One of the biggest social issues facing the west today is the topic of divorce. With divorce rates rapidly surpassing over 50%, one must wonder why this is so normal and not addressed as a serious issue? While there are multiple of reasons, the only reason is not sexual immorality. Sometimes, people become selfish and completely neglect the vowels they made. They only understand love to be only encompassed in the honeymoon phase of relationships and marriages. Then, when the test of love comes by, they fold under pressure like origami. “If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep.”
Who gets it the worst from divorce?
An important question must be answered: Who suffers the worst out of divorce? If there are kids in the marriage, then the answer will always be them. Dr. Ben Arbour and his Wife have recently died and now their four kids are orphans. They were both 39 and their children are from ages 10-16. They are going to have serious mental struggles in life, which is just a psychological fact. The actions of divorce other than sexual immorality involves self-centeredness that will always be put above the children.
While orphans know they were loved by their parents, those of divorced parents feel less than loved because their needs are secondary to the selfish acts of the parents. What this does psychologically to children is unbearable at times, therefore the reason why Christ emphasizes obligation over the hardness of hearts in Matthew 19:8. This verse reflects a question of current debate. Opinions were divided. Jews regarded marriage as a sacred obligation whose fulfillment often carried very noble or meritorious overtones.”
Notice how in Matthew 19:13-15, Children are addressed right after divorce. “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (Matthew 19:14).” Jesus is emphasizing the intrinsic value of children by saying the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Divorce can easily be a hindrance to the value of this antithesis and exposes why it is so evil for reasons other than sexual immorality.
Also, in the preceding chapter: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).” When in the context of a Christian Marriage, that marriage is to be based around the Love of God as the lens your love for spouse and children. If you cause your own children to stumble in their love for God, then you are acting on the hardness of your heart. Jesus says you must be humbled like a child to enter the kingdom of Heaven, marriage must be practice out of humility in order to work. He hates is violence. He hates it, because it makes it harder to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Malachi 2:16).”
The Original Purpose of Marriage:
Jesus points to the original creation of monogamous marriage, between one male and female in Matthew 19:4-6. The bigger picture is being made, that goes beyond mere obligation and one’s own needs. Jesus is looking at marriage from above down, while the Pharisees are looking from down to above. “In any case, Jesus goes beyond the Pharisees in emphasizing the permanence of marriage. God’s purpose is a stable family life, and divorce is no part of that purpose.”
Marriage is supposed to be the greatest of loves that human beings can experience from one another. Song of Solomon refers lovers as each other’s best friends’ multiple times. A covenant made between two and God, where all forms of Love are brought together. In begins with philia (friendship) love, then with self-given storge (affectionate) that builds into true, meaningful eros (Romantic). Agape (God’s love) love must be at the center of it all or it fails. “Marriage is the deepest and most intimate of all friendships; here love should be given all areas of the relationship, both physical and spiritual.”
Adam and Eve left agape love for self-love, to be like God. We see how their children ended up, Cain killing able out of his self-love for pride. This is the first violence we see from a broken marriage not built around God. Augustine, apologist of Love, defines sin as a desire of something beyond it’s worth. As soon as this pops up in marriage, this is when unlawful divorce takes place and becomes sin. It literally ruins one of God’s most beautiful creations, by one single act of selfishness and desire.
God has literal ontological purposes for marriage, while those who divorce of sexual immorality do so out of the hardness of their hearts. It is not real love or ever was if it’s fruits produce selfishness instead of selflessness. “The disciples are alarmed at the strictness of Jesus. The Obligation to consider marriage as an indissoluble bond, for life, seems to them to surpass the power of man (vs. 10).”
The original purpose of marriage was to be in relation with God and to live out your love through the lens of his love. Marriage is truly a task that is most successful in the reality of Christian metaphysics. That God is love himself, a relational being. Loving Love himself first makes you most loving to all those involved in the marriage. The Parents must represent the love of God to their children so that those children may introduce the love of God to those they interact with. “It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God.
