Notes Charlock

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Matthew 13:31-32 (KJV)

Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

Matthew 13:31-32 (RSV)

Another illustration he set before them, saying, "The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain which a man took and planted in his field; which is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the largest of the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches."

Matthew 13:31-32 (NWT)

Zohary favors Brassica nigra, the black mustard, as the grain of mustard seed in the Bible. As an Israeli botanist, he would know better than I that Brassica nigra is the tallest of the local species of Brassica and closely related Sinapis, and has seed circa 1 mm. But he also admits that "The Greek sinapis is undoubtedly 'mustard (ZOH).'" No need to quibble about whether it is the least of seed or not. (I suspect a mustard seed is hundreds of times heavier than orchid seed, even my Artemisia annua seed.) I suspect that in biblical times, as in Maryland fields in spring, few but botanists make distinctions between the Brassica and Sinapis. Taxonomists still quibble over the genus in which to place the charlock, one candidate for the biblical mustard seed. "Mustard is not mentioned in the Old Testament but is often referred to in the Mishnah." (ZOH). Hager's Handbuch lists a lot of common names, phytochemicals, and synonyms, but no indications or activities (HH2). I would use it generically with black or white mustard myself. All can be weeds. More PubMed abstracts deal with weediness than medicine. But the species share the chemistry and medicine of other Brassica and Sinapis.

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