John 1:21

21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.”

John 1:21 Meaning and Commentary

John 1:21

And they asked him, what then? art thou Elias?
&c.] Elijah, the prophet; the Tishbite, as Nonnus in his paraphrase expresses it; who was translated, soul and body, to heaven: the Jews had a notion that that prophet would come in person a little before the coming of the Messiah; (See Gill on Matthew 17:10) wherefore these messengers inquire, that since he had so fully satisfied them that he was not the Messiah, that he would as ingenuously answer to this question, if he was Elias, or not: and he saith, I am not;
that is, he was not Elijah the prophet that lived in Ahab's time, and was called the Tishbite; for John's answer is to the intention of their question, and their own meaning in it, and is no contradiction to what Christ says of him, ( Matthew 11:14 ) that he was the Elias that was to come; for he was the person meant by him in ( Malachi 4:5 ) though not in the sense the Jews understood it; nor is it any contradiction to what the angel said to Zacharias, ( Luke 1:17 ) for he does not say that John should come in the body, but in the power and spirit of Elias; (See Gill on Matthew 11:14). Art thou that prophet?
Jeremiah, whom some of the Jews F20 have thought to be the prophet Moses spoke of, in ( Deuteronomy 18:15 ) and expected that he would appear about the times of the Messiah; see ( Matthew 16:14 ) or any one of the ancient prophets risen from the dead, which they also had a notion of, ( Luke 9:8 Luke 9:19 ) or, as it may be rendered, "art thou a prophet?" for prophecy had long ceased with them: and he answered, no;
he was not Jeremiah, nor any one of the old prophets risen from the dead, nor a prophet in the sense they meant: he was not like one of the prophets of the Old Testament; he was a prophet, and more than a prophet, as Christ says, ( Matthew 11:9 ) yet not such a prophet as they were; his prophesying lay not so much in predicting future events, as in pointing out Christ, and preaching the doctrine of the remission of sins by him.


F20 Baal Hatturim in Deut. xviii. 15. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 127. 4. & 143. 4. Siphre in Jarchi in Jer. i. 5.

John 1:21 In-Context

19 This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?”
20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.”
22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD ’s coming!’”

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Greek Are you the Prophet? See Deut 18:15, 18 ; Mal 4:5-6 .