Owing to translational biases, the verse in question, along with every other
"I AM" statement in the Johannine gospel will be shown to be flawed in its constructions via KJV and subsequent translators as referring to Exodus. Instead of claiming equality Jesus humbly and plainly said: "My Father is greater than I am" (John 14:28). The apostles taught similarly, e.g., Paul plainly states that "the head of Christ is God [the Supreme, or Mightiest One]." --1 Corinthians 11:3.
How could Jesus come in the name of Yahweh and speak for Yahweh if he were Yahweh? --Deuteronomy 18:15,18,19 [See Acts 3:22; 7:37; John 8:28; 12:49,50; 17:8]; Psalm 118:26; Matthew 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9,10; Luke 13:35; 19:38; John 5:25.
Some have replied that when the prophecy states that he would speak in the name of Yahweh, that this proves that Jesus is Yahweh. This line of reasoning would also make Jesus his own Father, since Jesus said he came in his Father's name. (John 5:43) But it is important to stay by God's Word in this matter. If one is the person in whose name he comes, then this would make every true prophet who came in the name of Yahweh to be Yahweh. (Deuteronomy 18:22; 1 Chronicles 21:19; James 5:10) This would also make the ten men who spoke in the name of David to be David himself. (1 Samuel 25:5) This would make the Levites Yahweh. (Deuteronomy 10:8; 18:5,7) Additionally, this would make David Yahweh, since he came in the name of Yahweh. (1 Samuel 17:45; 2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Chronicles 16:2) This would make Jeremiah the same being as Yahweh, since Jeremiah spoke in his name. (Jeremiah 20:9) Likewise this would make the church Jesus, for they are to gather in his name. (Matthew 18:20) Similarly with other scriptures that speak of Jesus' followers doing their works in the name of Jesus -- does this make them Jesus? (Matthew 18:5; Mark 9:37,39,41; 16:17; Luke 9:48) From all of these examples it should be clear that to come in the name of someone does not mean that you are that being; indeed the scriptures listed above show that when one comes in the name of a person, he comes as representative of that person. Thus when Jesus says he came in the name of Yahweh, his Father, he shows that he is not Yahweh.
Jesus sits at the right hand of his God, Yahweh. We have no reason to add to the scriptures that Jesus is one person of Yahweh sitting at right hand of another person of Yahweh. -- Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:43-45; 26:64; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34; 7:55: 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20-22; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12,13; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22.
That it is Yahweh who is identified as the Father can be seen from reading Ephesians 1:17-22. Thus the above scriptures give proof that the Father=Yahweh as well as that Jesus is Not Yahweh. The Father (Yahweh) is the only true God [Supreme, or Mightiest One] and Jesus is the only Lord [Master] over the church as he was made so by his Father, Yahweh, who sent him. -- John 17:1,3; Acts 2:36; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 4:4; John 8:42.
Since Jesus plainly declared that he was not his God and Father who sent him -- Yahweh, we need to look closely at John 8:58 to see what Jesus was saying. In the scriptures just before we read that the Jews were emphasizing, after Jesus told them they needed to be set free from the bondage of sin, that they never were in bondage, that Abraham was their great patriarch. In reply Jesus told them that therefore they should do the works of Abraham. When Jesus told them: "Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad," they replied that He was not yet 50 years old, and how therefore could he have seen Abraham (who died over 2,000 years previously)? He then let them know that his existence was not limited to the years he was spending on earth. Jesus told them that his existence was unbroken from eons before Abraham's day, and was unbroken thereafter. Hence he could truly say: "Before Abraham was, I am." Now if he had said he "was", he would have implied that he existed, but no longer exists.
Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God, but NEVER as God the Son (Matthew 16:16,17; John 3:16-18; 5:25-27; 9:35-37; 10:36; 11:4) He frequently referred to the only true God [the Supreme, or Mightiest One] as his Father. (Matthew 12:50; 16:17; 18:10,19; 20:23; 26:39,42; John 5:17; 6:32; 17:1,3) The Jews objected to this -- though some of them expressed the same thought for themselves (John 8:41) -- and wrongly claimed that by saying God was his Father he was 'making himself equal with the Supreme Being.' -- John 5:18.
Regarding why the Jews wanted to stone Jesus, the Jews had been seeking to kill him for a long time. (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11; John 5:18; 7:1,19) Jesus said this was because he exposed their works as evil. (John 7:7). He further indicated that they were jealous of him when he asks them for which good work were they seeking to kill him. -- John 10:32
Nevertheless, many claim that Jesus was referring to himself as the "I am" of Exodus 3:14. In reality, there is nothing in John 8:58 to warrant the conclusion that Jesus was claiming to be Ehyeh (or as some perfer, Ehyah) of Exodus.
Jesus simply responded to the question: "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Thus, the real thought of the Greek used here is that God's created "firstborn," Jesus, had existed long before Abraham was born, and that he was still in existence. - Colossians 1:15; Proverbs 8:22, 23, 30; Revelation 3:14.
Nor did the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob refer to himself with the Greek words "Ego Eimi". One has to look for this expression in the Septuagint translation, not in words actually spoken in Exodus 3:14. Even in the Septuagint, however, Ehyeh in Exodus 3:14 is translated as "ego eimi ho ohn" -- I am the being (Brenton's translation).
However, since the Septuagint gives the expression "ego eimi" an object, and if Jesus was quoting this from the Septuagint, he left the sentence dangling without an object.
Looking up Exodus 3:14 in the LXX, what do we find?
3:14 --kai eipen o qeoV proV mwushn egw eimi o wn kai eipen outwV ereiV toiV uioiV israhl o wn apestalken me proV umaV -- LXX, transliterated
Notice the phrase "egw eimi o wn" -- Literally meaning, I am the being.
Here is Exodus 3:14 with interlinear translation:
Exod 3:14 - kai eipen o qeoV proV mwushn
And God said to Moses
egw eimi o wn
And he said this is what you are to say to the sons of Israel
o wn apestalken me proV umaV'
If Jesus quoted the shortened form "Ehyeh" from Exodus 3:14 of the LXX, he would have said "ho ohn", shown as "o wn" in the transliteration above, not "ego eimi."
In truth, Jesus was not at all saying that his name was Ehyeh, the first person form of Yahweh.
Please note that we do not necessarily agree with the Septuagint translation; we are only pointing out that Jesus was not quoting Exdous 3:14, and saying that his name was Ehyeh.
Comparing Exodus 3:14, LXX, with John 8:58, we find the following construction:
EXODUS 3:14, LXX:EGO EIMI HO OHN (subject) (copula [verb connector]) (predicate complement)
JOHN 8:58:PRIN ABRAAM GENESTHAI EGO EIMI (adverbial/aorist (subject) (predicate verb present indicative) expression referring to past time)
Simply making the assertion that the name, "I AM," used at Exodus 3:14, LXX, is what Jesus uses at John 8:58 also doesn't make it so. If for no other reason, and the reasons are plainly stated in this study, IF Jesus is using a title at John 8:58, then we are left with the apostle John's having written a sentence lacking a predicate, hence, an incomplete sentence.
In sum, if it can be proved that the words "I am" used by Jesus at John 8:58 are indeed a title -- the same title applied to Almighty God himself at Exodus 3:14, LXX -- then it must be admitted that what the Gospel writer writes as Jesus' response is an incomplete thought, as it does not read with the completeness of the Septuagint (LXX) rendering of what Moses writes in Exodus, namely, "ego eimi ho ohn" (=I am the Being). The expression "I am the Being" makes a complete sentence, a complete thought, something we DO NOT HAVE at John 8:58 absent the words "ho ohn" (=the Being).
Nevertheless, reading John 8:58 within the context of the conversation between Jesus and the Jews, in which they quesioned whether he had seen Abraham, and without application of the unsupported interpretation upon the words "I am" as a title or a name, it must also be admitted that we have a complete thought with Jesus saying, in effect, "I've been existing since before Abraham was born."
