JONAH AND THE “GOURD” AT NINEVEH: CONSEQUENCES OF A CLASSIC MISTRANSLATION
By Jules Janick and Harry S. Paris, CUCURBITACEAE, 2006, pp. 349-357.
ABSTRACT. The fast-growing plant referred to in the biblical Book of Jonah is most often translated into English as “gourd.” However, this is a mistranslation that dates to the appended Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, in which the Hebrew word qiqayon (castor, Ricinus communis, Euphorbiaceae) was transformed into the somewhat similar-sounding Greek word kolokynthi (colocynth, Citrullus colocynthis). In translation of the Greek into Latin, kolokynthi became the similar-sounding cucurbita (gourd). This is reflected in early iconography, the plant most often depicted being a long-fruited Lagenaria siceraria (bottle or calabash gourd), a fast-growing climber.
Cucurbits are frequent subjects of art, literature, and myth. Since ancient times, people the world over have been fascinated by the fast growth of cucurbits, from seed to a rampant vine bearing prominent, attractive fruits within two or three months. Metaphorically, the cucurbits are associated with warmth, Continue reading
1:1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. 4 But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. 6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. 7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what Continue reading