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Bible Q

What did Jesus mean when he said “before Abraham was, I am”?

John 8:56-59 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

This verse is often used to attempt to prove two things about Jesus which are not taught in the Bible.

  1. That Jesus here claims to be God, Yahweh.
  2. That Jesus here claims to have preexisted Abraham.

Sometimes the two ideas are combined, such as by Eugene Petersen in his paraphrase, The Message:

John 8:58 (The Message) “Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.”

The first idea is easier to deal with, so we will look at that first:

1. Did Jesus claim to be God, Yahweh?

It is frequently claimed, and frequently assumed as a proven fact in many Christian commentaries, that the Greek phrase “I am” (ego eimi) is a reference to the name of God in Exodus 3:14. Part of this is the oddness of “I am” to English ears. But then that is an oddness that is the choice of translators. In other Greek texts the forms “it is” “he is” “they are” “I am”, are simply translated “it exists” “he lives” “they live” “I live”. For example:

‘Wouldest thou then return again with us to thy home, that thou mayest see the high-roofed house of thy father and mother, and see them too? For of a truth they still live [eisi, 3rd person pl. of eimi], and are accounted rich.’ (Homer, Odyssey 4:133)

2Sa 22:19 And Asahel pursued Abner, and as he went, he turned neither to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner. 20 Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Is that you, Asahel?” And he answered, “It is I.” [ego eimi].  (LXX)

Satan said; “Are you Eve?” She replied to him “I am” [ego eimi] (Apocalypse of Moses 17:2, pseudepigraphic Jewish text, c.1stC AD)

Jhn 9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am he.” (ego eimi).

And as for Ex3:14, for all the certainty that many people have that John 8:58 must be making reference to Ex.3:14, a quick comparison of the Hebrew and Greek texts of Ex 3:14, the Greek original of John 8:58, and the modern Hebrew NT translation of John 8:58 shows that this is not automatically the case:

Exodus 3:14 (Hebrew) And God said unto Moses, I am (ehyeh) HE WHO (asher) I AM (ehyeh): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, IS (ehyeh) has sent me to you.

Exodus 3:14 (Septuagint) And God said unto Moses, I am (ego eimi) THE BEING (ho on): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, THE BEING (ho on) hath sent me unto you.

John 8:58 (ESV, Greek NT) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am (ego eimi).”

Hebrew text of John 8:58 (UBS modern translation from Greek) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before the vitality of Abraham (biterem hayut Avraham), I was (ani hayiyati).”

Of the four verses paralleled above the modern UBS Hebrew NT (1953) is not directly relevant to John 8:58 because it is simply the view of some modern translators on how John 8:58 “ought” to be translated and is no more reliable than any English version, sometimes less so. However the point is that the modern Hebrew NT, when faced with Ex.3:14 (in Hebrew and Greek) and John 8:58 (in Greek) had to make a choice to either try and replicate the divine name from Hebrew Ex.3:14, or to render the idea of Jesus existing before Abraham. The translators couldn’t do both, they couldn’t ‘have their cake and eat it’ and John 8:58 in the Hebrew be both Jesus claiming to be Yahweh, and also Jesus claiming to have existed before Abraham, the Hebrew doesn’t allow it.

Attempts to reconstruct the original Aramaic of Jesus?

The UBS Hebrew NT does not of course claim to be a ‘reconstruction’ of the words of Jesus as they might have been spoken, it is simply a translation of the Greek newly into Hebrew (not ‘back into’ Hebrew). Other Christians have tried to actually ‘reconstruct’ the original text of John 8:58 as Jesus might have spoken it in Aramaic or Hebrew.

Exodus 3:14 (Hebrew) And God said unto Moses, I am (ehyeh) HE WHO (asher) I AM (ehyeh): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, IS (ehyeh) has sent me to you.

Theoretical Aramaic reconstruction of John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was I-am-who-I-am (ehyeh asher ehyeh).”

The problem with such a construction is immediately obvious. If Jesus had said what the Aramaic reconstruction wants Jesus to have said then John in translating it would have been obliged to translate Jesus’ words according to the Greek of the Greek OT familiar his readers:

1st C. Greek of Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I am (ego eimi) THE BEING (ho on): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, THE BEING (ho on) hath sent me unto you.

