2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

Locusts or Pancakes?

Among the eight quotations of the Gospel of the Ebionites in the writings of Epiphanius, none is more interesting that the one in which he describes John the Baptist. Its humorous side may not be evident at first glance. Here is what he says could be found in the Gospel:

And so John was baptizing, and Pharisees came out to him and were baptized, as was all of Jerusalem. John wore a garment of camel hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was wild honey that tasted like manna, like a cake cooked in olive oil. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30, 13, 4-5)

What has long struck investigators is that John here is not said to be eating locusts and honey, but honey that tasted like manna , like a cake cooked in oil.   That is, a pancake.   That is interesting, and somewhat amusing, for two reasons.   The first is that to *make* this alteration in the account found in the Gospels of the NT, the author (whoever he was) of the Gospel of the Ebionites had to make a very simple change.  The word for locusts in Greek is AKRIDES.   The word for pancake is EGKRIDES.  They sound and look very much alike.  All the author had to do was change the A of the first word to an EG and he moved John from eating locusts to eating pancakes.  Which, I might add, go much better with honey.
FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. If you don’t belong yet, NOW’S YOUR CHANCE!!!

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.


The Ebionites and their Gospel
Harmonizing the Gospels

38

Comments

  1. Avatar
    robnapier  September 12, 2013

    Is there good evidence that the original passage said locusts? Doesn’t pancakes make more sense in this context, at least suggesting that the canonical version is the one that has been changed?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 13, 2013

      Well, it makes more sense to those of us who eat pancakes but not locusts! But there’s almost no doubt that the texts originally said locusts.

  2. Avatar
    Christian  September 12, 2013

    Is there a way to compare the amount or rate of scriptural changes between the proto-orthodox and the other Christian sects (other than scribes’ unintentional mistakes)?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 13, 2013

      Regrettably we have almost no evidence of changes made by the non-proto-orthodox, probalby because if they changed anythng radically in their manuscripts of the NT, those changes were not widely reproduced.

  3. Avatar
    dennis  September 12, 2013

    Fascinating stuff ! The writer ( in Greek ) probably ” misheard ” a native Aramaic speakers attempt to translate the Gospel to Greek ? Keep going !

  4. Avatar
    Scott F  September 12, 2013

    This reminds me of the claim that “a camel passing through the eye of a needle” was based on a misprint that changed the word rope (kamêlos) into camel (kamilos). After all, attempting to insert a giant thread (a rope) through the eye of needle is a more apt image than a camel (unless you’re drunk).

    The truth, of course, was known by my youth pastor who assured us that the Eye of the Needle was a narrow gate in the walls of Jerusalem – or was it a rock formation?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 13, 2013

      Yeah, that “narrow gate” claim is a modern legend; the gate was called that in later times because of the saying of Jesus. I think the point is that it’s meant to be crazily hyperbolic. Although I have to say, every time I quote the saying I usually get it mixed up and say something about a needle going through the eye of a camel….

  5. Avatar
    nichael  September 12, 2013

    A couple points about eating locusts:

    First, according to the resident biologist (my wife) locusts are, in fact, quite nutritious –for example they are a favorite food of many birds, etc– because, unlike many insects they store quite a bit of fat in their abdomen. (Perhaps this is part of the reason for a possible comparison to a rich food like manna or a “cake cooked in oil”.)

    Second, the film “Hidalgo” involves a horse race across a wide expanse of the Arabian desert. The racers in the film survive in the barren waste in part because they capture –and eat– locusts which are swarming across the desert. Regardless of whether the film’s claim to be “based on fact” is accurate, the desert-swarming behavior is well documented.

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  September 13, 2013

    Ugh! A girlfriend who eats termites on dates.

  7. Avatar
    Pat Ferguson  September 13, 2013

    On Mark 1:6, Prof.’s Schaff and Riddle commented:

    “The older expositors, not aware that locusts were eaten, give conjectural explanations: Shrimps, cakes,
    etc.” (Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., ed., Popular Commentary on the New Testament (NY: Charles Scribner’s
    Sons, 1875-1890)).

