Zz Ζζ ז (Zeta/Zayin) — The Meaning of NZR and the Nazirite Vow
A Nazirite, in Hebrew, is a נְזִיר. The Semitic root NZR
has to do with consecration or being set apart. There are several instances of this word in the Hebrew scriptures: Genesis 49.26; Leviticus 25.5, 11; Numbers 6.2, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21; Deuteronomy 33.16; Judges 13.5, 7; 16.17; Lamentations 4.7; Amos 2.11, 12.
In Leviticus 25.5, 11 the word refers to untrimmed vines (hinting at its reference to unshorn vowkeepers in other passages).
Two of the passages from the list comprise the (literarily connected) Jacobian and Mosaic blessings on Joseph:
Genesis 49.22-26: 22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; its branches run over a wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; 24 but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25 from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one consecrated among his brothers [וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו, καὶ ἐπὶ κορυφῆς ὧν ἡγήσατο ἀδελφῶν, Vulgate et in vertice Nazarei inter fratres suos].”
Deuteronomy 33.13-17: 13 Of Joseph he said, “Blessed of Yahweh be his land, with the choice things of heaven, with the dew, and from the deep lying beneath, 14 and with the choice yield of the sun, and with the choice produce of the months; 15 and with the best things of the ancient mountains, and with the choice things of the everlasting hills, 16 and with the choice things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let it come to the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one consecrated among his brothers [וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו, καὶ ἐπὶ κορυφῆς δοξασθεὶς ἐν ἀδελφοῖς, Vulgate et super verticem Nazarei inter fratres suos]. 17 As the firstborn of his ox, majesty is his, and his horns are the horns of the wild ox; with them he will push the peoples, all at once, to the ends of the earth. And those are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and those are the thousands of Manasseh.”
That Joseph is called a nazir
strikes right at the heart of my ongoing interest in the Messiah ben Joseph motif and its possible connection to Jesus Christ, since in rabbinical texts Joseph is, based on his designation as a nazir
, thought to have taken a vow to abstain from wine until he should be reunited with his brothers, whereas in the gospels Jesus is said to have vowed to abstain from wine until he should be reunited with his disciples:
Roger David Aus, “Jesus as a Nazirite in Mark 14:25,” in Searching the Scriptures: Studies in Context and Intertextuality, edited by Craig A. Evans & Jeremiah J. Johnston, page 95: Genesis Rabbah Vayyigash 93/7 first comments on the five portions of Benjamin noted above. It then continues regarding Gen 43:34b, “And they drank, and they became intoxicated with him”: R. Isaac of Magdala said in the name of R. Yehudah ha-Nasi: “From the day that Joseph was separated (פֵּרֵישׁ) from his brothers, they drank no wine until that day, for they all abstained (נזרו) from wine. Joseph too drank no wine until that day, but abstained (נזר) from wine, as it says: ‘And on the crown of the head of him who was a Nazirite (נְזִיר, construct) through his brothers’ (49:26).”
Matthew 26.29: 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of My Father.”
Mark 14.25: 25 “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
The LXX does not transliterate the Hebrew term; rather, it translates it in terms of his leadership over them.
An entire chapter of the Law is dedicated to the temporary vow:
Numbers 6.1-21: 6 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a difficult vow, the vow of a Nazirite to dedicate himself [נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר, ἀφαγνίσασθαι ἁγνείαν κυρίῳ] to the Lord, 3 he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. 4 All the days of his dedication [נִזְרוֹ, τῆς εὐχῆς] he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin. 5 All the days of his vow of dedication no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he dedicated himself to the Lord; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long. 6 All the days of his dedication to the Lord he shall not go near to a dead person. 7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father or for his mother, for his brother or for his sister, when they die, because his dedication to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his dedication he is holy to the Lord. 9 But if a man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his dedicated head of hair, then he shall shave his head on the day when he becomes clean; he shall shave it on the seventh day. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 11 The priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, and make atonement for him concerning his sin because of the dead person. And that same day he shall consecrate his head, 12 and shall dedicate to the Lord his days as a Nazirite [וְהִזִּיר לַיהוָה֙ אֶת־יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ], and shall bring a male lamb a year old for a guilt offering; but the former days will be void because his dedication was defiled. 13 Now this is the Law of the Nazirite [תּוֹרַת הַנָּזִיר]. When the days of his dedication are fulfilled, he shall bring the offering to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 14 He shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb a year old without defect for a burnt offering and one ewe lamb a year old without defect for a sin offering and one ram without defect for a peace offering, 15 and a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened wafers spread with oil, along with their grain offering and their drink offering. 16 Then the priest shall present them before the Lord and shall offer his sin offering and his burnt offering. 17 He shall also offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, together with the basket of unleavened cakes; the priest shall likewise offer its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 The Nazirite shall then shave his dedicated head of hair at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and take the dedicated hair of his head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings. 19 The priest shall take the ram’s shoulder when it has been boiled, and one unleavened cake out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the palms of the Nazirite after he has shaved his dedicated hair. 20 Then the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. It is holy for the priest, together with the breast offered by waving and the thigh offered by lifting up; and afterward the Nazirite may drink wine.’ 21 This is the law of the Nazirite who vows his offering to the Lord according to his separation, in addition to what else his hand can reach; according to his vow which he takes, so he shall do according to the law of his separation.”
