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In John 18:5 are the majority of the translation erroneously in agreement and has [he] added into the vers.

They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. (John 18:5 - King James Version)

they answered him, 'Jesus the Nazarene;' Jesus saith to them, 'I am he;' -- and Judas who delivered him up was standing with them; (John 18:5 - Young's Literal Translation)

They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. (John 18:5 - English Standard Version)

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) (John 18:5 - New International Version)

Also found in; NLT, BSB, BLB, BRG, CPDV, AKJV, NKJV, KJ21, NASB, NASB1995, NASB1977, NCV, AMP, AMPC, CSB, HCSB, ASV, DRA, DLNT, ERV, EXB, GNT, GNV, GWT, LET, MEV, NET, WNT, WEB. Anderson, Godbey, Hawies, Lamsa, Mace, Webster, Weywoth, Worrell, Worsley.

Only five translations that I can find has it properly translated;

They answered him, "Jesus from Nazareth." Jesus told them, "I AM." Judas, the man who betrayed him, was standing with them. (John 18:5 - International Standard Version)

They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene”; Jesus says to them, “I AM”; and Judas who delivered Him up was standing with them. (John 18:5 - Literal Standard Version)

“Yeshua from Natzeret,” they answered. He said to them, “I AM.” Also standing with them was Y’hudah, the one who was betraying him. (John 18:5 - Complete Jewish Bible)

Also found in; Aramaic Bible in Plain English & New Heart English Bible

enter image description here ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον. λέγει αὐτοῖς Ἐγώ εἰμι. εἱστήκει δὲ καὶ Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν μετ’ αὐτῶν. Nestle 1904

Totally 47 translation above and 42 of them has it "I am he" and 5 I AM which makes it 89.36% or 9 of 10 has "I am he". The high amount of "I am he" makes me doubt if he refer to I AM "Ehyeh asher ehyeh."

The same phrase Ἐγώ εἰμι is used in john 8:58 NIV, ESV, KJV & YLT and there they have just; I am. If Jesus did not say I AM "Ehyeh". in John 18, why did they "went backward, and fell to the ground".

14 And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am "Ehyeh" hath sent me unto you. (Ex 3:14 KJV)

Am I right or am I wrong in reading I AM in John 18:5?

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  • 2
    My reading of those translations where Jesus says "I am he" indicate that when the officials from the chief priests and Pharisees asked Jesus if he was "Jesus of Nazareth", Jesus replied that he was (Jesus of Nazareth). Interestingly, the NIV comment says that when they "fell to the ground" they "were met in the dim light by a majestic person". Deity? I do so hope someone can shed light on this important questions.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 10:52
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    If your question is intending to reveal grammatical mistranslations in English Bibles - Remember [#1.] “Anoki” אָֽנֹכִי֙ means “I Am” stated in Exodus 3:6 ; [#2.] “Ehyeh” אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה means “I Will Be” stated in Exodus 3:12-14. Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 11:07
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    @חִידָה Thanks anoki.. אני ani also one way to state it Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 11:15
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    That's the NIV interpretation of how the men who had come to arrest him perceived him. I am not qualified to answer this question, unfortunately, but I look forward to insights from scholars who are. Your sister in Christ.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 11:21
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    The KJV has 'he' in italic and thus makes it very clear that 'he' is not in the text but is suggested as being idiomatic in English. YLT, the same, as Robert Young has put 'he' in quotation marks. Translators are being careful not to interpret but also being careful not to render the text in non-idiomatic form in English. Such is the delicate balance of translation : both translations have fairly represented what is on the Greek page of scripture, by John, and have left the readers to decide the issue for themselves.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 2:16

5 Answers 5

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This is a tricky question to answer so I will put the "I AM" statements in context - see appendix below. Any decision about how to translate the occurrence of "I AM" in John 18:5 must consider the following:

  • Jesus' statement "I Am" is in response to the exchange between Jesus and the arresting mob, "who are you seeking" and Jesus replies, "I Am [he?]". Thus identifying Himself as the person whom they seek.
  • However, there is clearly more than mere identification (and an implied objective "he") precisely because the arresting mob fell backward at the obvious display of divine power.
  • Unpredicated "I Am" statements in the the NT are only ever placed in the mouth of Jesus and always identify Him as in some way divine ad allude to Ex 3:14.

Solution

It is also obvious that the various versions struggled with these version as evidenced by the variation in the way they translated it. So here is my personal suggestion.

