JESUS used cannabis and was an early champion of its medicinal properties, a growing consensus of experts agree.
And acceptance of this theory could help promote the controversial drug’s use in treating a range of illnesses.
Cannabis historian, author and journalist David Bienenstock is one who believes cannabis oil even explains the “miracles” attributed to Jesus.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Online, he said: “Historical records show that cannabis was widely available at the time – they would’ve known how to grow it and exploit its medicinal properties.
“There is nothing different in the efficacious cannabis oil used today that wouldn’t have been available to people in Jesus’ time – it’s simply a matter of concentrating the cannabis into the oil and absorbing it through the skin.”
Scholars even point to a cannabis oil recipe in Exodus 30: 22-25: “Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty … it shall be a holy anointing oil.”
Anointing is understood to mean to ceremonially confer divinity by smearing or rubbing with oil.
American Orthodox rabbi and scholar Aryeh Kaplan noted: “On the basis of cognate pronunciation and Septuagint readings, some identify Keneh bosem with the English and Greek cannabis, the hemp plant.”
Although other authorities identify the “fragrant cane” with cinnamon bark, Polish anthropologist Sula Benet argues that equating Keneh Bosem with sweet cane could be traced to a mistranslation in the Septuagint (the earliest Old Testament translation), which mistook Keneh Bosem, later referred to as “cannabos” in the Talmud (Judaism’s Oral Torah), as “kalabos”, a common Egyptian marsh cane plant.
Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University, agrees: “There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion.”
Referring to the existence of cannabis in anointing oils used in ceremonies, he adds: “Obviously the easy availability and long-established tradition of cannabis in early Judaism would inevitably have included it in the [Christian] mixtures.”
And there are even passages in the Bible where Jesus’ treatment of the sick tallies with modern accounts of cannabis oil treating epilepsy.
Mark 6:13, for example states: “They cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”
As David Bienenstock points out: “Someone of the religious mindset from that time, not understanding the scientific underpinning of how or why it works, would be likely to view that as a miracle.”
Mark 6:13 does appear to mirror the reportedly phenomenal response epileptics have had to the drug in modern trials.
Assuming the oil described in Exodus did in fact contain high levels of cannabis, the effective dose of the plant’s medicinal compounds would certainly be potent enough to explain many of the healing miracles attributed to Jesus, as marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for everything from skin diseases and glaucoma to neurodegenerative conditions and multiple sclerosis.
In addition to arguing that Jesus used cannabis to heal, David Bienenstock posits he may even have used it himself: “Jesus himself was anointed, and if that anointing involved using cannabis oil, then he certainly did use it.
“When you examine the account of Jesus’ anointing it is described in terms of psychoactivity – it is described in terms of when Jesus has this profound experience that transforms him.
“This is a big indication of the centrality of anointing was to Jesus and his flock – that he would take the name ‘Christ the anointed’.”
The word Christ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew messiah, meaning ‘the anointed one’.”
Chris Bennett, the author of the book Sex, Drugs, Violence, and the Bible, is also a supporter of the cannabis oil theory: “The medical use of cannabis during that time is supported by archaeological records.
“If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient Christian anointing oil, as history indicates,” Bennett said, “receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians.”
The issue of cannabis oil has hit the headlines following the campaign led by Charlotte Caldwell and her 12-year-old son Billy, who suffers from epilepsy.
The Caldwell’s have been vocal in calling for non-psychoactive high-CBD cannabis legalisation in the UK, following its apparent effectiveness in treating Billy’s condition.
Billy was admitted to hospital after his medical cannabis oil was confiscated and his mother says his seizures are reduced when he takes the oil.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Online, David Bienenstock believes it is important for people of faith to be open to evolving interpretations of the saved text: “I realise there is a huge debate about the medicinal properties off this plant and it is important to pursue that because this plant can and does help a lot of people.
“It is a tremendous alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and having this debate can help bring healing to people who are suffering, and to me that at the ethical core of Christianity.”
The Yamnaya people, who swept out of Central Asia about 5000 years ago and left their genes in most living Europeans and South Asians appear to have carried cannabis to Europe and the Middle East.
It’s difficult to know whether the Yamnaya used cannabis simply to make hemp for rope or also smoked or ingested it.
But some ancient people did inhale – digs in the Caucasus have uncovered braziers containing seeds and charred remains of cannabis dating to about 3000 B.C.