The subject account, found in Matthew and Luke, can be added to the list of authentic sayings of Jesus. This account records that John the Baptist while in prison sends some of his disciples to Jesus with the question: "Are You the One who is to come or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3 and Luke 7:19).1 The saying "the One who is to come" in this passage mirrors John's statement of one "coming after me" in Mark 1:7 and John 1:27 and thus the Matthew and Luke passages are independently attested by Mark and John - and Mark is a very early source.
This passage is also shown to be authentic by the embarrassment that John seems to be doubting that Jesus is the Messiah. Embarrassment is another one of the six conditions that provide greater probability that a saying or event is historical.
Jesus provides John with the following answer:
Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed (Matthew 11:4-6; cf. Luke 7:22-23).
Hear Jesus is referencing signs from prophecies in Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6, and 61:1; the latter of which clearly mentions being the Messiah. William Lane Craig points to a passage from Dead Sea scroll 4Q521 for support that these signs were considered signs of the coming of the Messiah during Jesus' day. The passage reads as follows:
[For the hea]vens and the earth shall listen to his Messiah [and all t]hat is in them shall not turn away from the commandments of the hold ones...He will honor the pious upon the th[ro]ne of the eternal kingdom, setting prisoners free, opening the eyes of the blind, raising up those who are bo[wed down.]...and the Lord shall do glorious things which have not been done, just as he said. For he will heal the injured, he shall make alive the dead, he shall proclaim good news to the afflicted.2
This Dead Sea Scroll passage adds historical congruence (fits in with known historical facts concerning the context in which the saying or event is said to have occurred3) and coherence (the saying or event is consistent with already established facts about Jesus4) on top of independent attestation and embarrassment to support the conclusion that Jesus saw himself as the Messiah.5
We will continue to identify the authentic personal claims of Jesus next week.
Stand firm in Christ,
1. All Scripture references come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
2. Craig, William Lane Craig. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics; Third Edition. Pages 303-304.
3 and 4. Ibid. Page 298.
5. Ibid. Page 304.