- (Part 1) Is there extra-Biblical precedence to render "ἐγώ εἰμι" as "I am he"?
- (Part 2) Are there any indications, in the Hebrew, or Aramaic Texts, or Liturgy, to indicate a formulaic use of "I am he" to justify inventing the "Exceptional Greek Syntax"?
- (Part 3) And if neither of the above, why is this Syntax used to translate the Non-Verb clause, "I [am] He" in John 8:58, AND in Isaiah from Hebrew, or Aramaic, (rather than using something like "ἐγώ εἰμι οὗτος." Andoc. 1 126, etc, which notably does not occur in the LXX).
Objections to some assumptions about this question:
- The LXX's Deut. 32:39 "ἐγώ εἰμι" is NOT a translation of "אני הוא", but rather the very oddly written, "אני אני הוא".
- Jesus' statement associates with Is. 41:4-8, more-so than Is. 43:10, and any association of what Jesus said would probably be there.
- Although PORTIONS of the Septuagint are accepted to predate Christ, and authoritative, a large portion is called into question, (including Isaiah), and do not represent the Hebrew text, See Wikipedia, Textual Analysis.
- The Gospel of John is/was not a reliable source of anything that Jesus supposedly said--in Greek, and even IF translated from Aramaic, or written side-by-side in Greek, could have certainly been made to conform to the LXX, or vice versa.
- It is assumed that Jesus actually wanted to be understood, when it suited his purpose to provoke them, and allow them to remain "blind";
- Regardless, even if Jesus spoke in Aramaic, (I [am] he, אנא איתי, Peshitta), this was probably not recognized as "Formulaic", or a specific "Liturgical Chant", as this was a very common expression in Hebrew and Aramaic--certainly not a reference to Exodus'. 3:14, אהיה אשר אהיה, ("I will be who I will be").
No, No Greek Precedent
(Part 1) Answer: I also agree that there is no precedent to translate "I [am] he" from Aramaic/Hebrew to "ἐγώ εἰμι" in Greek, nor to express "I am he" in Greek this way--except from Deut. 32:39--which is itself a very exceptional case, because of the very oddly written Hebrew, "אני אני הוא".
The methodology I used to search about 20 ancient Greek Authors, (using Perseus), was to match broadly, not matching specific conjugations, or diacritics, allowing for all forms. My search is broader, than required, but nevertheless failed.
The search included, but wasn't limited to:
- ἐγώ εἰμι
- ἐγὼ ἔσομαι
- ἐγὼ ἤμην
- ἐμοῦ ἐγὼ
Generally, as has been affirmed before, "I am he," doesn't really appear in this great bodice of text, in the form, "ἐγώ εἰμι", but rather like: "ἐγώ εἰμι οὗτος." Andoc. 1 126, etc.
This is an argument from silence, of course, but there doesn't seem to be any precedent in the Greek to indicate how this statement would have made sense, (not that Jesus spoke it originally in the Greek, anyway).
Is there Liturgical or Formulaic Recognition?
(Part 2) Answer: No, there is no obvious attempt to preserve a formulaic construction, from a liturgical or Biblical source.
NOTE: Preservation of a "n Word Formulas" was not necessarily a goal of the LXX translators, as evidenced in Psalms 150, which relies on one word construction, "הַֽ֭לְלוּהוּ", but rather translated in Greek as, "αἰνεῖτε αὐτὸν".
NOTE: Omitted Analysis of Aramaic texts: Cureton, Harklean, etc.
Deut. 32:39 - is unique among "אני הוא" statements, and therefore translated uniquely, "אני אני הוא" , literally, "I, [being] I[me], [am] he." At which point, the Greek's "ἐγώ εἰμι", exceptional phrasing starts to make a whole lot of sense--pointing to the exceptional Hebrew.
Regarding Liturgical Consistency:
"אני הוא", in Hebrew, is consistently used in Is. 41:4, 43:10, 43:13, 45:18, 48:12, and 51:12.
However, the Aramaic is inconsistent:, in the Peshitta, Jesus said, "אנא איתי", which is different even from the Aramaic Targum Yonaton, "אְנָא הוּא"--On top of this, when examining Targum Yonaton--it doesn't appear to be consistent with itself.
