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The Correct Translation of John 8:58,

“I am”?, “I was,” or “I have been”?


(By: Lesriv Spencer, 8/03/2010. Updated, April, 2019)

A consideration of which is the correct translation of John 8:58 is set forth herein, and a list of alternate readings of
John 8:58 is provided for those looking to increase their understanding of a much discussed scripture. Bold, italics,
underlines and brackets [ ] are mine unless otherwise indicated. Unless noted, Bible citations are taken from the
ubiquitous New International Version (NIV). Other translations quoted: Contemporary English Version (CEV); English
Standard Version (ESV); Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB); Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV); Jerusalem Bible
(JB); King James Version (KJV); New American Bible (NAB); New American Standard Bible (NASB); New International
Reader's Version (NIRV); New Jerusalem Bible (NJB); New Living Translation (NLT); New Revised Standard Version (NRSV);
New World Translation (NWT); Revised Standard Version (RSV); The Simple English Bible (SEB); Today’s English Version
(TEV); Young’s Literal Translation (YLT). I am fully responsible for any errors found in translations done from foreign
language sources cited in the article. In many cases, the original readings are provided right below the English
translation for comparison.

Table of Contents (Click to follow link)

1. Ancient Readings of John 8.58.


2. What is the meaning of the Greek phrase e·goʹ ei·miʹ?
3. What do scholars say of the syntax found in John 8:58?
4. What does the Bible say about Jesus?
5. Is Exodus 3:14 a parallel of John 8:58?
6. Is ’ă·nî hū’ in Isaiah parallel to e·goʹ ei·miʹ in John?
7. What does the context of John 8:58 indicate?
8. Does the Jews' reaction in John 8:59 prove Jesus Christ had claimed to be “God”?
9. Scriptures with similar syntax to John 8:58.
10. Is e·goʹ ei·miʹ a title or another name of God?
11. Does the Kingdom Interlinear Translation prove the NWT is wrong at John 8:58?
12. Concluding Remarks.
13. How other translators render John 8:58.

1. Ancient Readings of John 8.58: The Greek original literal reading followed by four
translations representative of many versions to this day.

c. 95: “ πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί ” - Greek


(before Abraham to become I am )

c. 405: “antequam Abraham fieret ego sum ” – Latin Vulgate


( before Abraham was made I am )

1545: “Ehe denn Abraham ward bin ich ” - Luther Bible


( Before Abraham was I am )

1602: “Antes que Abraham fuese, yo soy ” - Reina-Valera


( Before Abraham was I am )
1611: “Before Abraham was, I am ” - King James Version

2. What is the meaning of the Greek phrase e·goʹ ei·miʹ?

The Greek phrase ἐγὼ εἰμί (e·goʹ ei·miʹ, a pronoun e·goʹ = I, and the verb ei·miʹ in the present
indicative form) means in its simplest sense, “I am (first-person singular from the verb “to be” in
ancient Greek).” At first glance, it looks like there is no reason to go further. You have the Greek
on one hand which reads, “I am.” Then you have an influential ancient Bible translation in
Latin using the equivalent of that. Add to that, the many traditional versions showing the
same reading at John 8:58, and it looks like any other rendering besides “I am” is uncalled for
and illegitimate. In fact, this is exactly what some Bible readers are claiming.

Notwithstanding, there is a bit more than meets the eye here. Greek as a language is quite
different from English. Anyone who attempts to convey a familiar expression into another
language, will quickly find out that often adjustments have to be made in order to be
understood. And so it is with the Greek expression “e·goʹ ei·miʹ” found in John 8:58. (For
simplicity’s sake, “ego eimi” without accents may be used throughout this document.) Though ego eimi is
generally translated “I am” as a legitimate translation, some translators find it necessary in
some contexts to render it differently in another language, such as English, to convey the
right meaning. Why is this so?

One problem we have to deal with here, is that Greek tenses frequently are time-indifferent,
except by implication from their relationship to their context. Trying to equally match Greek
and English tenses is a frustrating experience. In fact, some scholars avoid stressing the word
“tense” (i.e. “time”) in relation to biblical languages. As grammarians Dana and Mantey pointed
out decades ago: “...Time is but a minor consideration in the Greek tenses.” (A Manual Grammar of
the Greek New Testament, p. 177. ©1955 The Macmillan Company. Italics theirs.) And more recently, David
A. Black adds: “Unlike English, the most significant feature of tense in Greek is kind of action. A
secondary consideration of tense, and one that applies only in the indicative mood, is time of
action. But the essential signification of the Greek tense system is the kind of action – whether
it is represented as ongoing, finished or simply as an occurrence.” (Learn to Read New
Testament Greek, p. 15. ©2009, B&H Publishing Group) Scholars often speak of Hebrew and Greek
as “aspectual”* languages, unlike English which has only tenses. (*“Aspect”: “A verbal
categorization that focuses upon kind of action rather than time of action (i.e. tense).” (Pocket Dictionary
for the Study of Biblical Hebrew, Todd J. Murphy. ©2003)

Thus, there is no way to consistently translate the phrase ego eimi in discussion in a strictly
literal way, because Greek is in the main an aspectual language, and English not so much. In
other words, the renderings “I am,” “I was,” and “I have been” for eimi, can be, context
depending, just as literal as the other. Bible translator N. T. Wright also noted: “But, as with all
translations, even within closely related modern European languages, there are always going
to be places where you simply can't do word by word. To do so would be ‘correct’ at one level
and deeply incorrect at another. There is no ‘safe’ option: all translation is risky, but it's a risk
we have to take.” (The Kingdom New Testament, Preface, p. xii. HarperCollins Publishers, 2011)
Although Wright, a Trinitarian, renders John 8:58 in the traditional way, it is my opinion that
John 8:58 is one of those “places where you simply can't do word by word” and make the most
sense of it. In this essay, I will attempt to show you why this is so.

First of all, some erroneously believe that eimi in John 8:58 should only be translated one way,
that is, as it appears in popular versions. However, others acknowledge that the verb can have
more than one meaning. Scholar William D. Mounce says that “eimi has a wide variety of
nuances….” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, p. 54. ©2006
Zondervan) A Greek expert explains that eimi is “a function word, variously rendered am, are, is,
was, were, will be depending on requirements of English structure; the resources of English
permit numerous equivalent renderings.” (The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.
110. – Frederick William Danker; with Kathryn Krug, ©2009 by The University of Chicago) You can add
the rendering “I have been” to the list above, as James Strong does.

3. What do scholars say of the syntax found in John 8:58?

Some scholars have pointed out that Scriptures, like John 8:58, which have within their
structure a particular idiom containing a Greek verb (like eimi) in the present tense with an
expression of past time (or an adverb with past implications in its construction, like before), can be
rendered into a modern language, such as English, with a present perfect indicative form (“I
have been”; “I have existed”), or even with a simple past tense (“I was”; “I existed”). These Bible
translators, surely no less conscientious of Greek grammar, have translated taking into
account the presence of the peculiar syntax found at John 8:58.

Grammarian Kenneth Leslie McKay refers to the idiom as “Extension from Past,” and it occurs
when a present verb is “used with an expression of either past time or extent of time with past
implications.” (A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek, p. 41. ©1994 Peter Lang Publishing,
Inc., N. Y.) This is the case with John 8:58 where the expression “I am” forms part of a Greek
idiom structure: “prin A·bra·amʹ ge·neʹsthai e·goʹ ei·mi’ [Before Abraham to become, I am],” having an
expression of past time in its statement. This construction is not unique to John 8:58,
appearing in other places as indicated below. It also appears in LXX: Genesis 31:38, 41; Exodus
4:10; 21:36; Judges 16:17; Psalm 90:2; Luke 13:7; 15:29; John 14:9; Acts 15:21.

Various scholars explain the syntax found in Scriptures, such as John 8:58, thus (Some scholars
may or may not specifically mention John 8:58 as an example of the idiom.):

Greek – An Intensive Course: “When [the present is] used with expressions denoting past time, the
present is the equivalent of the English present progressive perfect: πάλαι τοῦτο ποιῶ [pa’lai tou’to poiō].
I have been doing* this for a long time.” (Hardy Hansen & Gerald M. Quinn, p. 731. ©1992. New York Fordham
University Press. *Lit., I am doing...)

Winer: “Sometimes the Present includes also a past tense (Mdv. 108), viz. when the verb expresses a
state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues,—a state in its duration; as, Jno. xv. 27
ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστέ [apʼ ar‧khēs metʼ e‧mou e‧ste’], viii. 58 πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμι [prin
A·bra·amʹ ge·neʹsthai e·goʹ ei·mi].” (A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, by G. B. Winer, seventh
edition, Andover, 1897, p. 267)

Brooks & Winbery: “The past and the present are gathered up in a single affirmation. An adverb of
time is often used with this kind of present…. This use of the Greek present is usually translated by the
English present perfect … the full meaning is that something has been and still is.” (Syntax of New
Testament Greek, by James A. Brooks & Carlton L. Winbery. ©1979 by University Press of America, Inc., p.
77. Idiom labeled as “Durative Present” by the authors.)

Wallace: “The present tense may be used to describe an action that, begun in the past, continues in the
present. The emphasis is on the present time. Note that this is different from the perfect tense in that
the perfect speaks only about the results existing in the present time. It is different from the progressive
present in that it reaches back in time and usually, if not always, has some sort of temporal indicator,
such as an adverbial phrase, to show this past-referring element ...The key to this usage is normally to
translate the present tense as an English present perfect … Luke 15:29 τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω σοι I have
served you for these many years 1 John 3:8 ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει the devil has been sinning
from the beginning.” (The Basics of New Testament Syntax, by Daniel B. Wallace, pp. 222-3. Zondervan.
Italics and bold letters his.)

W. W. Goodwin: “The present with πάλαι [pa’lai] or any other expression of past time has the force of a
present and perfect combined; as πάλαι τοῦτο λέγω [pa’lai tou’to le’gō], I have long been telling this (which I
now tell).” (A Greek Grammar, Section 1258, p. 270)

Nigel Turner: “The Present which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the
moment of speaking is virtually the same as Perfective, the only difference being that the action is
conceived as still in progress . . . It is frequent in the NT: Lk 248 137... 1529... Jn 56 858 (εἰμί)…149...1527... Ac 1521...
2 Co 1219... 1 Jn 38.” (A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by J. H. Moulton, Vol. III, Syntax, by Nigel Turner,
Edinburgh, 1963, 62)

J. N. Sanders and B. A. Mastin: “To describe a state continuing up to the present, Greek uses the
present tense where English uses the Perfect; cf. Jn 8:58.” (Harper's New Testament Commentaries, p. 158.
©1988, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA)

Burton: “The Present of past Action still in Progress*. The Present Indicative, accompanied by an
adverbial expression denoting duration and referring to past time, is sometimes used in Greek, as in
German, to describe an action which, beginning in past time, is still in progress at the time of speaking.
English idiom requires the use of the Perfect in such cases … Acts 15:21...Luke 13:7...15:29...John 5:6...2
Tim. 3:15….” (Syntax of Moods and Tenses in N.T. Greek, by Ernest De Witt Burton, p. 10. Latest Impression,
1976, T&T Clark LTD., Edinburgh)

Smyth: “Present of Past and Present Combined. – The present, when accompanied by a definite or
indefinite expression of past time, is used to express an action begun in the past and continued in the
present. The ‘progressive perfect’ is often used in translation. Thus, πάλαι θαυμάζω [pa’lai thauma’zō] I
have been long (and am still) wondering.” (Greek Grammar, by Herbert Weir Smyth, Section 1885 on verb
tenses. pp. 422-423.)
(* “The Present of past Action still in Progress.” See also: An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek by C. F. D.
Moule, Section v., p. 8, Cambridge). This same idiom is discussed in other grammars under the names
“Durative Present”; “Extension from Past Present,” or “Progressive Present.” See Blass and Debrunner,
section 322; K. L. Mckay 1994, pp 41-42; A. T. Robertson's Grammar, p. 879; W. D. Chamberlain's
Grammar, p. 70; D. A. Black, It's Still Greek to Me, p. 107; A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament,
by Dana and Mantey, pp. 182-3; Intermediate New Testament Greek, by Richard A Young, p. 111; A Concise
Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, by J. Harold Greenlee, p. 93. Classical examples are provided
in Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, by W. W. Goodwin, #26.)

The scholars above call attention to the fact that the English present tense in such
construction is not equal to the Greek Present. Therefore, it would be a mistake to conclude
that we have to take the basic sense of ego eimi in John 8:58, and represent it word-for-word
throughout the New Testament to be accurate. We must consider whether John 8:58 contains
a temporal indicator that goes back in time in combination with a Greek present verb.

In point of fact, the above biblical Greek syntax is carried over to modern Greek: A modern
Greek Grammar explains: “The [Greek] present may also be used to refer to an action or
situation that began in the past and continues in the present, where English uses the perfect.
Παίρνω αυτό το φάρμακο από το 1999 [Paírnō autó to phármako apó to 1999]. I've been taking this
medicine since 1999.” (Greek An Essential Grammar of the Modern Language, by David Holton, Peter
Mackridge and Irene Philippaki-Warburton, p. 121. 2004. Routledge, London & New York) Take note
how the authors, taking into account the Greek idiom, translate the verb paírnō (1st. person
present indicative which basically means, “I am taking”) using an English present perfect, “I've been
taking this medicine since 1999.”

Consequently, when Bible versions transfer the basic meaning “I am” into their translated text
without considering the above syntax, they will likely fail to convey the intended Greek
meaning, and end up with ungrammatical English as well. (“Ungrammatical,” because English
present tense cannot start before a particular point in the past. For example, I write a letter she
received last year.) Oddly enough, with the past and present combined in the clause, some
paraphrased and dynamic equivalent translations carry over the literal “I am” of the passage
right into their versions, with no explanation whatsoever for ignoring English grammar
standards. Anyone doing translation work between two languages knows full well that it is not
always feasible or practical to translate word-for-word. Otherwise, the end product would be
flawed, unreadable material.

4. What does the Bible say about Jesus?

That Christ “was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:2) At the announcement of his birth on
earth, angel Gabriel told Mary that she will give birth to someone “great” and “holy”, and that
he will be called “Son of the Most High” and “Son of God.” (Luke 1:32,35) Traditionalists may
claim that “Son of God” is equivalent in meaning to “God.” A bogus claim it is! If the claim had
any merit, then the “Holy Spirit” would also be called “Son of God.” But nowhere in Scripture is
God or holy spirit ever called “Son of God”! The truth is that other creatures are also called
“sons of God.” (Job 2:1) However, only Jesus Christ is explicitly called “the Son of God”, in
singular with the article! Why is that so?

The Bible further says that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God [not God invisible].” (Col. 1:15,
NRSV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Lit., only-begotten Son],
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) ‘By becoming
obedient [to God] to death, during the course of his earthly life, God exalted him to the highest
place and gave him the name that is above every [other] name, that at the name of Jesus
everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth should bow, and acknowledge that
Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.’ (Hebrews 5:8; Philippians 2:8-11)

“[Christ] has gone into heaven, and is at the right hand of God; with angels, authorities, and
powers made subject to him.” (1 Peter 3:22, NRSV) Still, Christ in heaven is shown receiving
knowledge, information, revelation from God and transmits it to other creatures. (Revelation
1:1) The glorified Christ is described as “King of kings,” and “Lord of lords,” yet, he is specifically
called “The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13,16, NRSV) The night before his death, he “prayed” to
his Father (something God would never do), and called him “the only true God” and made this
petition: “Father, glorify me in your own presence [Greek: beside* yourself] with the glory that I
had in your presence [Greek: beside* you] before the world existed.” (John 17:5, NRSV)
(*“alongside yourself,” S. T. Byington)

Well then, if Jesus Christ expressed his ultimate wish in prayer, to be “in the presence of,”
“beside,” “alongside” his Father, which he himself called “the only true God,” why should we,
for the sake of tradition, insist in believing otherwise – that Jesus is the true God, the One
sitting at the center of God's throne instead of beside God? Christ did not ask to sit at God's
throne. Christ was satisfied with the premise of being alongside God. And that is what actually
happened. Christian martyr Stephen saw a heavenly vision where the glorified Jesus Christ
was “standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55) The NIV Study Bible explains in a footnote for
Mark 16:19 what this really means: “A position of authority second only to God's. (See 14:62; Ps.
110:1).” Someone who ‘sits at the right hand of The Mighty One’ cannot be equal or identical to
the one who alone is God. Being at the right hand of the Almighty is something no one should
ever say of God, for he is ALWAYS supreme. At no time does God relinquishes his supremacy.
The fact is that the high-ranking Christ continues to call his Father “my God” in heaven.
(Revelation 3:12) Observe too that God the Father never addresses the Son or spirit as “my
God.” Traditionalists strangely behave as if being Second-in-Command throughout the Universe
is something to be ashamed of. Jesus Christ was never reticent in repeating that he was fully
dependent on the Father. Being exalted to the highest position right below God demands that
even angels bow before (proskyne’ō) Christ. (Hebrews 1:6, YLT; “pay him homage,” NJB)

As “Son of God” subject to God, it is illogical to think Christ would purposely usurp titles and
rights that only belonged to ‘his God and Father.’ (John 14:28; Matthew 20:23; John 20:17; Acts 1:7)
Jesus Christ taught others to only worship the Father, God. (Matthew 4:10; John 4:23,24) “And we
have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John
4:14) If so, the thought that Christ would use the words “I am” as a title to identify himself as
“the true God” is incongruous. Jesus made it clear that he would only seek the glory “that
comes from the one who alone is God.” (John 5:44; 8:50,54) There can not be another God
equally true to the Father, if only the Father is “the only true God.” (John 17:3) Any other god or
divine being would come under the power of the Almighty One as his representative. (1 Cor.
11:3)

5. Is Exodus 3:14 a parallel of John 8:58?

Some believe that Jesus at John 8:58 is being identified with “The Being” or “The Existing One”
of Exodus 3:14. In other words, those who hold such view, believe Jesus Christ is the “Jehovah”
or “Yahweh” of the Old Testament. At Exodus 3:14, the Septuagint, a Greek translation from the
Hebrew, has the true God saying, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν [Egō eimi ho ōn]: “I am The Being,” or, “I am The
Existing One.” And linking to Exodus 3:14, many translations have Jesus saying at John 8:58, “I
am.” However, did Christ really say at John 8:58: “I am Yahweh”; “I am God; “I am The Being”; or
even “The I Am”? No, he did not. Those interpretations are traditionally read into the text.

The use of eimi at Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint is used as a linking verb to the more important
part of the statement, “The Being,” or, “The Existing One,” not as an absolute predicate. This is
similar to, as when David said: “I am [ego eimi] the one sinning.” (1 Chronicles 21:17, LXX: “ἐγώ
εἰμι”; Hebrew: ’ă·nî hū) Or, when Jesus says (John 10:7): “I am [ego eimi] the door to the sheep.”
Or, Peter (Acts 22:3): “I am [ego eimi] a Jew.” In these three instances of eimi as a connecting
verb, there is nothing in the words themselves suggesting eternity. Hence, the use of the term
in itself cannot be used to establish Christ's deity.

The meaning of eimi must therefore be defined mainly from Bible context, and not from any
mysticism attributed to the word. And strictly speaking, John 8:58 does not even say whether
Jesus is eternal or not. All it says is that Jesus preceded Abraham in time, and his existence
extended to the present: “I have existed [since] before Abraham was born.” (A New Translation, by
James Moffatt) The Bible does say that Christ is superior to angels, but superiority does not
demand eternity, since someone can be superior to another without having the same age. It
should be pointed out that angels too existed long before Abraham came into being, and still
exist, but nonetheless, they were “created” by God. Were they not? (Genesis 6:2; Job 38:1-7; Psalm
148:2,5) And of Christ, it is said: “He is...the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15, ESV) Some
in their attempt to disconnect Christ from ‘creature’ status, twist the meaning of this last
statement, but Christ himself said: “I have life because of him [God].” (John 6:57, CEV) Someone
who has lived forever would never utter those words.

