John the Baptist & locust diet.

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
Has anyone done research into what exactly John the Baptist ate? I have recently heard that perhaps locusts didn't refer to the bug but rather locust pods. I have always understood it to mean bugs but some seem to think it refers to the fruit of the Carob tree. :detective:

And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
(Mar. 1:6)

A reference with information on the Carob tree (I found this link via searching for Carob tree - I initially heard about the Carob tree thing on Wretched Radio).
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
"Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind." Lev. 11:22, cf. Mark 1:6.

...a locust, particularly that species which especially infests oriental countries, stripping fields and trees. Numberless swarms of them almost every spring are carried by the wind from Arabia into Palestine, and having devastated that country, migrate to regions farther north, until they perish by falling into the sea. The Orientals accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also were permitted to eat them. ...an insect of the family Acrididae (in Europe the term ''locust' is used for the large varieties of these insects and the term 'grasshopper' is used for smaller varieties, while in North America all these insects are generally called 'grasshoppers,' and the term 'locust' refers to cidadas of the family Cicadadae) - 'grasshopper/locust.' "eating grasshoppers and wild honey" Mk 1.6; (Louw-Nida)

...a locust, particularly that species which especially infests oriental countries, stripping fields and trees. Numberless swarms of them almost every spring are carried by the wind from Arabia into Palestine, and having devastated that country migrate to regions farther north, until they perish by falling into the sea. The Orientals are accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also (according to Lev. 11:22) were permitted to eat them; (cf. Winer's RWB under the word Heuschrecken; Furrer in Schenkel iii., p. 78f; (BB. DD., under the word; Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 313ff)): Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6. A marvelous and infernal kind of locusts is described in Rev. 9:3,7, cf. Rev. 9:2,5f,8-12; see Dusterdieck at the passage. (Thayers).

...locust, grasshopper Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6; Rv 9:3, 7.* [pg 7] (Gingrich)

In Lev 11:22 the °arbeh and three other types of locusts are listed as edible insects. Bas reliefs from Nineveh show servants bringing skewered locusts for Sennacherib's table. John the Baptist subsisted on honey and locusts ( Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6). Many Africans and Arabs after removing the wings, legs, and heads eat locusts either cooked or ground up as flour. There are nine Hebrew words which designate locusts; Akkadian recognizes eighteen names for locusts, and the Talmud twenty names. (TWOT)

Lightfoot says they are bugs. (Works, 1634, 2 Volumes, Pages 26, 93–94, 116) "See the Babylonian Talmud concerning Locusts sit for food." SECT. V. Mark 1:6, Page 298 "Whether it were also as plentiful in Locusts, we do not say; certainly in this also it gave place to no Country, if either barrenness or fruitfulness served for the breeding them: for Jericho, and the adjacent parts was like, a garden of pleasure, in the midst of a Desert...i.e. The Gloss there, are a kind of clean locusts, and are eaten (page 333).
 
Last edited:

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
"Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind." Lev. 11:22, cf. Mark 1:6.

...a locust, particularly that species which especially infests oriental countries, stripping fields and trees. Numberless swarms of them almost every spring are carried by the wind from Arabia into Palestine, and having devastated that country, migrate to regions farther north, until they perish by falling into the sea. The Orientals accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also were permitted to eat them. ...an insect of the family Acrididae (in Europe the term ''locust' is used for the large varieties of these insects and the term 'grasshopper' is used for smaller varieties, while in North America all these insects are generally called 'grasshoppers,' and the term 'locust' refers to cidadas of the family Cicadadae) - 'grasshopper/locust.' "eating grasshoppers and wild honey" Mk 1.6; (Louw-Nida)

...a locust, particularly that species which especially infests oriental countries, stripping fields and trees. Numberless swarms of them almost every spring are carried by the wind from Arabia into Palestine, and having devastated that country migrate to regions farther north, until they perish by falling into the sea. The Orientals are accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also (according to Lev. 11:22) were permitted to eat them; (cf. Winer's RWB under the word Heuschrecken; Furrer in Schenkel iii., p. 78f; (BB. DD., under the word; Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 313ff)): Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6. A marvelous and infernal kind of locusts is described in Rev. 9:3,7, cf. Rev. 9:2,5f,8-12; see Dusterdieck at the passage. (Thayers).

...locust, grasshopper Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6; Rv 9:3, 7.* [pg 7] (Gingrich)

In Lev 11:22 the °arbeh and three other types of locusts are listed as edible insects. Bas reliefs from Nineveh show servants bringing skewered locusts for Sennacherib's table. John the Baptist subsisted on honey and locusts ( Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6). Many Africans and Arabs after removing the wings, legs, and heads eat locusts either cooked or ground up as flour. There are nine Hebrew words which designate locusts; Akkadian recognizes eighteen names for locusts, and the Talmud twenty names. (TWOT)

Lightfoot says they are bugs. (Works, 1634, 2 Volumes, Pages 26, 93–94, 116) "See the Babylonian Talmud concerning Locusts sit for food." SECT. V. Mark 1:6, Page 298 "Whether it were also as plentiful in Locusts, we do not say; certainly in this also it gave place to no Country, if either barrenness or fruitfulness served for the breeding them: for Jericho, and the adjacent parts was like, a garden of pleasure, in the midst of a Desert...i.e. The Gloss there, are a kind of clean locusts, and are eaten (page 333).
Hi Rev Matthew,

Thanks for the reply - it seems there isn't any lexical basis for the claim that what John ate was anything other than a bug then in your research?

