Who’s the Liar: Jesus of Nazareth or John the Baptist?

Contradiction #1

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.

Matthew 11:7-11

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.)

John 1:19-23

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.)

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in bible, bible contradictions, christian, confusion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Who’s the Liar: Jesus of Nazareth or John the Baptist?

  1. Ryan says:

    Hope this provides some context. I don’t think this completely answers your question, but I though it may contribute to discussion

    Was John the Baptist really Elijah?

    (Matthew 11:13-14) – “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14″And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.”

    2(John 1:19-21) – “And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

    Contradictions?

    The teaching of reincarnation is against the Old Testament; therefore, Jesus was not teaching that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated. So, what did Jesus mean when He said that John the Baptist was Elijah? We see in Malachi 4:5 this prophecy, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Jesus is referring to the prophecy concerning Elijah. We see that the coming of Elijah was in the spirit of Elijah, which is so stated in Luke 1:13-17. The context is when Zecharias, John’s father-to-be, was performing his priestly duties in the temple (Luke 1:8ff). An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias and said,

    “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14″And 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, while yet in his mother’s womb. 16″And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.

    17″And 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, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Luke 1:13-17).

    So, we see that John the Baptist was in the spirit of Elijah, but not actually Elijah reincarnated.
    There is, however, a little more information that might prove interesting. Elijah wore, most probably, a camel’s hair girdle. “And they answered him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite,” (2 Kings 1:8). According to the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, in reference to 2 Kings 1:8, Elijah . . .

    “he wore a rough garment, either made of camels’ hair, as that of John Baptist, or of a skin, dressed with the hair on. Sir J. Chardin informs us, in a MS. note on this place, cited by Mr. Harmer, that the eastern dervishes and fakeers are clothed just as Elijah was, with a hairy garment, girded with a leathern girdle.”

    Concerning John the Baptist, it says in Matthew 3:4, “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” It may be that Zecharias, who had access to the temple and things in the temple, may have acquired Elijah’s camel hair garment and given it to John the Baptist to wear. This is speculation, but it is an interesting possibility.

    I got this information off:

    http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/was-john-baptist-really-elijah

    I know the website may look a bit cheesy, but it’s the considerations and study that matters

  2. humblesmith says:

    I’m not sure if you are still struggling with this, but there is a pretty straightforward answer. As Ryam pointed out, the first part of the answer is that Luke 1 says that John came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah. So in this sense, he was Elijah, for he came in the spirit of Elijah, without being Elijah.

    The rest of the answer, which supports the first part, is shown by the Malachi passage that Ryan also quoted: Elijah would come “before the great and terrible day of the Lord.” When Jesus came the first time, this was NOT the great and terrible day of the Lord. That day will come when he comes the second time, riding on a white horse, carrying a rod of iron, where he will come as triumphant king to rule and reign. So Jesus has two comings….the first will be proceeded by John in the spirit of Elijah, the second will be proceeded by the real Elijah. The two comings of Jesus the messiah is predicted repeatedly in the Old Testament, once coming as meek and the other as triumphant. Each coming will have a forerunner.

    In any case, there is no contradictions, and no reincarnations. Hope this helps.

  3. Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comments-

    I have to say yes it was about coming in the spirit of Elijah,not a reincarnation. I never took it as a reincarnation to Elijah. I don’t think anybody took it as a reincarnation of Elijah. The reason I never took it as reincarnation, because I did a study on the three major Jewish Sects: Sadducee s, Pharisees, Essences. I can tell you the Reincarnation was completely contradictory to the fundamental beliefs of each of these Jewish Sects.

    Because Reincarnation was not a belief of the three major sects (Sadducess, Pharisees, Essences) I doubt it was a commonplace belief among the culture. So I’m pretty confident when the Jewish Leaders asked him “Are you the Elijah?” They were not asking him Are you the reincarnation of Elijah? They were asking him are you the spirit of Elijah? Are you coming in the spirit and power of Elijah?

    The Scriptures even back this up…. “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17

  4. In addition the second part remember the Jewish Leaders asked John the Baptist ‘Are you a prophet?’ And he said a resounding NO.

    Scenario 1: That John the Baptist was a prophet, and he lied to the Jewish leaders. CONTRADICTION because Jesus he said he was the best man of ever born of a woman. {CONTRADICTION}

    Scenario 2: He really was not a prophet, Which would make this also a CONTRADICTION because if came in the power and spirit of Elijah than he would be a prophet.{CONTRADICTION}

    Scenario 3: He simply did not know he was the spirit of Elijah or a prophet. PLAUSIBLE but yet still has some holes. Its hard to believe that John the Baptist grew up his entire life into late adulthood not knowing he was a prophet or the spirit of Elijah because in Old Testament God usually late the prophets know of their calling early in their life or early adulthood. Secondly, it’s hard to believe that his Mom (Elizabeth) didn’t tell him he had a special calling on his life considering what happened in the womb and how he was conceived, Luke 1:5-39. {PLAUSIBLE}

  5. unkleE says:

    I saw in another comment that this was still an important question for you, so I thought I’d have a go at it.

    I think you are approaching this question in far too literal a manner. Jesus often used figures of speech, just as we do today, and we shouldn’t take them to be literal. When someone says “between a rock and a hard place” we don’t take it literally, and neither should we when Jesus uses hyperbole or irony, like praying for mountains to be cast into the sea or saying the Jews were gods (John 10:34-35). Often the Jews used quite fanciful and non-literal arguments, and Jesus uses the same back at them. Many of his sayings are couched in forms that would make them more memorable in a non-literate culture.