Again, the Greek text does not transliterate the Hebrew term; rather, it translates it in terms of a purity vow.
Three of the instances on the list have to do with Samson:
Judges 13.1-25: 1 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of Yahweh, so that Yahweh gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. 2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had not borne. 3 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have not borne, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. 4 Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be [ἔσται τὸ παιδάριον] a Nazirite of God [נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים, Ναζειρ θεοῦ, Alexandrinus ἡγιασμένον Ναζιραῖον... τῷ θεῷ, Aquila & Symmachus ἀφωρισμένον τῷ θεῷ] from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be [ἔσται τὸ παιδάριον] a Nazirite of God [נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים, ἅγιον θεοῦ, Alexandrinus Ναζειραῖον θεοῦ] from the womb to the day of his death.’” 8 Then Manoah entreated Yahweh and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.” 9 God listened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came the other day has appeared to me.” 11 Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to the woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12 Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?” 13 So the angel of Yahweh said to Manoah, “Let the woman pay attention to all that I said. 14 She should not eat anything that comes from the vine nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing; let her observe all that I commanded.” 15 Then Manoah said to the angel of Yahweh, “Please let us detain you so that we may prepare a young goat for you.” 16 The angel of Yahweh said to Manoah, “Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to Yahweh.” For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of Yahweh. 17 Manoah said to the angel of Yahweh, “What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?” 18 But the angel of Yahweh said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to Yahweh, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on. 20 For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that the angel of Yahweh ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 Now the angel of Yahweh did not appear to Manoah or his wife again. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of Yahweh. 22 So Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.” 23 But his wife said to him, “If Yahweh had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time.” 24 Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and Yahweh blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of Yahweh began to stir him in Mahaneh-Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Judges 16.15-17: 15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.” 16 It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was impatient to the point of death. 17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite of God [נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים, ἅγιος θεοῦ, Alexandrinus Ναζειραῖος θεοῦ] from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”
In these passages the Greek does transliterate the Hebrew, though not consistently between the two principal versions (designated A and B, or Alexandrinus and Vaticanus):
Stuart Chepey, Nazirites in Late Second Temple Judaism: A Survey, page 31: In the case of LXX Judg., the two primary MS families representing two very distinct readings have survived: the fifth-century codex Alexandrinus (LXXA) and the fourth-century codex Vaticanus (LXXB), both of which are printed in parallel fashion in Rahlfs’ modern critical edition. Scholars differ in their dating of the two readings. Most recently, Bodine has substantiated Barthélemy’s theory that LXXB Judg. represents part of an early recension of LXX dating back to the turn of the era, popularly referred to as the καίγε-recension. LXXA, on the other hand, represents a much later version similar in character to Origen’s Hexaplaric recension of the third century AD.
If Bodine, Barthélemy, and Chepey are correct, then the tendency seems to have been for the Greek to have translated
the Hebrew term at first, and then later transliterated
it as the term itself, Nazirite, began to make inroads into the surrounding languages and cultures.
So the earlier Greek text, B/Vaticanus, transliterates once as Ναζιρ θεοῦ ("Nazirite of God," Judges 13.5) and translates twice as ἅγιος θεοῦ ("holy one of God," Judges 13.7; 16.17), while the later Greek text, A/Alexandrinus, transliterates thrice as Ναζιραῖος θεοῦ (or τῷ θεῷ, "Naziraean of/to God," Judges 13.5, 7; 16.17).
The translation, "holy one of God," on the one hand, seems to lie behind a few of our gospel passages:
Mark 1.23-24: 23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What to us and to You, Jesus the Nazarene [Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ]? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God [ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ]!”
Luke 4.33-34: 33 In the synagogue there was a man having a spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What to us and to You, Jesus the Nazarene [Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ]? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God [ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ]!”
John 6.66-69: 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God [ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ].”
Notice the presence of the term Nazarene, of course, in Mark, though it may
be absent from Marcion and secondary in Luke:
Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.7.9:
9 And thus He either will have to be acknowledged as being of Him, in accordance with whom He taught, or else will have to be judged to be a prevaricator, if He taught in accordance with Him against whom He had come. In the same passage “the spirit of a demon” exclaims, “What is it to us and to You, Jesus? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God.” / 9 Atque ita aut eius erit agnoscendus, secundum quem docuit, aut praevaricator iudicandus, si secundum eum adversus quem venerat docuit. exclamat ibidem spiritus daemonis, «Quid nobis et tibi est, Iesu? venisti perdere nos? scio qui sis, sanctus dei.»
The transliteration, "Naziraean," on the other hand, is probably what lies behind a famously garbled reference to the prophets, probably also under the influence of one of the "call his name" prophecies:
Matthew 2.19-23: 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets, that “He shall be called a Nazarene [Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται].”
Ναζιρ θεοῦ (Judges 13.5 Vaticanus); Ναζιραῖον... τῷ θεῷ (Judges 13.5 Alexandrinus).
ἅγιον θεοῦ (Judges 13.7 Vaticanus); Ναζιραῖον θεοῦ (Judges 13.7 Alexandrinus).
