Chap. XV.

Of the Picture of John the Baptist.

THE picture of John the Baptist, in a Camels skin is very questionable, and many I perceive have condemned it.[1] The ground or occasion of this description are the words of the holy Scripture, especially of Matthew and Mark, for Luke and John are silent herein; by them it is delivered, his garment was of Camels hair, and had a leather girdle about his loins. Now here it seemes the Camels hair is taken by Painters for the skin or pelt with the hair upon it. But this Exposition will not so well consist with the strict acceptation of the words; for Mark 1. It is said, he was ἐνδεδυμενός τρίχας καμήλου, and Matthew 3, εἴ χε τὸ ἔνδυμα ἀυτὸ τριχῶν καμήλου, that is, as the vulgar translation, that of Beza, that of Sixtus Quintus, and Clement the eight hath rendred it, vestimentum habebat è pilis camelinis; which is as ours translateth it, a garment of Camels hair; that is, made of some texture of that hair, a course garment; a cilicious or sackcloth habit; sutable to the austerity of his life; the severity of his Doctrin, Repentance; and the place thereof, the wilderness, his food and diet, locusts and wild hony. Agreeable unto the example of Elias, who2 is said to be vir pilosus, that is, as Tremellius interprets, Veste villoso cinctus; answerable unto the habit of the ancient Prophets, according to that of Zachary.3 In that day the Prophets shall be ashamed, neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive; and sutable to the Cilicious and hairy Vests of the strictest Orders of Fryers, who derive the institution of their Monastick life from the example of John and Elias.

As for the wearing of skins, where that is properly intended, the expression of the Scripture is plain; so it is said, Heb. 11. They wandred about ἐν αἰγείοις δέρμασιν, that is, in Goats skins; and so it is said of our first Parents, Gen. 3 that God made them χιτῶνας δερματίνους, Vestes pelliceas, or coats of skins; which though a natural habit unto all, before the invention of Texture, was something more unto Adam, who had newly learned to die; for unto him a garment from the dead, was but a dictate of death, and an habit of mortality.

Now if any man will say this habit of John, was neither of Camels skin, nor any course Texture of its hair, but rather some finer Weave of Camelot, Grograin or the like, in as much as these stuffs are supposed to be made of the hair of that Animal, or because that Ælian affirmeth, that Camels hair of Persia, is as fine as Milesian wool, wherewith the great ones of that place were clothed; they have discovered an habit, not onely unsutable unto his leathern cincture, and the coursness of his life; but not consistent with the words of our Saviour, when reasoning with the people concerning John, he saith, What went you out into the wilderness to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment, are in Kings houses.


My notes (and other people's) are in square brackets [ ]; addenda from manuscripts are in curly braces { }; Browne's own marginalia are unmarked. Ross proves, Arcana Microcosmi II.12, that John wore a camel's skin by asserting that it was fit that he should do so.

1 [Ross, in Arcana, supports the ancient opinion: "It was fit the Baptist, who came to preach repentance for sin, should wear a garment of skins, which was the first clothes that Adam wore after he had sinned; for his fig-leaves were not proper, and this garment also shewed both his poverty and humility. For as great men wear rich skins and costly furs, he was contented with a camel's skin. By this garment also he shews himself to be another Elijah, who did wear such a garment, and to be one of those of whom the apostle speaks, who went about in skins, of whom the world was not worthy. Neither was it unuseful in John's time, and before, to wear skins; for the prophets among the Jews, the philosophers among the Indians, and generally the Scythians did wear skins; hence by Claudian they are called pellita juventus. Great commanders also used to wear them; as Hercules the lion's skin, Acestes the bear's, Camilla the tiger's. John's garment, then, of camel's hair, was not, as some fondly conceit, a sackcloth or camblet, but a skin with the hair on it." It is not infrequent to see John represented in a more or less untanned skin, with the head left on so that the viewer may see that it is a skin. This is, as Browne would say, hieroglyphical.]

2 2. Kings 3.18.

3 Zach. 13.

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