Although many Bible commentators explain God's words at Exodus 3:14 as the New American
Standard Bible rendered it, “I AM WHO I AM,” other scholars accept another explanation, such as
the one found in The International Bible Commentary: “The translation ‘I will be what I will be’ (cf.
NIVfn) is also possible, and would make even more explicit the suggestion that God's character
would be disclosed as events unfolded.” (F.F. Bruce, General Editor. ©1986, Zondervan – Marshall
Pickering) The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition) points out the following as well: “The
Hebrew seeks the significance, character, quality, and interpretation of the name. Therefore,
what they needed to know was ‘What does that name mean or signify in circumstances such as
we are in?’” (©1994 by Zondervan) So, even when scholars use “I Am” in their explanations of
Exodus 3:14, others see the phrase as indicative of God's will toward his people. Thus, other
translators provide an alternate, more accurate reading, either in the main text, or in their
footnotes:

“I Will Be What I Will Be” (Modern Spelling Tyndale-Coverdale)


“I Will Become whatsoever I please” (Joseph Bryant Rotherham)
“I will be what I will be” (The Bible in Living English, Steven T. Byington).
“I will be that I will be” (Leeser Old Testament, 1853)
“I shall come to be just as I am coming to be” (Concordant Literal Version)
“I-will-be-what-I-will-be” (A New Translation by James Moffatt)
“I shall be that I shall be” (Julia Smith Translation)
“EHYEH ASHER EHYEH / I will be-there howsoever I will be-there.” (The Five Books of Moses, Everett Fox)
“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be]” (Complete Jewish Bible)
“I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE” (NWT, 1984)
“I Will Become What I Choose to Become.” (NWT, 2013)
“ ’Ehyeh-'Asher-'Ehyeh, I-Will-Be-Who-I-Will-Be.” (The Five Books of Moses, ©2004 & 2019 by Robert Alter)
See also: The Anchor Bible (William H. C. Propp), and the The Stone Tanach (Artscroll/Mesorah).

In the Hebrew original, the above words pronounced by God Almighty are in the imperfect
state of the verb which communicate incompleteness, or, future activity. Interestingly, the
Hebrew word ’eh·yeh appears in Exodus 3:12, just two verses away, and there many Bible
translations render it, unlike in Exodus 3:14, with the appropriate future meaning: “I will be
with you,” here indicative of God's intended involvement with his people. (Compare with other
occurrences of the word in Joshua 1:5; Judges 6:16; 1 Samuel 23:17; 2 Samuel 7:14; 15:34; 16:18; 1
Chronicles 17:13; Isaiah 47:7; and Jeremiah 11:4, where ’eh·yeh is commonly translated with future
meaning.) This brings up the question: Why do this in Exodus 3:12 and in these other places,
but not in verse 14?

Charles R. Gianotti (Dallas Theological Seminary), points out this very thing: “Significantly, most
interpreters translate ['eh·yeh] in Exodus 3:12 as future (i.e., I will be ['eh·yeh] with you’). Yet, two
verses later, why should not the same translation suffice?” Gianotti adds: “The future in this
case can indeed refer to future activity or effectiveness of YHWH. It should be observed that
even Aquila (A.D. 130), noted for his ‘slavishly literal translation’ translated the tense as future.”
Gianotti says that “in light of the imperfect form ['eh·yeh] used in Exodus 3:14,” translating
['eh·yeh] as most English versions do assuming a present tense meaning, is “unjustified.” (“The
Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH,” Bibliotheca Sacra 142: January-March 1985) Reflecting a similar
understanding, the NWT 1984 Reference Edition adds the following footnote: “The reference
here is not to God's self-existence but to what he has in mind to become toward others.” The
Septuagint reading, “I am The Being” at Exodus 3:14 does not represent the best translation
possible from the Hebrew. It is odd indeed that many Bible translators choose to follow the
Greek Septuagint in verse 14 rather than the original Hebrew text they claim to translate.

As Trinitarian advocate James R. White, Ph.D. (from Alpha & Omega Ministries) noted: “It is true
that many go directly to Exodus 3:14 for the background, but it is felt that unless one first
establishes the connection with the direct quotation of ego eimi in the Septuagint, the
connection with Exodus 3:14 will be somewhat tenuous.” (“Purpose and Meaning of ‘Ego Eimi’ in the
Gospel of John In Reference to the Deity of Christ.”)

Could it be then, that modern translators want to advance ’eh·yeh as a title or name, “I Am!” to
express self-existence, and hence, make the connection to the “I Am!” of Jesus in John 8:58 as
it appears in traditional versions? If so, such translators would be guilty of asserting the Trinity
doctrine on their readers. The reader is alerted to the practice of some translators who seek
to establish their own religious interpretation into the Sacred Text itself, trinitarian or not.
Although James R. White sees a connection between John 8:58 and the “I am [he]” sayings in
Isaiah, he had this to say of the alleged connection between John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14: “It
could fairly be admitted that an immediate and unqualified jump from the ego eimi of John
8:58 to Exodus 3:14 is unwise.” (Ibidem)

Likewise, Edwin D. Freed, Professor Emeritus of Religion, Gettysburg College, contends that
“the meaning of the sentence [at John 8:58] in the mind of the writer was: “Before Abraham
was, I, the Christ, the Son of God, existed.” (“Who or what was before Abraham in John 8:58?”,
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 17, 1983, 52-59) Professor Freed, thus, sees no connection
of Jesus' statement in John 8:58 with that of Yahweh at Exodus 3:14. But what about the “I am”
sayings appearing in the books of Isaiah and John? Are they not connected somehow?

6. Is ’ă·nî hū in Isaiah a parallel to e·go’ ei·mi’ in John?

At times, there are biblical statements made where both God and Christ use similar language.
In the Old Testament, God appears on several occasions using the Hebrew phrase ‫’( אֲנִי־הֽוּא‬ă·nî
hū), which literally means, “I – he,” but sometimes translated, “I am,” or “I am he.” (Isaiah 41:4;
42:8; 43:10, 13; 46:4; 48:12; 52:6; Deuteronomy 32:39) Similarly, in the New Testament, although in
a different setting, various instances of an equivalent expression in Greek pronounced by
Jesus Christ (ego eimi = “I am”) do appear, understood by Trinitarians as indicative of his equality
with God. (John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24; 28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5-6,8)

An obsession with the simple words “I am” can be misleading, which can lead to the hasty
conclusion that Jesus Christ is God Supreme just by mere association. People often overlook
the fact that this expression was common in Bible times. The verb eimi (to be, “I am”) itself, or
forms of it, is the most frequent verb in the New Testament, appearing more than two
thousand times (2,462x). And those numbers do not include the Septuagint totals (6,469x for eimi
alone). In addition, the word ego alone appears more than 2,667x in the NT, not counting the
Septuagint numbers. Even words such as egoism, and egotism (derived from the Greek ego), are
common in people’s vocabularies. Everyone uses the words “to be” or “I am” at times. Do they
not? Do all occurrences of the word then, imply “divinity” in each case? Of course not! When
God or Christ use the expression it gets more attention because of who they represent, but,
does it really mean that both God and Christ share the same identity? Or, that everyone else
who uses the phrase “I am” does so with divine pretensions? Does it really mean that everyone
using the phrase are “equal”? The answer is obvious, is it not?

The fact is that the words ego eimi are not exclusive property of God. The New International
Dictionary of New Testament Theology concedes: “The mere Heb[rew] words that translate ‘I am’
occur frequently in the OT and are not an exclusive religious formula.” (Abridged Edition, Verlyn
D. Verbrugge, Editor, p. 164. ©2000, Zondervan. See, Georg Braumann: “egō eimi,” in DNTT 2:278) A
man, David, as noted, used those words at 1 Chronicles 21:17. Bathsheba, a woman, used ego
eimi when addressing King David (per Brenton): “I am [εγώ ειμι] with child.” (Lit., I am in belly
having, 2 Samuel 11:5) And there was this other man born blind in Jesus’ time, who uttered,
Ekeinos élegen hoti Egó eimi, that is: “He kept saying that I am”. (John 9:9) And Paul stated: εἰμι ὅ
εἰμι = “I am what I am.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) Even an angel (Gabriel) used the same words that
Christ used at John 8:58. (Luke 1:19) Thus, it was not only God who used “I am,” but also Jesus,
angels, men, and women, who used the expression. Were they all claiming equality with God?

Notwithstanding, there may be some religious significance attached to some of Christ’s


statements echoing those of God in the Old Testament, but with a different outcome or
comprehension from the traditional view. If Jesus uttered the “I am” sayings in imitation of
God, it would be only to highlight the unity between himself and Yahweh His God, the One
who sent and taught him. This was acknowledged by the Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament: “Many of the I-sayings [in John] refer to the relation to the Father….” (Abridged Edition
by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, p. 198. ©1985, Eerdmans Publishing Co.) And George R. Beasley-Murray
wrote: “Nevertheless the OT revelation formula [Yahweh’s “I am” sayings in especially
Deuteronomy-Isaiah] is in the background.... Is then the statement an assertion that Jesus is
God? Not in terms of identification. It is an affirmation of Jesus as the revelation of God,... As
such it entails unity with God, as John 1:1.” (John, p. 139. Word Biblical Commentary, 1987)

“Unity with God” is seen in these words of Jesus: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am he [Lit., I am] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just
what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for
I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28,29) This is not surprising when one considers Christ’s
part in God's purpose. The Bible tells us that Christ is “the image of the invisible God; “the
radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3)
“And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for
the benefit of the church.” (Ephesians 1:22, NLT) Anyone seeking salvation must therefore put
faith in ‘the name which was given by God to mankind,’ “Jesus Christ,” “to the glory of God the
Father.” “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see
life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36; Philippians 2:10,11) In all, God still is in
control, and just as ‘Christians belong to Christ,’ “Christ belongs to God,” says the Word. (1
Corinthians 11:3, 3:23; NASB) “So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say,” said
Jesus. (John 12:50)

In the Bible is not rare to read frequent references and comparisons of faithful men to Jesus
Christ – Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jonas, and John the Baptist. (John 8:53; 4:12;
Deuteronomy 18:15; Hebrews 3:3; Psalm 110:1; Matthew 9:27; 22:45; 12:41,42; Mark 1:7; Luke 1:17;
7:26,28.) What's more, Jesus is compared to “angels.” (Hebrews 1:4,5,13) Should we take this to
mean that men and angels are somehow identical to Jesus Christ? True, some of those
references show that Jesus Christ is above them. By the same token, we should take the
superiority of Christ over them in the same way that we welcome Jesus' own description of his
relative position to the Father: “The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28; 20:31)

In the Bible, when God endowed some men with power and blessed them with his spirit, in a
sense they became godlike since they represented God. (Exodus 7:1; Psalms 82:1,6; John 10:33-36)
Having others referred to in similar language to that of God is no conclusive proof of equality
with God. An example of this can be seen when a man (perhaps Solomon) became “king” of
Israel, was addressed literally, in divine terms: “Your throne God forever and ever.” (Psalm 45:6)
Obviously, this human king was not the One True God. Not surprisingly, some Bible
translators work around this literal reading to convey clearly that Solomon was not God. For
instance: “Your throne is like God's throne.” (Jewish Publication Society); Or: “Your divine throne
endures for ever and ever.” (Revised Standard Version); Or: “Your throne is from God.” (NJB); Or:
“God has enthroned you for all eternity.” (Revised English Bible) The NIV of 2011 has this footnote:
“Here the king is addressed as God’s representative.” Nonetheless, when such reference is
made of Jesus Christ (as in Hebrews 1:8), the same translators may now insist those same words
are “proof” of Christ's deity. A good example of this is found in the NET Bible's footnotes.
Although Jesus accepted being “one greater than Solomon,” he never claimed to be God the
Father. (Matthew 12:42) Significantly, to Jesus, “God” was someone else.

