Man dies after trying to fast for 40 days in imitation of Jesus

The Judaean wilderness, where Jesus is believed to have fasted.Reuters

A Zimbabwean Christian trying to fast for 40 days and 40 nights in imitation of Jesus has died a month into his attempt.

According to Nehanda Radio, Khulu Reinfirst Manyuka left his home and went into the wilderness to pray, echoing Jesus' actions in Matthew 4: 1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13.

Manyuka, 73, was known by his family and local community as "a very spiritual person whose faith could move mountains".

A close relative said: "He was a very spiritual man. It's unfortunate he had to die this way."

Manyuka is believed to have died after only 30 days. "After a month we got the sad news of his death," the relative said.

Another family member said that he had no history of illness: "He was a healthy and religious old man who did not even look his age."

Nehanda Radio's report says that the circumstances of his death are mysterious as he was alone in the wilderness when he died. His body was found by a stranger who notified the police.

Local police said Manyuka is not the first to die from fasting, with "numerous" other cases reported.

"We have received such reports before, but we cannot stop the public from fasting," a police spokesperson said.

Scholars are divided over whether Jesus' fast was for a literal 40 days or whether this is a symbolic number, and on whether it involved a total abstinence from all food and water.