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I AM What I AM”: A Bible Commentary

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We will put our expla­na­tion regard­ing the main issue (I AM) in steps so that it shall be eas­i­ly fol­lowed by those unfa­mil­iar with issues involved.

The focus of the paper is to exam­ine whether the use of the word I am” in John 8:58 has some­thing to do with I AM” in Exo­dus 3:14. We will give the com­plete vers­es of John 8:58 and Exo­dus 3:14 lat­er on in this paper.

A) First, we would like to intro­duce to the read­er the Sep­tu­agint, which shall be the main ref­er­ence in this dis­cus­sion oth­er than the Bible itself. Let us delve into the expla­na­tion about the Sep­tu­agint : The word Sep­tu­agint” is tak­en from the Latin word sep­tu­ag­in­ta which means 70”. There­fore, this book is also known as LXX”, which sim­ply means 70”. We wish to refer to The Hutchin­son Edu­ca­tion­al Ency­clo­pe­dia (HEE) about the Septuagint :

Sep­tu­agint n. a Greek ver­sion of the Old Tes­ta­ment includ­ing the Apoc­rypha (c.3rd cent. Before Christ), so called because, accord­ing to tra­di­tion, about 70 per­sons were employed on the trans­la­tion. [Latin : sep­tu­ag­in­ta 70]

Note 1 : The read­er may also refer to any oth­er ency­clo­pe­dia as well as any oth­er Bible dic­tio­nary under the same top­ic, which is Sep­tu­agint”.

From the cita­tion above, we can con­clude that)

    1. Sep­tu­agint is a Greek ver­sion of the Old Tes)ament.
    2. It (Sep­tu­agint) has already exist­ed three cen­turies before Christ was born, and there­fore it is authentic.

The ques­tion aris­es, why are we focus­ing our atten­tion on the LXX in our discussion ?

The answer is because it would make it eas­i­er for us to com­pare the orig­i­nal phrase of the rel­e­vant vers­es (like John 8:58 and Exo­dus 3:14) in Greek, since both the New Tes­ta­ment and LXX (Sep­tu­agint) were writ­ten in Greek.

B) In this sec­tion, we will make a com­par­i­son between the Greek phrase which was used in John 8:58 and Exo­dus 3:14.

John 8:58 :

Figure 1
Fig­ure 1 

Jesus said unto them, Ver­i­ly, ver­i­ly, I say unto you, Before Abra­ham was, I am.”

Translit­er­a­tion : Eipen autois Ieesous, ameen ameen legoo humin, prin Abraam gen­esthai egoo eimi.

Note 2 : In Fig­ure 1 the orig­i­nal Greek word for I AM” in John 8:58 is egoo eimi’ or in Greek egw eimi’. You can refer this to any of the Greek NT such as The New Tes­ta­ment in the Orig­i­nal Greek by B. F. West­cott and F. J. A. Hort (1881) or from any inter­lin­ear Greek/​English translation.

Exo­dus 3:14 :

Figure 2
Fig­ure 2 (refer to Note 4 below) 

    And God said unto Moses, I AM THATAM : and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the chil­dren of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
    Translit­er­a­tion : Kai eipen ho Theos pros Moouseen Egoo Eimi Ho Oon kai eipen out­oos ereis tois uiois Israeel Ho Oon apestalken me pros umas 

Note 3 : Please refer to the high­light­ed words in the Fig­ure 2 above, we have marked A’ for egoo eimi ho oon’ (egw eimi o wn ) , while B’ is for ho oon’ (o wn). 

Analy­sis of B’ Mark 

LXX (the last part of Exo­dus 3:14):

|ho oon = o wn| I AM
|apestalken = apestalken| hath sent me
|met­ros umas = me proV umaV| unto you.

Com­pare this with John 8:58 :

John 8:58 :

|prin = prin| before
|Abraam = Abraam| Abraham
|genethai = genesQai| was (or came into being’)
|egoo eimi = egw eimi| I AM.

