It has came to my attention that there is a great debate on the internet regarding the ingredients of the "Holy anointing oil", with some saying that Kaneh Bosem translates to cannabis.

I was rather surprised to find out that this belief is supported by the Ancient Hebrew Research Center.

Ancient Hebrew Research Center

The Hebrew phrase qaneh bosem can be defined as “an aromatic resinous reed plant” and is descriptive of the cannabis plant. Just as the word “cinnamon” is derived from a Semitic origin; it is possible that “cannabis” is also of Semitic origin. Cannabis was known and used in the Near East at the time of the Hebrew people.

The Guardian

I was shocked to find out that this claim was documented in The Guardian newspaper, which is a British national newspaper.

The Guardian

Jesus 'healed using cannabis'

The Times of Israel

The claim is further supported by the Times of Israel.

The Times of Israel

Do you know that “cannabis” comes from the Hebrew word “קנבוס” (“KaNaBoS”)? And קנבוס actually comes from the ancient Biblical term, “קנה בשם” (“KaNeH BoSeM”), one of the ingredients of the anointing oil delineated in Exodus 30:23!


It is only when I came to Wikipedia that I found out that there are opponents to this theory, such as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.


Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan notes that "On the basis of cognate pronunciation and Septuagint readings, some identify Keneh bosem with the English and Greek cannabis, the hemp plant. Benet argued that equating Keneh Bosem with sweet cane could be traced to a mistranslation in the Septuagint, which mistook Keneh Bosem, later referred to as "cannabos" in the Talmud, as "kalabos", a common Egyptian marsh cane plant.


The claim that Cannabis was one of the ingredients of the "Holy anointing oil" is also made in a youtube video. Kaneh Bosm The Hidden Story of Cannabis in the Old Testament


What do Christians believe Kaneh Bosem translates to?

  • 3
    "supported by none other than the Ancient Hebrew Research Center" Is that meant to be a big deal? Isn't it just one guy's personal website? What are Jeff A. Benner's qualifications? Oh, I see that he's responsible for one of the mechanical 'translations'. Sorry, but that pretty much disqualifies him as a Hebrew expert (because all experts acknowledge the existence of polysemy, and that context matters for understanding meaning).
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 11, 2022 at 11:46
  • 1
    Up-voted. Informative and appreciated. Cannot understand the down-vote, myself. Mike's excellent answer also up-voted.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 11, 2022 at 17:13
  • 2
    If you just want to know how best to translate the phrase, then this would be better migrated to Biblical Hermeneutics, after editing it to not be scoped to Christians.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 11, 2022 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


Lest any Cannabis lovers get too excited, the qâneh portion of this compound phrase seems to indicate the stem or stalk of a reed-like plant:

Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions

  1. reed, stalk, bone, balances 1a) stalk 1b) water-plant, reed 1c) calamus (aromatic reed)

If anyone has ever seen a full grown Cannabis plant it is difficult to imagine calling it a reed. It really looks more like a bush than anything. Cannabis is the top picture and Calamagrostis/Reed Grass is on the bottom.

mature Cannabis plant calamagrostis reed grass

If Cannabis is in view here (which seems unlikely) it would be specifically referring to the stalk of the plant and not the leaves or buds. The stalk or stem of Cannabis contains very little, if any, of CBD, THC, or any of the "desired" chemical compounds.

This is not to downplay the medicinal uses of the Cannabis plant but only to say it was unlikely to have been used in the concoction of Holy Anointing Oil for temple use. After all, why rub the Ark of the Covenant, the altar, the candlesticks, etc. with medicinal or psychotropic compounds?

Additionally, even if Cannabis is the referenced plant, the items to be used in temple worship and indeed the priesthood and the very temple itself are rendered obsolete by the advent of the Christ to whom it all pointed.

Christians do not make use of "holy anointing oil" to sanctify either items or people. Sanctification under the New Covenant is the work of the Holy Spirit. No Cannabis needed.

  • Up-voted +1. As elsewhere in Hebrew, a supposed 'botanical identification' is, here, seen to be descriptive and not definitive. Another example is 'gopher' wood (of the ark which Noah built) which is not a botanical species but refers to the the fact that the wood (from whichever particular tree) was steeped in 'molten' (again, descriptive, referring to pitch) in order to waterproof it.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 11, 2022 at 17:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .