Johns Food and Dress

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Something should now be said about John the Baptist's food and clothing. In the gospels,172 John is said to have worn "a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey." In the Slavonic version of the War, Robert Eisler took the following passages as being authentic statements about John:

Now at that time there walked among the Jews a man in wondrous garb, for he had stuck on to his body animals' hair wherever it was not covered by his own. But in countenance he was like a savage.173

And when he was brought to Archelaus [4 BC] and the learned doctors of the law had assembled, they asked him who he was and where he had been until then. And he answered and said, "I am a man [Enosh]; as such has the spirit of God called me, and I live on bulrushes [cane] and roots and tree-fruits."174

Now his nature was strange and his ways were not human. For even as a fleshless spirit, so lived this man. His mouth knew no bread, nor even at the passover feast did he taste of unleavened bread, saying: "in remembrance of God, who redeemed the people from bondage is this given to eat, and for the flight only, since the journey was in haste." 175 But wine and strong drink he would not so much as allow to be brought nigh him. And he loathed (to eat of) any animal. And every act of injustice he exposed. And tree-fruits176 served his needs.177

173. Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, ed. by A. H. Krappe (London: Methuen & Co., 1931), 224. See also Josephus, Bk. III, Appendix, p. 644.

174. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, 225. See also Josephus, Bk. III, Appendix, p. 645.

What the Baptist really wore and ate can be determined by his reply to his captors during Archelaus' rule: "I am a man [Enosh]."178According to Robert Eisler,179 the Baptist "regards himself as the reborn antediluvian Enosh"180 and he practices "the original diet ordained by God for men before the fall." The antediluvian diet was a vegetarian diet.181

Josephus mentions an individual named "Bannus, who dwelt in the wilderness, wearing only such clothing as trees provided, feeding on such things as grew of themselves, and using frequent ablutions of cold water, by day and night, for purity's sake."182 He says he became "his devoted disciple" and "lived with him for three years." Could John's diet have corresponded to Bannus' diet in which he ate "things as grew of themselves," i.e., fruit, figs, nuts, roots, certain raw plants, etc.? This type of diet would correspond to a raw food vegetarian diet in that cooking or processing is not used in its preparation. The statement in the Slavonic version of the War that John did not eat "bread" or drink "wine and strong drink" can be explained by raw food vegetarianism, since they were not food and drink that "grew of themselves." However, the eating of locusts mentioned in the gospels could contradict this dietary practice, if it were not for the fact that locusts can be explained as the "'points' or shoots of some plants."183

Unfortunately, a raw food vegetarian diet does not agree with certain statements found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. CD allows for the eating of locusts, as

175. Cf. Ex. 11:11. This section in italics is probably Josephus' own idea that was inserted as further evidence for his portrayal of John as a "strange" even "not human" personage. Not eating regular bread is one thing, but not eating even unleavened bread at the Passover feast is something else again! Certainly, people would not, no matter how much they disagreed with the Jewish establishment, have traveled to the Jordan River to be baptized by John during the Passover feast! Nor would John, who had not a good word to say about the ecclesiastical or lay leaders of the country, have traveled to Jerusalem in order to participate in the festivities there! This section of the passage is suggesting that one of these unlikely alternatives actually took place.

176. The phrase "tree-fruits" in italics here and in the passage above actually means "wood-shavings" in Slavonic, but this cannot be correct. The former meaning was probably in mind, but intentionally or not was corrupted to the latter. Robert Eisler believed that the change of "tree-fruits" to "wood-shavings" was done deliberately by Josephus himself to further portray John in a disparaging manner. This was "on par with the malicious statement that he 'stuck over his body' the hair of beasts wherever it was not covered by his own" (Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, 225, 231, 237).

177. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, 230-1. See also Josephus, Bk. III, Appendix, p. 648.

178. Jn. 1:6: "There was a man [Enosh] sent from god, whose name was John." See Robert Eisler, "The Paraclete Claimant — Simon Magus," The Quest 21 (April 1930): 243 note 1.

179. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, 225, 231, 235-40, 614-5. According to Robert Eisler, John advocates a "complete 'return' to the original diet ..." (pg. 236, italics mine) apparently meaning that everyone should be practicing it, but I do not think this idea can be sustained.

183. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, 236.

long as they are cooked alive or drowned first.184 According to the same scroll, the "wild honey" of the gospels would have to have been filtered.185 Even fish that had been split with the blood poured out could be eaten.186 It also conflicts with 1QS and 1QSa that mention the eating of bread and wine in the special Meal of the sect.187 It is interesting to note that the "wine" used by the sect may have only been unfermented grape-juice,188 but even the latter had to be prepared before it could be consumed. How can a raw food vegetarian diet be reconciled with these statements of the scrolls?

