Tuesday 18 May 2010


When Paul Collingwood hit the winning runs through mid-wicket, he sparked wild celebrations never before seen by an England cricket team and with it, lifted the biggest millstone from around a nation's neck. 
   - The Daily Mirror

George Osborne was not too upset at having the inheritance tax millstone — the pledge to increase the threshold to £1m — removed from round his neck.
   - The Times

...the staff pension scheme remains something of a millstone around the group's neck...
   - The Metro

It would be possible, perhaps even desirable, to wander through this life without ever even wondering what a millstone is. The answer, since you ask, is that it is a large stone disk that is ground against another large stone disk. This is not done for fun. Grain is put between the stones, and the result is flour.

Seems obvious, I hear you murmur, but why would you put a millstone round somebody's neck? Isn't that a trifle odd, perhaps even antisocial?

The answer is that Jesus wants you to do it.

Whilst in Capernuam, Jesus called over a child and told his disciples:

And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. - Mark 9v42

It would seem relatively clear that Jesus is thinking not of putting the millstone round somebody's neck but of attaching it by means of a chain or a strong rope. (It's terribly important that you get the details right before murdering people, at least that's what I find).

The millstone-chained-to-a-chap's-neck thing was not actually Jesus' idea. It was a reasonably standard Roman punishment*. And He's not necessarily saying that you should tie a millstone round someone's neck, only that it might have been better for him in the long run.

In fact, Jesus didn't say large millstone either. He said donkey millstone, which means the same thing, but is much more fun.

The Inky Fool invites you for a swim

* So saith D.E.Nineham. I can't find anything on the web.


  1. The Antipodean18 May 2010 at 15:37


    I'd like to leave it at that but I am betrayed by my other possibly-compulsive interests.

    This millstone image shows up in Matthew and Luke as well, but although Luke is down with millstone being tied, Matthew is a little less specific and talks about it being hung. Millstones are used to kill people several times in the Old Testament, although no actual drownings as far as I know - more your basic dropping of the millstone onto someone's head.

    A Google image search of donkey millstone yields a number of photos of, unsurprisingly, donkeys and millstones, and gives an idea of the potential size of such things... some do look a little as though you could fit your head through them.

  2. The size of the jewellery some people are wearing these days, they may as well do the millstone thing.

  3. I've just marked an assignment where a mysterious jewel thief absails past some stained glass windows depicting Jesus and is struck by thoughts of romance.

    Was He known for his romantic qualities as well as millstones?

  4. Upon first reading, I thought He rolled over a child, and immediately assumed it was with a millstone.

  5. Thanks for the grisly, gritty details. Perhaps next time we'll get the gristy details.

  6. @Moptop: Whoever you are and whatever you do, Jesus is watching you lovingly: when I do that I'm arrested as a stalker, which just goes to show that people with powerful dads can get away with more than us ordinary folk.
    @The Antipodean: I am of an odd sort of Samaritan-like sect that reads John for beauty and Mark for priority. The intermediate evangelists I regard with suspicion.