ἅγιος θεοῦ (Judges 16.17 Vaticanus); Ναζιραῖος θεοῦ (Judges 16.17 Alexandrinus).
Ναζιραίους (1 Maccabees 3.49).
Ναζιραῖοι (Lamentations 4.7).
Judges 13.5-7: 5 “For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be [ἔσται τὸ παιδάριον] a Nazirite of God [נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים, Ναζειρ θεοῦ, Alexandrinus ἡγιασμένον Ναζιραῖον... τῷ θεῷ, Aquila & Symmachus ἀφωρισμένον τῷ θεῷ] from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be [ἔσται τὸ παιδάριον] a Nazirite of God [נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים, ἅγιον θεοῦ, Alexandrinus Ναζειραῖον θεοῦ] from the womb to the day of his death.’”
Isaiah 7.14: 14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a maiden will be with child and she will bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ].”
Matthew 1.20-21: 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 But she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν], for He will save His people from their sins.”
One may as well get used to this confusion of Nazoraean as a demonym for the town of Naṣareth and Nazoraean as a reference to Jesus in some way being a Nazirite, or Holy One of God; it is going to persist.
Only two Masoretic instances of the Hebrew word remain, but there is another scriptural instance which derives from a scroll of 1 Samuel from Qumran:
Amos 2.6-16: 6 Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. 7 These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless also turn aside the way of the humble; and a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name. 8 On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined. 9 Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, though his height was like the height of cedars and he was strong as the oaks; I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below. 10 It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and I led you in the wilderness forty years that you might take possession of the land of the Amorite. 11 Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets and some of your young men to be Nazirites [לִנְזִרִים, εἰς ἁγιασμόν, Vulgate Nazaraeos]. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?” declares the Lord. 12 “But you made the Nazirites [הַנְּזִרִים, τοὺς ἡγιασμένους, Vulgate Nazaraeis] to drink wine, and you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’ 13 Behold, I am weighted down beneath you as a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves. 14 Flight will perish from the swift, and the stalwart will not strengthen his power, nor the mighty man save his life. 15 He who grasps the bow will not stand his ground; the swift of foot will not escape, nor will he who rides the horse save his life. 16 Even the bravest among the warriors will flee naked in that day,” declares the Lord.
1 Samuel 1.9-11: 9 Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him [OG + δοτόν, as given] to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
1 Samuel 1.22: 22 But Hannah did not go up, and she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned. Then I will bring him to appear before Yahweh and to stay there forever [4QSamuela + שנתתיהו נזיר על עולם, and I will give him as a Nazirite forever].”
Lamentations 4.7: 7 Her Nazirites [נְזִירֶיהָ, Ναζιραῖοι αὐτῆς, Symmachus ἀφωρισμένοι αὐτῆς] were purer than snow; they were whiter than milk; they were more ruddy in body than corals; their polishing was like lapis lazuli.
Christophe Lemardelé, “The Hebrew Word נזָיִר in Greek: From the Septuagint to the Christian Authors,” page 2: 2 According to Septuagint specialists, Amos, 1 Samuel, and Judges were translated during the 2nd century BCE, before the book of Lamentations.
Thus the Qumranites, at least, thought of Samuel as a Nazirite. The OG transliterates the instance from Lamentations, while Symmachus translates it.
The Hebrew version of another book will repay attention:
Wisdom of Sirach 46.13 (slightly modified from Chepey, based on the Hebrew version): 13 Beloved by the people and pleasing to his Creator was he who was dedicated from his mother’s womb [המשׁואל מבטן אמו], a Nazirite of Yahweh [נזיר ייי, Syriac נזיר only] in prophecy [בנבואה], Samuel, judge and priest; by the word of Yahweh he instituted the kingdom.
Wisdom of Sirach 46.13 (RSV, based on the Greek version): 13 Samuel, beloved by his Lord, a prophet of the Lord [προφήτης κυρίου], established the kingdom and anointed rulers over his people.
Interesting that the Greek omits the Hebrew term; apparently either Junior did not agree with his father about Samuel being a Nazirite or he was not sure what to do with it in Greek; recall that this translation would have been early, before the Greek transliteration would have been made common.
And there is an instance in the Maccabean books:
1 Maccabees 3.46-49: 46 So they assembled and went to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, because Israel formerly had a place of prayer in Mizpah. 47 They fasted that day, put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on their heads, and rent their clothes. 48 And they opened the book of the law to inquire into those matters about which the Gentiles were consulting the images of their idols. 49 They also brought the garments of the priesthood and the firstfruits and the tithes, and they stirred up the Nazirites [Ναζιραίους, Sinaiticus Ναζειραίους, Vaticanus Ναζαραίους] who had completed their days.
Of course, we have inscriptions:
Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae & Palaestinae 1, volume 1 of Jerusalem, pages 114-116:
70. Ossuary of Ḥananiya son of Yehonatan the Nazirite with Aramaic and Hebrew inscription, 1 c. BCE - 1 c. CE....
חנניה בר יהונתן הנזר
Translit.: ḥnnyh br yhwntn hnzr
Ḥananiya son of Yehonatan the Nazirite (= Hananiah son of Jonathan the Nazirite).
