6

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (ESV)

Jesus uses the unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι. In context it is seen as a response to what the Samaritan woman just said.

The meaning of ἐγώ εἰμι is, I am the Messiah who is coming and will tell you all things. The exact words are ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ λαλῶν σοι, literally, "I am the [one] speaking [to] you." As a response to the woman the article, λαλῶν, is the link back to what the woman said about the Messiah.

Without the article, ἐγώ εἰμι λαλῶν σοι, is simply I am speaking to you. In the context Jesus could be misunderstood as saying, "Yes the Messiah who is coming will tell you all things, but I am speaking to you." The woman who repeatedly tries to change the subject and restate who she believes she is speaking with (a Jew, a man, a prophet) evokes a response from Jesus, saying in effect "stop changing the subject, I am speaking to you.

The article ὁ λαλῶν, the one speaking specifies Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah who will tell her all things. However, if Jesus only wanted to identify Himself as the Messiah, it seems like the direct response would be ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Μεσσίας or ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Χριστός. This makes me wonder why Jesus answered somewhat obliquely.

Near the ending of the Servant of the Lord passages in Isaiah, we are told:

Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.” (Isaiah 52:6)

The LXX reads:

διὰ τοῦτο γνώσεται ὁ λαός μου τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτὸς ὁ λαλῶν πάρειμι
Therefore my people shall know my name in that day, because I myself am the one who speaks: I am here

By failing to give "a direct answer" does Jesus make an intentional allusion to Isaiah?

4
  • There is a lot to cover here.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 2:17
  • See John 9;57 ὁ λαλῶν μετὰ σοῦ ⸁ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 2:44
  • Note that "ὁ" is the article, and "λαλῶν" is actually the verb which means "speaking."
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 15:38
  • Correct, exactly as in Isaiah Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 15:54

4 Answers 4

5

I suggest the answer is, probably, "Yes", Jesus may very well allude to Isa 52:6 when he makes the remark in John 4:26, for precisely the reasons outlined by the OP. There appears to be a literary parallel - "I am, the One speaking" appears in both places.

In none of the other places does the LXX (or Hebrew) have the verb "speaking" in conjunction with the phrase "I am" (see Deut 32:39, Isa 41:4, 43:10, 13, 25, 45:19, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12).

Therefore, I agree with the OP suggestion.

1
  • +1 The Hebrew also seems to agree with this answer.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 12:34
2

The Greek expression "ἐγώ εἰμι" is found in no less than 48 verses of the New Testament. Take a look at a sampling of these, including all of them from Matthew, and some beyond.

But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. (Matthew 14:27, KJV)

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:32, KJV)

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:5, KJV)

And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? (Matthew 26:22, KJV)

Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. (Matthew 26:25, KJV)

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:19, KJV)

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (Luke 24:39, KJV)

Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? (Acts 10:21, KJV)

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16, KJV)

While in many of these texts Jesus is the one using the expression, it is easily observed that the disciples and others might also use it. Clearly, the disciples are not God, so the expression "I am" must be more generally applicable than to signify only the Deity.

If, therefore, an important doctrine is to be either supported or rejected on the basis of this usage of "I am," one must be careful to ensure that the doctrine has additional support beyond this. The words "I am," by themselves, are not limited in the Bible to usage by God.

Applying this more directly to Jesus, let us compare the text in Isaiah with what Jesus spoke.

Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. (Isaiah 52:6, KJV)

Who does Jesus say is speaking?

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. (John 12:49, KJV)

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10, KJV)

If Jesus' words were those of the Father, as he tells us, and if the Father is the only true God, as Jesus also taught--the same God represented by the "I AM" of the Old Testament, then it should be unsurprising to us that we should hear these words from one speaking for God.

2
  • In John 4:26 Jesus says, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ λαλῶν σοι. I do not think the Samaritan woman would understand this based on what Jesus says to the Jews (12:49) or the disciples (14:10). The reader might attempt to make that connection, but the reader will also wonder why Jesus never once says "I am the Messiah (or Christ)." Furthermore, the reason the Fourth Gospel was written was so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ... a reader might further ask why write something for others to believe and fail to record at least one time in which that which is to be believed was actually spoken? Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 15:29
  • You should distinguish between predicated and unpredicated "I am" statements. The latter only occur in the mouth of Jesus except for John 9:9 which is mere identification.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 19:43
1

Note that it was Jehovah who spoke what was recorded in Isaiah 52:6. Examining Jesus statement in John 4:26, did Jesus say he is YHWH? Does "I am he" mean I am Jehovah? In John 8:17-18, Jesus said that the testimony of two men is true I am he that beareth witness of myself and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

If Jesus said that he is the YHWH God of the Old Testament, then that would mean that Jesus said he is the Father and there would only be one witness, not two. But Jesus said he testifies of himself and his other witness is the Father. That makes two witnesses.

John 3:16 says that God (Jesus' Father) sent His son Jesus and according to Jesus, (John 13:16) Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. Thus, Jesus could not be his God and be Jesus at the same time. Jesus could not be Father and be the son at the same time.

If Jesus is not the Father, then he clearly is not Jehovah who spoke what was recorded in Isaiah 52:3-6. The apostles and their disciples did not believe that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament as Acts 3:13 show The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Servant Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied before the face of Pilate, when he had determined to release him

Isaiah 52:3-6 ASV

For thus saith Jehovah, Ye were sold for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. 4For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there: and the Assyrian hath oppressed them without cause. 5Now therefore, what do I here, saith Jehovah, seeing that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them do howl, saith Jehovah, and my name continually all the day is blasphemed. 6Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak; behold, it is I.

