Friday, January 15, 2016

John 8:58 - Is "I AM" As Used by Jesus the Divine Name of God?

Some have claimed that Jesus used the name I AM [EGO EIMI, transliterated] to make an ontological statement about his divine name and nature. From this, trinitarians (and some others) claim that Jesus is Jehovah, and/or a person of Jehovah.

Actually, in the Bible, in all the statements wherein Jesus used "I am" he never once claimed that this expression was a name, or that his name is is "I am". He certainly never claimed his name to be EHJAH (or, Ehyah, Ehyeh) of Exodus 3:14,15 the first person form of the name of the only true God who had sent him.

Who sent Jesus? Prophetically, the Messiah declares:

The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah hath anointed me to announce glad tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me. -- Isaiah 61:1, Darby.

Thus, it was the Lord Jehovah of Exodus 3:14,15 who sent Jesus, and Isaiah 61:1 distinguishes the Messiah from the Lord Jehovah.

And while yet in the days of his flesh (Hebrews 5:7), Jesus said in prayer to his God and Father (John 17:1):

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. -- John 17:3, World English.

And who raised up Jesus as the prophet like Moses, as foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15-19? Peter tells us that it was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who raised up Jesus as the prophet like Moses. (Acts 3:13-26) The default reasoning is that Jesus is not Jehovah of Exodus 3:14,15.

Jesus, however, in all the instances where he used the expression often transliterated as EGO EIMI, never once mentioned this as being the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Regarding John 8:58, some claim that Jesus quoted the LXX, however, the short form of EHJEH (or, as some prefer, EHYEH) in the LXX is given, not as EGO EIMI, but as HO ON. Thus, if Jesus quoted the LXX, supposedly claiming to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of Exodus 3:14,15, he would have said something to effect that he is "HO ON". In reality, no name is even mentioned in John 8:58, nor in its context, nor is there any indication that Jesus was claiming that his name is Ehjeh of Exodus 3:14.

Most modern translators have recognized that in Koine Greek what we call in English the present tense when used in a past tense context denotes an continous action taking place in the past that may or not extend to the present. Most translators, however, disregard this in John 8:58, and have come up with excuses for doing so, while it should be apparent that the only real reason to disregard this in John 8:58 would be the desire to claim that Jesus was expressing himself to be EHJAH of Exodus 3:14,15. Nevertheless, a few translators, even though they may be trinitarian, have recognized this usage in John 8:58, and have thus recognized the the past tense context so to express EGO EIMI in English as in the past:

A Bible, A New Translation – James Moffatt – “Truly, truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “I have existed before Abraham was born.”
Moffatt was a trinitarian, but he showed the past tense understanding of this verse.

Twentieth Century – “In truth I tell you,” replied Jesus, “before Abraham existed I was.”
Translated by a company of twenty scholars representing the various sections of the Christian Church

The Bible-An American Translation, E. Goodspeed – Jesus said to them, “I tell you, I existed before Abraham was born!”

The New Testament in the Language of the People – Then Jesus said to them, “I most solemnly say to you, I existed before Abraham was born.”
Translated from the Greek by CHARLES B. WILLIAMS

Peshitta, Lamsa Translation – Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was born, I was.

Murdock’s Syriac New Testament Translation – Jesus said to them: Verily, verily I say to you, That before Abraham existed, I was.

See also: The New Testament Or Rather The New Covenant (S.Sharp); The New Testament in the Language of the Day (W. G. Beck); The Simple English Bible (International Bible Translators and the Bible Translation Committee); The New Testament in the Language of the People (C. B. Williams); The Unvarnished New Testament (H. J. Schonfield); The Complete Gospels (R. J. Miller, editor); The New American Standard Bible, footnote alternative reading in the 1963-1970 editions.

It should be obvious from the context of John 8:58 that Jesus was not discussing his name, but rather his existence in time before Abraham had been born. This harmonizes well with the question just asked him: "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" The Jews did not ask him about his name, but rather about his age as related to Abraham. Jesus simply responded that he was existing before Abraham was.

Likewise, in all instances where Jesus used the Greek EGO EIMI, there is nothing in any of the contexts that says anything about this being the Holy Name, and by Jesus' usage of his expression, that he was claiming that this is his name. Any such thoughts have to imagined beyond what is actually stated, and it has to be assumed upon what is stated, thereby adding such assumptions to, and reading such assumptions into, the scriptures.

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