There is significant debate over the proper meaning of John 8:58. A typical translation is

"Truly, truly, I tell you," Jesus declared, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

Indeed, some believe this verse is the strongest evidence for Jesus claiming to be Yahweh in the entire NT, due to the apparent juxtaposition of something in the past (Abraham being or being born) and a present tense verb ('I am' or 'ego eimi').

The word translated 'was' at 8:58 is genesthai (γενέσθαι). It is in the aorist tense, infinitive mood, and some have argued it should be translated instead as "Before Abraham comes to be, I am".

In an attempt to shed light on how the author may have intended to use the term at John 8:58, when John uses genesthai in the rest of his works (not other forms of the verb), how often does he use it to refer to past events, such that it could be translated as 'was' (or an equivalent)?

  • 2
    A simple search on the biblehub.com or related Bible sites or softwares could have answered this. Such questions doesn't qualify as valid que here. Aorist is of the past or simple past tense. biblehub.com/greek/genesthai_1096.htm
    – Michael16
    Nov 5, 2022 at 6:53
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather. Interesting Q. I wonder how John 8:58's prin Abraam genesthai ego eimi, would be translated. Also would the context allow a Divine Name name/title interpretation of John 8:58. How is Ho-on and ego eimi translated? Did Jesus say before Abraham was, YHWH? Does ego eimi mean eternal existence? Nov 6, 2022 at 10:04

5 Answers 5


The verb γίνομαι (ginomai) occurs about 671 times in the NT, most of them in the aorist tense. In the gospel of John, the same verb occurs more than 100 times, the most common form being the aorist and indicating a past event. Here is a sample:

  • John 1:3 - all things through Him came into being and ...
  • John 1:6 - There came a man having been sent ...
  • John 1:10 - He was in the world and the world through Him came into being ...
  • John 1:12 - But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to become children of God ...
  • John 1:14 - The Word became flesh and dwelt among us ...
  • John 1:17 - For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
  • John 1:28 - These things took place in Bethany, across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

There are many, many more!! [The aorist tense almost always indicates a past action - the ambiguity is whether the action is on-going or complete or otherwise.]

In the case of John 8:58, most versions render the Greek well:

  • BLB: Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
  • NASB: Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
  • BSB: “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
  • ESV: Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
  • NIV: “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
  • CSB: Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”

I will resist the temptation to comment on what this verse says about the nature of Christ and His divinity or otherwise, however, it is only one of seven such "I AM" statements in John. See appendix below.

In the particular case of John 8:58, the form of the verb is γενέσθαι which is aorist infinitive middle voice. If aorist is past tense ambiguous (neither continuous nor perfect) then aorist infinitive is even more ambiguous - the timing must be gleaned from the context - there is often another verb to give this tense. Here is a list of the occurrences of γενέσθαι in the writing of John. In each I will highlight the extra verb to give the timing. (Recall that aorist infinitive is almost impossible to render in English: the best is something like "was to become" but this is not quite right either.]

  • John 1:12 - But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to become children of God--to those believing in His name
  • John 3:9 - Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How are these things able to be[come]?"
  • John 5:6 - Jesus, having seen him lying and having known that he has been a long time already, says to him, "Do you desire (present) to become well?"
  • John 8:58 - Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was/became, I am."
  • John 9:27 - He replied, “I already told you, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want (present) to become His disciples?”
  • John 13:19 - I am telling you from this time, before it comes to pass, so that when it comes to pass you should believe that I am He.
  • John 14:29 - And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it shall have come to pass, you might believe.
  • 2 John 1:12 - Having many things to write to you, I purposed not with paper and ink, but I hope (present) to come to you and to speak mouth to mouth, so that our joy may be having been completed.
  • Rev 1:1 - The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants what things it behooves (present) to become in quickness. And He signified it through having sent His angel to His servant, John,
  • Rev 4:1 - After these things I looked, and behold, a door was standing open in heaven, and the first voice that I heard like a trumpet was speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show to you what it behooves (present) to become after these things."
  • Rev 22:6 - And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must (present) become in quickness."

Thus, γενέσθαι, as the aorist infinitive, can indicate an action that is past present or future, depending on context. In the particular case of John 8:58, the action is clearly past tense, occurred in the distant past, "before Abraham."

