A Prophet, a Kingdom, and a Messiah : the portrayal of Elijah in the Gospels in light of first-century Judaism
This thesis explores how and why the Gospel writers utilized the prophet Elijah. The result of this research provides a better understanding of how the early Church related to the Old Testament and Jewish thought in the first century CE. Treatment of this OT character also illuminates the Gospels' literary structure and theology, especially in the areas of christology and eschatology. The study begins by observing the use of Elijah in Jewish literature, demonstrating the influence of the historical accounts from 1 and 2 Kings and the future prediction of Malachi upon later Jewish and Christian thinking. In contrast to previous Elijanic studies, this investigation is exhaustive, addressing all aspects surrounding this figure. Consequently, the work identifies three common associations with Elijah - a miracle worker, a righteous and zealous individual, and an eschatological figure. In order to address the highly debated messianic forerunner motif, concentration is given to the third role, demonstrating that it is a pre-Christian notion. The thesis then observes how the individual Gospels show some distinctions in the various Elijanic roles depicted; yet, among the distinctions there is overall conformity. Even the Fourth Gospel's recounting of John the Baptist's denial does not imply a contradiction concerning how the writer understands the expected Elijanic figure. In conclusion, each of the Gospel writers portrays John the Baptist, not Jesus, as the eschatological Elijah of Malachi. Furthermore, the research reveals that despite the Gospel writers neglect of Elijah's miracles and the downplaying, if not denial, of a literal expectation, the Evangelists do resemble their Jewish contemporaries in presenting Elijah as an eschatological figure who indicates the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom.