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John 8:23-25: "And He was saying to them, 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.' 25So they were saying to Him, 'Who are You?' Jesus said to them, 'What have I been saying to you from the beginning?'" (emphasis added).

The italicized text "He" (v.24) has been added by the translators. In other words, Christ actually said: "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am…" (emphasis added).

The emphasized clause in 8:25 leads me to believe Christ's audience was mesmerized by His words (cf. Jn. 7:46: "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks."). Could this be the case, obviated by their question to Him: "Who are you?" and is this (v. 24: "I am") a statement of Deity? This seems to be a fascinating exchange worthy of discussion.

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7 Answers 7

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Yes, a clear statement of deity!

Anytime a word is italicized in the King James Version (KJV) text, that means that the word was not in the original Greek (or Hebrew) text that was used for the translation but was added by the translators to give clarity. This does not mean it is wrong to have these words added.

The vast majority of the time, these words simply make sentences grammatically correct in the English language and are necessary. It can be beneficial, though, to remember that they are added and to see how the sentence would read without them.

In this instance and John 8:28 and 58, Jesus proclaimed, “I am.” This is how Jehovah identified Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. When spoken under the anointing power of God, Jesus’ pronouncement that “I am he” knocked backward to the ground all of those who came to arrest Him (John 18:5-6).

Jesus was the great “I AM THAT I AM” of Exodus 3:14 manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

The query in verse 24 …. “Who are you?" - is explained in verses 26 and 27

JOHN 8:26 have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” 27 They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.

Jesus stated ‘He who sent me’ - and the Pharisees didn’t understand or make the connection that the ‘He’ who ‘sent’ Jesus was referring to God, neither that the ‘Him’ Jesus heard from was God. Hence they needed to ask the question.

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  • Thanks for that. Yes, I'm well-aware of the use of italics in the text. And, I certainly agree with you regarding Jn. 8:28, 58, 18:5-6 and Ex. 3:14. Perhaps vs. 27, as you cite, is really the explanation: "They did not understand". As I mentioned to Tony, "They just weren't connecting the dots and appear to be legitimately confused... particularly in light of Jn. 7:46: 'Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.'" Jesus' words seem quite mesmerizing to all his listeners. +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 17, 2021 at 20:36
  • 2
    +1 Consider Isa. 43:10
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:38
  • @PerryWebb Interesting reference, Perry.
    – Xeno
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:54
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In John 8 (see appendix below) we have three separate statements of Jesus about His claim to be the "I AM" as follows:

  • V24 - "That is why I told you that you would die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” - PRESENT situation
  • V28 - So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up a the Son of Man, then you will know that I am and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. - FUTURE situation
  • V58 - “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” - PAST existence

Thus, in the same chapter of John, Jesus claims to be the "I AM" at present, in the future and in the past - He is eternally the "I AM". There can be little wonder that, as recorded in John 8:59, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him on the grounds of blasphemy.

APPENDIX - "I AM" = ego eimi

The exact phrase “ego eimi” occurs 48 times in the New Testament with several different functions:

  • 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”.

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” - a direct allusion to Ex 3:13, 14 -

Then Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

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  • +1 also consider Isa. 43:10.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:28
  • @PerryWebb - yes, there are about 10 "I AM" statements, especially in the LXX.
    – Dottard
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:50
  • I think that this answer could be improved by noting that "I AM" is the literal translation of the name of God.
    – nick012000
    Sep 18, 2021 at 10:14
  • Thank you for these references. To me, it shows the deliberateness of Jesus' claim. He does not say "I am he" (I am the Messiah), but I AM (declaratory statement that he is God).
    – andrew g
    Aug 19, 2023 at 12:01
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There is an extensive discussion of Jesus using ἐγώ εἰμι in John 8:58. This relates to Jesus using the same phrase in 8:24, only he hadn't yet said "Before Abraham was."

In John 8:24 ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι is exactly how the Septuagint (LXX) translates כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י ה֔וּא (that I am He) in Isa. 43:10, which most definitely refers to God. However, when Jesus used this phrase in 8:24, not so much in 8:58, it left some room for uncertainty.

The response in John 8:25 was σὺ τίς εἶ; The subject and predicate are uncertain. The same phrase in the LXX only occurs in Job 35:2, σὺ τίς εἶ ὅτι εἶπας Δίκαιός εἰμι ἔναντι κυρίου;, "who are you that you say I am right before the Lord." But, σὺ τίς εἶ; could mean "You are who?" as well as "who are you?" Thus, they could mean "Who do you think you are?"

