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John 8:56-59

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

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The irrefutable argument stated:

Jesus clearly describes his personal pre-existence before Abraham in the language of deity. The Jews wanted to stone Jesus for making such a claim. Since they believed both God and angels pre-existed Abraham, they only reasonable explanation why they would want to stone Jesus, was because he claiming to be eternal deity. Jesus could have merely stated He was an angel (exactly what Jehovah's Witnesses believe) and the Jews would not stone Him. The Jews accepted the pre-existence of angels that could take human form. The Jews understood that Jesus claim of pre-existence was not finite, as in angels, but eternal pre-existence, as in God. The contrast of the verbs in verse 58 could only describe eternal pre-existence. Jesus echoed the language of deity by using the predicateless "I AM" which is uniquely applied to God in Isaiah chapters 40-55 and Exodus 3:14, but few other places in the Old Testament.

The fact that Jehovah's Witnesses are so opposed to translating it "I am" is proof that they know, deep down in their hearts, that if Jesus really did say, "I am", that it is a claim of deity. This is why they try so desperately to break the connection between John 8:58 and Ex 3:14 and the "Isaiah passages" But the fact remains that "I am" is the correct rendering of these passages. The single most damaging fact against the JW's is that of the 28 times "I am" is used in John, the NWT only renders it "I have been" once in 8:58.

Finally, the unanimous opinion of the apostolic Fathers was that this was Jesus talking to Abraham, in Genesis 18. In this story, Abraham meets God and the two angels. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56) click here for detailed look at Gen 18.

Links in this document

Click to View John 8 is Jesus' second major defense of His Deity

Click to View Commentators that precisely express what the verse is saying

Click to View Important comments and observations

Click to View Word Study on I AM in the Bible

Click to View The circus of Watchtower grammatical flip flops

Click to View Anti-Trinitarian rebuttals

Jesus Echoes Jehovah!

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Another important Document: The reader who has seen an allusion to the exclusive claims of Yahweh [Isa 43:10] in John 8:24 and John 8:28 now knows that such a formulation [I AM] on Jesus' lips was no mistake [in John 8:58], for, by means of the very same words, he claims to have existed before Abraham and thus claims for himself not only the words of God but the very nature of the God who claimed 'I am he: before me no god was formed.' The Jews correctly interpret Jesus' words as an identification with the nature of God (cf. 10.33). They are, however, unwilling to accept that his witness is true. For this reason they pick up stones in order to kill Jesus. (David Mark Ball, 'I Am' in John's Gospel, p 197)

Click to View Separate research paper on how Jesus echoes the I AM's of Isaiah

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John 8 Is Jesus' second major defense of His Deity:

The listeners begin asking who Christ's human father was and end up calling him mad and try to stone him for claiming to be the eternal and timeless God.

John 8 Primarily Answers: Who are You? v25

DEITY

CHRIST'S

not greater than Abraham ...whom do You make Yourself out to be? v53

before Abraham was born, I am. v58

... Stones

TO

if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death v51

Now we know that You have a demon v52

STAIRS

God is my Father who sent Me v43

Which one of you convicts Me of sin? v46

You have a demon v48

THE

I am not of this world v23

Who are You? v25

When you lift me up, then you will know that I am v28

UP

where I am going, you cannot come v21

Surely He will not kill Himself v22

the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me v18

Where is Your Father? v19

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Ancient and Modern Commentators that precisely express what the verse is saying:

Ancient commentators: (before 400 AD)

Key Point!

The unanimous opinion of the apostolic Fathers was that this was Jesus talking to Abraham, in Genesis 18. In this story, Abraham meets God and the two angels. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56) click here for detailed look at Gen 18.

In what follows, some may imagine that he says something plausible against us. "If," says he, "these people worshipped one God alone, and no other, they would perhaps have some valid argument against the worship of others. But they pay excessive reverence to one who has but lately appeared among men, and they think it no offence against God if they worship also His servant." To this we reply, that if Celsus had known that saying," I and My Father are one," and the words used in prayer by the Son of God, "As Thou and I are one, he would not have supposed that we worship any other besides Him who is the Supreme God. "For," says He, "My Father is in Me, and I in Him." And if any should from these words be afraid of our going over to the side of those who deny that the Father and the Son are two persons, let him weigh that passage, "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul," that he may understand the meaning of the saying, "I and My Father are one." We worship one God, the Father and the Son, therefore, as we have explained; and our argument against the worship of other gods still continues valid. And we do not "reverence beyond measure one who has but lately appeared," as though He did not exist before; for we believe Himself when He says, "Before Abraham was, I am." Again He says, "I am the truth; " and surely none of us is so simple as to suppose that truth did not exist before the time when Christ appeared. We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son, "who is the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person," has seen in Him who is the image, of God, God Himself. (Origen Against Celsus, book 8, chapter 12, 225 AD)

But although it is not possible to maintain that one who is himself mortal can make another immortal, yet this word of Christ not only sets forth, but affords immortality: certainly He is not man only who gives immortality, which if He were only man He could not give; but by giving divinity by immortality, He proves Himself to be God by offering divinity, which if He were not God He could not give. If Christ was only man, how did He say, "Before Abraham was, I Am? " For no man can be before Him from whom he himself is; nor can it be that any one should have been prior to him of whom he himself has taken his origin. And yet Christ, although He is born of Abraham, says that He is before Abraham. Either, therefore, He says what is not true, and deceives, if He was not before Abraham, seeing that He was of Abraham; or He does not deceive, if He is also God, and was before Abraham. And if this were not so, it follows that, being of Abraham, He could not be before Abraham. If Christ was only man, how does He say, "And I know them, and my sheep follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish? " And yet, since every man is bound by the laws of mortality, and therefore is unable to keep himself for ever, much more will he be unable to keep another for ever. But Christ promises to give salvation for ever, which if He does not give, He is a deceiver; if He gives, He is God. (A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, Chapter XV. Argument.-Again He Proves from the Gospel that Christ is God., 235 AD)

"Jesus saith unto them, Before Abraham was, I Am. Then took they up stones to cast at Him." Seest thou how He proved Himself to be greater than Abraham? For the man who rejoiced to see His day, and made this an object of earnest desire, plainly did so because it was a day that should be for a benefit, and belonging to one greater than himself. Because they had said, "The carpenter's son" (Matthew 13:55), and imagined nothing more concerning Him, He leadeth them by degrees to an exalted notion of Him. Therefore when they heard the words, "Ye know not God," they were not grieved; but when they heard, "before Abraham was, I Am," as though the nobility of their descent were debased, they became furious, and would have stoned Him. "He saw My day, and was glad." He showeth, that not unwillingly He came to His Passion, since He praiseth him who was gladdened at the Cross. For this was the salvation of the world. But they cast stones at Him; so ready were they for murder, and they did this of their own accord, without inquiry. But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead of "I Am"? As the Father useth this expression, "I Am," so also doth Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him? (Chrysostom, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers; Volume 14: Homilies On the Gospel of St. John, Homily 55, 375 AD, comparing Ex 3:14 & John 8:58)

20th century commentators:

"The contrast between the verbs ... is as unmistakable, as it is in Ps 90:2 "before the mountains came into being ... from age to age Thou Art." Of God is could not be said that He "came into being" or "became," for He IS. ... It has been pointed out already that "ego eimi" used absolutely, where no predicate is expressed or implied, is the equivalent to the solemn "I (am) He, which is the self-designation of Yahweh in the prophets. A similar use of the phrase is found at 13:19. It is clear that John means to represent Jesus as thus claiming for himself the timeless being of Deity, as distinct from the temporal existence of man." (John, J. H. Bernard, John 8:58, p322)

"The Jews committed the error of ascribing to Jesus a merely temporal existence. They saw only the historical manifestation, not the eternal Person; only the human, not the divine. Jesus, therefore, reaffirms his eternal, timeless, absolute essence." ... "Over Against Abraham's fleeting span of life Jesus places his own timeless "present". To emphasize this eternal "present", He sets over against the aorist infinitive, indicating Abraham's birth in time, the present indicative, with reference to himself; hence, not I was, but I am. Hence, the thought here conveyed is not only that Jesus always existed, though this too is implied; but also, and very definitely, that his existence transcends time. He is therefore exalted infinitely above Abraham." (John, William Hendriksen, John 8:58)

The 'ego eimi' which occurs as the climax to ch. 8 raises different questions from those above. Jesus' argument with his opponents has reached its peak in discussion about origin and paternity. The Jews strengthen the question they raised in v. 25, saying 'Who do you claim to beT (v. 53). Jesus' final statement is introduced with the solemn words 'truly truly'. Such an introduction stresses the importance of Jesus' claim: 'Before Abraham was born, I am'. The contrast between the verbs in this sentence is not as vivid in the English translation as in the Greek. Givnomai, the aorist infinitive' of [Greek], expresses the coming into existence of Abraham, maybe even his birth. 'ego eimi' is in stark contrast to that verb. Not only does the one verb express coming into existence while the other expresses existence itself, but the change in tense is evocative. Immediately 'there is a contrast between the created and the uncreated, and the temporal and the eternal'.' The omniscient narrator of the prologue is echoed by the omniscient, and 'omni-temporal' Jesus. The construction of Jesus' statement itself shows that his claim is not simply to pre-existence; for that, Jesus could have claimed that he was ([Greek], imperfect of 'eimi'), or even came into existence ([Greek]) before Abraham. The reaction of the Jews emphasizes the significance of such a phrase to the reader. However, the narrator does not explain the reason that the Jews attempt to stone Jesus. It must be assumed that the implied reader knows why Jesus' audience reacts in the way that it does to his claim. (David Mark Ball, 'I Am' in John's Gospel, p 91-92)