    If you study the way Jesus and the NT writers quote the OT, you’ll find that about half the time they quote it reasonably literally, but about half the time they don’t. It is a mistake to think that everything is intended to be literal. And so the statement that John the Baptist was Elijah should be understood as no more literal that “you are all gods”.

    So when Jesus says John the Baptist was great, but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than him, he was not setting up a mathematical equation or inequality X > Y > Z. My guess is that Jesus was acknowledging the importance of John, but pointing out that he was the end of the old covenant, and the new covenant was much superior to the old.

    If you have this broad understanding of how the Jews and Jesus framed their sayings and arguments, the problem you have posed simply disappears. It is based on an excessively literal and mathematical approach.

    That’s how I see it.

  6. I guess what I am getting at in regards to this Post topic is the Common Sense Question. Why would John the Baptist say something so contradictory to what Jesus said.

    I think sometimes when people read the bible, they read it like it a fairy tale, while ignoring the humanistic-psychological factor. All the answer I have gotten so far have theological based and have been incomplete in answering the question in entirety.

    What if somebody was to ask Peyton Manning,

    Are you the Denver Broncos Quarterback? and he replied I AM NOT

    Are you a Football Player? and again he replied NO

    Now one might say this is a silly analogy, Peyton Manning is a Football Player, he is the Broncos Quarterback, and everybody knows that. Why would he say a thing like that?

    EXACTLY!!!!!!!

    John the Baptist is a Prophet, He is the Elijah, and everybody knows it (Matthew 14:5)…..But the final question still does remain. Why would he say a thing like that? Why would he lie?

  7. unklee says:

    I’m not sure if there is much more I can say, but I’ll try a couple of things.

    1. I think it is broadly true to say that Semitic people have a different mindset to Anglo Saxon people. For instance, we regard justice as important, but to them honour is more important. So the practice of flattery of others and self effacement – “I am not worthy for you to come into my humble abode” etc. Also the non-literal nature of many Biblical sayings and stories as I’ve already mentioned – the idea of Elijah returning and “the Prophet” cannot be understood as being fully literal, but have allegorical or “pesher” aspects – and the use of figures of speech, especially hyperbole. I suggest you need to recognise you have a different mindset in many ways.

    2. People expected the Messiah to be a conqueror, so Jesus spent a lot of his time avoiding these expectations. In the early part of his ministry he told people (and demons) not to advertise his messiahship, and often withdrew from situations where he was becoming too popular and crowded. Later on, he specifically taught his disciples the Messiah must die (not conquer), and even then they had trouble accepting this and Jesus had to rebuke Peter about his reaction.

    I would guess John the Baptist had the same problem, and had to make clear that his role, while that of “Elijah” or “the Prophet” (notice, not “a” prophet as your post says), may not have been the “Elijah” or “the Prophet” that the Jewish leaders expected. There may have been different understandings of those figures.That may also explain something.

    Finally, I think you are forgetting that John was human and may well not have known he was “the Prophet”, or been unsure. He later had doubts about Jesus, and sent messengers to reassure himself. He may have spoken out of uncertainty.

    3. In the end, while knowledge is important, I think God is more interested in attitude – after all, we may be unable to control our knowledge (we may have low IQ or no access to information) but we can always control our attitude. So much of the Bible is not so much about cold facts as it is about our response to the facts. That is why (I think) Jesus so often spoke cryptically and didn’t answer the question – because he was provoking thought and a response rather than simply giving out sterile information.

    A little section of the musical Godspell gets it exactly right. The characters who play Jesus and John the Baptist are doing a British vaudeville routine:

    Jesus: How can you remove a speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye when all the time you have this great plank in your own?
    John: I don’t know. How can you remove a speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye when all the time you have this great plank in your own?
    Jesus: First remove the plank from your own eye, then you can see more clear to remove the plank from your brother’s eye.
    John: ‘ere! ‘ang about! That wasn’t an answer to the question.
    Jesus: Did I promise an answer to the question?

    I hope that helps. Best wishes.

    • papapound says:

      unklee, I know you are on to something. In looking at the original question here of BWE, I thought, my, this would take days of study to even get the context of the three passages mentioned. However, my immediate thoughts went to John 6. What is hard for the world to understand is that this “savior of the world” did not always attempt to attract people to himself. His ministry was a filtering process. That filtering process was scoped by his father, whom he was in constant contact for executing it as the father has designed and willed. There is something other worldy about this strategy and this person.

      He came to defy the logic and rationale of the religious Jews. His mandate to do that was justified because the religious Jews had hijacked the God’s house and words.

      Ahh, more to be said here but my wife is calling me and I must go.

  8. TDKlahn says:

    The Jewish leaders asked is John was “that” or “the” prophet promised from Deuteronomy 18:15. At that time the Jews believed that a prophet like Moses would arise. They also believed that each generation had a “proto-messiah” who had the choice to become not just a prophet, but “that” prophet. So the question was are you the forerunner to the messiah? John says no and Jesus says only if you accept John in that role…which they did not. The first question sets this up by asking if John was the messiah. He’s saying that he is neither nor a proto-messiah choosing not to reveal himself.

  9. Glen Bentley says:

    I came here because of the same question. It has been on my mind a lot this Advent season. I like unklee’s answer. I would also like to add a thought about John’s Gospel. According to what I’ve read it was the last Gospel to be written and accepted and then placed in the New Testament. John was not an uneducated man, and he would have known about the other three Gospels. My point to all of this is he did not seek to contradict or discredit Jesus so then it is safe to assume he saw no contradiction which supports what others have said in regards to mind set. Further God’s ways are not man’s ways. I don’t know if that last sentence helped but you shouldn’t forget it either.

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