That Prophet

John 1:19-21

Another passage of the New Testament much quoted by Muslims to show that Muhammad was foretold in that book is found in John 1:19-21. It is there written, ‘And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent unto him from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; and he confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elijah? And he saith, I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No.’

The common Muhammadan interpretation of this passage is that three prophets are here mentioned: the Messiah, Elias, and a third, un-named, but spoken of as ‘that prophet’. This un-named prophet, we are assured, is none other than the last and greatest Prophet Muhammad. The Jews, we are informed, were expecting a great Prophet, other than the Messiah, and therefore concluded that as John was neither the Messiah nor Elias he must be ‘that Prophet’; in other words, they were looking for the coming of the last Prophet Muhammad. 28

Unfortunately for this pretty piece of exegesis there are several insuperable objections to its acceptance by thoughtful people. In the first place, it is not true that the Jews were looking for a Prophet who should come after the Messiah, and of such a belief there is not the slightest trace in the Bible. Moreover the statement that they were doing so is inconsistent with the question put to John; for it must be remembered that, in the opinion of John's questioners, the Messiah Himself had not yet come; 29 consequently it would be foolish and unreasonable on their part to ask, in such a case, whether John were some Prophet who was to succeed the Messiah. The Jews, it is true, were expecting other Prophets before the advent of their Messiah. Many of them had not yet understood that the great Prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18 was the Messiah, but imagined that he, like John the Baptist, was one of the forerunners of that Prophet. This is clear from the following words of the Injil (John 7:40), where we read that, ‘Many of the people, therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ’ (i.e. Messiah). The question, then, for many of the Jews, resolved itself into this: was John the Messiah or one of his forerunners? The question of any Prophet who was to come after the Messiah could not arise so long as the Messiah himself had not appeared. Some thought, as we learn from another place, that Jeremiah, or some other of the Prophets would arise as a forerunner of the Messiah. Thus it is written, ‘When Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptists some, Elijah; and others, Jererniah, or one of the prophets’ (Matthew 16:13-14). From all this it can be seen how hazy and unreliable were the views of the Jews upon the whole question; consequently, when it is further remembered that these very Jews failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, or as, indeed, a Prophet of God at all, but rejected and eventually killed him, it is not surprising that they should have so grievously misinterpreted their Scriptures as to imagine that that ‘prophet foretold’ by Moses was some other than the Messiah.

Some of the Jews, we learn from the Scriptures, were more open-minded, and, later on, when they saw the miracles of Jesus, were constrained to confess their mistake, and to acknowledge that He was ‘that prophet’. Thus we read, ‘When therefore the people saw the sign which he did, they said, This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world’ (John 6:14).

If further proof were needed that the Messiah and ‘that prophet’ were one and the same person, 30 it is found in the words of the Apostle Peter who, taught by God, clearly announced their identity in these words, ‘Moses indeed said, A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. And it shall be, that every soul, which shall not hearken to that prophet, shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. Yea and all the prophets from Samuel and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days. . . Unto you first God, having raised up his Servant, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities’ (Acts 3:22-26).

From what has been written above it is clear that modern Muslims, like the Jews of the Messiah's time, have grievously erred in imagining that the Messiah and ‘that prophet’ foretold by Moses were different persons. The Scriptures make it clear that they were one and the same, hence the fiction that, in the passage we have been discussing, there is a reference to the coming of Muhammad, is seen to be worthless.

28. Baibele Muhammad, pp. 28-32.

29. The Jews were expecting another prophet as a forerunner of the Messiah—not as His successor.

30. The Messiah and ‘that’ prophet were one and the same person.