The most quoted passage of the Bible as allegedly containing a prophecy that Mohammed would be the final prophet following Jesus is found in John’s Gospel in chapter 1, verses 19-23:
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Although Muslims firmly reject any other part of the same chapter, which very clearly proclaims the deity of Christ, they find it useful and acceptable to interpret that the “Prophet” being referred to in verse 21 is Mohammed. Their reasoning is that Christians consider John the Baptist to have come in the spirit of Elijah, Jesus as the Christ and therefore, they argue, Muhammad was necessarily the Prophet.
Superficially, this argument may seem valid. This is particularly so because they have already accepted Mohammed as a prophet, and are therefore looking for reasons to justify it. But it is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture. The prophet of whom we are speaking here is the one whom the people of Israel (at the time of John the Baptist) was waiting for; It is “The” prophet from God, the one announced in Deuteronomy 18:15-18.
The Muslims agree that this prophet is the one announced in Deuteronomy 18, but they then claim that Deuteronomy 18 is about Muhammad. However, we can easily show that it is impossible for Muhammad to be the prophet announced in Deuteronomy 18. How? Twice in those verse, Moses the Jewish prophet says to the Jews that the promised prophet will be: “from your brethren.” In other words, unless Mohammed is a Jew, he cannot possibly be the promised prophet Moses spoke of.
In Jewish thought it was not clear that they considered the “prophet” to also be the Messiah, as the following verses show:
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” (John 7:40-41a)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”(Matthew 16: 13-16)
Let me illustrate this with an affirmation from the Muslims themselves. Many of them believe that Mohammed is the “prophet” mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18, and they also believe that Muhammad is the “Comforter” mentioned in John chapters 14 to 16.
In reading the two passages, it is by no means clear that they speak of the same person (and I do not think that is the case). What do you think Mohammed would have answered the question “Are you the prophet? Are you the comforter?” We can not speculate on what he would have said since no one questioned him about it. But according to a good number of Muslims, he is supposed to be both.
It is important for us to make this clear. Mohammed never claimed to be either. No one in his day asked him about it, nor is it recorded in any tradition that it was so. It is a recent claim.
Similarly, there are many prophecies in the Old Testament about future characters to come. For some of them, it is obvious that they relate to the same person, while others refer to another person or are simply a description of another role that the same person would fulfill.
When John the Baptist enters the scene, he has such an impact on the Jews that people begin to wonder if it is the fulfillment of one (or more) of these prophecies. That is why they list the major prophecies: Are you the Elijah that must come? Are you the Messiah who is to come? Are you the Prophet who is coming? It is not necessarily so that they consider that these are three different people. They are just trying to clarify who John the Baptist is, in light of God’s promises.
Their question did not mean: ‘If you are one of these three, then you can not be the other.’ They were only trying to find a place for him in the fulfillment of the Scriptures.
I do not accept either of the two assertions, that Mohammed is either or both “The Prophet” and/or “The Comforter” as valid interpretations. However, Muslims believe that they are, and therefore have to answer this question: ‘If you think that Mohammed could be “the prophet” and “the comforter”, then why do you think that ” Messiah “and” the prophet “are necessarily two distinct persons?’
In no way can anything conclusive be derived from the speculations of the Jews. They said of Jesus: “This is truly the prophet” (John 7:40). On another occasion they said that he was “one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14), another “prophet” (Mark 6:15) and worse some thought that He was both Elijah (Mark 6:15) and John the Baptist (16:14) .What about chronological order? It is useful to remember that the Bible does not teach that Elijah, Christ and the Prophet should come in that order. The questions of the Jews to John the Baptist, asking whether he was Elijah, the Christ, or the Prophet, simply expressed their own hopes and expectations of the major figures to come. However, in the light of their confusion, we can understand that there is no need to consider too seriously the distinction they made between Christ and the Prophet. It is also important to note that the predictions about Elijah, Christ and the Prophet were given in the reverse order in the Old Testament: the Prophet was announced by Moses, most of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ were given in the writings of the last prophets, and the promise of the Elijah that was to come appears only at the end of the book of Malachi 4: 5
Was Mohammed a Jew? If he wasn’t then he was not the promised prophet Moses foretold about. Did he or any of his contemporaries until recent times ever suggest he was either? No! This is a recent additional attempt to justify that he was the final prophet superceding Jesus. One thing we do know is this. Jesus was a Jew. He was the Messiah. He was most certainly not only a prophet, but the Injil declares that He is not only the One spoken of by the prophets, but also by Moses in the Law. (John 1:45) The Injil goes on to make clear that Jesus is that prophet promised by Moses. The Apostle Peter was preaching to the Jews, saying:
“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:17-26)
Do you see it? Mohammed was not born until 540 years later. For 5 centuries Jesus was proclaimed as the Prophet Moses had promised. It is only recently that we can locate references to Mohammed as the prophet, directly conflicting with the prophecy itself, because Mohammed was not Jewish and with the Injil
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