnis in Palistina. We can also point to the references to shesh noted by the 19th century Biblical scholar John Kitto, as referred to above. Religious scholar, Dr. Marinus de Waal, has commented that parts of the holy sanctuary made by Moses, under the Lords command, utilized the fibres of the hemp plant;

“Fabric from hemp fibre was used by the ancient Israelites for clothing, but was later replaced for this purpose by cotton and linen. It was more often cultivated for its strong fibers and hemp seed, used in carpets and rope. The latter was used in the days of Moses for making the sanctuary:”‘And let every wise-hearted man among you come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded…the hangings of the court, the pillars thereof, and their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; the pins of the tabernacle, and the pins of the court, and their cords…’-(Exodus 35:10,17,18)” (De Waal 1994)

Sixth, Dr. Benet’s speculation is perhaps the best an etymologist can do, but it is hardly “proof” of the conclusion that “q’neh-bosem” is the source for “qanabos.” Several web sources state that Dr. Benet’s conclusions were confirmed by the Hebrew University in 1960; but no one seems to be able to say who at the Hebrew University provided the confirmation. Hebrew University is a big place. Unverifiable facts do not build credence to claims. As stated above, Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University suggests a different etymology, though he is far more cautious in asserting that his conclusion is the definitive statement on the issue

This is a fair point, the source of the Hebrew University reference was one Dean Latimer, in an article that appeared in High Times,

“Around 1980, etymologists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem confirmed that cannabis is mentioned in the Bible by name, Kineboisin (also spelled Kannabosm), in a list of measured ingredients for “an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of apothecary’ to be smeared on the head. The word was mistranslated in king James version as ‘calamus’2.- Exodus 30:23”(Latimer 1988)3

When I was a less experienced researcher, I quoted Latimer, then later tried to track it down to no avail, even attempting to contact Latimer, but I never received a response, so it goes unverified at this point. However, as noted above, in my response (C) there is considerable and widespread academic support for Benet’s work, as well as my own contributions to this line of research.

Seventh, even if the modern word “qanabos” should be properly traced back to the words “q’nah-bosem,” a position I do not accept for reasons stated in this article, the conclusion that the ancient meaning of “q’nah-bosem” was cannabis is a leap. This is especially true given the continued use of “qaneh” in Hebrew to mean something different than “qanabos.” Word etymology is interesting, but hardly conclusive as to what a word meant in ancient times. Our modern word “dynamite” comes from a Greek word “dunamis,” but one should never read “dunamis” in the New Testament and think the ancient author meant “dynamite.” Even within languages, the meanings of words change. One would be foolish to transpose the modern usage of the word “gay” to its intended meaning in 18th century documents. The modern word “matzpun” in Hebrew means “conscience,” but the ancient Hebrew word meant “treasure.” The word did not slowly change into another meaning. The modern word meaning “conscience” entered the Hebrew vocabulary in the Middle Ages as a new word, displacing the old word of the same spelling. This and other examples of changes in meaning in Hebrew words can be found in an article by Professor E. Y. Kutscher, Professor of Hebrew Philology at Hebrew University ( Even if one were to accept Dr. Benet’s conclusions as the etymological source for the modern word “cannabis,” which I do not, I have found no evidence, outside of what I see as a weak conclusion drawn from etymology, that the word “qaneh” ever meant hemp in ancient Hebrew. However, the fact that the word can mean the reed plant seems to be admitted by all, including Dr. Benet.

As I have shown, there is considerable support for Benet’s etymology. That the cognate pronunciation q’eneh bosem has made it into the present day as cannabis, is not so surprising, when we consider cinnamon, is also mentioned in Exodus 30:23 with the similarly sounding Hebrew name kinnamon. Further, when the word q’eneh bosem is compared with references to the recognized Assyrian word for cannabis, and the similar way it was utilized in the religious lives of both cultures further evidence of a connection above and beyond that of mere etymology is strongly suggested.

In ancient Mesopotamia cannabis was used both medicinally and oils and incenses were prepared from the plant because its “aroma was pleasing to the Gods” (Meissner 1925). In the second quarter of the first millennium b.c., the “word qunnabu (qunapy, qunubu, qunbu) begins to turn up as for a source of oil, fiber and medicine”(Barber 1989). In our own time, numerous scholars have come to acknowledge qunubu as an early reference to cannabis4.

Recipes for cannabis incense, regarded as copies of much older versions, were found in the cuneiform library of the legendary Assyrian king Assurbanipal, and records from the time of his father Esarhaddon, cannabis, ‘qunubu’ as one of the main ingredients of the “sacred rites”. In a letter written in 680 bc to the mother of the Assyrian king, Esarhaddon, reference is made to qu-nu-bu. In response to Esarhaddon’s mother’s question as to “What is used in the sacred rites”, a high priest named Neralsharrani responded that “the main items…. for the rites are fine oil, water, honey, odorous plants (and) hemp [qunubu].”5

Apparently cannabis was used not only as an incense but in topical lotions as well. An Assyrian medical tablet from the Louvre collection has been transliterated: “So that god of man and man should be in good rapport:—with hellebore, cannabis and lupine you will rub him.” (Russo 2005)

Mesopotamian use went far beyond the spiritual. The medicinal properties of the plant were well known as noted in the groundbreaking paper by cannibinoid expert Dr. Ethan Russo, ‘Clinical Cannabis in Ancient Mesopotamia: A Historical Survey with Supporting Scientific Evidence’

Dr. Russo records that numerous topical applications of cannabis for medical purposes can be found throughout ancient Mesopotamian documents. “cannabis was used with the plant El in petroleum to anoint swelling…. [and]was also employed as a simple poultice” (Russo 2005) More interestingly, records of topical ointments used in the treatment of “Hand of Ghost” an ancient malady now thought to be epilepsy, included cannabis as a key ingredient. Ancient Mesopotamian preparations that included cannabis were also used in the treatment of certain diseases of the chest and lungs, stomach problems, skin lesions, lice, swollen joints and a variety of other maladies. (Russo, 2005)

So here, in these contemporary Assyrian references, under the similar sounding name qunbu, we see identical uses tot hat being proposed for the Hebrews of the same period. We see references to a temple incense, an offering t God in the sacred rites and a topical ointment which put “god of man and man should be in good rapport” .