While Jesus left some uncertainty to those questioning him, he left no uncertainty to his disciples that he claimed to be God.

        10       “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, 
  “and my servant whom I have chosen, 
              that you may know and believe me 
  and understand that I am he. 
              Before me no god was formed, 
  nor shall there be any after me. 
        11       I, I am the LORD, 
  and besides me there is no savior. 
        12       I declared and saved and proclaimed, 
  when there was no strange god among you; 
  and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 
        13       Also henceforth I am he; 
  there is none who can deliver from my hand; 
  I work, and who can turn it back?” 
              (Isa. 43:10–13, ESV)
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  • Very good answer. Here are some further "I Am" instances in the LXX - Deut 32:39, Isa 41:4, 43:10, 13, 25, 45:19, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12, 52:6. Some of these latter ones appear to be saying that YHWH says, "I am I am", or "I am [the] I Am." This is even more significant.
    – Dottard
    Aug 19, 2023 at 12:17
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Introduction

A few of the comments—but none of the answers, thus far—have touched on the intertextuality between John 8:24 and Isaiah 43. I'd like to explore this in more detail as this will lead us to a conclusive answer to the question, "Was Christ's statement in John 8:24 a claim of deity?"

As for "Why the follow-up question 'Who are you?'?", my answer is that ἐγὼ εἰμί can be (and often is) just a phrase of self-identificatory affirmation, literally "I am [he]" but paraphrastically "it is I" or "that's me" (see 1 Kingdoms [1 Samuel] 9:18-19 LXX; 2 Kingdoms [2 Samuel] 2:20 LXX; John 9:9). The response of the Ioudaioi, "Who are you?" indicates that they have understood the saying in John 8:24 in this way. However, as in other places in this Gospel (John 2:20, 7:35, 8:22), they have misunderstood Jesus' meaning. In this case, it is because they have failed to detect the allusion to Isaiah. Only after the climactic ἐγὼ εἰμί saying in John 8:58 will they grasp his intent, and seek to stone him (8:59).

So, what is the Isaiah allusion that the Ioudaioi have missed?

God's "I am he" sayings in the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint

God uses the phrase "I [am] he" nine times in the Hebrew Bible, once in Deuteronomy 32:39 and eight times in deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55), which are 41:4, 43:10, 43:13, 43:25, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12, and 52:6. In seven of these instances, the Hebrew reads אני הוא (ʾanî hûʾ, literally "I he," with "am" implied), and in the other two (43:25 and 51:12) it reads אנכי אנכי הוא (ʾânōkî ʾânōkî hûʾ, literally "I, I he," with ʾânōkî more emphatic than ʾanî).

The Septuagint (LXX) is a Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures, dated for the most part to the third century B.C.E. Outside of Judaea and Galilee, most early Christian churches (and many synagogues) would have used the Septuagint version of Isaiah (and the rest of the Jewish Scriptures) in public worship, since many diaspora Jews and nearly all Gentiles did not understand Hebrew. The Septuagint was thus, in a sense, the Bible of the early Church. John the Evangelist was undoubtedly familiar with the LXX, because four of his scriptural quotations match it word-for-word (10:34; 12:13, 38; 19:24).

Now, in the LXX, most of God's ʾanî hûʾ sayings have been translated into Greek as ἐγὼ εἰμί, "I am [he]" (Deut. 32:39, Isa. 41:4, 43:10, 46:4), while the ʾânōkî ʾânōkî hûʾ sayings in 43:25 have been rendered with a double ἐγώ εἰμί ἐγώ εἰμί ("I am [he], I am [he]" or "I am 'I am'"). God makes three other ἐγώ εἰμί sayings in deutero-Isaiah LXX that do not correspond to such a saying in the Hebrew (Isa. 45:18, 45:19, 46:4 [second occurrence]). The daughter of Babylon also blasphemously says ἐγώ εἰμί in Isaiah 47:8, 10 LXX (where the Hebrew only has ʾanî, "I [am]").

