Oxford £11.99 (405pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Oxford Dictionary of the Bible, By WRF Browning
Snappy entries elucidate hazy Biblical events ranging from Naboth's vineyard, where Jezebel did the dirty, to the virgin birth: "Some modern theologians argue... if Jesus was miraculously provided with DNA by God, with no human ancestry, how did he have a human inheritance, of the house of David?"
We learn that the honey-like manna found lying in the wilderness was either a sap expelled by insects or the cocoon of a parasitic beetle.
Conveniently, a double portion fell on Fridays to prevent gatherers having to work on the Sabbath. Myrrh is contradictorily regarded as a narcotic (Mark 4:31) and as an aphrodisiac (Proverbs 7:17), though Browning firmly asserts: "The later tradition that myrrh symbolised grief is not biblical."
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