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By Norm Phelps - 8 Jan 2012

In Reference to: 8 January 1989 - THE TWO-FOLD MESSAGE OF CHRIST'S BAPTISM

I think alteration by a scribe is a real possibility since the Christian understanding of the Baptizer quickly became that he was Elijah come again, fulfilling a prophecy (Malachi 3:19) that was interpreted at the time to say that Elijah would return to earth in the last days to announce the coming of the messiah.

John's disciples, the Mandaeans, never adopted this view of John, which suggests it may not have been current during John's lifetime.

In any event, the leather belt and camel's hair were clearly intended to portray John as dressing as Elijah dressed (2 Kings 1:8), reinforcing the suspicion that the portrait may have been a later scribal addition.

As for the wild honey, I don't think we should expect the ancients to be vegans in our sense of the word. They probably saw no harm in taking and eating wild honey, so long as the hive was left intact.

There are, of course, tangled scribal issues surrounding the "locusts."