Obser­va­tion :

It is clear that the Greek word that has been used by LXX for I AM” in I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exo­dus 3:14) is ho oon’ and not egoo eimi’ as in John 8:58. So they are two dif­fer­ent words and have two dif­fer­ent mean­ings, and thus there is no con­nec­tion between Exo­dus 3:14 and John 8:58.

I Am What I Am’ or I Am The Being’? 

Exo­dus 3:14 (LXX) uses egw eimi o wn (egoo eimi ho oon) which means I AM THE BEING”, or, I AM THE EXISTING ONE”. The Greek word oon’ (wn) is trans­lat­ed sev­er­al times in the New Tes­ta­ment as being’, we refer to :

Luke 3:23 :

And Jesus him­self, when he began to teach, was about thir­ty years of age, being (wn) the son.….

John 7:50 :

Nicode­mus saith unto them (he that came to him before, being (wn) one of them)

John 10:33 :

…and because that thou, being (wn) a man, mak­est thy­self God. 

So egw eimi o wn (egoo eimi ho oon) should be trans­lat­ed as I am the being”, and not I am what I am”. This attempt (evi­dence of divin­i­ty of Jesus Christ) can­not be sus­tained because the expres­sion in Exo­dus 3:14 is dif­fer­ent from the expres­sion used in John 8:58. This is anoth­er proof that through­out the Chris­t­ian Greek scrip­tures, God and Jesus(P) are nev­er iden­ti­fied as being the same person.

Note 4 : The Sep­tu­ag­in­ta that we have used is from A. Rahlfs (Stuttgart : W?rttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935 ; repr. in 9th ed., 1971), alter­na­tive­ly the read­er can get it from http://​www​.bluelet​ter​bible​.org

C) From the above con­clu­sion, we know that the expres­sion at John 8:58 is quite dif­fer­ent from the one used in Exo­dus 3:14. That is why the var­i­ous trans­la­tors of the New Tes­ta­ment had trans­lat­ed John 8:58 into many ways and had not stick to mere­ly trans­lat­ing it into AM”:

    1869 : From before Abra­ham was, I have been.” The New Tes­ta­ment, by G. R. Noyes.

    1935 : I exist­ed before Abra­ham was born!” The Com­plete Bible : An Amer­i­can Trans­la­tion, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed.

    1965 : Before Abra­ham was born, I was already the one that I am.” Das Neue Tes­ta­ment, by J?rg Zink.

    1981 : I was alive before Abra­ham was born!” The Sim­ple Eng­lish Bible.

    1984 : Before Abra­ham came into exis­tence, I have been.” New World Trans­la­tion of the Holy Scrip­tures.

    1999 : The truth is, I exist­ed before Abra­ham was even born!” New Liv­ing Trans­la­tion by Tyn­dale House Pub­lish­ers, Inc.

This is the same with trans­la­tions from the ancient New Tes­ta­ment manuscripts :

Fourth/​Fifth Cen­tu­ry (Syr­i­ac-Edi­tion): ?Before Abra­ham was born, I have been.” A Trans­la­tion of the Four Gospels From the Syr­i­ac of the Sinaitic Palimpsest, by Agnes Smith Lewis, Lon­don, 1894.

Fifth Cen­tu­ry (Cure­ton­ian Syr­i­ac-Edi­tion): ?Before ever Abra­ham come to be, I was.” The Cure­ton­ian Ver­sion of the Four Gospels, by F. Craw­ford Burkitt, Vol. 1, Cam­bridge, Eng­land, 1904.

Fifth Cen­tu­ry (Syr­i­ac Peshit­ta-Edi­tion): ?Before Abra­ham exist­ed, I was.” The Syr­i­ac New Tes­ta­ment Trans­lat­ed Into Eng­lish From the Peshit­to Ver­sion, by James Mur­dock sev­enth ed., Boston and Lon­don, 1896.

