When is Corn not Corn?

By Don R. Hastings

You may think that this subject is not very important, but it is one that produces an argument in almost every Bible class when it is discussed. I have been accused of not believing what the Bible taught because I said that the word “corn”, found in the King James Version, has reference to grain. Many brethren, when they see the word “corn” in the King James Version, naturally think of corn as we know it. But, does the word “corn” have reference to what we call “corn”? We should want to know and teach the truth in all matters.

Albert Barnes, in his commentary, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, makes this statement while commenting on Matthew 12:1: “The word corn, as used in our translation of the Bible, has no reference to maize, or Indian corn, as it has with us. Indian corn was unknown till the discovery of America, and it is scarcely probable that the translators knew anything of it. The word was applied, as it is still in England, to wheat, rye, oats, and barley. This explains the circumstance that they rubbed it in their hands, (Luke VI. 1,) to separate the grain from the chaff.” In England, the word “corn” is a general term for grain. This explains why the King James translators translated the Hebrew and Greek word for grain as “corn”. The American Standard Version, the New American Standard Version and many other versions will invariably use the word “grain” where the King James has the word “corn”.

Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24) The passage reveals clearly that the word “corn” has reference to grain as it is translated in the American Standard and other versions.

All this means that the disciples did not eat raw corn, but wheat or barley. Pharaoh did not dream of “seven ears of corn” as we think of corn, but “seven ears of grain” which was probably wheat (Genesis 41:5). Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy wheat, not what we call “corn”.

While on this subject, let us notice another misunderstood passage. In Luke 15:16, we read of the prodigal son’s desire to eat “the husks that the swine did eat”. I wondered for a long time how anyone could be hungry enough to want to eat corn-husks. Now I know that the Greek word translated “husks” has reference to “the pods of the carob tree”. (See the footnote in the American Standard Version.) William Smith, in his book, A Dictionary of the Bible, describes these pods and tells how the seeds were used as food by poor people and swine.

After I had enlightened a Bible class on this important matter, Sister Meta Given, who is the author of a cookbook, came to me and asked if I had ever eaten carob. I assured her that I had not. So she invited my family to her house for a carob drink, which was like hot chocolate, and some carob cake. She said that the carob looks and tastes something like chocolate, but that it is better for you. If you want what the prodigal son wanted, you can get it in most health food stores.

Truth Magazine XXI: 23, p. 354
June 9, 1977