Accordingly, the “I am,” or “I am he” expressions pronounced by God and Jesus Christ found in
both the Old and New Testaments, must be understood within their proper context. From the
beginning of man's history, God provided a way for mankind's deliverance. Jesus was,
prophetically, the center of this magnificent expectation. For eons of time, mankind waited for
the One (Messiah) who would deliver them from bondage. Nevertheless, when he did appear
on the earthly scene, most people ignored and rejected the real Messiah, because they were
expecting, politically speaking, a quick deliverance from the Roman yoke.

However, God had something else in mind – deliverance was still ahead. It was now the time
to call attention to the fact that Christ, their (future) “savior,” was in their midst. Jesus did his
part, by words and by action (miracles, etc.). When others questioned his legitimacy, Jesus used
the phrase “I am,” or “I am he” to get the point across that ‘he was the one – ’the promised
“Savior”; “the Son of man”; “the Son of God”; “the Messiah,” and not someone else. (John
4:25,26; Matthew 16:15-17; 26:63-68) However, the expression was sometimes used as a simple
self-identification: “It is I”; or “I am Jesus.” (John 6:20)
At no time did Jesus ever claim he was a “God-man” or “God in the flesh.” Those thoughts are
foreign to Scripture. Scripture teaches that it was ‘God who sent his only-begotten Son Jesus to
save the world.‘ (John 3:16) It was ‘the Word,’ the Son of God, who was with God in the
beginning, the One who ‘became flesh,’ not God. Once on earth, God gave him full support. In
a sense, ‘God was with Jesus,’ reminiscent of earlier times when it was said of ‘God being with
his people‘, e.g., ‘God was with Joseph,’ son of Jacob, etc. (Acts 7:9; 10:38; John 1:1; 1:14) This does
not make either Jesus or Joseph equal to God (albeit Jesus' superiority). Christendom has
distorted Scripture to the point that “Christian” followers cannot see their error. A
misunderstanding of John 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:16, and other verses have greatly contributed to
this error. Further below you will find links where those verses are considered in detail.

It was through Jesus' death that God reconciled sinful people to himself. Jesus was sent by
God on a saving mission, as a representative of God. With good reason he declared
unambiguously that he was God's promised One. The Jesus' sayings, “I am,” or “I am he,”
would also confirm that “there is no other name under heaven that has been given to men, in
which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12; John 12:49) It was ‘God who resurrected Jesus from among
the dead,’ and it was God who ‘gave mankind the name’ that saves people. (Acts 4:10)

Hence, the “I am,” or “I am he” sayings of Jesus need not be directly linked to those uttered by
God before the time of Christ. The “I am” sayings of the New Testament were certainly
pronounced in a different setting than those of the Old Testament. Not to be overlooked, the
One using the “I am,” or “I am he” expressions in the Old Testament is described unequivocally
as ‘Almighty God,’ ‘the only True God,’ with maximum power and authority qualified to send a
subordinate to an extraordinary mission. (Daniel 7:14; John 13:16; 5:37) The glorified Christ is
never described in the same way as God is in the Old Testament, as the Son always appears
throughout the New Testament subordinated to God. Still, Christ is “the way” to the Father and
salvation. (John 14:6) We are therefore commanded to recognize his ‘God-given authority,’ so
“that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” (Matthew 28:18; John 20:31; 5:23) Jesus
is then, the “mediator” between God and mankind. (1 Timothy 2:5) A grand privilege that is!

7. What does the context of John 8:58 indicate?

Some Bible readers see Jesus within the context of John chapter 8 not only saying in idiomatic
fashion that he ‘was [already] alive before Abraham was born (SEB),’ and still ‘is,’ but that he was
also insinuating or alluding to his own status as: “the Son of Man,” “the Messiah.” That is a
reasonable assumption. One of the Jews' questions was: “Who do you think you are?” (John
8:53) In John 8:24,28, 13:19, Matthew 27:54 and Mark 14:60-64, the function or position of
Jesus as the “Son of Man,” “Son of God,” and “the Christ,” all come through clear.

The statement (or, question) Jews made to Jesus prior to verse 58 was: “You are not yet fifty
years old, and you have seen Abraham!” Logically, Jesus answered the question of his age, of
his long existence, and additionally, was likely asserting his “messiahship” as well, in harmony
with the question Jews had posed earlier in verse 53. This may be one reason why various
translators render “I am he,” instead of “I am,” to emphasize his messianic role. (John 4:25,26)
However, the key issue in this text is Jesus' indefinite existence, from past to present. Unlike
other verses in John (8:24,28) where eimi is used (in the sense that he was who he claimed to be, i.e.
“the Son of God,” “the Messiah”), in verse 58, the matter of “identity” is secondary to the key issue
of his existence. It should be noted that “indefinite” existence is not equal to “eternal”
existence. In fact, the verb eimi is sometimes used “to denote temporal existence” as is the
reference to human life. (Greek-English Lexicon by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, p. 223. 2da ed., ©1979)

Within the context of chapter eight of John, Jesus makes statements establishing differences
between himself and his Father, God. When reading over the next few paragraphs, keep in
mind that the Bible condemns two-faced personalities and speaking out with a forked tongue.
Jesus himself spoke out against hypocrisy, thus, he only spoke “truth.” In John 8:26 Jesus told
the Jews that he was “sent” by his Father and that ‘he speaks the things that he hears from the
one who sent him,’ ... That ‘he does nothing on his own initiative’ (NASB), ... That ‘he is’ “the Son
of Man” and ‘speaks just what the Father taught him.’ (V. 28)

Jesus stated a simple but significant truth: “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a
messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:16) With this principle in mind, here
are some questions to consider: How could Jesus be “sent” if he himself was God? Why was
Jesus ‘not able to do anything on his own initiative’ if he was all-mighty? In verse 29 Jesus says
that ‘the One who sent him has not left him alone, and that he only did what pleased the
Father.’ Why would Jesus Christ say, ‘I always do what pleases him who sent me’? If Jesus was
“God,” why would he find it important enough to mention that he was not left alone? Does
God need companionship as humans do? Why would anybody have to teach Jesus anything if
he was all-knowing?

Also, Jesus applied the title “Son of Man” to himself numerous times, a term which Jews
considered a title of the promised Messiah, not of God. In addition, the Bible book of
Numbers 23:19 tells us that “God is not a man, that he should lie,” “nor a son of man, that he
should change his mind.” Nonetheless, Christ precisely adopted this very same expression
(‘son of man’) before others with no regrets. Furthermore, did God have to become a man to
save humankind when the Bible explicitly says that it was ‘God who sent his only-begotten Son’
to save the world’? (John 3:16, NASB; 1 John 4:14)

In verse 40, John reports that the Jewish leaders ‘were already determined to kill Jesus because
they didn't want to accept the word and truth that Jesus as a man [Greek: an’thrōpon] spoke,
having it received from God.’ How could Christ speak of himself as ‘a man receiving truth from
God,’ but seconds later be claiming the opposite of what he had been saying until then, all by
an alleged use of a divine title that he was God. Also, why would Jesus receive the truth from
the “God of truth” if he was God himself? (Psalm 31:5, Isaiah 65:16, John 17:17)

What would Jesus gain by claiming before the world, that he ‘could not do anything on his own
initiative,’ that ‘he always did what pleased the Father,’ and that he only spoke just what the
Father who sent him ‘taught’ him? And shortly afterwards change his message altogether, and
claim, as we are asked to believe, that Christ is the “God” of the Old Testament just by
pronouncing the “I am”? Does this double personality approach make any sense to a Christian,
who is taught to only believe “there is but one God, the Father”? (John 5:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6)
Jesus Christ was certainly no person with a bipolar disorder needing medical attention.

Furthermore, there is no biblical basis to believe that Jesus’ earthly life was cyclical (having two
natures), going from one stage where he was human, to another, where he was divine. In
reality, those who employ such reasonings are using speculative human philosophy, not
biblical truth. Any attempt to equate Jesus Christ with God produces conflict. No wonder there
are a good number of Bible translators, including Trinitarians, who disagree with the
traditional view of John 8:58!

8. Does the Jews' reaction in John 8:59 prove Jesus Christ had claimed to be “God”?

Shortly before his death, Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jews, to
face false charges by people who wanted him killed. Please take note of the charges brought
up in Mark's account (14:60-64), which says:

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What
is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave
no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and
coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more
witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned
him as worthy of death.

In view of the earlier events of John chapter 8, and the later events of Mark 14:60-64 within
their context, it is clear that the Jews rejected Jesus' claim of him being “the Messiah,” and of
being ‘greater’ than Abraham. They were also rejecting the idea that he was “from above,” “the
Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven”
of the heavenly vision. (John 8:23; Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13) In their view, that was enough to
charge him with blasphemy, since they could not imagine any man making such claims.
Shortly after this incident, Jesus was brought before Pilate to be put to death. Pilate found
nothing wrong with Jesus to have him convicted, so he sought his release. However the Jewish
leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to
be the Son of God.” (John 19:7) Note, there was no accusation by Jewish leaders that Jesus had
been claiming to be God by employing a divine title, all the more striking, since the expression
“Son of God” meant to them something quite different than saying “God.”

C. K. Barrett rightly noted that the Jews' reaction in verse 59 “does not mean that Jesus had
claimed to be God.” (The Gospel According to St. John, 2d. ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978,
352) And Professor Emeritus William Loader noted: “The text need mean no more than I am
and was in existence before Abraham, still a majestic unique claim but not an allusion to the
divine name.” (The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Structures and Issues, Revised. 2d. ed. New York:
Lang, 1992, 48) Thus, scholar Ernst Haenchen concludes: “The Jews are therefore completely
mistaken when they accuse him [Jesus] of blasphemy: he makes himself equal to God. He
actually stands in the place of God as the one sent by him.” (John 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of
John, Chapters 7-21 in Hermeneia, ©1984, p. 30.)

Even before Jesus spoke the ego eimi words at John 8:58, the Jews had already sought to kill
Jesus. (John 7:19; 8:37) And for what “crime”? This: ‘Jesus claimed the truth he taught came from
God’. (John 7:16; 8:40) This is vastly different from ‘Jesus allegedly claiming a divine title
equating him with God.’ Since then, all sorts of religious leaders have claimed as well that ‘the
gospel they teach others about comes from God,’ and not from them. Does that make them
equal to God?

