to GK who writes:
The Bible does mention a wide variety of folk-abortifacients and
contraceptives. Many of these represented valuable trade goods.
For example, 'myrrh' (a resin made from the African Commiphora plant) is
mentioned seventeen times,
Actually, not exactly true. Of the 17 times, the two occurrences in Genesis refer to "lot" --generally considered to be ladanum (which pre-dated commerce with the Arabian-belt that the Commiphora is indigenous to). Of the remaining 15, 3 are in the NT and refers to a mixed-myrrh, which has, as you suggest, the myrrh base, but was also mixed with rockrose and sweet cicely.
mostly in association with sexual intercourse.
This is seriously stretching the data. All of the uses except Cant 5.5 are tightly associated with perfume, incense, fragrances. Of course, half of the references occur in the Song of Songs, a seriously romantic and deliberately sensual work, but to link them to 'intercourse' is to do so without warrant. The other half of the references cannot be remotely linked to the sexual activity, indicating that a common association of 'myrrh' with 'intercourse' was not prevalent (e.g. myrrh was presented to the infant Jesus and to the dying Jesus). The association is between myrrh and fragrance.
It was used as a contraceptive among other purposes.
I would love to see your data on this. There is not a single reference to this anywhere in the scripture or in parallel Jewish literature. To call this "bible abortifacients" is at best unsupported, and at worst, misleading to your readers.
Myrrh is sometimes thought of as a narcotic and a poison. It is mentioned as such in "And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not."(Mark 15:23).
Probably correct here, but what in the world does this have to do with 'bible abortifacients'? (Although, technically, the usage here as narcotic is based on the Talmud in San43a, cf. Proverbs 31. 6-7, allowing a man about to be executed to be given a 'grain of incense' as narcotic to dull the pain. But other scholars consider this too strong a case, and just make it into a standard soldier's drink--cf. TDNT VII 459.)
A novel usage of myrrh occurs in "...every maid's turn was come to
go in to king Ahasuerus...so were the days of their purification accomplished,
to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet
I'm not sure why you call this 'novel,' but to me it simply tightens the link between myrrh and fragrances. Again, no reference to 'bible abortifacients.'
(Curiously, the data you are about to mention about Cyrene will count AGAINST myrrh being used for contraceptive uses and/or abortifacient purposes. Cyrene was founded by Battus (not his real name!--actually Aristoteles of Thera, the "Greek") c.630 B.C. After a century of booming growth and trade (in horses, and , as you point out, silphium --I couldn't find your silphion spelling anywhere.) In c. 525 B.C., the Persians conquer them. The story of Ester occurs under Persian rule a century later c. 450 B.C. With this chronology, the chances that silphion would have been more prevalent in contraceptive use than myrrh would, are very great. This merely suggests that the use of 'myrrh' in the passage, instead of the readily available silphion, points to its aromatic use instead of an alleged 'bible abortifacient' use.)
There are found several mentions of myrrh under highly erotic
circumstances throughout the book of Solomon. Examples include "A bundle
of myrrh is my beloved..."(Solomon 1:13); and "Who is this that
cometh...perfumed with myrrh..."(Solomon 3:6); and "...my sister, my
spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice..."(Solomon 5:1); and "I
rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my
fingers with sweet smelling myrrh..."(Solomon 5:5). And the harlot
"...perfumed my bed with myrrh..."(Proverbs 7:17).
Highly erotic, yes. Abortifacient/contraceptive, no data. God built the woman-man relationship to be highly erotic--nothing strange there. (I really struggle here with why your argument uses more elliptical suggestion than textual data. I really want to give you the benefit of the doubt on this, but the way the argument runs looks strangely polemical.)
A passing mention is made of Cyrene and Cyrenians in the New
Testament Bible. This area of North Africa was famous for it's production
and trade in silphion (giant fennel), a widely regarded contraceptive and
abortifacient of ancient times.
But again, not mentioned AT ALL in the bible. Let's call it "Ancient Orient Abortifacients", but not "Bible Abortifacients." The fact you mention above is historically correct, but it cannot be used to support your initial position.
Another abortifacient mentioned in the Bible is "wormwood"
(Artemesia Carduaceae or Absinthium) which can cause violent convulsions
and induce menstruation. Oil of wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium), is used
to make Absinthe liquor also. It too, in large quantities, can cause
convulsions. Wormwood was also considered an aphrodisiac by some.