Theoretical Greek translation from Aramaic reconstruction of John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am the Being (ego eimi ho On).” [for example only, no Greek manuscript of John has these extra words]

We’re now going round in circles. This Aramaic ‘reconstruction’ of what Jesus “might have said” leads to then reconstructing the Greek of Exodus 3:14, against all the manuscript evidence and early Jewish and Christian quotation, and then finally requires the ‘reconstruction’ of John 8:58 itself. In conclusion this entire ‘Aramaic original’ theory only serves to demonstrate that John 8:58 doesn’t quote, or even allude to, Exodus 3:14. Further confirmation of this is that the Peshitta (the ancient Christian Aramaic translation of the Greek using a language similar to that spoken by Christ) translates Exodus 3:14 according to the Hebrew original, and John 8:58 according to John’s Greek original, with no connection between the two verses.


Jewish use of ‘the Being’ (Greek: ‘ho On’) for Yahweh

The above paragraphs – dealing with modern 1953 Hebrew NT and theoretical Aramaic ‘reconstructions’ – are something of a red herring, since the only inspired version we have of John 8:58 is in Greek. So we have to repeat the comparison in Greek, using the Old Testament in use among Jews, and later adopted as the OT of the early church. As we saw above, and as with Hebrew of Ex.3:14, it’s not a match to John 8:58.

According to the Greek OT in use by Jews, and later the early church, the actual name of God in Ex.3:14 is shown to be “the being”, “the one who is”, “the existing-one” (ho on, in Greek letters ὁ ὤν), not “I am” (ego eimi). This understanding of Exodus 3:14 is the same as found in the works of the 1st Century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria.

And God said, “At first say unto them, ‘I am (ego eimi) THE BEING,'(ho on, nominative of ontos) that, when they have learnt that there is a difference between THE BEING (ontos, genitive of ho on) and that-that-is-not (me ontos), they may be further taught that there is no name whatever that can properly be assigned to Me (ep’ emou kuriologeitai), to whom (oi) only (monoi) belongs (prosesti) the existence (to einai). (Philo Life Of Moses Vol.1 :75)

That is Philo’s first usage, here is how F.H. Colson (Philo Judaeus, Complete Works Vol. VI, Loeb Classics, Harvard 1941) translates Philo’s references to God as “the being” (ho on)

* ho On, “He who is” (Philo, Life of Moses I 75)
* to On, “the Being who is” (Philo, Life of Moses II 67),
* tou Ontos, “of Him that is” (II 99)
* tou Ontos, “of the Self-Existent” (II 132)
* to On, “the Self-Existent” (II 161)

On and ontos are the same word, the present participle of “to be” — the different endings are due to case declension; the nominative form is on, wheras ontos is the genitive form (the ‘of’ form, “of-the-one-who-is”).

Philo’s evidence is interesting because he sits at the crossroads of the Jewish Bible and Greek philosophy. In following the Greek Old Testament use of “He who is” (ho on) in Ex3:14, he also creates a dialogue with Greek philosophers (such as Melissus of Samos 400BC) who consider existence in terms of ‘concerning existence’ (peri tou ontos). This is where the English word ontology, study of existence, study of being, comes from. Taking their cue from Ex3:14 (ho on), possibly also from Philo or other Hellenistic Jewish sources, and from Greek philosophers, there are also many Patristic references to ‘He WHO IS (ho on) and ‘concerning he/that which is’ (peri tou ontos) in early Christianity, 3rd 4th 5th C.

But the most important evidence against Jesus’ “I am” in John 8:58 being a claim to be Yahweh is found in Revelation where John follows Septuagint use of “He who is” (ho on) to describe God.

Rev 1:4  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, who IS (ho on), and who WAS (ho en), and who IS TO COME (ho erchomenos), the Almighty (ho pantokrator).

or again, a second time, identical in Rev 1:8 but the English below emphasizing the form of the Greek.

Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, HE-WHO-IS (ho on), and HE-WHO-WAS (ho en), and WHO IS TO COME (ho erchomenos), the Almighty (ho pantokrator).

and a third time, back to a smoother English translation:

Rev 4:8 holy, Lord God Almighty, who was (ho en), and IS (ho on), and is to come (ho erchomenos).

Note also the opposite : Rev 17:8 the beast.. which was (o ti en) and is not (ouk estin) but will be (estin).


Conclusion to the first question

The examples from Greek texts above should illustrate that no only is there no evidence to say that Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh, there is also evidence to show that he was not. If Jesus had wished to claim this then he could have used the actual phrase as found in Septuagint, Philo and Revelation “I am He Who Is” (ego eimi ho On), but he did not.

So……. why did they attempt to stone Jesus?