Because Jesus stood in a special relationship to the Father, even calling ‘God his own Father,’
the Jews wrongly concluded that he was “making himself equal to God.” (John 5:18,19) However,
Jesus quickly set the matter straight when he called himself God's “Son” (nine times in chapter 5
alone), an expression never applied to God in Scripture. (Matthew 26:63-64) The Jews even
claimed Jesus was “breaking the Sabbath,” and further, of being “a Samaritan and demon-
possessed.” (John 5:18; 8:48) Were they right? Absolutely not! Thus, wrong Jewish perceptions
in Jesus' time (like Jesus claiming equality with God) are truly a shaky foundation to base modern
interpretations.

The Jerusalem Bible has this to say: “The claim of Jesus to live on the divine plane (v. 58) is, for the
Jews, blasphemy, for which the penalty is stoning. Lv 24:16.” I see the JB accepting the claim
that Jesus possessed some mode of “divine existence,” (as suggested by the Spanish edition of JB =
Biblia de Jerusalén), but avoiding a direct reference of Christ claiming to be God, or that he was
claiming eternal existence in the verse. And former Professor Kenneth L. McKay said, “The
claim to have been in existence for so long is in itself a staggering one, quite enough to
provoke the crowd's violent reaction [in v.59].” (“‘I am’ in John's Gospel,” Expository Times 107, 1996:
p. 302) And Craig L. Blomberg (Professor of the New Testament at Denver Seminary) wrote: “The
fact that the Jews immediately tried to stone him does not mean they understood his
statement as a direct equation of himself with God. Claiming that Abraham had seen his day
(verse 56) itself bordered on blasphemy, and the Jews had already tried to kill him for much
lesser 'crimes', such as healing on the Sabbath and speaking of God's love for the Gentiles!”
(The Historical Reliability of the Gospels: Second edition, pp 209-210. 2008) Some Trinitarians even
concede that the ego eimi of John 8:24 and other verses “can also mean ‘I am he,’ meaning ‘I
am the Messiah.’ Also in verses 28, 58.” (ERV, ©2010)

Weeks later, after the incident of John chapter 8, but related to the topic of discussion, in John
10:30-36 we read that the Jews misunderstood Jesus' words, “I and the father are one.” (John
10: 30) So they wanted to stone him for it, but Jesus told them:

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere
man, claim to be God*.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are
“gods”’ [Psalm 82:6]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture
cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent
into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? (* Other
versions translate the Greek word here for “God” without the article, either as “god” or “a god”: Besson; Torrey;
NWT; Mace; Luther, 1545; Diaglott; Tomanek; Andy Gaus; New English Bible.)

Notice that Jesus Christ, under duress, had another golden opportunity to disclose publicly,
once and for all, that he was “God.” But he did not do so. The argument itself that Jesus
employed shows that he could legitimately claim ‘divine origin’ without being identified as the
almighty God. As noted, according to Mark 14:61-64, when Jesus was finally apprehended and
brought before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court), and accused of blasphemy, he was
charged by Jewish leaders for claiming to be “the Son of Man,” “the Christ [Messiah],” and ‘the
Son of God,’ not for claiming to be “God.” Therefore, if Jews had understood Jesus' self-
declarations at John 5:17,18, 8:58, and 10:29-33 as a direct claim that he was truly “God,” it
surely would have surfaced at Jesus’ subsequent hearing before the Sanhedrin. The fact is no
witness at Jesus’ interrogation by the Sanhedrin brought the matter up. Therefore, ‘the
greatest proof’ that Trinitarians often bring to the table that Jesus is God (due to earlier claims
by Jews of Jesus ‘making himself equal to God’) – is fully undone later at the Sanhedrin by their
complete silence on such allegations.

Less than a year later after the encounter with the Jews of John chapter 8, and before his
death, Jesus told his closest disciples in his farewell speech, that they ‘should rejoice he was
going away to the Father, because the Father was greater than he was.’ (John 14:28) And in his
final prayer in proximity with his disciples, he prayed to God that ‘they may know his Father,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent.’ (John 17:3) God never needs to pray to
anyone. Shortly after Jesus died, and was resurrected by God, but before returning to his
Father, Jesus said, to Mary Magdalene: “But go to my followers and tell them this: ‘I am going
back to my Father and your Father. I am going back to my God and your God.’” (ERV)

Does it make sense to have Jesus claim equality with God by employing a divine title (“I Am”)
before unbelieving Jews, as claimed, and then have Jesus later, assure his closest and faithful
ones, that ‘the Father and God of everyone else’ was also ‘his Father and his God’ ? In fact,
Jesus' disciples were clearly in a privileged position in regards to Christian teaching. Jesus
Christ had previously said to his disciples that he would explain ‘all things’ to them privately,
whereas to others he would only speak in ‘parables,’ or ‘comparisons.’ (Matthew 13:11; Mark
4:11,33,34) A presumedly explicit ‘divine title’ directed at ‘unbelieving’ Jews is certainly no
parable, and would run counter to his own stated principles.

Between the time of the encounter between the Jewish leaders and Jesus in John ch. 8, and
the farewell discourse of our Lord Jesus Christ of later (chapters 14-17), not once did Jesus say
he was “God.” Christ never spoke with a forked tongue. Therefore, Bible translators who
reflect a rendering at John 8:58 in harmony with Jesus’ own words at John 17:3 and 20:17 are
in the correct.
9. Scriptures with similar syntax to John 8:58:

Thus, when faced with certain idiomatic expressions as the one found in John 8:58, the
translator often has to ask himself: How would someone normally express the original Greek
sayings in our language? I will cite seven (7) Scriptural examples that are similar in syntax to
John 8:58: Genesis 31:38, LXX; Judges 16:17, LXX; 1 John 3:8; Luke 2:48; John 5:6; 2 Corinthians 12:19;
and John 15:27. All seven Scriptures have present tense verbs AND an expression of past time
or extent of time with past implications within its structure. Let's see how these Scriptures
compare with John 8:58 in our discussion.

1st Example (Genesis 31:38, LXX):

ταῦτά μοι εἴκοσι ἔτη ἐγώ εἰμι μετὰ σοῦ – Greek


These mine twenty years I am with you

Jacob after leaving Haran, disputes with his father-in-law Laban over missing personal idols
which Laban claimed were stolen by Jacob. Jacob had no idea it was Rachel who took them. In
his defense, Jacob proceeded to mention several things he had done through the years on
Laban's behalf.

“These twenty years I am with you” (The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, LXX, 2006)
“These twenty years of mine I was with you” (A New English Translation of the Septuagint, “NETS”, 2007)
“These twenty years have I been with thee” (The Holy Orthodox Bible, LXX, 2006)
“These twenty years I have been with you” (The Orthodox Study Bible, LXX, 2008)
“These twenty years of mine have I been with thee” (Orthodox England, LXX, 2009)
“I have spent with you twenty of my years [J'ai passé avec toi vingt de mes années]” (La Septante [LXX],
translated by Pierre Giguet)
“These twenty years have I been with thee” (Sir Lancelot CL Brenton, LXX)
“These twenty years that I have been with thee” (Charles Thomson, LXX)

Aside from the interlinear reading of the literal Apostolic Bible Polyglot, other translators of the
Septuagint (LXX) render a present indicative verb ego eimi (I am) preceded by an expression of
time with past implications (These twenty years) with present perfect indicative forms (I have been),
while one translation (NETS) uses a simple past form (I was).

Another interesting tidbit is the fact that the original Hebrew text here lacks a verb in the
declaration, namely: “This twenty year I with-you.” (The Hebrew-English Interlinear ESV Old
Testament, Crossway) Well, how do translators deal with this issue? Overall like this, with the
perfect indicative: “I have been with you for twenty years now” Only a few versions use the
imperfect instead, ‘I was’, such as the Wycliffe Bible, and the Lexham English Bible. Rarely do
translations use a present form here, the exceptions being Young's and Concordant literal
translations. So, why do the overwhelming number of translators prefer to supply a perfect
tense here for the missing verb in the Hebrew? It's simple! There is a temporal indicator
signaling past time in the text, namely: ‘These twenty years...’

Now, when the LXX translators proceeded to translate the Hebrew words of Genesis 31:38 into
Greek, they cleverly used a well known vivid idiom available in classical Greek where a verb in
the present tense is combined with an indicator of past time. In this syntax, “the past and the
present are gathered up in a single affirmation.” (Brooks & Winbery 1979, p. 77) Modern English
translators usually resort to the present perfect in this construction, as shown above. So too,
John 8:58 reveals an expression of past time in combination with a present tense in its
statement. The NWT and James Moffatt’s Bible are two translations that are consistent with such
construction, both in Genesis 31:38 and John 8:58.

2nd Example (Judges 16:17):

ότι Ναζηραίος θεού εγώ ειμι εκ κοιλίας μητρός μου – Greek


for Nazarite of God I am out of womb mother of mine
The Greek Bible LXX, at Judges 16.17 has Samson saying to Delilah literally: “For nazarite of God I am
[ego eimi] from belly of my mother.” How should one translate this verse?
“for a Nazarite of God I am from the belly of my mother” (ABP, LXX)
“because I am consecrated to God from my mother's womb” (Charles Thomson, LXX)
“For I have been a nazirite of God from my mother's belly” (NETS, LXX)
“For I have been a holy one of God from my mother's womb” (The Orthodox Study Bible, LXX)
“for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother's womb” (Revision -Webster’s Translation, LXX)
“because I have been a holy one of God from my mother's womb” (Brenton, LXX: ὅτι ἅγιος Θεοῦ ἐγώ εἰμι
ἀπὸ κοιλίας μητρός μου)
“because I have been a holy one of God from my mother's womb” (Septuagint in American English)
“because I have been holy to God from my mother's womb” (Complete Apostle’s Bible, LXX)

Again, various translators render a present verb in the Greek with an English present perfect
when there is a past reference (from birth). In Hebrew, this text, like the previous verse, lacks
the verb, hence, the ESV Hebrew-English Interlinear reads: “for Nazirite-of God I from-womb-
of mother-of-me.” In the English translation a verb must be supplied. Guess what? Most
English versions choose to add a present perfect. Why? Common sense! There is marker of
past implications in the statement which begs for the English present perfect. Again, the NWT
and Moffatt’s translations use the present perfect at Judges 16:17 here, and John 8:58.