But where in the Bible do they ever consume this, esp. intentionally? Of the seven OT passages and 2 NT ones, there are no references to physical ingestion (except in the prophetic psalmic passage, pointing to the crucifixion future), and accordingly, no association of 'wormwood' with anything other than 'bitterness.' (The reference to Absinthe--not invented until the late 1700's--doesn't make sense in a discourse on 'bible abortifacients') Again, no data?
In several of the nine mentions of wormwood in the Bible, it is used
as a poison. Typical would be "...concerning the prophets; Behold, I will
feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of
As you observed, the reference here is to poison; but the judgment YHWH is pronouncing on the hypocritical prophets is greater than simply a foul-tasting meal! Verse 12 shows the literal punishment to be banishment, the bitterness of which can be compared to poison. But, how does this relate to some alleged 'bible' abortifacient use (and or power) of wormwood?
and "...he hast made me drunken with wormwood."(Lamentations 3:15);
I assume here you are not focusing on some Absinthe-like 'drunken' image (since the word rwh is never translated as 'drunken' in modern translations, but denotes 'satiation' with words like drench, satisfy, drunk its fill, lavished on, etc.). But the wormwood reference is still related to the bitterness of judgment "He has filled me with bitter herbs"--during a famine-siege)
and the harlot who "But her end is as bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword."(Proverbs 5:4); and bad judges"...who turn judgment to wormwood..."(Amos 5:7). Related to wormwood are some 'thistles'. In the Bible, thistles are only referenced as undesirable weeds.
What's this got to do with 'bible abortifacients' again? Thistles?
Another abortifacient is 'hyssop'( possibly Majoram or Caper plant).
(It could also be sorghum--that fits the biblical data as well, actually.)
Both of these are better known as cathartics or laxatives.
Better known to whom? The Biblical writers/audiences only used them as large "Q-tips" for applying, literally or symbolically, the blood of sacrifices. It was NEVER ingested--a requirement to be cathartics, laxatives, abortifacients.
Hyssop is mentioned a dozen times in the Bible, usually as part of a ritual for cleanness, purging the bowels
There are no references to it being used for 'purging the bowels'--why would you say that? Of the 12 references, one is where it is used to hold the sponge at the crucifixion, 10 are where it is used as a 'sprinkling' devise to administer water to the cleansed person, house, artifact, and the last one in Psalm 51 is a metaphorical reference to those ritual cleansing acts (David's confession to God of his crime with Bathsheba, and plea for forgiveness). No reference to ingestion (for bowels, for example) at all.
, curing leprosy, etc. It is found in Leviticus chapter
fourteen, five times alone, and twice in Numbers Chapter nineteen for
Again, accurate data, but none for the argument.
Willow, date palm, and pomegranate were also considered useful for
By whom? Got any bible references? Surely you realize, with your familiarity with the data, that the ONLY even oblique reference to birth control is Onan.
They all stimulate the production of female sex hormones and
thereby reduce fertility. This is exactly the way modern birth control or
contraceptive pills work. Pomegranates are mentioned 31 times alone
throughout the Bible; most often in conjunction with cultic rituals.
So...what's the connection? The bible-time folk weren't even remotely acquainted with this (or at least they never brought it up). The whole development of contraceptive theory only began in the 2nd century, even though there were ancient Egyptian pieces on it. The fact that the link between Israel and Egypt was significantly severed at the Exodus, and that it was infanticide instead of contraception that Pharaoh depended on to control Israelite population argues that the science was not nearly as developed as might be inferred from your statements.
Another abortifacient is "rue" (also known as Pennyroyal or
Fleabane), a toxic member of the mint family. Rue contains a compound
similar to pilocarpine which induces abortion. It is widely used even today
throughout Latin America.
I actually think your facts are wrong in this case. "Rue" is not from the mint groups, but from the Rutaceae family. The biblical 'rue' is either Ruta graveolens (most probable) or Ruta chalepensis latifolia (both used for fragrance purposes). Strangely enough, it was thought in medieval times to COUNTERACT poisons! Your suggestions, Pennyroyal (of the mint family Labiatae, either Mentha pulegium or Hedeoma pulegium), or Fleabane (of the Aster family, Erigeron) are off the mark. The actual biblical 'rue' is a pretty harmless shrub used for aromatic purposes.
In the Bible, it is only mentioned once, as trade
goods, in "...woe unto you Pharisees, for you tithe mint and rue and all
manner of herbs..."(Luke 11:42).
