John 1:22
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
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(22) That we may give an answer.—He has given the “No” to all the ideas they had formed of him. There is nothing left to them but to draw the definite statement from himself, or to return to their senders empty handed.

1:19-28 John disowns himself to be the Christ, who was now expected and waited for. He came in the spirit and power of Elias, but he was not the person of Elias. John was not that Prophet whom Moses said the Lord would raise up to them of their brethren, like unto him. He was not such a prophet as they expected, who would rescue them from the Romans. He gave such an account of himself, as might excite and awaken them to hearken to him. He baptized the people with water as a profession of repentance, and as an outward sign of the spiritual blessings to be conferred on them by the Messiah, who was in the midst of them, though they knew him not, and to whom he was unworthy to render the meanest service.Art thou Elias? - This is the Greek way of writing Elijah. The Jews expected that Elijah would appear before the Messiah came. See the notes at Matthew 11:14. They supposed that it would be the real Elijah returned from heaven. In this sense John denied that he was Elijah; but he did not deny that he was the Elias or Elijah which the prophet intended Matthew 3:3, for he immediately proceeds to state John 1:23 that he was sent, as it was predicted that Elijah would be, to prepare the way of the Lord; so that, while he corrected their false notions about Elijah, he so clearly stated to them his true character that they might understand that he was really the one predicted as Elijah.

That prophet - It is possible that the Jews supposed that not only "Elijah" would reappear before the coming of the Messiah, but also "Jeremiah." See the notes at Matthew 16:14. Some have supposed, however, that this question has reference to the prediction of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15.

21. Elias—in His own proper person.

that prophet—announced in De 18:15, &c., about whom they seem not to have been agreed whether he were the same with the Messiah or no.

Hitherto John had given them only a negative answer, and told them who he was not; he was neither Christ, nor the Elias, nor that prophet they expected; neither any of the old prophets risen from the dead; nor any prophet at all in a strict sense (as were the prophets of the Old Testament): they press him to a direct, plain, positive answer, that they might give an answer to those that sent them, who did not send them to inquire what he was not, but what he was. And there were various talks and discourses of the people about him, which they were not willing to take up and run away with; but they desired to have it from himself.

Then said they unto him, who art thou?.... Since, as yet, he had only answered in negatives, who he was not, that he was not the Christ, nor Elias, nor that prophet; they desire he would give them a positive account who he was:

that we may give answer to them that sent us; that their labour might not be in vain; that they might not come so far for nothing, without knowing who he was; and that they might be capable of giving an account of him to the sanhedrim:

what sayest thou of thyself? they insisted on it, that he would openly, and honestly declare who he was, and what was his office and business; that from his own mouth, and not from the opinion and conjectures of others, they might represent him in a true light to those who had deputed them on this errand.

Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
John 1:22-23. Now comes the question which cannot be met by a bare negative; ἵνα as in John 9:36.

The positive answer to this is from Isaiah 40:3 according to the LXX., with the variation εὐθύνατε instead of ἑτοιμάσατε, in unison with the second half of the words in the LXX. For the rest, see on Matthew 3:3. The designation of himself, the herald of the coming Messiah calling men to repentance, as a voice, was given in the words of the prophet, and the accompanying βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ excludes the idea which Baur entertains, that John here intended to divest himself, as it were, of every personal characteristic. According to Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 236, the evangelist has put the passage of Scripture applied to the Baptist by the Synoptics (who, however, have not this account at all) “at last into the Baptist’s own mouth.”

22. Who art thou?] They continue asking as to his person; he replies as to his office. In the presence of the Messiah the personality of His Forerunner is lost.

John 1:22. Ἀπόκρισιν δῶμεν, may give an answer) The people had demanded an answer, and especially the Jewish chief priests.—περί, concerning) Each man himself ought) to know himself [and, if he has any undertaking in particular, he ought to have in readiness a reason [to give] of his undertaking.—V. g.]

Verses 22, 23. -

(2) He defines his position, positively. Verse 22. - They said therefore (note the demonstrative force of οϋν) to him (as a consequence of his repeated threefold negative), Who art thou? Explain yourself, that we may give an answer to those who sent us (see note, John 20:21, on the two verbs ἀποστέλλω and πέμπω); What sayest thou concerning thyself? Our suppositions about thee are all repudiated one by one, hast thou any information to render to the supreme court of judicature? John 1:22
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