It is often assumed that the Jews attempted to stone Jesus because he used the divine name YHWH, and that this was a stoning offence under rabbinical law during this period. But we have already seen above that “I am” in John 8:58 is not the divine name. If there is any doubt about this remaining, look at John 8:23-25

John 8:21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he (ego eimi) you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

So Jesus already in 8:24 used the exact same phrase as John 8:58 “I am” (ego eimi), without any angry reaction on the part of the Jews. This confirms that in 8:58 they attempted to stone him not for claiming to be God, for claiming to be “before” Abraham – that in itself was enough.

But what does that “before Abraham mean? This brings us to the second question:



2.  Did Jesus claim to exist before Abraham?

This second question can be divided into three points:

2-i. Why didn’t Jesus say “I was”?

The first point is that if Jesus had intended to claim to preexist Abraham then the last thing he should have said was “before Abraham was, I am”; he should have said “before Abraham was, I was” (Greek: ego en). This is itself shows that John 8:58 doesn’t mean what people want it to mean.

True there are a few translations which do render John 8:58 as “I was”. For example we have already seen one translation above, the Hebrew UBS NT which has rendered “I am” (Greek : ego eimi) in John 8:58 as “I was” (Hebrew : ani hayiyti) but the point is that such translations are not consistent:

original Greek text
John 8:24 “I am” (ego eimi)
John 8:58 “I am” (ego eimi)

UBS Hebrew NT translation
John 8:24 “I am” (ani hua)
John 8:58 “I was” (ani hayiyti)

New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
John 8:24 “unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
John 8:58 “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”

The above rendering “I was” is quite rare.

2-ii. “Born” or “become”?

The second point relates to what exactly the verb “Abraham becomes” is meant to mean. It is not the normal NT word for “born” (gennao), but instead the word meaning “become”, “take place”, “come to pass”, or “made” (ginomai). Why?

It is true that the word “become/made” (ginomai) can be used for contexts of birth, particularly in the Greek OT when translating Hebrew  “begot a son”:

Genesis 21:5 LXX Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac his son was born (egeneto autoi, literally “became to him [a son]”)

But more normally if the word used is “made” (ginomai) the emphasis is on how someone is born. For example the Greek dramatist Aeschylus records the citizens of Thebes calling to the goddess Aphrodite claiming that they were “made” from her blood.  But there is no specific reference to “born”, the Thebans are talking about their nature (or so they believed). Paul does the same regarding the birth of Christ:

And Aphrodite, you who are the first mother of our race, defend us who are made (ginomai) from your blood. We come to you, crying out in prayers for your divine ears. (Aeschylus, Seven against Thebes 140)

Gal.4:4 made (ginomai) of a woman, made (became, ginomai) under the law.

Rom.1:3 made (ginomai) of the seed of David

1Co15:45 the first Adam was made (ginomai) a living soul.

A more common use is with ages. Xenophon records the Persian prince Cyrus “becoming” (ginomai) fifteen or sixteen years old:

But when Cyrus becoming (ginomai) about fifteen or sixteen years old, the son of the Assyrian king, on the eve of his marriage, desired in person to get the game for that occasion. (Xenophon Education of Cyrus, 1:4:16)

The point is that the phrase “Abraham becomes” does not have to mean “Abraham was born”. In fact it is difficult to find any parallel for “he becomes” meaning “he was born” in the NT:

Matt 1:16 Of whom was born (gennao, not ginomai) Jesus.

John 9:32 He was born (gennao, not ginomai) blind.

Acts 2:8 In our own language in which we were born (gennao, not ginomai).

Rom.9:11 the children being not yet born (gennao, not ginomai)


2-iii. “Before something in the past” or “before something in the future”

The third point is that the preposition “before” (prin) does not in itself indicate the time of the following action. Whether the action which happens “before” is future, present or past is determined by the following verb. In the following examples the verb in bold decides the tense of the main clause, what comes next is after:

Mark 14:30 before (prin) the cock crows (fonesai – aorist active middle deponent) twice, you will betray me three times
= first “you will betray me three times “, then afterwards the cock [will] crow

John 4:49 before (prin) my son die (apothanein – second aorist active middle or passive deponent)
= first come [to prevent that] then afterwards my son [will] die.

John 14:29 before (prin) it comes to pass (genesthai – second aorist middle deponent middle or passive deponent), I have told you.
= first “I have told you,” then afterwards it [will] come to pass.
here the preposition and verb ὑμῖν πριν γενέσθαι ἵνα ὅταν are exactly the same as our subject here John 8:58

Acts 2:20 before (prin) comes (elthein – second aorist active middle or passive deponent) that great and glorious day
= first the sun shall be turned to darkness, then afterwards [will] come the great and glorious day.

