THE BIBLE and CALAMUS vs. CANNABIS:
With the Hebrew words for “calamus” and “cannabis” so similar, and the fact that calamus is of lesser value and also toxic, we must question the validity of the term “calamus” in English versions of Scripture.
The word calamus is found in the KJV three times:
Exodus 30:23 God telling Moses the formula for the anointing oil (250 shekels worth.)
Song of Solomon 4:14, speaking of it in a refreshing garden
Ezekiel 27:19 speaking of cane as merchandise.
The KJV translates the Hebrew word “qaneh” (pronounced kaw-naw’) into “calamus.” Per Strong’s Concordance, “qaneh” means “a reed (as erect); by resemblance a rod (especially for measuring) shaft, tube, stem, (the radius of the arm) beam (of a steelyard): – balance, bone, branch, calamus, cane, reed, spearman, stalk.”
The Hebrew word for “calamus” is “kanah bosm,” which is plural. The singular for this is “kaneh bos,” which sounds remarkably close the modern word “cannabis.”
According to Webster’s New Hebrew dictionary, the current Hebrew word for cannabis is “kanabos.”
Thus, contentions that the KJV possibly interpreted the Hebrew word incorrectly as “calamus” warrant consideration.
If Exodus 30:23 is referring to a monetary value of calamus or cannabis, the “250 shekels” is approximately $125.00 worth (which is 2.5 cents/gerah X 20 gerahs/shekel X 250 shekels in Ex30:23) which is a considerable amount.
* Per the ATS Bible Dictionary (and others), a shekel is a term for either weight or currency (a coin.) A shekel is worth 20 gerahs. A gerah is the smallest weight or coin among the Jews, and worth about two and a half cents.
If the 250 shekels is referring to weight, instead of coinage, it is a considerable amount of whatever it is the KJV is referring to as “calamus.”
While cannabis is non-toxic (not a single death has ever been directly attributed to it, despite much effort being given to document such a fatality), calamus is most definitely a toxin. The FDA banned calamus from uses in food and medicines in 1968 as calamus contains more than 75% asarone. Asarone is a poison which has been shown to cause cancer, and has ill effects on heart, liver and kidney functions. This toxin in callamus is used for pest control. Why would God specify a large quantity of a poison be used in holy anointing oil?
In 1936, Sula Benet, a Polish etymologist from the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw revealed solid evidence of the Hebrew use of cannabis. The word “cannabis had previously been thought to be of Scythian origin as Scythians first brought the plant to Europe, but Benet showed it has much earlier origin in Semitic languages like Hebrew. “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 demonstrated that the word for cannabis is “kaneh-bosm”, and in traditional Hebrew “kaneh” or “kannabus.” The root “kan” here means “reed” or “hemp”, while “bosm” means “aromatic.” This word appears five times in the Old Testament (Exodus, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) and has been mistranslated as “calamus”, a common marsh plant with little monetary value that does not have the qualities or value ascribed to “kaneh-bosm.” The error occurred in the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew bible, the Septuagint in the 3rd century BC, and was repeated in translations that followed.
It is illogical to assume that a plant as important as cannabis, which is such an incredibly useful source of fiber for textiles, loaded with nutritive oils and medicinal properties while also being non-toxic and ridiculously easy to grow, would have gone unnoticed and would have been ignored by the Judaic religion.
With as many benefits (medicinal and utilitarian) that cannabis has to offer humanity, I contend humanity needs to expedite the end of prohibition of this non-toxic plant.
Bible-believers, specifically, need to thoroughly examine this issue in light of the etymology (the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning), and the likelihood of mis-translation of “qenah” in the King James Version. WHAT IF God intended cannabis (as opposed to calamus) to be part of the anointing oil?
It’s time we talk about this.