72. Ossuary of Shalom wife of Ḥananiya son of the Nazirite with Aramaic and Hebrew inscription, 1 c. BCE - 1 c. CE....
שלום אנתת חנניה בר הנזיר
Translit.: šlwm ʾntt ḥnnyh br hnzyr
Shalom wife of Ḥananiya son of the Nazirite. (= Shalom wife of Hananiah son of the Nazirite).
[Refer also to N. Avigad, “The Burial-Vault of a Nazirite Family on Mount Scopus,” in the Israel Exploration Journal, volume 21, number 4 (1971), pages 185-200.]
It is unclear whether these men considered themselves lifelong Nazirites or whether they had simply taken the temporary vow at some point in their lives.
Philo does not use a transliteration for the Hebrew term. Rather, he seems to follow the LXX/OG translations:
Philo, The Special Laws 1.45-46.247-254: 45.247 Having given these commandments about every description of sacrifice in its turn, namely, about the burnt offering, and the sacrifice for preservation, and the sin offering, he adds another kind of offering common to all the three, in order to show that they are friendly and connected with one another; and this combination of them all is called the great vow [εὐχὴ μεγάλη] (= Numbers 6.2 LXX, μεγάλως εὔξηται εὐχήν); 248 and why it received this appellation we must now proceed to say. When any persons offer first fruits from any portion of their possessions, wheat, or barley, or oil, or wine, or the best of their fruits, or the firstborn males of their flocks and herds, they do so actually dedicating those first fruits which proceed from what is clean, but paying a price as the value of what is unclean; and when they have no longer any materials left in which they can display their piety, they then consecrate and offer up themselves, displaying an unspeakable holiness, and a most superabundant excess of a disposition of loving God, on which account such a dedication is fitly called the great vow; for every man is his own greatest and most valuable possession, and this even he now gives up and abandons. 249 And when a man has vowed this vow the law gives him the following command; first of all, to touch no unmixed wine, nor any wine that is made of the grape, nor to drink any other strong drink whatever, to the destruction of his reason, considering that during this period his reason also is dedicated to God; for all which could tend to drunkenness is forbidden to those of the priests who are employed in the sacred ministrations, they being commanded to quench their thirst with water; 250 in the second place they are commanded not to show their heads, giving thus a visible sign to all who see them that they are not debasing the pure coinage of their vow; thirdly, they are commanded to keep their body pure and undefiled, so as not even to approach their parents if they are dead, nor their brothers; piety overcoming the natural good will and affection towards their relations and dearest friends, and it is both honorable and expedient that piety should at all times prevail. 46.251 But when the appointed time for their being released from this vow has arrived (= Numbers 6.14), the Law then commands the man who has dedicated himself to bring three animals to procure his release from his vow, a male lamb, and a female lamb, and a ram; the one for a burnt offering, the second for a sin offering, and the ram as a sacrifice for preservation; 252 for in some sense the man who has made such a vow resembles all these things. He resembles the sacrifice of the entire burnt offering, because he is dedicating to his preserver not only a portion of the first fruits of other things, but also of his own self. And he resembles the sin offering, inasmuch as he is a man; for there is no one born, however perfect he may be, who can wholly avoid the commission of sin. He resembles also the offering for preservation, inasmuch as he has recorded that God the Savior is the cause of his preservation, and does not ascribe it to any physician or to any power of his; for those who have been born themselves, and who are liable to infirmity, are not competent to bestow health even on themselves. Medicine does not benefit all persons, nor does it always benefit the same persons; but there are times even when it does them great injury, since its power depends on different things, both on the thing itself and also on those persons who use it. 253 And a great impression is made on me by the fact that of three animals offered up in these different sacrifices, there is no one of a different species from the others, but they are every one of the same kind, a ram, and a male lamb, and a female lamb; for God wishes, as I said a little while ago, by this commandment to point out that the three kinds of sacrifice are nearly connected with and akin to one another; because, both the man who repents is saved, and the man who is saved from the diseases of the soul repents, and because both of them hasten with eagerness to attain to an entire and perfect disposition, of which the sacrifice of the whole burnt offering is a symbol. 254 But since the man has begun to offer himself as his first fruits, and since it is not lawful for the sacred altar to be polluted with human blood, but yet it was by all means necessary that a portion should be consecrated, he has taken care to take a portion, which, being taken, should cause neither pain nor defilement; for he has cut off the hair of the head (= Numbers 6.18), the superfluities of the natural body, as if they were the superfluous branches of a tree, and he has committed them to the fire on which the meat of the sacrifice offered for preservation will be suitably prepared (= Leviticus 6.13), in order that some portion of the man who has made the vow, which it is not lawful to place upon the altar, may still at all events be combined with the sacrifice, burning the fuel of the sacred flame.