Acts 7:2 before (prin) Abraham resides (katoikesai – aorist active middle or passive deponent) in Haran.
= first God appeared to Abraham, then afterwards Abraham resides in Haran

This is strange to us since in English we expect the verb with “before” to also carry a tense. But in Greek under normal circumstances it is the main verb (the I was/am/will be, etc.) which indicates how the verb in the “before-” clause should be translated. Greek leaves blanks __ for English to fill in:

  • before (prin) this comes to pass (genesthai, no tense indicated), I went.
    = English ‘before this happen__ (English must add [-ed] to show past), I went (past)’
  • before (prin) this comes to pass (genesthai, no tense indicated), I go.
    = English ‘before this happen_ (English must add [-s]  to show present), I go (present)’
  • before (prin) this comes to pass (genesthai, no tense indicated), I will go.
    = English ‘before this ____ happen (English must add [will -] to show future), I will go (future)’

It can be seen from the below that “before it comes to pass” (John 14:29) and “before Abraham comes to pass” (John 8:58) are identical in Greek. It is only the context which tells us that the things which “will come to pass” in John 14:29 must be future, whereas “Abraham becomes” in John 8:58 we’d expect to be past – certainly if Jesus had said “I was”. But he did not do so:

John 8:58 before (prin) Abraham comes to pass (genesthai – second aorist middle deponent middle or passive deponent), I am.
= first I am [present], then afterwards Abraham [will] become.

That doesn’t make sense to us. It is not a translation problem, but a logic problem. How is it possible that Jesus could say first (speaking of AD30) and then afterwards Abraham (2000 BC)?But what if our assumptions about what is future and what are past are wrong? Then any argument from these “before” constructions is circular reading. What’s more we know also that the whole view of the New Testament requires putting many things in the New “before” the things in the Old. The NT demands a time adjustment of how we view God’s plan.

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring first the last things, before (prin) they come to pass (genesthai)

Isaiah 46:10 ἀναγγέλλων πρότερον τα ἔσχατα,  πριν αὐτα γενέσθαι …

In Isaiah 46:10 LXX we have the same verb syntax as John 8:58 and John 14:29, and here (as in John 14:29) it is clearly grammatical nonsense to say that Isaiah means “declaring (present) first the last things, before they already came to pass (English past tense)”, so why is it so certain that “before Abraham becomes, I am” must be read “before Abraham became (past tense), I am”.  Before Abraham became what? The more natural reading of “before becomes, I am” would be “before Abraham is to become (future tense), I am”. It is not grammar which forces our reading, but knowledge of linear time – that Abraham was Christ’s ancestor.

In fact Christ has already explained the context in v.56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” The seeing was in the past. But when was Christ’s day? Clearly it is future to Abraham: firstly 27-30AD, when Christ was preaching, culminating in his sacrifice, resurrection and ascension, but also secondly the “day” of Christ relates to the other “day of the Lord” verses in Christ’s teaching and elsewhere in the New and Old Testaments — the day when Christ will raise Abraham from the dead and Abraham will see Christ.

Luke 17:22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.

So the “before” here is actually correct, because Christ’s resurrection is before the “day” when Abraham will be raised (Heb11:13,39) and eat with Christ in the kingdom (Matt.8:11). There’s a contradiction in the “before” for Christians who believe that Abraham went to heaven at death, so was “before” Christ, but there’s no contradiction if Abraham is still asleep waiting the resurrection.

This is an example of where two wrong ideas (Abraham going to heaven + Jesus existing before Abraham was born) work together to compound a problem. But it’s also an example of where fixing one wrong idea (Abraham didn’t go to heaven according to Heb11:13,39) helps fix the other wrong idea (not “before Abraham became I was,” but “before Abraham becomes I am,” since Abraham hasn’t been raised yet).

That is still only half of the story however. Jesus says “before Abraham became (genesthai) I am”, this is not a reference to the future Abraham but Christ being (now) before the Old Testament Abraham “was”. Which requires moving on from John 8:58 to deal with a more difficult verse:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

However, before going there, remember — as far as John 8:58, the context above already demonstrates that Jesus could have said “before Abraham was, I was“, if that’s what he wanted to claim, but he didn’t.