"It does not merely assert that he was before Abraham, but before Abraham was, I AM. It identifies him with the I am of the Old Testament. Divinity has no past tense, nor future tense, but always the present. god is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite." (John, B. W. Johnson, John 8:58, p147)

"Whether we translate "before Abraham was" (KJV) or "was born" (NEB) the meaning will be "came into existence", as the aorist tense indicates. A mode of being which has a definite beginning is contrasted with one which is eternal. "I am" must have the fullest significance it can bear. ... It is not easy to render into Greek the Hebrew underlying passages like Exod 3:14. The LXX- [Septuagint] translators did so with the use of the form we have here. It is an emphatic form of speech and one that would not normally be employed in ordinary speech. Thus to use it was recognizably to adopt the divine style." (John, Leon Morris, John 8:58, p 473)

"The long interval between Abraham and Jesus is irrelevant. Just as Jesus appeared in time after John the Baptist, but was first in relation to him (1:30) so it is with Abraham. This is brought out by the tenses of the verbs in the Greek - the aorist "came into being", used of Abraham, is contrasted with the present [I am], which can express duration up to the present, "I have been <and still am> as well as the simple present, "I am". Jesus claims that his mode of existence transcends time, like God's and his I AM is understood by the Jews as a claim to equality with God, and as blasphemy, 59, provokes the appropriate reaction, in an attempt to stone him." (John, J. N. Sanders and B. A. Mastin, John 8:58, p235)

"Truly: the solemn formula brings the discourse to its climax. It does not appear to indicate the presence of traditional material on this occasion. (cf. 6:47) Abraham was: i.e. was born (lit. 'came into being'; cf 1:3, where the same verb (genesthai) was used). I am: the striking change of tense and the use of the simple verb "einai" (cf 1:1-2) put all the emphasis on the timeless condition of the eternal existence (cf. Ps 90:2); so Jesus is pre-existent to Abraham. The phrase (ego eimi) thus has a rather different nuance from verses 24 and 28, where it required a predicate (I am he"). ... In this chapter the successive "ego eimi" sayings convey a deepening meaning, corresponding with the unfolding argument: 'I am the light of the world', v12, becomes 'I am (he)', I.e. the light and all other possible predicates which denote salvation (v 24 & 28); and this in its turn becomes the simple 'I am" of the present verse, denoting timeless pre-existence." (John, New Century Bible, Barnabas Lindars, John 8:58, p336)

"I am; older than Abraham's origin is my existence. As Abraham had not pre-existed, but came into existence (by birth), ... so far as He exited before time, as to His divine nature, without having previously come into being." (John, H. A. W. Meyer, John 8:58, p. 293)

"The words ego eimi in John 8:58 do not function as a title of Christ, but are a statement of his eternality (and, implicitly, his deity)." (Bowman, JWs, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John, p.124)

"Jesus' use of ego eimi constituted a claim to be eternal--to exist without ever having experienced a beginning--in contrast to Abraham." (Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the JWs; p.118)

"The vast majority of translators see, as do many commentators, that there is a clear differentiation being made here between the derivative existence of Abraham and the eternal existence of the Lord Christ." (White, The Forgotten Trinity, ch. 6, p.97, "I am He")

"it invincibly proves his eternal pre-existence unto his incarnation" (Owen, Christologia, p. 116, concerning John 8:58)

"But perhaps the greatest assertion to eternal preexistence is to be found in Jesus' "I am" saying of John 8:58." (Reymond, New Systematic Theology, p.231, "I am")

"Jesus also outrages his opponents by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" (8:58). It is not easy to see this as anything less than the language of deity, for Jesus is affirming that he has timeless existence." (Morris, New Testament Theology; p.235-238 The "I Am" Sayings)

To the Jews, who claimed Abraham as Father, Jesus asserted, "Before Abraham Came to be, I am" (John 8:58, literal translation). By this Jesus taught there was a sense in which the idea of birth and beginning did not apply to Him; in Him was eternal existence (cf. Exodus 3:14). (Vos, Can I Really Believe?; p.100)

The AV reports our Lord as saying to the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58 AV). "Was" is ginomai, the verb of "becoming," not eimi, the verb of being. It is ingressive aorist, signifying entrance into a new condition. Our Lord said, "Before Abraham came into existence, I am." He does not contrast Abraham's previous existence with His eternity of existence, but Abraham's coming into existence with His eternal being. There is a contrast between Abraham as a created being and our Lord as uncreated, the self-existent, eternal God. (Wuest, The Deity of Jesus in the Greek Texts of John and Paul, Bibliotheca Sacra, Jul 62, p.220-221)

Was & I am (genesqai, egw eimi). It is important to observe the distinction between the two verbs. Abraham's life was under the conditions of time, and therefore had a temporal beginning. Hence, Abraham came into being, or was born (genesqai). Jesus' life was from and to eternity. Hence the formula for absolute, timeless existence, I am (egw eimi). (Vincent's Word Studies on John 8:58.)

"In this context, Jesus does not merely claim to be older than Abraham. Gabriel or any of the angels, or even the devil, could have claimed as much. Are we really to believe that Gabriel or the devil could say, "Before Abraham came into existence, I am"? The truth is that this statement was a claim to be eternal, to exist without beginning, in contrast to Abraham, who had a beginning." (Bowman: Why You Should Believe in the Trinity; p 100 "I Am")

"It is also indicated in Jesus' bold use of a present tense verb that implies continuing present existence when he replied to his Jewish adversaries, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58)." (Grudem: Systematic Theology, p.169, "I am")

John 8:58. Before Abraham was, I am --The words rendered "was" and "am" are quite different. The one clause means, "Abraham was brought into being"; the other, "I exist." The statement therefore is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did (as Arians affirm is the meaning), but that He never came into being at all, but existed before Abraham had a being; in other words, existed before creation, or eternally (as#Joh 1:1). In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since "then took they up stones to cast at Him," just as they had before done when they saw that He made Himself equal with God (#Joh 5:18). (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Complete Commentary)

"Nor do I disapprove of the opinion of Chrysostom, that the present tense of the verb is emphatic; for he does not say, I was, but I am; by which he denotes a condition uniformly the same from the beginning to the end. And he does not say, Before Abraham WAS, but, Before Abraham WAS MADE; which implies that Abraham had a beginning. (John Calvin's Commentary on John 8:58)

The most emphatic claim of Jesus to deity is the statement in His discussion with the Jews, "Before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58, A.S.V.) The Jews brought the name of Abraham, their physical and spiritual father, into the conversation (vss. 52-53). Jesus seized upon it to lead on to His final claim in the verse already quoted, startling the Jews by saying: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad" (vs. 56). When the Jews responded with a question as to how a man as young as Jesus could have seen Abraham, "Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God." [Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, V, 158-59.] Jesus did not claim mere pre-existence to Abraham, which would have been expressed by the imperfect tense of the verb used concerning Abraham, but eternal existence, the self-existence that belongs to God alone. (Witmer, Did Jesus Claim to be God, Bibliotheca Sacra, January 1961, p.152-153)

ego eimi as a self-designation of Jesus in Jn 8:58 (cf. 8:24; 13:19) stands in contrast to the genesthai applied to Abraham. Jesus thus claims eternity. As he is equal to the Father (5:18ff.), what is ascribed to the Father is attributed to him too (cf. Is. 43:10 LXX). The context and the ego formulation are both Jewish. The point is not Jesus' self-identification as the Messiah ("I am he") but his supratemporal being. (Kittel, TDNT (1 vol. Abridgement), p.207) (Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek, p.166)

{Before Abraham was} (prin abraam genesqai). Usual idiom with prin in positive sentence with infinitive (second aorist middle of ginomai) and the accusative of general reference, "before coming as to Abraham," "before Abraham came into existence or was born." {I am} (egw eimi). Undoubtedly here Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. The contrast between genesqai (entrance into existence of Abraham) and eimi (timeless being) is complete. See the same contrast between en in 1:1 and egeneto in 1:14. See the contrast also in Ps 90:2 between God (ei, art) and the mountains (genhqhnai). (Robertson's Word Pictures on John 8:58)

"... He removes all doubt as to the essential nature of His oneness with the Father by explicitly asserting His eternity ('Before Abraham was born, I am,' Jn 8:58)..." (Warfield, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "Trinity")

I am. That our Lord by this expression asserted his divinity and eternal existence, as the great I AM, appears evident from the use of the present tense, instead of the past tense, from its being in answer to the Jews, who enquired whether he had seen Abraham, and from its being thus understood by the multitude, who were exasperated at it to such a degree that they took up stones to stone him. (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge on John 8:58)

John 1:1 also points to Jesus' preexistence as the Logos: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God." While he became (egeneto) "flesh" at a specific point in time (1:14), the Word already was (en) in the beginning of time as we know it. Along the same lines Jesus makes an astounding claim to his Jewish antagonists in 8:58: "Before Abraham came into existence, I am." The sacred name of the God of Israel seems to underlie this claim, and in any case the attribute of preexistence is clearly emphasized. But even more is implied here. The contrast between the verbs genesthai (aorist) as applied to Abraham and eimi (present) as applied to Christ is striking. C. H. Dodd puts it this way: "The implication is that Jesus does not stand within the temporal series of great men, beginning with Abraham and continuing through the succession of the prophets, so as to be compared with them. His claim is not that He is the greatest of the prophets, or even greater than Abraham himself. He belongs to a different order of being. The verb genesthai is not applicable to the Son of God at all. He stands outside the range of temporal relations." ( 6C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1985 [1953]) 261.) As great as Abraham was in God's purposes, he was only human and thus inferior to the eternal Son of God. ("You Are Gods"? Spirituality And A Difficult Text, Stephen L. Homcy, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dec 1989, p.486)

Christ Himself spoke of His preexistence in connection with His claims of deity, as in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I AM." (House, Doctrinal Issues in Colossians, Bibliotheca Sacra, April 1992, p.183-184)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. A solemn and official declaration, preceded by "Verily, verily" [see PNT "Joh 3:3"]. The utterance is a remarkable one. It does not merely assert that he was before Abraham, but before Abraham was, I AM. It identifies with the I AM of the Old Testament. Divinity has no past tense, no future tense, but always the present." (People's New Testament Commentary on John 8:58)

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Important comments and observations

Since the Jehovah's Witnesses teach a view of John 8:58 that was never advocated before the 20th century, we would ask why would the Holy Spirit wait 1900 years to reveal this to them alone. How come the "faithful and discrete slave" got it wrong for so long? Jehovah's Witnesses actually believe that Arius, was one of them in 325 AD. Yet, even Arius believed that John 8:58 taught the eternal pre-existence of Christ in the mind of God.