The claim is made that Jesus uses the phrase EGO EIMI, as recorded by John, many times to designate himself as Yahweh. Yes, in many of these cases Jesus emphasized that he was the one sent by his Father, Yahweh, with the implication of being the promised Messiah, the bread of life sent by Yahweh, his Father. (John 4:26; 6:35,41,48,51; 8:18,24,28)
In other instances, he was just saying, It is I. (John 6:20; 18:5,6,8)
On another occasion he used it in the expression "I am the door to the sheep." (John 10:7,9) He also uses it to designate himself as the good (fine, right) shepherd (as compared to the false shepherds). (John 10:11-14)
And he used it to designate himself as the "resurrection and the life," the way, the truth, the life, the only way to Yahweh, his Father. (John 11:25; 14:6)
He further uses it do describe himself as the vine, and his God as the farmer. (John 15:1,5)
In all this, there is nothing that implies that Jesus is using the name Ehyeh in Exodus, so as to make himself Yahweh, his own God that sent him. It is only in the imagination of men that one could see these scriptures as such.
As noted, our Savior used the phrase "ego eimi" many times, but it is also interesting to note that in only one instance did the Jews try to stone him after he used this phrase. (John.8:58) When Jesus said, "I am the bread of life" to a large crowd, in John 6:35 & 48, no one opposed him. In verse 41, the Jews murmured because he said, "I am (ego eimi) the bread which came down from heaven." But in verse 42, the Jews questioned only the phrase, "I came down from heaven" and ignored "ego eimi." The same is true also of verses 51 & 52 -- they questioned how Jesus could give his flesh as food, but not his usage of the phrase "ego eimi". We can also note in John 8:12, 18, 24, & 28, Jesus used "ego eimi" with the Pharisees present (vs.13) and yet, on these occasions they did not seek to stone him.
He further used it in John 10:7, 9, 11, & 14, and while some responded that he was insane, they did not seek to stone him for using the expression "ego eimi" or make any comment regarding his usage of it. And in John 11:25, when he uses this phrase, does Martha respond that Jesus is the God of Israel? No, she says that he is "the Christ [anointed one of Yahweh, his Father. (Psalm 2:2: 45:7; 61:1)], the Son of God." (verse 27) It should be plain from this that Jesus was not using this phrase in some mysterious way to make himself Yahweh.
Very evidently the reason for so much darkness is that, under Satan's misleading (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9), those who see the true light to some extent are misled into following Popes, Councils, Presbyteries, Conferences, Creeds and Confessions of men, instead of following the Lord who is the True Light sent by God.
Again, we find not even a hint in or around John 8:12 that Jesus is claiming that he is his God who sent him. Instead of claiming to be the only true God that sent him, Jesus said: "Even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent me." -- John 8:16; 17:1,3.
Then Jesus tells us how it is that he is the light of the world: "He who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these I say to the world." -- John 8:26
Further on, Jesus said: "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." (John 9:5) This expresses that this condition of being "light of world" is a temporary condition. It hardly sounds as though Jesus meant this to be an expression that he is God Almighty.
On another occasion, addressing his disciples, Jesus said: "You are [humeis este] the light of the world....let your light shine before men." (Matthew 5:14-16.) He tells them to do this, that men "may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Here Jesus uses verb "este", which is the second person plural present indicative of "eimi". If "ego eimi" in John 8:12 is some kind of reference to God Almighty, then we would think the same would be true in Matthew 5:14, where we find the plural of the same verb. Of course, in reality, the whole idea of trying to make "ego eimi" into Yahweh is in a forced eisegesis.
Many translations add the word "he" after "I am" here and in other verses. Other translators do not want anything after "I am". This, taken out of context, could give the false impression that any who do not believe that Jesus was the great Ehyeh of Exodus 3:14 will die in their sins. However, the result of this erroneous view is that it brings an unscriptural and somewhat unloving division (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 3:3: 11;18) between those claiming to be Christians. It would have one believe that individuals who have accepted Jesus as their savior (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; 16:31) and that they have dedicated their lives to God (Matthew 16:24: Romans 12:1), but who do not believe that Jesus is Ehyeh of Exodus 3:14, will die in their sins. In other words, the erroneous view would lead one to assume that those who believe that Jesus is not Ehyeh of Exodus 3:14 are still unjustified despite sincere belief in Jesus as savior, and are not really Christians at all!
