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Jesus is NOT the Great I AM

May 03, 2014
David Yvinec

 

Jesus is NOT the Great I AM

 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58, RSV).

Greek original:

εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί (ego eimi)

The statement made by Jesus was stating the obvious. Jesus was being asked whether he was the Messiah or the Son of God. Jesus responds with the answer: “I am.” The translators decided to capitalize the words I AM in order to make it look like Jesus was saying that he was the GOD from the Old Testament. (Remember, most Bible translators are Trinitarians who have certain bias; that is why it is hard for the average Christian to get the complete truth).

First of all, we need to look at all of the other ways the same phrase is translated in the New Testament.

  • The man born blind in John 9:9 says: “I am the man.”
  • Paul in Acts 26:29 says: “I am.”

Obviously, “I am” did not make Paul or the man born blind GOD. We know that Paul and the man born blind were not God, so how could Christ be God with the SAME phrase.

I am” occurs many other times in the New Testament. This phrase is often translated as:

  • I am he,” for example: Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8; John 13:19; 18:5,6 and 8.
  • It is I,” for example: Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20.
  • I am the one I claim to be,” for example John 8:24 and 28.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said that one of the disciples would betray him. The disciples said literally: “Not I am, Lord” (Matthew 26:22,25). The disciples were not trying to deny that they were God because they used the phrase “Not I am.”

In other words, “I am” was a common way of designating oneself and it did not mean that you were claiming to be GOD.

Now, many will argue saying that Jesus was “before” Abraham, so Jesus must have been God. It is certain that Jesus figuratively “existed” in Abraham’s time. Jesus “existed” in the mind of God as God’s promise and will for mankind (the Word of God) for the redemption of man. If we read carefully verse 56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad.” Abraham saw the Day of Christ when Christ conquerors the earth and sets up his kingdom, as in Hebrews 11:10: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (NIV) Abraham “saw” the Day of Christ; he saw the Day of Christ by faith, which was in God’s mind before the world was.

We know for sure that, in the context of God’s plan, Christ was certainly “before” Abraham. God had a plan for our redemption long before Abraham lived.

A final point, the “I am” statement found in Exodus 3:14 is not the equivalent to the “I am” statement found in John 8:58b. The two statements are VERY different. The Greek of John 8:58b means “I am” however, the Hebrew phrase in Exodus actually means: “to be” or “to become”. Thus, Exodus 3:14 should read: “I will continue to be what I will continue to be.”

Furthermore, one needs to consider that many references given from the Old Testament in the New Testament are excerpts from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible: the Septuagint. This translation was the work of eminent Jewish scholars and was to be used by the Jewish, Greek speaking, Diaspora. The translation was done around 270 B.C. and was used and known in Jesus’ time.

In Exodus 3:14, in the Greek Septuagint, we read:

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν λέγων· ἐγώ εἰμι ὤν καὶ εἶπεν· οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς ᾿Ισραήλ· ὢν ἀπέσταλκέ με πρὸς ὑμᾶς.

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM (ἐγώ εἰμι ὤν).” And He said “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM ( ὢν) has sent me to you.”” (Exodus 3:14)

Thus, by reading Exodus 3:14, we see that God clearly claims his title to be I AM ( ὢν) when He says to Moses speaking of Himself: “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM ( ὢν) has sent me to you.”

God’s title would then not be ego eimi (ἐγώ εἰμι), but rather ho ōn ( ὢν).

That the title ho ōn ( ὢν) belongs to the Almighty God, יהוה, is seen clearly in Revelation 16:5. In this verse we read:

And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. Revelation 16:5

Obviously, “The One who is and who was and who is to be” is יהוה, the Heavenly Father as we may have confirmation by reading the entire chapter 16 of Revelation.

The Greek manuscript never used ego eimi (ἐγώ εἰμι) in Revelation 16:5. We rather find used the terms ho ōn ( ὢν).

καὶ ἤκουσα τοῦ ἀγγέλου τῶν ὑδάτων λέγοντος Δίκαιος Κύριε, εἶ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ὅσιος ὅτι ταῦτα ἔκρινας

Then, if John’s intention had been to let everyone know that Jesus Christ was claiming to be Yehovah [יהוה], the Almighty God, he would have used the terms ho ōn ( ὢν) instead of ego eimi (ἐγώ εἰμι).

As we can see, there is no link between “I AM” in Exodus 3:14 and I am in John 8: 58.

In this last verse, Jesus doesn’t claim to be יהוה, the Almighty One. His purpose is elsewhere and he has no intent to declare himself to be the omnipotent and Almighty Heavenly God as some claim.

To conclude, the “I AM” in the Hebrew text of Exodus 3:14 is not the same as the “I AM” statement in John 8:58. The "I am" statement in John 8:58 does not make Jesus GOD.

NB: The MacArthur Study Bible commentary on Exodus 3:14 says that "I AM WHO I AM" is the name of God which points to His self-existence and eternality; it denotes "I am the One who is/will be," which is the best and most contextually suitable option from a number of theories about its meaning and etymological source. The significance in relation to “God of your fathers” is immediately discernible: He’s the same God throughout the ages!

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