c.550-640. Irish monk and missionary. He was one of the twelve monks who accompanied Columbanus from Ireland to Gaul, remaining there with him until 612. Then he settled with a few friends in a waste place to the west of Bregenz, in Austria near Lake Constance. Many legends surround him—e.g., that he was the founder of the Benedictine monastery at St. Gallen. In fact he died a century before its foundation.

Unfortunately, wormwood also is rendered as “hemlock,” and hemlock rendered as “gall,” so there is obviously some ambiguity.

The poisonous bitterness may come from the Colocynth (see Vine of Sodom). It is the inner pulp which is poisonous and strongly bitter. On the other hand, the gall in Matthew 27:34 may be an herb to give a slightly bitter taste. The drink offered the Lord could have been a normal Rom. alcoholic beverage.

The belief that the gall comes from the poppy, whose juice is certainly bitter, is feasible. A solution of poppy heads in water could describe that mentioned by the text in Jeremiah 9:15—“water of gall to drink.” Since one cannot really pinpoint the full meaning of the word, “rō’sh” might easily be any poisonous or semipoisonous bitter herb grown in Pal. at that time.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(2) mererah (Job 16:13), and merorah (Job 20:14,25), both derived from a root meaning "to be bitter," are applied to the human gall or "bile," but like (1), merorah is once applied to the venom of serpents (Job 20:14). The poison of these animals was supposed to reside in their bile.

(3) chole (Mt 27:34), "They gave him wine to drink mingled with gall"; this is clearly a reference to the Septuagint version of Ps 69:21: "They gave me also gall (chole, Hebrew rosh) for my food; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." In Mr 15:23, it says, "wine mingled with myrrh." It is well known that the Romans gave wine with frankincense to criminals before their execution to alleviate their sufferings; here the chole or bitter substance used was myrrh (Pliny Ep. xx.18; Sen. Ep. 83).

Additional Material

GALL (OF LIVER) (מְרֹרָה, H5355, מְרֵרָה, H5354; χολή, G5958). The gall mentioned in Job 16:13 obviously refers to the bile from the gall bladder. The gall of bitterness in Acts 8:23 may be the bitter herb, or the liquid from the bladder—for the Gr. word cholē means “anything bitter” or bile.

The bitter internal secretion produced inside the gall bladder can cause extreme bitterness and disgust, when by mistake left inside a cooked hare or rabbit. The Biblical usage of the word indicates despair, just as the ghastly taste of the gall bile has a “despairing” effect on men.

See also

  • Plants