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Did God really call himself "I am" or not at Ex. 3:14 as the Hebrew for "I am" is not therein?

What do the texts show me?

"God said to Moshe: EHYEH ASHER EHYEH/I will be-there howsoever I will be-there. And he said: Thus shall you say to the Children of Israel: EHYEH/I-WILL-BE-THERE sends me to you."-'The Five Books of Moses' by Everett Fox

*"I am" at Ex 3:14 should read:- 'I SHALL PROVE TO BE' (N.W.T.) or 'I WILL BE' (see J. Moffet translation and others). The Greek N.T. text at John 8:58 does NOT read ho On, THE BEING as it ought to do if Jesus was quoting from or referring to the Greek copy of the Hebrew Scriptures (O.T.), The Septuagint (LXX) at Ex 3:14 (see below) which places the emphasis on "THE BEING" and not on "I am" thus would have to read Ὁ ὢν but this is NOT the case, therefore Jesus was not quoting form or eluding to either the Greek O.T. (LXX) or as previously considered the original Hebrew at John 8:58. Thus "I am" is a quote from only the English texts of the scriptures which do not follow the grammar of the Hebrew or the Greek correctly, but follows preconceived Trinitarian and Greek philosophical ontological ideas which misrepresents the meaning of the texts with maybe the exception of Aquila and Theodotin who use the Greek word "esomai" for the Hebrew word "ehyeh" *(see earlier). This is what God told Moses to tell to the Israelites in the Septuagint:-

Οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ Ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς.

“...this will you say to the son's Israel THE BEING I was sent off me toward you.!

This is Jesus said at John 8:58

“ πριν Αβραάμγενέσθαιeγώeίμι"

“…Before Abraham to become I am.”

H.N.T. John 8:58 ויאמר אליהם ישוע אמן אמן אני אמר לכם בטרם היות אברהם אני הייתי׃

Strong's No. 589 'aniy an-ee' Contracted from H595; I: - I, (as for) me, mine, myself, we, X which, X who.

Strong’ & H.O.T. Exo. 3:14 ויאמר559 אלהים430 אל413 משׁה4872 אהיה1961 אשׁר834 אהיה1961 ויאמר559 כה3541 תאמר559 לבני1121 ישׂראל3478 אהיה1961 שׁלחני7971 אליכם׃413

Please Note!

The Hebrew word for “I am” does not appear in Exo. 3:14

ethos

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  • For additional detail on the Hebrew consider this answer. – Luke Sawczak Oct 11 '18 at 20:53
  • The nature of people is such that they will see what they prefer to see in the text. Everyone comes to a text, any text -- even a tweet from the president of the US -- with preconceived notions. They see through a glass darkly. – enegue Oct 12 '18 at 6:01
  • Ture but that does not alter the text. - Example, the LXX reads Ho ON but John 8:58 is devoid of Ho ON!! Thus not reffering to Ex. 3:14, is that not so? – user26950 Oct 17 '18 at 21:39
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A Look at the Hebrew

Exodus 3:14 (WLC)

ויאמר אלהים אל־משה אהיה אשר אהיה ויאמר כה תאמר לבני ישראל אהיה שלחני אליכם׃

And God said to Moses: "I am who am." And he said: "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: 'I am has sent me to you.'"

First, the word in Hebrew for 'I' (אני) can be used for direct identification: 'I am Jared' would be 'I [אני] Jared.' But in Hebrew the 'am' (ie. the being verb) is only implied in this case—there is no word for 'I am' outside the word used here (אהיה—i.e. the first person form of 'to be'), which is a form of the verb 'to be.' God doesn't use an implied being verb here because the point isn't that He exists, period, which could be said or claimed of any 'gods,' but rather than He is in an eternal present, eternally existent—the one who 'am' without reference to time altogether, with emphasis, rather, on the verb 'to be,' hence its explicit usage. That's why 'I am' in being verb form serves to identify Him uniquely to the Israelites. Using אני would not only be mysterious as 'I am' is, but meaningless: it would leave those told His name (if it were אני): You are who?? Not so with אהיה .אהיה stands alone as a statement of identity as the one who is eternally: "אשר אהיה" (the one who am being) would be redundant if it weren't for its usefulness as an expression of the uniqueness of the one Who Is (the use of אשר serves a similar function to a definite article ה here, but has more emphasis on the being verb which follows).

A Look at the Greek

Exodus 3:14 (LXX)

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

And God said to Moses: "I am the [one] being."1 And he said: "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: 'He who is1 has sent me to you.'"

The Greek translation in the Septuagint actually helps us understand that the Hebrew should be taken in that sense which one suspects when they see the not-commonly-used-in-similar-contexts אשר ('the one,' 'who,' 'that,' etc.) in this specific context: namely, to understand the words אהיה אשר אהיה in the sense, 'I am that unique one who can say of himself, I am.' In essence God is actually saying in Hebrew: I am the [only one who can say] I am [in the sense that it means being in both the present and eternal sense].'

The Greek translation is exactly what we would expect the Greek equivalent to be, and shows the 'I am [currently] the only being one' sense is understood in the Hebrew, giving the uniqueness of the identification (since ὁ ὤν is actually a third person reference to a unique identity which only God can fulfill in this context).

Aquila's and other possibly quite polemical, imprudently hyper-literal translations actually obscure and violate the Hebrew sense of the words. εσομαι (I shall be) is contrary to the context in which the word is used: אהיה, if not taken to mean an ongoing present existence (i.e. if taken to mean 'I shall be') would make God be promising He's going to be what He is claiming to be, which is not assurance of His identity at all—the whole intention of saying what He said! If God used the so-called perfect tense of the verb to be, He couldn't convey what He is trying to convey by the unique divine identity. He would just 'have been.' Or 'was.'