Philo, On the Unchangableness of God 19.86-90: 86 But what is the meaning of the sentence, “Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord God” (= Genesis 6.8)? Let us now consider this: for those who find anything, some are finding what they formerly had and have lost, and some are discovering what they never had before and now possess for the first time. Accordingly, those men who occupy themselves with the investigation of appropriate names are accustomed to call the latter kind finding and the former kind refinding. 87 Of the former species we have a conspicuous example afforded us in the injunctions given about the great vow [μεγάλης εὐχῆς] (= Numbers 6.2). Now a vow is a request for good things from God, and the spirit of the great vow is to believe that God himself is the cause of good things from himself, without anyone else ever cooperating with him, of the things which may appear to be beneficial, neither the earth as fruitful nor the rain as helping to promote the growth of seeds and plants, nor the air as calculated to nourish man, nor agriculture as the cause of production, nor the skill of the physician as the cause of health, nor marriage as the cause of the procreation of children. 88 For all these things receive changes and alterations through the power of God to such a degree and in such a way as often to have effects contrary to their usual ones. Moses, therefore says that this man is “holy who nourishes the hair of his head” (= Numbers 6.5), the meaning of which is that he is holy who promotes the growth in the principal portion of himself of the principal shoots of the doctrines of virtue, and who in a manner prides himself and takes delight in these doctrines. 89 But sometimes he loses them, a sort of whirlwind, as it were, suddenly darting down upon the soul, and carrying off everything that was good out of it; and this whirlwind is an involuntary change which pollutes the mind in a moment, which Moses calls death (= Numbers 6.9). 90 But nevertheless, when he has afterwards gotten rid of this and become purified, he recovers and recollects again what for a time he had forgotten and finds what he had lost, so that the days of his former change are not included in the computation (= Numbers 6.12), either because such change is a matter which cannot be reduced to calculation, inasmuch as it is inconsistent with right reason and has no partnership with prudence, or because it does not deserve to be taken into calculation; “for of such things,” some ancient writer says, “there is no account nor calculation taken.”
Philo, On Dreams 1.43.252-2544: 252 For this reason, after mentioning the dedication of the pillar, God adds that, “You vowed a vow to me” (= Genesis 31.13). Now a vow also is, to speak properly, a dedication [ἀνάθεσις], since he who makes a vow is said to offer up as a gift to God, not only his own possessions, but himself likewise who is the owner of them; 253 for the scripture says, “The man is holy who nourishes the locks of the hair of his head, who has vowed a vow” (= Numbers 6.5). But if he is holy he is undoubtedly an offering [ἀνάθημα] to God, no longer meddling with anything unholy or profane; 254 and there is an evidence in favor of my argument in the conduct of the prophetess and mother of a prophet, Hannah, whose name being translated signifies “grace,” for she says that she gives her son, Samuel, “as a gift [δῶρον] to the Holy One” (= 1 Samuel 1.11, 28), not dedicating him more as a human being than as a disposition full of inspiration and possessed by a divinely sent impulse; and the name Samuel, being interpreted, means “appointed to God.”
Philo, On Drunkenness 35.143-36.144: 35.143 And it is an especial property of law and of instruction to distinguish what is profane from what is holy and what is unclean from what is clean, as, on the other hand, it is the effect of lawlessness and ignorance to combine things that are at variance with one another by force and to throw everything into disorder and confusion. 36 On this account the greatest of the kings and prophets, Samuel, as the sacred scriptures tell us, drank no wine or intoxicating liquors to the day of his death (= 1 Samuel 1.14), for he is enrolled among the ranks of the divine army which he will never leave in consequence of the prudence of the wise captain. 36.144 But Samuel was perhaps in reality a man, but he is looked upon not as a compound animal, but as mind rejoicing only in the service and ministrations of God. For the name Samuel, being interpreted, means “appointed to God,” because he looked upon all such actions as are done in accordance with vain and empty opinions to be shameful irregularity.
But Josephus does transliterate:
Josephus, War 2.15.1 §309-314:
309 About this very time king Agrippa was going to Alexandria to congratulate Alexander upon his having obtained the government of Egypt from Nero. 310 But as his sister Bernice was come to Jerusalem, and saw the wicked practices of the soldiers, she was sorely affected at it, and frequently sent the masters of her horse and her guards to Florus and begged of him to leave off these slaughters. 311 But he would neither comply with her request nor have any regard either to the multitude of those already slain, or to the nobility of her that interceded, but only to the advantage he should make by this plundering. 312 Nay, this violence of the soldiers broke out to such a degree of madness that it spent itself on the queen herself; for they did not only torment and destroy those whom they had caught under her very eyes, but indeed would have killed herself also, unless she had prevented them by flying to the palace and stayed there all night with her guards, which she had about her for fear of an insult from the soldiers. 313 Now she dwelt then at Jerusalem, in order to perform a vow which she had made to God; for it is usual with those that had been either afflicted with a distemper, or with any other distresses, to make vows, and for thirty days before they are to offer their sacrifices to abstain from wine and to shave the hair of their head, 314 which things Bernice was now performing, and she stood barefoot before Florus’ tribunal, and besought him. Yet could she neither have any reverence paid to her, nor could she escape without some danger of being slain herself. [Link
Stuart Chepey, Nazirites in Late Second Temple Judaism: A Survey of Ancient Jewish Writings, the New Testament, Archaeological Evidence, and Other Writings from Late Antiquity, page 60:
60 .... Taking this description of Bernice into consideration with the other behavioral elements incorporated in the vow, particularly the thirty-day observance period, the vow is reminiscent of similar patterns of behavior witnessed in the Jewish rite of mourning known from rabbinic sources as the Shloshim
, (שׁלשׁים), “thirty days.” During the Shloshim
, a mourner abstained from cutting the hair and nails, wore rent clothing, and for at least a portion of the thirty-day period abstained from drinking wine. The similarities between the two customs are rather striking and may demonstrate some common relationship between them. The thirty-day period for the temporary Nazirite vow, together with the custom of undertaking the vow during a time of illness or other affliction, abstaining from wine, and demonstrating such a status through other outward means, may indicate that the significance of the thirty days lies in an amalgamation of features shared with late Second Temple mourning rites.