Anti-trinitarians attack the meaning of "I am" in both Ex 3:14 and John 8:58. Yet, the 1984 New World Translation footnote at Ex 3:14, states that the Hebrew would be rendered into Greek as "eigo eimi)" - "I am." Then couple this with the 1985 Kingdom Interlinear Translation that states that Jesus' words at John 8:58 are same: "ego eimi", "I am".

Of the 28 times the gospel of John uses the Greek "ego eimi", the Jehovah's Witness Bible, New World Translation) properly translates it in the presence tense "I am," EXCEPT in John 8:58! This one fact is enough to reject their mistranslation "I have been" in John 8:58.

John 8:58 cannot be translated "Before Abraham was born, I have been." because the Greek is very different for "I have been" vs. the simple present tense, "I am", as can be easily seen in John 18:37 "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born". If mere pre-existence was all that Jesus wanted to convey, He would have used a sentence structure like John already recorded: "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me." John 1:15,30 The power of John 1:15 is that Jesus was 6 months younger than John the Baptist, yet He is said to exist before John. Such verses as John 1:15,30, coupled with John 8:58 are insurmountable obstacles to the Christadelphian view that Christ pre-existed only in the mind of God and not personally.

No where in the Bible is it stated that Jesus "is a creature", "is an angel", "is Michael", is "not God" or had a "beginning point". Had Jesus actually said in John 8:58 , "I came into existence before Abraham came into existence." it would truly be irrefutable proof against trinitarians, that Jesus was a creature. Additionally, had Jesus actually said in John 8:58 "I have been" or "I existed before Abraham existed." this would not make Jesus a creature, for the same could be said of God. We draw your attention to the fact that when Jehovah's Witnesses read in their NWT, "I have been" they think it means, "I came into existence". Yet the Greek is in the present tense, "I am". If Jesus was a creature, what He said in John 8:58 was deliberately misleading. Had Jesus actually said, "I am an angel of God that existed before Abraham that comes to give light to the world" they never would have wanted to stone Jesus.

A significant point overlooked by most who approach the text of John 8:58, is that Jesus was likely speaking in Hebrew and used "EHYEH" and said none of the Greek words in the text. John actually translated Jesus' actual dialogues in Hebrew to Greek in his gospel. John 8:58 may echo Exodus 3:14 either based on the Hebrew text or the LXX. Jesus was likely speaking in Hebrew in the actual story and John may have chosen to use the LXX rendering of EHYEH in its first occurrence in Exodus 3:14 as ego eimi. to report Jesus' words to the Jews in John 8:58. The fact that the LXX translates "EHYEH" as ego eimi many times, proves that there is no reason why the John 8:58 cannot echo Ex 3:14.

John 8:58 deliberately echoes Yahweh's "I am" statements in Isaiah 40-55. Most scholars to conclude that the closest Old Testament antecedent to John 8:58 is to be found in the Isaianic "I am" sayings, showing conclusively that Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh.

Jehovah's Witnesses know they cannot disprove the force of eternality in eimi in John 8:58. So the NWT deliberately attempts to break any parallel between the "I am" of Ex 3:14, YWHW's "I am" statements in Isaiah 40-55 and Jesus' "I am" statement in John 8:58. Jehovah's Witnesses know it is easier to deny that a connection exists between these texts than to dispute the grammatically sound interpretation that "I am" in John 8:58 speaks of a contrast between the created and the eternal.

There is evidence to show that in the Judaism of Jesus' day these words were sometimes used as substitutes for the divine name Yahweh itself, in particular at the Feast of Tabernacles, which from John 7:2 was apparently the occasion of Christ's "I am" sayings in John 8. This suggests that the reason for the anger of the Jews at Jesus' absolute use of the expression "ego eimi" was that on that occasion his language was instantly recognizable as that of Yahweh.

The Hebrew phrase, 'ani hu' is used only of Jehovah and signifies that Jehovah alone is God. The Phrase 'ani hu' occurs six times in Isaiah 40-55 (41:4; 43:10; 46:4; 52:6; 45:18 twice) and is translated by the LXX as "ego eimi", the same phrase in John 8:58. (52:6 is rendered by the LXX as "ego eimi autos at") Further, the phrase "anoki anoki hu" is found twice in Isaiah 40-55 (43:25; 51:12) and the LXX translates it "ego eimi ego eimi". The important thing is to note that the Septuagint (LXX) translates "ani hu", which is only attributed to Jehovah in Isaiah 40-55, as "ego eimi". 'Ani' alone is translated by the LXX as 'ego eimi' in Isa 47:8,10 where Babylon says, "I am, and there is no one besides me." But we note this is a blasphemous echoing of Jehovah's words, proving further that it is the language of deity. This contrast of use between Jehovah and Babylon, clearly confirms this conclusion. (see Philip Harner, The 'I am' of the fourth gospel, p 6)

The phrase "I am [He]" is virtually unique to Isa 40:55, whereas "I am Jehovah" is used throughout the Old Testament.

The Isa 40-55 passages use the phrases, "I am" "I am He" and "I am Jehovah" in the same way. Their use shows Jehovah alone is God (Isa 41:4; 42:8; 43:11; 45:5,6,18). Jehovah is redeemer of Israel (Isa 42:6; 43:15; 45:3; 49:23,26). Jehovah is both creator (Isa 44:24; 45:7). This exactly coincides with the Gospel of John where Jesus is called God (John 1:1, 8:58; 20:28) Jesus is creator (John 1:3) Jesus is saviour (John 4:42).

In Isaiah 45:18, where God says, "I am Yahweh" (Hebrew, ANI HU YHWH), that the LXX translates this into a predicate absolute "ego eimi".

JWs have offered the many arguments against taking John 8:58 as a claim by Jesus to be the "I Am" of Exodus 3:14 and therefore Yahweh. Even if Exodus 3:14 were not in the Bible at all, John 8:58 would stand on its own as an assertion of the eternality of Christ. On the other hand, of course, it is absolutely necessary for the JW to discount any such connection. Even if the JWs are correct in denying the connection, though, their case cannot be established without also demonstrating that John 8:58 need not be interpreted as a claim to eternality on the part of Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses know they cannot disprove the force of eternality in eimi in John 8:58.

"The phrase marks a timeless existence. Thus there is in the phrase the contrast between the created and the uncreated; the temporal and the eternal." (The Gospel According to St. John, Brooke Foss Westcott, 1980, p.28, Westcott's Greek text is used by the Watchtower Society as a base for the Kingdom Interlinear Translation)

There are three texts that contrast the created with the eternal. (John 8:58, John 1:1-3 and Ps 90:2) John 8:58 "before Abraham was born, I am." contrasts the created with the eternal in exactly the same dynamic style as Psalm 90:2 "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." The contrast is so unmistakable, that the Jews wanted to stone Jesus. In his "Prologue" John contrasts the Word, which "was" (in, third person imperfect form of einii) in the beginning, with his bringing into existence (egeneto, the third person singular indicative form of genesthal) of all things (John 1:1-3). .... By going on to say that this uncreated Logos "became" (egeneto) flesh (1:14), John draws another contrast between the two natures of Christ. To put it in the classic terminology of orthodox incarnational theology, Christ was uncreated (in) with respect to his deity, but created (egeneto) with respect to his humanity. It may be noted that in John 8:58, the contrast is not between two past tense verbs, one imperfect (in) and one aorist (egeneto), as in John 1:1-3, but between a durative present tense verb (einil) and an aorist past tense verb (genestliai). The reason for the difference is not hard to see. In John 1:1-3 the event of "becoming" which is contrasted with the eternal existence of the Logos is the creation of the universe. To speak of something as already existing at the creation of the universe of space and time is simply one way of saying that it is timelessly eternal, since strictly speaking nothing can exist before the first instant of time. Thus, in John 1:1-2, the imperfect tense verb en connected with "in the beginning" clearly communicates the eternality of the Logos. In 8:58, on the other hand, the event of "becoming" with which Christ's eternal existence is contrasted is the birth of Abraham. Since Abraham's birth was preceded by thousands of years of human history, to have said no more than that Jesus existed before Abraham would not have communicated His eternality. Jesus therefore said more than that he preexisted Abraham. He chose the term that would most strongly contrast the created origin in time of Abraham with his own timeless eternality, the present tense verb eimi. (Robert Bowman, JWs, Jesus Christ and John)

Around 250 B.C., the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint which is also known by the letters LXX.

"I am" was not only the language of Jehovah of the Old Testament but also the Messiah of the New Testament. It is significant that Jesus warned that false Christs would walk around saying, "I am" (predicateless) in order to mislead many. "See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, 'I am '" Lk 21:8 (Mk 13:6, 21; Lk 17:22-23; Mt 24:5, 23). This proves that the predicateless phrase "ego eimi" was indeed a trademark of the Messiah! We have a picture here of false Christs walking around saying, "I am" almost as a magic incantation to attract and deceive the faithful. This represents some of the most powerful independent evidence that "ego eimi" without the predicate.

