The prophet said concerning the great day which Elijah will usher in, "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." -Malachi 4:6

Jesus said, "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." -Matthew 10:35

Are these two verses consistent and if so how?

  • 2
    A warm welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange! To get a better idea of what this site is all about, please feel free to check out our site tour and how this site is different from others pages. When it comes to Scripture here on Christianity SE, we like to focus on denominational as well as traditional interpretations. Perhaps you could address this question to a specific denomination or tradition? Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 3:16
  • The most inter-denominational answer I can think of is: Jesus knew His gospel would create a division between those who hoped for better and those who didn't want things to change. He was not stating a condition of His gospel, but explaining the effect it would have on people (and still has today). On the other hand, the verse in Malachi describes a necessary blessing/restoration/revelation that must eventually take place as a function of the rule of Heaven or people would never be able to grow together. Regrettably, every denomination will have their own take on this. Thus, Logan's comment.
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 3:37
  • "How has tradition X reconciled verse A & verse B?" seems like a better format for a question like this.
    – aska123
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


There's an interesting comment on the link between those last verses of the prophet Malachi (written some 400 years before Jesus was born) and the words of Jesus you quote (written circa A.D. 50 to 70) in the New International Study Bible 1987 edition. It says regarding Malachi 4:6 the following.

"According to Lk 1:17 John the Baptist sought to accomplish this..."

It makes the link to chapter 3 verse 1 where God promises to send his messenger who will prepare the way before him. Then, suddenly, the Lord being sought by Israel would come as messenger of the covenant. The footnote says,

"This is fulfilled in John the Baptist (see Mt 11:10; Mk 1:2; Lk 1:76)."

If this interpretation is accepted, we can follow through on it to see how there is no contradiction between these old testament and new testament (covenant) texts. They are consistent.

John the Baptist was born before Jesus and prepared the way for Jesus' ministry. John urged the Israelites to repent and to be baptised in readiness for the Messiah. This had a uniting effect in Israel. It created a sense of expectation and hope, so that when Jesus did start his ministry, people were alert to that and responded quickly. Jesus himself said that John the Baptist was the one about whom it was written, 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' That's in Matthew 11:2 - 19.

Shortly before then, Jesus sent out the twelve disciples with that warning about families being split due to him. He quoted from Micah 7:6 which showed family disintegration at a time of judgement from God. When Jesus came and quoted that text, he was not present in judgement - "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it" - John 12:47. However, even while he remained on earth, he caused division because people had to take a stance regarding his astonishing claims. He could not be dismissed indifferently. People were either for him, or against him, and that caused divisions, in families too. Even his own family, at one point, thought he had gone mad and came to try to take him away! See Mark 3:20 - 22.

So, while a positive response to the claims of Christ brings peace to those ones, others who object to his claims will be sharply divided against believers. This can cause division in families. Equally, families who believe in Jesus are united.

As Malachi ended his prophetic writing with warning of a curse, so the last book of the new testament ends with a warning about consequences for not taking God's prophets and prophetic word seriously. We have to decide where we stand on such issues, and those who decide to trust in Jesus often find any unbelieving family members against them.

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