Was John The Baptist Delerious?


When reading through Matthew, I usually come across this thought in my mind with no answer. I’m hoping you might be able to clarify this.

Matthew 11:2

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Matthew 3:14-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

My question:

Why, in Matthew 11:2 does John ask if Jesus is the one to be expected to come when John had already confirmed Jesus’ identity back in Matthew 3? I’m assuming that John is the he in “he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him” and that the scripture is chronologically ordered. If this is true (i.e., John saw a miracle during Christ’s baptism), it would only seem that John is at this time, in Matthew 11:2 (when in prison) delirious from being incarcerated (he is no longer thinking straight).


That’s a great question and one not often asked. Part of the problem comes from the translation of Matthew 11:2-3. Literally it says, “Are you the one who was to come or should we (also) expect another (different from you)?”

In those times there was a view that the Scriptures pointed to two messiahs, one a suffering servant and the other a conquering king. The Essenes, with whom John the Baptist and several of his disciples had spent some time, had popularized this view. They called one Messiah the son of Joseph because Joseph’s brothers had hated him, sold him into slavery and left him for dead, and the other Messiah the son of David, because David was Israel’s greatest King, who defeated all their enemies.

Knowing he was about to die, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus the question. He didn’t do it because he was uncertain, but to set them straight. When Jesus answered he reminded them of miracles He had performed from both groups of prophecy showing the He was the one and only fulfillment of Messianic Prophecy.

This confusion arose because they thought the Messiah would be a mere man, who would have only one lifetime, and Scriptures do contain two distinct and different groups of Messianic Prophecy. Only God Himself could fulfill both.