The Torah Law Debate:
The Pharisees attempt to put Jesus into a corner by asking him about the lawfulness of divorce. It was a custom back then that a Jewish man could divorce his wife whenever he wanted to as long as you got the signings of three rabbis for the certificate.
They ask whether it is unlawful to divorce his wife on every ground and he responds with only on sexual immorality. “But by appealing to the creation he was making use of a rabbinic method of disputation, namely, “the more original, the weightier.”
“But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs’.”
Bibliography Dietrich, S. D. (1973). The Layman's Bible Commentary: Volume 16, Matthew. Richmond: John Knox Press.
Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Volume 11, Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Horton, S. M. (1989). The Complete Biblical Library: Matthew. Springfield: The Complete Biblical Library.
Johnson, S. E. (1951). The Interpreters Bible: Volume 7 Matthew, Mark. Nashville: Alingdon Press.
Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins .
Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel According the Matthew. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
1. Lewis, 106.
2. Horton, 397.
3. Ibid, 399.
4. Sherman, 480.
5. Horton, 399.
6. Dietrich, 103.
7. Lewis, 109.
8. Exell, 418.
9. Morris, 481.
10. Lewis, 108.
It is quite often argued that the Gospels could not have been written by the original disciples of Jesus since the earliest copies are written in Greek, not Aramaic. As is noted, “The first issue is related to the nature of the Greek language of the New Testament, and the second one is concerned with the languages used or spoken in ancient Palestine, and consequently, by Jesus (14).” So why is the New Testament written in Greek and not Aramaic? If we look at Hypothesis Q, it is very plausible that oral tradition or the originals documents were written in Aramaic then Greek.
Either way, it is not an argument against the authorship of the Gospels by any means. “This means that the historical and social situation during the time the Gospel writers penned their accounts of the Jesus story is different from that of Jesus and his disciples when the actual events took place, even though the hiatus between the event stage and the Gospel composition stage may have been only a few decades (14).” Therefore, we must not conclude that just because the language spoken by Jesus or the disciples must be the same as the written accounts.
What was Jesus’ language?
Many do conclude that Jesus’ native tongue was Hebrew, however this most likely is not linguistically the case. “Hebrew perhaps was not a vernacular variety anymore during the first century CE, having been replaced by Aramaic (16).” Vernacular meaning, “an uncodified and unstandardized language, which can refer either the native tongue or the first language acquired at home, an unofficial language of a country or state, or a language used for relatively circumscribed and informal functions (15).” It is probably the case that Jesus spoke Aramaic as the tongue he grew up with in his household and learned Greek for official or state purposes. His first language would have been Greek, but his tongue would be Aramaic meaning that he learned from Joseph and Mary.
Standard Language on First Century Palestine:
“Any of the four languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin can be considered as a standard language, since all of them have been standardized and codified (16).” Latin most likely would not have been in Palestine since that was mostly a west speaking language, while Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew are Eastern languages. Aramaic would have been the vernacular language, while Greek most likely the standardized language of the State.
“It is most likely that during Jesus’ time, Greek would have been more prestigious variety of the community, as it is the language used in the government administration, higher education (e.g., grammar, classics, and rhetoric and philosophy), and the trade and industry of the time (16-17).” Greek most certainly would have been present in first century Palestine since officials of Rome and of Israel would need this lingua franca (contact language) for official purposes.
Herod the Great most likely would know Greek and his predecessors would, or at least have translators. Higher scribes and officials like the Pharisees would have known Greek, like Saul of Tarsus. Hence, those of religious status would probably know Greek, including tax collectors like Matthew. Greek was the most common Gentile language of the day, so we would expect Luke and Acts to be written in Greek. The Hellenistic program of Alexander the great set the road for Greco Roman world Koine Greek to be spoken during Jesus’s time and the entire empire. “The expansion of Greek in the ancient world would also entail the waning or weakening of other living languages that simultaneously existed with it (23).” The language that Jesus’ followers would have translated these documents into would be the lingua franca of the period, since all languages spoken only in specific groups would die out with its people.