To determine whether the word "he" or some other term should be understood at John 8:24, we must take into consideration what the context and other scriptures show. In the previous context, Jesus first confounded the Scribes and Pharisees in the case of the woman taken in adultery (vs. 1-11). Then he said: "I am [ego eimi] the light of the world." He also said: "I am [ego eimi] from above." (vs. 23) He also used the same phrase with a negative when he said "I am not from this world." Thus it is evident from what Jesus was talking about in the previous context that in vs. 24 when he said "I am [ego eimi]" it would be understood to be associated with the context -- I am "from above", that is, I am from my Father, Yahweh, not "I am Yahweh."
Since in English we do not usually go around stating "I am" and leaving the predicate understood from the context, it is proper for translators to supply the understood thought, thus, "I am he" -- the one I claim to be. It is obvious that Jesus was telling his hearers that unless they believed in him as the light of the world sent by his Father from heaven to be their savior, the Messiah, they would indeed die in their sins -- not if they did not accept Jesus as the great Ehyeh (Yahweh) of Exodus 3:14.-- See John 8:24 in ASV, RSV, NRSV, Darby, BBE, NIV, Young's, Webster's and Rotherham's translations, all of which are trinitarian translations.
This conclusion is confirmed also by Jesus' words in John 13:19: "Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he [ego eimi]." In the preceding context (vs. 14) Jesus told them: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet." So after the words "I am [ego eimi]" in verse 19 the words "he" (that is, "your Lord and Master"] can properly be supplied.
Likewise, In Acts 10:21 Peter said: "I am he [ego eimi] whom ye seek."
It is true that the translators added the word "he" to the text to make it read more clearly. But if it is true that Jesus' statement, "I am," is a quote from the OT (Exodus 3:14--"I AM THAT I AM" -- KJV), meaning that he was God, then one could conclude that the man whose blindness Jesus healed in John chap. 9 was God, too. -- See John 9:9.
In John 9, people wondered if the man whose sight Jesus had restored was indeed the same man they had only known as a blind man, but the former blind man tells them, at verse 9, that he is indeed the same one.
Is there any reason why more weight should be given to Jesus' statements at John 8:24,58 than to this other man's statement at John 9:9 ("I am [he])? Most will certainly not think that the man who was healed by Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh.
In all fairness to the readers of the KJV and those other translations that Capitalize "I AM" in places where the translators believed Jesus was Yahweh of the Hebrew scriptures; no such delinations are available in the original Greek manuscripts. The Greek scriptures (New Testament) were written in all capital letters without punctuation or chapter and verse helps. No upper or lower case delineations are found in the text. These were added later, and not consistently. Sadly, the translators had an agenda, this is most evident in the selective use of capitalization (I AM, Son, etc.)
The word "Jesus" is taken from the Hebrew "Yahoshua", meaning "Yah is savior" or "Yah's savior". Jesus is the savior sent by Yahweh.
Other scriptures of course make it very plain that it is faith in Jesus as the savior sent by Yahweh (the Father) that brings justification, so that those who thus loyally believe in him have the forgiveness of sins and will not die in their sins (Matthew 1:21; John 3:16,17; Acts 5:31; 13:38,39; Romans 3:24,25; Ephesians 1:5-8; 1 John 1:9) Nothing whatever is said about it being necessary also to believe that Jesus is Yahweh, Ehyeh mentioned in Exodus 3:14.
The implication of the above is that it was a name, "I am", that caused the soldiers to fall to the ground by the power in the words.
Exactly what caused them to go backward and fall to the ground, the scriptures do not say. So to say it was Jesus' use of some Greek words, supposedly having power to knock them down, is an assumption and pure speculation.
