Re: John 8:58 (longish)

Date: Thu Aug 08 1996 - 06:47:16 EDT writes on 8/7/96:

> He must be referring to something similar in all three references to EGW EIMI.

It seems totally in character to me for Jesus to be cagey with his opponents
by answering ambiguously, flaunting in their faces the very thing they want
him to say, but in the wrong language. So, I believe he speaks in a way which
purposely suggests the offensive identification with YHWH, and, further,
speaks aloud the forbidden Hebrew word in Greek. It's also good story-
telling as Jesus flirts with diasaster through his anti-heroic taunts to
the establishment (blaspheming in God's house), even though proceeding
to a foregone conclusion.

It's an interlingual pun for a bilingual audience, "Before Abraham was
born, YHWH." (YHWH was before Abraham. Possible defense in court ?) This
sort of thing may have been a big joke among Hellenists even without
knowledge of the LXX, a way to tweak the traditional Jews' noses.

All this makes me wonder about the ages of the earliest converts. Such
anti-establishment antics usually appeal almost exclusively to rebellious

> This is astoundingly similar to John 8:24,28, and 58: EAN GAR MH

What's astounding about the similarity ?

> Also, the violent response taken by the Jews in verse 59 is not explained well
> if EGW EIMI simply means He existed before Abraham.

I'm no expert in Jewish law, but surely any claim to divinity is an offense,
not to mention blaspheming (or what is it called when you say YHWH aloud?).
Besides, the offense *does* seem to be that of claiming to be greater than
Abraham (53).

> In my opinion the above similarities to the Old Testament usage of EGW EIMI
> without a predicate, referring to God are striking. Either Jesus knew what He
> was doing when He said such strikingly similar phrases that referred to God in
> the LXX, or He was being careless in His use of language that could be so
> misunderstood.

He definitely knew what he was saying. But, such wordplay in Greek about
the LXX doesn't jibe well with Jesus' Jewishness. Is there other evidence
that Jesus knew the LXX (It's news to me.) ? Any evidence that he knew
only the LXX ?

> Finally, there are several scholars who agree with the above conclusions that
> EGW EIMI is very likely a reference to the EGW EIMI of the Old Testament
> referring to God.

While I agree that Jesus is referring to YHWH in the LXX, this doesn't seem
to imply any particular attribute of YHWH. Being older than Abraham does
not imply being pre-existing or being eternal. Not even being older than
Adam would imply that. Although there is an identification, it is far too
vague to justify any particular theological consequence, e.g. "He is equal
to the Father."

I haven't made a study of it, but it often seems to me that Jesus is
quoting or paraphrasing his father instead of speaking on his own behalf.
In verse 8 for example, Jesus emphasizes that he knows of and through
his father, his second witness. Doesn't 8:27-8 say:

        They did not know that the Father to them spoke.
        *Therefore*, Jesus said "..."

If this is so, it would clear up many confusing and blasphemous assertions
on his part. It might also explain why he sometimes refers to himself in
the third person by a title (e.g. "Son of Man") and other times seems to
identify himself with ("'I AM'").

Jesus himself says (26) "But he who sent me is true , and what I have heard
from him I tell the world." In other words, he is his father's mouthpiece. If
Jesus is speaking on his father's behalf, then EGW EIMI becomes a straight
forward quotation of the father rather than an obscure and puzzling speech
of the son identifying with the father.

It would make a great story if Jesus kept getting into trouble by the
authorities mistakenly attributing quotes of his father to himself.

> I would like to make one simple, quick, personal observation by way of these
> texts. This is a serious issue. It is vitally important that we take note of
> John 8:24, "I said therefore to you that you will die in your sins, for
> you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." If what I and others have
> said is correct about the interpretation of this passage, those who do not
> accept that Jesus Christ is to be identified with the Yahweh of the Old
> Testament will die in their sins and suffer an eternity without Christ.

Who do you have in mind ?

So, why couldn't he be saying, "I said therefore to you that you will die in
your sins, for unless you believe that 'I AM', you will die in your sins."

(The usual disclaimer about the state of my Greek applies.)

Will Wagers "Reality is the best metaphor."


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:48 EDT