Greek of the New Testament:
Scholars debate whether the New Testament was written in a Holy Ghost, Classical (attic), Semitic, or Hellenistic Greek. As discussed before, the main concern for scholars is why the New Testament was written in Greek vs. Aramaic. As was pointed out earlier, the lingua franca was Greek, so to make the New Testament a standard document and to get the message out to more people (gentiles), it would be best suitable for the New Testament to be written in Greek. Plenty of means to accomplish this task.
It is believed by some Scholars like Henry Gehman, “that Semitic languages spoken in Galilee influenced the kind of Greek that Jesus and his disciples used (24)”. Another possible view is that Jesus spoke on type of Jewish Greek spoken in synagogues. “Walser argues the Greek of the LXX evinces the polyglossic(more voices or languages) nature of the Greek in the Hellenistic period (26).” However, it is most likely the case that the New Testament was written in non-literary Greek of the Hellenistic Greek period due to Alexander the Great’s Hellenization program of the Mediterranean. This was the contact language in both the speech and writing language of first century Palestine due to Hellenization. The discovery of Egyptian papyri and Greek inscriptions in the 19th & 20th centuries prove that this Greek was a vernacular language spoken by people.
Usage of Hebrew, Aramaic:
The most common language spoken in first century Palestine would be Aramaic and would be a native tongue. “The prevailing view of the nineteenth century was that Aramaic had totally replaced Hebrew shortly after the Babylonian captivity (ca. 586-536 BCE) (37).” Hebrew would have only been spoken by high authorities like priests during the exile. Hebrew survived but would have been used for liturgical and educational contexts by Pharisees and other high sects of Judaism.
When Papias says that Matthew wrote to the Hebrews, he is most likely referring to Hebraic people instead of those who literally speak Hebrew. Hence, why it is not necessary for the Gospel of Matthew to be written in Hebrew because most were speaking Aramaic or Greek. There are also uses of Hebrew on ossuaries, which are bone boxes. It could be the case that the Hebrew inscripted boxes could have been bone boxes for priests, like the Caiaphas ossuary.
The Dead Sea scrolls also preserved multiple Hebrew documents; however, this is not proof that it was spoken during the time they were preserved. Josephus uses both Hebrew and Aramaic words in his historical accounts, but this shows that those highly educated would have known Hebrew for writing purposes. Ultimately, it must be concluded that Aramaic had replaced Hebrew as the native tongues for the Jews and Greek was the lingua franca.
There are two main arguments defined the Aramaic Hypothesis: “(1) the weight of inscriptional and documentary evidence, and (2) the practice of translating Scripture into Aramaic (the targums) for the benefit of synagogue congregations (50).” There are hundreds of inscribed ossuaries in Aramaic that support the first point. We also find many translations of targum in the dead sea scrolls like the book of Job, which are translated from Hebrew to Aramaic. Suggesting that they were being translated to a universally used language for possible usage of those who did not know Hebrew. Aramaic copies would have been needed for synagogues, which if this is the case, then Hebrew was clearly not the vernacular language.
We must conclude therefore, that first century Palestine was a multilingual speaking place. Aramaic as the vernacular language, Greek as the lingua franca, and Hebrew used by high priests and those in higher education.
BibliographyOng, H. T. (2015). The Multilingual Jesus: An Analysis of the Sociolinguistic Situation of Ancient Palestine With Special Reference To The Gospel of Matthew. Hamilton, Ontario: McMaster Divinity College.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus begins his public ministry by cleansing the temple of the moneychangers. But in the synoptic gospels, the temple cleansing takes place near the end of his ministry. Did the author of John make a chronological mistake?
Looking at the temple cleansing in the four gospels, we can see there are significant differences between them. One possible explanation for this is that Jesus cleansed the temple twice, one at the beginning of his ministry, and one near the end.