Josephus, Antiquities 4.4.4 §70-72:
70 Moreover, it was but just to offer to God the firstfruits of the entire product of the ground, and they should offer the firstborn of those quadrupedal beasts which are appointed for sacrifices, if it be a male, to the priests to be slain, so that they and their entire families may eat them in the holy city; 71 but the owners of those firstborn which are not appointed for sacrifices in the laws of our country should bring a shekel and a half in their stead, but for the firstborn of a man, five shekels; and they should also have the firstfruits out of the shearing of the sheep, and when any grain is baked into bread loaves they should give somewhat of what they had baked to them. 72 Moreover, when any have made a sacred vow — I mean those who are called Nazirites, who suffer their hair to grow long and use no wine — when they consecrate their hair, and offer it for a sacrifice, they are to allot that hair for the priests. / 70 ἔτι δὲ ἀπαρχὰς τὸν λαὸν δίκαιον τῷ θεῷ πάντων τῶν ἐκ τῆς γῆς φυομένων καρπῶν ἐπιφέρειν, καὶ τῶν τετραπόδων δὲ τῶν εἰς τὰς θυσίας νενομισμένων τὸ γεννηθὲν πρῶτον, ἂν ἄρσεν ᾖ, καταθῦσαι παρασχεῖν τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν, ὥστε αὐτοὺς πανοικὶ σιτεῖσθαι ἐν τῇ ἱερᾷ πόλει. 71 τῶν δ᾽ οὐ νενομισμένων ἐσθίειν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς κατὰ τοὺς πατρίους νόμους τοὺς δεσπότας σίκλον καὶ ἥμισυ αὐτοῖς ἀναφέρειν, ἀνθρώπου δὲ πρωτοτόκου πέντε σίκλους, εἶναι δὲ ἀπαρχὰς αὐτοῖς καὶ τῆς τῶν προβάτων κουρᾶς, τούς τε πέττοντας τὸν σῖτον καὶ ἀρτοποιουμένους τῶν πεμμάτων αὐτοῖς τινα χορηγεῖν. 72 ὅσοι δ᾽ ἂν αὑτοὺς καθιερῶσιν εὐχὴν πεποιημένοι, Ναζιραῖοι δὲ οὗτοι καλοῦνται, κομῶντες καὶ οἶνον οὐ προσφερόμενοι, τούτους δὲ ὅταν τὰς τρίχας ἀφιερῶσιν ἐπὶ θυσίᾳ τε δρῶσι τὰς κουρὰς νέμεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἱερέας.
Josephus, Antiquities 5.8.1-12 §275-317:
Josephus, Antiquities 5.10.1-4 §338-351:
Josephus, Antiquities 19.6.1 §292-294:
292 Now Claudius Caesar, by these decrees of his which were sent to Alexandria, and to all the habitable earth, made known what opinion he had of the Jews. So he soon sent Agrippa away to take his kingdom, now he was advanced to a more illustrious dignity than before, and sent letters to the presidents and procurators of the provinces that they should treat him very kindly. 293 Accordingly, he returned in haste, as was likely he would, now lie returned in much greater prosperity than he had before. He also came to Jerusalem, and offered all the sacrifices that belonged to him, and omitted nothing which the law required; 294 on which account he ordained that many of the Nazirites should have their heads shorn. And for the golden chain which had been given him by Caius, of equal weight with that iron chain wherewith his royal hands had been bound, he hung it up within the limits of the temple, over the treasury, 2 that it might be a memorial of the severe fate he had lain under, and a testimony of his change for the better; that it might be a demonstration how the greatest prosperity may have a fall, and that God sometimes raises up what is fallen down. / 292 Τούτοις μὲν δὴ τοῖς διατάγμασιν εἰς Ἀλεξάνδρειάν τε καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην πᾶσαν ἀποσταλεῖσιν ἐδήλωσεν ἣν περὶ Ἰουδαίων ἔχοι γνώμην Κλαύδιος Καῖσαρ: αὐτίκα δὲ Ἀγρίππαν κομιούμενον τὴν βασιλείαν ἐπὶ τιμαῖς λαμπροτέραις ἐξέπεμψε τοῖς ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπαρχιῶν ἡγεμόσιν καὶ τοῖς ἐπιτρόποις διὰ γραμμάτων ἐπιστείλας ἐράσμιον ἄγειν αὐτόν. 293 ὁ δ᾽, ὡς εἰκὸς ἦν τὸν ἐπὶ κρείττοσιν τύχαις ἀνερχόμενον, μετὰ τάχους ὑπέστρεψεν, εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα δ᾽ ἐλθὼν χαριστηρίους ἐξεπλήρωσε θυσίας οὐδὲν τῶν κατὰ νόμον παραλιπών. 294 διὸ καὶ Ναζιραίων ξυρᾶσθαι διέταξε μάλα συχνούς, τὴν δὲ χρυσῆν ἅλυσιν τὴν δοθεῖσαν αὐτῷ ὑπὸ Γαΐου ἰσόσταθμον τῇ σιδηρᾷ, ᾗ τὰς ἡγεμονίδας χεῖρας ἐδέθη, τῆς στυγνῆς εἶναι τύχης ὑπόμνημα καὶ τῆς ἐπὶ τὰ κρείττω μαρτυρίαν μεταβολῆς τῶν ἱερῶν ἐντὸς ἀνεκρέμασεν περιβόλων ὑπὲρ τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον, ἵν᾽ ᾖ δεῖγμα καὶ τοῦ τὰ μεγάλα δύνασθαί ποτε πεσεῖν καὶ τοῦ τὸν θεὸν ἐγείρειν τὰ πεπτωκότα.