It is clear from the context of several of the divine ἐγὼ εἰμί sayings in deutero-Isaiah that its sense is approximately the same as "I am God":

  • The ἐγώ εἰμί saying in Isaiah 41:4 is followed by "I am your God" in 41:13
  • Sandwiched between the ἐγώ εἰμί sayings in 43:10 and 43:25 are declarations of "I am God" in 43:11 and "I am the Lord God" in 43:15
  • The ἐγώ εἰμί saying in Isaiah 45:18 translates the Hebrew אני יהוה ("I am YHWH")
  • The ἐγώ εἰμί saying in Isaiah 45:19 is followed immediately by "I am the Lord," and then in 45:21 by "I am God"
  • See, similarly, Isaiah 46:4 cp. 46:9, 51:12 cp. 51:15

It is equally clear that ἐγώ εἰμί in deutero-Isaiah is an exclusive divine claim:

  • The sayings are associated with exclusive divine claims: "ἐγώ εἰμί. Before me there was no other god, nor shall there be after me" (Isaiah 43:10); "ἐγώ εἰμί, and there is no other... there is no other besides me; there is no righteous one or savior except me" (Isaiah 45:18, 21)
  • The sayings are associated with exclusive divine prerogatives/attributes, such as foretelling the future, forgiving sin, creating, covenant faithfulness, and eternality
  • The daughter of Babylon is to be understood as blaspheming when she says in her heart, "ἐγώ εἰμί, and there is no other" (Isa. 47:8, 10)

In view of the above, it is clear that anyone using the phrase ἐγώ εἰμί in the elevated sense that it conveys in Isaiah 40-55 would be making a divine claim. One part of the argument remains: to show that John the Evangelist intends, in Jesus' ἐγώ εἰμί in John 8:24, an allusion to God's ἐγώ εἰμί sayings in deutero-Isaiah LXX, and above all to Isaiah 43:10 LXX.

Evidence that Jesus' ἐγώ εἰμί sayings in John allude to God's ἐγώ εἰμί sayings in deutero-Isaiah

Darkness-and-Light Imagery

Firstly, observe that there are broad thematic correspondences between John 8-9 and deutero-Isaiah, such as as light/darkness imagery (Isaiah 42:6-7, 18-20, 44:24 cp. John 9:39-41; Isaiah 50:10 cp. John 8:12, 9:5).

The Two Witnesses

In his teaching leading up to 8:24, Jesus declares, "I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me" (John 8:18). Now, in Isaiah 43:10, the Hebrew text speaks of God and Israel as two witnesses:

You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. (NRSV)

The LXX, however, conveys something different:

Be my witnesses; I too am a witness, says the Lord God, and the servant whom I have chosen so that you may know and believe and understand that I am. Before me there was no other god, nor shall there be any after me. (New English Translation of the Septuagint)

In the LXX, God instructs Israel to be his witnesses but then names two other individual witnesses: himself and one called ο πᾶις (a term which the Book of Acts uses repeatedly for Jesus: Acts 3:13, 3:26, 4:27, 4:30). (Interestingly, the Greek word πᾶις can mean "servant"—which is clearly the correct translation of the Hebrew עבד here)—but can also mean "child". Early Christian readers of the LXX who did not know the Hebrew text could easily have understood πᾶις in this sense here.)

Jesus' statement in John 8:18 may already allude to Isaiah 43:10 LXX, with Jesus identifying himself as the second witness alongside God, namely ο πᾶις. If John 8:18 reflects such a christological understanding of the second witness of Isaiah 43:10 LXX, it would not be the only early Christian text to do so. About a century later, c. 180 CE, Irenaeus of Lyons would write:

So no one else, as I have just said, is called God or Lord, except He who is God and Lord of all things—he who said to Moses, 'I am who I am', and: 'Thus shall you speak to the children of Israel: He who is has sent me to you'—and his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who makes children of God those who believe in his name. It is still the same when the Son said to Moses: 'I came down to deliver this people.' It is indeed he, in fact, who descended and ascended for the salvation of men. So then, through the Son, who is in the Father and has the Father in him, the God "who is" manifested himself, the Father bearing witness to the Son and the Son announcing the Father, according to what Isaiah also says: 'I am a witness, says the Lord God, as well as the Child [or, Servant; Greek πᾶις] whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe and understand that I am.' (Against Heresies 3.6.2)

Irenaeus quotes Isaiah 43:10 LXX to prove the deity of Christ. An even earlier Christian writer, the author of Ascension of Isaiah (with chs. 1-5 dated to the early second century), writes of Beliar (an eschatological antichrist figure):

And he will do whatever he wants in the world; he will do and speak like the Beloved, and he will say, 'I am the Lord, and there was no one before me.' And all the people in the world will believe in him. And they shall sacrifice to him and serve him, when they shall say: This is the Lord, and besides him there is no other. (Ascension of Isaiah 4.6-8)

The words 'I am the Lord, and there was no one before me' are clearly a paraphrase Isaiah 43:10, and while they are spoken blasphemously by Beliar, he is said to be "speaking like the Beloved" (Christ) when he says these words, implying that Christ can rightfully say the words of Isaiah 43:10.

