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Early Christian Ascetic Practices And Biblical Interpretation: The Witnesses Of Galen And Tatian

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Chapter Summary

The author argues that ascetic interpretations of John the Baptist's "locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6c||Matt 3:4c) abounded in the early church. The testimonies of the physician Galen and the Syrian Christian Tatian to Christian asceticism are earlier than the earliest ascetic exposition of John's food by Clement of Alexandria. Matthew's claim that John ate only "locusts and wild honey" is informed by one or more of the exclusive claims made for the natural provisions of other Jewish wilderness dwellers in Mart. Ascen. Isa. 2.11 and 2 Macc 5:27. The important thing to note is that neither Mark nor Matthew presents John as an ascetic. That innovation is attested by Clement of Alexandria and by nearly every subsequent commentator until the Protestant Reformation. The author wishes to ascertain why such an unremarkable Synoptic passage concerning two rather common wilderness foods would receive this type of notoriety for over twelve centuries.

Keywords: Alexandria; ascetic interpretations; Clement; John; Mark; Matthew



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