Refer to John 1:21:

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who art thou?”

20 And he confessed and denied not, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

21 And they asked him, “What then? Art thou Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Art thou that (the) Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

22 Then said they unto him, “Who art thou, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?”

23 He said, “I am ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as said the prophet Isaiah.”

Now, who is “that Prophet”? Clearly it cannot be Jesus Christ, because John the Baptist has already denied that he is the Christ.

Islam teaches that “that prophet” refers to Muhammad. But who exactly is “that prophet”?

  • I ask, Why not both?
    – David
    Commented Feb 15 at 6:25

6 Answers 6


As others have said, "The Prophet" is Jesus.

The prophet being Jesus is better than Mohammed because Moses' prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:15) says that he will arise "from your midst, of your brethren." The NET renders the idiom "your brethren" this way:

18:15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you – from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him.

Their translation is spot on.

As Moses addressed this to the Hebrews, the Prophet will arise from the Hebrews. I have known Muslims who say that the phrase "from your brethren" refers to coming from the children of Ishmael, the brother of Isaac. However, brother in this time meant "fellow member of the covenant community."

In the Old Testament, this phrase referred to those related by blood. As time progressed, this changed. The term "brethren" referred to more than just blood but those who share beliefs. Tobit (3rd century BC), Jubilees (3rd to 2nd century BC), and Ben Sirach (late third to early second century BC) all refer to people who do not share a blood line but share a bond in the covenant as "brothers." This nuance was noted by R.H. Charles in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1931, 1:321 note 3 to Ben Sira 10:20).

This interpretation became so prevalent that it was even read back into texts with religious significance. Philo (On the Virtues 82) explains, "Moses means by the term 'brother' not only one who is born of the same parents as oneself, but everyone who is a fellow citizen or fellow countryman."

Moreover, looking at the phrase in the rest of Deuteronomy, shows that "brethren" does often mean "fellow Israelite." For example:

Deuteronomy 15:2 This is the nature of the cancellation: Every creditor must remit what he has loaned to another person; he must not force payment from his fellow Israelite, for it is to be recognized as “the Lord’s cancellation of debts.”

Deuteronomy 15:3 You may exact payment from a foreigner, but whatever your fellow Israelite owes you, you must remit.

Deuteronomy 15:7 If a fellow Israelite from one of your villages in the land that the Lord your God is giving you should be poor, you must not harden your heart or be insensitive to his impoverished condition.

Deuteronomy 23:19 You must not charge interest on a loan to your fellow Israelite, whether on money, food, or anything else that has been loaned with interest.

This is so from the very beginning of the book:

Deuteronomy 1:16 I furthermore admonished your judges at that time that they should pay attention to issues among your fellow citizens and judge fairly, whether between one citizen and another or a citizen and a resident foreigner.

In that use, Moses points out that a foreigner cannot be a "brother." (Once proselytism became practiced, it was possible for a foreigner to be a brother, however, he was no longer considered a foreigner.

In the nail in the coffin response to the children-of-Ishmael-are-brothers-to-the-children-of-Isaac argument, please see Deuteronomy 17:15:

Deuteronomy 17:15 you must select without fail a king whom the Lord your God chooses. From among your fellow citizens you must appoint a king – you may not designate a foreigner who is not one of your fellow Israelites.

This is the same phrase as used in chapter 18 and it points out that the king must be a native born Israelite. The king could not be a foreigner of any kind. Likewise, the prophet would have to be a native born Israelite.

  • +1 Because you answered fearless on the first line. Then the arguments. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 19:46
  • There is also Deaut 18:18 where its hard to find similarities between Jesus and Moses : biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+18:18 But one issue is Frank, if there are so many instances of text being changed/altered, to me it is highly probably these verses would have been tampered with don't you think? It is a scary idea I know, but it has a high probability considering the ramifications :) Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:58
  • 3
    @user1361315 That's where textual criticism comes in. By examining the differences we can determine the likely original. Even Ehrman admits this (when he forgets he's trying to sell books about how we can't trust the NT). But enough about probability. Do you have any evidence that these verses have been altered regarding readings of the prophet and brethren? Specifically readings that would allow more than non-Israelites to be considered brethren? You've set yourself up quite a challenge.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 16:16

With John 1:21 those asking the questions still consider that Prophet to be one person and the Christ another. They therefore ask John about the Prophet after John tells them he's not the Christ.