In the synoptics, the temple cleansing is preceded by Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. It is after this he storms into the temple, whilst in John, there is no mention of the triumphant entry until chapter 12.
The synoptics also do not record the same words of Jesus. He calls the temple a house of prayer and rebukes the moneychangers for making it a den of robbers. But in John, Jesus makes a whip out of cords and forcefully drives them out. He does not speak about a den of robbers or a house of prayer, but simply tells the moneychangers not to make the temple a house of trade. John’s version of the temple cleansing is also the only one to include Jesus’ declaration that he will raise up his body in 3 days after it has been destroyed.
Andreas J. Kostenberger suggests the account of the temple cleansing in John, “…may represent a “doublet,” a certain type of event occurring more than once during Jesus’ ministry… If so, Jesus cleared the temple twice, with John recording only the first instance, and the Synoptists only [recording] the second.” (John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2004, pg. 111; See also: D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 1991, pg. 178)
While this explanation is a good possibility, I think there is a deeper and more profound explanation as to why John moved the cleansing to the beginning of the ministry.
Johannes Beutler argues that John’s account of the temple cleansing would make more sense if it was originally in John chapter 11. “…Jesus continues to visit the temple, and, in the following eight chapters, he makes it the preferred place for his teaching and preaching. A conflict in this place with the Jewish authorities is easier to understand at the end of Jesus’ public life than at it’s beginning…
The danger to which Jesus exposes himself when he sets out to go and find his friend in Bethany, and the readiness of the disciples to go and die with him (John 11:16), are more easily understood in connection with Jesus’ action in the temple than in connection with the miracle of raising Lazarus.” (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 2017, pg. 84)
So in the sources John was drawing on to compose his gospel, his version of the cleansing would have been initially located in chapter 11. It appears that John has moved the cleansing to chapter 2 in order to make a theological point.
The temple cleansing in John is split into two chunks that display similar structure. The first chunk, verses 13-15, frame the narrative and describes the cleansing. Verse 16 gives the words of Jesus. Verse 17 then describes the disciples remembering a Word from scripture (from Psalm 69:9).
In the second chunk, verse 18 gives the question of authority from the Jews, 19-21 is Jesus’ dispute with them, and verse 22 describes the disciples remembering a Word from scripture.
The concluding verses (23-25) bind the whole chapter together with the Passover Feast, and the wedding in Cana, which was mentioned before the cleansing. The themes that appear to be communicated here are the signs Jesus performs (11, 17, 23) and belief and remembrance in the scriptures (17, 22).
John wished to send a theological message by placing the temple cleansing earlier on:
Jesus’ citation of the Old Testament being placed early in John’s gospel is clearly intentional on the authors’ part. As Rudolf Bultmann states, “…the meaning can scarcely be that Jesus’ action was an expression of his consuming zeal. Rather, the Evangelist (or the Editor) is looking forward to what is to come – or alternatively the whole of Jesus’ ministry – and he means that Jesus’ zeal will result in his death.” (The Gospel of John, 1971, pg. 124)
Given that Jesus routinely said to his followers to keep quiet about him in the early stages of his ministry, a public cleansing of the temple, likely causing outrage amongst the locals and the Jewish authorities would seem to contradict this.
So, we have at least two good reasons as to why John rearranged the order of events in his gospel. I personally think both are good enough, but the theological argument appears to be stronger and more reasonable than two temple cleansings. So therefore, John’s placement of the cleansing at the beginning of the gospel is not a contradiction in the Gospel accounts.
Kerruso Apologetics: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrQomNYP7r7J-u1IZJkF-Tg
Kierkegaard writes on these three forms of despair that results from one’s relation to themselves, who they are and what they are. The first form is not recognizing that you are a self, most people are in this camp since they are indwelled in worldly idols that taint their consciousness. The second form is not willing to be yourself, which you may find something more desirable than duties that come with who you are. The final form is willing to be yourself, which I will argue is the hardest and the most despair we will be put through, but leads to the most meaning, purposeful life one can live.