APPENDIX - Unpredicated "I AM" in John.

  • John 4:26 – “Then Jesus said, ‘I am.’”
  • 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 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.]

NOTE: In the Old Testament, Jehovah’s self-proclaimed title of “I AM” is given special prominence in Ex 3:13-15. While we are told “I Am” was to be God’s name forever, there is no record in the Bible of it ever being used again (in Hebrew) unless we admit the grammatical connection between “I am” and the “Tetragrammaton” (which see), YHWH, commonly translated, “Jehovah”, “Yahweh”, “LORD”, or even “Eternal” in Moffatt’s version. However, the unpredicated phrase, “ego eimi” (= I am), occurs in the LXX in a number places (Deut 32:39, Isa 41:4, 43:10, 13, 25, 45:19, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12, 52:6) and always refers the One and Only Great Jehovah God Almighty.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jesse
    Nov 6, 2022 at 23:44
  • All further comments following the move to chat have been purged. The 'move to chat' feature is there to facilitate discussion like this, and avoids chains of comments that fundamentally are not there for constructive improvement of the answer.
    – Steve can help
    Nov 17, 2022 at 8:48
  • One of my Greek professors noted that it is interesting to take the tenses seriously, setting aside the fact that the second verb is the divine Name: this would imply that Jesus is saying that Jesus as He stands there exists in the past with Abraham just as much as He exists right there while speaking. It's a bit of a mind-bending thing. I don't see how to integrate it into your answer, so take it or leave it.
    – Traildude
    Jan 1 at 22:59
  • @Traildude - agreed - that only lends weight to the idea of the divinity of Christ.
    – Dottard
    Jan 1 at 23:30

Similar questions have been asked before. So, I will focus on what is different about this question.

Similar Questions

What did Jesus likely say in John 8:58?

Is the ego eimi (I am) in John 8:58 and John 8:28 the same?

What is notable in John's use of γενέσθαι is that every case except here it as a future or subjunctive sense (see the Appendix). The mention of Abraham clearly has a past sense, especially considering the response of the listeners in the next verse picking up stones.

The present tense ἐγὼ εἰμί is rather striking here. Daniel Wallace explains why this is unlikely to be historic present: 1) historic presents are usually surrounded by aorist indicatives rather than infinitives, 2) εἰμί is never historic present in the New Testament, and 3) it would be the only historic present in the New Testament not in the third person. [Debatable Texts. 1) John 8:58. Wallace, D. B. (1996). "Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament" (p. 530). Zondervan.]

Translating ἐγώ εἰμι as "I am he" reflects how Hebrew would translate this; how Hebrew expresses the present meaning (אֲנִי הוּא). This fits well in John 13:19, but not here because a present tense meaning is still striking. Also noteworthy is all the occurrences of the phrase אֲנִי הוּא in in the Old Testament (Tanakh) refer to God (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10,13; 46:4).

Your limitation in your question;

In an attempt to shed light on how the author may have intended to use the term at John 8:58, when John uses genesthai in the rest of his works (not other forms of the verb), how often does he use it to refer to past events, such that it could be translated as 'was' (or an equivalent)?

causes one to miss the significance of John's use of genesthai, because John's uae of the term here seems to point back to John 1:1-18. Thus, it points the reader to Jesus being the Word that became flesh.

What Jesus said in John 8:58 is difficult to translate and heavily debated, but any reasonable direction points to Jesus claiming to be God.

Appendix: Occurrences of γενέσθαι in this exact form in the Gospel of John

Words translating γενέσθαι are in bold.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12, ESV)

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be? (John 3:9, ESV)

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6, ESV). (2016)

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before [πρὶν] Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58, ESV)

He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (Jonn 9:27, ESV).

I am telling you this now, before [πρὸ] it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he [ ἐγώ εἰμι]. (John 13:19, ESV)

And now I have told you before [πρὶν] it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. (John 14:29, ESV)

It does not occur in the Johannine epistles. Usage in Revelaion is similar to usage in John 13 and 14.


