I don't know the book by Brown you mentioned, but C.K. Barret (though
perhaps a lot older, printed in 1975) still links the egoo eimi with the
'anie hoe/ I am He' sentences in the hebrew Bible. He mentions Isaiah
43:10, both in hebrew as in LXX as the closest parallel to John 8:24, on
which John 8:58 seems to be based.
Another thought: if the prin Abraam genesthai egoo eimi passage that you
were debating refers to a pre-existence, this would not necessarily imply
that Jesus equates Himself to God as in Pauline and Johannine teaching
seems to be presupposed. I mean to say, that the verse could still be a
genuine Jesus-saying, if it were to refer to the pre-existence of the
Messiah, as was taught e.g. in the Midrasj Rabbah by texts of unknown date
(to me that is): both the Torah and the messiah are counted among the
things that were there before creation began in Gen 1. So what Jesus might
be saying here is: before the covenantal history began with Abraham, I, the
Messiah, was already there (begotten, not created as part of the 'maaseh
beresjiet, the works of creation, but rather as a tool or direction or goal
of creation), so the meaning of who Jesus is, [ if this hostircal Jesus is
the Messiah] cannot be understood within the framework of the covenantal
history that had Abraham as a father/principle. No Gnostic influence needs
to be presupposed for that idea, but I must acknowl;edge some problems with
this idea as well:
1. the assumption that the pre-existence of the messiah pre-dates John has
no corroboration since rabbinic texts of the midrash are extremely late
witnesses and have an inherent bias toward their first century materials
2. the assumption thatJjesus-sayings in John, that are not in the
synoptics, have any possible historical relevance at all is but an
hypothesis, despite C.H. Dodd.
3. the assumption that John, who is everywhere else clearly influenced by
the debate with some kind of proto-gnostic Christianity, would here be
focused on jewish tradition.
Robbert A. Veen, Lelystad, the Netherlands
Well, there it is...