Of the food of John Baptist, Locusts and Wild honey.
CONCERNING the food of John Baptist in the wilderness, Locusts and Wild-honey, lest popular opiniatrity should arise, we will deliver the chief opinions. The first conceiveth the Locusts here mentioned to be that fruit the Greeks name κεράτιον, mentioned by Luke in the diet of the Prodigal son, the Latins Siliqua, and some Panis Sancti Johannis, included in a broad Cod, and indeed of a taste almost as pleasant as Honey. But this opinion doth not so truly impugn that of the Locusts: and might rather call into controversie the meaning of Wild-honey.
The second affirmeth they were the tops or tender crops of trees; for so Locusta also signifieth: which conceit is plausible in Latin, but will not hold in Greek, wherein the word is ἀκρίς, except for ἀκρίδες, we read ἀκρόδρυα, or ἀκρέμονες, which signifie the extremities of trees, of which belief have divers been: more confidently Isidore Pelusiota, who in his Epistles plainly affirmeth they think unlearnedly who are of another belief. And this so wrought upon Baronius, that he concludeth in neutrality; Hæc cum scribat Isidorus definiendum nobis non est, & totum relinquimus lectoris arbitrio; nam constat Græcam dictionem ἀκρίδες, & Locustam, insecti genus, & arborum summitates significare. Sed fallitur, saith Montacutius, nam constat contrarium, Ἀκρίδα apud nullum authorem claßicum Ἀκρόδρυα significare. But above all Paracelsus with most animosity promoteth this opinion, and in his book de melle, spareth not his Friend Erasmus. Hoc à nonnullis ita explicatur ut dicant Locustas aut cicadas Johanni pro cibo fuisse; sed hi stultitiam dißimulare non possunt, veluti Jeronymus, Erasmus, & alii Prophetæ Neoterici in Latinitate immortui.
A third affirmeth that they were properly Locusts: that is, a sheath-winged and six-footed insect, such as is our Grashopper. And this opinion seems more probable than the other. For beside the authority of Origen, Jerom, Chrysostom, Hillary and Ambrose to confirme it; this is the proper signification of the word, thus used in Scripture by the Septuagint, Greek vocabularies thus expound it. Suidas on the word Ἀκρίς observes it to be that animal whereon the Baptist fed in the desert; in this sense the word is used by Aristotle, Dioscorides, Galen, and several humane Authors. And lastly, there is no absurdity in this interpretation, or any solid reason why we should decline it, it being a food permitted unto the Jews, whereof four kinds are reckoned up among clean meats. Beside, not only the Jews, but many other Nations long before and since, have made an usual food thereof. That the Æthiopians, Mauritanians and Arabians did commonly eat them, is testified by Diodorus, Strabo, Solinus, Ælian and Pliny:1 that they still feed on them is confirmed by Leo, Cadamustus and others. John therefore as our Saviour saith, came neither eating nor drinking: that is far from the diet of Jerusalem and other Riotous places: but fared coursly and poorly according unto the apparel he wore, that is of Camels hair: the place of his abode, the wilderness; and the doctrin he preached, humiliation and repentance.
* Ross deals with this chapter in Arcana Microcomis II.1.2, but as he mistakes Browne's argument here, his treatise is to be taken rather as a gloss than as a refutation. Browne discusses the plant locust in his Miscellany Tract Observations upon Scripture Plants, sect. 11.
1 Diodorus III.29. Strabo XVI.4.12. Solinus cap. XXX. Ælian. Pliny VI.195.
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