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Does John 8:24, 28 Have Jesus Say He is “I am”? 

[PDF Version with Online Links.]

Someone recently wrote me that John 8:24 and 8:28 should read as Jesus saying that unless you believe that “I am” (meaning God-I-Am), then you will die in your sins. When Jesus is then asked in verse 25 “who are you”? - words surprisingly reflecting no astonishment if Jesus truly just said he was God, Jesus clearly responds by describing himself as being sent by the Father. By doing so, Jesus thereby excluded himself from being the Father. Then one must cross-reference this with John 17:3 where Jesus addresses the Father as “the only true God.” (Paul apparently paraphrases that same view, Paul writing: "for us there is but one God, the Father." (1 Cor. 8:6.).) 

 

Also if one knows Greek, the reading of “I am” in Greek without also translating its implied predicate would be an improper translation. English may require an express (not implied) direct object, but not so in Greek. In Greek, it would be “I am” like in English except when there is an implied predicate: “This is so [i.e., correctly rendered as "I am"] unless there is an implied predicate in immediate context.” (“Ego Eimi,” Wikipedia.) Then to be accurate, you must translate also the implied predicate into English. Otherwise, you would be misleading the English reader. 

 

The perfect example is John 9:9 where “ego eimi” is used without an express predicate, just as Jesus does in 8:24 and 8:28. In each of these three instances, the predicate is implied from the context.

Thus, in John 9:9, the healed blind man says in response to a question whether he is the person reportedly healed: "ego eimi." I am. Is the Blind Man affirming he is God just as Jesus too used the same expression?

Clearly no. Why? Because there is an implied predicate -- implied from the question, namely the question asking whether he is the 'healed blind man.' And thus "I am" is translated as "I am he" i.e., the healed blind man. The English translation requires us to translate what the Greek grammar signifies, or else we would be misleading by affirming the healed blind man is claiming to be "I am" -- God. That would be a false translation.

Hence, the same applies to the same situation in 8:24 and 8:28.

But some blind themself to the predicates in 8:24 and 8:28. To those who say that there is no implied predicate to 8:24 or 8:28 or 9:9 is counter to most Bible translations.

Specifically, most Bibles render an implied predicate in John 8:24 and 8:28 exactly as most do for John 9:9. Note the following chart:


John 8:24 EAN GAR ME PISTEUSHTE hOTI EGW EIMI
John 8:28 TOTE GNWSESQE hOTI EGW EIMI
John 9:9 EKEINOS ELEGEN hOTI EGW EIMI

                            8:24______________8:28________9:9
King James..........I am he,.................I am he,..........I am he
New King James......I am He,.................I am He,..........I am he
American Std........I am he,.................I am he,..........I am he
New American S....I am He,.................I am He,......I am the one
Revised Std.........I am he,.................I am he,..........I am he
New Revised Std.....I am he,.................I am he,.....I am the man
New International...I am the one I claim to be
New International............................I am the one I claim to be
New International..............................................I am the man
New American Bible..I am He,..........I am he,..........I am the one


In John 8:24 in The Modern Language Bible, the main text reads, "I am He," but the footnote states what he means in context -- "The Redeemer-Messiah." This is correct, and why "He" -- not a claim to Deity -- is proper to translate.

The main text of Williams New Testament at both 8:24 and 28 translates this as "I am the Christ," with "I am He" in the footnote. Again, the implied predicate he is a reference to Jesus as the "Christ." This is also a contextually correct translation.

The New Testament by James Kleist and Joseph Lilly contains this footnote at John 8:24, "I am he: the one for whom the Jews were waiting; the Messias."

Again, the implied predicate of Messiah is equally properly rendered right into the text. This is because anything suggesting Jesus claims to be God would be a false and misleading translation from Greek.

Hence, the implied predicates are discoverable in the context. There is thus no monumental claim by Jesus that he is somehow God distinct from the Father's indwelling himself.  

 

No Implied Predicate? Did Jesus Claim to be God?

