H.N. Moldenke and A.L. Moldenke.
Plants of the Bible, Ronald Press, New York.
Popular interest in the botany of the Bible dates from very early times.
Plants and plant products are
referred to in so many hundreds of verses of both the old and new testaments, as well as in the books of
the Apocrypha, that it is not at all surprising to fi
nd early theologians, divines, and scholars exceedingly
interested in them.
Theological literature, from its very beginnings, is fi
lled with references to and com-
ments upon the plants of the Bible and of Biblical lands.
There was, of course, a long period of time when
no one dared to challenge any of the translations or interpretations of Biblical passages by the leaders of
the church then in authority.
The time came, however, when questions were asked and various sects or
denominations appeared-at fi
rst persecuted and suppressed as “heretics”.
Translations were questioned and
even the canonicity of some of the chapters and of entire books was challenged.
There naturally followed
heated and often bitter discussions and arguments among scholars and theologians concerning the transla-
tion and interpretation of certain Hebrew or Greek words or phrases in the various passages referring to, or
thought to refer to, plants or plant products.
No attempt has been made by us to review the huge theological
literature on this subject, or to list it in our bibliography, primarily because these writers were not botanically
trained and their arguments, while in many cases interesting to read, are largely metaphysical, philosophical,
moralistic, or philological in nature.
Passing over the incidental-though none the less important-contributions to the subject made by AR-
ISTOTLE, PLATO, PLINY, DIOSCORIDES, HERODOTUS, THEOPHRASTUS, and even PLUTARCH
and JOSEPHUS, we fi
nd that the fi
rst book (of which we have a record) that dealt entirely with the plants
mentioned in the Scriptures was that of LEVINUS LEMMENS in 1566 (206).
This was a 161-page work
with the imposing title of “Herbarum atque arborum quae in Bibliis passim obviae sunt et ex quibus sacri
vates similitudines desumunt, ac collationes rebus accommodant, dilucida explicatio; in qua narratione sin-
gula loca explanantur quibus Prophetae observata stirpium natura, conciones suas illustrant, divina oracula
fulciunt.” It was reissued, in 1568, with another title, as “Similitudinum ac parabolarum quae in Bibliis
ex herbis atque arboribus desumuntur dilucida explicatio.
..” Then followed THOMAS NEWTON’S “An
herbal for the Bible” in 1587, with 287 pages, which was actually only a translation, albeit with alterations,
of LEMMENS’ work.
The only other noteworthy contribution to the subject in the 16th century was F.