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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.: Chapter VIII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

8.  John is a Prophet, But Not the Prophet.

“Art thou that prophet?  And he answered No.” 4857   If the law and the prophets were until John, 4858 what can we say that John was but a prophet?  His father Zacharias, indeed, says, filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesying, 4859 “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”  (One might indeed get past this passage by laying stress on the word called:  he is to be called, he is not said to be, a prophet.)  And still more weighty is it that the Saviour said to those who considered John to be a prophet, 4860 “But what went ye out to see?  A prophet?  Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.”  The words, Yea, I say unto you, manifestly affirm that John is a prophet, and that is nowhere denied afterwards.  If, then, he is said by the Saviour to be not only a prophet but “more than a prophet,” how is it that when the priests and levites come and ask him, “Art thou the Prophet?” he answers No!  On this we must remark that it is not the same thing to say, “Art thou the Prophet?” and “Art thou a prophet?”  The distinction between the two expressions has already been observed, when we asked what was the difference between the God and God, and between the Logos and Logos. 4861   Now it is written in Deuteronomy, 4862 “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like me; Him shall ye hear, and it shall be that every soul that will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among His people.”  There was, therefore, an expectation of one particular prophet having a resemblance to Moses in mediating between God and the people and receiving a new covenant from God to give to those who accepted his teaching; and in the case of each of the prophets, the people of Israel recognized that he was not the person of whom Moses spoke.  As, then, they doubted about John, whether he were not the Christ, 4863 so they doubted whether he could not be the prophet.  And there is no wonder that those who doubted about John whether he were the Christ, did not understand that the Christ and the prophet are the same person; their doubt as to John necessarily implied that they were not clear on this point.  Now the difference between “the prophet” and “a prophet” has escaped the observation of most students; this is the case with Heracleon, who says, in these very words:  “As, then, John confessed that he was not the Christ, and not even a prophet, nor Elijah.”  If he interpreted the words before us in such a way, he ought to have examined the various passages to see whether in saying that he is not a prophet nor Elijah he is or is not saying what is true.  He devotes no attention, however, to these passages, and in his remaining commentaries he passes over such points without any enquiry.  In the sequel, too, his remarks, of which we shall have to speak directly, are very scanty, and do not testify to careful study.



John i. 21.


Luke xvi. 16.


Luke i. 76.


Matt. xi. 9.


P. 321.


Deut. 18.15 sq.


Luke iii. 15.

Next: Chapter IX