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We see that in John 1:31, John the Baptist said that he did not know Jesus. Some Bible commentators have said that what this meant was that John did not know Jesus was the Messiah.

However, we see in Matthew 3:14, John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized by him because Jesus needed no repentance. Jesus had no sins to repent. So does that mean that John knew Jesus was the Messiah or not? Did John believe Jesus was perfect or not?

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Yes, I believe John new that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. God explicitly revealed this to John at Matthew 3:11-17. Take note of verse 17, "and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

What I find interesting is what John said at Matthew 11:1-6. John had condemned Herod Antipas for taking his own brother's wife for himself. Herod had him cast into prison.

When John was in prison, (vs2), he heard about the works of Christ and sent word by his disciples. (Vs3), and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Jesus says at (vs4), Go and report to John what you hear and see; (vs5), the Blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them."

So the question arises from vs3, did John have doubts? I do not believe doubt here by John connotes unbelief. I think his doubts reveal his lack of understanding. God himself had revealed that He who was to come after John would bring judgment and, through the outpouring of the Spirit of God, initiate the kingdom of peace, the new world order (Matthew 3:11-12).

Now he learned that Jesus was preaching in Galilee, which was a preparatory work, and John questioned why had he not been freed from prison? Was Jesus also a forerunner, just as he was? Of course the answer was "no" based of what Jesus was doing from vs5.

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The idea behind John 1:31 when John says I knew Messiah/Jesus not is in the same sense as before in John 1:26.

John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

In other words, they knew of the forerunner (John the Baptist), but not the person of whom he was "forerunning".

Recall Jesus said to His mother about working miracles; not before My time. We saw Jesus at age 12 asking questions, but nothing is recorded about Him being Messiah until His baptism when the Spirit descended, clarifying He was of the Melchizedek priesthood.

And I [John] knew him [Messiah] not: but he [God] that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

Regarding Matthew 3:14, it appears to be a reference to when Mary came to visit Elizabeth as recorded in Luke 1.

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Luke 1:43-44

When Jesus is about age 30 and John is about 30 1/2, Jesus again comes to John and it is apparent that John "knew" intuitively that Jesus was Messiah at that point. John baptizes Jesus, the Spirit descends, and confirmation of what John had been foretold did happen.

So, from the bookends of the womb to pre-baptism, John would not in-between know Jesus was Messiah. At His baptism, John would fully know, though doubt might enter later.

At the same time, John would know the role, function, detail of Messiah of whom he was "clearing the way". Messiah would be perfect.

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