However, since speculating, our theory regarding this is that they could have been taken aback and fell to ground as the result of a power our Lord exercised over them (which power he had received from the only true Supreme Being, his Father), a power by which he might have resisted them entirely had he been so disposed. What he did was sufficient to show them and his apostles that his surrender was not a necessity, but that the Father's will might be done. He knew he could have all the protection he needed. -- Matthew 26:53.
While we find this following speculation highly unlikely, it has also been suggested that they could have been astonished at what they found. They did not expect to find a meek, humble person who would come right out and say that he was the one they were looking for. In their astonishment, according to this theory, they withdrew and fell to the ground.
As to Jesus' saying "I am" in John 18:5, Jesus was simply saying that he was the one they were looking for.
But to conclude, as many do, that John 8:58 is a case where Jesus admits to being God Almighty IGNORES THE CONTEXT OF THAT VERSE. Jesus did not say "I am that I am." Nor did Jesus say that his name is "I am." He was not talking about his name at all, nor was he saying that his name was that expressed by Yahweh in Exodus 3:14. This is one of the most silliest arguments that many trinitarians and oneness believers make.
Due to this, many of our trinitarian and oneness friends have come up with other methods of trying to hold onto the idea that Jesus was saying that he was God Almighty in John 8:58. Some say that the Jesus words were "close enough" to the LXX, that it was recognized by his opponents that he was claiming to be Ehyeh of Exodus 3:14. Such a line of reasoning depends on an assumption of what the lying, deceiving Jewish leaders "thought."
Others claim that Jesus was not quoting Exodus, but some scriptures elsewhere, such as in Isaiah.
Still others claim that Jesus was saying that he was Eternal, that is, according to trinitarian/oneness definition of this term, never created. But these are other topics, that we may deal with later, but for now, we are trying to make the point that Jesus was not quoting Exodus 3:14 of the LXX.
"Ehyeh" is the first person singular of the Hebrew verb hayah (to be or become). The third person singular is "Yahweh." In Exodus 3:14 Yahweh states: "I will be what I will be (Ehyeh asher ehyeh)." Revised Standard Version - footnote) Many translations render this "I AM THAT I AM." However, according some authorities, the Hebrew word hayah, as used in this verse, means more than just to exist. It also carries with it the thought of coming into existence, or causing to exist. Thus it would mean "I cause to be what I cause to be." The third person would mean: "He will cause to be," or "He causes to be."
The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, vol. 14, page 1065, after discussing the usual meanings given to God's name, states: "All these explanations, however, overlook the fact that in Ex 3:14 a merely folk etymology of the name, based on the qualuative form of the verb to be, is given. Grammatically, because of its vocalization, Yahweh can only be a hiphil or causative form of this verb, with the meaning He causes to be, He brings into being.."
That this meaning is correct can be seen by observing the indicated meaning of Yahweh in Exodus 6:2,3. In verse 15 of Exodus 3 we read: "And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, The Lord [Hebrew, Yahweh] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." In Exodus 6:2,3 (New Jerusalem Bible), we read: "God spoke to Moses and said to him: "I am Yahweh. To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai, [God Almighty] but I did not make my name Yahweh known to them."
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew and called upon the Creator as "Yahweh" long before Moses was ever born. To Abraham, Yahweh said: "I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land as a possession." Abraham replied: "O Yahweh God, how am I to know that I will possess it?" (Genesis 15:7,8) Isaac referred to Yahweh as recorded at Genesis 23:22. Likewise, when Jacob was at Bethel, after wrestling with an angel, he stated:
So what did Yahweh mean by the statement he made to Moses to the effect that he had not made his name known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Yahweh had to be referring to the meaning of his name (as the one who causes) rather just to the word used to designate his name. In verse four Yahweh calls attention to the covenant he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them the land of Canaan. They never saw Yahweh cause the fulfillment of that promise. It is in this manner that Yahweh says that he did not make his name known to them. However, now, Yahweh is saying that he going to cause a fulfillment of that promise. He will bring the Israelites out of Egypt into the land that he had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. - see Exodus 6:6-8.