This brings us to a good point for discussing the first Biblical reference to cannabis under the name q’eneh bosem. The first of the references to keneh bosem occurs in the story of Moses, who initially met the angel of the Lord from “flames of fire within a bush”. Exodus 30:23 describes cannabis in a list of ingredients in the “Holy Anointing Oil”.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane [keneh-bosem], 500 shekels of cassia–all according to the sanctuary shekel – and a hind of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer.6 It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the Tent of the Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense,7 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.”

“Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, “This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men’s bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30:22-33)

As one shekel equals approximately 16.378 grams, this means that the THC of over 9 pounds of flowering cannabis tops were extracted into a hind, about 6.5 litres of oil. The entheogenic effects of such a solution, even when applied topically, would undoubtedly have been intense. Health Canada has done scientific tests that show transdermal absorption of THC can take place. The skin is the biggest organ of the body, so of course considerably more cannabis is needed to be effective this way, much more than when ingested or smoked. The people who used the Holy oil literally drenched themselves in it. Based upon a 25mg/g oil Health Canada found skin penetration of THC (33%). “The high concentration of THC outside the skin encourages penetration, which is a function of the difference between outside and inside (where the concentration is essentially zero)” (James Geiwitz, Ph.D, 2001).

Cross cultural references to such topical preparations of cannabis have been identified (Bennett & McQueen, 2001; Bennett, 2006). Closer to Moses’ own time, as noted earlier, ancient Assyrian inscriptions indicate that a similar preparation was in use for identical purposes.

Only those who had been “dedicated by the anointing oil of…God” (Leviticus 21:12) were permitted to act as priests. In the “holy” state produced by the anointing oil the priests were forbidden to leave the sanctuary precincts (Leviticus 21:12), and the above passage from Exodus, makes quite clear the sacredness of this ointment, the use of which the priests jealously guarded. These rules were made so that other tribal members would not find out the secret behind Moses and the priesthood’s new found shamanistic revelations. Or even worse, take it upon themselves to make a similar preparation. An event that would likely lead to Moses and his fellow Levites losing their authority over their ancient tribal counterparts. Those who broke this strong tribal taboo risked the penalty of being “cut off from their people”, a virtual death-sentence in the savage ancient world. Secrets revealed equals power lost, is a rule of thumb that is common to shamans and magicians world wide, and as shall be seen, the ancient Hebrew shamans guarded their secrets as fiercely as any.

The sacred character of hemp in biblical times is evident from Exodus 30:22-23, where Moses was instructed by God to anoint the meeting tent and all its furnishings with specially prepared oil, containing hemp. Anointing set sacred things apart from secular. The anointment of sacred objects was an ancient tradition in Israel: holy oil was not to be used for secular purposes…..Above all, the anointing oil was used for the installation rites of all Hebrew kings and priests. (Benet 1975)

Moreover, this Holy Oil was to be used specifically in the Tent of the Meeting, where the Lord would “speak” to Moses. From what can be understood by the descriptions in Exodus, Moses and later High Priests, would cover themselves with this ointment and also place some on the altar of incense before burning it. “Besides its role in anointing, the holy oil of the Hebrews was burned as incense, and its use was reserved to the priestly class” (Russo, 2007). The Exodus account describes Moses as seeking the Lord’s advice, from a pillar of smoke emanating from the altar of incense, in the enclosed chamber of the tent of the meeting. This is reminiscent of the cannabis burning tents of the Scythians and also Assyrians.

“The burning of specific psychoactive plants in tents may have spread from the Indo-European nomadic cults the prime example of which are the Scythians… [participating]in the enclosed inhalations of Cannabis vapors… the enclosure in tents or closed rooms is similar to the common practice in modern Cannabis culture referred to as “hot-boxing.”” (Dannaway, 2009)

In the Torah, the pillar of smoke that arose before Moses in the ‘Tent of the Meeting’, is referred to as the ‘Shekinah’ and is identified as the physical evidence of the Lord’s presence. None of the other Hebrews in the Exodus account either see or hear the Lord, they only know that Moses is talking to the Lord when the smoke is pouring forth from the Tent of the Meeting. It is hard not to see all the classical elements of shamanism at play in this description of Moses’ encounter with God, and like Zoroaster, Moses can be seen as a ecstatic shamanic figure who used cannabis as a a means of seeking celestial advice.

It should also be noted that Moses anointed the altar of incense, and probably this oil based preparation when poured on the raw herbs used to make incense, helped the whole preparation to burn, as the olive oil base of the Holy oil, was a common lighting fluid that was used in lamps. “Besides its role in anointing, the holy oil of the Hebrews was burned as incense, and its use was reserved to the priestly class” (Russo, 2007). When the Midianite trained craftsmen Bezaleel makes the incense altar of shittam wood overlaid with pure gold, according to the instructions Moses received from the Lord to “make an altar to burn incense upon,” Bezaleel also “made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of apothecary.” (Exodus 37:29).

“[T]he Lord said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices–gum resins, onycha and galbanum–and pure frankincense [generic incense], all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense…. grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make an incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people.”

