The “I Am” Statements in John

March 21, 2009 at 8:22 am | Posted in Theology | 1 Comment

I just finished reading the Gospel of John in my devotions.  Someone once told me that there were seven “I am” statements of Jesus in the book of John, and I thought at the time that there were many more than that.  I decided maybe that count was grouping all the “bread” statements and all the “good shepherd” statements, etc.  together, but never really followed up on it.  These last few weeks I noted every “I am” statement of Jesus I came across and looked them up in the Greek NT.  Here is a summary of my findings:

There are seven “I am” statements of Jesus that use the common to-be verb without the emphatic pronoun “I.”  Among them are Jesus’ claim at the last supper to be the Teacher and Lord (13:13) and his claim that he is in the Father (14:10, 11, 20).  The others are found in 9:5; 10:36; 16:32 and 17:11.

In NT Greek, the pronoun is unnecessary to complete the thought, because it is contained in the form of the verb.  But when it is used, it is very emphatic, as though Jesus was saying, “Hey look at me; I am the .  .  .”  There are 17 “I am” statements where Jesus uses the common verb with the emphatic pronoun and also a direct object.  Among them are the statements like “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I am the light of the world” (8:12 – the 9:5 version does not have the emphatic pronoun); “I am the door” (or gate – 10:7, 9); “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection” (11:25); “I am the way, the truth and the life” (14:6); and “I am the vine” (15:1, 5).  The others are 8:23 twice, 17:2.  The “seven” statements mentioned above may be the seven direct objects of these statements: bread, door, light, shepherd, resurrection, way/truth/life, and vine.

Then again, the seven may be the seven “I am” statements with the common verb, the emphatic pronoun and no direct object.  However, some of those have an implied object in the context such as John 4:26, translated “I am he” in the NIV – the implied object is the Messiah from the woman’s comments; 8:28, translated “I am the one I claim to be” in NIV, though NASB’s “I am He” is much better – the implied object is “the Son of Man” from the earlier part of the sentence; 18:5, where Jesus of Nazareth is the object; and 13:19 could have the implied object of the one promised, but this passage could possibly be interpreted with the ones below.

That leaves three “I am” statements with the emphatic pronoun and no implied object.  The first, in 6:20, is often translated “It is I.”  When Jesus walked on the water in the storm and the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost, Jesus literally said “I am; don’t be afraid.”  It is easy to see how the context calls for usual translation.  However, that is not what he said.  The second reference is in 8:24, where Jesus says “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (NASB – the NIV again uses “I am the one I claim to be,” with a footnote listing “I am he” as an alternative for this and the reference in v.28)  I don’t see any implied object here.  The third is the most famous of all the “I am” statements and is found in 8:58.  It happens in the same conversation as the “I am He” of verses 24 and 28.  After Jesus mentioned what Abraham knew, the crowd commented, “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!”  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  This one is an emphatic reference to God’s “I am” in Exodus 3:14, and I find no other way to interpret it, especially in light of the Jewish crowds’ reaction.

If someone ever says Jesus never claims to be God.  These references are a clear indication that he indeed did claim to be God.  And there are not just a few of them!

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  1. Traiteur Rabat Regal; Traiteur de ronome au Maroc

    This is my expert

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