For the following samples, I will use the Wescott and Hort Greek text for reference:

3rd Example (1 John 3:8):

Greek: ὅτι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει


because from beginning the devil is sinning

The apostle John warns Christians not to carry on sin, for those who make a practice of sin
originate from the Devil, who has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God
was revealed, that he might undo the works of the Devil. The text above contains an
expression of past time (from beginning) with a present verb (is sinning), very much like John 8:58.
How do translators deal with this passage? Let's see!

“for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (Rheims New Testament)
“for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (KJV)

“for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (New King James Version)
“for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (NASB)
“because the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (Interlinear, Mounce)
“for the Devil has been sinning from the beginning” (Riverside New Testament, Ballantine)
“because the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (NIV)
“because the devil has sinned from the beginning” (NAB)
“since the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (Jay E. Adams)
“who has been sinning since the beginning” (NLT)
“for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (NRSV)
“since the devil has been a sinner from the beginning” (NJB)
“because the devil has been sinning from the very beginning” (J. G. Anderson)
“for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (ESV)

“the devil was a sinner from the first” (Ronald A. Knox New Testament)

Some translations transfer the Greek present tense to their English versions as if they both
have the same range in meaning. Not! The end result is ungrammatical English. Would you
say in contemporary English: “From the beginning of class the girl sleeps”? No! Doctor Richard
A. Young points out: “To say that the devil is sinning from the beginning does not make sense
in English. English translations therefore employ the present perfect.” (Intermediate New
Testament Greek, p. 111. ©1994 by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville)

The renderings above, “has sinned” and “has been sinning” are present perfect and present
perfect progressive indicative forms. The word “was” is a simple past tense. Just as in 1 John
3:8, some translators in John 8:58 have rendered a present tense with an expression of past
time in its construction with either a present perfect: “I have been,” or the imperfect, “I was.”

4th Example (2 Corinthians 12:19):

Greek: Πάλαι δοκεῖτε ὅτι ὑμῖν ἀπολογούμεθα


Long ago you are thinking that to you we are making defense?

Paul finds himself having to defend his apostolic authority and vindicating his record as
superior in hardship endured for Christ and loving concern for congregations. In simpler
words Paul was telling them: “All this time, have you been thinking that I've been speaking up
for myself? No, I've been speaking with God as my witness. I've been speaking like a believer
in Christ. Dear friends, everything I do is to help you become stronger.” (NIRV)
In the literal reading above, we have an adverb of time with past implications (Pa’lai) followed
by two Greek verb forms (dokeite & apologoumetha) in the present indicative tense. The book
Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb by William Watson Goodwin explains: “The Present
is often used with expressions denoting past time, especially πάλαι [pa’lai], in the sense of a
perfect and a present combined.” (Section 26, p. 9) How do translators render these in English?
Some carry over the present tense into the English text, producing unconventional English.
Others, cognizant of issues presented here do a better job at it. See below for a sample:

“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you?”
(The Comprehensive New Testament, 2008)
“I hope you don’t think that all along we’ve been making our defense before you” (The Message,
Eugene H. Peterson)
“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you?” (NIV)
“It may seem to you that all this time we have been attempting to put ourselves in the right.”
(Bible in Basic English)
“All this time you have been thinking that we have been pleading our own cause before you.” (NJB)
“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you?” (CEV)
“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you.” (RSV)
“Perhaps you think that all along we have been trying to defend ourselves before you?” (TEV)
“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you?” (ESV)
“Have you been thinking all this time that we have been defending ourselves to you?” (NET Bible)

“You have thought all along that we were defending ourselves to you.” (HCSB)
“You have been thinking all along that it was to you we were making our defense.”
(The Bible in Living English, Steven T. Byington)

The above translations use present perfect (or simple past, etc.) forms, to bring out the proper
sense of the original into our language. Can anyone rightfully claim that it is improper for
these Bible versions to translate this text as they have done in English?

5th Example (Luke 2:48, Wescott and Hort/Nestle, early editions Greek text):

Greek: ὁ πατήρ σου καὶ ἐγὼ ὀδυνώμενοι ζητοῦμέν σε


The father of you and I being pained we are seeking you

Here, the context (vv. 42-48) speaks of Jesus (12 years old) being left behind unwittingly in
Jerusalem by his parents. They went back searching in distress for three days before finding
him. When they finally found him, they spoke the words above.

“Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (RSV)
“Your father and I, in agony of mind, have been searching for you!” (Williams New Testament)
“Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You” (NASB, 1971)
“Your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (Riverside New Testament)
“Here have your father and I been searching anxiously for you” (Hugh J. Schonfield)
“Your father and I have been looking for you, have been very anxious ” (Edgar J. Goodspeed)
“Your father and I have been looking for you. We have been very troubled” (Bible in Worldwide English)
“Your father and I have been looking for you, in distress” (Richmond Lattimore)
“Your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (Twentieth Century New Testament)

“Thy father and I have sought thee distressed” (Darby Bible Translation)
“Thy father and I sought thee sorrowing” (American Standard Version)

“Thy father and I in anguish were seeking thee” (The Emphasized Bible, 3rd edit., based on Wescott & Hort,
by Joseph B. Rotherham)
“Thy father and I were seeking thee, sorrowful” (W. B. Godbey New Testament, 1902)
“Thy father and I were seeking Thee, sorrowing!” (A. S. Worrell, New Testament, 1904)
“Your father and I were anxiously looking for you” (World English Bible)

The words “we are seeking you” are in the present indicative tense, however, since an
expression of time is used indicating action going on for days (after three days, v. 46), translators
find it necessary to use either the present perfect (have been) or simple past (sought), or past
progressive (were seeking) indicative forms to express in English what the Greek says in the
present tense. Various Greek texts have instead an imperfect verb form. Both forms are
frequently rendered with an English present perfect. Compare with Young's Literal Translation
which also uses a past progressive indicative form “were seeking,” and the Spanish Reina-Valera
Revisada which rendered an imperfect verb form appearing in the Received Text with a present
perfect indicative (hemos buscado). Is this another reason why many translators have rendered
the Greek present ego eimi preceded by an adverbial modifier in its clause at John 8:58 with
perfective or past forms in English?

6th Example (Juan 5:6):

Greek: καὶ γνοὺς ὅτι πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον ἔχει


and having known that much already time he is having

This is an account of an invalid man who for 38 years had been sick and was now being cured
by Jesus. The Greek in this clause does not reveal his illness, however, the context does. Take
note of the expression of time used with past implications mixed with a present indicative
verb, “he is having.” For this to make any sense in our language, it has to be modified. When
Jesus saw this sick man lying there...

“and knew that he had been now a long time in that case” (KJV, italics theirs)
“and knowing that he had been ill a long time” (Revised English Bible)
“and knew he had been in that condition for a long time” (NJB)
“and knew that he had been sick for a long time” (World English Bible)
“and knew that he had been sick for a long time” (GOD’S WORD Translation)
“and knew how long he had been ill” (Living Bible)
“and knew he had already been there a long time” (HCSB)
“and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time” (TEV)
“and knew that he had been in this state a long time” (Confraternity Version)
“and finding that he had had a long time of it” (S. T. Byington)
“and knew that he had been sick for a long time” (Jay E. Adams)
“and he knew that he had been waiting for a long time” (George M. Lamsa, Peshitta)
“and knew that he had been now a long time” (Rheims New Testament)

“and knowing that he was [in that state] now a great length of time” (J. N. Darby Translation, Brackets his.)

Once again, we see translators having to use mostly perfective forms (“had been,” “had had,”
past perfects) and one with a simple past, “was,” even though they are translating a present
tense verb, “he is having.” This shows that translators adapt their renderings whenever is
necessary to convey the right meaning into the target language. It is thus possible to render
“eimi” at John 8:58 with a form other than a present tense, such as a present perfect. Those
who say that it can not be done, or should not be done, just need to look again at the
evidence objectively.

7th Example (John 15:27, Wescott & Hort):

Greek: ὅτι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστέ


that from beginning with me you are

These words spoken by Jesus evidently refers to the beginning of his ministry when he chose
his closest disciples. They were eyewitnesses of all the things God did through Christ during
his ministry. (Acts 1:21)

“because ye have been with me from the beginning” (KJV)


“because you have been with me from the beginning” (NAB)
“for you have been with me from the beginning” (Christian Community Bible)
“because you are the men who have been with me from the very beginning” (Heinz W. Cassirer)
“because you have been with me from the first” (New English Bible)
“because you have been with me from the beginning” (God's Word Translation)
“for you have been with me from the beginning” (NIV)
“because you have been with me from the first” (Weymouth New Testament)
“because you have been with me from the beginning” (NRSV)
“you that have been with me from the beginning” (The Four Gospels, E. V. Rieu)
“because you´ve been with Me from the beginning of My ministry” (The Clear Word)
“for you have been with me from the first” (J. B. Phillips Modern English)
“because you have been with Me from the beginning” (HCSB)

“that you were with me from the start” (21st Century New Testament)
“for you were with Me from the beginning” (New Berkeley Version, Revised Edition)
“because you were with me from the beginning” (Mark Heber Miller)
“because you were with me from the very beginning” (SEB)

This scripture with the plural form of eimi (este) is similar to John 8:58. Again, within its
structure, there is an expression of past time and a verb in the present indicative form (este),
just as there is in John 8:58. A Grammar of New Testament Greek says: “The reader may be
reminded of one idiom which comes out of the linear idea, the use of words like πάλαι [pa'lai,
“long ago”] with the present in a sense best expressed by our perfect. Thus in 2 Co 1219 ‘have
you been thinking all this time?’ or Jn 1527, ‘you have been with me from the beginning [ap'
archēs].’ … The durative present in such cases gathers up past and present time into one
phrase.” (Vol. 1, Prolegomena, by J.H. Moulton, p. 119) As previously noted, this Grammar
specifically refers to John 8:58 as an example of this idiom.

And here in John 15:27 there is a connection of Jesus' disciples that were with him “from the
beginning.” Obviously, Jesus was making no reference to his disciples sharing eternity with
him. The disciples all had a beginning. The logical conclusion is, that Jesus was simply saying
to them: ‘You have been with me from the start of my ministry.’ Hence, there is no need to
read eternity into the expression “I am” anymore that we should read eternity from Jesus'
words at John 15:27: ‘You are with me from the beginning.’