The christological interpretation of ̔ο πᾶις in Isaiah 43:10 LXX is also reflected in the writings of Origen of Alexandria in the mid-third century (Commentary on John 2.209; Exhortation to Martyrdom 34) and Eusebius of Caesarea in the early fourth century (Eclogae Propheticae 4.21; Commentary on Isaiah 278-79).

This quirk of the LXX translation of Isaiah 43:10—which we know was interpreted christologically in the early church—helps to explain how the Johannine Christ might have understood the declaration at the end of 43:10 ("I am. Before me there was no other god, nor shall there be any after me.") to be testimony of Christ, and not of the Father only.

Verbal Parallels

We now turn to a more direct line of evidence. Following NA28, the content of Jesus' saying in John 8:24 in Greek is

εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν.

Literal translation: Therefore I told you [all] that you will die in your sins. If you would not believe that I am [he], you [all] will die in your sins.

The relevant part of Isaiah 43:10 LXX (following the Göttingen critical text) reads:

ἵνα γνῶτε καὶ πιστεύσητε καὶ συνῆτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι

Literal translation: "in order that you may know and may believe and may understand that I am [he]"

There are two phrases in Jesus' saying that correspond strikingly to Isaiah 43 LXX:

  • πιστεύσητε [...] ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι (Isaiah 43:10 / John 8:24 / John 13:19)

The Greek is identical except that John 8:24 has condensed the three verbs of Isaiah 43:10 down to one. However, one of the other two Greek verbs (γινώσκω, "know") is used by Jesus in John 8:28, again connected to ἐγὼ εἰμί by ὅτι: "when you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am [he] (τότε γνώσεσθε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι)."

Notably, Isaiah 43:10 has one of only three occurrences of πιστεύσητε (second person plural aorist active subjunctive of πιστεύω) in the entire LXX, and one of a handful of occurrences of the phrase ἐγὼ εἰμί, so the chances of this parallel being a coincidence are virtually nil.

Jesus' ἐγὼ εἰμί saying in John 13:19 has an even closer correspondence to Isaiah 43:10 LXX, since it is phrased positively and is a ἵνα-clause: ἵνα πιστεύσητε ὅταν γένηται ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ("in order that you may believe, when it happens, that I am [he]"). The saying in John 13:19 is in the context of his ability to foretell the future ("I tell you this now, before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe that I am [he]"), which in deutero-Isaiah is a divine prerogative: "I am God, and there is no other besides me, declaring the last things first, before they happen, and at once they come to pass" (Isaiah 46:10; cf. 41:21-22, 26; 42:9; 43:9; 47:13).

  • ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις σου (Isaiah 43:24 LXX) / ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν (John)

nor have you bought me incense with silver, nor did I desire the fat of your sacrifices, but in your sins (ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις σου) and iniquities I have stood before you. I am, I am the one who blots out your acts of lawlessness, and I will not remember them at all. (Isaiah 43:24-25, New English Translation of the Septuagint)

The Greek phrase meaning "in your sins" is identical except that Isaiah has a singular "your" (σου) whereas John has a plural "your" (ὑμῶν). But semantically, there is no difference, because the singular "you" in Isaiah 43 refers to Israel collectively. Jesus is, of course, speaking to Israelites ("the Ioudaioi") in John 8:24. Note further that this phrase in Isaiah 43:24 is connected to an ἐγώ εἰμι saying in 43:25, in which God's ἐγώ εἰμι-ness is the grounds for his blotting out Israel's sins. This provides scriptural backing for Jesus' claim that by failing to believe in his ἐγώ εἰμι-ness, his opponents are forfeiting divine forgiveness and will die in their sins.

"In your sins" might sound like a common phrase, but in fact, it occurs only one other time in the entire LXX (Ezek. 16:52). Thus, the chances of it occurring in John 8:24 coincidentally (with no intended allusion to Isaiah 43) are again remote.