Jesus and 'I am'

As you have seen God summarized His statement 'I am [the one] who am' by saying that the take away is 'I am.' This is the part that He is actually saying is His name (the present tense 'I am being' intending to convey 'I am [who] exists eternally.' As such, The Greek εγω ειμι (I am) means exactly the same thing (or rather can be meant exactly the same way) as the imperfect tense in Hebrew used in Exodus 3:14 (which does not always mean future tense).

Understand that the Septuagint takes liberty with the translation in that it makes God use a third person identification when saying, "tell them I'm 'the One who is.'" Whereas the Hebrew uses the first person: "Tell them I'm [The One] who am." As such if Jesus were to use the equivalent of what God said in Hebrew, we would expect to see just the εγω ειμι (I am) of the Greek of Exodus 3:14 (without delving into alleged instances of such a usage).

Yahweh

It's my humble opinion that the Name of God in Hebrew יהוה simply means "he [who] is" (i.e. as in 'the Being One'). This is concordant with the very next verse after Exodus 3:14:

Exodus 3:15 (WLC)

ויאמר עוד אלהים אל־משה כה־תאמר אל־בני ישראל יהוה אלהי אבתיכם אלהי אברהם אלהי יצחק ואלהי יעקב שלחני אליכם זה־שמי לעלם וזה זכרי לדר דר׃

And God said to Moses again, "You shall speak thus to the children of Israel: 'Yahweh [He who is], God of your fathers—God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob—has sent me to you.' This is my name forever: this is how I shall be known from generation to generation."

"I will be-there howsoever I will be-there" is not a translation of this Hebrew phrase (to put it as charitably as possible).


Disclaimer: I have no formal education in Hebrew or Greek. I absorb language in my own studies of the original languages in an informal way, and my explanations are somewhat anecdotal or colloquial. That said, I welcome correction.


Footnotes

1 When a person identifies as ὁ ὤν (the being one), i.e. uses it of themselves, it is still technically a 'third person' reference with which they are directly identifying—hence the explicit third person phrasing in the second usage of ὁ ὤν here in my translation.

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This is an excellent question. I will comment only on the NT instances of "I AM". “I am” in the Greek (NT) is, “ego eimi”. The verb, “eimi” occurs 2462 times in the New Testament in various forms, but in only 75 of these cases is the first person nominative pronoun, “ego” used with it. Generally, the complete form, “ego eimi” only occurs when some emphasis is required.

This present continuous verb, “to be”, is the most common in almost all languages and has several syntactical functions in Greek (eg, see John 1:1 ):

  • Existence, “I am.” (see below)
  • Identification, eg, Luke 1:19, “I am Gabriel”; John 9:9, “I am [that one]”; John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd”.
  • Relationship, eg, Acts 18:10, “I am with you”.
  • Predication, eg, Acts 22:3, “I am Jewish”.

The New Testament shows an interesting and (somewhat) unexpected pattern in the use of the Greek phrase, “ego eimi”, “I am”. The exact phrase “ego eimi” occurs 48 times in the New Testament. It also occurs 11 times as “eimi ego” which has a very similar but still different construction and all are relational or predicative. It occurs in a few other forms such as “ego gar eimi”, “ego men eimi”, “ego ouk eimi” (I am not), etc, a total of 75 times (one or two are disputed). Of the 48 cases of the exact phrase “ego eimi”, “I am”, just 15 have the syntactical form existence as opposed to identification, relationship or predication. All are listed below (my translation) unless preceded by “not”, eg, Matt 26:22, 25, plus one exception to be noted.

  • Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50 – “Be encouraged. I am.” [To the frightened disciples in the boat.]
  • Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8 – “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am’”.
  • Mark 14:62, Luke 22:70 – “Jesus replied, ‘I am’”. [He was then accused of blasphemy by the Jews and condemned.]
  • John 4:26 – “Then Jesus said, ‘I am.’” [To the Samaritan woman at the well. There is a reasonable case for this being identification, but that is a matter of taste.]
  • John 6:20 – “But then [Jesus] said to them, ‘I am. Fear not.’” [To the frightened disciples in the boat.]
  • John 8:24 – “If you do not trust/believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  • John 8:28 – “When you will lift up the Son of Man, then you will trust/know that I am.”
  • John 8:58 – “Truly, truly, I say to you; before Abraham existed, I am.” [The Jews then tried to stone Him for blasphemy.]
  • John 9:9 – “Some were saying that, ‘this is [that one]’, and others were saying ‘no, it is like him.’ But he was saying, ‘I am [that one].’” (This instance is clearly identification rather than existence.)
  • John 13:19 – “From now [on] I tell you before the occurrence, that you may believe when it occurs that, I am.”
  • John 18: 5, 6, 8 – “He said to them, ‘I am.’ …Therefore, when He told them, ‘I am’, they fell backward to the ground.” [This occurred when the Jews tried to arrest Jesus in the garden. It could be reasonably argued that this is a case of identification. However, the fact that the arresting mob fell backward suggests that much more is intended here.]

It is interesting that, according to Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8, one of the distinguishing characteristics of false christs is their claim to be “I AM”. Unfortunately, there has been a historical parade of charlatans making such false claims.

Thus, with the obvious and rather trivial exception of John 9:9 (and self-exclusory Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8), all of the “I am” existence statements in the New Testament, including the 7 in John, were spoken exclusively by Jesus, and all were either the basis for absolute trust/belief and reassurance in Jesus, or were a clear declaration of His claim to be the “I AM.”