Exodus 30:34-38

The Lord’s altar is to be saved for this specific incense, as can be seen by the holy commandment that: “Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offerings thereon.”(Exodus 30:9). That the incense was believed to be imbued with similar magical properties to that of the anointing oil can be seen in the identical prohibitions placed over both. The Biblical scholar John Allegro noted, according to later traditions; “That these ingredients formed only part of the sacred incense formula is well known. Josephus9 says there were thirteen elements and the Talmud names eleven, plus salt, and a secret ‘herb’ which was added to make the smoke rise in a vertical column before spreading outwards at the top.”(Allegro 1970)10; exactly the way the smoke from a burning piece of hashish reacts and rises. Maimonides, (1134-1204) a medieval Jewish philosopher commented that “The object of incense was to animate the spirits of the priests”, which would again indicate an entheogenic preparation. As the authors and editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica have noted; “The ceremonial use of wine and incense [in contemporary ritual]is probably a relic of the time when the psychological effects of these substances were designed to bring the worshipper into closer contact with super natural forces”11.

In the Judaic world, the vapors from burnt spices and aromatic gums were considered part of the pleasurable act of worship. In Proverbs (27:9) it is said that “Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart.”…. Stone altars have been unearthed in Babylon and Palestine, which have been used for burning incense made of aromatic woods and spices. While the casual reader today may interpret such practices as mere satisfaction of the desire for pleasant odors, this is almost certainly an error; in many cases, a psychoactive drug was inhaled. In the islands of the Mediterranean 2,500 years ago and in Africa hundreds of years ago, for example, leaves and flowers of a particular plant were often thrown upon bonfires and the smoke inhaled; the plant was marijuana.(Preble & Laurey 1967)12

Commenting on the word frankincense, which means pure-incense and which appears in the Exodus recipe for the Holy incense, aromatherapy expert Susanne Fischer-Rizzi noted that; “We once called all herbs burnt as incense ‘frankincense'”(Fischer-Rizzi 1990). “The article now known as frankincense is the resin called thus, a common, inodorous article, little better than common white rosin. The article once so highly valued…must have been some other drug more precious than pine or spruce resin”13. Today the word frankincense has come to specify the gum resin from the North African tree Boswellia and Fischer-Rizzi, points out that this modern source also contains psychoactive properties, and is still used in churches to instill a chemically induced feeling of religious awe:

In the last few years, scientists have grown interested in frankincense. They were intrigued by reports that inhaling certain fragrances became addictive for some people, such as altar boys. Some members of the Academy of science in Leipzig, Germany, found in 1981 that when frankincense is burned, another chemical is produced, trahydrocannabinole. This psychoactive substance expands the subconscious14.

The Australian scientist Dr. Michael Stoddard found something else in frankincense. It seems that frankincense, according to Stoddard, awakens sexual, ecstatic energy sources within people. Traditional religious ritual tap and rechannel these energies15.(Fischer-Rizzi 1990)

Despite the fact that modern frankincense is psycho-active, what the original preparation was is left to speculation. With the abundance of natural, burnable and easily collectible fragrant resin found in cannabis and as cannabis is listed directly as an incense elsewhere in the Bible, (along with the Talmudic references to the secret ‘herb’ used in the Temple incense), it is a likely candidate for the ancient generic ‘frankincense’ of Exodus.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, when q’aneh16 appears, it is clearly associated with incense. According to Immanuel Low in his German work, Die Flora Der Juden, the Hebrews of later times when celebrating their successful invasion and takeover of the land of Canaan with the Holy Day Passover, utilized a preparation including cannabis. Low referred to a recipe for the Passover altar incense that included a hasisat surur, and claimed that the surur was a secret name for the resin of cannabis sativa. The recipe for the special Passover incense had cannabis resin (hasisat surur) ground into powder, mixed with wine, and then made into a burnable and fragrant concoction by being combined with Safran and Arabic Gum. (Low 1926\1967). As George Andrews, editor of the classic texts, THE BOOK OF GRASS,(1967 and DRUGS AND MAGIC, (1975\1997), wrote after some thirty years of research into the subject;

“In recent years many eminent scholars have expressed the opinion that, far from being a minor or occasional ingredient, hashish was the main ingredient of the incense burned in temples during the religious ceremonies of antiquity, and was also routinely used in Hebrew ceremonies until the reign of King Josiah in 621 B.C., when its use was suddenly suppressed in the Hebrew tradition.” (Andrews 1997).

Regardless of what the constitute ingredients of the holy incense were, the whole preparation would have been made psycho-active by its combination with the Holy Anointing Oil: “Then use… [the anointing oil]to anoint… the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the alter of incense, the alter of burnt offering and all its utensils.”(EXODUS 30:22-28)17.

Whether as a result of burning in conjunction with the hempen holy oil, as suggested by Exodus 30:27, or independently, the importance of these preparations can be seen in the Lord’s commandment that the altar of incense, after being first consecrated for use with the Holy Oil, be placed “before the veil that is by the ark of testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.” It was from behind this veil of smoke, which Moses interpreted the words of the Lord, and according to the Lord’s decrees, the incense which produced it was to burn perpetually;

“And Aaron shall burn incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.”

Exodus 30:8-10

Moses, and his priests used the volatile holy ointment and burned cannabis in a portable, ‘Tent of Meeting’. Lacking the invention of pipes, it was the practice of some ancient cults to burn cannabis in tents, so that more smoke could be retained and inhaled. Such a group was the ancient Scythians and Assyrians.

Like the Assyrian and Scythian shaman who burned cannabis from within enclosed tents; “Moses placed the gold altar in the Tent of Meeting in front of the curtain and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him. Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle.18″(Exodus 40:26).

Outside of these seven reasons to question Dr. Benet’s conclusion, the ace in the stack of evidence continues to be the Septuagint. In the third century before the time of Christ, the Hebrew Torah was translated into the Greek in Alexandria, Egypt. The Jews who did the translation used the word “calamou” to translate the words “q’nah-bosem.” If the Jews who did the translation thought that the anointing oil was made of “cannabinos,” the word at that time that meant “hemp,” (Liddell and Scott), they would not have used “calamou.” “Calamos” (the nominative form of the word “calamou”) is a reed plant. Later scholars in the second and first centuries before Christ, as they translated out the remainder of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, also continued to use “calamos” to translate the word.

