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Stacte

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Stacte

Stacte (tabernacle.

This incense was considered restricted for sacred purposes honoring KJV)

The Hebrew word nataf means "drop," corresponding to "drops of water (Job 36:27)." The Septuagint translates nataf as stacte, a Greek word meaning "an oozing substance," which refers to various viscous liquids, including myrrh.[2] Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel explained, "Stacte is simply the sap that drips from the tapping of the wood of the balsam tree (Kerithot 6a)." It is not exactly clear from what plant nataf was derived. It might have been a myrrh extract of the highest grade, the resin of Styrax officinalis, the resin of Styrax benzoin (a close relative of and of the same genus as Styrax Officinalis), or even storax, the resin of Turkish Sweetgum (Liquidambar orientalis).[3]

Contenders for Stacte

Myrrh Extract

Most all ancient sources refer to Stacte as being a produce of myrrh.[4] It is variously described as the transparent parts separated or extracted from the myrrh resin, the myrrh that exudes spontaneously from the tree, or the product of myrrh heated over fire.

The ancient Greek botanist Theophrastus describes the manufacturing of stacte: "From the myrrh, when it is bruised flows an oil; it is in fact called "stacte" because it comes in drops slowly." The ancient Roman historian Pliny in "A Natural History," describes stacte as, "the liquid which exuded naturally from the myrrh tree before the gum was collected from man-made incisions." Pancirollus says, myrrh is a drop or tear distilling from a tree in Arabia Felix; and stacte is a drop of myrrh, which is extracted from it, and yields a most precious liquid.[5] Dioscorides wrote that Stacte was made from Myrrh. He recorded that after having bruised the myrrh and dissolved it in oil of balanos over a gentle fire, hot water was poured over it. The myrrh and oil would sink to the bottom like a deposit; and as soon as this has occurred, they strained off the water and squeeze the sediment in a press.[6][7] Stoddart, who lists myrrh as a balm, informs us that "Myrrh—after the almost clear stacte has passed through—is reddish brown . . . Stacte is the thinnest moiety of myrrh, the very best of which is forced through tiny holes in the intact bark at the start of spring."[8] Pomet wrote that to obtain stacte one must first gather the myrrh "that flows spontaneously from the tree" and to look for portions of the resin which are "clear and transparent, apt to crumble, light." He says to choose the myrrh "that when it is broke, has little white spots in it." We are told that "stacte is that liquid part which is found in the center or middle of the lumps or clots of myrrh." Pomet also wrote that stacte is that "which is first so gather'd from the tree without force, and also press'd from the myrrh . . . there is prepar'd from it, an extract, an oil or liquor of myrrh."[9]

The Gerrhaean tribute to Antiochus III in 205 BC included one thousand talents of frankincense and two hundred of "stacte myrrh."

Cant. 5:5 reads, “I rose up to open to my beloved; And my hands dropped with myrrh, And my fingers with stacte” referring to myrrh and the stacte which seems to have exuded from it.[10] This would seem to agree with Sauer and Blakely who note that stacte was myrrh oil or liquid myrrh.[11]

Abrahams informs that “With regard to the Tabernacle incense, most scholars agree that the term 'stacte' is of Latin and Greek origin, and that stacte represents myrrh." [12] A. Lucas informs us in no uncertain terms that stacte is indeed a product of the myrrh tree.[13][14] Tucker says that “Common myrrh is obtained from Commiphora myrrha ; this is the species from which . . . stacte, was obtained.”[15][16]

R. Steuer, in his scholarly paper Stacte in Egyptian Antiquity, gives a convincing argument in favor of stacte being the product of the myrrh tree in ancient Egypt.[17] [18]