    Later, however, Metzger (TCGNT 63, 1994) :

    1: noted that the wording of it-a (ca. IV CE) and D (ca. V CE) at Mark 1:6 were changed to read δερριν
    καμηλου, and
    2: echoed M. -J. LaGrange (Evangile selon saint Marc, 5th ed. 1929), who:

    “… pointed out that camel’s skin is much too thick and hard for Bedouins to think of using it as
    clothing. Consequently, it appears that scribes who exchanged δερριν for τριχας did so without
    any firsthand knowledge of near Eastern customs.”

    Your claim that John the Baptizer ate pancakes appears to agree with Prof.’s Schaff and Riddle, and disagree with Prof. Metzger. Did Epiphanius proffer incorrect conjectural explanations when he penned “John wore a garment of camel hair and … his food was … a cake cooked in olive oil”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 13, 2013

      Interesting. No, Epiphanius did not amend his text.

    • Avatar
      Steefen  September 18, 2013

      Pat Ferguson:
      camel’s skin is much too thick and hard for Bedouins to think of using it as
      clothing.

      Steefen:
      Bart Ehrman has written that Matthew presents a Hebrew Jesus. We may be witnessing a Hebrew interpretation of camel’s hair. I looked up some of the references to the Hebrew Bible for John the Baptist. The references were to his belt. When I was a senior in high school, I had a charcoal gray sport jacket that was partly camel’s hair. That was modern textiles not textiles of the 1st century C.E. So, I tend to agree with your statement above.

  8. Avatar
    Steefen  September 14, 2013

    Adam Clarke (1760 or 1762–1832) was a British Methodist theologian and biblical scholar:

    “Locusts may either signify the insect called the locust, or the top of a plant. Many eminent commentators are of the latter opinion … The Greeks customarily selected from the topmost part of the heaps (of fruits) and offered this to the gods”

    John was not existing on insects, but the pick of the crop. That the latter was the true meaning of this sentence can be seen in the very next verses:

    “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, ‘O generation of vipers … Bring forth therefore fruits worth of repentance.”

    Here, John the Baptist was telling the aristocracy and merchants of Jerusalem, who had come to pay home to him, to bring the akroyinion the first fruits (not locusts) that were due to the Temple. John is placing himself on par with the Temple priesthood.

    Dr. Ehrman, I look forward to your reply to what Adam Clarke says above and I look forward to your comments on the connection of the Greek word akryoyinion to the word locust.

    Thank you.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 15, 2013

      Yes, that’s the old explanation offered by people who can’t believe that anyone would eat locusts — which shows an ignorance of middle eastern cultures instead of a knowledge of them. I don’t know of any actual evidence for the “top of the plant” option.

      • Avatar
        ralfellis  September 17, 2013

        Bart,

        >>>John was not existing on insects, but the pick of the crop.

        I mentioned this explanation many years ago, because it seemed obvious that there was a biblical imperative to make the principle figures paupers, when that was simply not the case. These people were wealthy aristocracy and royals.

        Thus Jesus was deemed to be a carpenter, when ‘tekton’ suggests something else entirely, and he was actually hailed as a king on more than 30 occasions in the N.T..
        Likewise Saul was deemed to be a lowly ‘tentmaker’ when it is obvious that he was the sukkah maker for Queen Helena (who always had the biggest sukkah in Judaea). Saul also took the famine relief for Queen Helena, from Antioch-Edessa to Jerusalem.

        And then we come to John, and again the reference to animal skins and locusts is presented as a way of making him look like an ascetic. But the opposite was probably true. The high priesthood have worn animal skins in this region (normally a leopard) for more than 12,000 years. If you look at the monoliths at Gobekli Tepi (at Antioch-Edessa in Turkey), the priests were wearing animal skins 12,000 years ago, as indeed the priests in Egypt always did likewise.
        Gobekli Tepi
        http://www.earthfiles.com/images/news/T/TurkeyGobekliTepeAltarHandsSymbolsCU2.jpg
        Pharaoh Aye in Egypt
        http://myweb.usf.edu/~ammason/Murder%20Myth/Ay%20performing%20the%20Opening%20of%20the%20Mouth%20ceremony.jpg

        So when we come to the descriptions of John, the high priest, wearing an animal (leopard) skin and eating the ‘first fruits’, none of this should be so surprising.

