Drug Abuse in Scripture and Other extra-Biblical Writings
The Ergot Spur (Claviceps) LSD-25 and the Lolium Rye Ζιζάνια ZizŠnia
The Biblical Tare of Saint Matthew's Gospel
Chapter 13: 24-40.
‘And the servants of the householder came and said unto him, “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?” ’
St Matthew 13: 27 Cf. ASV, Mt. 13:27. KJV
In the Greek New Testament the Gospel Tare is cited as Ζιζάνια ZizŠnia, a lolium rye which grows as darnel among good wheat and is host to the parasitic fungal infection Claviceps tulasne (purpurea), the ergot mould, in which ergoline alkaloids, mainly derivatives of lysergic acid, can be found.
Mt.13:27 Greek NT
Latin Lolium temulentum ‘Drunken’
Scan: The Biblical Tare from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia vol. 5 p.2910
Ζιζάνια ZizŠnia, (singular -ον, sometimes αίρα aŪr-a Suidas. Lex.) of itself, is a harmless rye grass. The lolium rye is however host to the poisonous Ergot Spur, the parasitic fungal infection Claviceps. In the Jewish Talmud also called זוּנין zonin, indistinguishable from wheat until it heads at harvest. According to Jastrow’s Dictionary and Lexicon of Aramaic Hebrew in the Targums and Talmuds and Midrash Literature. vol. i, p.388 (1903) the name is derived from זוה זונה zűn„h meaning ‘degenerate’ or ‘degraded’ though the roots in Hebrew mean literally ‘a harlot’, ‘unfaithful’. Jastrow p.388 (q.v.) (Internet Archive). In Greek cited also Apocalypse of Moses xvi:3.
Cf. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Abbot-Smith) p.196. (Third edition 1936) with Hastings’ Bible Dictionary, vol. iv, p.678 (1902).
The Latin name for this darnel is Lolium temulentum, scientific and Latin 'drunken'. The Arabic cognates Zaw‚n (Ziw„n) or ZŻ'‚n (Zuw„n) are apparently Syriac loan words meaning 'nausea' or 'sickness' caused when the fungus infected rye kernels, containing ergoline alkaloids, mainly derivatives of lysergic acid, were inadvertently ingested.
Cf. A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language p.196 (Ernist Klein, Hebrew University 1987) with Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels,, vol. ii p.697 (1908)
The term temulentum -us or ‘drunken’ was used by early Latin writers much influenced by the New Testament, a further indication that Christ's reference to the Biblical Tare or ζιζάνια ZizŠnia was understood as indicating an ergot infected grain.
The Ergot Spur (the parasitic Claviceps) was recognized by the Assyrians as long ago as c. 600 BC as a poisonous pustule. The lolium host Ζιζάνια ZizŠnia was condemned by the Parsees (Zend Avesta) in about c. 350 BC as a noxious grass causing death and abortion. An inscription on an ancient Babylonian tablet from possibly as early as 2500 BC records that women who gathered ‘noxious grass’ (probably to procure abortion) were expelled from the city along with other ‘exorcists and mutterers of charms’. (Cited also Ergot to ‘Ernutin’, an Historical Sketch, Henry S. Wellcome, p.12 Chicago 1908. Internet Archive.) (Hofmann BDL p.103).
Photos: Ergot of Rye
The Ergot Spur is a poisonous parasitic fungus. It cannot be ingested without the serious effects of ergot poisoning - ergotism - which can include convulsions, gangrenous loss of extremities and death itself.
The spur is easily detected by its acrid or pungent smell
The Gospel Tangental
In view of the above, as a point of some importance it must be recognized that Christ’s reference to the tare in the Gospel Parable is not a reference to the hallucinogenic drug LSD-25 (Lysergic acid diethylamide) which, as an ingestible ergot derivative was not synthesized in the laboratory until 1938. The reference is tangental. The direct effects of the ergot poison, if ingested directly from the spur itself are both horrendous and sometimes fatal - see ergotism (Wikilink) - also some amides of lysergic acid, again closely related to the powerful hallucinogenic LSD-25 can be found in the seeds of several species of Morning Glory, mainly Ololiuqui Badoh.
The late Professor Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938 whilst researching the medicinal uses of the ergot fungus. The psychoactive properties of the derived LSD-25 were not however fully realized until 1943 when Dr. Hofmann himself inadvertently absorbed a small amount through the skin.
In the Gospel the fungus infected rye was separated from the good wheat at harvest and bound in bundles to be burned - the archaic Biblical term ‘tare’ itself is most probably derived through Med. Latin from Arabic tarhah meaning ‘that rejected’ (CED) - and it is in this sense only that Christ spoke of the Biblical tare, as that which resembles wheat yet bears poison in the field of the world as an offensive crop adulteration. (Cf. Saint Matthew Chapter 13:27-40).
For the concept of LSD and the Medieval Witch Hysteria see page
The Medieval Concept
For further info. on crop adulteration in Bible times and the Gospel allegory see eBook chapter
From Whence Hath it Tares?
Gathering Tares from Wheat
This unique photo was taken by the photographers of the American Vester & Co. Jerusalem about 1900-1920 and originally bore the caption
Gathering Tares from the Wheat at Bethel.
Taken before the introduction of the crop spray and modern fungicides it must have captured one of the last times that tares were ever separated by hand from wheat in Palestine.
Library of Congress Catalogue: (PPOC)
No known restrictions on publication
For other drugs and poisons in Scripture and the Early and Mediaeval periods including Mandragora (the Biblical ‘love apples’), drug induced abortion, the atropines, the ‘spiced wines’ of Old Testament times and a possible cannabis:
FREE eBOOK Drug Abuse in Scripture.
Credits: (i) Ergot in the Ear of Rye (Clavicepts purpurea) initial growth
Reproduced under license EMB-Service, Lucerne, Switzerland, from R. E. Schults and Albert Hofmann’s Botanic Drug Lexicon Plants of the Gods, Healing Arts Press 1992.
All rights reserved
: (ii) Ergot of Rye (Clavicepts purpurea) fully developed
by Dominique Jacquin (Ergot du Seigle) 23 July 2008
Biblical & Lexicon Source Index
(i) International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, (ISBE) 1960, vol v, p.2910.(EErdmans) (ii) New Bible Dictionary,1962, p.1238. (IVF) (iii) Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels,1908, vol ii p.697. (iv) Hastings’ Bible Dictionary, 1902, vol iv, p.678 (v). A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 1977, p.196. G. Abbott-Smith. (T&T Clark) (vi) Ergot to ‘Ernutin’, an Historical Sketch, Henry S. Wellcome, p.12 Chicago 1908. (vii) Hofmann BDL (Plants of the Gods) p.103. (viii) A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language p.196, Ernist Klein, Hebrew University 1987. (ix) A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli, and Yerushalimi, and the Midrashie Literature. Marcus Jastrow. New York & London 1903. (x) A Greek-English Lexicon p.756, Liddell & Scott, Oxford. Edition 1976. (xi) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, W. F. Arndt & F. W. Gingrich, p.340. University of Chicago Press 1957
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