So, there is no reason to infer this was somehow "consistent/formulaic--in its Aramaic Expression. Without a specific liturgical reference, this argument is very difficult to make. An ancient, Koine Greek, Jewish Siddur, would be really useful for this question ...
Deu 32:39, LXX - ἴδετε ἴδετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς πλὴν ἐμοῦ ἐγὼ ἀποκτενῶ καὶ ζῆν ποιήσω πατάξω κἀγὼ ἰάσομαι καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ὃς ἐξελεῖται ἐκ τῶν χειρῶν μου
Isaiah 43:10, Peshitta -
ܐܢܬܘܢ ܐܢܘܢ ܣ̈ܗܕܝ ܐܡܿܪ ܡܪܝܐ ܘܥܒ̈ܕܝ ܕܓܒܿܝܬ܂ ܘܬܕܥܘܢ/ܕܬܕܥܘܢ#3#/ ܘܬܗܝܡܢܘܢ ܒܝ܂ ܘܬܣܬܟܠܘܢ ܕܐܢܐ ܗܘ܂ ܘܩܕܡܝ ܠܐ ܐܬܒܪܝ ܐܠܗ܂ ܘܒܬܪܝ ܠܐ ܢܗܘܐ܂
Targum Jonathan, Is. 43:10 -
אַתוּן סָהְדִין קְֹדָמַי אְמַר יוי וְעַבדִי מְשִיחָא דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה בְדִיל דְתִדְעוּן וֻתהֵימְנוּן קְֹדָמַי וְתִסתַכְלוּן אְרֵי אְנָא הוּא אְנָא הוּא דְמִלְקַדמִין אַף עָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָא דִילִי אִנוּן וֻבָר מִנִי לֵית אְלָה׃
John. 8:58, Peshitta -
ܐܡܪ ܠܗܘܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܪ ܐܢܐ ܠܟܘܢ ܕܥܕܠܐ ܢܗܘܐ ܐܒܪܗܡ ܐܢܐ ܐܝܬܝ ܀
אמר להון ישׁוע אמין אמין אמר אנא לכון דעדלא נהוא אברהם אנא איתי .
Deut. 32:39 -
ראו ׀ עתה כי אני אני הוא ואין אלהים עמדי אני אמית ואחיה מחצתי ואני ארפא ואין מידי מציל׃
So Why this Invented Greek Syntax?
(Part 3) Answer:
- As mentioned before, Deut. 32:39, "אני אני הוא" is itself, exceptional, and the Greek's special syntax, and emphatic nature, makes senses, as it points to the unique nature of the Hebrew phrasing.
- Considering the Uniqueness of "אני אני" statements, (Deut. 32:39, Is. 48:15, Hosea 5:14), the poor quality of later LXX translations, (like Isaiah), it is possible that this Greek Syntax could have just been borrowed from Deut. 32:39, after trying to translate "אני אני".
- Since the writer was not trying to convey what Jesus said in Aramaic, it is a certainty that at the very least, the writer/translator effectively employed this syntax to lead Christians who knew Greek to associate the passage with the entire context in the LXX, Is. 41+; Perhaps their intent was for them to consider the primacy of Isaiah texts--(which has always been a matter of significant debate, i.e. Jerome, etc).
- In the best case scenario, the writer/translator was trying to paraphrase Jesus who may have actually been quoting Isaiah 41:4-8, to provoke such a response, or at worst they tried to be clever and conformed what Jesus said to match the LXX;
Lastly, regarding John 8:58, it is understood that Jesus knew that what he was about to say, about his apparent immortality, would lead his audience to make inferences, which would them to stumble, provoking them to violence.
The fact is, clarity was obviously not Jesus' intention, nor John's, or else Jesus would have explained it, or one of the Disciples would have explained--but this is absent from the text.
So, the glaring absence of clarification--resulting in an "attempted stoning", is more than enough to persuade a fair minded person that Jesus was simply "Provoking" the religious elite to stumble in their own "intellectualism", so that his actual purpose could be fulfilled.
The idea of Jesus wanting to provoke them, to lead themselves to bad inferences, is very consistent with actions to "conceal the mystery". For example, Jesus even concealed that Judas was about to betray him, from the rest of the disciples ...
John 12:40, NASB - “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.”
Perhaps Jesus's intent to provoke these religious elite, allowing them to blind themselves with their own intellectual capacity, is still having effect today ...