I think that all the above must be somehow recognized in the translation. So I think that two thing need to be done. The pertinent phrase must be rendered, "I Am [he]" and footnoted with an explanation to give the full force of what Jesus was saying, namely, Jesus both identifying Himself to the Mob as Jesus of Nazareth, but more importantly, showing His innate divinity as evidenced by their falling backward. [Then despite this, they then ignore this display and continue to arrest Jesus!!]

APPENDIX - "I AM" (unpredicated) in the NT

“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 about 67 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.”, ie, unpredicated (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 67 times (one or two are disputed). Of the 48 cases of the exact phrase “ego eimi”, “I am”, just 15 are unpredicated and have (with one exception) 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.] Note that this and the previous two mean that Jesus, in the space of this chapter of John 8 uses the unpredicated “I am” idea in the present (v24), future (v28) and past sense (v58). V24 & 28 appears to be tied to believers’ salvation as well.
  • 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.]

Significantly, 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.”

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  • @DanielDahlberg - many thanks for pointing out this error - now fixed.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 12:34
  • Thanks a lot for such a rich and well answer which expands my understanding and gives a clearer view +1 , ✓ Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 12:43
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A discussion of Exodus 3:14 and the Tetragram is at https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/84269/in-exodus-314-is-there-a-linguistic-relationship-between-the-tetragrammaton-and/122523#122523

“Anoki” אָֽנֹכִי֙ is the pronoun "I." The tenses in Hebrew are perfect (complete action) and imperfect (continuing action), not time, no past, present, or future. To express to be with present tense meaning pronouns are use. This is the way it is in Exodus while “Ehyeh” אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה expresses future three times. But, in Exodus 3:14 Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh most likely is detached from time and expresses continual eternal existence. JPS translation leaves it transliterated.

Probably the best way to express the meaning of the Tetragram in Greek is ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος (in Rev. 4:8, NA28), "who was and is and is to come (in Rev. 4:8, ESV). The Septuagint (LXX) translates Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν, and Ehyeh as Ὁ ὢν in Exodus 3:14.

Thus, neither the question nor the answer is clear for this question. We don't have Jesus' words in Hebrew/Aramaic. However, we do have Jewish reaction to what Jesus said. Only when they picked up stones can we suggest that Jesus used Ehyeh.

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  • Thanks for your answer! Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 13:00
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Totally 47 translation above and 42 of them has it "I am he" and 5 I AM which makes it 89.36% or 9 of 10 has "I am he". The high amount of "I am he" makes me doubt if he refer to I AM "Ehyeh asher ehyeh."

The name YHWH is an abbreviation, and cannot simply be translated as I am. This is purely a later interpretation of the Gentile "Christians", possibly started with Romans in the 4th century like Chrysostom who was likely the first one to connect John 8:58 "I am" with God's name. There have been "Christian Scholars" who take liberty to interpret any mention of the "I am" as the divine name, according to their whims; we can't do anything about it. However, the divine name has nothing to do with ego eimi or in the modern Greek ego eimai which simply means "I am" or It is me, It is I or "I am he". The common verb cannot possibly mean or refer to the divine name. What we can do is to learn the language to judge such traditions deeply, we find that such an interpretation/ translation is indefensible and void of any logic and linguistics.

Mickelson's Strong's dictionary says:

G1510 εἰμί eimi (ei-miy') v.

  1. I am (i.e. I exist).
  2. (emphatically declaring oneself, following G1473) It is I Myself (see Matthew 14:27, Matthew 14:28 and Mark 6:50).
  3. (of God himself, following G1473) I AM (this is the comparable Greek form of God's Hebrew name, YAHWEH; compare H3068). {used only when emphatic} [first person singular present indicative, a prolonged form of a primary and defective verb] KJV: am, have been, X it is I, was

The meaning of YHWH can be understood clearly from Revelation 1:8 ESV “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

KJV saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

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Background
In his commentary of Exodus, Dennis Prager explains one aspect of this issue:

Hebrew does not have a word for the present tense of the verb "to be." In other words, there is no Hebrew word for "am" or "is" or "are." Therefore, in order to say "I am Joseph," for example, one would say "Ani Joseph" ("I Joseph")."1

Here are a few examples demonstrating Prager's point:

Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau (אנכי עשו)... (Genesis 27:19)
I am your first born son Esau (אני בנך בכרך עשו)
...I am Joseph (אני יוסף)... (Genesis 45:3)
God said to him, I am God Almighty (אני אל שדי)...(Genesis 35:11)
I am the God of Abraham (אנכי אלהי אברהם)...(Genesis 26:24)
I am the God (אנכי האל)... (Genesis 31:13)

In each case "am" is added; someone speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic cannot say "I am" or "I am [predicate]". The Greek language differs. It has a present tense of the verb to be and εἰμί is the first person singular form.