What all of them seem to easily recall is what Moses had said;

Deut 18:15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; (KJV)

Later in Acts though, what Moses said is repeated because Peter is very upset with the people. That’s partially because, since then, Jesus had let them observe so much, as with his miracles; some people had even been sure and said Jesus was that Prophet.
E.G. Jesus had fed 5,000 people with the use of only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish; they needed to observe a miracle, but then they said:

John 6:14 This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. (KJV)

In Acts, Peter repeats what Moses said, but he does so wondering why they can’t or won’t consider Jesus to have been that very Prophet Moses had spoken of:

Acts 3:17-23 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers,

"A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”

In John 1:21 they are incorrectly thinking of the Christ as one person and "that Prophet" as another, so they ask about the latter accordingly. (Actually, they will still be thinking like that years later, so Peter will become very upset).

  • 2
    While I agree with Frank Luke's defense of Jesus as that Prophet, I believe you have the key here that the Jews did not entirely identify the two as the same person yet (Messiah and the Prophet Moses foretold in one). Even later John the Baptist was not certain if there was to be a second person to be looking for or not (Mt 11:3; Lk 7:19-20). This was because of the difficulty in reconciling the suffering servant of Isaiah with that of a triumphal king.
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 19:20
  • Whether or not the Jews did identify Messiah with Moses, asking both explicitly would have covered the possibilities.
    – blearyeye
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 13:59

Who is “that Prophet” in John 1:21?

It seems fairly obvious from the text that John was reluctant to talk about himself since his purpose was to point to Yeshua. John's ministry was similar to that of Elijah. He appears suddenly and even comes clad like Elijah. John wanted to turn people back to God as Elijah had done in his day.

the prophet Malachi had predicted that one day Elijah would return prior to Messiah’s coming (Malachi 4:5). Not surprising, then, that many people supposed that John was Elijah.

Most other translations render the germane portion of this text as, "the prophet" rather than the KJV's "that prophet." "The Prophet" was expected on the scene because of Deuteronomy 18:15 (referring to Messiah; see also John 1:45).

Some people misunderstood the coming of “the prophet,” failing to grasp he "the prophet" was going to be distinctly separate from the Messiah (John 1:24; 7:40–41).


Judaic and Christian (and obviously Moslem) interpretations of this will differ.

Peter explained that the prophet to whom Moses referred was Christ, for whom Moses was himself an Old Testament type:

Acts 3:20-22

And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

(See also Acts 7:2ff)

"The evangelistic, or instructive, or prophetic ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ," writes one Orthodox Christian commentator, "was expressed in the fact that He proclaimed to men, in all the fullness and clarity available to them, the will of the heavenly Father, for the salvation of the world."* I have manifested Thy name unto men (John 17:6); I have declared unto them Thy name (John 17:26).

The Judaic interpretation, as one might expect, is markedly different, and seems to infer that Moses is really saying that multiple prophets will appear. A prophet, according to this interpretation, simply refers to the first prophet that will appear after Moses. One explanation, from The Oxford Jewish Study Bible (2nd ed.) reads:

The continuity of prophecy is assured by means of divine election. Other offices achieve their continuity by means of professional training and appointment (as with the judges of 16.18– 20; 17.2– 13), or dynastically (the king of 17.14– 20), or by tribal membership (the Levitical priesthood of vv. 1– 8). That God alone appoints the prophet makes the prophet independent of all institutions and able to challenge them. Yet the laws in vv. 20– 22, which emphasize various cases in which the prophets are to be executed, also curb the power of prophets, especially their ability to undo the contents of Deut.’s laws. A prophet, while grammatically singular, is likely distributive in its meaning: “I will repeatedly raise up for you a prophet.” More than one prophet is clearly intended.

This sentiment is also expressed in Rashi's medieval commentary (11th c.):

[A prophet] from among you, from your brothers, like me: This means: Just as I am among you, from your brothers, so will He set up for you [another prophet] in my stead, and so on, from prophet to prophet.

* M. Pomazanski, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (3rd ed.), pp. 217-218

  • A bit late but just noticed this and answered something similar which also includes reference to John 1:21 - ie does this and others relate to Jesus NO is the clear answer - see hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/60640/33268 if still interested. Commented May 27, 2021 at 11:44

In John 1:21, who is ‘the prophet’?

Answer: NOT Jesus, and not Mohammed either.

At least, not as it relates to the hermeneutics of this text. Theologians can debate the ‘correct’ formulation of (Jewish or Christian or Moslem or Mormon) messianic expectation and assert who fulfills that hope within their system. But I understand hermeneutics is about the meaning and function of words in a specific text; it is not a theological debate.

