A Great Observation

Sigurd Grindheim:

When Mark identifies John the Baptist as the preparing messenger, he thereby also identifies him as the eschatological Elijah (cf. also Mk 9.11-13). In Mal. 4.5, God announces that “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” This announcement matches the prophecy regarding the messenger in Mal. 3.1. In the context of the book of Malachi, the messenger and the prophet Elijah are therefore one and the same. This prophecy forms the basis for a Jewish expectation of an eschatological Elijah. A number of Jewish eschatological texts refer to the coming of Elijah (e.g. Sirach 48.10-11; 4Q558 1.ii.4). According to many scholars, Elijah was expected to be a forerunner of the Messiah. However, none of the pre-Christian texts describe him as such. We cannot conclude that he was a forerunner of the Messiah just because he would appear in the end times. Jesus and the Gospels identified John the Baptist as Elijah, and since Christians saw Jesus as the Messiah, they concluded that Elijah was a forerunner of the Messiah. But the reason that Elijah was seen as Jesus’ forerunner was that he was the one who would prepare for the coming of God himself.

Christology in the Synoptic Gospels, 38.



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