Moreover, a second factor against the Benet hypothesis is that Josephus, who lived in the first century A.D., also refers to the spice as “calamus,” which he calls a sweet spice. Again, Josephus clearly does not see the spice as “cannabinos,”” the Greek word for hemp.

Dr. Benet addresses this argument by stating that the translators of the LXX mistranslated the word. This conclusion has no support, except that their translation does not fit with the argument of her paper. The Jewish scholars who translated the LXX certainly had reason to know whether the word referenced “cannabinos” or “calamos.” For the translation of the the Torah, which included the Exodus passage in question, Ptolemy (Philadelphus II) wrote to the Jewish chief priest, Eleazar, in Jerusalem, and asked for six translators from each of the twelve tribes to do the translation. The collective outcome of this massive work was the Torah written in Greek. That these seventy-two people chose to use the word “calamus” rather than “cannabinos” was not something lightly done by one person in a corner. Their choice of words provides compelling direct evidence of what the term meant in the third century B.C. and what the term continued to mean in the first century A.D., when Josephus wrote. If the plant used in the holy oil was “cannabinos,” the seventy-two scholars could have easily used this word. Cannabis was readily available in the world of the Middle East, as Dr. Benet notes. Calamos would most likely have had to be imported (see Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:19). The fact that the Jews before and after the time of Christ did not think that the Hebrew word “q’nah-bosem” constituted “cannabinos” is the only direct evidence we have of what the word actually meant in ancient Hebrew. Dr. Benet’s later reconstructions of possible etymological sources is a weak reed compared to the compelling direct testimony of the contemporary meaning supplied by Jewish scholars at a time when the oil was still being made and by people drawn from the tribes of Israel , appointed by the high priest of Israel, who had every reason to know what the Hebrew word meant. I accept the collective opinion of 72 Jewish scholars who lived when the actual meaning of the term would have been known over the speculation of scholars 2,000 years after the fact.

In regards to the “72” translators of the Old Testament text: (I wonder if Tim knows the term “Testament” come sform the same root as testicle?). Well these supposed translators Tim identifies were not very good, as both the Septuagint and Vulgate are well known for their mistranslations, and this has been noted in numbers of books, such asthe Hebrew Bible and ancient versions: selected essays of Robert P. Gordon?
and The Vulgate the Source of False Doctrines?, by, G. Henslow:

It is a great assumption on Tim’s part, that the translators of the Hebrew text into Greek, would have been competent botanists. By the Biblical accounts, it was a rare and precious foreign item. That a mistake could be made is clearly plausible, and that is why there is so much controversy around this particular term, with experts like Kaplan listing calamus, cinnamon bark, and cannabis as candidates. The above information regarding the identical use of qunubu amongst the Assyrians, strengthens the case for cannabis considerably, as does a wealth of other information, yet to be dealt with.

Further, there is other evidence of the mistranslation of botanical names in the Greek in the Septuagint

Jules Janick
Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue
625 Agriculture Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
Harry S. Paris
Agricultural Research Organization, Newe Ya’ar Research Center,
P. O. Box 1021, Ramat Yishay 30-095, Israel

ABSTRACT. The fast-growing plant referred to in the biblical Book of Jonah is
most often translated into English as “gourd.” However, this is a mistranslation that dates to the appended Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, in which the Hebrew word qiqayon (castor, Ricinus communis, Euphorbiaceae) was transformed into the somewhat similar-sounding Greek word kolokynthi (colocynth, Citrullus colocynthis). In translation of the Greek into Latin, kolokynthi became the similar-sounding cucurbita (gourd). This is reflected in early iconography, the plant most often depicted being a long-fruited Lagenaria siceraria (bottle or calabash gourd), a fast-growing climber.

The number of 72 translators is likely a mythical number relating to the 72 names of God

The “72 Names of God”

There are three verses in the Old Testament which, in Hebrew, are made up of exactly the same number of letters. These are Exodus 14: 19-21.

14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:

14:20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness [to them], but it gave light by night [to these]: so that the one came not near the other all the night.

14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go [back]by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry [land], and the waters were divided.

Kabbalists believe that by lining up each verse, one atop the other, and then selecting the three letters that are aligned from top to bottom (starting from the left, as Hebrew is written from right to left), one derives 72 “names of God”. The nature of these verses are such that they represent great power: the power of God to part waters and call forth his angels.

The “72 names” primarily appear in Jewish Kabbalah and are particularly prevalent in the current manifestation of Kabbalah taught through the “Kabbalah Centre” in Jerusalem. (

Like much of the Bible, this cannot be regarded as a historical event, but more likely a mythical one. How many Hebrews rely upon the Vulgate? The Vulgate is a Christian document. As well, the later references to cannabis, under the term q’aneh, indicate their was clear motivation for leading Hebrews to suppress the use of cannabis.

Besides this direct evidence of the meaning of the words, there are supporting evidences arguing for a meaning of reed for “qaneh.” The same word, “qaneh,” is also used to describe a measuring reed (Ezekiel 40:5-8; 42:16-19, etc.). If there is any linkage between the use of this word in these passages and the use in the passages Dr. Benet cites, such would further undercut her claims. The reed used for measurement would not have been a hemp plant, but a reed plant. Hemp plants are not known for making measuring rods. (I acknowledge that there may be no connection between the two words, just as there appears to be no connection between the words “bank” in the phrase “bank vault” and “bank” in the phrase “stream bank.”) However, I think more likely that there is some connection and that the same sort of plant was in view. The fact that “qaneh” has a strong correlation to marshland is another supporting reason to translate the word as “calamos,” as the LXX translators did (Job 40:21; Isaiah 19:6 where the word “qaneh” is linked to marshes). Even today, in Hebrew, the words meaning “reed” begins with the word “qaneh.”

