Category Archives: Plants in the Early Church

Death by Wormwood

Wormwood

Wormwood was a falling star with the same name as a plant; read Revelation 8:1-11.

St. John, the Beloved Disciple, is credited with writing Revelation. Revelation is an unveiling of spiritual forces operating behind the scenes in history (ESV-SB, 2008). Revelations is largely prophecy, describing what will occur in future time. The book was written in the form of a letter addressed to the 1st century churches in the 7 cities of the Roman province of Asia in the region now known as western Turkey. Probably, John wrote Revelation in 95-96 AD when he was exiled to the island of Patmos

In Revelation chapter 8, John described a vision in which 7 angels, each with a trumpet, stood before God. The angels were ready to sound the trumpets, initiating judgments on the earth. These judgments were not the final judgment on the earth; rather, they were to warn the people of coming destruction and call them to repentance (ESV-SB, 2008). The sounding of the first four trumpets caused plagues in nature – land, sea, fresh water, and heavenly bodies. See Table 1 for a synopsis of the effect of the sounding of the four trumpets.

Table1, Outcome of Blowing Trumpets 1-4.

Trumpet Caused Outcome on the earth
First: land Hail and fire, mixed with blood, were thrown on the earth 1/3 of the earth was burnt to include 1/3 of trees and plants. Every form of plant life was affected.
Second: sea Something like a great burning mountain – a great burning mass – was thrown in to the sea. 1/3 of the sea became blood, 1/3 of living creatures in sea died, 1/3 of ships were destroyed.
Third: fresh water A blazing star called Wormwood fell on 1/3 of the rivers and springs of the earth. 1/3 of waters (possibly fresh waters) became bitter and many people died from the bitter water.
Fourth: heavenly bodies Sun, moon and stars were struck 1/3 of the day and 1/3 of the night was without light.

When the third trumpet sounded, a blazing star fell to earth. This blazing star was called Wormwood or Absinthus. When meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere and start to burn they are called meteorites. In the United States, we commonly call them shooting stars. When a large meteorite hits the earth’s surface, a huge dust cloud rises. The dust and particulates in the cloud spread around the globe moved by winds and the rotation of the earth. Wormwood contained a contaminate that turned 1/3 of the earth’s fresh water bitter; or somehow released pollutants on earth that contaminated 1/3 of fresh water sources.

Wormwood

The Revelation 8:11 wormwood reference is to Artemisia absinthium, the best known of the approximately 400 artemisias. According to legend, wormwood grew up in the trail left by the serpent’s tail as it slithered out of the Garden of Eden. The earliest known description of wormwood was found on an Egyptian papyrus dated approximately 1600 BC; it was described as a medicine to rid the body of worms. With the exception of rue, wormwood is the bitterest known herb. Wormwood is native to North Africa and temperate regions of Eurasia. Americans describe wormwood as similar to Western sagebrush.

An addictive drink, absinthe, can be made from the Artemisia leaves and flower tops. Absinthe is illegal in most countries of the world including the United States, Canada and France. The active ingredient in wormwood is thujone, which in large quantities is a convulsive poison.

Symbolism: Idolatry

In the Old Testament, wormwood was used as a metaphor in the following ways: a) idolatry of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:18); b) calamity and sorrow (Jeremiah 9:15, 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19); and c) false judgment (Amos 5:7) (McGee, 1991). The star’s name identified that its effects were judgment on man for his idolatry and injustice. In the Bible era, idolatry primarily referred to worship of idols or graven images, e.g., Baal, Artemis, Neptune. Most westerners do not worship statues, but that does not mean that we are not idolaters. Idolatry is blind or excessive devotion to something or someone, e.g., money, prestige, a charismatic individual.

Reflection: The calamity and sorrow associated with contamination of 1/3 of the fresh water supply of the world will be natural consequences of turning from God and worshiping idols.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

copyright September 4, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth

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The Wildflower and the Rich

Crown Daisys, Israeli seashore James uses the image of a transient wild flower to depict the brevity of wealth in James 1:10-11.

Most scholars agree that the James who wrote the New Testament book was the half-brother of Jesus. James could have been written as early as 50 A.D., which would make it one of the earliest books of the New Testament. The book of James has a distinctive Jewish nature; the letter was written to the “12 tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1). James’ focus is vital Christianity faith exemplified by works.