“Every actual moment of despair is traceable to possibility; every moment he is in despair he is bringing it upon himself… in every actual moment of despair the person in despair bears all the past as a present (17).” When willing to be yourself, it is so difficult to relinquish your past from your consciousness, blatantly impossible. The past is what brought you to your recognition of yourself, so you are weary to avoid that. The consciousness arises your memories of that despair when you experience similar moments that bring the possibility of your past. It brings into imagination that you could bring greater despair to yourself and experience for worse pain.
“The person in despair cannot die; “no more than the dagger can slaughter thoughts (18).” The more consciousness you have when willing to be yourself, the more responsibilities you have to commit no matter the pain. Most certainly in the Christian worldview, we are called to be followers of Christ because that is who we are. It brings worse despair yet the greatest happiness. “To be sure, it is happiness, but happiness is not a qualification of spirit, and deep, deep within the most secret hiding place of happiness there dwells also anxiety, which is despair; it very much wishes to be allowed to remain there, because for despair the most cherished and desirable place to live is in the heart of happiness (25).” Willing to be yourself brings the most out of your being and flourishing with true meaning that gives rational happiness, but with that comes the cost of greater anxiety of possibly losing it all.
Delusion is a great happiness for those who fail to recognize themselves or will not to be themselves, for consciousness of that is lessened, so the pain is lessened. However, with these two, fantasia comes about, which is extreme, delusional imagination. Your self becomes this fantasia, you will do anything you can to achieve this fantasia and that is your flow of consciousness. “The fantastic is generally that which leads a person out into the infinite in such a way that only leads him away from himself and thereby prevents him from coming back to himself (31).” He appears to become more of himself, his godlike state, while in all reality, he is becoming farther and farther from his true self.
Those who will to be themselves paradoxically bring into existence a new category, happiness, and despair both consciously recognized. These individuals will have the strongest concept of God. Christians will have the strongest defeat of their own despair yet will still have it in this lifetime. “In the latter case, the individual in despair is like the consumptive: when the illness is most critical, he feels well, considers himself to be in excellent health, and perhaps seems to others to radiate health (45).” Christians could possibly fall into imagination of a situation that may seem to be from God, this is when they will bring maximum despair because this imagination makes claims of who they are supposed to be. This is praying against God’s status quo, where we take something to be God’s will when it is not.
The other despair that can come about for the Christian or those who are willing to be themselves, will be despair for others while we are ourselves happy. The worst form of mental pain is freely caring about others while they do not want your happiness or willing to be themselves. “The opposite to being in despair is to have faith (49).” This is true in one sense and not in another sense. To be in faith is to get rid of your despair, but it is not to get rid of the despair you feel from others. An exceedingly difficult question asked by nonbelievers is this, how can we be happy in Heaven knowing others are in Hell? We can be happy knowing that we no longer in despair of ourselves, but what about this despair for others we loved?
There is no sound answer to this question, but this is part of rational faith that requires us to believe apparent absurdities. Would God therefore have the greatest despair since he truly cares more about those people in Hell than any one human being could? Willing to be yourself brings you out of despair unless you come across past despair, which is another trial you must endure to continue to be yourself. Willing to be yourself makes you more empathetic and not wanting others to remain in despair. Is this not the Gospel existentially speaking?
This brings despair, since he cares more for the recognized self then the actual self not recognizing themselves, deluding themselves into real despair for themselves. Those willing to be themselves will always be conscious of their despair which makes it steady, while those not willing to be themselves in the first two forms of despair, will eventually feel all their despair in one actual moment that will bring fatalism, nihilism, and pessimism all at once. Willing to be yourself makes you more conscious and gives you the greatest concept of God and to know his will, wills you to be yourself, which brings the greatest happiness based in reality, not self-created delusions by willing not to be yourself.