        Ralph

  9. Avatar
    ardiess  September 19, 2013

    Jewish perspective (cut and paste) fyi
    Historically, Adam and Eve were vegetarians, as it says: “vegetables and fruits shall be your food” (Genesis 1:29). God only permitted meat to Noah and his descendents after the Flood (Genesis 9:3; Talmud – Sanhedrin 59b).
    Some cite the precedent of Adam and Eve as indication that in a perfect world, i.e. in the future time of the Messiah, humans will return to universal vegetarianism. The vast majority of rabbinic scholars, however, maintain that animal offerings will be resumed in the Messianic era. Indeed, the Talmud (Baba Batra 75a) declares that when the Messiah arrives, God will prepare a flesh-based feast for the righteous.
    In conclusion, Judaism accepts the idea of a vegetarian diet, though dependent on one’s intention:
    Vegetarianism based on the idea that we have no moral right to kill animals is not an acceptable Jewish view.
    Vegetarianism for aesthetic or health reasons is acceptable; indeed, the Torah’s mandate to “guard yourselves carefully” (Deut. 4:15) requires that we pay attention to health issues related to a meat-centered diet. Some points to consider include the contemporary increase in sickness in animals created by factory farm conditions, and the administration of growth hormones, antibiotics and other drugs given to animals. All of these may be possible health risks to humans.
    In addition, there is the possible violation of tzaar baalai chaim (causing pain to animals) resulting from mass production methods of raising, transporting and slaughtering animals. The great 20th century American sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, forbade raising veal in cramped and painful conditions, and forbade feeding animals chemicals in place of food, since this would deprive them of the pleasure of eating. (“Igros Moshe” EH 4:92)

    Jewish consciousness requires constant attention to preserving and protecting our natural world.
    -from aish.com

  10. Avatar
    Ethereal  June 24, 2014

    Epiphanias was not to far removed from the culture of the 1st century- He was an early Church Father!
    1st Locus were considered symbols of burden or pest- the 8th plague in Egypt. Damascus Document XII- actually insist they be boiled 1st- as there is even a process of slaughter.
    Yes the movie Hidalgo is an example of the swarm. Except Locust were seasonal, in the spring season- so what did John eat the rest of the year!? Pickled them in vinegar? Not vinegar if he was a Nazarene- Like James described by Hegisepus; & Jesus the Nazarene- vinegar is forbidden.
    Perhaps the manna tradition is more likely from the position that it was a Torah commandment Exodus 16:33- to preserve it for all generations. Like a mother sour dough or somn except with sweet manna??

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 24, 2014

      Epiphanius is as far removed from the Gospel writers as we are from the writers of the Declaration of Independence!

      • Avatar
        Ethereal  June 29, 2014

        Thank you for correction. Did not know it was over 200 yrs gap… Except what else did John eat when there were no swarms of locusts- if locust are seasonal?

  11. Avatar
    Ethereal  July 4, 2014

    Thank You Bart for you time & scholarship. Its much easier to critique & speculate.
    See me as a person seeking your service- fellow competence! Please bare w/ me, tho may seem polemical & off topic, I believe it is relevant, please do not ignore. Perhaps you may not be able to respond to some of the rhetoric w/ a sufficient answer, but perhaps you can address the general concern or refine the view.

    From your response… Is such because the pure context of earliest account of John the Baptist in gospel- as such leaves no room for assertion? Do you really see the pancake idea as an unreasonable historical possibility? I’m not sure that eating Locust all yr around seems plausible as a Historical Reality- seeing Locusts were conditional sources for food.
    I’ve heard a quote: “Poetry is history”. As in, History is not about what really happened, though phenomenal, IT’s about what people wanted to believe what happened when phenomena was interpreted & written; or what we would rather want to think what happened. So are you posting on what people wanted to believe what happened, or what probably happened as Historical Reality?? It seems to me that you are more concerned with writing here about what was actually recorded through convoluted traditions, rather than what probably actually happened as Historical Reality. Given the matter of History goes beyond appearance & significance of what IS. The Matter of History is not necessarily what “IT” (Christianity, reformed Judaism, etc) IS, but rather what “IT” probably WAS.

