Parallel passage: Matthew 17:10-13
10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
11And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?”
12And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things; and how is it written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
13But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
14And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them.
15And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him.
Interpretation by the Church Fathers
“And, accordingly, our Lord in His teaching,” I continued, “proclaimed that this very thing would take place, saying that Elijah would also come. And we know that this shall take place when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come in glory from heaven; whose first manifestation the Spirit of God who was in Elijah preceded as herald in [the person of] John, a prophet among your nation; after whom no other prophet appeared among you. He cried, as he sat by the river Jordan: ‘I baptize you with water to repentance; but He that is stronger than I shall come, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into the barn; but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire.’9 And this very prophet your king Herod had shut up in prison; and when his birth-day was celebrated, and the niece10 of the same Herod by her dancing had pleased him, he told her to ask whatever she pleased. Then the mother of the maiden instigated her to ask the head of John, who was in prison; and having asked it, [Herod] sent and ordered the head of John to be brought in on a charger. Wherefore also our Christ said, [when He was] on earth, to those who were affirming that Elijah must come before Christ: ‘Elijah shall come, and restore all things; but I say unto you, that Elijah has already come, and they knew him not, but have done to him whatsoever they chose.’1 And it is written, ‘Then the disciples understood that He spake to them about John the Baptist.’ ”
9 Matt. 3:11, 12.
10 Literally, “cousin.”
1 Matt. 17:12.
Justin Martyr. (1885). Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, pp. 219–220). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.
Matthew goes on thus: “And His disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 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.”3 This same passage is given also by Mark, who keeps also the same order; and although he exhibits some diversity of expression, he makes no departure from a truthful representation of the same sense.4 He has not, however, added the statement, that the disciples understood that the Lord had referred to John the Baptist in saying that Elias was come already.
3 Matt. 17:10–13.
4 Mark 9:10–12.
Augustine of Hippo. (1888). The Harmony of the Gospels. In P. Schaff (Ed.), S. D. F. Salmond (Trans.), Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels (Vol. 6, p. 155). New York: Christian Literature Company.
“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 they understood that He spake to them of John.”1
And yet neither the Scribes said this, nor the Scriptures; but because now they were sharper and more attentive to His sayings, they quickly caught His meaning.
And whence did the disciples know this? He had already told them, “He is Elias, which was for to come;”2 but here, that he hath come; and again, that “Elias cometh and will restore all things.” But be not thou troubled, nor imagine that His statement wavers, though at one time He said, “he will come,” at another, “he hath come.” For all these things are true. Since when He saith, “Elias indeed cometh, and will restore all things,” He means Elias himself, and the conversion of the Jews which is then to take place; but when He saith, “Which was for to come,” He calls John, Elias, with regard to the manner of his administration. Yea, and so the prophets used to call every one of their approved kings, David;3 and the Jews, “rulers of Sodom,”4 and “sons of Ethiopians;”5 because of their ways. For as the other shall be forerunner of the second advent, so was this of the first.
And not for this only doth He call him Elias everywhere, but to signify His perfect agreement with the Old Testament, and that this advent too is according to prophecy.
Wherefore also He adds again, “He came, and they knew him not, but have done unto him all things whatsoever they listed.”6 What means, “all things whatsoever they listed?” They cast him into prison, they used him despitefully, they slew him, they brought his head in a charger.
1 Matt. 17:12, 13.
2 Matt. 9:14.
3 This refers apparently to such texts as Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23, 24, 37:24; Hos. 3:5.
4 Isa. 1:10.
5 Amos 9:7.
6 Matt. 17:12.
John Chrysostom. (1888). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In P. Schaff (Ed.), G. Prevost & M. B. Riddle (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Vol. 10, p. 353). New York: Christian Literature Company.