Matt 14:27 and Mk 6:50 are parallel and contain the predicateless "ego eimi". "Take courage, I AM; do not be afraid." Although it is natural to take this to mean simply, "It is I", the connection between these passages and the "I am" passages of Jehovah in Isa 40-55, cannot be overlooked.

John 8:58 is most precisely parallel to Ps 90:2. No even JWs will deny that the contrast between the created and the eternal God is clearly intended in Ps 90:2. To deny the same in John 8:58 is blind dishonesty.

John 8:58 "Before Abraham was born, I am" Psalm 90:2 "Before the mountains were born ... You are".

The key phrases in both passages, Bowman says, "are identical in terms and meaning except for the fact that the former is second person while the latter is first person; and again, this difference does not affect the parallel in question. Thus the tense-mood forms are identical, the syntactical relations between the two verbs in each passage are identical, and the verbs themselves used in each passage are identical. In other words, it is as if John (quoting Jesus' words in Greek) had taken the relevant words from Psalm 90:2 LXX, perhaps substituted prin for pro, replaced "the mountains" with "Abraham," and changed "su ei" from second person to first person and genithenai from passive to active. One could hardly ask for a more exact parallel, unless the passage itself were actually quoted." ... "Not one known biblical scholar has ever disputed the parallel or denied that it confirmed the traditional interpretation. Unless some important considerations have been overlooked, this exegetical conclusion would seem to be as well established as any could be." (Robert Bowman, JWs, Jesus Christ and John, p118) Although the Jehovah's Witnesses argue (in Aid to Bible Understanding, p 665; You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982, p 44.) that the original Hebrew is not a predicate absolute, "You are" (it is a predicate absolute in the Septuagint, LXX) it is indisputable that the translators of the LXX viewed the predicate absolute as the language of Deity and synonymous with the Hebrew. We find it amusing that JWs will argue that the LXX is they key to understanding Ex 3:14 while they argue that the LXX is not be followed in Ps 90:2.

Christadelphians are in a position so difficult in John 8:58, that it should be obvious their whole Logos-theology is wrong. First they must attempt to break the connection between the "I AM" of John 8:58 and the "I AM" of Ex 3 and Isaiah 41:4. In this regard, they differ little from Jehovah's Witnesses. Second, then Christadelphians must argue that the most obvious pre-existence of Christ in John 8:58 is "in the mind of God" and not actual and personal. They reason, "It is not disputed that Jesus had some kind of existence before Abraham was born, but was it a personal existence, or one in the mind and purpose of God". (The Trinity, James Broughton, p 233, Christadelphian commentator) If pre-existence in the "mind of God" is all this verse teaches, then John could make the same claim that "before Abraham was born I AM". Yet John said of Jesus, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me." John 1:15,30

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The Christadelphian system of interpretation would say, of John 1:15, that God "thought Jesus up" before he "thought of John". Such comments expose the utter desperation of the Christadelphian view of Christ. It is simply too far fetched to be considered as an option and for this reason we awarded them the Stincs Trophy. John 8:58 is irrefutable for Christadelphians in that it proves the personal pre-existence of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus said, "before Abraham was born, I am", the Jews wanted to stone Jesus because they connected it with a whole series of passages in the Old Testament used of deity. These passages fall into two major categories. First, would be the Exodus 3:14 passage. Second are the Isaiah "I am" passages that are echoed by Jesus not only in John 8, but the throughout the whole book. Notice that the Greek for "I am" [ego eimi] is identical in these passages.

Comparing John 8:58 and Isa 43:10: "Not only do both passages show a contrast between the verb 'to be' (eimi) and the verb 'to come to be', even the contrast in tenses between the aorist and the present occurs in both. Just as God's very nature is contrasted with the temporal existence of the gods of the nations, so Jesus' nature is contrasted with that of Abraham." (David Mark Ball, 'I Am' in John's Gospel, p 195)

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. [ego eimi - predicateless absolute]"

Isaiah 43:10-13,25 "You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am. [Heb: 'ani hu' - 'ego eimi' in LXX, predicateless absolute] Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. "I, even I, am [ego eimi, predicateless absolute] the Lord; And there is no savior besides Me.

There is a direct connection of thought ("you may believe that I am He") between Isa 43:10 and John 13:19. Jehovah said in Isaiah 43:10 [Septuagint], "hina ... pisteusete ... hoti ego eimi". Jesus said the same thing in John 13:19, [hina pisteusete hoti ... ego eimi]. The similarity in thought and Greek words cannot be overlooked.

hina gnote kai pisteusete kai sinite hoti ego eimi

"You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. Isaiah 43:10

hina piseusete hoti genetai ego eimi

"From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. John 13:19

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The usage of "I AM" in the Bible

I am = ego eimi [Greek]

Of the 28 times the gospel of John uses the Greek "ego eimi", the Jehovah's Witness Bible, New World Translation) properly translates it in the presence tense "I am," EXCEPT in John 8:58! This one fact is enough to reject their mistranslation "I have been" in John 8:58.

NASB

If the NWT was consistent it would translate these verses:

John 4:26

"I who speak to you am He."

"I who speak to you have been He."

John 6:35

"I am the bread of life

"I have been the bread of life

John 8:12

"I am the light of the world"

"I have been the light of the world"

John 8:18

"I am He who bears witness of Myself"

"I have been He who bears witness of Myself"

John 8:23

"You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world."

"You are from below, I have been from above; you are of this world, I have been not of this world."

John 8:24

"unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins."

"unless you believe that I have been He, you shall die in your sins."

John 8:28

"When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He

"When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I have been He

John 8:58

"Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."

"Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I have been."

John 9:9

Others were saying, "This is he," still others were saying, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the one."

Others were saying, "This is he," still others were saying, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I have been the one."

John 10:7

"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, I have been the door of the sheep.

John 10:11

"I am the good shepherd

"I have been the good shepherd

John 11:25

"I am the resurrection and the life

"I have been the resurrection and the life

John 13:19

"From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.

"From now on I have been telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I have been He.

John 14:6

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

"I have been the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

John 15:1

"I am the true vine

"I have been the true vine

John 18:5,6

He said to them, "I am He."

He said to them, "I have been He."

Mark 14:61-62

"Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I am

"Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I have been

Luke 22:70

"Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I am."

"Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I have been."

I AM From John 8 (Greek New Testament)

John 8:12 "I am [ego eimi] the light of the world"

John 8:18 "I am [ego eimi] He who bears witness of Myself"

John 8:23 "You are from below, I am [ego eimi] from above; you are of this world, I am [ego eimi] not of this world."

John 8:24 "unless you believe that I am [ego eimi] He, you shall die in your sins."

John 8:28 "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [ego eimi] He"

John 8:58 "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am [ego eimi] ."

I AM From the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament)

Exodus 3:14 And God said to Moses, "I AM [ego eimi] WHO I AM [ho on]"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM [ho on] has sent me to you.'"

Exodus 12:12 'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-I am the Lord.

Deut 32:39 'See now that I, I am He [ego eimi], And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Isaiah 41:4 "Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? 'I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He. [Heb: 'ani hu' - 'ego eimi' in LXX]'"

Isaiah 41:10 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'

Isaiah 41:13 "For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'

Isaiah 42:6 "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations,

Isaiah 42:8 "I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.

Isaiah 43:3 "For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place.

Isaiah 43:5 "Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west.

Isaiah 43:10-13 "You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. [Heb: 'ani hu' - 'ego eimi' in LXX] Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. "I, even I, am [ego eimi] the Lord; And there is no savior besides Me. "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange god among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And I am [ego eimi] God. 13 "Even from eternity I am He [ego eimi] ; And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?"

Isaiah 43:15 "I am the Lord, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King."

Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am [Heb: 'anoki anoki hu' - 'ego eimi ego eimi' in LXX] the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

Isaiah 44:6 "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone,

Isaiah 45:3 "And I will give you the treasures of darkness, And hidden wealth of secret places, In order that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.

Isaiah 45:5-7"I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, But formed it to be inhabited), "I am [Heb: 'ani hu' - 'ego eimi' in LXX] the Lord, and there is none else.

Isaiah 45:21-22 "Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I [ego eimi], the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me.

Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age, I [Heb: 'ani hu' - 'ego eimi' in LXX] shall be the same, And even to your graying years I [ego eimi] shall bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you; And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.

Isaiah 46:9 "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,

Isaiah 47:8,10 Jehovah speaking to Babylon: "Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who [Babylon speaking] says in your heart, 'I am, [Heb: 'ani' - 'ego eimi' in LXX] and there is no one besides me. I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know loss of children.' 10 "And you felt secure in your wickedness and said, 'No one sees me,' Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, 'I am, [Heb: 'ani' - 'ego eimi' in LXX] and there is no one besides me.'

Isaiah 48:12 "Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He [ego eimi], I am the first, I am also the last.

Isaiah 48:17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.

Isaiah 49:23,26 "And kings will be your guardians, And their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth, And lick the dust of your feet; And you will know that I am the Lord; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame. ... "And I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh, And they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine; And all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Isaiah 51:12 "I, even I, am [Heb: 'anoki anoki hu' - 'ego eimi ego eimi' in LXX] He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, And of the son of man who is made like grass

Isaiah 51:15 "For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name).