Side note – the influence of the Latin Vulgate

English (and other) Bible translations naturally are heavily influenced by the long stream of translations going before them. In the case of John 8:58, the enormously influential predecessor is the Latin Vulgate which reads:

Isaiah 46:10 Annuntians ab exordio novissimum, et ab initio quæ necdum facta sunt, dicens : Consilium meum stabit, et omnis voluntas mea fiet.
John 8:58
dixit eis Iesus amen amen dico vobis antequam Abraham fieret ego sum
John 14:29 et nunc dixi vobis priusquam fiat ut cum factum fuerit credatis


Conclusions to question 2, the “before… I am” problem.

The main conclusion we can reach is that the sentence simply does not make sense by any conventional reasoning about time. From the view of the doctrine of the Trinity, it makes no sense that Jesus should say “before Abraham.. I am” when he should say “before Abraham.. I was”. From the view of Jews it also does not make sense that Jesus could in any sense say “before Abraham becomes/is made, I am” – even in terms of Jewish belief in resurrection this is an affront to Jewish belief about Abraham.

So two explanations are offered here:

2 – explanation A:
It can be argued that the “become” is simply an ellipsis for “be raised” – “before Abraham will be [raised] I am. The problem with this is that if Jesus had wanted to say, “before Abraham will live again” or “before Abraham is raised” then he could have done so. Grammatically it would require only substituting “live again” or “be raised” for the verb “become”. Which tends to support the alternative explanation:

2 – explanation B:
The other explanation relates to the perspective of God in having made all things in the old creation for Christ, and all things in the new creation through Christ.

What is happening in John 8:56-59 is about establishing Jesus’ rights as firstborn over Abraham and the patriarchs.

John 8:58 Before Abraham becomes, I exist.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one (including even Abraham) comes to the Father except through me.

Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

So this is the day that Abraham rejoiced to see, but which we have seen and Abraham has not yet. Hence Jesus is before Abraham. Not that Jesus “was” before Abraham became, but Jesus “is” before Abraham becomes.

32 Replies to “What did Jesus mean when he said “before Abraham was, I am”?”

  1. Hi,
    My understanding is for the simple:
    Before Abraham was, ‘I [am existing]’
    Before Abraham was, ‘I [have existed]’
    Before Abraham was, ‘I [have been existing]’
    Before Abraham was, ‘I [was and still am, in existence]’

    (Hence they took up stone to throw at him [believing him to be a madman?!] – “You are not yet 50 years old”!)

    All the same, it certainly does not mean “I am God” and how would that be contextual:
    “Before Abraham was, God”?
    “Before Abraham was, YHWH”?

    “Who is it you seek?”
    “Jesus of Nazareth”
    “I am [he]” / “YHWH” / “God”???

    [So they fell backwards … then arrested, abused, assaulted him and finally, killed him???]

  2. Hello

    Can you clarify? How many translations have gone for a future sense for John 8:58, “come to pass”?

    Can you explain how resurrection is part of the discourse leading up to John 8:58?

    Can you explain why the main verbs in Isa 46:10 and John 14:29 (which I agree require ‘come to pass’) are analogous to ‘I am’, thereby requiring a ‘come to pass’ in John 8:58.

    “O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:1-2
    “But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant, and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise”?’” Matthew 21:15-16

  4. Wow!, I congratulate you on such a masterful attempt at answering 2 simple questions. Here’s my take:
    1. Did Jesus claim to be God, Yahweh?
    Here are just a few other references;
    Joh 10:30 I and the Father are one.”
    Joh 12:45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
    Tit 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
    It is clear the Jews knew very well Jesus was claiming equality with God. Wasn’t that just one of the reasons they wanted Him dead?
    Re 2. Did Jesus claim to exist before Abraham?
    Clearly, Yes. When Jesus said He had seen Abraham (The Jews therefore said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old and have You seen Abraham?’), it only follows that He claimed He existed before Abraham. In fact, He existed before anyone, and, in the Trinity, before creation itself.

  5. The Jews were Jesus’ enemies, and did not truly understand his mission. Therefore I think reasoning from what they said about him is fairly suspect. Jesus then did not always try to correct them (particularly in John).

    To answer point 2 first, you are taking what the Jews said, rather than what Jesus said. What Jesus said was that Abraham saw Jesus’ time and rejoiced, not that Jesus saw Abraham.

    To answer the first point, yes, all of these verses certainly seem to be saying that Jesus and God are one and the same (and there are other verses which can also seem on the surface to support this). However, the question is whether this interpretation fits with the rest of scripture or not.

