Whether religious or not, we have all heard of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament: walking on water, turning water into wine, helping blind men see, mute men speak, exorcising the possessed, and healing all kinds of diseases.
Were these miracles the result of divine intervention, as the sacred texts extol? Or, were they the result of the therapeutic use of cannabis in the form of an anointing oil? Did Jesus use cannabis?
God’s own Recipe for Cannabis Oil
The Jewish tradition gives particular symbolic importance to the rite of anointing a person with holy oil. The Old Testament shows us Samuel anointing Saul (1 Samuel 10) to make him king of Israel. The anointing is the central element of the coronation, and as Samuel says on this occasion: “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel.”
The central role of the anointing led Jesus, much later, to refer to himself as the King of the Jews and the Messiah. The word Messiah means ‘The Anointed.’ The oil used in Judeo-Christian rites to crown kings, among other traditions and customs, is a very special substance for which the Old Testament gives the precise recipe (Exodus 30:22-25). From a Burning Bush, God revealed to Moses that the anointing oil should be prepared as follows:
“Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred and fifty, and two hundred and fifty of aromatic cane, and five hundred of cassia—measured by the sanctuary shekel—and a hin (5 litres) of olive oil; and you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.”
God and Cannabis
The term “aromatic cane” is frequently found in the English versions of Exodus. It is the translation of the Hebrew term Keneh Bosem (or kaneh bosm). However, according to Sula Benet’s research, this term actually refers to cannabis. Sula Benet was an etymologist at the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw, who studied the origin and ancestry of words. In 1936, she focused on the word cannabis and researched its occurrences in Hebrew texts. She demonstrated that the previous theories that cannabis was a Scythian word were wrong and that the word ‘cannabis’ could be found earlier in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew. In ancient Hebrew, cannabis was referred to as Keneh Bosem, the same term found in the Bible. According to the etymologist’s proposals, the root kan refers to hemp, while bosm refers to aromatic plants.
How did we get from ‘cannabis’ to ‘aromatic cane’? It is most likely a translation problem, as Keneh Bosem was initially translated as calamus, a simple reed with medicinal properties. There is phonetic proximity between kan and calamus. As for the term bosm, its meaning would have been recovered by adding the adjective ‘aromatic’”. Thus, a translation error changed cannabis into calamus, a medicinal plant with less therapeutic applications than cannabis. This mistake is said to have been made when the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, was written in the third century AD. The error has been repeated in all subsequent texts up to the present day.
Jesus and Medical Cannabis
On several occasions, the New Testament shows oil being used in a therapeutic context. Luke 10:30 tells of a Samaritan using oil to heal the wounds of a man who had been assaulted. Jesus himself used it to heal the sick (Mark 6:13: “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”)
The therapeutic properties of cannabis oils are well known. The recipe given to Moses in Exodus was about four kilos of cannabis flowers macerated in about six and a half litres of olive oil. Today we all know that the topical application of such a mixture generates particularly impressive results on eye and skin diseases, among others. With time and word of mouth, these very down-to-earth treatments have turned into miracles.
So, did Jesus use Cannabis?
The question remains: did this oil used by Jesus and his disciples, and with which Jesus himself was anointed, generate a psychoactive effect? Of course, we don’t know which varieties of cannabis were used to make the oil in question. But if the varieties used by the Messiah contained THC, they likely produced a more or less powerful high. Indeed, the latest studies on the subject show that THC can be absorbed through the skin. This is not surprising. Religious rituals have long made use of trances.
Chris Bennett, the author of the book on Sex, Drugs and Violence on the Bible, says that people anointed with the oils used by Jesus “literally bathed in this potent mixture. […] Although most people today prefer to smoke or ingest it, cannabis can also be absorbed through the skin when its active ingredients are introduced into an oily component”.
Since Jesus himself used oil, it can be assumed that Jesus was a cannabis consumer.
Surprisingly, many Christian conservatives are among the most vehemently opposed to the legalization of cannabis. Yet if Christ did use cannabis, being opposed to this plant would be anti-Christ.
But, as Jesus himself says: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”