The Jews were expecting a single Messiah not two.
Please note that three different and distinct questions were posed to John the Baptist and to which he gave three emphatic “NO’S” as answers. To recapitulate:
1) ART THOU THE CHRIST?
2) ART THOU ELIAS?
3) ART THOU THAT PROPHET?
But the learned men of Christendom somehow only see two questions implied here. To make doubly clear that the Jews definitely had T-H-R-E-E separate prophecies in their minds when they were interrogating John the Baptist, let us read the remonstrance of the Jews in the verses following:
“and they asked him, and said unto him, why baptizest thou then, if thou be
a) NOT THAT CHRIST,
b) NOR ELIAS,
c) NEITHER THAT PROPHET?” (John 1:25)
The Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of THREE distinct prophecies: One, the coming of CHRIST. Two the coming of ELIAS, and Three, the coming of THAT PROPHET.
If we look up any Bible which has a concordance or cross-references, the we will find in the marginal note where the words “the Prophet”, or “that Prophet” occur in John 1:25, that these words refer to the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18. And that ‘that prophet’ – ‘the prophet like Moses’ – “LIKE UNTO THEE”, we have proved through overwhelming evidence that he was MUHUMMED and not Jesus!
We Muslims are not denying that Jesus was the “Messiah”, which word is translated as “Christ”. We are not contesting the “thousand and one prophecies” which the Christians claim abound in the Old Testament foretelling the coming of the Messiah. What we say is that Deuteronomy 18:18 does NOT refer to Jesus Christ but it is an explicit prophecy about the Holy Prophet MUHUMMED!”
In New Testament times, we find that the Jews were still expecting the fulfilment of the prophecy of ‘ONE LIKE MOSES’, refer John 1:19-25. When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, the Jews began to enquire as to where was Elias? The Jews had a parallel prophecy that before the coming of the Messiah, Elias must come first in his second coming. Jesus confirms this Jewish belief:
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:11-13).
According to the New Testament the Jews were not the ones to swallow the words of any would-be Messiah. In their investigations they underwent intense difficulties in order to find their true Messiah. And this the Gospel of John confirms: “and this is the record of John, when the jews sent priests and levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who art thou ? Amd he confessed and denied not, but confessed, I’m not the christ.” (This was only natural because there can’t be two Messiahs at the same time. If Jesus was the Christ then John couldn’t be the Christ!) “and they asked him, what then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I’m not.” (Here John the Baptist contradicts Jesus! Jesus says that John is “Elias” and John denies that he is what Jesus ascribes him to be. One of the TWO (Jesus or John), God forbid!, is definitely not speaking the TRUTH! On the testimony of Jesus himself, John the Baptist was the greatest of the Israelite prophets: ” Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. “(Matthew 11:11).
We Muslims know John the Baptist as Yahya. We revere him as a true prophet of God. The Prophet Jesus is also esteemed as one of the mightiest messenger of the Almighty. How can we Muslims impute lies to either of them? We leave this problem between Jesus and John for the Christians to solve, for their “sacred scriptures” abound in discrepancies which they have been glossing over as the “dark sayings of Jesus”. We Muslims are really interested in the last questions posed to John the Baptist by the Jewish elite- “ART THOU THAT PROPHET? And he answered, NO.” (John 1:21)