    John 10:30: Jesus and the Father are clearly one. The question is in what way they are one. Whatever way it is, Jesus prays that his disciples will be one in the same way (John 17:20). I think that prayer makes it clear that the oneness is to do with unity and working together, probably showing a oneness in intent in purpose. It certainly doesn’t seem to be suggesting a oneness in substance.
    Even in the John 10 passage, v31 – 38 continues on to comment on what he actually means. Here again the Jews think he is making himself God, but he quotes from the Law and says that all he is claiming is to be the Son of God (which he was), not that he was claiming to be God.

    John 12:45 speaks of seeing the one who sent Christ. However, it also makes it clear that rather than Christ being equal and the same as the one who sent him, he was actually subject to him (v49 – 50). Christ spoke not on his own authority, but spoke exactly what he was told by the Father who sent him. John 5:19 – 20 elaborates on this concept. The reason Jesus was one in purpose with God and the reason that people seeing him could see God in him was because he was consciously choosing to resign his own will and to imitate his Father exactly. This example is an example we need to learn from.

    Titus 2:13 can also be read as “our great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” referring to two persons, not one. I am aware of the reasons why this reading has fallen out of linguistic favour, but if (as we believe) the balance of scriptures suggest that God and Christ are separate beings and that Christ was not Yahweh, the reading should be reconsidered.

  6. Why didn’t Jesus say before Abraham was, “I was”?
    Because it wouldn’t make any sense. Christ was not bound by the limitations of space and time, and the things of this world. I AM is the universal Truth. Doesn’t matter who says it, Jesus, Henry the 8th, or Popeye the Sailor Man. I AM is all that’s required to be said.

  7. So when the blind man said “I am the man” (John 9:9) what did that mean? I AM was really all that needed to be said?

  8. Was he not just responding to the neighbors that were questioning whether he was the blind man they knew before? “I am the man” meaning yes, I am the man that was blind? I guess he could have responded with the I AM, but he never.

    Thanks for pointing out this verse by the way. It’s truly inspiring to read about the miracles of Christ, and what can be accomplished when one lives by the Grace of God.

  9. As this answer illustrates, it is just not as simple as saying “I am” = Yahweh. It’s not all that is required to be said. I don’t see that it’s as simple as “I AM” means something specially significant and different from “I AM the man” (which seems to be fairly ordinary language).

  10. “I AM” is very significant as Jesus says it in John 8:58 . It points to the truth. It reminds us that the Soul is everlasting, preceding the first man, and transcending the last. I AM is about the inner. I am this or that, or “I was” is about the outer. I am this or that are self-identifications, and ultimately false.

  11. I’m not sure that is supported by scripture. I certainly can’t think of any verses that say this explicitly. Do you have any particular passages in mind? (not examples where people said “I am”, but places where it was said what that actually means)

  12. Dear In Christ
    A believer in Christ, as wellas who can have rationalism about christian thought and bible knowledge clearly can feel good of divinity of jesus by encrypting the clear thought of JESUS in verse John 8:56, where in he he clearly denotes that he came from above ,as he emphasized frequently in the gospels.
    jedson ravela

  13. The question before Abraham I was —This could be relating to Melchizedek who spoke of bread and wine was this JESUS if so he was with Abraham.

    GOD bless


  14. Good question with a wonderful answer from the Almighy- God Himself in Exodus 3:14 -“I AM THAT I AM”. “I Am” means an eternal presence, He knows the past present and future and for all today, He gives us the opportunity to exercise faith and trust in the great I AM. Jesus was referring to the time with Moses, to provide light (insight) to the Children of Israel. Jesus is the great “I AM” for us today, the light has been streaming from the cross of Calvary the risen Saviour Jesus Christ and all His followers through the Holy Spirit working in our lives. God Bless, Col

  15. I AM translated into English would be God’s personal name. I effect Jesus was saying that He is God. The people standing around also understood that this is what He meant. That’s why they wanted to kill Him.

  16. Christ never claimed to be God, infact he said his father was greater than he was. Making him a secondary person in Heaven. And Christ did not come from a vacuum but existed in Heaven before coming down to earth. He speaks of going before Moses as a pillar of fire in the desert and we know that was the angel Michael. In the Book of Revelation he returns with the voice of the “Archangel” and we know also that Michael is the only KNOWN archangel in existance. He’s also spoken of in the O.T. as the “pearl of wisdom.”

  17. And yet, no one else in all of Scripture ever claimed to be the I AM. Only God ever said it to Moses and the Hebrews. So if it is just “I was” then we have to apply the same principle for interpreting the Scripture for God. He was just saying “I was”as well? I don’t buy it. The Godhead Was, Is and Is to Come. Period. Why would they want to pick up stones and kill him for it? All for saying I was? Man. that would be a tough crowd.