Despair As Sin:
“Christianity understood, every poet-existence (esthetics notwithstanding) is sin, the sin of poetizing instead of being, of relating to the good and the true through the imagination instead of being that -that is, existentially striving to be that (77).” Socrates described sin as ignorance, while Aristotle would place it in self-indulgence. Aristotle had a category of those who maintained their reason, but still followed a basic appetite. The second from of despair of not willing to be yourself can be seen as the incontinent as Aristotle calls his second form of person.
“Therefore, from a higher point of view, it may be correct to regard paganism as immersed in sin, but the sin of paganism was essentially despairing ignorance of God, of existing before God; paganism is “to be without God in the world (81).” The pagan continues in sin by not recognizing themselves and continuing to live in that ignorance. Everyone eventually has the option to become incontinent in sin or to become continent in virtue. The Pharisees are the incontinent who are more aware of who they are(who they should be), they still follow the basic appetite of pride, which is very much self-indulgence.
The incontinent are pharisaical because they can cover their sin and appetites up with the use of reason. They do not possess wisdom, but rather possess cleverness. Wisdom with virtue is cleverness as Aristotle would say. They know how to be covert, but really suffer the worse despair of oneself because they will not to be themselves, even though they are playing apparently who they are suppose to be, only to get those appetites fulfilled. This is one level of the second form of despair, the other becomes not willing to be yourself by willing yourself to be something else.
Both however carry out the continuation of sin. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, every unrepented sin is a new sin and every moment that it remains unrepented is also new sin (105).” Both these categories of despair do not proceed from faith, but rather from self-desires not focused on who we are and God. Those who have continuance of faith recognize how powerful sin really is because they will to be themselves which gives the strongest view of reality, since you can look past imagination, fantasia, appetites, and pride.
“The sinner, however, is so much in the power of sin that he has no idea of its wholly encompassing nature, that he is lost and on the way to destruction (105).” Those willing to be themselves have repented of sin because they have had destruction come once and wise fully stopped willing that upon themselves. Those willing to be themselves have awareness of what that sin they committed to themselves did to them and others, ignorance is no longer bliss. While those, still sinning is out of ignorance have not yet felt that pain. They will have the option to repent or to make sin a habit, which they will become. The incontinent or those willing not to be themselves have felt that pain but have chosen to justify their sin with excuses or ad hoc rationalization.
“Sin has become so natural to him, or sin has become so much his second nature, that he finds the daily everyday to be entirely in order, and he himself pauses only for a moment each time he perceives new impetus, so to speak (105).” Aristotle talks about making virtue a habit so that it will become natural to you. This is what he calls the continent person, that they live their life according to truth and virtue by making it a habit. “Excellence is not one act, but rather a habit.” Those continuing in sin make that their habit and take that to be their excellence if they are pharisaical.
“They play along in life, so to speak, but they never experience putting everything together on one thing, never achieve the idea of infinite self-consistency (107).” The greatest delusion facing people in the west is self-pride. Humility is the only way to bring infinite self-consistency since that leads us to God. Those willing not to be themselves are not aware of them not willing to be themselves when they are in sin unless they love sin itself and will a new self into existence. Much of the time, this can be the case which is called demonic despair. They fear inconsistency but can only consciously avoid it by sinning and taking pride in that. These are the hypocrites who can hardly recognize themselves as hypocrites because of their habit of sin which starts with pride.
“The situation of the demonic person is similar state of the alcoholic, who keeps himself in a perpetual state of intoxication out of fear of stopping and of the resulting debility and its possible consequences if he were to be completely sober for one day (108).” The unrepented sinner becomes the acholic but on an eternal level, eternal consciousness of willing to continue in that sin. This is what Lewis describes multiple times as Hell in the great divorce. Not willing to be yourself, but willing to be controlled by a desire of appetite not resulting from faith. This is what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is according to Kierkegaard. Not willing to be yourself, which is prescribed by God, but willing to live by pride in these fleshly desires, making them your God and making yourself become a “god”. It is not that God hates these types of people, it is just impossible to love them.