Here is the fuller context - John 8:17-29 in the NIV - to demonstrate Jesus was only claiming to be the Son of Man and that the Father spoke through himself:

17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” [NOTE: Jesus asserts he and His father are two witnesses, not ONE being which, if true, would instead serve as only a single witness.]

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

Dispute Over Who Jesus Is

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:17-29 NIV.)


In John 8:24 and 8:28, Jesus says “I am” without an express predicate “he” that English requires – but not so in Greek. An implied predicate is readily visible in context, and thus must be translated into the sentence. Any lesser translation is false and a misleading one.

The context makes clear that Jesus claims to be the Son of Man  -- a figure in Daniel's prophecy which equates the Son of Man to the prince Messiah. See Daniel 7 passim and 9:25. Jesus unequivocally multiple times distinguishes himself from the Father who sent him and without whom Jesus is powerless. How much more clear can Jesus put it that He is not GOD, but the Son of Man, Messiah, Christ, etc.


Ego Eimi with no Express Predicate Is Common

It is not uncommon in Greek to have “I am” in a sentence with its predicate implied from the context unlike English that typically requires an express predicate / direct object.

For example, in John 9, John uses the same construction of “I am” as appears in John 8:24 and 28, but this “I am” is from the blind man. There is no express predicate, e.g., it is not expressly “I am the man.” However, the blind man was obviously not claiming God-hood, which helps any objective person to acknowledge what a neutral unbiased translator's duty is to perform when Jesus uses the same words:

8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” (John 9:8-9 NIV.)

The translation "the man" is implied from the predicate. 

At Bible Hub for John 9:9, we see on the Greek tab that the blind man says “ego eimi” without use of a pronoun or predicate subject, as English generally requires. If John 8:24 and 8:28 must read “I am” without an implied predicate, then why not say the blind man was claiming he was God, and drop "the man" too there? But we don't do that because Greek grammar requires adding the implied predicate. When Jesus speaks, Greek grammar rules do not disappear.

This is not an isolated example.

The phrase “I am” occurs many other times in the New Testament. It is frequently translated as “I am he” —Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8; John 13:19; 18:5, 6 and 8, or “It is I”—Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20.

It is interesting that the phrase “ego eimi” in leading translations is translated as “I am” only in John 8:58 (“before Abraham I am.”) And among leading translations, 8:24 is only translated as “I am” without the “he” in the ISV.

However, if John 8:24 and 8:58 were translated always as “I am he” or “I am the one,” like all the other times “ego eimi” appears, Jesus would simply be pointing to himself as Messiah, or Son of God or Son of Man when one listens for the implied predicate in context.

Regardless, even if Jesus says we must believe He is “I am,” we cannot deduce this means he affirmed he - Jesus – was God.

First, Jesus said “the father dwells in me” and such “I am” statements would necessarily be the Father speaking through Jesus. This is because Jesus insists in John 17:3 that the Father is “the only true God.”

Second, Biblical Unitarian makes a valid point of the irrelevance of Jesus saying he is “I am” if indeed that were the correct translation from the Greek: 


In order for the Trinitarian argument that Jesus’ “I am” statement[s] in John [8:24, 8:28, and] 8:58 make him God, his statement must be equivalent with God’s “I am” statement in Exodus 3:14. However, the two statements are very different. While the Greek phrase in John does mean “I am,” the Hebrew phrase in Exodus actually means “to be” or “to become.” In other words God is saying, “I will be what I will be.” Thus the “I am” in Exodus is actually a mistranslation of the Hebrew text, so the fact that Jesus said “I am” did not make him God. (“John 8:58b,” Biblical Unitarian (accessed 8/30/2019).)(Bracketed text is our addition to apply the same rule to 8:24 and 8:28.)

We independently confirmed this with top experts in Hebrew who concur that Exodus 3:15 as “I am that I am” is a mistranslation. Instead it means “I will be what I will be.” See our article The Most Famous Verse in the Bible Is A Mistranslation Caused by the Septuagint.

Doug
August 30, 2019