Isaiah 52:6 "Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, 'Here I am.'[Heb: 'ani hu' - "ego eimi autos at" in LXX]"

The specific phrase "ego eimi" is quite common and occurs in about 24 different verses in John. These can be broken down into two general categories: 1. Most of the time "ego eimi" is followed by a clear predicate. (example: "I am the light" 8:12 or LXX at 1 Chronicles 21:17: "And David said to God ... Indeed, I am [ego eimi] the one who has sinned") 2. There are however 10 times where "ego eimi" is without a predicate. Again there is nothing unusual with 9 of the 10 verses. What sets John 8:58 apart from all other usages, is not that it is "predicateless", but that it is the only instance where "existence in time" is deliberately contrasted in a most unusual, "grammatical", manner. When Jesus spoke, "Before Abraham was born, I am." is not the normal way humans speak about their past existence, (pre-existence between birth and present). The normal way would be "Before Abraham was born, I was." or "I was, before Abraham was born." or more naturally, "I was born, before Abraham was born." But the text clearly contrasts the past tense of Abraham's existence with the present tense of Jesus' existence. Jesus literally said, "Before Abraham was born, I am." Literally, Jesus said in very unusual grammar, "I exist now before Abraham was born." It is this very unique use of contrasting past and present, that makes John 8:58 stand out so sharply. The listening Jews caught this contrast and interpreted it as a claim of existence that transcends time and they wanted to stone Jesus. The only other time this kind of unusual use of the present tense is used, is in reference to God in the Old Testament. Ex 3:14, "I AM has sent me to you."

The 10 times "ego eimi" is used without a predicate in John.

John 4:26 Jesus *said to her, "I who speak to you am He [ego eimi]."

John 6:20 But He *said to them, "It is I [ego eimi]; do not be afraid."

John 8:24 "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [ego eimi], you shall die in your sins."

John 8:28 Jesus therefore said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He [ego eimi]"

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. [ego eimi]"

John 9:9 He [man born blind] kept saying, "I am [ego eimi] the one."

John 13:19 "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am" [ego eimi].

John 18:5 They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He *said to them, "I am He [ego eimi]." And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them.

John 18:6 When therefore He said to them, "I am He," [ego eimi] they drew back, and fell to the ground.

John 18:8 Jesus answered, "I told you that I am He [ego eimi]; if therefore you seek Me, let these go their way,"

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The circus of Watchtower grammatical flip flops in translating John 8:58

The Watchtower's history on John 8:58 is nothing short of a circus!

Jehovah's Witnesses know they cannot explain John 8:58 and are all "over the map", trying to convince themselves why a simple present tense Greek phrase, should not be translated as present tense "I am" in English.

John 8:58 was the ultimate passage that Arius (and Jehovah's Witnesses) simply could not answer. Athanasius said, "Thus it appears that the phrases 'once was not", and 'before it came to be', and 'when', and the like, belong to things originate and creatures, which came out of nothing, but are alien to the Word." (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against Arians", I. iv.13, Schaff and Wace, Vol 4, p 314) The only anti-trinitarians in the last 2000 years who deny that "I am" expresses the eternal pre-existence of Christ, are Jehovah's Witnesses. Further, Jehovah's Witnesses are the first group in history, to ever argue that the contrast in John 8:58 is anything less than that of a created vs. eternal being. Christadelphians, for example, will argue that Christ eternally pre-existed in the mind and plan of God, but not personally. Even Bultmann, who denies the deity of Christ, admits and believes that "I am" expresses the eternality, just not of the historical person of Christ. Bultmann said, "The ego which Jesus speaks as the Revealer is the 'I' of the eternal Logos, which was in the beginning, the 'I' of the eternal God himself." (Bultmann, p 327) Moreover, this contrast has been recognized by both trinitarian and antitrinitarian scholars throughout the last 500 years or more. John Calvin debated persons in his day who interpreted the passage to mean that Jesus was eternally known by God in his foreknowledge. This view survived late into the nineteenth century, when it was effectively put to rest by the orthodox observation that the emphatic ego allowed for no other interpretation but that Jesus himself was the one who existed eternally. Thus, Godet, a famous nineteenth-century biblical scholar, wrote: "'If,' says Luthardt, 'it follows from the apposition between to be and to become, in this saying, that the existence of Christ is eternal, it follows quite as clearly from the ego that this existence is personal.' This, too, is proved by the comparison with Abraham. For there would have been a touch of charlatanism on the part of Jesus in suddenly substituting an impersonal principle for His Person, in His reply to the Jews, who were accusing Him of making Himself the contemporary of Abraham. If one of the two existences compared is personal, the other must be so too, otherwise this statement, marked as it is by the greatest solemnity, is not a serious one." (Frederick Louis Godet, John, reprint of 1893 ed.) Today, Christadelphians are the only group that hold to this, "existing in the mind of God" interpretation, while Jehovah's Witnesses are the only group that accept a pre-incarnate personal existence of Christ (as a created angel) but deny John 8:58 implies the eternal pre-existence of Christ.

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The Governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses knows that John 8:58 is irrefutable proof that Jesus is eternally pre-existent and not a creature IF IT IS TRANSLATED, "Before Abraham was born, I am." The fact that no one else in history has ever argued that the contrast in John 8:58 is anything less than that of a "created vs. eternal" being, they must change the word of God (which is condemned) to read differently than it should. Jehovah's Witnesses have used three basic arguments since 1950 to justify the mistranslation of the simple present tense Greek "ego eimi - I am", into the perfect tense, "I have been". When you read the history of how they have tried to render it any way BUT present tense as the Greek demands. The first was in 1950, where they said, "perfect indefinite tense". This was rejected for the second in 1957 where the Watchtower claimed it was a "historical present." The third position came in 1983, saying it is was "present of past action still in progress" (PPA). The third guess actually contradicts the second guess. Today, Jehovah's Witnesses have adopted the Watchtower's third guess. Notice that this "new light truth" finally came in 1983! This proves beyond any doubt, that the reasons why the translating committee of the New World Translation (NWT) rendered John 8:58 "I have been" in 1950, WERE WRONG, for the 1950 position of 'perfect indefinite tense' was rejected and "the truth" did not come until some 33 years later in 1983! This would trouble anyone, but a Jehovah's Witnesses, who blindly follows a man-made human organization that did not exist before 1870 AD.

The Watchtower's "Piltdown man" grammar arguments of John 8:58 (Piltdown man was a "missing link" skull that an evolutionist, desperate to prove evolution, had treated with salts and filed, to make it appear very old. For 40 years this fraud was proclaimed as truth in all world major universities. An entire generation of atheists threw the "evidence of Piltdown man" in the face of young earth creationist Bible believers. Jehovah's Witnesses have likewise been deceived by the fraud of the Watchtower. Jehovah's Witnesses have actually used three different "Piltdown men" in trying to "prove" that "I have been" is a true rendering. However, the first two Watchtower Piltdown men have died and only the latest "Frankenstein" of 1983, is still alive. Of course even atheist evolutionists would never dare three frauds! But the Watchtower is desperate, being the only group in history to take this position! The chart below is nothing more than a circus. Unfortunately these "etymological gymnastics" satisfy the average Jehovah's Witness that at least one of the three guesses must be correct! In actual practice, Jehovah's Witnesses will use all three guesses, not knowing that two them are contradictory. This is because the Watchtower is not honest enough with their own people to come out admit they were wrong in 1950 and 1957. It is one big case of smoke and mirrors and deception.)

1950

'perfect indefinite tense'

"I have been = ego eimi (e.go ei.mi) after the aorist infinitive clause prin Abraam genesthai and hence properly rendered in the 'perfect indefinite tense'." (NWT, 1950 edition, at John 8:58)

No such tense exists, it was fabricated by the Watchtower. The footnote to John 8:58 in the NWT was changed in later editions, so that the term "perfect indefinite tense" was altered to "perfect tense indicative," "perfect indicative," or simply "perfect tense."

1957

"historical present."

"the Greek verb eimi must be viewed as a historical present." (Watchtower, "Questions from Readers", 1957, p126)

Utterly false because "historical presents" have nothing to do with perfect tenses. Several very knowledge JWs in Southern California have admitted privately to Robert Bowman and others that both the Watchtower and Nelson Herle were wrong on in claiming John 8:58 was a "historical present." However, as late as 1978, an official letter from Watchtower Society, Feb 7, 1978, addressed to Firpo W. Carr, directed Firpo to read the Watchtower's 1957, "Questions from Readers" article.

1963

"perfect tense indicative"

"perfect tense indicative" (NWT, 1963, large print edition at John 8:58)

The fact that the Watchtower Society dropped the term perfect indefinite tense and used similar- sounding terms (with very different actual meaning) if proof they were unable to defend their first guess as originally stated, so they changed it a bit.

1969

"perfect tense"

"perfect tense"(Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, at John 8:58)

It is an undisputed fact that the Greek in John 8:58 is "present tense".

1977

"The 1950 NWT footnote referred to an English tense, not a Greek tense"

It was not until 27 years after the 1950 footnote was published, 'perfect indefinite tense'." that JW's first started to claim that this was an English tense, not a Greek.

It is a historical fact that all JW's defended 'perfect indefinite tense'. as a Greek tense before 1970 AD.

1978

"perfect indefinite tense"

"perfect indefinite tense" In 1978 Nelson Herle's first vain attempt to justify the 1950 NWT footnote, claiming that "perfect indefinite tense" and "perfect tense indicative" were basically the same. (personal letters)

This argument is today rejected by Jehovah's Witnesses proving that Herle was wrong.

1978

"indefinite" changed to "indicative" explained by Watchtower

"The change was made in order to make it clearer that the footnote pertained to the English rendering rather than to the tense in the original Greek."(Official letter from Watchtower Society, Feb 7, 1978, addressed to Firpo W. Carr, a faithful JW at the time)

An outright lie! If the Watchtower wanted to clarify this, it would simply have added the words, "into English", so that the modified footnote would read, "properly rendered in the 'perfect indefinite tense' into English" Instead they changed "indefinite" to "indicative" which is fact a completely different argument!

