The Life and Teachings
of Jesus
A Restatement of the Gospels

15. Testimony of John

        19And this is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
        20He confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”
        21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”
       He said, “I am not.”a
        “Are you the prophet?”b
        And he answered, “No.”
        24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”
        26John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you, though you do not know him, stands one who is to come after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
        (Jn. 1:19–21, 24–26)

a   “Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not."—Here John denies that he is Elijah. But why then did he dress in the manner of the legendary Elijah? (See Ch.12, fn. c.)
        Just as the Jews believed that the Messiah would come to deliver them (Ch. 13, fn. c) they also believed that Elijah the prophet would come to prepare the way for the promised deliverer. They looked to the prophecy of Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers toward their children and the hearts of the children toward their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5–6) John must have reasoned that, if this prophecy applied to Jesus as the Messiah, then he, as Jesus' advance messenger, must be the Elijah of the prophecy. Perhaps this led him to style himself after Israel's first great prophet.
        And indeed Jesus later on affirms that John is the second Elijah in his role as the forerunner of Jesus. (See Ch. 29, fn. a and Ch. 65, fn. c.)

b   “Are you the prophet?"—The prophet promised by Moses: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from among your brethren—him you shall heed.” And the Lord said to me, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 17–18)

Jn. 1:19  priests from / priests and Levites from (RSV)
Jn. 1:20  confessed, “I / confessed, he did not deny, “I (RSV) • the Messiah.” (Ch. 13, fn. c) / the Christ.” (RSV)
Jn. 1:24  the Messiah, nor (Ch. 13, fn. c) / the Christ, nor (RSV)
Jn. 1:26  you, though you do not know him, stands one who is to come after / you, stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after (RSV)   (135:9/1505)