  18. To almost 7000 times – May I please ask how you know that the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire was Michael? I certainly do not recall any mention of the pillars being of anything else but the Lord (Exodus 13:21). And I find your implication that Jesus was Michael to be rather curious. Logic goes as thus – if Jesus was the Son of God and an angel then all angels are the Sons of God. Yet Jesus was the ONLY one to claim to be the son…

    Before Abraham, I am. Why is this so difficult to understand? In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. If we believe that God is eternal and outside of time and God created time itself, then surely God would describe himself in ever present tense? There is no illogic in this – He just IS.

    Jesus was not hesitant about affronting the Jews. The whole point was that they had lost the heart of the Law and only held on to the legality.

  19. Also Not only does it say with the voice of the an arch angel you failed to include the rest it also says with the trumpet of god, so if we use the same logic we would could say anything about that verse. God said he never will call any of his angels SON so also if this was true through the bible we would see things that would point to this truth of him being an angel which is what some cult religions believe depicting jesus with a halo. It would be much easier for someone reading the bible for the first time to conclude that the nature of jesus is god than that he his is an angel.

    This teaching is something Jehovahs Witnesses teach they call it scriptual truth!

  20. I would translate the passage as:

    *I* am *before* Abraham’s birth!”

    The emphases in the Greek are as I indicated.

    The “am” is clearly present tense; “is born” then must be future.

    Look at the context. It is about Abraham’s birthday versus Jesus’ birthday. Note that Abraham looked forward to Jesus’ birthday; And Abraham saw his birthday and celebrated it:

    Joh 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my [birth]day: and he saw it [my birthday], and was glad [celebrated].
    Joh 8:57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

    So the question posed when Jesus says that Abe saw his birthday is essentially, “but Abraham died way longer than 50 years ago!” Jesus responds that Abes birth is still future… Jesus has arrived *before* Abraham’s birth!

    Of course, he must be speaking of his resurrection. But they didn’t like his answer and picked up rocks. For further information, see “The Life of Brian.”

  21. This is all very interesting. So many translations that no one knows for sure who Jesus was or is! The devil has us right where he wants us. So, do you interpret the Bible from Hebrew or Greek to make the right translation? With half of my family Jehovah’s Witnesses, and myself non- denominational, who translated the Bible correctly?? Anyone? I don’t buy that Jesus was an angel. If I read the NKJV I read that Jesus was God in the flesh, John1:1-14. That he served God the Father. And that he claimed to be God in John 8:58. But, this is from Greek. Should it be Hebrew ? If translations make such an impact, why isn’t it translated from one language?

    • There are a few different concepts confused here:
      1. Original text (in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic).
      2. Translation of original text into English.
      3. Interpretation of the text.

      As far as the original text goes, the reason that they are in different languages was because they were written at different times for different audiences. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew because it was for the people of Israel, who spoke Hebrew. It was later translated in Greek to be used in Egypt and elsewhere in the world, and the translation into Greek is used when quoting the Old Testament in at least some parts of the New Testament. Generally there are not major differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament. The Greek. In the same way, the New Testament was written in Greek so that the message could reach through the Roman empire, which used Greek as a common language (particularly in the East). So the reason for not translating it all from one language is that it was not all originally written in one language.

      The next strand is translation. While there are are many translations into English, appealing to different audiences and translated at different times, they will all by and large agree on the core message of the passage they are translating, and the message of the Bible can come from them all (though it may be harder to find in some than in others).

      The final strand is interpretation, and here there is much more variety than in the other two strands. I think a lot of the reason for this is that, while the original text and translation largely deal with an individual section by itself (to try and find the most likely reading of it), interpretation has to consider how the text fits into the larger message of scripture. Interpretation can also be affected by both what you already think is in the text and what you would like to find in the text (translation can be affected by this too, but there is usually much less scope for it).

      As can be seen from the answer above, we believe that John 8:58 is not a claim by Jesus that he was God, and translations do not say it. That is interpretation. Similarly, John 1:1 – 14 does not say that Jesus was God in the flesh, but that he was the word made flesh. Adding anything to that is interpretation, and we would interpret the phrase as saying that Jesus fulfilled God’s word (see for more details).

  22. This is in response to Jonathan Morgan who said….

    “Similarly, John 1:1 – 14 does not say that Jesus was God in the flesh, but that he was the word made flesh. Adding anything to that is interpretation, and we would interpret the phrase as saying that Jesus fulfilled God’s word (see for more details).”……

    This is not correct because the Holy Bible say this about the Word being GOD and this in no interpretation only scripture based…..

