Problem: John the Baptist forgets who Jesus is
Verses: John 1:34, Matthew 11:2-3; Status: Weak

Early in the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist is well aware of who Jesus is. Here's John, speaking in John 1:34:

And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. (ESV)

Yet later on, he seems to be unsure. This is Matthew 11:2-3:

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (ESV)

A similar thing is found at Luke 7:18-19. But this doesn't seem to be a difficult problem. John has been thrown in prison, and is perhaps getting a bit annoyed. He may well have expected the Messiah's appearance on Earth to be more... dramatic. At any rate, he begins to experience doubts and sends a message to Jesus asking for clarification. This strikes me as very human.

Alternatively, early church writers took the view that John was sending his disciples for their own benefit; that John already knew the answer, but wanted his disciples to learn it. In the 4th century, Hilary of Poitiers wrote:

John then is providing not for his own, but his disciples' ignorance; that they might know that it was no other whom he had proclaimed, he sent them to see His works, that the works might establish what John had spoken; and that they should not look for any other Christ, than Him to whom His works had borne testimony.

This is quite an elegant solution. Needless to say, there are other possible explanations, some of which are explicitly non-inerrantist. One could say that Matthew and Luke are both reporting a traditional story, in which John has not met Jesus. This is plausible enough, but I don't think it's proven by the texts alone.

Updated: 2016-12-16

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