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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Milk and Honey

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used at Baptism. The practice of tasting milk and honey at baptism appears to have been founded upon the promises made to the Israelites (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 33:3). They were probably regarded as appropriate emblems at the administration of that sacrament by which we are introduced into that new land "flowing with milk and honey," the spiritual kingdom of God under the Gospel. The tasting of milk may be supposed to refer especially to the words of St. Peter, "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2); a passage which was applied to baptism. As milk denoted the spiritual nourishment afforded by God's Word, so honey denoted its pleasantness or agreeableness to the mind and heart of a renewed person (Psalms 19:11; Psalms 119:103; Revelation 10:9-10). And the use of honey at baptism may have served to remind believers of the superiority of the Christian dispensation over the Jewish, since under the latter there was a law against the use of honey at sacrifices, on account of its liability to corrupt. (See HONEY).

The emblems of milk and honey were in use as early as the third and fourth centuries. Salmasius and some others suppose that they were given to the communicant instead of the Eucharist. This, however, is a mistake, for the Eucharist was administered at the same time (Salmasius, ap. Suicer. Thesaur. part 2, page 236). Tertullian says it was a sign of new birth, and that the communicants became as children adopted into God's family "Inde suscepti lacti et mellis concordiam praegustamus" (Tertull. De cor. Mil. c. 3). St. Jerome says this was done in allusion to those passages of the apostle, "I have fed you with milk, and not with strong meat;" and to St. Peter's saying above; for milk denotes the innocency of children (Comment. in Es. Leviticus, 1). Clemens Alexandrinus also takes notice of this custom, saying, "As soon as we are born, we are nourished with milk, which is the nutriment of the Lord; and when we are born again, we are honored with the hope of rest by the promise of Jerusalem which is above, where it is said to rain milk and honey: for by these material things we are assured of that sacred food" (Clem. Alexandr. 1:6, 103). We learn further, from the third Council of Carthage, that the milk and honey had a peculiar consecration distinct from that of the Eucharist (Cod. Eccles. Afric. can. 37, ap. Justellun) "Nothing else should be offered in the sacraments of the body and blood of the Lord but what the Lord commanded, that is, bread and wine mingled with water. But the first- fruits, and honey and milk, which are offered on one most solemn day for the mystery of infants, though they be offered at the altar, shall have their own peculiar benediction, that they may be distinguished from the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord." Here we see that milk and honey were only to be offered on one solemn day, that is, on the great Sabbath, or Saturday before Easter, which was the most solemn time of baptism; and only for the mystery of infants, that is, persons newly baptized, who were commonly called infants, in a mystical sense, from their new birth, in the African Church. In the time of the Council of Trullo the offering of milk and honey at the altar was forbidden (comp. Conc. Trull. can. 57). See Riddle, Christian Antiquities, page 520; Ayer, Treasury of Bible Knowledge, page 591; Coleman, Ancient Christianity, page 402; Bingham, Antiquities of the Latin Church, 1:500 sq.; 2:755 sq.; Eadie, Eccles. Dict.; Augusti, Christl. Archceology, 2:446 sq.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Milk and Honey'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/milk-and-honey.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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