One possible explanation presents itself. While John was baptizing in the Jordan River, he would not have been able to enter the sect's inner organization for he would have contracted the ritual uncleanness of the people he was associating with! The very existence of the steps in the initiation process gives ample evidence of the sect's extreme views regarding ritual purity. Before he could return to his duties inside the sect, he would have had to undergo a special purification to return himself to ritual cleanliness. This would be the reason why, while John was baptizing in the Jordan River alone and apart from the sect, he restricted himself to foods that "grew of themselves" (i.e., a raw food vegetarian diet). When he was inside the sect, performing his duties as the sect's high priest, there would be no reason why he could not consume bread, wine, unfermented grape-juice, filtered honey189 or even some other cooked or processed vegetarian food (i.e., a less strict vegetarian diet). An outsider like Josephus would not have been aware of this distinction.

However, if people who came to John for baptism brought him bread and wine as a gift, what would have been his reason for refusing to accept them if the above explanation is correct? He must have refused them, if the statements in the Slavonic Josephus are correct. Of course, one could offer the explanation that these occasions of gift giving were rare and hidden from the view of the large crowd, but this would hang the above explanation on a slender thread indeed. There must have been another reason for John's abstinence from bread and wine.

There is no evidence that the high priest was required to participate in the special Meal of the sect that took place every night wherever ten men were present.190 At this special Meal, bread and wine were consumed.191 However,

188. G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective, rev. ed., (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 94, 111.

189. Even while he was baptizing at the Jordan River, John would not have violated the sect's law (see CD 12:11-3) by consuming wild honey as the Gospels state (Mk. 1:6, Mt. 3:4).

"when [Adonai] will have begotten the Messiah among them,"192 the high priest was certainly required to preside over it with the Messiah of Israel. At this time, the entire Council of the Community would participate in it together.193 Could it be that John chose to avoid wine until the Messiah of Israel was anointed and he could preside over the special Meal with the latter and the entire assembly together?

One of the requirements of the Nazirite vow was that the person undertaking it consumed nothing that came from the grapevine and this certainly included wine.194 Also, "no razor shall come upon [the participant's] head" and "he shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long."195 These requirements of the vow would not be incompatible with the descriptions of John given in our sources. I think John probably undertook a Nazirite vow for the reason given above and this is the most likely explanation why he did not drink wine.

Since bread was also a component of the special Meal, could John have made the decision not to consume bread for the same reason as he did for the wine? I think this was indeed the case.196 He chose not to consume bread and wine until the Messiah of Israel was anointed and they both could preside over the special Meal together.

While John was baptizing at the Jordan River, he probably did consume a raw food vegetarian diet almost all of the time. But through the charity of some of those who came to him for baptism, he may have been able to consume cooked or processed vegetarian foods from time to time. When he was with the sect, he

192. 1QSa 2:11-2. In a later chapter, I put forward the idea that God's "begetting" of the Messiah of Israel occurred via a ritual of enthronement — the main part being his anointing with oil by the high priest.

194. Num. 6:3-4. The Nazirite vow is described in Num. 6:1-21. See also Jg. 13:4-5, 7, Am. 2:11-2.

196. Hegesippus states that James the Righteous, the leader and high priest of the New Covenant after John, "drank no wine or strong drink" and "no razor went upon his head" (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 2 Vols., trans. by Kirsopp Lake (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), Vol. I, 171 (II, 23.4-6). Both of these characteristics can be explained if James like John undertook a Nazirite vow until the Messiah of Israel was anointed. Nothing is said by Hegesippus about James' abstinence from bread. However, a passage from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, in which we only have quotations from other writers, gives us an important piece of information. It states that "James had sworn not to eat bread from the time that he drank from the Lord's cup until he would see him [Jesus] raised from among those who sleep [i.e., the dead]." After the resurrection, the passage concludes by stating that Jesus "took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to James . and said to him, 'My brother, eat your bread, for the Son of Adam has been raised from among those who sleep." See Robert J. Miller, ed., The Complete Gospels (San Francisco: Harper, 1994), 434. The sole value of this passage lies in the fact that it may allude to a tradition that James abstained from eating bread.

certainly would have been able to consume the full spectrum of vegetarian foods available. However, bread and wine would have always been excluded from his diet for the reason given above.