Styrax Officinalis

Most modern authorities identify stacte with the gum of the Storax tree (Styrax officinale, syn S. officinalis).[19] [20] [21] One source states that stacte is “the product of the Storax . . . [T]he Septuagint name 'Stacte,' derived from the verb 'stazo,' to flow. By metonymy the name of the product, most probably, was transferred to the tree—as was the case in so many other instances among the ancient Israelites . . . [It] must not for a moment be confused or confounded with the Liquid Storax of commerce, which is the product of an altogether different Eastern tree . . . The Talmud contains several references to the Storax plant and its product. Of course in connection with the preparation of the holy incense for the Temple services." [22] The ancient book of Jubilees, part of the dead Sea scroll collection found in Qumran, make reference to storax (styrax). [23] [24] Carroll and Siler says that "The Septuagint’s translation was most likely in error because it seems unlikely that nataph is a form of myrrh . . . it seems that its translation in the Septuagint as stacte was made simply because both nataph and stacte mean 'to drip' . . . the storax tree seems more likely.  Our word storax may even come from the Hebrew tsori." [25]

Styrax Benzoin

(Styrax benzoin syn. Styrax Tonkinensis)

In his commentary on Exodus 30:34 Cook writes that “it seems by no means unlikely that the stacte here mentioned was the gum known as Benzoin, or Gum Benjamin, which is an important ingredient in the incense now used in churches and mosks, and is the produce of another storax-tree (Styrax benzoin) that grows in Java and Sumatra."[26]

Styrax benzoin has a history steeped in antiquity and was once employed by the ancient Egyptians in the art of perfumery and incense. The apothecary of Shemot (book of Exodus) would have been familiar with its aromatic uses. All the compounds identified in benzoin resin were detected in an archaeological organic residue from an Egyptian ceramic censer, thus proving that this resin was used as one of the components of the mixture of organic materials burned as incense in ancient Egypt.[27] Morfit writes that the priests of Memphis burned benzoin incense every morning.[28] The name "benzoin" is probably derived from Arabic lubān jāwī (لبان جاوي, "Javan frankincense"); compare the mid-eastern terms "gum benjamin" and "benjoin". H.J. Abrahams states that the use of benzoin in the Biblical incense is not inconceivable since Syro-Arabian tribes maintained extensive trade routes prior to Hellenism. Styrax benzoin was available via import to the Biblical lands during the Old Testament era.

The Hindustanis use Styrax Benzoin to burn in their temples-which Strong and McClintoch write is a circumstance strongly in favor of the hypothesis that the stacte of Exodus is a storax.[29]

Many scholars cite Styrax officinalis as the biblical styrax, however the yield of resin produced by S. officinalis, if any is produced at all, is extremely small. The large amounts of stacte needed for liturgical purposes, especially in the first temple period, would seem to have necessitated the import of a styrax that could have met the demand. Styrax benzoin yields a much larger yield of resin and could fill this need quite adequately. As mentioned above, Styrax benzoin is a close relative of and of the same genus as Styrax officinalis. Herodotus of Halicarnassus in the 5th century BC indicates that different kinds of "storax" were traded. Dioscorides referred to styrax as “storax” which was the name used of the styrax genus in antiquity (modern storax is usually liquidamber) [30] Gamaliel said that stacte was nothing more than the sap that drips from the branches of the balsam tree. Balsam is a term that has been used for a variety of pleasantly scented vegetable gums that usually contain benzoic acid such as is contained in benzoin gum from the balsam tree styrax benzoin.[31]

Dioscordes describes two kinds of stacte; one which is derived from myrrh and one which was derived from styrax. He also refers to “another called gabirea ...it also yields much stacte.”[32][33] Houtman writes that stacte refers to myrrh, but is also used for other types of gums.[34]

Rosenmeuller records that “the Greeks also called stacte, a species of Storax gum, which Dioscorides describes, as transparent like a tear, and resembling myrrh.”[35] The word 'Storax' is an alteration of the Late Latin styrax.   In the Orphic hymns, the Greek word for storax is στόρακας or στόρακα.