See D above, the term q’aneh meaning cane, as in q’aneh bosem, often translated as fragrant cane in modern Bibles, never fragrant reed. As the stiff stalks of plants were used as measuring sticks, which hemp stalks would have been ideal for, and which other cultures likely used it for (such as Assyria and Egypt, as discussed in my forthcoming book) the term q’aneh came to denote many things, such as a “measure” and also plants with cane like stalks, such as reeds.

Dr. Benet states that Solomon purchased hemp cords for construction. However, this claim also is not supported by Scripture. She cites Professor Saltzberger as the source for this conclusion. There is no Scriptural support for Professor Saltzberger’s conclusion. Even if there was, it does nothing to show that “qaneh” means “cannabis.” There is at least one apocryphal story of Solomon forcing a demon to spin hemp (Testament of Solomon, 4:12). But this work also mentions the hill of Golgotha and the cross of Christ. Most scholars agree that it is not of Hebrew origin. And it certainly was not written during the days of Solomon. Finally, it is a fantastical piece, not grounded in truth or reality.

Likewise, some make the argument that there was a requirement to bury the dead in garments of hemp. Again, this is not supported by Scripture.

I thank tim for bringing this to my attention, I was unaware of this and will look further at it. It reminds one of the tale of Rumplestiltskin and his weaving of alchemical gold from worthless straw, (I am currently working on a book about medieval references). There are other ancient Hebrew writings beyond what appear in the Vulgate, and this is likely the source of Kleins comments noted above.

You can take the Strong’s concordance and look at every instance of the word “qaneh” in Scripture, or you can go to e-Sword and do the same thing. You will see that the word fits best as a reed plant. The one place where it may not be a reed plant is in Genesis 41:22 where it is translated “stalk.” It cannot be seen here as a reference to marijuana as marijuana does not have heads of grain and having seven heads on a marijuana plant would not be a sign of super-abundance required by the passage. There is NO evidence that I have been able to uncover that “qaneh” ever was used for marijuana in Scriptures or in ancient or modern Hebrew.

Thanks for noting this reference as well, I must have missed it. Actually the Heads of cannabis have been referred to as heads of grain, and 7 heads on a marijuana plant would be a sign of super-abundance, indeed this imagery brings to mind the menorah, which itself looks very much like a blossoming and glistening hemp plant. In fact, Tim’s reference here disqualifies calamus, as it in no way is considered a grain.

The hemp seed’s use as a food and oil source can be traced back to the very beginnings of civilization. The German researcher Immanuel Low referred to a sixth century Persian name for a preparation of cannabis seed, Sahdanag — Royal Grain; or King’s Grain, which demonstrates the high regard the ancient Persians held for the nutritious oil rich seeds that came from the same plant which provided them with their only means of religious revelation in the form of the drinks banga and haoma.

Sahdanag was generally prepared in the form of a heart shaped cookie, possibly indicating that the ancient Persians recognized the seed’s close relationship with health and vitality(Low, 1925; reprinted 1967).

Sometime after the Persian Empire took control of the ancient world, the Jews adopted this Persian preparation of hemp seed and retained its name of Sahadanag, which is really not so surprising as like their Persian benefactors, the Hebrews already had a long and beneficial relationship with the useful plant, known to them as q’neh. Immanuel Low also suggests that the formerly unidentified Hebrew word, Tzli’q, (Tzaddi, Lamed, Yod, Quoph), makes reference to a Jewish meal of roasted Hemp seeds that was popular into medieval times and was sold by Jews in European markets. (The first part of the name simply means roasted, the final Quoph, an abbreviation of q’aneh).

In regards to Tim’s closing comment, how about now?

Further, even if it was used in anointing oil, that is a far cry from present day inhalation. The oil was used for anointing, not burning. The incense that was burned did not contain “qaneh.” You can check this out for yourself at Exodus 30:34-35, where “qaneh” (sometimes translated “calamus,” or “cane”) is not included in the ingredients of the incense like it is in the ingredients of the anointing oil.blockquote>

Again, untrue. Health Canada has done scientific tests that show transdermal absorption of THC can take place. The skin is the biggest organ of the body, so of course considerably more cannabis is needed to be effective this way, much more than when ingested or smoked. The people who used the Holy oil literally drenched themselves in it. Based upon a 25mg/g oil Health Canada found skin penetration of THC (33%). “The high concentration of THC outside the skin encourages penetration, which is a function of the difference between outside and inside (where the concentration is essentially zero)” (James Geiwitz, Ph.D, 2001). Moreover, topical preparations of cannabis were used in ancient Egypt, in Afghanistan, by medieval witches, 19th century occultists, and in Ancient Assyria, where its use was not only for medical purposes, put to enable good rapport between man and god.

Further, as noted above, the altar of incense itself was anointed prior to being burnt, so its psychoactive properties would have been added to the incense. As well, later Biblical references, indicate cannabis was used by the Hebrews as an incense as well.

Some will argue that calamus itself is a powerful narcotic. However, as those who study Scripture know, the anointing oil of the priests was not ingested or burned. So unless someone is willing to believe that merely inhaling the scent of the raw calamus is a narcotic, the point that it can be used as a narcotic in other ways is lost to me. The Bible never supports its use as a narcotic.

According to ancient world perfumes expert Nigel Groom, calamus was known as “nard” to the Hebrews.