A brief remark on John 8:58

Jesus' third and climactic ἐγὼ εἰμί saying in John 8, ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί ("Amen, Amen, I say to you [all], before Abraham came into existence, I am [he]"), probably has its closest biblical parallel in Psalm 89:2 LXX ("Before mountains were brought forth and the earth and the world were formed, and from everlasting to everlasting you are"), as has been discussed at Is John 8:58 an allusion to Psalm 90:2 LXX?. Notably, σὺ εἶ ("you are") is the second-person equivalent of ἐγὼ εἰμί, which (as in John 8:58) is contrasted with an aorist infinitive of γίνομαι. The effect is to contrast the "coming into being" of a remarkable and ancient created reality with the uncreated divine existence of one who simply is.

However, John 8:58 also has close correspondences to Isaiah 43. The words immediately following God's ἐγὼ εἰμί saying in Isaiah 43:10 are, literally, "Before me there no other god came into existence (ἐγένετο), nor shall there be any after me." As in John 8:58, we have a divine ἐγὼ εἰμί contrasted with "Before [something] came into existence," with "came into existence" being an aorist of γίνομαι.

The Hebrew of Isaiah 43:13 (not reflected in the LXX) has מיום אנח הוא (mîyyôm ʾanî hûʾ), literally, "from the day I [am] he." However, mîyyôm does not literally mean "from the day"; it "is used as a preposition phrase, a complex preposition, and an adverbializer." (H. H. Hardy II, The Development of Biblical Hebrew Prepositions [Atlanta: SBL, 2022], 180). Depending on the context, it can mean things like "ever since" (2 Sam. 13:32), "from that time on" (Ezek. 48:35), or "from this day forward" (Hag. 2:18). In Isaiah 43:13, it could mean either "henceforth" (NRSV) or "ever since day was" (JPS). If the latter, it would have a similar connotation to Jesus' saying in John 8:58.

Conclusion

We have established the following points.

  • The Greek expression ἐγὼ εἰμί ("I am [he]") in Isaiah 40-55 LXX (usually a translation of the Hebrew אני הוא ("I [am] he") is used by God as a declaration of his exclusive deity; it is used by others (e.g., Babylon) only blasphemously, and is roughly equivalent to saying, "I am God."
  • Jesus' ἐγὼ εἰμί sayings in the Gospel of John (especially John 8:24 and 13:19, but also 8:28 and 8:58) are intended to echo the ἐγὼ εἰμί sayings of God in Isaiah 40-55 LXX, particularly that of 43:10. This is shown by the odd LXX translation of Isaiah 43:10, which identifies a "servant" who is a second witness alongside God (cf. John 8:18), as well as by the striking verbal parallels between John 8:24 / 13:19 and Isaiah 43:10, 24-25.
  • Therefore, by intentionally repeating God's declarations of his exclusive deity in his own voice, Jesus is making a claim to deity.

And, again, the reason that the Ioudaioi follow up with the question, "Who are you?" is that they have missed the allusion to Isaiah 43, and have therefore incorrectly understood ἐγὼ εἰμί to be a mundane self-identificatory affirmation, rather than a claim of divinity. Only after 8:58 do they grasp Jesus' full meaning.

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  • 1
    Excellent answer. A minor point is Greek speaking Jews were very likely found in Jerusalem during Jesus' time. Acts speaks of the conflict between widows who spoke Hebrew and those who spoke Greek. Stephen spoke in the synagogue of the Freedmen, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia. Jan 13 at 15:49
  • Good observation. Jan 13 at 18:13
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John 8:

23 And He was saying to them,

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

Jesus vs them, the contrast is amazing. No one speaks like this unless he is either crazy or a god. Because Jesus claimed divinity, therefore ...

24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He,

ἐγώ εἰμι (I am) is often used as an implicit claim for divinity.

you will die in your sins.'

Not only Jesus claimed divinity, but also he claimed the authority to forgive sins.

25 So they were saying to Him, 'Who are You?'

These claims did bother the listeners. So they asked, "Who the heck are you, making these claims?"

Jesus said to them, 'What have I been saying to you from the beginning?'"

There was nothing new. Jesus had made these claims before.

Was Christ's statement in John 8:24 a claim of deity?

Definitely, yes.

why would the Jews follow-up with "Who are you?" (8:25)?

