Origens Commentary On The Gospel Of John by Origen
4. John Denies that He is Elijah or |The| Prophet. Yet He Was |A| Prophet.
Now let us consider John's second testimony. Jews from Jerusalem, kindred to John the Baptist, since he also belonged to a priestly race, send priests and levites to ask John who he is. In saying, |I am not the Christ,| he made a confession of the truth. The words are not, as one might suppose, a negation; for it is no negation to say, in the honour of Christ, that one is not Christ. The priests and levites sent from Jerusalem, having there heard in the first place that he is not the expected Messiah, put a question about the second great personage whom they expected, namely, Elijah, whether John were he, and he says he is not Elijah, and by his |I am not| makes a second confession of the truth. And, as many prophets had appeared in Israel, and one in particular was looked for according to the prophecy of Moses, who said, |A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear; and it shall come to pass that every soul that shall not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people,| they, therefore, ask a third question, not whether he is a prophet, but whether he is the prophet. Now, they did not apply this name to the Christ, but supposed the prophet to be a second figure beside the Christ. But John, on the contrary, who knew that He whose forerunner he was was both the Christ and the prophet thus foretold, answered |No;| whereas, if they had asked if he was a prophet, he would have answered |Yes;| for he was not unconscious that he was a prophet. In all these answers John's second testimony to Christ was not yet completed; he had still to give his questioners the answer they were to take back to those who sent them, and to declare himself in the terms of the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, |The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.|