γενέσθαι in the Fourth Gospel - Part 1
John uses the specific γενέσθαι in contexts which describe change. In addition to 8:58, this aorist infinitive form is used in 1:12, 3:9, 5:6, 9:27, 13:19, and 14:29. The first use, which is also the focal point of the chiasmus of the Prologue and one of the most significant statements in the Fourth Gospel, paints a clear picture of John's meaning:

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become, γενέσθαι, children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (ESV)

Because the specific change is described, there is no ambiguity in meaning. Individuals who previously were described one way become children of God. Not only was, or is, anyone who makes this choice changed, the change is not gradual; rather there is a specific point in time at which the individual the change occurred:

enter image description here

As illustrated above, the element of time is not a "generic" before and after. Time looks back to the moment of birth and forward without end.

After the saying in question, John again uses γενέσθαι including the temporal condition:

26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become, γενέσθαι, his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” (John 9)

The Pharisees do not want to become disciples of Jesus. The element of time is essential for their unwillingness to change: God has spoken to Moses, but they do not know where Jesus comes from. As with 1:12, there is no ambiguity in the meaning of the aorist infinitive. Their current state is based on the past and they will not become; they will remain disciples of Moses.

While it is true in general the aorist infinitive may be ambiguous, in both 1:12 and 9:27, there is no ambiguity: γενέσθαι describes a before and after condition. In addition, if there is a potential for ambiguity, it is in the implied beginning and end of time. That is, when did the Pharisees become disciples of Moses and, if they had decided to become Jesus' disciples, how long would they remain (cf. John 6:66). On the other hand, 1:12 clearly identifies the point of beginning, birth, and leaves the future for the reader to decide. That is, if the rebirth is permanent and children remain so forever, then, as the illustration shows, there is no ending point.

γενέσθαι in the Fourth Gospel - Part 2
In addition to 1:12 and 9:27, the other uses of γενέσθαι (3:9, 5:6, 13:19, 14:29) also involve change, and like 1:12 and 9:27, all place that change in context to another event in time. As in John 8:58, two use preface γενέσθα with the adverb, πρὶν - "before:"

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” (4:49)
λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ βασιλικός κύριε κατάβηθι πρὶν ἀποθανεῖν τὸ παιδίον μου

And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. (14:29)
καὶ νῦν εἴρηκα ὑμῖν πρὶν γενέσθαι ἵνα ὅταν γένηται πιστεύσητε

The statement in 14:29 combines both πρὶν and γενέσθαι and is literally before becomes. Here Jesus told the disciples they would receive the Holy Spirit before the event, so that when it happened, they would believe. Again, because the context includes a second event, there is no ambiguity in John's use.

Conclusion - Part 1
The primary question is: outside of John 8:58, how is the term γενέσθαι used by the author John when it comes to timing of what the verb is describing? The answer is outside of 8:58, John always uses γενέσθαι to describe a change which is never gradual but occurs at a specific point in time. In addition John always places γενέσθαι in context which includes a past time and conveys on-going time after the change.1

John 8:58
Like all other uses of γενέσθαι, John 8:58 includes another event:

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham γενέσθαι, I am."
(John 8)

In context, before Abraham is responding to the Jews misrepresenting the past event. They recognize Jesus is referring to the past, but reject the possibility Jesus, who is not old enough, could have seen Abraham.2Jesus responds beginning with a correction to their attempt to reverse His temporal relationship with Abraham. His response could be paraphrased, "do not twist My words around! Before Abraham saw My day... The Jews had tried to put place Jesus after Abraham, but Jesus says it was Abraham who rejoiced to see Jesus' day.

Jesus further closes off any possibility of misrepresenting the past event by adding "I am" which introduces another temporal when combined with γενέσθαι. I am in context, that is before Abraham becomes can be illustrated:

![enter image description here

Jesus response could be paraphrased: Do not twist My words around. Abraham rejoiced to see My day but/and before Abraham becomes, I am."