Fifth Cen­tu­ry (Geor­gian-Edi­tion): ?Before ever Abra­ham come to be, I was.” The Old Geor­gian Ver­sion of the Gospel of John, by Robert P. Blake and Mau­rice Briere, pub­lished in Patrolo­gia Ori­en­tal­is, Vol. XXVI, fas­ci­cle 4, Paris, 1950.

Sixth Cen­tu­ry (Ethiopic-Edi­tion): ?Before Abra­ham was born, I was.” Novum Tes­ta­men­tum Aethiopice (The New Tes­ta­ment in Ethiopic), by Thomas Pell Platt, revised by F. Prae­to­rius, Leipzig, 1899.


The the­o­ry of divin­i­ty of Jesus through the word I AM” has not been sup­port­ed by con­vinc­ing evi­dence, so it can­not stand to the scruti­ny. Even many of the Gospels as well as the most ancient man­u­scripts did not use I AM” in John 8:58, and there­fore the word I AM” in John 8:58 can­not be used as a proof of divin­i­ty for Jesus, it is with­out foun­da­tion and a very shaky one at best.

More­over, exist­ing before exis­tence can­not make some­body to be God. The Bible tell us that not only Jesus was in exis­tence before his time, but also Jere­mi­ah as well :

God said : I knew you before I formed you in your moth­er’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and I appoint­ed you as my spokes­men to the world. (Jere­mi­ah 1:5)

So the verse Before Abra­ham was, I am” could not make some­one become God (includ­ing Jesus), oth­er­wise Jere­mi­ah was also God since he had exist­ed before God had formed him in his moth­er’s womb. As for the exis­tence of Jesus(P) before his birth, we should remem­ber that Jesus was anoint­ed by God even before he was born (John 17:24). Hence, he was called the Christ’ (Mes­si­ah).

We would like to ask the mis­sion­ary how they would explain this ensu­ing statement ?

Jesus said to Jews ; Your father Abra­ham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad. (John 8:56)

So, is Abra­ham(P) also God since he can see some­thing in the future or some­thing in advance ? Of course not, and the same goes for Jesus(P).

I AM .….”


"I AM What I AM": A Bible Commentary 26

On the use of the words I AM” by Jesus as in :

    I AM” the Way, the Truth and the Life
    I AM” the Door
    I AM” the Light of the World
    I AM” the Good Shepherd
    I AM” the Bread of Life
    I AM” the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life
    I AM” the True Vine
    I AM” the Alpha and Omega
    I AM” the Almighty God
    I AM” the First and the Last
    I AM” He who search­es the Minds and Hearts
    I AM” Com­ing Quickly
    I AM” the Root and Off­spring of David
    I AM” Giv­er of the Liv­ing Water 

or the read­er can refer to the mis­sion­ary argu­ment here.

Our Response

1st Point

We won­der why the mis­sion­ary had left out the fol­low­ing I AM” verse :

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lift­ed up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do noth­ing of myself ; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)

This verse says that Jesus(P) him­self could not do any­thing, so if he was God does it mean that God could not do anything ?

Let us analyse the Greek equiv­a­lent of the phrase used by Jesus(P) in the above verse :

Figure 3
Fig­ure 3 

We can see that the Greek word used by Jesus(P) in John 8:28 is also egw eimi’ or I am”. So again the use of I am” can­not prove that Jesus was God, oth­er­wise he was a weak God who had limitations.

2nd Point

If the mis­sion­ary still believes that the use of the phrase I am” makes Jesus God, they should also take David as God since David(P) was also using this I am”:

And David said to God, Was it not I who com­mand­ed the peo­ple to be num­bered ? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed ; but these sheep, what have they done ? Let Your hand, I pray, O LORD my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against Your peo­ple that they should be plagued. NKJV (1 Chron. 21:17)

So we see here that David(P) had also used the word I am”. To be sure, let us see in the LXX for the equiv­a­lent Greek word that he had used in 1 Chron. 21:17 :

"I AM What I AM": A Bible Commentary 27
Fig­ure 4 

Clear­ly, it is egw eimi” or I am”, so do these words make David God ? If the answer is no, what evi­dence can the mis­sion­ary show that makes Jesus God, sim­ply by using the phrase, I am”?