The new perfume handbook? – Nigel Groom – Science – 1997 – 435 pages

Ancient calamus “was probably the plant now known as Lemon Grass”
In reference to Lemon Grass (Cymbogon citratus) “It is believed to be the Calamus* of the Greeks and Romans and was the Nard or Spikenard of the Old Testament (Song of Solomon), known as Nerd in Hebrew and Nardos Pistike to the ancient Greeks”

See also spikenard

According to perfume expert Groom, the New Testament Spikenard was different than the Old Testament Hebrew plant name,
“Nardostachys jatamansi.. was the precious or pure nard of the New Testament, used by Mary to anoint Jesus, but the Nard or Spikenard of the Old Testament applied to a different plant, Camel Grass (see under Lemon Grass oil)”

Groom is an expert

Many have tried other arguments. They argue that marijuana is an herb and and God says in Genesis 1:29 that He has given man every herb that yields seed which is on the face of the earth. Both of these statements are true. But we cannot run too far in our conclusion from these truths. Crownvetch yields seeds and is poisonous. Nightshade yields seeds and is poisonous. The poinsettia yields seed and is poisonous. Hemlock yields seeds and is poisonous. Every day, we have to choose between plants that are good for us and those that are not. God is not commanding us to eat of every poisonous plant.

But after the fall of man, the ground was cursed and no longer was everything good (Genesis 3:17-18). Scripture makes this abundantly clear in 2 Kings 4:38-41 where a certain person found a wild vine with wild gourds and sliced them into a pot, not knowing that they were poisonous. God did a miracle to cure the pot of the poison. Not every herb was good for eating, as even ancient Israel understood. Any interpretation of Genesis 3:17-18 supporting the use of marijuana equally can be used to support the use of hemlock. It is a bad argument.

Cannabis is not poisonous, I challenge Tim to identify a single documented death from cannabis. In fact cannabis is an accepted healing medicine, now recognized by the AMA . The Modern medical marijuana pioneer, Dr. Todd Mikuriya recorded over 250 indications for the use of cannabis (2005). A review of modern medical literatures identifies an established effect from cannabis in the treatment of nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, unintentional weight loss, lack of appetite, glaucoma, movement disorders, neorogenic pain, Crohn’s disease and other bowel disorders, asthma, epilepsy, skin diseases, autism, multiple sclerosis, skin tumours, and a variety of other ailments (Mikuriya, M.D. 1973, Grinspoon, M.D. & Bakalar 1993). Further, the role of cannabis as a medicine dating back to most ancient times, including in India, has been well documented (Russo, 2005, 2007; Mikuriya, 1973, Abel 1983) and the plant has a long held and widespread history as a folk medicine as well.19 There are numerous books by various physicians on the medicinal use of cannabis, and in recent years, a number of national and international groups have been successfully lobbying for unfettered access to cannabis for patients who wish to use it in treatment of their illness or chronic pain.

In a recent news story Expert Testifies Cannabis Helps Slow Aging’, Dr. Robert Melamede, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs biology professor, and former head of the UCCS biology department stated that:

“You can look at the harm caused by free radicals as biological friction or biological rust and the endocannabinoid20 system minimizes the impact of that and directly acts as an antioxidant21 as well as modifying the biochemistry in a way that minimizes the impacts,” said Melamede outside court Thursday, likening endocannabinoids to humans like oil is to cars. He said if you don’t have lubrication in your car, your car breaks. In the human body, the damage comes in the form of age-related diseases.

“I’m saying what science has now shown is that marijuana and cannabinoids are effective anti-aging agents which means that they are effective in minimizing the onset and the severity of age-related illnesses which include cognitive dysfunction things like Alzheimers,22 cardiovascular disease, be it heart attacks, strokes, or clogged arteries,” he said. (Newham, 2008)

As another recent news story recorded of cannabis’ potential rejuvenating qualities:

Marijuana may live up to be “the elixir of life” for brain cells

“A study by University of Saskatchewan researchers suggests beneficial aspects of smoking marijuana at least among rats, who appear to have sprouted new brain cells and besides benefiting from reduced depression and anxiety. The study’s results appearing in the ‘Journal of Clinical Investigation’23 have actually given a fillip to the traditional and mythological view that associates the addictive weed in some ways with immortality.”

“The Canadian researchers led by Xia Zhang, suggested that the illicit substance marijuana actually may promote new brain cells in region of the brain called the hippocampus that is associated with memory. They concluded that marijuana was possibly “the only illicit drug whose capacity to produce increased neurons is positively correlated with its (anti-anxiety) and anti-depressant-like effects”.

“For the study, the researchers injected laboratory rats two times everyday for 10 days with HU210, a synthetic cannabinoid chemical (obtained from marijuana) and evaluated them against a normal group. The rats that underwent the HU210 injections developed new nerve cells in the brain’s hippocampus dentate gyrus region of the brain that facilitates memory development. The injections also appeared to counter depression and anxiety, but could not be held as 100 percent akin to smoking marijuana, which the researchers felt would require additional studies.

“Zhang suggested that the study did indicate that marijuana could have its medical uses particularly “for the treatment of anxiety and depression”. But these results are unlikely to buy the favor with the US administration or the possibility of legalization on medical grounds. In fact only recently the US Supreme Court ruled against marijuana growth or possession for medical reasons.

“Unlike most addictive drugs that are known to inhibit the development of new neurons, causing loss of memory and impairing learning on chronic use, it appears that marijuana or ganja may actually be the mythological “elixir of eternal life” that Indian gods churned from the oceans. A sharp contrast from ordinary addictive substances, the researchers suggested that marijuana’s neurogenetic properties may actually be unique given that the rats showed some correlation between their cannabinoid treatments, the increased nerve genesis and their altered stress or anxiety levels.

“Marijuana that has traditionally been used by many cultures over centuries “for medical and recreational purpose”, as the researchers suggest appears to be able to modulate pain, nausea, vomiting, epilepsy, stroke, cerebral trauma and variety of other disorders both for humans and animals alike. But it maybe several more studies before the mysterious benefits of marijuana that currently stand shrouded in tradition and mythology, become accepted by the modern scientific world. (Ravi, Chopra, Earthtimes, Oct. 15, 2005)24

In reference to this, it is worth noting that the Fulla Nayak, who may have been the world’s oldest woman, was a copious cannabis smoker, and attributed her great age to her use of the herb:

“I’m 120 but my joints are OK – A GREAT-great granny reveals how she has lived to be 120 … by smoking CANNABIS every day.