    John 1″In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GOD.”

    So then Jesus being the Word (and the Word was GOD) that was made flesh and…..

    John 1:3 says “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    It is no different now than 2000 +/- years ago that this verse can apply….

    John 1:10 ” 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

    Praise Jesus He reveals himself to His children of Light. There are those who still sit in darkness who are stagnent in half truth. “Almighty Lord remove the scabs from their hearts and minds and reveal YOUR truth to them i pray! Amen.”

    John 1:5″And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

    Matthew 18:3″And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”


    • I don’t see that anything in this comment negates my point, which is that while it says the word was God, it does not say that Jesus was the word, just that he was the word made flesh.

  23. Presumably we can’t know exactly what Jesus said (or ‘meant’) in the passages here, since he didn’t originally say them in Greek! The gospel accounts are in Greek and are thus already a translation of what he actually said even before we get round to translating them into English or any other language. This is a problem because you are assuming the gospels ate giving a direct quote and you base your argument upon this, but we have no evidence of the specific words Jesus actually used…

    • While I would agree that it’s possible to try and read too much into individual words (in either Greek or English or whatever translation), if we cannot rely on the Greek text we have what can we rely on?

  24. Hello Matthew Joseph, since you like to quote from John so much what do you think of these verses? Read them carefully.
    John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
    John 5:30
    By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

    From these 2 verses u can c that Jesus is only saying and doing what God tells him to do, therefore he spoke the “Word of God” or what God told him to say. If you still think Jesus is God I guess you would understand the ending of John 5:30 as “…I (God) seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

  25. The question is, when Jesus said, “before Abraham was born, “I AM”; was he claiming to be the Great I Am of the Old testament?  This verse, John 8:58, is the end of Jesus sermon that began in verse 12 of John chapter 8. If we read this whole sermon beginning with verse 12, we would get a much clearer picture what is being said here.   Jesus first claimed, “I am, the light of the world.” Then in verse 25 the Jews ask Jesus, “Who are you?” Jesus answer, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning? The sermon begins in verse 12 of John 8. He says, “I am the light of the world.  Therefore that’s their answer to their question. Is Jesus their One God?  Let’s look to what the Jews said to Jesus and what Jesus said to the Jews in this sermon. In John 8 verse 41 the Jews said, “we have one Father God.” Then Jesus answered and said, “If God were your Father, you would love me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God.”  He claimed he came from God. Verse 53 the Jews ask again, “Whom do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answer. “It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, He is our God.”  Jesus claimed God is his Father and His Father is their God. Therefore he’s claiming to be God’s only SON! That’s why they want to stone him. Read John 5:17-18.  and John 19:7. When Jesus said, “before Abraham was born I Am; He’s finishing his sermon with what he claim to be in the beginning of his sermon. “I am         the light of the world.”           Al Krieger                                                            

  26. Hi,
    It seems to me that the answer Jesus gave was relating to the question that the Jews asked of him: ‘Are you greater than our father, Abraham?’.
    Jesus’ answer is ‘Truly Truly, I am BEFORE Abraham.’
    Remember John the Baptist’s words: ‘He that comes AFTER me is preferred (Greater) because He was BEFORE me.’
    Jesus was ‘Foreknown’ before John the Baptist’.
    Jesus was ‘Foreknown’ before Abraham.
    The Jews took up stones to stone him for claiming that He (Jesus) was greater than Abraham.

  27. Compare this with John 1.. what does this say? The word was with god and the word was God… and the word became flesh. Have you ever looked at it this way. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… The it it says Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: Well what image ? I think so many try to either totally combine or separate here. Was there three Gods or one. I believe what is shown is He is a multifaceted being far more complex than we know or can understand. Are we not a three part being? But God can display Himself in a form we do not understand. What about the seven fold spirit of God. Jesus was the word and the truth and light. Do you know and I’m not quite adept on this or how it works they are finding light and sound possible interchangeable. They have converted sound waves to light radiation. Watched a scientist trying to explain some of this and it occurred to me that by the Word all things were created. And the statement the light pierced the darkness and the darkness understood it not. So when we try to simplify the words from either the old testament and new we only have our finite understanding for most the time we do not lean on God for His understanding. So when Jesus said I and the Father are one and if you have seen me you have seen the Father is way more complex than to merely state this is the Greek this is the Hebrew and this is the Aramaic. And when He says But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 1Cor 2:9 I believe Him.