John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 4:6, Jonah and the Gourd

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

//Ever try to take refuge in the shade of the gourd? This must be a monster gourd, right?

It was Jerome in the fourth century who translated the Bible into Latin–the version we call the Vulgate–and it was he who decided the plant that sheltered Jonah was a gourd. Previous to this, it was an ivy. The truth is, nobody, to this day, really knows what type of plant sheltered Jonah in this story. Many scholars believe it was a castor bean plant.

But a gourd? This was too much. For many people, calling the ivy a gourd was scandalous. They ridiculed Jerome, saying he must like gourds better than ivy so that he has a place to stash away his drink!

But the idea of a gourd stuck, and made it into the King James Version. Sadly, most of today’s translations duck the controversy by calling it a “leafy plant.”

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