Re: EGW EIMI in GJohn (was Present tence copulative verbs)

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Tue Sep 01 1998 - 19:27:06 EDT

---"Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:

>So, too, I think, is EGW EIMI. That is to say, it is an idiom which
seems to be grounded in Isaiah 63:25, and was used to signify (cf. Mk.
13:6) the divine presence and even a claim to divine authority, but
says nothing about preexistence, let alone continuation over time.<

Dear Jeffrey,

Mark 13:6 does not seem to be discussing claims of divinity. The
imposters falsely say that they are hO XRISTOS (Cf. Matt. 24:5).
Evidently, divinity is not an issue. GRB Murray, V. Taylor, WL Lane,
and TW Manson all favor the view that EGW EIMI in Mark 13:6 signifies
"I am the Messiah." Others see it differently, I admit. But if Mark's
account is parallel to Matthew's Gospel, it would seem to indicate
that Mark 13:6 is to be viewed as implicatively predicate.

>For a full discussion of this, please see Appendix IV: EGO EIMI __"I
AM", pp. 532-538 in Vol. 1 of Ray Brown's Anchor Commentary on GJohn.<

I have read Brown's article, and it has many fine points. Brown was a
tremendous scholar, possessing great erudition. I cannot acquiesce
with his discussion in toto, however. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I
think that Brown outlines the following Bultmannian uses of EGW EIMI
in his commentary. These uses are as follows:

(a) an introduction, answering a question (Ezek. 28:2).
(b) A description of the subject, answering the question, "What are

(c) EGW EIMI is also used predicatively to sum up the identity of the
subject (John 9:9).

(d) EGO EIMI is further utilized as a formula that separates the
subject from others (John 4:25, 26).

This is not a verbatim quote from Brown, just a sketch of his

My question is, does the Johannine usage of EGW EIMI in John 8:58
reflect any of these utilizations outlined by Bultmann?

IMHO, possibly (c) or (d). When Jesus uses EGW EIMI, and employs it
with PRIN ABRAAM--it sums up the identity of the subject. Jesus now
identifies himself as the pre-existent Messiah. Furthermore, by
claiming existence before Abraham, he also demonstrates that he is
from above--the Jews are from below (John 8:23). The claim does not
have to express Jesus' divinity though. John L. Mckenzie writes
concerning John 8:58:

"Jesus asserts his own innocence and the vindication which the Father
will give him. This leads to a clear assertion of preexistence and his
life is threatened for the first time. The preexistent Messiah
actually does appear in rabbinical literature; and it was
also rabbinical belief that the patriarchs and Moses saw the Messiah
in a vision" (Mckenzie 193-194).

Let it be known that I am not making simplistic appeals to authority,
but simply cite Mckenzie as a possible way of understanding John 8:58
in a non-theistic sense. John 8:58 does not have to indicate eternal
existence, but can merely indicate pre-existence. As for any link with
ANI Hu, this association is often exaggerated. There is no clear proof
that ANI Hu serves as a divine title for YHWH in the OT. Gesenius
appears to cast doubt on the notion.


Edgar Foster

Lenoir-Rhyne College

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