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Plants of the Bible

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Plants are mentioned countless times in the Bible -- from the "apples" of Genesis and the "bitter herbs" of Passover to the New Testament's "lilies of the field." Such references abound in ordinary conversation. But it may surprise you that most of us don't know as much about this topic as we think we do.I once wrote a long article and sidebar about this. When I give talks on the subject, one of the questions that always comes up is: Where can I read more about this?

Unfortunately, books on biblical plants tend to go out of print fairly quickly. So print references may be hard to locate except at your library. But I was delighted to find two new books on the topic.

"Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh” (Timber Press, $24.95, hardcover) is an authoritative – but accessible -- look at not only the plants of the Bible (including the Apocrypha), but also the Quran (Koran).

Its author, Lytton John Musselman, is professor of botany and chair of the department of biological science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., who has lived and worked in several Arab countries.His goal: “to study every plant mentioned in the Bible and the Quran growing in nature; to learn how local people still use these plants today; to compare current uses with how people used these plants in ancient times; to establish what controversies, past and present, surround these plants’ identities; and, generally, to assimilate all I could about this remarkable assemblage of plants.”

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