Josephus, Antiquities 20.2.1-5 §17-53:
Moses of Chorene, History of Armenia, summary of chapter 35 in volume 8 of the ANF series (more about Helena):
Sanadroug, being on the throne, raises troops with the help of the brave Pacradouni and Ardzrouni, who had exalted him, and goes to wage war upon the children of Abgar, to make him self master of the whole kingdom. Whilst Sanadroug was occupied with these affairs, as if by an effect of divine providence vengeance was taken for the death of Attæus; for a marble column which the son of Abgar was having erected at Edessa, on the summit of his palace, while he was underneath to direct the work, escaped from the hands of the workmen, fell upon him and crushed his feet.
Immediately there came a message from the inhabitants of the town, asking Sanadroug for a treaty by which he should engage not to disturb them in the exercise of the Christian religion, in consideration of which, they would give up the town and the king’s treasures. Sanadroug promised, but in the end violated his oath. Sanadroug put all the children of the house of Abgar to the edge of the sword, with the exception of the daughters, whom he withdrew from the town to place them in the canton of Hachdiank. As to the first of Abgar’s wives, named Helena, he sent her to his town at Kharan, and left to her the sovereignty of the whole of Mesopotamia, in remembrance of the benefits he had received from Abgar by Helena’s means.
Helena, pious like her husband Abgar, did not wish to live in the midst of idolaters; she went away to Jerusalem in the time of Claudius, during the famine which Agabus had predicted; with all her treasures she bought in Egypt an immense quantity of corn, which she distributed amongst the poor, a fact to which Josephus testifies. Helena’s tomb, a truly remarkable one, is still to be seen before the gate of Jerusalem.
Does Plutarch refer obliquely to the Nazirite vow as if it were a punishment??
Plutarch, Quaestiones Convivales 4.6.2: 2 .... Nor would it be absurd were any one to say that the name Sabbath [σάββατον] was imposed upon this feast from the agitation and excitement [σόβησιν] which the priests of Bacchus indulged in. The Jews themselves testify no less; for when they keep the Sabbath they invite one another to drink till they are drunk; or, if they chance to be hindered by some more weighty business, it is the fashion at least to taste the wine. Some perhaps may surmise that these are mere conjectures. But there are other arguments which will clearly evince the truth of what I assert. The first may be drawn from their High Priest, who on holidays enters their temple with his miter on, arrayed in a skin of a hind embroidered with gold, wearing buskins, and a coat hanging down to his ankles; besides, he has a great many little bells hanging at his garment which make a noise as he walks the streets. So in the nightly ceremonies of Bacchus, as the fashion is amongst us, they make use of musical instruments, and call the nurses of the god χαλκοδρυσται. High up on the wall of their temple is a representation of the thyrsus and timbrels, which surely can belong to no other God than Bacchus. Moreover, they are forbidden the use of honey in their sacrifices, because they suppose that a mixture of honey corrupts and deadens the wine. And honey was used for sacrificing in former days, and with it the ancients were wont to make themselves drunk, before the vine was known. And at this day barbarous people who want wine drink metheglin, allaying the sweetness of the honey by bitter roots, much of the taste of our wine. The Greeks offered to their gods these sober offerings, or honey offerings, as they called them, because that honey was of a nature quite contrary to wine. But this is no inconsiderable argument that Bacchus was worshipped by the Jews in that, amongst other kinds of punishment, that was most remarkably odious by which malefactors were forbidden the use of wine for as long a time as the judge was pleased to prescribe. Those thus punished.... [Book 4 cuts off at this point.]
Might be a stretch.
There are other references to vows or conditions which may or may not be Nazirite:
Luke 1.8-17: 8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call his name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children’ (= Malachi 4.6), and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” [Also, Mary breaks out into song in Luke 1.46-51 after learning she would impossibly give birth (as a virgin) to a child, just as Hannah breaks into song in 1 Samuel 2.1-10 after improbably giving birth (as a barren woman) to Samuel, whose upbringing she has already painted in Nazirite terms in 1 Samuel 1.9-11.]
Acts 18.18: 18 Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.
