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John 1:19

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
They would not have sent, unless they had been impressed by his lofty exercise of authority, in daring to baptize. For they knew that Elias was to preach Christ; the name of Christ not being unknown to any among the Jews; but they did not think that our Lord was the Christ: and yet did not altogether imagine that there was no Christ about to come. In this way, while looking forward to the future, they mistook at the present. Or because John was more than a prophet: for that the prophets announced Him afar off, but John pointed Him out actually present. So spoke Esaias: the prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. ...

Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that John the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner. 2. But will not He who at first came con cealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just l...

Cornelius a Lapide

AD 1637
And this is the witness of John , &c. John the Baptist often bare witness to Jesus, that He was the Messias, or the Christ, both before and after His baptism. John the Evangelist therefore, omitting in this place the testimony which the Baptist bore to Jesus before His baptism, which had been related by the three other Evangelists, gives his testimony concerning Him after he had baptised Him. For this testimony was public, judicial, and most celebrated. It had been judicially demanded by the chief priests and magistrates, and had been received by them through the ambassadors whom they sent to John. The reason of this embassy was because the chief priests saw John leading in the desert an angelic life, preaching with great power, baptising, and moving men to repentance, as none of the other prophets had done. The chief priests thought therefore that it was their duty to ask him who he was, especially because they knew that the sceptre had passed from Judah to Herod, and the seventy week...

George Leo Haydock

AD 1849
The Jews sent These men, who were priests and Levites, seem to have been sent and deputed by the sanhedrim, or great council at Jerusalem, to ask of John the Baptist, who was then in great esteem and veneration, whether he was not their Messias; who, as they knew by the predictions of the prophets, was to come about that time. John declared to them he was not. To their next question, if he was not Elias? He answered: he was not: because in person he was not; though our Saviour (Matthew xi. 14.) says he was Elias: to wit, in spirit and office only. Their third question was, if he was a prophet? He answered, no. Yet Christ (Matthew xi.) tells us, he was a prophet, and more than a prophet. In the ordinary acceptation only, they were called prophets who foretold things to come: John then, with truth, as well as humility, could say he was not a prophet; not being sent to foretell the coming of the Messias, but to point him out as already come, and present with the Jews. (Witham) ...

Gregory The Dialogist

AD 604
He denied directly being what he was not, but he did not deny what he was: thus, by his speaking truth, becoming a true member of Him Whose name he had not dishonestly usurped. These words gave rise to a very different question. In another place, our Lord, when asked by His disciples concerning the coming of Elias, replied, If you will receive it, this is Elias. But John says, I am not Elias. How is he then a preacher of the truth, if he agrees not with what that very Truth declares? . But if we examine the truth accurately, that which sounds inconsistent, will be found not really so. The Angel told Zacharias concerning John, He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias. As Elias then will preach the second advent of our Lord, so John preached His first; as the former will come as the precursor of the Judge, so the latter was made the precursor of the Redeemer. John was Elias in spirit, not in person: and what our Lord affirms of the spirit, John denies of the Person: there ...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
Such confidence had they in John, that they were ready to believe him on his own words: witness how it is said, To ask him, Who are you? . Or take this explanation: The Jews were influenced by a kind of human sympathy for John, whom they were reluctant to see made subordinate to Christ, on account of the many marks of greatness about him; his illustrious descent in the first place, he being the son of a chief priest; in the next, his hard training, and his contempt of the world. Whereas in Christ the contrary were apparent; a humble birth, for which they reproach Him; Is not this the carpenter’s son? an ordinary way of living; a dress such as every one else wore. As John then was constantly sending to Christ, they send to him, with the view of having him for their master, and thinking to induce him, by blandishments, to confess himself Christ. They do not therefore send inferior persons to him, ministers and Herodians, as they did to Christ, but Priests and Levites; and not of these an...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
1. A dreadful thing is envy, beloved, a dreadful thing and a pernicious, to the enviers, not to the envied. For it harms and wastes them first, like some mortal venom deeply seated in their souls; and if by chance it injure its objects, the harm it does is small and trifling, and such as brings greater gain than loss. Indeed not in the case of envy only, but in every other, it is not he that has suffered, but he that has done the wrong, who receives injury. For had not this been so, Paul would not have enjoined the disciples rather to endure wrong than to inflict it, when he says, Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 1 Corinthians 6:7 Well he knew, that destruction ever follows, not the injured party, but the injuring. All this I have said, by reason of the envy of the Jews. Because those who had flocked from the cities to John, and had condemned their own sins, and caused themselves to be baptized, repenting as it were after Baptis...

Theophilus of Antioch

AD 184
Or, after the introduction above of John’s testimony to Christ, is preferred before me, the Evangelist now adds when the above testimony was given, And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem. Or because he declared the truth plainly, while all who were under the law spoke obscurely. ...

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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