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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

John the Vegan Baptist Ate Neither Real Locusts Nor Bee Honey! By Dr. Chapman Chen


Summary: Mark 1:6 (NIV) states that John the Baptist ate ἀκρίδας (akridas/locusts) and μελι αγριον (meli agrion/wild honey); and Matthew 3:4 (NIV) claims that John the Baptist's food was locusts (ἀκριδες/akrides) and μελι αγριον. But John the Baptist, as "a man sent from [the All-Loving] God" (John 1:6-8 NIV) to baptize Jesus Christ, must be compassionate and vegan. So ἀκρίδας (akridas/locusts) could be a typographical error or a deliberation corruption ("by the lying pen of the scribes") of ἄκριος (akrios), which means the peak, upper part of the top or, in extension, the tip of a plant. The plant could well be mkali (date palm), as which the Greek ἀκρίδας in old Georgian translations is transposed (cf. Barnaveli 2018). An alternative solution is: ἀκριδες (akrides/locusts) in Matthew 3:4 was originally εγκρίδες (egkrides) -- the seeds of the carob tree (cf. Ehrman 2013). Similarly, the original of μελι αγριον (meli agrion/wild honey) is probably melagria, a plant widely eaten by Judean desert dwellers (Binns 2024).

1. Why John the Baptist must be Vegan


Many anti-vegan people often quote Mark 1:6 and Matthew 3:4 and say, "Look! Even John the Baptist ate insects like locust and wild bee honey; why should we be vegan?!" In reply to them, I would like to point out that God is love (1 John 4:7 NIV); God loves the world (John 3:16), including ALL His creation (Psalm 145:9); and Jesus said, "I desire compassion rather than sacrifice (Matthew 12:7 NASB). As "a man sent from [the All-Loving] God" (John 1:6-8 NIV) to baptize Jesus Christ, John the Baptist got to be compassionate towards innocent creatures of God and therefore vegan. Any verses that allege John the Baptist ate animals, including insects like locusts, and animal products like bee honey, must be a product of either mistranslation or the 'lying pen of the scribes' (Jeremiah 8:8 NIV). Mind you: bee honey is food painstakingly prepared by bees for their own use, not for humans.


2. ἀκρίδας (akridas/locusts) vs ἄκριος (akrios/the tip [of a plant]) 


With regard to John the Baptist, we read in the Gospel that “his food was locusts and wild honey”(Matthew 3:4 NIV)//“ἡ δε τροφὴ ην αυτοῦ ἀκριδες και μελι αγριον” MK; and that “he ate locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6 NIV)// “...ἐσθιων ἀκρίδας και μελι αγριον” MK.

According to Strong's Concordance, ἀκρίδας (fem.) means locust. According to WordSense Online Dictionary, ἄκριος (fem.)  means peak. ἀκρίδας (akridas/locusts) could be a typographical error or a deliberation corruption ("by the lying pen of the scribes") of ἄκριος (akrios), which means the peak, or, in extension, the tip of a plant (cf. Barnaveli 2018).


3. Locusts vs Date Palm

Now, of what kind of plant could ἄκριος (akrios) be the tip? Probably date palm. According to Barnaveli (2018), the Greek ἀκρὶς, ἀκρίδος in old Georgian translations is transposed as mkali/danakiskudi (date palm), which is a flowering-plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit called dates.  


In fact, in a text of the Klarjuli Mravaltavi (The Georgian Chronicles), Jesus Christ says: “I say unto thee, danakiskudo [locust], incline your head with fruit down and feed my father and mother. And the tree bent immediately. It is interesting to know what happened to this lo­cust tree – danakiskudi- after Jesus said to it: “And you have to be food for the men who are living isolated in the mountains and the deserts! Now you, danakiskudo (locust), go back to the first place you moved from! “Then the tree raised up, moved to heaven” [9, pp. 423-425] (See Barnaveli 2018).


4. Corroborating Evidence


That John the Baptist ate plants and veggies instead of locusts is corroborated by the following documents, among others:-


A. The Gelati manuscript [associated with the Gelati Monastery in Georgia] reads: “he [st. John the Baptist] didn’t work on land, he didn’t care for harvest, nor where to li­ve, nor about the bed for himself, he didn’t work to get his own daily bread, but his food was the top of trees” [16, 563v]//5: «οὐ κλίνης, οὐ τραπέζης, οὐκ ἄλλου τῶν τοιύτων οὐδενὸς ἐδειτο, οὐ γῆν ἤροσεν, οὐκ αὔλακα ἔτεμεν, οὐκ ἐκ ἱδρωτι προσωπον, ἄρτον ἔφαγεν, ἀλλὰ δενδρων μὲν ἀκρίδες αὐτῷ ἡ τροφή» [22, pp. 384-400] (See Barnaveli 2018) .  


B. In a Georgian original hagiographical text “Life of Peter Kartveli (Georgian)”, one of the disciples says that he approached, together with other disciples, father Isaiah’s cell, and overheard the conversation. However, when they came closer, they saw no one there besides Father himself. When asked about the person he was talking to, Father Isaia replied: “The great John the Baptist came and said: ‘After three days we’ll come and take forth your soul'. And I asked the Great John, “What was your food while living in the desert?” And he said to me, “Herbs, vegetable, and hay was the food of mine” [18, pp. 253-254] (See Barnaveli 2018) .  