1978

1950 use of "perfect indefinite tense' explained

"What was meant was that the Greek present indicative e.go' ei-mi' is here rendered into English in the perfect tense, "I have been," with an idea of indefiniteness. That is to say, no mention of the length of Jesus' prehuman existence is here given ." (Official letter from Watchtower Society, Feb 7, 1978, addressed to Firpo W. Carr, a faithful JW at the time)

Here the Society explicitly declares the reason for the term indefinite. It served to communicate their belief that the word eimi, while admittedly indicating the preexistence of Christ, does not indicate "the length of Jesus' prehuman existence." This is decidedly different from saying that there actually is a perfect indefinite tense in English.

1978

"historical present" defended

An official letter from Watchtower Society, Feb 7, 1978, addressed to Firpo W. Carr, directs Firpo to read the Watchtower's 1957, "Questions from Readers", p126. where they said, "the Greek verb eimi must be viewed as a historical present."

The fact is that nobody except for the Watchtower has ever said that John 8:58 is a "historical present" because "historical presents" nothing to do with perfect tenses.

1978

"Present of Past Action in Progress" (PPA) was first argued by Herle.

"The Greek has a tense which is not found in the English: that tense which denotes action which began in the past and is still in progress. This tense is stated in the present tense and should be translated or rendered in the English perfect or as some still say the past tense. The above translations of John 8:58 are examples of this." (Letter from Herle to Walter R. Martin, April 2, 1978)

A similar statement advoctating that John 8:58 was "PPA"later appeared in Herle's "The Trinity Doctrine", p44 in 1983. However, even if John 8:58 is a PPA, it doesn't help the Jehovah's Witnesses in making Jesus into a creature, for God's eternal existence could also be described as a "Present of Past Action in Progress" as well.

1979

Use of 'perfect indefinite' claimed to be "standard grammatical terminology"

Nelson Herle maintains that the Society was using "standard grammatical terminology". He bases this claim on two textbooks of English grammar. The first is Crowell's Dictionary of English Grammar and of American Usage, by Maurice H. Weseen, published in 1928; the second, A New English Grammar Logical and Historical, by Henry Sweet, was published in 1900. (Nelson Herle, in letter to Walter Martin, March 7, 1979)

The fact that Herle could find only these two textbooks, the most recent of which was published in 1928, and that one is dependent on the other for the term in question, indicates that the two books cited by Herle, even if they use the term perfect indefinite tense, cannot be used to establish it as standard terminology. Even Herle agrees that the term is not "common." (Bowman, see Nelson Herle Trinity, p50)

These two obscure grammar books, show that there was a tense in english known as "perfect indefinite" as the 1950 NWT first used in the footnote. However, the Society used the same term in a different way than Weseen's, and Sweet's two books. Nelson Herle, in letter to Walter Martin, (March 7, 1979), reproduced Weseen's, and Sweet's "table 1" as evidence to support the "perfect indefinite tense" used by the Watchtower. "I have been" in John 8:58 NWT, would be "Perfect Definite" not "Perfect indefinite" according to the very table Herle copied from Weseen's, and Sweet's grammar books. Yet the "perfect indefinite" is what the Watchtower footnoted the tense of the phrase. Also notice that "I am" is "present definite". Everyone, even the Watchtower agrees that the Greek "ego eimi" is literally present tense. All this shows that the Watchtower simply has no scholarly basis for their "I have been" in John 8:58 and has no idea how to overthrow 2000 years of consistent interpretation of this passage.

1983

"perfect indefinite" and "perfect tense indicative" are identical synonyms

"Whether one calls the tense the "perfect," "perfect indefinite," or "perfect tense indicative," all mean basically the same thing, "an event of past time." The terms "perfect" and "perfect tense indicative" are more common than "the perfect tense indefinite" and have been used in more recent editions of the NWT for the sake of using a more common term, not a more correct one." (Nelson Herle, The Trinity Doctrine, p50, 1983)

Totally false! Even first-year students of Greek know that "indicative" is a term describing the mood of the verb, while "indefinite," as used in the 1950 NWT footnote, is a term describing the tense of the verb. The indicative mood is simply that aspect of the verb that identifies it as a statement (rather than a question, command, or wish). Thus, it is simply not true that "perfect tense indicative" is synonymous with "perfect indefinite tense."

1983

"present of past action still in progress" (PPA) advocated again by Herle.

"present of past action still in progress" (Nelson Herle, The Trinity Doctrine, an unpublished book, p 43-44, 48-49, 1983)

Herle cited Winer and Turner as scholarly support for PPA.

1984

"present of past action still in progress" (PPA)

Reference edition of NWT, 1984, uses Herle's same 1983 argument at John 8:58, claiming that it was a PPA

Watchtower copied from Herle's 1983 "The Trinity Book" and also cited Winer and Turner as scholarly support. However, even if John 8:58 is a PPA, it doesn't help the Jehovah's Witnesses in making Jesus into a creature, for God's eternal existence could also be described as a "Present of Past Action in Progress" as well. Most grammars specifically state that accompanying the present tense verb is some adverbial expression indicating the extent of the duration of the time indicated by the verb.

More importantly, "an adverbial expression denoting duration and referring to past time" always accompanies the PPA in all genuine examples found in the New Testament. In each case, the relevant adverbial expression defines (whether in a vague, general manner or very specifically and exactly) the period and extent of the duration of the verb. These adverbial clauses make it explicit that the action or condition described by the present tense verb is a temporal one that began at some point in the past. In Luke 13:7, for example, where the NWT reads, "Here it is three years that I have come looking . . . " "three years from which." This clause clearly sets the action of the PPA verb erchomai ("I am coming") in the temporal past beginning roughly three years prior to the time of speaking. All of the other example of the PPA in the New Testament have similar clauses delimiting the time reference of the verb: "so many years" (Luke 15:29); "a long time" (John 5:6); "so long a time" (John 14:9); "from [the] beginning" (John 15:27 [NWT, "from when I began"]; 1 John 3:8); "from ancient times" (Acts 15:21); "all this while" (2 Cor. 12:19); "from infancy" (2 Tim. 3.15); "from creation's beginning" (2 Peter 3:4); and "up to right now" (1 John 2:9). All of these expressions refer to a period of time beginning at some point (whether specified or not) in the past and continuing up to the time of the speaker. Not only is this not the case in John 8:58, the situation is the precise opposite. There Jesus' existence is said to be "before Abraham came into existence," so that the expression does not refer to a period of time beginning at Abraham's birth, but rather ending then. In other words, "prin Abraam genesthai" in John 8:58 does not point forward from Abraham's birth up to the time of Jesus' speaking, but instead points backward from Abraham's birth to the more distant past. John 8:58 is not a PPA because there is no beginning is stated or implied, whereas in all the other texts, a beginning was clearly implied for each. In John 8:58 the context demands the present tense rendering "I am," since translating any other way obscures the parallel with the other texts in John 8 in. which Christ says ego eimi (8:12, 24, 28). The rendering "I have been," therefore, even though found in some translations, is not accurate.

1985

"perfect indefinite tense" defented as valid by Society

The Society began making use of Herle's research . In a letter from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, dated December 26, 1985, to a Mr. Jack Tolland, Sweet and Weseen are both cited as indicating "that there is a perfect definite tense and a perfect indefinite tense."

The fact that these are the same two grammars used by Herle makes it fairly certain that this information was borrowed by the Society from Herle.

1985

"Perfect indicative"

"Perfect indicative"(KIT, 1985 revised edition, at John 8:58)

This chart is based upon Robert Bowman's book, "Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John". Order this fabulous book.

Table 1: from Weseen's, and Sweet's books used by Herle.

Indefinite

Definite

Present

I see.

I am seeing.

Preterite

I saw.

I was seeing.

Perfect

I have seen.

I have been seeing.

Pluperfect

I had seen.

I had been seeing.

Future

I shall see.

I shall be seeing.

Future Perfect

I shall have seen.

I shall have been seeing.

Preterite Future

I should see.

I should be seeing.

The 1950 NWT, "I have been" in John 8:58 would be Perfect Definite according to both Weseen's, and Sweet's grammar books. Yet the "perfect indefinite" is what the Watchtower footnoted the tense of the phrase. Also notice that "I am" is "present definite". All this shows that the Watchtower simply has no scholarly basis for their "I have been" in John 8:58.

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Anti-Trinitarian rebuttals:

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #1

"It is not disputed that Jesus had some kind of existence before Abraham was born, but was it a personal existence, or one in the mind and purpose of God". (The Trinity, James Broughton, p 233)

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #1 refuted

Christadelphians must argue that Christ pre-existed merely in "in the mind and purpose of God" and not actual or personal. If pre-existence in the "mind of God" is all this verse teaches, then John could make the same claim that "before Abraham was born I AM", because he was also foreseen by prophecy in Malachi 4:5. Yet John said of Jesus, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me." John 1:15,30. The Christadelphian system of interpretation would say, of John 1:15, that God "thought Jesus up" before he "thought John up". Such comments expose the utter desperation of the Christadelphian view of Christ. It is simply too far fetched to be considered as an option. To Christadelphians, "before Abraham was born I AM" could apply equally to John the Baptist and Jesus, for both were in God's original plan. John 8:58 is irrefutable for Christadelphians in that it proves the personal pre-existence of Jesus Christ.