Because they knew he was making this claim and they were offended by the claim. According to them, it was blaspheme. This was to fulfill Isaiah 53:

10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

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  • Thanks for your response. You may be correct, but vs. 22 leads me to believe they were all still in a state of confusion: "So the Jews were saying, 'Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?'" They just weren't connecting the dots and appear to be legitimately confused. At least, that's how I read it, particularly in light of Jn. 7::46: "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks." Jesus' words strike me as mesmerizing to his listeners.
    – Xeno
    Sep 17, 2021 at 20:24
  • The good ones were mesmerized. The bad ones thought that Jesus blasphemed.
    – user35953
    Sep 17, 2021 at 21:10
  • +1 consider Isa. 53:10
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:30
  • Thanks. I added :)
    – user35953
    Sep 18, 2021 at 13:49
  • 1
    @Xeno I see your point now: If the ego eimi means God's name, why on earth did they ask him Who are you?. You should rephrase the question like this by editing your Q body, because it is not clear at all. It is a great point to expose the logic of those who say ego eimi means God's name. There was nothing to be puzzled about if the claim meant God's name.
    – Michael16
    Sep 18, 2021 at 14:42
-1

The context of the passage makes the meaning more clear.

Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. (John 8:19, KJV)

These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. (John 8:20, KJV)

Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. (John 8:21, KJV)

Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. (John 8:22, KJV)

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23, KJV)

I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (John 8:24, KJV)

Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. (John 8:25, KJV)

I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. (John 8:26, KJV)

They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. (John 8:27, KJV)

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (John 8:28, KJV)

And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8:29, KJV)

In just the portion of the chapter quoted above, the "that I am he" phrase occurs twice: once each in verse 24 and in verse 28.

Interestingly, the second occurrence of this phrase comes just after the verse that tells us the Jews had not understood that Jesus was speaking of His Father.

Relationship Between Jesus and the Father

The passage includes numerous references to Jesus' Father, the One who had sent him, and the one whom we should know if only we knew Jesus. Jesus makes clear that the things he is speaking he has received from the Father (vs. 28). What, then, do we understand to be the source of Jesus' words? Certainly the Father has perfect right to claim divinity, and if Jesus speaks His words, that divinity shines through.

About Italicized KJV Words

One does need to be careful of assuming that italicized words in the KJV do not actually belong, especially with anything in the New Testament (from Greek) because Greek grammar and language style often deliberately omits nouns or pronouns upon subsequent occurrences of them, leaving them as simply understood based on their default antecedent. (Greeks apparently did not like "unnecessary" repetition.) For those of us who like things to be less ambiguous, this fact can be a little disconcerting--but it does require a little more diligence to ascertain the connection within the Greek grammatical sentence structure.

An important example:

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:17, KJV)

The word last occurrence of "temple" in that verse has been supplied by the translators. It was omitted in the Greek. Without this word, however, what would the sentence mean? Would it not be left open to understanding that either we are God or that we are holy? Within the context of defiling "the temple of God," neither one of those makes sense. The Greek writers didn't waste space with words that should be readily understood by the reader. There should be no reason, contextually, to misunderstand here--so the word "temple" could be omitted.

So, as with Hebrew where "context is everything," with Greek, context is also paramount. Basically, on those italicized words, the ones that involve subjects, objects, or pronouns could be implied by the grammar. These implied words may be fully legitimate requirements to the sentence, and yet, not being explicitly spelled out in the text, might be italicized as additions in the KJV.

Why the Addition of "He"?

The grammar of the sentence makes little sense without this. It is very likely a case where the Greek has dropped the pronoun and it needs to be added into the translation.

In the Old Testament expression from which the "I AM" declaration, the expression is in better grammatical form.

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:14, KJV)

The full expression "I AM that I AM" makes clear that this declaration is definitive. The later use of "I AM hath sent me" (to be spoken by Moses) parallels what Jesus says in John 8 when he says the Father had sent him.

In John 8:24 & 28, the expression is "that I am"--grammatically different from the declaration made to Moses. If someone says "I am", with no particular context, it would sound a bit awkward, grammatically. It could mean that the person exists, but it would certainly not mean to claim divinity.

Conclusion

John seems to be trying to show wherein the Jews mistook Jesus' identity and why they rejected him. This is important for us so that we do not make the same mistake. When we understand that although the "he" is added in the English translation, it is a logical addition following the Greek grammatical style, it clarifies whom the divinity is that is being identified--that of the Father.