3rd Point

It is clear that say­ing I am” is not evi­dence that the per­son is God. When the Jews were doubt­ful about the iden­ti­ty of a par­tic­u­lar blind beg­gar who had been healed by Jesus, the blind beg­gar — who was no more blind, kept say­ing ; I am (he)” (John 9:9, KJV), please refer to Fig­ure 5 below :

Figure 5
Fig­ure 5 

Does I am” or Egw eimi” make the blind beg­gar God ? Of course not ! The same applies for Jesus(P).

It is inter­est­ing to note that the referred beg­gar, when ques­tioned about Jesus who had healed him, replied to Jews as follows :

And he said, He is a prophet”. (John 9:17)

This is no doubt in accor­dance with what Qur’?n has said :

Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apos­tle ; many were the Apos­tles that passed away before him…” (Qur’?n, 5:75)

In short, every­one at the time of Jesus knew that he was only a prophet and not God.

4th Point

Many Chris­tians have mis­un­der­stood about the say­ing I AM the Alpha and Omega” in the book of Rev­e­la­tion 1:8. They believe that these were the words of Jesus, when this is actu­al­ly not true, because it was said by the Lord God and not Jesus him­self. The New Amer­i­can Bible has proven this :

Figure 6
Fig­ure 6 

Fig­ure 6 is show­ing the pas­sage from the book of Rev­e­la­tion, verse 8. So Jesus(P) nev­er claimed to be the Alpha and Omega” at all, rather that was said by Lord God Him­self — please refer to the under­lined words in red in Fig­ure 6 above. Almost all the ver­sions have sup­port­ed this point, please refer to New Revised Stan­dard Ver­sion, The Ampli­fied Bible, The New Jerusalem Bible, New Inter­na­tion­al Ver­sion and New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Version.

The source of mis­un­der­stand­ing for this verse by Chris­tians is actu­al­ly due to the King James Ver­sion (KJV) which has wrong­ly trans­lat­ed the Greek words leg­ei kurios ho Theos” or in Greek leg­ei kuri­oV o QeoV”. The KJV only trans­lat­ed leg­ei kurios” or says the lord” and left out ho Theos” which means the God”, this can be eas­i­ly be under­stood by refer­ring to Fig­ure 7 below :

Figure 7
Fig­ure 7 (refer to Note 5 below)

So it is obvi­ous that the KJV had thrown out The God” and had only con­sid­ered says the Lord” or says the Mas­ter” that implies that it being Jesus, and this is incor­rect. Please be informed that the Greek word kurios” can be trans­lat­ed as either lord” or mas­ter”. So the cor­rect trans­la­tion for these Greek words is giv­en by the New Amer­i­can Bible as in Fig­ure 6 above.

Note 5 : The image in Fig­ure 7 is tak­en from Word Study Greek-Eng­lish New Tes­ta­ment” by Paul R. McReynolds, Tyn­dale House Pub­lish­ers, Inc. Wheaton, Illi­nois, 1998.

In short, we have giv­en the facts which is sup­port­ed by visu­al proofs to show that the words I am” can­not make Jesus(P) as God, and the idea does not stand to the scruti­ny, as the mis­sion­ar­ies would like us to believe. "I AM What I AM": A Bible Commentary 28Endmark

1 Comment

  1. Are you con­sid­er­ing that the Greek has indi­rect dis­course in the exo­dus exam­ple, that”, and direct dis­course in the john exam­ple ? In the john exam­ple, if jesus were to say i am that i am” instead, indi­rect dis­course would sim­i­lar­ly have to be used and the same pro­noun and par­tici­ple could stand in for ego eimi.

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