Fulla Nayak – believed to be the world’s oldest woman – puffs “ganja” cigars and drinks strong palm wine in her cow-dung hut in India.

She lives with her 92-year-old daughter and grandson, 72, by the Indian Ocean.

The Sun (UK) Oct.21st, 2006

The statement was made when there was no curse on the ground. Humans could eat of everything except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In a good world, such as existed before the fall of man, I do not suspect that there were poisonous plants or poisonous animals. I suspect that when God made the statement, it was literally a true statement.

So Tim is a creationist, who believes the world was created in an instant, just a few millennia ago and Dinosaurs and Evolution, lies perpetrated by man. I would counter that the Creation stories of Genesis were amongst the last texts written in the Old Testmanet, and came clearly from the hand of Man. Cannabis, however, and its documented 12,000 year relationship with humanity, is a plant, and no matter what God one believe in, they should believe that that plant was created by the hand of God.

It is interesting that Tim refers to the story of Creation, as just as the theory of evlution has overtaken the simplistic child’s tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so too as data accumulates will the world come to see the Shamanic-Plants theory of the origins of religion vastly more believable than the theologies put forth by any of the modern day followers of today’s orthodox religions. In light of the above information, the question now becomes, “If cannabis played such an important role in the Hebrew religion, how did it come to disappear?” I would say that Benet’s other references to q’aneh,, left out of the debate by Tim, along with new emerging material, tells that story. I invite tim and others to read through the following material from Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible and Cannabis and the Soma Solution , Come back to the blog next week for Part 2, of The Great Keneh Bosem Debate! What happened to Keneh Bosem? Where we will explore the other Old Testament cannabis references cited by Sula Benet, and curiously omitted by Tim.



2.Calamus is a common marsh plant that can be found throughout the middle east, and hardly fits in with the exotic character of the other ingredients in the holy ointment, (Bennett, etc. all 1995). Although calamus itself, is said to contain some psycho-active alkaloids, and its use for these purposes has been reported(Ott 1993, Schultes & Hoffman 1979). Alternatively, Michael V. Fox, saw the Hebrew references to qaneh as “‘cane’: Cymbopogon martini or Andropogon nardus”(Fox 1985). The one other argument against Kannabosm being hemp, that I am aware of, appears in Ernest Abel’s MARIHUANA: THE FIRST 12,000 YEARS. Abel stated that the Kanna-bosm in Exodus 30:23 ‘suggest sugar rather than cannabis’ and stated that the references referred to a ‘sweet tasting’ plant, rather than a ‘sweet smelling’ plant (Abel 1980). But, the Hebrew word bosm, definitely refers to fragrance rather than taste, (Strong 1979). Also, as pointed out in an earlier work (Bennett etc. all 1995), and as Dale Pendell has expressed in his very entertaining PHARMAKO/POEIA, sugarcane would have no place in an ointment. Sugar cane would cause the whole mixture to become a gummy mass that would also be susceptible to contamination from micro-organisms. Such a sticky mixture would hardly have been suitable for a Holy anointing oil. As the later writer of Ecclesiastes commented “Dead flies make the ointment of the perfumer fetid and putrid…”(Ecc. 10:1), such a fate would surely befall any ointment containing sugar cane.

3. Latimer, D., ‘Crimes of the Ancient Mariners’., In High Times. May 1988

4. (Meissner 1932-33,Benetowa 1936, Frisk 1960-72, Benet 1975, Schultes & Hoffman 1979, Abel 1982, Bennett et. al. 1995, etc.). L.Lewin suggests that qunubu was derived from the East Iranian word for cannabis konaba, and through the Scythians spreading the use of the plant throughout much of the ancient world, the word eventually became our modern cannabis.

5. From a translation in (Waterman 1930).

6. The ointment was mixed in the large cauldrons required for the extensive ingredients, and the sacred craft of making the holy ointment was passed down through a guild of Perfumers (de Waal 1994). Possibly, the Hebrews placed all the ingredients of the Holy Oil into such cauldrons, along with a quantity of water, and then boiled all the ingredients together, later separating the Holy oil which would be imbued with the oil soluble properties of the other ingredients, such as the psycho-active resin of the cannabis that was used. As well double-rimmed earthenware pots used for distillation have been found in the Ancient Near East, dating as far back as 3,000 B.C.. “The raw material would be placed between two rims, and a lid put over the vessel. A solvent (water or oil) would be boiled in the bottom pot: the vapor would condense on the lid, run down over the raw material, extract the ingredient sought, and drip back into the bottom of the pot. The principle was in fact that of the coffee perculator” (Saggs 1969).

7. Where the holy oil would be burned alongside other fragrant incenses.

8. This amount varies according to the version of the Bible. For instance the New International translation lists a temple shekel as equaling 11.5 grams. In any event, the amount weighs in between 7.5 and 9 pounds.

9. “…the altar of incense, by its thirteen kinds of sweet-smelling spices… signified that God is possessor of all things that are both in the uninhabitable and habitable parts of the earth, and that they are all dedicated to his use.”(Josephus 37-95 A.D.????).

10. Allegro goes on to suggests that the image of the smoke pillar spreading out at its top, resembles a mushroom and because of this resemblance, the amanita muscaria is a likely candidate for the secret “herb”, but a mushroom is an unlikely candidate for incense, as they stink when burned, and wouldn’t produce a psycho-active smoke. In a footnote to the above Allegro states that the secret of the incense “was in the hands of one family, Abtinos, who had a room in the precincts of the Temple for their compounding.”(Allegro 1970).

11. Pharmacological Cults, Alcohol and Drug Consumption.[emphasis added].

12. Quoted in MARIJUANA AND THE BIBLE, (1981).


14. Under the title “Olibanum’, religious scholar Dr.Marinus de Waal also comments on the intoxicating resin from Boswelia; ” The grains are brittle, pale yellow and dull. When heated they partially melt and exude an intoxicating but very pleasant smell.”(de Waal 1994)[emphasis added, our footnote].

