Answering Islam Email Dialogs

Topic: Do "contradictions" invalidate faith in Christ?

Received: 4 November 2005

Subject: Game over Christianity!!!

Hi I am a ex-Christian and this is why I am not a Christian anymore.

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew.
17:12 But I say unto you, That Elias 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.
17:13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

The Gospel According to Saint John.
1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

Jesus says that Elias has already come, he says that Elias is John the Baptist.
John then CONTRADICTS Jesus by saying that he is NOT Elias.

One of either Jesus or John are not telling the truth. I'm just wandering which one.

Our answer:

Hello ------,

Thank you for your e-mail. I must say that that is quite an ambitious title for your subject line.

You say that you were a Christian. Do you mind if I ask you how you became a Christian in the first place? I would genuinely like to hear your story.

In trying to understand the intent of your e-mail: Are you suggesting that you have unearthed such a powerful contradiction in the Bible that all Christians must now renounce Christianity? Certainly that is not your intention?

In any case, please allow me to clear-up your misunderstanding on this issue. Below are the two passages of the gospels that you cite:

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." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:12,13)

Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:19-23)

Your claim is that because Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah and John disavowed this claim, that the Bible is contradictory and thus: "Game over Christianity!!!" Okay, this is actually very easy to explain and understand. Was John the Baptist Elijah or not? The answer is no... and yes. If we look at this third Gospel passage, this apparent difficulty evaporates:

But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:13-17)

From this passage we see a few things.

One, John was born through Elizabeth, a relative of Jesus' mother Mary. Thus, unless you believe in the concept of reincarnation, John could not have literally been Elijah. The man Elijah had already been born many hundreds of years prior. And he is still alive, as he was taken directly up to heaven alive in a chariot of fire according to the Scriptures (2 Kings 2). He will come again before Jesus' Second Coming (Malachi 4).

The second thing we see is the prophecy of the angel: "He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah". Jesus (who was John's cousin), knew that John would have a ministry that would function in the spirit of Elijah. But John was not literally Elijah. The ministry of the real Elijah is understood as returning to the earth just prior to the return of Jesus the Messiah and prepare the people of Israel to receive Him. John the Baptist's ministry was a foreshadowing of Elijah's ministry in that he prepared the people of Israel to receive the first coming of their Messiah. Do you understand now? When Jesus said to his disciples that Elijah had already come, he was speaking figuratively, not literally. Again, Jesus knew that John was his cousin, born by Elizabeth. And as a Jew who believed the Old Testament, obviously Jesus did not believe in, nor teach reincarnation. This is simple common sense.

But there is another very important message that Jesus was conveying here that must not be missed! When Jesus referred to John as Elijah, He was not simply making a point about who John was, but rather Jesus was pointing to who HE was! For anyone who knew that prophecies about Elijah, Jesus was clearly making the point that He was Yahweh - God Almighty. When we examine what the prophetic passages say, this becomes obvious.

"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty... "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver... So I will come near to you for judgment." (Malachi 3:1, 4:5)

So Elijah would come before "the Day of the LORD - The Day of Yahweh". And in this day, the LORD HIMSELF would come to HIS Temple. Whose Temple does it say it is? God's Temple. Jesus came the first time and went into the Temple and purged it. When He comes the second time, He will do the same - although in a far more complete way. This time, no one will doubt that Jesus will come as God Himself and He will judge among the peoples.

Likewise, John affirmed this fact. When asked who he was, John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" Below is the passage that John referred to: A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for Yahweh; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. … O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings,lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!'" (Isaiah 40:3,9)

Once again, the passage is speaking of preparing a way, not for a mere man, but for GOD.

And so the question must be asked ------; how will you personally respond? Will you submit to the Almighty God and His truth? Or will you reject the teaching of the Scriptures and deny the truth regarding the One who will be your Judge? Will you casually brush aside these things? Or will you genuinely pray about these things and seek the Lord? I implore to you, as if God Himself is imploring you through me; be reconciled to God.

Bless you,


Editor's note: For hundreds of more excellent answers to supposed "Bible contradictions", check out: Satisfying answers are available to all so-called contradictions in the Bible, but unless you honestly WANT to know God and His truth, you will always be able to come up with another "contradiction" to justify your refusal to pay attention to God's captivating Story and uncompromising Message. The issue is not really about Bible contradictions, but that many folks simply do not WANT to believe the age-old message from God which has been faithfully preserved in the Scriptures of the Bible. Our heart's desire and prayer to God for YOU is that you will be one of those who seek after God with an honest mind and heart. We cannot convince you that the Bible is true. But God can.

Answering Islam Email Dialogs
Answering Islam Home Page