5. Locusts vs Carob


Now, the word for pancake made from the flour of the locust bean (also called carob bean) is EGKRIDES. The word for locusts in Greek is AKRIDES. They sound and look very similar to each other. All the author of Matthew had to do was alter the EG of the first word to an A and he shifted John from consuming pancakes to consuming locusts (cf. Bart Ehrman 2013).


An alternative origin of ἀκριδες (akrides/locusts) as in Matthew 3:4 is εγκρίδες (egkrides) -- the seeds of the carob tree, which are used in various culinary and traditional practices. Akrides and egkrides sound and look very similar to each other. All the author or scribe of Matthew had to do was alter the EG of the first word to an A and he shifted John from consuming pancakes to consuming locusts (cf. Bart Ehrman 2013, "Locusts or Pancakes?").


Now, what kind of plant is carob? According to The Oxford Book of Health Foods by J.G. Vaughan and P.A. Judd (2003), Carob is also called "St John's bread, locust bean Ceratonia siliqua". It is "native to southeastern Europe and western Asia, with a possible origin in Persia. It is cultivated in a number of Mediterranean countries (e.g. Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Israel)." The plant description provided by Vaugan and Judd (2003) is as follows:


"It is a dome-shaped evergreen tree growing to 1 5 m ( 50 ft) in height, with pinnate compound leaves consisting of 6-10 oval leaflets of leathery texture. The very small flowers are greenish or reddish and may be male, female, or have both types of sex organs. Its fruit is a fleshy, dark brown, oblong, flattened pod of up to 2 5 cm (10 in) long and 2.5 cm ( 1 in) wide, containing 10-12 black hard seeds within a soft, brownish pulp. The pod is the plant part of economic importance."



6. The Ambiguity of μελι (honey) in Ancient Palestine 


Let's now turn to μελι αγριον (meli agrion/wild honey) as in Mark 1:6 and Matthew 3:4. μελι (honey), like the Hebrew דבש or mel in Latin, can refer equally to honey produced by bees or to any number of other sweet substances, including dates, figs, pods, or sap/gum from carob or other trees (Crane 1975:453). Because of this, Eva Crane warns concerning possible references to bee honey in ancient cultures: “Unless the context makes clear a connection with hives, bees, or honeycomb, caution is warranted” (Crane 1975:453). It is thus hard to make certain which sweet substance “honey” refers to in certain ancient writings. (Kelhoffer 2005:59-60)



7. Meli agrion (wild honey) vs Melagri (an edible plant)


According to Lukasz Luczaj (2023) wild honey "may have been not so easy to obtain in the semi-deserts of Middle East." The term "meli agrion (wild honey)" as mentioned in Mark 1:6 and Matthew 3:4, probably originates from splitting the word "melagria" into two parts (cf. Barnaveli 2018). "Melagria is the asphodel with its edible bulbs, a much more likely source of calories" than locusts (Luczaj 2023). 


According to Rubin (2002), during the Byzantine period the desert of Jerusalem, known today as Judaean Desert, was flourished with a large monastic activity. Most of the monasteries belonged to the Laura type, in which monks live in solitude most of the time, and get together during Saturday and Sunday. They often went during the forty days of lent into the remote parts of the desert and lived there on the natural vegetation, eating edible plants and roots. Such events were mentioned in hagiographic sources, describing various kinds of natural edible plants. One of these plants is the melagria. According to John Binns (2024), this gives fresh insights into the life of John the Baptist, including his diet. He would have foraged for food, including the melagria plant, widely eaten by Judaean desert dwellers. Later scribes, who were unfamiliar with the desert, changed this to meli agrion, or wild honey.   


According to Barnaveli (2018), "in one of the readings of “Klarjuri Mravaltavi” (XIc.) [9, p. 358], it is clarified that Mkali (locust) that is (date palm) - danakiskudi, and wild honey is the source of water from the spring, as on this barren place was grown such a sweetness, that's why it has been called wild honey.”


8. Conclusion


To put it in a nutshell, John the Baptist was a vegan baptizer who obeyed God's commandments, especially "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal". After examining the etymology of the Greek words, ἀκρίδας (akridas/locusts), μελι αγριον (meli agrion/wild honey), ἀκριδες (akrides/locusts), ἄκριος (akrios/tip), ἀκριδες (akrides/locusts), εγκρίδες (egkrides),  μελι αγριον (wild honey), and melagria in the social, geographical and botanical contexts of ancient Palestine with reference to ancient Georgian Christian documents, it is safe to conclude that John the Baptist ate date plum fruits (and/or carob seeds) plus asphodel bulbs instead of moving locusts and bees' food.




Barnaveli, Maya (2018). "The Meaning of the Words “mkali (locusts) and “veluri tapli (wild honey)” Mentioned in the Gospel."  No. 12 (27).


Binns, John (2024). "John the Baptist Honey: desert and diet." Sage Journal, Vol. 127, Issue 1, Jan. 31, 13-21.


Crane, Eva (1975). “History of Honey,” in Honey: A Comprehensive Survey (London: Northern Bee Books), 439–488.



Luczaj, Lukasz (2023). " Christian Monks as Foragers Eating Wild Edible Plants."

Lukasz Luczai's Wild Food, March 7.


Kelhoffer, James (2005). "John the Baptist's 'Wilde Honey' and 'Honey' in Antiquity." Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, Vol. 45, 59-73.


Rubin, R. (2024). "The Melagria: On Anchorites and Edible Roots in Judaean Desert." Journal of Late Antiquity, 2(303559), 347-352.


Vaughan, J.G., and P.A. Judd. (2003). The Oxford Book of Health Foods: A Comprehensive Guide to Natural Remedies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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