15. As well be discussed later, similar aphrodisiac qualities are attributed to cannabis as well.

16. The singular word meaning cannabis, and translated as “cane”, as opposed to the more specific q’aneh-bosm, “fragrant-cane”

17. Prior to this, God’s list of preparation for building and appointing the ark of the covenant included ‘spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense.’ (EXODUS 25:6). A statement that indicates a similarity in contents.

18. The description of this technique is obviously quite similar to the ancient inscription of Essarhadon’s incense tent that we connected with the sacred qunubu- Tree of Life in the opening chapters.

19. “In Argentina cannabis is considered a real panacea for tetanus, melancholia, colic, gastralgia, swelling of the liver, gonorrhoea, sterility, impotency, abortion, tuberculosis of the lungs and asthma. In Argentina even the root-bark has been collected in spring, and employed as a febrifuge, tonic, for treatment of dysentery and gastralgia, either pulverized or in form of decoctions. The root when ground and applied to burns is said to relieve pain. Oil from the seeds has been frequently used even in treatment of cancer; we have also come across this application in European folk medicine. Also in Argentina, in folk medicine, hemp shoots extracted with butter (Extr. Cannabis ind. pingue) are supposed to have a powerful hashish effect, it is believed already, in an amount of 0.1 g; it is employed as a remedy in the Basedow disease. The ethereal extract is less active, and in Argentina it is administered for headache, neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, chorea, melancholia, hysteria, delirium, gastralgia and anorexia. The aqueous macerated product has no narcotic effect at all, and is employed for treatment of tuberculosis of the lungs and as a hypnotic for children and to relieve spastic constipation. An infusion of the leaves is considered to possess a diuretic and a diaphoretic effect. In Europe we also come across many of these uses. Thus Graemer (cit. Dinand) recommends the following for treatment of gastralgia: 0.75 g Extr. Cannabis ind., 10 g ether; 10 drops daily on sugar. For rheumatism a decoction of leaves (15-20 g/0.5 1) is taken internally, and externally poultices prepared of seeds and packings of shreds or tow are used. In Brazil hemp is considered to be a sedative, hypnotic and antiasthmatic remedy. A pronounced antibiotic effect has been observed in South America, where fresh leaves after being ground are used as a poultice for furuncles, and in folk medicine in Europe for treatment of erysipelas (Dinand). Even seed pulp is applied in such cases, but as there are no antibiotics in the seeds we must assume that there is another therapeutic factor involved. In the popular treatment of headache, the plant is preserved in vinegar together with juniper, and the extract is used in form of compresses. Githens and also Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk report on the utilization of cannabis (dagga) in South Africa. There it is smoked because of its narcotic action, but it is also used medicinally. Next to the effect upon the central nervous system we find a considerable use as an antibiotic. For example, the Xosa tribe employs it for treatment of inflammation of the feet. In Southern Rhodesia it is a remedy for anthrax, sepsis, dysentery, malaria and for tropical quinine-malarial haemoglobinuria. The Suto tribe fumigates the parturient woman to relieve pain. These analgetic, sedative and antibiotic properties of cannabis in internal and external application are well known to African tribes.” (Kableik, 1955)

20. Endocannabinoids are indigenous cannibinoid like substances in the human body. Cannibinoids found in cannabis are able to mimic the similar endocannibinoids in the human body.

21. US Patent 6630507 – Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants
Abstract – Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH3, and COCH3. ##STR1##

22. Scientists are suggesting that cannabis can offer some benefit for Alzheimer’s sufferers
The scientists from Israel and Spain say cannabis-based treatments could improve memory loss in Alzheimer’s sufferers.
The revelation was made this week at a symposium of cannabis experts hosted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) where the scientists said that a compound present in cannabis significantly slows memory problems caused by the disease.
Ten years ago the RPSGB launched its protocols to demonstrate the therapeutic effectiveness of cannabis which led to Government-funded trials in Britain to explore the benefits for patients with multiple sclerosis and in the treatment of severe pain….
Experts are calling for clinical trials into the potential benefits of the non-psychoactive components of cannabis and they too stress that such treatments are not the same as recreational cannabis use.
Professor Tony Moffat, chairman of the Symposium says progress has been made in the last ten years but more research is needed as there is considerable interest in the medical benefits of cannabis and related compounds for a range of conditions including arthritis, multiple sclerosis and neurological pain.
Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest form of dementia, which affects an estimated 24.3 million people worldwide. (The medical news, March 11, 2008)

23. Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects, (JOURNAL OF CLINICAL INVESTIGATION, Volume 115, Issue 11, November 1, 2005)


25. Fulla Nayak herself claimed to be 125, but her photo identity card issued by the government in 1995 lists her age as 120 years Wikipedia names the world’s oldest woman as Jeanne Clement, died in 1997 at age 122. “Fulla is certain it is the pot that made her reach a Guinness World Record breaking age, and her grandson, Narayan, said he wanted to write to the Guinness World Record authorities and get his grandmothers name in its deserved spot” (Kane, 2009).

Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett has been researching the historical role of cannabis in the spiritual life of humanity for more than a quarter of a century. He is co-author of Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion (1995); Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible (2001); and author of Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010); and Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal herbs and the Occult (2018) . He has also contributed chapters on the the historical role of cannabis in spiritual practices in books such as The Pot Book (2010), Entheogens and the Development of Culture (2013), Seeking the Sacred with Psychoactive Substances (2014), One Toke Closer to God (2017), Cannabis and Spirituality (2016) and Psychedelics Reimagined (1999). Bennett’s research has received international attention from the BBC , Guardian, Sunday Times, Washington Post, Vice and other media sources. He currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.