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Mark 8:28

ESV And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets."
NIV They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."
NASB They told Him, saying, 'John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.'
CSB They answered him, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets."
NLT Well,' they replied, 'some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.'
KJV And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elijah; and others, One of the prophets.
NKJV So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

What does Mark 8:28 mean?

Jews didn't believe in reincarnation, so when the people say that Jesus is John the Baptist—who was the same age as Jesus—or Elijah or Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14), or any of the other Old Testament prophets, they don't mean Jesus was literally one of the former prophets. They mean He came in the same style, power, and authority, and with a similar message.

Herod Antipas had John the Baptist arrested because of John's condemnation of Antipas' marriage to his sister-in-law Herodias. Later, Herodias manipulated Antipas into having John killed (Mark 6:14–29). John's arrest triggered the beginning of Jesus' ministry, when He left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum (Matthew 4:12–13). Although Jesus' ministry started before John was killed (see Luke 7:18–23), their public ministries did not overlap, and Herod Antipas, apparently, did not hear about Jesus until after John was dead. So it was that Herod thought Jesus came in the spirit of John (Mark 6:16).

For several reasons, others thought Jesus was Elijah (Mark 6:15). First, Elijah didn't die but was taken to heaven by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Also, Scripture states that Elijah must return before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5–6). The people didn't recognize that John the Baptist is "Elijah" (Matthew 17:10–13) and Jesus is the Messiah. Jews still teach that Elijah periodically comes down to help Jews in trouble, to train scholars, and to watch over circumcisions.

Although the people recognize Jesus' message and authority is reminiscent of the old prophets, none of them seem to continue the line of thought and suggest Jesus might suffer the same fate as the old prophets. Elijah was nearly murdered by Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1–2). Jeremiah was thrown into a muddy cistern and left to starve (Jeremiah 38:1–6). John the Baptist and many of the other prophets were assassinated (1 Kings 18:13). Even more, the disciples don't yet understand that "a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him" (John 13:16). The disciples know they follow the Christ (Mark 8:29), but they don't yet know what a hard road they will face.
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