    What do you think about the idea that it was a sacred command in Torah- [Exo 16:32] to remember the holy manna? It may seem out of context- perhaps no more applicable than sacrifices & offering to rabbi’s today, & yet rabbinical Judaism is far from identical to 1st century Judaism. Rabbinical Judaism differs vastly from ancient Judaism. This is known. It is more hazy to answer how it differs. And if you are competent to do do so, may you please write about the differences in these religious traditions today from then. Was sacrifice always seen as efficacy for forgivene (to call oneself Jew or Christians & salvation, or just for temple atonement? Forgiveness, Salvation, Blessing, & Forgiveness in the Bible all are not the Phenomenon. So what are the differences in the way they are viewed now from then.
    Some Karaite Jews suggest that Jesus was like a proto-Karaite (pure scriptualist- rejecting absolute authority of rabbinical interpretation). Why he rails on Pharisees for rendering G+D’s commands impotent by conflating it w/ the traditions of men (takanot). He was not railing against Judaism in doing so- since Matthew can be viewed as having a rather Jewish theme- but he was criticizing convoluted cultural themes/traditions/habits within a culture I.e Judaism. That in mind, I do not see that a religious title, as a sign of subscription held the same significance- when the term “Christianity” did not exist Jesus’ life; so then did Judaism mean anything? Or was it a racial or cultural significance, is it possible to make substantial comparison concerning differences between the way that JudaISM is viewed now from then? If so how different do scholars consider Judaism today in modernity- the tradition, interpretation, observance, etc- from Judaism then in the 1st century- in the context of lifestyle, & revolutionary theology. In other words, what did it mean when someone referred to themselves as a “Jew”, if the *ISM* in Judaism or any religion wastin play yet? Did it infer race, geography, preference, & cultural belief? I know of titles such as ‘”Zealot” (which may have had militaristic connotations), & “Pharisee” (which may imply Rabbinical authority & scholasticism, 2 Torahs, etc.), “Sadducee” (perhaps to some connoted passivity to Roman occupation)- except what about Nazarene (which have had ascetic connotations- while the subjective view concerns geography). So what did it mean if a person called oneself a Jew in 1st Century, especially seeing Jesus was a Jew (NOT a Gnostic Yogi- or Zoroastrian philosopher). And even further, what did it mean to be a Nazarene or Nazirite? The subjective view refers to geography. Did such a place as Nazareth exist? Or was Nazareth a community of poor ascetics where Nazirites congregated? What are the differences & similarities? Influence in the message Jesus may have preached? If Jesus was unorthodox, then what was generally orthodox (despite the anachronistic, Hellenic connotation), & what evidence is there, illustrates how he was unorthodox? What made Jesus Unorthodox, if he was unorthodox? Jesus Unorthodox from a Rabbinical standpoint? Was Jesus unorthodox in his espoused universal pacifism? Was he unorthodox in an aggressive apocalyptic sense (I.e. right to heir, right to priesthood?)- as He came to bring a sword- & carry His stauros (a political symbol known to Jews then)- referring to taking up the political struggle as integral part of religious experience?
    And if Jesus was a Nazarene, John the Baptist being his cousin, & James his brother, living adjacently- can that infer that they were all products of relative, if not part of the same, cultural conditioning experience? And even inversively, how is it a mistake to infer- “whatever James was, so to too was [probably] Jesus” (seeing Jesus was a great influence- seen as a great venerated reformer of their own time- & that James the Just according to Heggesipus was very ascetic & vegetarian). If it is NOT a mistake to suggest that whatever James was , so too was Jesus- would it be unfair to suggest that whatever James was so too was John the Baptist? If it is an unreasonable assertion- what biblical or extra-biblical evidence is there to suggest that it is a mistake to conflate the cultural identities or preferences of James, Jesus, & John the Baptist [Given the teachings are so similar- all inter-dependently rooted in the same culture- & their lives interconnected]?