Yeah, the Pharisees obviously did a lot of contraceptive trade! ; )
Another botanical product mentioned in the Bible is "gall'. The
Hebrew word 'rowsh' translated 'gall', means 'hemlock'.
Whoa! RSH occurs 12 times in the text, only 2x of which refer to plants, and we don't have the foggiest idea of what plant is being referred to. Unless you are claiming some kind of divine revelation, your assertion that it 'means hemlock' is at best speculative, and at worst, misleading. RSH actually refers to serpent venom in a number of places (DT 32.3; Job 20.16; Ps 140.3).
A deadly poison, it was also widely used as an abortifacient. Associated with bitterness, it's Biblical citations usually revolve around figurative usage such as "...lest there be among you a root that bearest gall and wormwood..."(Deuteronomy
29:18). It is also referenced as useful for purging 'uncleanness' in "...give us
water of gall to drink because we have sinned against the Lord."(Jeremiah
The above point only holds if your suggestion that it is hemlock holds...and there is no way to support that position with the scant data we have...and actually, there is one piece of data AGAINST your association of the two. One of the two 'plant' references is Hosea 10.4 in which RSH is used to describe 'poisonous weeds that spring up in a field'--this would not be a probable description of hemlock, which IS A TREE.
Induced miscarriages were attributed to other causes as well in "And the men of
the city said unto Elisha...the city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren."(2 Kings 2:19----the Hebrew 'shakol' translated 'barren' means 'miscarry' and 'cause abortion'. Here we have a euphemism with 'barren ground' meaning 'cause to miscarry'). The towns people recognized that the drinking water was causing miscarriages. Elisha's solution was to "...and he went forth into the spring of the waters, and cast salt in there, and thus sayest the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day..."(2 Kings 2:20-22).
I really have a problem with your seemingly dogmatic interpretive stance here. Shakol is used 23 times, only 3 of which are translated 'miscarry'. In NONE of those occurrences is the word 'ground' (erets) present! How can you claim that it is an idiom or even a euphemism without any data? In fact, the word erets occurs 2500+ times and is never once used to refer to a person (let alone to a person miscarrying). There is no lexical or contextual data to warrant any other interpretation than 'the land is unproductive'. There are no induced miscarriages here. Again, no data.
GREAT stuff in our holy Bible, right?
Maybe so, but you didn't give us enough Bible to judge, did you?!
One final note before a postlog...there are no doubt medical effects of commonplace foods in both the bible and modern times, but even if they are now known 'abortifacients', this in no way implies that their usage for 'normal' functions earns the 'great stuff in our holy bible, right?' derisive remark. The Assyrians carried swords and spears that were obviously used as 'abortifacients' on the pregnant women of Israel, but I am not sure that justifies a "Bible Abortifacients" conclusion.
I am new to the net, and I don't normally get involved at this level of detail, but your post to Nathan Harms bothered me somewhat. You stated that your approach was:
"please take another look at some of my postings. You'll note they almost all share a typical arrangement and format...a short introduction, followed by a collection of
actual Bible passages strung together with only enough of my own
commentary to provide continuity and order, followed by a very short
The fact that the Bible, as demonstrated by uncounted
select passages which I have simply collated and posted,
You also refer to some "...extremism and distortion of intent..." contained
within my postings. Please rest assured Nathan, I am almost entirely writing
about what the Bible SAYS. I'll continue to leave it to the theologians,
apologists, and the ecclesiastical establishment to inform their devotees what
they think the Bible MEANS."
Now, at first blush, I find the post that I just interacted with to be at odds with your position of merely "stating what the Bible says", and not interpreting it, or in 'simply collating and posting' Bible passages.
Now I could be seriously mistaken, but the one on "Bible EPT" also looks a lot like the above one (I will be posting my analysis of it tomorrow night, and a response to the Peter-Rooster issue as well). Again, I am new to the net and have not seen other postings of yours (which could be perfectly in harmony with your stated approach), so I will continue to hope that my first impression is erroneous.
Your posts are crafted well, and much of the relevant data is advanced, but I hope the other readers will read as critically and carefully as the importance of this conference warrants. In an area like "religion" it is critically important to apply I Thess 5.21 "test everything. Hold on to the good"--a biblical imperative to sort out the polemic and rhetoric from the truth, and a warrant for biblical eclecticism! I hope to add just an element of counter-balance to these important discussions.
My Lord commands me to be honest, open, and truthful--with the easy AND the difficult passages....See you in the posts.