Culture has a powerful prophylactic component. People don’t want to be seen questioning authority and accepted “truths.” This is especially the case as they grow out of their teenage years and learn to fit in as part of the herd. Some subjects make this particularly clear because cultural biases deride them, never giving them a fair chance at consideration. I’ve run into a number of these over the years, but an example will bring these abstractions to clarity. Recently a commentor sent me to the video “Kaneh Bosm: The Hidden Story of Cannabis in the Old Testament.” The idea is one I’ve addressed before—that cannabis was used in incense combinations in the biblical world. Now, I haven’t done research on this, but what becomes clear is that many scholars over the years have dismissed the idea out of hand because, well, it invokes pot.
The reason marijuana—something I’ve never used and have no desire to try personally—has been demonized is one of considerable interest. This is especially the case since it appears to have been widely used in antiquity. No respectable biblical scholar, however, would be caught suggesting that it might have been incorporated in the rites of ancient Israel. The modern stigma of cannabis, in other words, discounts the possibilities that in ancient times it was used in sacred contexts. The “war on drugs” in the United States was largely led by religious conviction. The heirs of Christian prohibition. Sure, some drugs can lead to real problems. The deeper issue, however, is that society’s structure leads people to the place where drugs seem to be the only answer. The civilized response? Make them illegal.
That mark against controlled substances colors our view of history. If such things are illegal now then they must never have been used. Chemical analysis of various utensils (what might be called “paraphernalia” today, indicates that ancients knew of and used cannabis. Our ordered view of ancient Israel as receiving the one true and utterly sacred faith preclude the possibility that our demonized substance could’ve been used in ancient times. I’ve noticed this with the other topic of the documentary—Asherah. Conservative scholarship still denies that ancients might’ve thought Yahweh had a spouse. (My own work does not deny this, but simply questions the nature of the evidence; I think it is likely people believed Yahweh had a consort.) So we once again collide with a “no go” topic. So, after we admit the possibility of drugs and sex, so the thinking goes, what we we find next—ancient rock-n-roll?