The logical response to Abraham becomes is "becomes what?" However, based on the discussion I am means Jesus claimed to be before Abraham who is dead. As Catrin H. Williams states [emphasis added]:

Jesus is "testifying to his precedence over Abraham...resulting from a deliberate distinction established between the patriarch who came into existence at a particular moment in history (γενέσθαι: cf. 1:3, 6, 10, 14) and the absolute form of being claimed by Jesus (εἰμι: cf. 1-14). Although the statement can be defined as Jesus' claim to timeless existence, more seems to be implied by ἐγώ εἰμι, particularly if elements binding these climatic words to the declarations in vv. 24, 28 can be identified.3

Regardless, of what event Jesus is referring to, "I am" in relation to Abraham's present condition (he is dead), means Jesus is placing Himself in existence before that change. More importantly, Jesus does not say was He says am. While this could imply a timeless existence, it is a claim of continual existence from before Abraham to the present. That is, Jesus is claiming to have continually existed from since before Abraham becomes (something) until the present. Clearly no human can truthfully make this claim about themself.

Before what?
If the before condition is Abraham's birth, then Jesus states He was and still is, in existence before Abraham was born. This could be taken as a claim to be God. Yet, Abraham did experience a change after his birth:

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (Genesis 17)

God Almighty, El Shaddai, made a covenant with Abram and gave him a new name, Abraham. In other words, Abram γενέσθαι Abraham. Using this event Jesus meant "before Abram became Abraham, I am."

The LXX translates the beginning of this passage somewhat differently:

Now Abram came to be ninety-nine years of age, and the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am your God; be well pleasing before me, and become blameless
(LXX-Genesis 17:1 NETS)

ἐγένετο δὲ Αβραμ ἐτῶν ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα καὶ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Αβραμ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός σου εὐαρέστει ἐναντίον ἐμοῦ καὶ γίνου ἄμεμπτος

The LXX changes "God Almighty" to "your God" who identifies Himself as ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός σου, "I am your God."

Conclusion - Part 2
The words ἐγώ εἰμι by themselves are not anything more then I am... It is the context which adds additional meaning. For example, ἐγώ εἰμι spoken by the man who had been born blind mean, I am the one who was born blind. There is no mystery to what the man is saying.

Obviously, before Abraham γενέσθαι ἐγώ εἰμι raises a question as to what exactly Jesus is saying about Himself. Those who heard Jesus and were aware Abram becomes Abraham would easily connect what Jesus is saying to the event in Genesis. Any Jew making this connection would easily connect Jesus' claim to continual existence using ἐγώ εἰμι relative to Abram becoming Abraham as a claim to be Abram's God, which in the Hebrew was יהוה אל־אברם. For this blasphemous claim Jesus would need to be stoned:

So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:59)

1. The extent or limit of the "future" is not specifically given. Rather, the entire Gospel speaks to what John believes is, or might be future limits. For example, the reader would rightly conclude becoming children of God is permanent and so, eternal. But becoming Jesus' disciple is not necessarily permanent. Likewise the permanence of receiving the Holy Spirit is a matter of belief. Regardless of the permanence, John's use of γενέσθαι always includes the element of the future.
2. According to Jewish history, Abraham was born 1,948 years after creation and died at the age of 175 (year 2,123). Abraham had been dead for almost 1,800 years.
3. Catrin H. Williams, I Am He: The Interpretation of A̓nî Hû in Jewish and Early Christian Literature, Mohr Siebeck, 2000, p. 276


Just search the word on biblehub (ginomai: to be, happen, exist) for its definition and all its references in that particular form γενέσθαι to find the results of your word study:

Some examples:

John 14:29 V-ANM
GRK: ὑμῖν πρὶν γενέσθαι ἵνα ὅταν
NAS: you before it happens, so
KJV: you before it come to pass, that, when
INT: you before it comes to pass that when

Acts 1:22 V-ANM
GRK: σὺν ἡμῖν γενέσθαι ἕνα τούτων
NAS: of these [must] become a witness
KJV: one be ordained to be a witness
INT: with us to become one of these

Acts 10:40 V-ANM
GRK: αὐτὸν ἐμφανῆ γενέσθαι
NAS: and granted that He become visible,
KJV: day, and shewed him openly;
INT: him manifest to become

Acts 19:21 V-ANM
GRK: Μετὰ τὸ γενέσθαι με ἐκεῖ
NAS: After I have been there,
KJV: After I have been there, I
INT: After having been my there