Christophe Lemardelé, “The Hebrew Word נזָיִר in Greek: From the Septuagint to the Christian Authors,” page 3: 3 .... When Paul made a vow in the port of Corinth, cutting his hair on this occasion (Acts 18,18), it was neither to pronounce a Nazirite vow as we usually think, nor to fulfill this type of vow. Indeed, according to the Jewish rite, the shaving had to be made only in the Jerusalem temple, accompanied by three offerings of fulfillment (Num 6,13-20). Moreover, Paul did not cut his hair like a Nazirite, as is clear from the verb keirô (instead of xuraomai): he did not actually shave his hair. More likely, Paul pronounced an ordinary vow to have a good crossing, as other travelers who made spontaneous vows in the boat during a tempest.*
* See the Roman poets Juvenal, Satires 12, 81-82, and Petronius, Satyricon 103-105; or, in the Bible, Jonah 1,15- 16: “So they [the sailors] picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared Yhwh even more, and they offered a sacrifice to Yhwh and made vows.” In Corinth, the goddess Isis received public vows and was offered a boat for the sake of having a good navigation (Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11, 16-17).
Acts 21.17-26: 17 After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; 21 and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.
Pseudo-Clement of Rome, Epistle 2 on Virginity 9.1: 1 Have you not heard concerning Samson the Nazarite [Σαμψὼν τοῦ Ναζιραίου], “with whom was the Spirit of the Lord” (= Judges 13.25), the man of great strength? And a woman brought such a man to ruin with her wretched flesh and her vile passion.
Jerome, On Famous Men 2: 2 Evangelium quoque quod appellatur secundum Hebraeos, et a me nuper in Graecum Latinumque sermonem translatum est, quo et Origenes saepe utitur, post resurrectionem salvatoris refert: «Dominus autem cum dedisset sindonem servo sacerdotis, ivit ad Iacobum et apparuit ei. iuraverat enim Iacobus se non comesturum panem ab illa hora quia biberat calicem domini donec videret eum resurgentem a dormientibus». Rursusque post paululum: «Afferte, ait dominus, mensam et panem». statimque additur: «Tulit panem et benedixit, ac fregit, et dedit Iacobo iusto, et dixit ei: Frater mi, comede panem tuum, quia resurrexit filius hominis a dormientibus». / Also the gospel which is named according to the Hebrews, and which was recently translated by me into Greek and Latin, which also Origen often used, refers after the resurrection of the savior: “But the Lord, when he had given the shroud to the servant of the priest, went to James and appeared to him. James indeed had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour when he had drunk the chalice of the Lord until he saw him risen from among those who sleep.” And again after a little bit: “Bear forth, said the Lord, a table and bread.” And immediately is added: “He bore bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to James the just, and said to him: My brother, eat your bread, because the son of man has resurrected from among those who sleep.”
My original reason for tracking down references to the Rechabites
was, because of the reference to the Rechabites in Hegesippus' account of the martyrdom of James (quoted in full on that thread), to fill out information about the Nazirite vow, which the Rechabite lifestyle resembles in some particulars.
An entire tractate of the rabbinical literature is dedicated to the Nazirite vow; I quote only a handful of interesting references:
Mishnah, Nazir 2.3: 3 If a cup of wine is poured for a man and he says, “I am a Nazirite [נָזִיר] from it,” he becomes a Nazirite [נָזִיר]. It once happened that a cup of wine was poured for a woman who was inebriated and she said, “I am a Naziritess [נְזִירָה] from it.” The Sages said that her intention was only to prohibit it upon herself as a korbon [קָרְבָּן].
Mishnah, Nazir 3.6: 6 If one takes upon himself a longterm Naziriteship [נְזִירוּת], and completes it, and then comes to the Land, the House of Shammai says, “He is a Nazirite [נָזִיר] for thirty days,” but the House of Hillel says, “He is a Nazirite [נָזִיר] as if from the beginning again.” It once happened with Queen Helena that when her son went out for war she said, “If my son returns from the war in peace I shall be a Naziritess [נְזִירָה] for seven years.” When her son returned she was a Naziritess [נְזִירָה] for seven years. At the end of those seven years she went up to the Land, and the House of Hillel ruled that she must be a Naziritess [נְזִירָה] for another seven years. At the end of those seven years she became defiled, and so she was a Naziritess [נְזִירָה] for a total of twenty-one years. Rabbi Yehudah said, “She was a Naziritess [נְזִירָה] for only fourteen years.”
Babylonian Talmud, Nazir 20a: 20a .... «It once happened with Queen Helena,» and the rest. Did she contract impurity, in which case the statement concurs with the House of Shammai, or does he deny that she contracted impurity, in which case the statement concurs with the House of Hillel? Come and hear. «She went up to the Land, and the House of Hillel ruled that she must be a Naziritess [נזירה] for another seven years,» and the rest. Now if you assume that she did contract impurity, and that he concurs with the House of Shammai, then the text should read, “R. Judah said, ‘She was a Naziritess [נזירה] for fourteen years and thirty days,’” instead of fourteen years! It has also been taught in the same sense that R. Judah, quoting R. Eliezer, said that the implication of the verse, “And this is the Law of the Nazirite [תורת הנזיר]” (= Numbers 6.13), is that the Torah says that, if he contracts ritual defilement on the day of his fulfilment, he is to be given the Law of a Nazirite [תורת נזיר].
There is much more in the Talmud, naturally, since it comments on the Mishnah.