Will to be yourself according to God by seeking and living by wisdom, integrity, and reason, which all give the most satisfying faith.
Sickness unto Death: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BNY0RZ0/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
In John chapter 1, the Pharisees confront John the Baptist and ask him if he is the prophet Elijah, who was prophesied to return before the coming of the Messiah. However, John denies being Elijah, while Jesus declares in Matthew 17 that John is Elijah. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?
Well, it’s important to remember that there are two prophecies in the Old Testament being used in relation to John and Elijah: Malachi 4:5 and Isaiah 40:3.
Malachi’s prophecy says, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”. Isaiah’s prophecy says, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
There is no reference to Malachi’s prophecy in the Gospel of John, while all three of the synoptics use it. What is also interesting is that John is the only Gospel that has John the Baptist saying the words of Isaiah, while in the synoptics, it is the authors who say it.
The Gospel of John may then just be telling us what John the Baptist said, but not what Jesus or the apostles believed. It is important to differentiate between the prescriptive – what is being prescribed as biblical truth and doctrine - verses the descriptive – what is being described in a historical narrative. It is possible that, although John knew he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, he did not know he was fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi.
When he is thrown in prison, he sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah (Luke 7:19). Clearly, John was in error about Jesus’ lordship whilst he was in prison. Given that he could make such a mistake, it is easily possible he was simply mistaken when he said he wasn’t Elijah and the Gospel writers are merely recording what he said, not prescribing the doctrine that John was not Elijah.
As D. A Carson says, “The Synoptic Gospels report that Jesus identified John the Baptist with the promised Elijah, but they never suggest that John the Baptist himself made that connection. Here he refuses to make it – a refusal which, when placed beside the synoptic evidence, suggests that he did not detect as much significance in his own ministry as Jesus did.” (The Gospel According to John, 1991, pg. 143)
Another explanation could be that John’s denial of being Elijah is simply a humble refusal of being as great a prophet, so that the people could focus on Jesus and not him as the messianic forerunner.
He even says in John 3:30, that Jesus must increase, while he must decrease. John’s willingness to step down after the arrival of Jesus shows his humility, which suggests that John, although acknowledging his role as the new Elijah, believed himself to be unworthy of the title of Elijah and so rejected it when the emissaries questioned him.
As Alexander J. Burke Jr says, “It is because of his deep humility that John refuses the role of Elijah… John’s Gospel seeks to confine the Baptist’s role to that of witness and to establish his great humility. It would not have been in John’s nature to identify himself with such a great figure of Jewish tradition as Elijah.” (John the Baptist: Prophet and Disciple, 2006, pg. 132)
John appears to be distancing himself from the prophets of old, so that people would focus on Jesus and not this new prophetic figure. John’s denial of being Elijah is likely a denial of what the Jews believed Elijah would be like. The Jews expected that it would literally be Elijah himself back from heaven, but this is not implied by the text. John met the spiritual characteristics of Elijah and satisfied the prophesy that Elijah would come before the messiah "to restore all things". John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to the point that it could be said that Elijah had come.
Jesus himself says about John’s role, “If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah.” (Matthew 11:14). In other words, identifying John as Elijah is not predicated upon him being the actual man Elijah, but upon the people’s response to his role as a messianic forerunner. To those who were willing to believe in Jesus, John the Baptist functioned as Elijah, because they believed that Jesus was the Christ. To the religious leaders who rejected Jesus, John the Baptist did not perform this function.
This is why a future day yet remains for the return of Elijah. Upon Jesus’ second coming, the nation of Israel shall repent at Elijah’s calling and accept Jesus as their Messiah. This will also fulfil Paul’s promise in Romans 11:26 – “And in this way all Israel will be saved.”
So to conclude: John denies being Elijah for several possible reasons:
Kerusso Apologetics: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrQomNYP7r7J-u1IZJkF-Tg