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The Diet of John the Baptist: “Locusts and Wild Honey” in Synoptic and Patristic Interpretation
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, Old and New Testament Exegesis, New Testament Exegesis.
2005 (English)Book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Much scholarly attention has been devoted to four of John the Baptist’s actions—most famously, his baptizing in the Jordan River, but also his preaching a message of repentance, having disciples and wearing clothing made of camel’s hair.  Considerably less attention has been given to another deed attributed to John, namely his eating “locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6c||Matt 3:4c).  The Diet of John the Baptist offers the first ever comprehensive analysis of Mark 1:6c||Matt 3:4c in its socio-historical context, the Synoptic Gospels and subsequent Christian interpretation.  The first chapter surveys various anecdotes about John’s food in the Synoptic Gospels and notes that there has never been a consensus in scholarship concerning John‘s “locusts and wild honey.”  Chapters 2 and 3 address ancient perspectives on locusts as human food and assorted kinds of “wild honey.”  Chapter 4 considers the different meanings of this diet for the historical Baptist, Mark, and Matthew, as well as the reason for Luke’s omission of Mark 1:6.  Contemporary anthropological and nutritional data shed new light on John’s experience as a locust gatherer and assess whether these foods could have actually sustained him in the wilderness.  The last chapter demonstrates that the most prevalent interpretation of the Baptist’s diet, from the third through the sixteenth centuries, hails John’s simple wilderness provisions as a model for believers to emulate.  An epilogue reflects on the methods employed in this study and suggests several avenues for future research, including conceptions of food and culture in early Christianity and the interplay between paideia and early Christian biblical interpretation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck , 2005, 1st. , xxi + 256 p.
, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, ISSN 0512-1604 ; 176
Keyword [en]
John the Baptist, food in antiquity, locusts, grasshoppers, honey, patristic biblical interpretation
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
New Testament Exegesis
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-140623ISBN: 3-16-148460-6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-140623DiVA: diva2:384109
Book reviews: • The Bible Today 44/3 (May/June 2006): 200 (Donald Senior). • Biblische Zeitschrift 51 (2007): 270–271 (Knut Backhaus). • Bulletin for Biblical Research 16/2 (2006): 364–365 (David P. Scaer). • Currents in Theology and Mission 36 (2009): 217–218 (Frederick W. Danker). • The Expository Times 117/6 (2006): 243–244, featured as the “Book of the Month” (Paul Foster). • Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28/5 (2006): 38 (Andrew Gregory). • Journal of Early Christian Studies 16/3 (2008): 431-432 (David M. Scholer). • Novum Testamentum 48/4 (2006): 389–391 (John Wilkinson). • Review of Biblical Literature 8 (2006): http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5034 (Tobias Nicklas). • Religious Studies Review 33/2 (April, 2007): 152 (Casimir Bernas). • Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt 34 (2009): 266 (Albert Fuchs). • Theologische Literaturzeitung 131/10 (2006): 1057–1059 (Otto Böcher). • Vigiliae Christianae 59/3 (2005): 351–352 (J. van Oort). • Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 119 (2008): 401–403 (Christoph G. Müller). Available from: 2011-01-11 Created: 2011-01-07 Last updated: 2011-01-11Bibliographically approved

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