In fact, the seven (7) samples above (Genesis 31:38, LXX; Judges 16:17, LXX; 1 John 3:8; 2 Cor. 12:19;
Luke 2:48; John 5:6, John 15:27) and John 8:58 as well, all, have an expression of past time or an
extent of time with past implications, AND present verbal forms in their sentences, or nearby,
and are commonly rendered in English translations with grammatical forms indicating past
references. If we apply this pattern to the translation of John 8:58, it would mean that
renderings such as “I have been” (present perfect) and “I was” (simple past) are not only acceptable
in translation, but actually more suitable in application. It should not be expected of a
translator to render all idioms word-by-word from one language to another, especially so in
idiomatic versions.

The point is that in English we normally include a present perfect tense or a past tense of
some form whenever we go back in time in reference to a past situation extending to the
present. The same with John 8:58. There is no justification in using a present English verb form
(which is not equal to the Greek present when combined with a past expression) in an unwarranted
attempt to convey eternity as “padding” to the Trinity doctrine, a doctrine adopted AFTER the
Christian era. Worse, it is disingenuous to accuse other translators (who have chosen to render
ego eimi at John 8:58, with an English present perfect or past tense) of scholastic dishonesty, when
the very same translations honored by these detractors do so in other places where the deity
of Christ is not in play.

An example of this double standard can be seen as well when scholars such as Dr. Julius
Mantey scorns the NWT for the rendering “I have been” at John 8:58, but keeps quiet when
other translators do similarly, and even states or pretends that no other reputable translator
would ever translate it that way. He dared not criticize his former Greek teacher, Charles B.
Williams, who produced his own Bible translation. Dr. Mantey once wrote the following of Dr.
Williams' translation: “Williams translation, considering all the factors, is the most accurate
and illuminating translation in the English language.” And how does this “most accurate
translation” render John 8:58? Like so: “I existed before Abraham was born!” Here Dr. Williams
known for his Greek command, used a simple past tense (“I existed”) as translation for the
Greek present. Julius Mantey certainly did not find William's version of John 8:58 a “shocking
translation.” “I existed” is quite different from the translation Dr. Mantey was passionately
trying to defend (I am).

When Dr. Mantey talks about the NWT, he says the rendering “I have been” of John 8:58 cannot
be justified, and calls it “dishonest.” This rule does not apply to Williams translation, does it?
Not only that, the Grammar itself that Dr. Mantey co-authored with Dr. Dana, A Manual Grammar
of the Greek New Testament, states under “The Progressive Present” (called “Extension from Past” by
McKay): “Sometimes the progressive present is retroactive in its application, denoting that
which has begun in the past and continues into the present. For the want of a better name,
we may call it the present of duration. This use is generally associated with an adverb of time,
and may best be rendered by the English perfect. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστέ Ye have been with
me from the beginning. Jn. 15:27. See also: Lk. 13:7; 2 Cor. 12:9 [19].” (pp. 182-83. Emphasis added)

It is actually dishonest and a contradiction for Julius Mantey to chastise the NWT for their
translation choice of the English perfect at John 8:58, when his own Grammar states that ‘the
present of duration associated with an adverb of time, may be best rendered by the English
perfect,’ which is the construction we find in the text. Again, in his criticism he failed to
mention that James Moffatt and other scholars have translated similarly to the NWT. How can
we trust his poor judgment on the matter? A likely reason for Dana & Mantey's reluctance for
not including John 8:58 as one example of the idiom discussed on page 183 may have to do
with the fact that being “trinitarian,” the authors would oppose the idea of Jesus' existence
having ‘begun’ in the past, even though John 8:58 perfectly fits with the “Progressive Present”
idiom being discussed, as acknowledged by other grammarians. Hence, the root of their
objection then, is one of dogmatic nature, not grammar, as Mantey and some others have
implied. As noted, other grammarians do specifically include John 8:58 in the group of
Scriptures that exhibit this idiom.

Consequently, many religious individuals who focus solely on the basic meaning of ego
eimi as “I am,” end up missing the subtleties of the particular idiom used at John 8:58.
Consequently, they miss the thrust of Jesus' words, falling prey to misleading interpretations.
The point was that Jesus was already alive during the time of Abraham, and still is at the time
of speaking. Doctor Kenneth L. McKay taking into account all of these issues, came up with
the right translation: “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born.” (McKay 1994,
p. 42)

A Committee of Bible translators spearheaded by Dr. Stanley L. Morris came up with this other
option: “I was alive before Abraham was born!” (The New Testament in Plain English*)

(*The following scholars are members of the Bible Translation Committee of The New Testament in
Plain English which approved this last reading, “I was alive”, instead of “I am”: Dr. Stanley L. Morris,
chairman; F.W. Gingrich, Ph. D., a renown Greek lexicographer; Jack P. Lewis, Ph. D.; C.H. Accord, Th. D.;
Clyde M. Woods, Ph. D.; S.T, Kan, Ph. D.; Gary T, Burke, Ph. D.; Milo Hadwin, D. Min. I submit their names
and their credentials here because it is often asserted vigorously, that no intelligent or highly qualified
scholar would ever produce a translation other than “I am.” These translators did not follow the
traditional reading for good reason. As noted above, and as the list of alternative readings (at the end of
this essay) of John 8:58 shows, many done by highly qualified people, this is simply not true. Usually,
those making statements of that sort are doing so based on emotional and theological, not philological
reasons. Furthermore, by not disclosing other valid viewpoints, or by dismissing how other qualified
Bible translators deal with this scripture, they are undermining their own credibility as well.)

At this time, you are welcome to briefly go over the list of Alternative Readings to John 8:58 at
the end before moving on to the second part of this essay.

_____________________________

Should we ignore the evidence of all those translations listed at the end that differ in John 8:58
from the traditional versions? What then, are all these translators seeing at John 8:58 that
moved them to render this text differently? Obviously, they must have had the firm conviction
that both the Greek text and the context support their understanding of this scripture. They
likely see a Jesus simply expressing his indefinite existence, rather than doing a self-
identification claim as the Eternal Father. Jesus was not stating here that he is the God of Old
Testament times. To understand it that way would be to read into the text more than what it
says. Taking some clues from the context of the chapter, some scholars additionally see Jesus
insinuating his “messiahship,” as if saying: “I am he [the Messiah].” That is likely as well. In fact,
The Living Bible renders John 8:24 thus: “That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for
unless you believe that I am [ego eimi] the Messiah, the Son of God, you will die in your sins.”

10. Is e·go’ ei·mi’, a title, or another name of God?

The use of eimi at John 8:58 is frequently used as a proof text of Jesus' deity. A noted authority,
the late A. T. Robertson (Baptist), even refers to ego eimi as “the absolute phrase used of God,”
likely indicating the verb conveys “timeless being”... an implication that eimi here does not
require anything else to complete the meaning of the phrase, thus conveying “eternal
existence” as well as being an actual name for God. Some individuals have given plenty of
publicity to Robertson's statement as absolute truth. But his statement is not ‘established
truth.’ It is faulty interpretation, which many people have fallen prey to. Grammar and
theology do not always make the best mix. True, Robertson's credentials as a scholar are
impressive, nevertheless, credentials does not truth make. Besides, some other equally bright
scholars disagree with him. Let's illustrate the folly of those advocating a divine title at John
8:58 by way of addition (Or, substitution, if you will) as some suggest:

1. “Before Abraham was born, I am Eternal”


2. “Before Abraham was born, I am Jehovah”
3. “Before Abraham was born, I am God”
4. “Before Abraham was born, I exist”
First of all, the above hypothetical translations are just as ungrammatical as the simple “I am”
reading of most versions. The top three statements are incorrect in meaning. The bottom one
“I exist” is correct in meaning, just as “I am” could be with the right interpretation: “I was alive
before Abraham's time,” and still am, therefore, ‘the One sent by God to do his will,’ “the
Messiah.” But here's the thing: An English present tense cannot start before a definite point in
the past. This can be seen in the following two examples:

1. “Before the US / Iraq war, I am (a soldier).”


2. “Three journalists are kidnapped in Nepal since the start of 2007.”

How would you express the above statements in proper English? Analyze it for a second, if you
will. Notably, if eimi was used to convey eternal existence, what is the point of using an
expression of past time at all in the clause? Moreover, the context of previous verses (vv. 48-57)
clearly indicates that Jesus is speaking of God as a separate entity. See below:

49 “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.”


50 “I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.
54 “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your
God, is the one who glorifies me.
55 “Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you,
but I do know him and obey his word.”

Thus, if Jesus meant he himself was the “Yahweh” of the Old Testament as Trinitarians claim,
what would be the rationale behind Jesus directing all distinction and glory to ‘the Father, God’
as a distinct individual as he did in the previous verses, and then, a few words later, abruptly
change his argumentation by claiming now he is the very same One he's been alluding to, he
who ‘obeys his own word,’ ‘seeks his own honor and glory,’ because he himself is “God”?
Unbelievable! To accept this abrupt change of character on Jesus part, would be not “a
mystery,” but flat out “a deception” of big proportions, since Jesus himself warned against
pretending to be one thing and acting as another. (Matthew 6:2-5; 23:13-36)

Are we are supposed against all logic to accept these traditional assumptions instead of a
simple alternative* which really answers the Jews' question about ‘how could Abraham have
“seen” Jesus' day if he was not yet 50 years old’? (* “I was alive before Abraham was born!” Or: “I
have been in existence since Abraham was born.”)

Let's bear in mind that when God sent Jesus Christ as His representative on a most crucial
assignment, multiple biblical prophecies were pointing to Christ as the promised Messiah that
would free mankind from its moribund condition. It is logical then, that when the time came
for Jesus Christ to show up on earth, he would somehow communicate to others that “he” and
not some other human being claiming to be the Messiah, was God's instrument in bringing
everlasting relief to human misery. Hence, he could rightly say any, or all of the following: “I
am (this)”; “I am (that)”; “I am he [the promised Messiah]”; or, “I am God's Son.” Should we expect
anything less?

A. T. Robertson cites John 9:9 (where the blind man kept saying Ego eimi, “I am,”) as one of five
parallels to the use of ego eimi in John 8:58. (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V, p. 159) The
phrase here comes at the end of the clause with no explicit predicate. James White, who
upholds the traditional reading admits: “This last instance [John 9:9] is similar to the sayings as
Jesus utters them, in that the phrase comes at the end of the clause and looks elsewhere for
its predicate.” The same could be said of John 15:27. Some argue that “eimi” in John 8:58 is
“absolute,” but do not do so with John 9:9, or John 15:27. Theology may be a factor in this.
Previously we saw how a man and a woman (Jacob and Bathsheba) used the words ego eimi
according to the Septuagint. Other instances in Scripture of creatures using those words would
not prove they were part of a “Godhead.” Context, then, ultimately dictates how eimi should be
translated. According to John, when Jesus was pressed, he only claimed to have been alive
since before Abraham was born, and repeatedly, that he was “the Christ,” “the Son of Man,”
and “the Son of God.”

