AT JOHN 8:58 a number of translations, for instance The Jerusalem Bible, have Jesus saying: “Before Abraham ever was, I Am.” 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”?
At Exodus 3:14 (KJ) the phrase “I AM” is used as a title for God to indicate that he really existed and would do what he promised. The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, edited by Dr. J. H. Hertz, says of the phrase: “To the Israelites in bondage, the meaning would be, ‘Although He has not yet displayed His power towards you, He will do so; He is eternal and will certainly redeem you.’ Most moderns follow Rashi [a French Bible and Talmud commentator] in rendering [Exodus 3:14] ‘I will be what I will be.’”
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. Hence, note how some other Bible versions render John 8:58:
1869: “From before Abraham was, I have been.” The New Testament, by G. R. Noyes.
1935: “I existed before Abraham was born!” The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed.
1965: “Before Abraham was born, I was already the one that I am.” Das Neue Testament, by Jörg Zink.
1981: “I was alive before Abraham was born!” The Simple English Bible.
1984: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
Thus, the real thought of the Greek used here is that God’s created “firstborn,” Jesus, had existed long before Abraham was born.—Colossians 1:15; Proverbs 8:22, 23, 30; Revelation 3:14.
Again, the context shows this to be the correct understanding. This time the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for claiming to “have seen Abraham” although, as they said, he was not yet 50 years old. (Verse 57) Jesus’ natural response was to tell the truth about his age. So he naturally told them that he “was alive before Abraham was born!”—The Simple English Bible.
· 8 years ago