As Calvin said about such an argument: "I am quite aware of the captious argument with which erring spirits corrupt this passage: that he was before all ages because he was already foreknown as Redeemer, both in the Father's plan and in the minds of the godly. But since he clearly distinguishes the day of his manifestation from his eternal essence, and expressly commends his own authority as excelling Abraham's in antiquity, there is no doubt that he is claiming for himself what is proper to his divinity." (John Calvin, Institutes, commenting on the theology of Michael Servetus)

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #2

The LXX-Septuagint at Exodus 3:14 does NOT say, "ego eimi ho ego eimi" or "I AM THE I AM." It does however say "ego eimi ho on.", The fact is: "Jesus did NOT say "EGO EIMI HO ON." We will ask another question with regard to our identity question: "Is the Greek at John 8:58, the same Greek found at Exodus 3:14?" The Greek at Exodus 3:14 in the LXX-Septuagint is "ego eimi ho on." Literally meaning, "I am the being," or "I am The One who is." In the second part of the verse (translated as "I AM hath sent me unto you" in the KJ) the Greek words translated "I AM" in the KJ are "ho on" literally "the being." Notice as well that Jesus did NOT say "Before Abraham was, "the being." If Jesus were quoting Exodus 3:14 (in Greek) he would not have said ego eimi but rather ho On.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #2 refuted

The Jehovah's Witnesses are not quite telling the whole truth. What the text actually says in the LXX is as follows (translating literally):

And God said to Moses, "I am [ego eimi] the One who is [ho on]"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The One who is [ho on] has sent me to you."'

The statement ego eimi ho on here renders the Hebrew EHYEH ASHER EHYEH, which is usually translated into English as "I am who I am." Thus, the LXX has rendered the word EHYEH in two different ways, by both "ego eimi" and "ho on". It may very well be, then, that in John 8:58 the apostle John chooses the words ego eimi to translate Jesus' words as an allusion to Exodus 3:14.

On the other hand, had John used "ho on" in John 8:58, instead of "ego eimi", the Jehovah's Witnesses would make the identical argument claiming Jesus did not say, "ego eimi". They will argue it any way they can, regardless if it is honest or sensible.

The 1984 New World Translation footnote at Ex 3:14, states that the Hebrew would be rendered into Greek as "eigo eimi)" - "I am." Then couple this with the 1985 Kingdom Interlinear Translation that states that Jesus' words at John 8:58 are same: "ego eimi", "I am".

Jesus knew the difference in the Greek between "I am" and "I have been." Jesus did not use the form "I have been", but used the form "I am." It is the Greek, not the English that the Pharisees were upset about.

We note that that the entirely of the Jehovah's Witness argument is based upon a fallible translation of the Hebrew (the Septuagint) and not the original Hebrew. The distinction that the Jehovah's Witness's argue for in the Septuagint, is not present in the original Hebrew at Ex 3:14 where "EHYEH" is used in all three places!

The phrases, "The being", "the one who is", "the existing one" all say exactly the same thing as "I am". All their etymological gymnastics on these phrases means nothing. There is no distinction present in their best argument.

The Greek word, "on" is the present active participle of "eimi". The Greek word, "ho" is a relative pronoun meaning "who, which , wherefore, why". This is the neuter form. The Septuagint has the phrase "ego eimi ho on" namely, "I am the one who is". "ego eimi" is in the Septuagint along with another form of "eimi", namely "on". This fact the Jehovah's Witnesses do not point out. They deliberately misrepresent the Septuagint.

Most Bibles translate the Hebrew from Exodus 3:14 as "I am" -- the present tense. The LXX also has it in the present tense. Jesus uses the present tense in John 8:58.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #3

The same word "ho On" used in Ex 3:14 (Septuagint) is also used in Rev 4:8 where John applies "ho On" to the Father, not the Lamb. "ho On" is never used of Jesus.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #3 refuted

In Heb 1:3, "ho On" is used in direct application to Jesus. "And He is [ho On] the radiance of His glory". Again these "Watchtower Greek experts" are proven wrong. "ho On" is a common expression.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #4

In Ex 3:14 "I am" is used as a title. To consider the words "EGO EIMI" as a term of self-designation (name or title) leaves the sentence without a main verb and would therefore not be a intelligible complete sentence. For example, The statement "Before Abraham was born, Fred." makes no sense.

"Was Jesus there teaching, as Trinitarians assert, that he was known by the title "I Am"? And, as they claim, does this mean that he was Jehovah of the Hebrew Scriptures, since the King James Version at Exodus 3:14 states: "God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM"?" ... The expression at John 8:58 is quite different from the one used at Exodus 3:14. Jesus did not use it as a name or a title but as a means of explaining his prehuman existence." (Should you believe the trinity? Watchtower publication)

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #4 refuted

Neither Ex 3:14 or John 8:58 are titles or names of God, but simple powerful statements of eternal, timeless nature. Just as "Before Abraham was born, Fred" makes no sense, so also "Fred who Fred" (I am who I am) in Ex 3:14 makes no sense. When God replied "I am" to Moses question about His name, God basically sidestepped Moses' question at first. It wasn't until the next verse (15) that God reveals His name for the first time. So neither "I am" and "I am who I am" are titles, but statements of God's nature. In John 8:58, Jesus echoes the words of Jehovah in Ex 3:14.

The Watchtower makes it sound like all Trinitarians think of "I am" in John 8:58 as a title. "The words ego eimi in John 8:58 do not function as a title of Christ, but are a statement of his eternality (and, implicitly, his deity)." (Robert Bowman, JWs, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John, p.124) We agree, thus invalidating the Watchtower "straw man" argument.

Abraham first asks what name he may call Him. God answers first with a descriptive of his eternal timeless nature, "I am who I am" ..."Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you." . Then God reveals His name: "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." Ex 3:13-16

The NWT renders the word, "hayah" in Ex 3:14 as, "I shall prove to be WHAT I shall prove to be". Since Jehovah's Witnesses themselves view this as a name, "Fred WHAT Fred" certainly doesn't make any sense either!

"I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by My name, JEHOVAH, I did not make Myself known to them." Ex 6:3.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #5

John 15:27 uses the same verb for it's main clause [eimi] as does John 8:58 in the same tense form (present) and is also modified by a subordinate adverbial clause to mark the time. Here is an example of the identical Greek in John 15:27 is translated just as we say is correct in John 8:58.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #5 refuted

Sounds real convincing, except one thing...the Greek is not identical and the argument is fallacious. Such "Etymological Gymnastics" complete with grammar maps produced by such "original language hobbyists" doesn't change the fact that no scholar agrees with them, otherwise they would have quoted them as proof.

The construction is different in one VERY significant way. In Jn. 15:27, you have the Greek preposition "APO", [from] which carries the idea of past action to the present. Remember that a perfect represents continuing result of past action. That's the idea created by "from the beginning". In Jn 14:9, you have the expression, "so long a time" doing much the same thing. The "so long a time" points to a period of time which began in the past and continued to the present, and thus the perfect idea. But in John 8:58, you have, "Before Abraham was, I am". There is no ''from" or "so long a time" to carry the action from the past to the present thus creating a perfect idea. Rather it says, "BEFORE Abraham was born..." Without anything to carry the action forward, it would seem to me you would actually need a perfect tense verb to do the job. That would give you, "before Abraham was born, I have been." However, you have neither a perfect tense verb, nor some expression such as "FROM the beginning," to bring past action to the present.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #6

Many Bibles will translate John 8:58 "I have been" or "Before Abraham existed, I existed," or, "I existed before Abraham existed."

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #6 refuted

Click here for detailed examination of Arian Biased translations.

The corresponding Greek rendering, observing "tenses" would be "Before Abraham existed, I exist,' or, 'I exist before Abraham existed." That these "translations" are in error in rendering it, "I have been" is a matter of simple fact. If mere pre-existence was all that Jesus wanted to convey, He would have used a sentence structure like John already recorded: "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me." John 1:15,30

Bibles frequently quoted by Jehovah's Witnesses:

Schonfield: is a Greek translation by one individual into English! However, Schonfield, author of "The Passover Plot", makes Jesus into a charlatan, and doesn't even believe in the deity of God the Father! Schonfield, an advocate of the "swoon theory" is quoted by the Muslims in support of their view that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross. Jehovah's Witnesses habitually quote faithless men like this to trash the trinity. ("The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan." (The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, quoted in "Should you believe in the Trinity, Watchtower Publication)

Moffatt, James: Greek into English but one man translation, whereas all other major translations had between 40-100 different scholars involved in the translation. Regarding James Moffatt, he was a professor at Union Theological Seminary, one of the most radical liberal institutions. His attitude toward miracles and the supernatural is illustrated by the following quotation from his book "Introduction To The Literature Of The New Testament": "A similar consideration bears upon Luke's treatment of the supernatural. On the one hand, the presence of miraculous anecdotes ... is no proof that they are unprimitive. A comparison, e.g., of the historical traditions gathering around figures like St. Patrick or even Thomas a Becket will show that it is the most natural thing in the world for such stories to spring up within a man's lifetime, and the mushroom of legend appeared under certain conditions as rapidly in the East an in the West. This applies in some degree to the miracles in Acts as well as in the gospels." (page 302). Clearly, Moffatt regards the miracles of the Bible, such as Jesus' virgin birth and His raising of the dead, as mere myth or legend. Moffatt claimed that the traditions of national unity and supernatural guidance "are at the heart of the tales and traditions within the first five books of the Bible." He believed portions of the Bible were badly edited and arranged, so he tried to improve on them. He rearranged entire chapters to suit himself.

Goodspeed, Edgar & Smith, J. M. Powis: The Complete Bible, an American Translation, by Edgar Goodspeed and J. M. Powis Smith. Smith was a professor in a radical liberal institution, the University of Chicago. His attitude toward the virgin birth is evidenced by the way he translated Isaiah 7:14 - "A young woman is with child ..." The Complete Bible renders Matthew 1:23 as "A maiden will become pregnant ..." - again denying the virgin birth. Even if one might debate whether the Hebrew word has to mean virgin, there is no question that the Greek word parthenos in the passage in Matthew means virgin. This is scholarly consensus. His formulation of Matthew 1:23 is unquestionably a mistranslation. Smith regards the miracles of the Bible, such as Jesus' virgin birth, His raising of the dead, and others as mere myth or legend. (quoted in "Should you believe in the Trinity, Watchtower Publication)

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #7

In John 8:58, "I Am" should be rendered, "I have been." And in Exod 3:14 (in the LXX-Septuagint) the text actually reads "I Am the Being" not just "I Am."