3
  • Didn't understand your conclusion. Consider Isa. 43:10
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 18, 2021 at 1:36
  • @PerryWebb Thank you for the feedback. For those who have not studied Greek, it would be easy to misunderstand why some of the words must be supplied in translation. I needed a good example to illustrate this and have added one now to my answer. In conjunction with that, I have strengthened my conclusion. It should be clearer now. Isa. 43:10 makes clear that the "I am he" is spoken by Jehovah God--the only one qualified to say this.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 18, 2021 at 11:13
  • @Polyhat - Are you suggesting that Jesus is claiming to be the Father?
    – Dottard
    Aug 19, 2023 at 12:14
-2

Was Christ's statement in John 8:24 a claim of deity?

Absolutely. Based on similar rationale as used of Genesis to exclaim the earth is flat. And from Job 9:6 we see the earth stands on pillars! Millennia ago we could fool men with just a story. Now we have many tools at our disposal and proofs that the world is indeed not flat that we can witness in our own backyard!

When we busily take a verse here and there and read in our own assumptions to make another wisdom of men and not of God's grand wisdom or truthful expression then we are not seeking His will, but our own. What is His will? To impart the truth about all matters pertaining to true life and the salvation that brings it about.

Why are many so desperate to seek the wisdom of men and disregard that of God? The deity of Christ is not expressed in the bible unless we choose to read it in to verses like John 8:24, drawing assumptions that conflict with the truth we are given. Others used this same expression of 'I am', the blind man and Paul also, Acts 26:29, and the disciples Matt 26:22. None of them were God either.

Did Yahweh say, "I am"? We are presented with the Hebrew, "I will be who I will be", or something similar. But that doesn't seem to matter to those who want to make "I am" something of their own making and a man God sent, God Himself.

Jesus is expressing that he is the sent one, the Messiah, the Christ, and the one told from Genesis of the seed of the woman. He told them that he was the one of whom Moses wrote.

if you were believing Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote concerning me and unless you believe his writings, how will you believe my words? John 5:46

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Matt 16:16

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

It’s easy to read in our own assumptions or believe those made by learned ones before us. The supposed pre-existence of Jesus is one of those assumptions and ignores the bible's ready explanation of what before means.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. Gal 3:16

How could Jesus be before Abraham if he is Abrahams's descendant? He wasn't before in time, but before in prominence. Jesus is the cornerstone of God's plan, Abraham is but a brick by comparison.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus 1 Timothy 2:5

A plain and easily understood passage, of which there are many more, that tells us who Jesus is - and who he is not. Fabricating theories about his pre-existence and his deity and his incarnation and his two-natures are simply seeking the wisdom of men and not paying careful attention to the inspired word of God prepared and kept for us - which teaches none of these ideas.

No, Jesus is not claiming deity by uttering the simple phrase, ‘I am’. He didn’t claim it anywhere else, why would he do so here in such an abstract manner?

God's plan of salvation, begun before the world started, depended on the Christ, the holy one of God, the man Jesus who would die. A simple and engaging story about a baby born to Mary who would accomplish great things and overcome temptation, and not sin, and yet die for all other's sin. His raising by his God meant we too are raised in him - just as we die in him.

Who are you!?

We have the advantage of reading so much wonderfully inspired teaching from the NT writers. One can only wonder why we must then also seek contradictory material from the lips of men unqualified to replace God's word about a man, sent from heaven to proclaim a new teaching about a new covenant, based not on a law of sin and death, but on a new spirit and a new life eternal made possible through grace.

Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. John 17:3

What have I been saying to you from the beginning?

Indeed, yet their ears were not yet able to hear and their eyes not able to see the glory of God in him or the truth that he spoke about being the one they were waiting for yet didn't like the manner that he was bringing the change they sought. Their question was more about, ‘who are you?’. They were well witnessed and taught who he was, yet struggled to comprehend with their mindset stuck in another paradigm of a saviour of their own designs.

Just as we don't seem to like the manner of who Jesus is and strive to make him something else that is not of the scripture proclaimed since Adam in the garden.

1
  • 1
    "Here we go again, reading in our own assumptions about the supposed pre-existence of Jesus and ignoring the bible's ready explanation." That's not reading anything into the text; it's outright stated by the text. Jesus is not only claiming to have been around before Abraham, he's doing so while stating the name of God (YHWH) in a way that makes it clear that he's applying it to himself.
    – nick012000
    Sep 18, 2021 at 10:11

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