This was the first MAJOR contradiction, I came across in my studies. That in all my knowledge of the word, nothing could justify it. According to the Old Testament of the Bible, (Malachi 4:5 & Malachi 3:1). God will send a witness before Jesus to testify of him; and that witnesses name is Elijah, the prophet.
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Matthew 17:10- 13
10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
In the first verse, Jesus calls him a prophet, and says “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” [Which maybe a contradiction in itself, because Jesus was also born of a woman. Nonetheless, that is not the focus of this post.] Then in the second verse, Jesus confirms the report that John the Baptist is the Elijah, which the disciples understood. However this is a direct contradiction to the scripture below. Because Jesus says he is a Prophet, and the Elijah. Yet, when he is questioned by the Jewish Leaders, he denies being the Prophet and he denies being the Elijah. (Others might say he lied, because the Jews were trying to persecute him. This is not true, the Jewish leaders never tried to persecute, or martyr him. It was Herod who was persecuting him, and eventually cut off his head.)
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[c] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
This is a MAJOR contradiction, because if John the Baptist is not the Elijah who came to witness about the messiah, then Jesus is not the messiah, and we are still in waiting.
But if take it as John the Baptist, is just liar, that really puts a major dent in the statement, “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” And the person Jesus thinks is the greatest is a big fat liar.
The other option I can think of to justify and rectify this contradiction, is that the Gospel of John should not be considered biblical cannon. (Which makes sense, because the overall tone of the Book of John is somewhat different from the first three gospels in the New Testament.)
PS…Or that John the Baptist simply didn’t know he was a prophet or the Elijah. (Which is probably not true, but its something to consider.)