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #7 refuted

BUT: "I have been" (which would be perfect tense) is an impossible rendering of the PRESENT tense verb. Also, in Deut 32:39 and Isa 43:10 God refers to Himself simply as "I Am."

From the time that the first edition of the NWT was published in 1950, the Society has gone to great lengths to avoid translating this verse properly. All other Bibles end this verse with the words "I am," which, in the Greek, is "ego eimi."

Footnotes at this verse offered these 'grammatical' reasons for the "I have been" translation. The Society said that "ego eimi" was in the: 1950 perfect indefinite tense - [There is no such tense in Greek!] 1969 perfect tense - [This is impossible for the verb "to be"] 1985 perfect indicative tense - [This is also wrong - it's in the simple present tense.]

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #8

"I am" [Greek: ego eimi] was already been used six times before John 8:58 (8:12;18, 24, 28) without any objection on the part of the Jews. This proves that they did not want to stone Jesus because he used "I am" in 8:58.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #8 refuted

Such an argument is shallow and unlearned. click here to view a detailed discussion of the usage of I AM in the Bible. In John, however, the first three uses of ego eimi are with a predicate (ie: I am He):

John 8:12 "I am [ego eimi] the light of the world"

John 8:18 "I am [ego eimi] He who bears witness of Myself"

John 8:23 "You are from below, I am [ego eimi] from above; you are of this world, I am [ego eimi] not of this world."

The last three uses of ego eimi are without any predicate (I am).

John 8:24 "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [ego eimi], you shall die in your sins."

John 8:28 Jesus therefore said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He [ego eimi]"

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. [ego eimi]"

The whole of John 8 is a single discourse and represents a progression of usage of I AM with the predicate in a common way to a manner that is clearly cognizable as the language of deity. Notice that in immediately after the first ego eimi without the predicate, that the Jews felt compelled to ask, "Who are You?". They recognized the language of deity, but weren't quite sure. Then in v 30, "As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him." Not until the third usage, which used I AM with the idea of Christ's eternality, did they want to stone Him. Although Jesus had told them over and over, "What have I been saying to you?" v 25, only at the end of this single unit of discussion that spans the entire chapter of John 8, at the end, they understood Jesus was claiming to be divine. Jesus' statement in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world" is clearly in a different category than John 8:58 "before Abraham was born, I am." The first time Jesus uses the phrase "I AM" we would not normally expect any reaction. However, by the 6th in v58, it is a clear and unmistakable claim to eternality.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #9

The translators added the "he" to several other passages that use "I AM" [ego eimi] without the predicate, John 4:25-26; John 8:24; 18:5,8; Luke 22:70. Consistency demands that they should render John 8:58 as, "Before Abraham was, I am he"

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #9 refuted

Translations vary in their adding of the HE to these passages. However, while ALL translations add the HE to John 18:5, NO translations add the HE to John 8:58. That is because adding the HE in John 8:58 would cause some problems. With the crowds already confusing Jesus with a risen John the Baptist or one of the prophets, this would mislead the reader into thinking that Abraham was an incarnation of a pre-existent Jesus. Paraphrased, "I, Jesus existed, then became Abraham." Thus "before Abraham existed I am he" would be interpreted "before Abraham existed I am Abraham." But apart from this, the translators recognize the distinct manner in which Jesus deliberately used the predicateless I AM in the passage.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #10

There cannot be any connection with Ex 3:14 because it is most correctly rendered, "I will be what I will be" (future tense) instead of "I am what I am" and Jesus used present tense "I am" in John 8:58. Most Hebraists now recognize Ex 3:14 to mean literally "I will be," with the connotation of "I shall prove to be". (see NWT, 1984, p 86, 1583) The NWT renders the word, "hayah" as, "I shall prove to be" rather than "I am".

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #10 refuted

As we refute their previous arguments, anti-trinitarians adopt new positions. Problem is they argue against themselves! First they argue that the "I am" of Ex 3:14 is different than the "I am" of John 8:58. When that is refuted, they change their mind and say Ex 3:14 should really be translated "I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be". The fact is that Ex 3:14 is no more future tense, than John 8:58 is perfect tense. Both Ex 3:14 and John 8:58 are present tense. These are the facts of the original languages. The LXX confirms that the NWT is wrong.

Perhaps the strongest proof that the correct translation of "hayah" is "I am" rather than "I shall prove to be", is the Septuagint translation (LXX)! This translation of Hebrew to Greek was done in 250 AD! We question whether modern "Hebraists" knew more than the "Hebraists" who translated the LXX. Strong's lists a wide range of meaning for "hayah", including past present and future tenses of the word: "was, come to pass, came, has been, were happened, to be, become, exist, happen". The LXX translators understood this and chose "ego eimi" and "ho on". Neither of these two Greek words could be translated into English as "I shall prove to be"

The Hebrew for the simple "I will be" is very different than what we find in Ex 3:14. Exod 33:19 echoes Ex 3:14 and actually uses "I will be", and the Hebrew is very different. "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." Ex 33:19

If someone asked, "Who are you" the two expressions "I am what I am" and "I will be what I will be" are almost identical in meaning. Both suggest self-determination or sovereignty.

Commenting on "I am what I am", Zimmerli says, "In this figure of speech resounds the sovereign freedom of Yahweh, who, even at the moment he reveals his name, refuses simply to put himself at the disposal of humanity to comprehend him ... In the only passage where the Old Testament itself attempts to provide an explanation of the name "Yahweh" it refuses to explain the name in a way that would confine it within the cage of a definition." (Walther Zimmerli, Old Testament Theology in Outline, p 20-21)

Yahweh's response to Moses in Ex 3:14, suggests that He does not have a "name" in the same way that the pagan gods had names, for he was not one god among many (a situation which would call for distinctive names), but the only real God. In light of the apparent meaning of the name "Yahweh" and the expression EHYEH ASHER EHYEH, it would seem that the Old Testament itself laid the foundation for the eventual obsolescence of the name "Yahweh" in Christian piety. This is confirmed by the fact YHWH or anything like it, is not used even once anywhere in the New Testament. If God had intended to continue using YHWH as his personal name, it would be have been found in the New Testament. However, we see a gradual revelation of the name of God. First, "El Shaddai" was revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Second, Jehovah (Literally YHWH) was first revealed to Moses (Ex 6:3). Finally we arrive at the New Testament where the highest name given is that of Jesus: Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

Jehovah's Witnesses do agree that God is self-existent. Regardless of how Exodus 3:14 is translated into English, general consensus among scholars is that the word "EHYEH" used in Ex 3:14, signifies sovereignty, absolute independence, and self-determination. Therefore Ex 3:14 does speak of Yahweh's self-existence and eternality, meaning that the that the wording "I am what I am" is not wrong, after all. This anti-trinitarian rebuttal fails to disprove the obvious connection between Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #11

The King James translators knew that John 8:58 was not a direct claim by Jesus to Exodus 3:14. This is evident by the fact that they used capital letters in the Exodus "I AM," and did Not use capital letters in the John "I am."

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #11 refuted

This is an amazing argument by anti-Trinitarians. They are appealing to the translators of the KJV use of capitalization. Problem is that both "I AM" and "I AM THAT I AM" are capitalized in the KJV. The use of full capitalization of a word in the KJV is quite rare but it seems they used it to sometimes indicate a proper name. For example, in Ex 6:3 "JEHOVAH" is also in full caps. However, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" is capitalized in Ex 28:36 and it surely is not a proper name. The New Testament of the KJV contains almost no capitalization except for the inscription above the cross, "JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS" Jn 19:19.

What is interesting, is that capitalization was used equally rare by the translators of the New King James Version (NKJV), yet they did capitalize "I AM" in both Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #12

The Greek at John 8:58 is "ego eimi." It can be properly translated in the English as "I am". Also due to the sentence structure of John 8:58, it can also be correctly translated as "I have been."

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #12 refuted

This admission proves that the NWT is literally wrong in its translation. They know it should be translated "I am"! Notice that "I AM" is admittedly the correct translation based upon what the Greek literally says. They argue that based upon context, it should be translated "I have been". We argue that that based upon the context, it should be translated "I AM".

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #13

Jesus proves he is not the one who spoke to Moses at the burning bush in Matt 22:32. Jesus is clearly referring to someone other than himself when He says, He is the God, not "I am God".

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #13 refuted

Once again, Jehovah's Witnesses use anti-Modalism arguments (proving the Father and Son are different persons.) to disprove the trinity. We have no problem if it was the Father who spoke Ex 3:14. Our argument is that Jesus shares the identical quality of "timeless existence" that the Father possesses. Not that Jesus is the same person as the Father. We tire of having to teach Jehovah's Witnesses what Modalism is and how it is as wrong as their own Arian theology.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #14

Jesus was speaking of his preexistence, not his identity. The question was when he was, not who he was. Jesus "only disclosed when he was alive, sometime before Abraham, not who he was." (Nelson Herle, Trinity Doctrine, p 42, Unitarian) The John 8 discourse does not centre around who Jesus was, but merely shows that He pre-existed Abraham as God's first creature.

Anti-Trinitarian rebuttal #14 refuted

A simple reading disproves this. The entire passage consists of a series of discussions of the identity of Jesus which is so obvious that C. K. Barrett, in his commentary on John, entitled John 8:12-59 "Who Is Jesus?

The "I am" passages themselves deal with Jesus' identity.

The Jews asked, "Who are you?" v 25 and "whom do You make Yourself out to be?" v 53.

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