One ancient Egyptian perfume formula (1200 BC) consisted of “Storax, Labdanum, Galbanum, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon, Cassia, Honey, Raisins.”[36]

The book of Ecclesiasticus lists storax as one of the ingredients when alluding to the sacred incense of the biblical tabernacle.[37]

Myrrh Extract and Styrax Benzoin mixed

Some writers say that myrrh rarely consisted of one sole resin but was a mixture of resins. One kind of myrrh described by Dioscorides was "like the stacte, a composition of myrrh and some other ingredient" [38] Dioscorides said that one form of stacte was styrax (storax in antiquity) and a fat mixed. The essential of myrrh is often referred to as “the fat of fresh myrrh.” [39]

The book of Eccesiasticus (Sirach) 24:15 alludes to the sacred incense speaking of “a pleasant odour like the best myrrh, as galbanum, and onyx, and sweet storax, and as the fume of frankincense in the tabernacle.” Either myrrh and styrax were originally mixed together or styrax was treated with myrrh or by the time of the first temple period a fifth ingredient was added to the ketoret.[40] Styrax may have been the solid carrier for the liquid myrrh. For centuries, benzoin has been mixed with myrrh, particularly in the Middle East, to scent private homes and places of worship.[41]

Opobalsamum / Mecca Myrrh

(Commiphora opobalsamum [L.] Engl.Mecca myrrh) Some writers believe that stacte was derived from the balsam tree, Commiphora opobalsamum, known as kataf in the Talmud, which grows wild in Yemen and around Mecca. [42][43] The Revised Standard Version places "opobalsamum" in the margin by Exodus 30:34. From the commiphora genus,[44][45] opobalsamum is a relative of the official myrrh known as commiphora myrrha [46] and produces a myrrh resin known as Mecca myrrh.[47] Irenaeus referred to “myrrh called opobalsumum.” [48] The juice exudes spontaneously during the heat of summer, in resinous drops, but at other times the process is helped by making incisions in the bark.[49] It historically has produced a very pleasant aromatic resin with many alleged medicinal properties. The resin has a strong fragrant smell, with something of the lemon or citron flavour, a scent of vanilla, and the bitter, astringent aroma of commiphora myrrha. [50]

Balsam of Tolu

Balsam of Tolu (Myroxylon toluifera balsamum) is sometimes called opobalsamum and is sometimes substituted for it, however it is not the true C. opobalsamum.[51] Balsam of Tolu has a sweet, aromatic, resinous scent with an odour resembling vanilla or benzoin.[52] Opoponax (Commiphora erythraea var. glabrescens) is sometimes referred to as opobalsamum, and is a relative of but not the true C. opobalsamum.[53][54]

Liquidamber

It is believed by some that liquidamber was the stacte of antiquity.[55][56] This ancient product was discovered in King Tut's tomb.

Myrrh Extract and Cinnamon mixed

Rosenmuller says that the etymology of the word stacte indicates "to distil," and that it was a distillate from myrrh and cinnamon which was mixed together.[57]

Myrrh and Labdanum mixed

Moldenke writes that the myrrh of certain parts of Biblical history was actually labdanum.[58] It is believed that many instances in the Bible where it speaks of myrrh it is actually referring to a mixture of myrrh and labdanum.[59] According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary one of the definitions of “myrrh” is “a mixture of myrrh and labdanum.” If what was often referred to as myrrh was actually a mixture of myrrh and labdanum, then the manufacturing of stacte as described by Dioscorides could have reasonably been the product of this myrrh and labdanum mixture.

Labdanum

(loT, stacte; translated "myrrh" in Genesis 37:25, margin "ladanum"; 43:11) The fragrant resin obtained from some species of cistus and called in Arabic ladham, in Latin ladanum. [60] Stacte is described as resin which exudes naturally without a manmade incision. Labdanum exudes from the rock rose bush naturally without any incisions being made.

Oil of Cinnamon

Stacte might have been the sweetly fragrant resin that used to exude spontaneously from Amyris kataf, the bark of which, in other opinions, is the biblical “cinnamon.” [61] or may have been the product of the cinnamon tree itself.

Jules Janick writes: “Stacte; unknown, probably oil of cinnamon or cassia or aromatic gem resins.” [62]

From Websters Dictionary: “Stacte;One of the sweet spices used by the ancient Jews in the preparation of incense. It was perhaps an oil or other form of myrrh or cinnamon, or a kind of storax.” [63]

Footnotes

References

  • Bible Encyclopedia.net (2007): Stacte. Version of 07:35, 22 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-DEC-19.
  • Stacte. Retrieved 2007-DEC-19.

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