I see similar info to what you found on blue letter bible as well https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g200/KJV/tr/0-1/ indicating it was nothing other than a bug.

I did find the source of the information presenting in the radio program was this book: "The World Jesus Knew: Beliefs and Customs From the Time of Jesus" By Anne Punton https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1854249479/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

I cannot speak to the sources behind the information in the book or if it was purely conjecture. Here is a link to a video snippet posted today from the radio program -
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Nothing I see based on the OT or the passage.

They probably read it out of this book, or it got copied from it, (which looks a little like it in the video overlay):

"Locusts or locust beans?
Matthew 3:4. It was perfectly all right under the food laws to eat locusts (Leviticus 11:22). It is much more likely, however, as locusts were not readily available all the time, and John the Baptist had to eat daily, that locust beans are being referred to. These beans (carob pods) are sweet and sticky. The prodigal son was also glad to eat the same food (Luke 15:16)." Ralph Gower and Fred Wight, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987).

I have no idea where they cite that information. (No citations given by them). Nor do I know why it needs to be (to them) something other than the bug.
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
Nothing I see based on the OT or the passage.

They probably read it out of this book, or it got copied from it, (which looks a little like it in the video overlay):

"Locusts or locust beans?
Matthew 3:4. It was perfectly all right under the food laws to eat locusts (Leviticus 11:22). It is much more likely, however, as locusts were not readily available all the time, and John the Baptist had to eat daily, that locust beans are being referred to. These beans (carob pods) are sweet and sticky. The prodigal son was also glad to eat the same food (Luke 15:16)." Ralph Gower and Fred Wight, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987).

I have no idea where they cite that information. (No citations given by them). Nor do I know why it needs to be (to them) something other than the bug.
Some fine detective work! :detective:

I did pose the question to the Wretched Network radio team as to what sources the author sites. I will update back here if they reply. It kinda changes the mental image of just how wild John was if he ate bugs or beans :D. But I tend to think as well the plain reading would indicate it was bugs.
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
I found two interesting articles on the topic used as sources on the Wikipedia page for Locusts that reference John the Baptist.

The first seems to indicate the theories for this originated out of a rising interesting people living simple lives (such as monks) and eating meat wasn't ideal for that. Theories dealing with Locusts not being bugs were invented around the 4th century on onward to make John fit as the exemplar for simple living.

The second article talks at length about the common practice of eating the bug in the near middle east for both the common man and the wealthy - making specific reference to John's day and diet.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
It seems the matter should hardly be controversial or somehow offensive. People have been eating locusts for millennia, and still do, as a good, cheap source of protein, especially in Africa and Asia. I've seen several travel/food programs on TV that show street vendors offering all kinds of such insect "delicacies".
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Botany major here. I remember the Dendrology professor once talking about how it meant carob pods, although he was not a Christian and I have no recollection of his sources. The common USA honey locust tree is in the same family as carob, and what exactly would the bug locusts be eating out in a dry region? They like lush vegetation, so why would they hang around an arid area?

I've had carob pods often when I was younger. They are chewy and mildly sweet and last a long time, which would make them a handy food for a wandering man.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I hear locusts are delicious and nutritious. They come in massive swarms, sometimes millions strong, and it would seem a shame to let them all go to waste.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
I still can't mentally wrap my head around eating locusts, but I eat shrimp, crab, and lobster.

If I like shrimp, crab, and lobster, why wouldn't I be willing to eat a locust?

Just custom and culture, I guess.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
According to a tweet from the World Economic Forum we will all be eating The John the Baptist Diet soon enough.
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
So it seems both the Carob Pod and the Bug both would have made a fine meal for a 1st century John. But is there any evidence to support the idea that the bible was implying something other than bugs? So far it seem all the sources I have seen do not support this in any sort of credible way.

@C. Matthew McMahon provided Lexical information indicating that the meaning of the Greek term is none other than bugs.

So I think to give credibility to this there would have to be some evidence that the term was used in the 1st century for something other than bugs. Some of the later sources attempt to make a case (for the sake of John being vegetarian) for the wrong word being used "egkris" instead of "akris" in the Greek manuscripts but there is no proper evidence for this so far as I have found.

I see here there is a mention that "akris" referred to the pods in the near middle east but I have not found any lexicon evidence to support this claim either.
https://www.etymonline.com/word/locust

This post has a good summary on the subject and as far as I read the evidences gathered in it - bugs remain the proper understanding.
https://hermeneutics.stackexchange....ocust-apart-from-the-typical-grasshopper-or-l
 
Last edited:
Top