Jesus Used Cannabis Oil, Writer Says

February's High Times magazine takes the search for the historical Jesus to a place some might not want to go: the use of cannabis-infused oil for anointing leaders and healing the sick.

In an article titled "Was Jesus a Stoner?," author and Canadian television host Chris Bennett argues that Jesus and his followers used an oil made from a Hebrew recipe noted in Exodus 30: 22-33. That mixture contained kaneh-bosem, a substance some scientists identify as cannabis extracted into a mixture of olive oil and herbs.

Bennett, an advocate for the legalization of marijuana for medical use, says Jesus used the holy oil not only to treat such ailments as epilepsy and skin diseases, but also to baptize his 12 apostles before sending them out to help others. "And they cast out many devils and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them," Mark the gospeler says in Chapter 6.

Critics have accused Bennett of using Jesus to push his own agenda, but Carl Ruck, a professor of classics at Boston University, said Bennett makes a strong case. "Over the centuries, drugs have been used by virtually all religions," Ruck wrote in the Sunday Times of London. "Why not Christianity?

Bush Taps Into Poetry of Hymn

Speaking of infusion, President Bush slipped a cryptic but unequivocal nod to Christianity into Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

In the section on compassion, part of his domestic agenda, the president spoke of Americans' inherent goodness. "There is power, wonder-working power in the goodness and idealism of the American people," he said, echoing the refrain of a famous hymn, "There Is Power in the Blood":

"There is power, power, wonder-working power

in the blood of the Lamb

There is power, power, wonder-working power

in the precious blood of the Lamb."

Coincidence? Not a chance.

Chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson is an evangelical Christian -- his first speechwriting job was with prison evangelist Charles Colson -- and several of Gerson's deputies are also fluent in the poetry of the Bible and hymnology.

The president's quote from Lewis Jones's 1899 camp revival hymn was quite intentional, one of the deputies said.

Pope Has Cell Phone Users' Ears

There's no legendary tradition involved in Rome's latest efforts to ensure that the pope remains close to the heart -- and ear -- of Italy's citizenry.

Through a new arrangement between the Vatican and Telecom Italia Mobile, a wireless company, cellular phone users can click on to a daily thought from Pope John Paul II culled from his sermons and speeches and squeezed into a screen-size message.

The cost for the "short message service" is 15 euro cents (16 U.S. cents).

The service is currently available only in Italian, but the wireless company is considering adding other languages. The company offers a similar service in Brazil, transmitting Bible passages in Portuguese.

GOP Winning Over More Jews

More U.S. Jews are beginning to associate with the Republican Party and state politically conservative views, according to a survey released last month to the Jewish newspaper Forward.

In perhaps the most notable finding, almost half of the respondents who voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election said they were uncertain whether they would do the same today. The 57 percent who said they would vote for Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- Lieberman's candidacy became official after the survey was completed -- fell short of the 79 percent of Jews who voted for the Democratic ticket two years ago.

When asked "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?," 11 percent of respondents over 65 said they were Republicans; 26 percent of Jews under 35 said the same.

About 1,400 Jews participated in the survey, which was conducted in November and December and funded by the Jewish education department of the Jewish Agency for Israel in corporation with the Florence G. Heller/JCC Association Research Center in New York.

Celebration

This Month's Spotlight: Eid al-Adha, Muslim "Celebration of Sacrifice."

Date: Feb. 12.

Description: Eid al-Adha, one of two major holidays in Islam, concludes Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims worldwide mark the occasion with a four-day festival of communal prayer and activities that include the sacrifice of a sheep to commemorate Ibrahim's (Abraham's) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son, Ishmael (Isaac in Jewish and Christian traditions). Celebrants eat about one-third of the meat and contribute the rest to the poor.

More Information: www.islamicity.com

Religion 101

Are the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible the same thing?

It depends on the Christian version used for comparison. The Protestant Old Testament consists of the same 39 books as the Hebrew Bible but is organized differently. The Protestant version is presented in rough chronological order, while the Jewish version, called the Tanach, is divided into the Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). The Roman Catholic Bible has 46 Old Testament books and the Eastern Orthodox Bible 51.

-- Compiled by Bill Broadway

Saturday in Religion: Local synagogues receive rare scrolls from Lithuania.