However, as the LXX shows, what an English translator might consider to be the proper use (ἐγώ εἰμι) is not necessarily how Hebrew scholars chose to use the term:

Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau (ἐγὼ Ησαυ)... (Genesis 27:19)
I am your first born son Esau (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ υἱός σου)... (Genesis 27:32)
I am Joseph (ἐγώ εἰμι Ιωσηφ)... (Genesis 45:3)

This is true even when God is speaking of Himself:

God said to him, I am your God (εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός ἐγὼ ὁ θεός σου)...(Genesis 35:11)
I am the God of Abraham (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς Αβρααμ)...(Genesis 26:24)
I am the God (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς)... (Genesis 31:13)

The LXX translators often chose to preserve the Semitic form of self-identification ἐγώ... only selectively using the Greek form ἐγώ εἰμι. Since the OT was in Hebrew or Aramaic εἰμι was never necessary to accurately convey what was said. Apparently εἰμι was to show emphasis:

Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau (ἐγὼ Ησαυ)... (Genesis 27:19)
I am your first born son Esau (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ υἱός σου)... (Genesis 27:32)
I am Joseph (ἐγώ εἰμι Ιωσηφ)... (Genesis 45:3)

Jacob is not Esau so the original Hebrew is persevered, "I Jacob." When the identity is in question, "I am Esau." Similarly, when Joseph brothers question the identity, "I am Joseph."

Nor is the selective use of εἰμι limited to the OT:

He said, “I am the ‘voice of one shouting in the wilderness: “Make-straight the way of the Lord”’, just as Isaiah the prophet said [in Isa 40:3]”. (John 1:23 DLNT)
ἔφη ἐγὼ φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου καθὼς εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας ὁ προφήτης

The Fourth Gospel begins by demonstrating the selective use of εἰμι found in the LXX was still in effect. When a Jewish person self-identifies as "I [am]..." the verb εἰμι is optional. Therefore, whenever "ἐγώ εἰμι" is found in the New Testament, the most likely explanation is the person actually spoke in Greek. A second possibility is what was said was in Hebrew or Aramaic and the writer chose to add εἰμι when they translated. In this case the addition of the verb is most likely to add emphasis.

The Arrest of Jesus

4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” [ἐγώ εἰμι] Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” [ἐγώ εἰμι] they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. [ἐγώ εἰμι] So, if you seek me, let these men go.” (John 18 ESV)

The expression ἐγώ εἰμι is recorded three times, twice when spoken by Jesus and once added by the writer. When spoken by Jesus, it appears to be a simple form of self-identification. If this was the case, translators correctly add the implied "he" as the response in the exchange "whom do you seek...Jesus of Nazareth...I am (he) [Jesus of Nazareth]."

There are good reasons why that approach misrepresents what took place:

  1. The exchange was initiated by Jesus, who knew what was going to happen. Therefore, the entire exchange and response was premeditated by Jesus. He wanted to say ἐγώ εἰμι because He knew how those who came to arrest Him would respond.
  2. Jesus could have responded in Aramaic, I Jesus or I Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore the specific form of self-identification, ἐγώ εἰμι, was chosen by Jesus and should be preserved as such. Moreover, it is improper to "put words in Jesus' mouth" which He clearly never spoke or intended to speak.
  3. The narrator's addition is unnecessary: when Jesus spoke, they fell backward would have been sufficient to describe the event. Therefore, the narrator later understood the purposeful nature of what Jesus said.

ἐγώ εἰμι is used more in the Fourth Gospel than any of the other three. This must be considered as purposeful. While the evidence strongly supports Jesus spoke in Greek, the writer intends us to understand ἐγώ εἰμι even if He did not use the Greek language. Therefore, "I am" as emphatic and without the implied he is the best translation of what took place.


1. Dennis Prager, Exodus: God, Slavery, and Freedom, Regnery Faith, 2018, pp. 44

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There are 7 I am statements by Jesus in the gospel of John but John 18:5 is not one of them!

The Bread of Life

And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." -John 6:35

Light of the World

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." -John 8:12

The Door

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." -John 10:9

Good Shepherd

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." -John 10:11

The Resurrection and Life

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" -John 11:25, 26

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." -John 14:6

The Vine

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." -John 15:5

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