In this passage – in which there are no important critical problems of text or translation – ‘the prophet’ is simply a theological idea, the third component of a tripartite messianic expectation which the author ascribes to ‘the Jews’. As H.A.W. Meyers noted: “ὁ προφήτης is marked out by the article as the well-known promised prophet, and considering the previous question Ἠλίας εἶ σύ, can only be a nameless one.”

We can explore the fuller context of what that might have meant at the time and ask why the author puts the questions in the mouths of these characters at this point in the story, but regarding the meaning of the phrase ‘the prophet’ in this verse, little more need be said.


For further study, for the curious:

On the portrayal of ‘the Jews’ in the Gospel of John (Raymond Brown):

I have contended that a good part of the relations between Jesus and “the Jews” described in the Gospel (although related to conflicts that did arise between Jesus and Pharisees and Temple authorities in the late 20s) goes beyond what actually happened during Jesus’ lifetime. Rather, to a considerable degree the description reflects what happened to the Johannine Christians in their interactions with synagogue authorities.

On eschatological theologies during the Second Temple period (Jewish Encyclopedia):

The expectation of a Messiah from the house of David was kept in the background, and the prophet Elijah, as the forerunner of the great Day of the Lord who would reassemble all the tribes of Israel, was placed in the foreground ... It is difficult to say how far the Sadducees or the ruling house of Zadok shared in the Messianic hope of the people. It was the class of the Ḥasidim [Pharisees] and their successors, the Essenes, who made a special study of the prophetical writings in order to learn the future destiny of Israel and mankind.

On the tripartite Messianic expectation (David Flusser, Jewish Virtual Library):

“In the time of the Second Temple there was a greater variety of messianic figures than later. The Old Testament Book of Zechariah already makes mention of two messianic figures, the high priest and the messianic king. This idea did not disappear from the rabbinic literature where the priest of righteousness (Kohen ẓedek) is sometimes mentioned together with the Davidic king Messiah. These two figures, the priest and the king, are important for the eschatology of the Dead Sea Sect, the eschatological high priest being more important than the scion of David. The third figure occurring in the Dead Sea Scrolls with the two messiahs is the prophet of the Last Days. Thus in the Dead Sea Scrolls there are three messianic figures which correspond to the three main functions of the ideal Jewish state, in which kingdom, priesthood, and prophecy shall exist (see I Macc. 14:41). The three eschatological figures of the Dead Sea Scrolls are therefore based upon a broader ideological concept. These three figures are reflected later in the theological concept of the ancient Jewish sect of the Ebionites according to which Jesus united in himself the function of king, priest, and prophet.”

On the Messiah’s ‘cosmic companions’ in Jewish tradition, including Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah.

On Messianic configurations in the Dead Sea Scrolls:

“We can find several distinctive Qumranic views on this issue, such as the simultaneous activity of more than one protagonist, but even here, several parallel views are preserved, such as the king/priest and angel/prophet dualisms or the king/priest/prophet pattern. The latter view is testified to in only two texts (1QS ix and 4Q175), both of which were written by the same scribe, which raises the possibility that this pattern was his personal opinion or invention. This fact may point to the flexible nature of the messianic view at Qumran, and evokes a belief under development, which excludes the possibility of a consistent and canonised messianic view within the Community.” Geza G. Xeravits, King, Priest, Prophet: Positive Eschatological Protagonists of the Qumran Library, Brill Academic Pub (September 2002); p.228


Good question, and to be fair the Bible does have the below verses:

Deuteronomy 23:7 "Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country."


And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.


Any offspring of Jacob like Isaac and Eusa is referred to as a Brother, so it would follow that is brother Ismael would also be termed as a brother.

And how does one contend with the verse in Genesis 17:20 when it says "..and I will make him into a great nation". Who might this great nation be?

And ask yourself who is more like Moses:

  1. Born and died a normal death
  2. Was given a Book
  3. Was given a new legislation (Jesus didn't come to change the law) In reality Jesus's early followers were looked as Jews but with a slightly different understanding (more spiritual in nature), after all he was a Rabbi and king of the Jews.

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished


  1. Mass execudus Mohammed and his followers left Mecca for Medina. Moses
  2. Huge following

I have seen comparison charts between Moses and Jesus and most of the points are very contrived. If you believe Jesus is God in the flesh, you can't compare that to a Prophet like Moses. Jesus is said to have died for your sins, resurrected from death, died on a cross, born a virgin birth, one of which is remotely close to Moses. Moses was given a Law.


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