John 4:26 does not allude to Isaiah 52:6

4
  • Unless you believe that I am (he) you will die in your sins. Everything hinges upon this. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 13:35
  • @MikeBorden.You can post an answer or a Q to prove your comment "everything hinges on, Unless you believe that I am (he) you will die in your sins". Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 21:09
  • John 3:16 says God sent, not the Father sent. You replace God with Father based upon what you believe. However, had Jesus said, the Father so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son... (which makes much more sense BTW) your beliefs would be spot on. Yet for some reason, Jesus failed to state (what you believe) is obvious. This despite using "Father" more than any other Gospel. Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 16:15
  • @RevelationLad.. Who did Jesus say that sent him? Who is Jesus? ' God if is not the Father? Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 22:18
0

Background
My question developed from a discussion on this answer about John 8:58; one argument maintained Jesus should be understood as having used a double ellipsis:

The literal English should be understood as before Abraham becomes [ellipsis], I am [ellipsis]

Furthermore, the ellipsis to ἐγώ εἰμι is known. It refers back to Jesus' first use when He identified Himself as the Messiah. In his book, Thomas Belsham explained this position:

This interpretation connects well with the tenor of our Lord’s discourse: Your father Abraham desired to see my day: he did see it and rejoiced. “and verily I say, the the time for accomplishment of what he foresaw is not yet arrived: for before Abram shall be Abraham, i.e. become the father of many nations, I am Christ your Messiah.”1

I saw two challenges with this approach. First, what was said to the Samaritan woman was done in private: not even the disciples were present. The reader of the Gospel knows how ἐγώ εἰμι was used, but it seems unrealistic to maintain Jesus used an ellipsis as an answer to those who had no previous knowledge of this conversation.

Second, as the reader and the Jews know, Jesus frequently used ἐγώ εἰμι with a predicate:

Bread of Life, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς (6:35, 48)
Living Bread, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν (6:51)
The Light of the World, ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου (8:12)
The Door, ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα (10:5, 9)
The Good Shepherd, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός (10:11, 14)
The Resurrection and the Life, ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή (11:25)
The Way, the Truth, and the Life, ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή (14:6)
The True Vine, ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινή (15:1)
The Vine, ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος (15:5)

Since Jesus had no reservations using ἐγώ εἰμι with a predicate to describe Himself, is it reasonable to maintain He would resort to an ellipsis? Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the idea that the first use of ἐγώ εἰμι without a predicate might serve as a foundation for all future uses of ἐγώ εἰμι without a predicate.

In other words, did John intend the reader to always connect ἐγώ εἰμι when used as a stand alone expression to the conversation with the Samaritan woman?

I am The Messiah
Despite being the stated purpose of the Gospel (cf. John 20:31), and despite 12 ἐγώ εἰμι [something] statements, there is not a single instance where Jesus says ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Μεσσίας or ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Χριστός. Even the confession to the Samaritan woman lacks the explicit statement:

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (ESV)
25 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσσίας ἔρχεται, ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν ἅπαντα. 26 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι.

The actual expression is awkward and one may reasonably ask why Jesus failed to respond directly: ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Μεσσίας or ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Χριστός. However, if this first use of ἐγώ εἰμι is intended to serve as the basis for understanding every ἐγώ εἰμι without a predicate, then the meaning is simply ὁ λαλῶν, the one speaking. That is, ἐγώ εἰμι by itself should always be understood as the manner in which Jesus uses to self-identify as the Messiah: I am the one speaking.

I am the one speaking
If this is so, then the "ellipsis" in John 8:58 would be the one speaking.

before Abraham becomes [ellipsis] I am [the one speaking]

ἐγώ εἰμι by itself occurs nine times:

4:26  Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman
6:20  Jesus speaking to the disciples
8:24  Jesus speaking to the Jews
8:28  Jesus speaking to the Jews
8:58  Jesus speaking to the Jews
13:19 Jesus speaking to the disciples
18:5  Jesus speaking to Judas and the others
18:6  Narrator addition repeating 18:5
18:8  Jesus speaking to Judas and the others

With the exception of the narrator addition, Jesus is speaking and I am [the one speaking] is possible. A reader who looked back to the event with the Samaritan woman would understand the omission of ὁ λαλῶν in all future events was simply based on the context: only the Samaritan woman was expecting a Messiah who would tell her all things.

To summarize, it was the Samaritan woman who not only was expecting the Messiah, but specifically one who would tell her all things. To this Jesus responded, ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι, I am the one speaking to you.

I am here
If ἐγώ εἰμι without a predicate is to be understood based on how it used with the Samaritan woman, then there is a connection to the Greek understanding of Isaiah:

Therefore my people shall know my name in that day because I myself am the one who speaks: I am here. (LXX-Isaiah 52:6 NETS)
διὰ τοῦτο γνώσεται ὁ λαός μου τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτὸς ὁ λαλῶν πάρειμι

Since Jesus' answer to the Samaritan woman is a claim to be the Messiah whom she was expecting, not only did Jesus say, "I am the one who speaks," His conversation affirms "I am here."

It seems reasonable the event with the Samaritan woman serves as a basis for all ἐγώ εἰμι confessions. Those without a predicate mean I am the one speaking, I am here. Those with a predicate develop the Samaritan woman's expectation. The Messiah is more than the one who will tell us all things; He also is the Bread of Life, the Living Bread, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the True Vine, and the Vine.

Finally, the absence of an explicit I am the Messiah or I am the Christ, implies Jesus intends ἐγώ εἰμι to be understood as such.

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. (John 10)

The way in which Jesus told others He was the Messiah was using ἐγώ εἰμι as a standalone expression. And, based on the exchange with the Samaritan woman, He is claiming to be the fulfillment of Isaiah, I am here.


1. Thomas Belsham, A Calm Inquiry Into the Scripture Doctrine Concerning the Person of Christ, The Unitarian Society, 1817, p.54

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