John as the reborn Enosh, the son of Seth and grandson of Adam, also wore the garb of Adam's descendants. After their fall from Paradise, God had made "garments of skins" for Adam and Eve.197 The word "skins" is a problem here. Would God, who had just commanded Adam and Eve to eat a vegetarian diet198 and who changed it only after the flood,199 have killed animals in order to make clothing for them? A vegetarian diet would naturally necessitate that their clothing be from a living animal (e.g., animal hair) not a dead one (e.g., animal skin). Early Jewish and Christian interpreters found the idea that God killed animals difficult to accept and explained "garments of skins" as actually meaning garments made from camel's hair, the bark of trees, or something else that did not require the killing of animals.200 It would appear that John agreed with them.

The description of John's dress in the Slavonic version of the War may be correct. It states that "he had stuck on to his body animals' hair wherever it was not covered by his own." However, this description did not set out to praise John. He was portrayed as a "savage," his "ways" were "not human," and he lived as "a fleshless spirit." In another authentic section of the Slavonic version that was not quoted above, he is said to have appeared out of the wilderness "like a wild beast."201 Wearing the hair of animals where there was none of his own would certainly be consistent with this portrayal. Perhaps John's actual dress was similar to that of Bannus in that he wore "only clothing as trees provided" (i.e., bark or leaves). If John did wear the hair of animals, it was probably camel's hair. It fell off in the spring and was used to make "carpets, saddle-bags, ropes, girdles, and cloaks."202 The leather girdle around his waist, which is mentioned in the gospels, was inserted in order to identify John the Baptist as the reborn Elijah.203 The latter was to be the forerunner of the Messiah in Jewish tradition204 just as John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus in Christian tradition.205

200. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, 238.

201. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus andJohn the Baptist, 225. See also Josephus, Bk. III, Appendix, p. 645.

202. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus andJohn the Baptist, 239, note 1.

203. 2 Kgs. 1:8. Elijah wore "a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins."

204. Emil Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, vols. I, II, III.1, III.2,, rev. and ed. by Geza Vermes, et al. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973/87), Vol.II, 515-6.

John probably did not require other members of the sect to eat a vegetarian diet. This would explain why cooked or drowned locusts and fish that had been split with the blood poured out206 were acceptable foods. These foods would not be great departures from a vegetarian diet, but members of the sect could probably eat meat also. Nowhere is there a prohibition against meat eating and, after all, the scrolls were written on parchment, which is actually specially prepared animal skin. However, the blood of the animal could not be eaten, but had to be poured out on the ground.207 John's garb was probably his own particular choice as well.

The next question we need to ask is why did John practice vegetarianism? I think the answer is that while the temple in Jerusalem was polluted and controlled by a corrupt priesthood sacrifices pleasing to God could not be offered there. Therefore, John refused to eat meat until the temple was purified and a righteous priesthood could again sacrifice in it. This practice of his was even stricter than that prescribed in the Bible208 or even in the Temple Scroll,209 since the slaughter of animals for food was allowed outside the Temple. Nevertheless, it did correspond to his stern character.

An interesting episode from Old Testament times is worth bringing up here. After the waters of the flood had dried up, Noah offered animal sacrifices to God that had a "pleasing odor" to Him (i.e., the sacrifices were offered in an acceptable manner). It was only as a consequence of this action that God then gave permission to mankind to eat animal flesh!210 As mentioned earlier in this chapter, before the fall God only gave mankind permission to eat a vegetarian diet.211 It could very well be the case that based on this Old Testament story John chose to forgo eating meat until such time as a proper sacrifice was again offered in a purified Temple by a righteous priesthood.212

Why did John wear his peculiar garb? It symbolized the sinfulness of his own day just as it had symbolized the sinfulness of the descendants of Adam after the fall from Paradise. After all, God only clothed Adam and Eve after the fall (i.e., sin) had occurred.213

207. Gen. 9:3-6, Dt. 12:16, 23-4, Lev. 17:10-4, 11QT 53:5-7.

208. Dt. 12:15-28. However, according to Lev. 17:1-7, which is perhaps earlier legislation, animals slaughtered for food had to be brought to the sanctuary and sacrificed as a peace offering.

212. James the Righteous, the leader and high priest of the New Covenant after John, appears to have agreed with John's views in this area, since Hegesippus states that he "did [not] eat flesh" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, 171 (II, 23. 4-6).

To summarize, I think it is likely that John, the great preacher of repentance, believed himself to be the antediluvian Enosh reborn in whose time "men began to call upon the name of the Lord."214 He intended to practice the antediluvian diet and wear the antediluvian garb until such time as the New Covenant finally gained control of the temple and could again offer sacrifices there that pleased God.

The following Key Terms in the CD Exhortation are discussed in Chapter 4.


CD Reference



The First Ones

1:4, 3:10-1, 4:10, 6:2, 8:17, 19:29

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