John 9:27 V-ANM
GRK: αὐτοῦ μαθηταὶ γενέσθαι
NAS: You do not want to become His disciples
KJV: ye also be his disciples?
INT: his disciples to become

John 13:19 V-ANM
GRK: πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι ἵνα πιστεύσητε
NAS: you before [it] comes to pass,
KJV: you before it come, that, when
INT: before it comes to pass that you might believe

You can also search on free software programs like theword.net, logos etc. Now search for the phrase "ἐγώ εἰμι" on stepbible. Notice, from the results, the unpredicated form (without the identifying noun) does not mean it is a cryptic special phrase, or without any predicate. The predicate is always implied. It is particularly in English, an analytical language that you may get confused studying languages like Greek, which often lacks such predicate. There are many other languages too which don't require the predicate. So, in English, they insert it. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Θαρσεῖτε, ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε. Matt 24:27.

The ego eimi (I am) phrase with or without predicate is obviously used for everyone else, since, it is obviously not a magical phrase or code, as some Romans or the modern religious people may have come to conclude in their misguided, unwise approach. The myth and misinformation over this phrase has to be debunked.

Matt 26:22
(ESV) And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
(SBLG) καὶ λυπούμενοι σφόδρα ἤρξαντο λέγειν αὐτῷ εἷς ἕκαστος ⸃· Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι, κύριε;

Judas used the same unpredicated phrase:

Matt 26:25
(ESV) Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
(SBLG) ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν εἶπεν· Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ῥαββί; λέγει αὐτῷ· Σὺ εἶπας.

Another example of implied predicate where English adds "he", in the false Christ claims:

Mark 13:6 (ESV) Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.
(SBLG) πολλοὶ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ πολλοὺς πλανήσουσιν.

The blind man's claim, English supplies the man:

John 9:9
(ESV) Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
(SBLG) ἄλλοι ἔλεγον ὅτι Οὗτός ἐστιν· ἄλλοι ἔλεγον· Οὐχί, ἀλλὰ ⸃ ὅμοιος αὐτῷ ἐστιν. ἐκεῖνος ἔλεγεν ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι.

Paul's claim:

Acts 26:29 (ESV) And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
(SBLG) ὁ δὲ Παῦλος· Εὐξαίμην ἂν τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ οὐ μόνον σὲ ἀλλὰ καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντάς μου σήμερον γενέσθαι τοιούτους ὁποῖος καὶ ἐγώ εἰμι παρεκτὸς τῶν δεσμῶν τούτων.

Check out the modern references or meaning of the phrase "I am", to see if there is any cryptic meaning to it. The phrase has no special meaning, and has been uttered by various individuals from in the OT and NT Greek. The name of God has never been "I am", but "I am who I am", in other words, Eternal, Omnipresent, as understood in Rev 1:8 "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." The name or title is ὁ ὢν ho on The Being, or The One.

Jeremiah 1:6 KJV Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
LXX Swete: καὶ εἶπα Ὁ ὢν δέσποτα Κύριε, ἰδοὺ οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι λαλεῖν, ὅτι νεώτερος ἐγώ εἰμι.

Jer 32:17 Ah Lord GOD Ὁ ὢν Κύριε, ! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

  • 1
    I think your statements about "the magical nature" of the expression misstate and trivialize the issue. There is no question a misuse of the Name was considered a serious offense. The Jewish people carried this to the extreme by replacing the Name. Even today some write G-d to avoid the appearance of misuse. Therefore, the context in which the words are spoken are critical for both the speaker, the reader, and perhaps most significantly, the writer. CH Dodd states "...how does one account for the conscious preservation of this utterance in the form of an indeclinable citation --- Nov 5, 2022 at 17:46
  • 1
    --- (ὡς οὖν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ἐγώ εἰμι) rather than in the form of indirect speech? The statement it seems..."is given a special importance by a repetition which is sufficiently unnatural to draw the reader's attention." [C.H, Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p. 75 n2] Nov 5, 2022 at 17:46
  • 1
    (-1) The question is about the meaning of the verb when used with ἐγώ εἰμι not simply the meaning of ἐγώ εἰμι. You have not only failed to answer the question, you have obfuscated the issue by 1) citing ἐγώ εἰμι when there is no use of the verb (in any tense) 2) failing to address the meaning of ἐγώ εἰμι when the speaker who uses it does so to place their presence/existence to an event which occurred thousands of years in the past. Nov 7, 2022 at 0:46
  • 1
    Revelation Lad, the que is only about study of gennesthai word in other context. Nothing to do with ego eimi, I have only debunked the myth and misinformation about it since it is the necessity. It would be useless to not debunk or address the errors in other answers throughout this site. I have never ignored the fact that Jesus claimed to be before Abraham.
    – Michael16
    Nov 7, 2022 at 6:03
  • 1
    @Michael16 I appreciate the general respect that you have shown in most of your disagreement here, so I've amended your last comment to avoid its deletion. Please continue to follow the CoC: don't revert to personal attacks, and show kindness and respect to other site users.
    – Steve can help
    Nov 7, 2022 at 12:44

