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Historic Jesus

A Nazirite was a man or woman specifically consecrated to God. The name is derived from a Hebrew word meaning one set apart or separated from others. The period of consecration varied from a lifetime to as little as a month. A person could dedicate himself as a Nazirite, or he could be dedicated by his parents at or before birth.

The rules of conduct for the Nazirite are given in Numbers 6.1-21. During the time of consecration, a Nazirite was forbidden to have his hair cut; to drink any wine or alcoholic beverage or eat any product of the grapevine; or to come into contact with a corpse. When the Nazirite had completed the term of his vow, he was brought to the door of the tabernacle where he offered a male lamb for a burnt offering, a ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering. Then he cut off the part of his hair that had grown during the period of his vow and placed it in the fire of the sacrificial altar.

The Bible mentions Samson (Judges 13.5, 7) and Samuel (I Sam. 1.11) as being life-long Nazirites who had been dedicated to God before they were born. By New Testament times it was charitable for a non-Nazirite to pay the expenses for the offerings of a Nazirite at the completion of his vow. Scholars assume that the reference in Acts 21.20-26 to Paul paying the expenses for four men is an example of this custom.