Date: Mon Aug 12 1996 - 14:58:55 EDT
I will offer a very short reply to Mitchell's previous response since I have
already given my essential exegesis on John 8:58. If anyone would like a
copy of it again, E-mail me or obtain it from the B-Greek archives. Most of
what I say there will counter well enough many of the restatements that
Mitchell provides, in my opinion.
Much of Mitchell's argument depends upon the similarity between Jesus'
declarations of EGW EIMI in John 8:24,28,58 and the blind man's declaration
in John 9:9. But he fails to recognize the dissimilarity between the two
passages. The question being asked in John 8 is clearly, "Who are you?"
(John 8:25) The question in John 9 is, "Is not this the one who used to sit
and beg?" (John 9:8). Jesus gives an unqualified answer in an absolute
sense with no referent in John 8:24,28 while in John 9:9, the answer is given
with a qualified emphatic emphasis.
Jesus clarified his answer in John 8:58 when He referred to His existence
before Abraham. Again, as I stated before, historically, the Jews listening
to Jesus would not have understood the Messiah as existing before Abraham. I
have checked this out and have found the writings of the Jews concerning the
doctrine of the Messiah do not hold to his pre-existence, in spite our
understanding of some passages in the Old Testament (e.g., Micah 5:2).
Furthermore, there is no record in the Old Testament that references the
Messiah as particularly existing before the person _Abraham_ that the Jews
would have recognized in Jesus' statement. It is unlikely that the Jews
would have understood the statement EGW EIMI in John 8:58 to refer to Jesus
as Messiah alone.
To the Jews, only One could claim such absolute, unqualified existence--God.
When the Jews heard John 8:58, they clearly understood who He was claiming
to be and that caused their violent reaction in wanting to stone Him in 8:59.
It reminded them clearly of Old Testament passages that used the same exact
absolute phrase hOTI EGW EIMI in reference to their God (Deuteronomy 32:39;
Isaiah 43:10; cf. Exodus 3:14).
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