John the Baptist's locusts

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Thu Nov 16 17:12:24 CST 1995

This subject has seemd to generate not a little discussion.

I was informed by one reader to exercise caution in making assumptions
about names and their applications; and by another that the critical
question was not addressed, i.e. since the carob was known to writers of
the time period of the New Testament, what name would they have used for
that plant, as opposed to the insect?  These are legitimate observations
for which I thank the contributors.  In fact, they have caused me to
research this subject a bit further; why, I am not quite sure, but it
does seem to interest me.  I have some classical language training and I
do love a mystery, especially one that involves historical botany.

In his renouned treatise entitled "Enquiry Into Plants" Theophrastus (ca.
370-285 B.C.) wrote of various edible portions of plants.  In Book I,
Part XI, Paragraph 2 he says the following:  "Enclosed in a pod are not
only the seeds of annual plants, as leguminous plants, and of
considerable numbers of wild plants, but also those of certain trees, as
the carob-tree (which some call the 'Egyptian fig')...."  The word used
in Greek is (translitterated) "keronia" [kappa, epsilon, rho, omega, nu,
IOTA, alpha] (capitals indicate accute accent).  This appears somewhat
close to the generic name Ceratonia and, although I have not done this
either, perusal of the original publication of the genus Ceratonia may
indicate the attribution of this genus to Theophrastus' "keronia."  Yes,
it is true that this is yet another example of someone else's
interpretation of what Theophrastus had in mind when he used the word
"keronia," but at least it demonstrates that New Testament writers would
have had a different word available to them, presuming that they knew
their botany, to differentiate insect locusts from leguminous locusts.

>From the number of posts on TAXACOM about this subject it would appear
that I am not the only one who knows how to waste time on the net :-)

Thanks for your interest.

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