|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 39||Part 1|
Malachi, at the end of the book (chapter 3:23, or 4:5 in the Christian bible), saith, "Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the coming of the great and awful day."
It has been asserted by Christian interpreters of this passage, that we Jews vainly expect the fulfillment of this prediction, because it has already been realized in the person of John the Baptist, who in spirit was equal to Elijah; it being said in Matthew 11:10, that Jesus declared that John was the Elijah predicted by Malachi. They particularly site chapter 17 of Matthew, where Jesus is made to affirm (verses 12 and 13) "But I say unto you that Elijah is come already, and they know him not, but have done to him whatever they listed." Thus his disciples were led to believe that Elijah and John were identical in the above prophecy.
Refutation.—How can they deny the personal identity of the Prophet, mentioned in chapter 3:23? Who would venture to affirm that any other person is signified than the real Prophet Elijah, a truth equally manifest in the following passages: 1 Kings 18:21, "And Elijah drew near." —2 Chronicles 21:12, "And a writing of Elijah the prophet reached him." If the prophecy under consideration had had reference to an indefinite individual, it would have been communicated in such terms as the following, "Behold, I shall send a man like the prophet Elijah." Besides, he might have said, in terms which could not have failed to produce conviction, "Behold, I shall send you John." What necessity to have called him Elijah? Our argument gains in strength by the very statements contained in the gospel of John 1:21, "And they asked him [John], what then, art thou Elias to [Elijah], and he said, I am not." – "Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No." Comparing this passage with an assertion made in Matthew, we find a most glaring contradiction in the two Gospels. See Matthew 17:10-13, "And his disciples asked him [Jesus], saying, Why then say the Scribes, that Elias [Elijah], must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias [Elijah] shall first come and restore all things. But I say unto you that Elias [Elijah], is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed; likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake to them of John the Baptist." It is utterly unnecessary to illustrate any further similar expressions bearing so visibly the stamp of human invention; and we are fully prepared to estimate the value of the interpretation given to this discrepancy by the Christian commentators, who maintain that John declined the title of "Prophet Elijah" out of pure humility. Humility will not allow us to utter an intentional untruth in order to establish our superiority. Faithful prophets have openly avowed their missions and the object of their appearance before the world. We dismiss, therefore, the claim of the Christian interpretation as totally unsatisfactory and unfounded.