For an Answer Home Commentary Index Bibliography Glossary
The Bible Gateway The Blue Letter Bible The Greek New Testament (NA26) Greek & Hebrew Lexicons

 
powered by FreeFind

The Apologists  Bible Commentary

 

 

John 8

<< Previous Verse

Next Verse >>

58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."

 

Grammatical Analysis...

For Further Reading...

 

C

o

m

m

e

n

t

a

r

y

It is likely that Jesus was speaking Hebrew at the time, or perhaps Aramaic.  He was addressing the Pharisees after all, and He very likely spoke to them in Hebrew.  If He was speaking Hebrew, He would have said אהיה (hyh), which John would have rendered ego eimi in Greek.  According to the Aramaic Targum Onqelos, it would be אֶהְיה(hyh - the exact same written form as Hebrew), which John would also have translated ego eimi in Greek ('I am' in English).

From Albert Barnes Commentary...

The expression I am, though in the present tense, is clearly designed to refer to a past time. Thus, in Psa_90:2, From everlasting to everlasting thou art God. Applied to God, it denotes continued existence without respect to time, so far as he is concerned. We divide time into the past, the present, and the future. The expression, applied to God, denotes that he does not measure his existence in this manner, but that the word by which we express the present denotes his continued and unchanging existence. Hence, he assumes it as his name, I AM, and I AM that I AM, Exo_3:14. Compare Isa_44:6; Isa_47:8. There is a remarkable similarity between the expression employed by Jesus in this place and that used in Exodus to denote the name of God. The manner in which Jesus used it would strikingly suggest the application of the same language to God. The question here was about his pre-existence. The objection of the Jews was that he was not 50 years old, and could not, therefore, have seen Abraham. Jesus replied to that that he existed before Abraham. As in his human nature he was not yet 50 years old, and could not, as a man, have existed before Abraham, this declaration must be referred to another nature; and the passage proves that, while he was a man, he was also endowed with another nature existing before Abraham, and to which he applied the term (familiar to the Jews as expressive of the existence of God) I AM; and this declaration corresponds to the affirmation of John, that he was in the beginning with God, and was God. This affirmation of Jesus is one of the proofs on which John relies to prove that he was the Messiah, to establish which was the design of writing this book (Barnes).

G

r

a

m

m

a

t

i

c

a

l

 

A

n

a

l

y

s

i

s

prin abraam genesqai egw eimi

PRIN ABRAAM GENESTHAI EG EIMI

Before Abraham came to be, I am

GINOMAI (G1096)

To become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being (Thayer).

EIMI (G1510)

To be, to exist, to happen, to be present (Thayer).

I am (egw eimi). Undoubtedly here Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. The contrast between genesthai (entrance into existence of Abraham) and eimi (timeless being) is complete. See the same contrast between en in John 1:1 and egeneto in John 1:14. See the contrast also in Psa 90:2 between God (ei, art) and the mountains (genesthenai). See the same use of eimi in John 6:20; John 9:9; John 8:24, John 8:28; John 18:6 (RWP).

F

U

R

T

H

E

R

 

R
E
A
D
I
N
G

I recently became aware* of how the WTBTS translates John 8:58 in the Greek NWT (that is, the modern Greek translation that Witnesses in Greece use).  While one might expect them to leave it untranslated (as the verb eimi means the same today as it did in Jesus' day), they actually change it to ego huparchw (egw uparcw), which even though is roughly synonymous with "I am," can also mean "I began" or "I came forth."  They do this despite the fact that in other modern Greek NTs, it is left as ego eimi ("I am").

It seems the WT will go to any lengths to make sure Jesus does not identify Himself as ego eimi.

 

Vamvas Modern Greek NT (1850):

*I am indebted to 4Jehovah.org for this information

Articles...

John 8:58:  How Do We Translate? Kelton Graham

I Am What I Am JP Holding

The Gospel Truth about John 8:58 Arthur Daniels

 

Dialogs...

Jason BeDuhn and Robert Bowman

Jason BeDuhn and Robert Hommel (follow up to above)

 

Blogs...

John 8:58 in the Peshitta: "I was" or "I am?"

John 8:58 in the Sahidic Coptic Translation

   
<< Previous Verse

Next Verse >>