If John 8:58's prin Abraam genesthai ego eimi, is understood as 'I have been in existence since before Abraham was born, then the question is about existence. There is nothing in John 8:58's Before Abraham was, I am. statement that meant any more than existence. Note the claim of the Jews in John 8:57 "Jesus was not yet 50 years old".

John 8:57-58 ASV

The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham. Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am

The use of Jesus' enemies' reaction to say Jesus claimed to be God is flawed. Consider John 3:4; 6:41-42 ; 8:27, 43, 52. Note too that the existence in John 8:58 is not eternal pre-existence. Eternity is not before or after anything, If Jesus really wanted to be understood as existing eternally, he would have said before Abraham was, I always have been neither did Jesus say before Abraham was, YHWH. nor did he say before Abraham was, I am God.

John 3:4 ASV

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

John 6:41-42 ASV

The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said, I am the bread which came down out of heaven And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how doth he now say, I am come down out of heaven?

John 8:27 ASV

They perceived not that he spake to them of the Father.

John 8:43 ASV

Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word

John 8:52 ASV

The Jews said unto him, Now we know that thou hast a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my word, he shall never taste of death

The context shows that Jesus' enemies' question and Jesus' reply pertained with age, and not with identity. The contention that Jesus' use of ego eimi in John 8:58 meant that he was claiming to be the Yahweh/Jehovah of the Old Testament is not valid because a few verses before show (John 8:54-55 his Father/God is the God that the Jews claim to be their God) and Exodus 3:15 says that Jehovah (not ego eimi) is his name forever.

Exodus 3:15 ASV

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

  • 1
    +1 You're skipping 8:56, which is all about identity, and refers to Genesis 22:18. See also Acts 3:25. There will be a Christ sent. Who? "I am he." Do you think the first 2 uses of 'ego eimi' in John 8 are also about sheer existence? Nov 8, 2022 at 17:46
  • @OneGodtheFather. The eimi in John 8:58 begun before Abraham came into existence. Jesus' reply in John 8:58 was in response to the Jews question about his age. You can ask the other Q and I will try to answer. Nov 9, 2022 at 0:08
  • "There is nothing in John 8:58's Before Abraham was, I am. statement that meant any more than existence." This completely avoids the significance of someone living telling the Jewish people He was in existence before Abraham. That statement says something about the nature of the person who claimed to have such existence. Nov 9, 2022 at 2:35
  • @RevelationLad. Jesus statement in John 8:54-58 show he is not the God of the OT contrary to what you you said in the later part of your answer "Any Jew making this connection would likely understand ἐγώ εἰμι, I am as a claim to be Abram's God, which in the Hebrew was יהוה אל־אברם. For this blasphemous claim Jesus would need to be stoned:" That is like execution without due process. What do you say this statement then say about the nature of the person who claimed to have such existence? Nov 9, 2022 at 4:23
  • I am simply saying for someone to say "I am in existence before someone who has been dead for 2,000 years" is a claim that is not humanly possible. Also, if it is only a claim of existence, then it says "I am in existence before Abraham and since I am speaking to you, I have been in existence since before Abraham." You keep saying "I am" by itself is not a claim to be God, fine. But that is not what Jesus said. He said before Abraham came into being, I am." So your answer needs to address how a human may make such a claim. Nov 9, 2022 at 4:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.