In James 1:10-11, James provided instruction for the Christian who was financially rich. Many of the world’s people view riches as a reason for pride; riches can buy comfort, prestige, and all types of world goods. In contrast to this world view, James wrote that riches are a reason to be humble. James’ rationale was that the rich man will pass away like a wild flower. With the heat of a scorching sun, the wild flower withers, its blossoms fall and its beauty is destroyed. Similarly, a rich man fades away as he goes about his business.
Throughout his letter, James reinforced his assertion that riches were a reason for humility. He wrote that the poor are rich in faith (James 2:5-7). In contrast, the financially rich often exploit others and drag them to court. The rich even slander the name of Christ. James advised rich people to weep and wail because misery would come upon them; they hoarded their wealth, refuse to pay their workers, and condemned and murdered innocent men (James 5:1-6).

Crown Daisy

A common wild flower in Israel is the crown daisy, also known as the Chrysanthemum coronarium and in the United States as the Glebionis coronarium. Noted Israeli botonists Michael Zohary proposed that James’ wildflower was the crown daisy. The crown daisy was native to the Mediterranean Basin and is now distributed throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Crown daisies grow in every region of Israel, from northern Mount Hermon though the southern deserts. Often the crown daisy grows where humans disturbed the natural vegetation, e.g., waste areas, along roadsides. Yellow flower heads are 1-2 inches in diameter with a central disk surrounded by 15-12 flower petals. Petals are 1-1.5 inches long. Both the disk and petals are yellow; however, the disk is a darker (almost gold) yellow with up to 100 florets. In Israel, crown daisies bloom from February through May. Plants can self-sow when the soil is disturbed, for example by hoeing or raking.

Symbolism: Crown

In Latin, the language used to name plants, coronarium means crown in the sense of garland. Often daisies are woven into daisy chains for around the forehead or neck. James echoed Jesus’ admonishment that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). Rather, life is like an ephemeral wild flower or like mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). Life here on earth is short. Ideally, we live so that when life ends, we receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

Reflection: Considering doing a personal inventory; ask yourself if you are satisfied with how you are living your life. Include in the self-assessment a question about what you are doing to earn/receive your crown of life.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 28, 2014; Carolyn A. Roth

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Vegetables: To eat or not to eat?

Watermelon, Luigi Rignanese
Bible Reference: Read Romans 14:1-4 for Paul’s example of vegetables; however, the entire Chapter 14 develops Paul’s persuasive argument of acting out of love for our brothers.

The apostle Paul wrote the book “Romans” in about 57 A.D. It was written as a letter to the Roman Church from Corinth, Greece. Likely Phoebe carried the letter from Corinth to Rome (Romans 16:1-2). The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness through Christ. In Chapter 14, Paul called for mutual acceptance between weak and strong Christians. Weak Christians felt that in order to remain close to God, they should eat some foods, e.g., vegetables, while abstaining from others, e.g. meat. In contrast, strong Christians accepted that what they ate was independent of their saving relationship with Christ.

Many of us cannot relate to how or why eating vegetables versus meat was so important to the Roman church. Today, a parallel is Christians who believe that drinking alcohol hinders their walk with Christ while other Christians believe that drinking alcohol in moderation is consistent with the Christian life.

In the first four verses of Romans 14, Paul provided three principles for Christians and Christian churches to live by:

Principle 1: We should welcome weaker Christians into our churches; but not for the purpose of disputing or arguing with them over their opinions. We should welcome them because they are fellow believers.

Principle 2: In the Christian church there must be mutual forbearance. The mature (strong) Christian must not despise his weak brother. Similarly, neither should a weak brother judge as a sinner a Christian who enjoys meat, e.g., ham, beef. God has received both groups of Christians into his family; both groups are members in good standing.

Principle 3: Each believer is a servant of the Lord; God is their master. God, the master of all Christians, will sustain those on both sides of the issue of what to eat.

Watermelon

At the beginning of the first millennium in Rome, most Christians were slaves or from the very poor class (plebeians). Their foods were simple and consisted of grains, vegetables, and fish; fish was often a luxury. Examples of vegetables included cabbage, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, melons, onions, and pumpkins. Watermelon was a common vegetable found in both Rome and Palestine and will be used as an example of a vegetable.

The species name of watermelon is Citrullus lanatus, previously known as Citrullus vulgaris. Watermelons were indigenous to tropical Africa. Pictures of the watermelon were included in Egyptian pyramid paintings from 2000 B.C. Watermelon seeds were found in Iron Age deposits near the Dead Sea and at Arad, Israel.

Luigi Rignanese

Symbolism: Grace

What better plant to symbolize grace than the watermelon which supplied both water and food to the early Church? Grace is unmerited divine assistance that God gives humans for their regeneration or sanctification. Grace occurred through Christ giving his body and blood for the Church. The water of the melon reminds us of God’s blood and the pulp of his body given up for us. The poorest people in the early Church were sustained by watermelons.

Reflection: Christians today would all be impoverished without Christ’s grace.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: May 2014, Carolyn A. Roth

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