    • Avatar
      Ethereal  July 4, 2014

      *Correction*- Was sacrifice always seen as efficacy for forgiveness & entitlement to salvation, or just for temple atonement? Forgiveness, Salvation, Blessing, & Forgiveness in the Bible all are not the SAME* Phenomenon. So what are the differences in the context that they are used & viewed now from then in 1st Century.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  July 5, 2014

        The sacrificial system was highly complex, and there are numerous debates about the function of the various sacrifices. You might check out the article on Sacrifice in the Anchor Bible Dictionary.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 5, 2014

      I’m afraid you’ll need to make very short posts — with just one question per post: I don’t have time to interact with long and involved discussions and queries. But on pancakes: our first reference to this is in a fourth-century church father, so it seems unlikely in the extreme. Locusts were used as a food source. You might check out Kilhoffer’s book, The Diet of John the Baptist.

  12. Avatar
    Ethereal  July 5, 2014

    Thankya Bart! More than I expected! Still locust are seasonal- I do not doubt locust were eaten. Of course. What’s the earliest manuscript reference from Gospels or patrisctic witness?

    if Jesus was a Nazarene, John the Baptist being his cousin, & James his brother, living adjacently- can that infer that they were all products of relative, if not part of the same, cultural conditioning experience? And even inversively, how is it a mistake to infer-“whatever James was, so to too was [probably] Jesus” (seeing Jesus was a great influence-seen as a great venerated reformer of their own time- & that James the Just according to Heggesipus was very ascetic & vegetarian). If it is NOT a mistake to suggest that whatever James was , so too was Jesus- would it be unfair to suggest that whatever James was so too was John the Baptist? If it is an unreasonable assertion- what biblical or extra-biblical evidence is there to suggest that it is a mistake to conflate the cultural identities or preferences of James, Jesus, & John the Baptist [Given the teachings are so similar- all inter-dependently rooted in the same culture- & their lives interconnected]?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 6, 2014

      There’s only one allusive suggestoin of it — it’s in the late fourth century author Epiphanius, who indicates that in the Gospel according to the Ebionites (so not in any of the NT Gospels) it was said that John’s diet was pancakes and honey.

      The idea that John was jesus’ cousin is legendary. Only the Gospel of Luke, of all the early Gospels, indicate that Mary and Elizabeth were related, but that’s almost certainly not a historical datum: it was part of an attempt to show how close John and Jesus were so as to emphasize Jesus’ superiority.

      • Avatar
        Ethereal  July 6, 2014

        ?Well, then how far fetched is the claim that “Whatever James was so was Jesus”?- is there any evidence to suggest they were radically different in their lifestyle, teaching, or claim?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 7, 2014

          Unfortunately, we have very little reliable evidence about the views of James, apart from what Paul says.

  13. Avatar
    Ethereal  July 8, 2014

    The book of James? Is that not a novelty in itself? Yet it is remarkably more similar in resembling what Yeshua’s taught- than Paul? Without an eschatology, & with unitarian/humanitarian overtones- it is off the worn track of other Christian writings. Even Martin Luther wanted to throw it away- calling it the “straw gospel”. Hardly any reference to the eschatology of Christ- yet edifying- full of amorphic & didactic wisdom literature- quoting references similar to Yeshua, from proverbs, from Genesis, & Isaiah… consistent imagery- concise & precise. What evidence suggest James did not write it or could not have written an original that was copied much later?

    • Avatar
      Ethereal  July 8, 2014

      And what about Hegissipus? The account of Stephen seems to be a mirror reflection of James.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 8, 2014

      I give an extensive argument for why James was almost certainly not written by Jesus’ brother in my book Forgery and Counterforgery.

  14. Avatar
    Ethereal  July 9, 2014

    Was not Hegessipus purporting a Nazarene like view- when quoted by Eusebius! Someone who had not even espoused those same views- it does not seem there would be an alternative motive to change the quote. It was an early quote. And was not James at least a leader? That at least takes influence. Perhaps the head of the Ecclesiastic Church of Jerusalem?

    • Avatar
      Ethereal  July 10, 2014

      The “themes” in James & Synoptics seem congruent. If James was forged, by later copying themes from the Synoptics- to purport a proto orthodox view– it is lacking the fundamental eschatology of Christiology- the way it is subjectively viewed today in fundamental theology. It is somewhat Jewish- is it not? The Greek lexicons are consistent in several themes w/ emphasis on “Faith”, “Doubt”, “Meek”/Humble”, “Poor”, yes be yes- no be no- etc.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      Yes, that’s normally how both figures are understood.

You must be logged in to post a comment.