Why did John the Baptist eat locusts? They're not kosher!

I’m not Jewish but I know bugs ain’t kosher, no more than crabs or lobsters. Why did John the Baptist, putting himself forth as a Jewish religious leader/prophet, eat them?

Locust is kosher. In fact, it’s the only kosher insect.

What can I say? We’re a strange religion.

It was even mentioned on last night’s episode of Survivorman (as he ate a locust.)

Leviticus 11:20-23

(note, this is the infamous ‘insects have four legs’ passage).

Hopping insects are exempted from the “no bugs” rule.

(Lev. 11:21-22)

Can you eat it with cheese?

(No conceivable answer you would give would surprise me.)

Just out of curiosity, what about insects without wings? Ants, for example.

I posted the question because I was wondering whether John the Baptist was declaring a new revelation or something, protesting the established Jewish laws (an attitude often attributed to Jesus by Evangelicals, on dubious scriptural grounds IMO). There’s also the camel-hair shirt he wore – don’t camels come under the heading of animals of which Jews may not even touch the dead carcass?

Sure, John the Baptist may lived in the desert, dressed in camel’s hair and believed that sin was water-soluble; but never let it be said that he failed to honor the sacred bug-eating traditions handed down from ancient Hebrews who couldn’t count to six.

According to Wikipedia, only one or two Jewish traditions consider any locusts kosher and the Orthodox tradition rejects it WRT all species. Nothing on what the consensus was in John’s and Jesus’ time, however.

So is there another verse somewhere referring to locusts? Because I was under the impression that locusts were no longer considered kosher, because no one knows the specific kind of locust that was OK to eat. That doesn’t make any sense with the verse posted here.

ETA: OK, the Wikipedia link from BrainGlutton says basically the same thing that I remember. Never mind!

Doesn’t it depend on how they’re killed and prepared?

Is Batman kosher?

Ants have wings.

I’ve also read that blood is not kosher – but, then, why is the blood of Christian babies used to make matzohs? :confused:


Yes. Only the meat of mammals is Biblically forbidden from being eaten with dairy. Bird meat was prohibited by the Rabbis because a piece of bird meat could be easily confused for mammal meat. Fish and insects can freely be eaten with dairy.


Forbidden, as per


No, your recollection is correct - Some Sephardic Jews have a tradition regarding the identity of the specific locust species that are permitted, but others and all Ashkenazic Jews have lost that knowledge and therefore stay away from all insects. But we do not think that the named species became forbidden, we just don’t have sufficient expertise to recognize them.


Nope, that only matters for birds and mammals. No special mode of slaughter is necessary for fish or locusts.



That seems weird - because ‘any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper’ seems too general and inclusive to be able to be misundertood or misidentified - is the English translation lending it a false sense of clarity?

Clearly the Levites were just as meticulous about their ornithology as their entomology.

“Well, OBVIOUSLY bats are birds; they have two legs! If they were insects, they’d have four.”

It breaks my heart to think of all the little Levite children who brought their own lunches to school, and had to watch the other kids eating delicious bat McNuggets while they were forced to choke down another of Mom’s crummy locust sandwiches.

Because he was hungry?

Ok, that made me giggle insanely. Can I share your basket?