Carob: Today’s Gospel reading includes the parable of the Prodigal Son. In v 16 we learn that the son was so driven by hunger that he was tempted to eat the food he was giving to the pigs. Most modern translations refer to this food as ‘pods’. The KJV describes it as ‘husks’. The Greek word for it is keration, meaning ‘the fruit of the carob tree’. This tree grows freely in the countries of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It is also grown in Australia where it is used in confectionery – it has a chocolatey flavour. The carob fruit had an alternative name in ancient times – ‘locust bean fruit’, a name that has led to speculation that the ‘locusts’ which John the Baptist ate in the desert (see Mark 1:6 and Matt 3:4) could have been carob fruit. As to this, the leading work on the Greek of the period, Bauer and Danker’s ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature’, comments that it has no linguistic support. But keration has given us one lasting linguistic legacy. The seeds of the carob fruit are small and hard and were used in ancient times as weights, especially for weighing precious metals and stones. From keration we get ‘carat’ or ‘karat’, which is the measure of purity of such items. A measure of 24 carats of gold means that the gold is 100% pure.
A Word in Season