There is something else to note in regards to the meaning of eimi, which grammarian Stanley
Porter brought up: “Sometimes the verb [eimi] is used on its own, as a verb of existence.
Perhaps the best-known example of this is the following: John 8:58….” (Fundamentals of New
Testament Greek, section 7.5.3, 72) A. T. Robertson adds: “The verb εἰμί [eimi] … Sometimes it does
express existence as a predicate like any other verb, as in ἐγὼ εἰμί [ego eimi] (Jo. 8:58) and ἡ
θάλασσα οὐκ ἔστιν ἔτι [= “the sea not is yet”] (Rev. 21:1). Cf. Mt. 23:30.” (A Grammar of the Greek New
Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Nashville, Tenn.; 1934, p. 394.)

What does this mean? It is so strange that the two examples Robertson provided for
comparison with John 8:58, seems to contradict his “timeless being” view on eimi. He cited a
portion of Revelation 21:1, where the Greek literally says: “And the sea not is yet.” In other
words: “The sea does not exist any more.” Amplified Bible: “There no longer existed any sea.”
Curiously, various versions render the present verb “is” (a form of eimi) with an imperfect, “was.”
(Cf. KJV; NIV; NAB; NRSV) Obviously, “the sea” in this vision is [was] not eternal. And in Matthew
23:30, the other text provided by Robertson in his comparison with John 8:58, the Greek
literally says: “If we were in the days of the fathers of us....” which in modern English would be:
“If we had lived in the days of our forefathers.” Other versions: “If we had been...” (Rheims N.T.);
“If we had been living...” (NASB); “If we had been existing in the days of our fathers.” (Jonathan
Mitchell N.T.) The full NIV text reads: “And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’”

It is clear from this comparison that the words of Matthew 23:30, “If we were” (a form of eimi), in
the text, is used as an equivalent for “life” or “existence.” In the heavenly vision of Rev. 21:1,
‘the sea ceased to exist.’ And the generation of people which Jesus spoke about, and their
ancestors, all died, ceased to exist. If we apply these two examples to John 8:58 given by
Robertson with the meaning either of life or existence for eimi, then it would be equally
acceptable to translate “I am” as “I exist,” or “I live.” Many translators reflect this very same
understanding as the submitted list of alternative readings of John 8:58 show: “I exist,” or “I
existed before Abraham was born.” Others: “I was alive before Abraham was born!” (The Simple
English Bible); “Before Abraham came into the world, I already existed.” (NASB in E-Prime)

Even if some see no semantic difference between Jesus saying, “I am,” or “I exist,” the two
expressions communicate something different to Bible readers. “I am” is generally associated
by traditionalists as a title used by God, or another name for God. On the other hand, “I exist”
simply conveys “life” or “existence.” Barnabas Lindars points out that ego eimi in John 8:58
“cannot be regarded as a title, because it requires the meaning ‘I am in existence*.’” (“The Son
of Man in Johannine Christology,” in Christ and the Spirit in the New Testament, In Honour of Charles Francis
Digby Moule, eds. B. Lindars and S. Smalley, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. *Since an
English present tense cannot start before a definite point in the past, this means that we can
incorporate Lindars' valid observation, and translate it into contemporary English like this: “I have been
in existence since before Abraham was born,” exactly as Dr. McKay proposed.)

Some in their eagerness to equate Christ with God accuse translators who render ego eimi in
John 8:58 with renderings other than “I am,” pointing to other occurrences of this expression
in the New Testament, or in John's Gospel, where allegedly these translators do not follow the
same rule when translating ego eimi in John 8:58 as they do elsewhere. What they don't tell
you, or fail to understand, is that in John 8:58, ego eimi without an expressed predicate, AND
with a marker of time with past implications in its sentence structure, provides an “idiom,”
which is quite different from those other instances of eimi. That's right, an idiom (= “The durative
present [which] gathers up past and present time into one phrase.” - Moulton, op. cit.) found equally
at home in classical, biblical and modern Greek, which many translators do convey with the
English present perfect, or a simple past, at various places!

Consequently, one cannot merely go by how the phrase ego eimi is used elsewhere in the NT
without taking into account the fact that John 8:58 displays a different construction. Not doing
so would be dishonest. John the Baptist had said of Christ in John 1:30: “A man is coming after
me who ranks before me because he existed [Lit. was] before me.” (JB) John 8:58 is in harmony
with those words. Furthermore, some attempt to use the reading of Psalm 90:2 in the
Septuagint as evidence that John 8:58 is rendered correctly in the popular versions. But a closer
analysis of this verse shows notable differences between the two verses, making such
comparison untenable. With good reason, a considerable number of scholars have chosen to
break from tradition in their rendering of John 8:58.

If the critics of alternative readings of John 8:58 are not candid enough to admit some of these
issues, and hide the fact that many scholars do hold a different interpretation and no less
academic at that, should we consider their diatribes of any worthy import? For someone to
believe that John 8:58 is directly connected to Exodus 3:14 requires more than eager
interpretations. It requires evidence, found lacking. Remember, even Dr. James White, a well
known Trinitarian apologist admitted, “that an immediate and unqualified jump from the ego
eimi of John 8:58 to Exodus 3:14 is unwise.”
An objective comparison of instances of ego eimi without an expressed predicate in John 8:24,
28; 13:19; 18:5,6,8 show that Jesus was simply indicating to others that he was the Christ, the
Messiah, the Son of God, and not someone else. Should we expect something radically different
in meaning at John 8:58? This explains why many translations add “he” to the I am in some or
all of those verses. Robert Young in his Commentary wrote on John 8:58: “lit., ‘before Abraham’s
coming I am He’ ” that is, the promised Messiah.” (Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, 1885)
This may well be the case, but only in addition to Jesus pointing out to Jewish leaders that he
was in fact greater than Abraham by virtue of his longer existence, and his unique relationship
with his Father, God.

11. Does the Kingdom Interlinear Translation prove the NWT is wrong at John 8:58?

A criticism has been made of a Watchtower Society publication (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation
of the Greek Scriptures, “KIT”) which contains the Greek text, and underneath it, a word-by-word
translation in English, and on the right side of the page, the New World Translation. Well, at John
8:58, this publication renders the Greek phrase ego eimi, word-for-word as “I am,” and in the
right column, the NWT shows the reading, “I have been.” This layout have prompted some
critics to charge the NW translators of “incompetence,” “inconsistency,” and even of
“dishonesty.” The critics say something like this: “They have backed themselves into a corner
where they can't escape their mishandling of the Greek text,” or something to that effect. The
truth is that the verb eimi can be rendered as “I am”, “I was,” or "I have been,” according to the
resources of the target language, and of course, context. Anyone who claims otherwise is
overlooking differences established between the two languages, particularly in the presence
of an idiom, as indicated.

Those who engage in such tactics are not being forthcoming. A theological tendency is seen
when they focus on undermining the reputation of ONE Bible translation (NWT). In their
condemnations, critics hardly ever mention the fact (if they ever do), that there are dozens of
translators who translate similarly to the NWT, as the submitted list shows. This is very much
like politicians who ignore the failings of their own party, willfully rushing to ‘demonize’ their
opponents. (Matthew 7:3) Besides dismissing how other translators deal with John 8:58, they
also distort known facts, for the publishers of the NWT have made it clear that one purpose for
the publication of this Greek Bible was to help the Bible student determine the basic sense of
the Greek, and have also stated that the translation on the right column (the NWT) is a modern
way of expressing the thoughts transmitted by the Greek text. There are many factors to
consider when using such publications.

Even other interlinear publications warn of seeming discrepancies. For instance, The Zondervan
Parallel New Testament in Greek and English says in its Foreword: “It is a good thing to bear in mind
that you cannot always either give an English equivalent for a Greek word or expression, or
even always render the same Greek verb word by the same English one.” Another interlinear,
the New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, by Brown and Comfort, and edited by J. D.
Douglas explains: “It is difficult to translate one language into another on a word-for-word
basis because each language has its own syntax, grammatical constructions, and idioms that
are difficult—if not impossible—to replicate literally in another language.” (Emphasis added)
This statement is so true of the text in discussion (John 8:58) in regards to its syntax and
particular idiom. Often, critics of the NWT hide this fact. Why? Is it religious bias at work?

I will give the reader a few examples of an available interlinear translation which has the
Greek main text and a literal sublinear translation below the Greek by Professor Paul R.
McReynolds*, and on the right column for comparison, the reader can read the New Revised
Standard Version (NRSV), a popular translation in academia. Observe how the two differ:

McReynolds: Mat. 2:1: “magicians” NRSV: “wise men”


John 1:18 “only born God” “God the only Son”
Mat. 24:3 “sign of the your presence” “the sign of your coming”
Mathew 5:22 “the gehenna of the fire” “the hell of fire”
John 13:19 “I am” “I am he”
John 14:9 “I am” “Have I been...?”
John 15:27 “you are” “you have been”
2 Peter 2:4 “being sent to Tartarus” “but cast them into hell”
Luke 11:13 “will give spirit holy to” “will...give the Holy Spirit to”
John 20:22 “take spirit holy” “Receive the Holy Spirit”
Acts 2:4 “filled all of spirit holy” “filled with the Holy Spirit”

(* Paul R. McReynolds is professor of Greek and New Testament at Pacific Christian College in Fullerton,
California, USA. He also contributed to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.)

Some of the readings from the right column above (NRSV) are acceptable, others are not. See if
you can detect in the right column above those renderings with a theological tendency that
deviate from the literal readings from the left column. McReynolds on the left does an
excellent job in transmitting the Greek sense. Even the most popular Bible versions do not
adhere consistently to the Greek base texts. The NRSV and a host of other Bible versions add
their own religious interpretation throughout Scripture, just as much as the NWT, if not more,
but hardly anyone complains of this transformation of Scriptures, even though it leads to
error. Why? Simply because the NRSV represents more of a majority view than the NWT does.
But truth be told: “Majority” or “minority” views do not correspond equally to accurate or
inaccurate results.

In the text discussed, the KIT appropriately shows the basic sense rendering of “I am” for the
Greek ego eimi in the left column, while the right column displays the reading “I have been” as
one contemporary way of expressing in English the particular Greek idiom of John 8:58 as
explained throughout this article, a rendering which has scholarship support. When the Greek
ego eimi appears in an idiom-less structure, it can rightfully be translated as “I am,” as most
versions do, including the NWT. Hence, there is no contradiction between the two translations.
Dr. McKay argues that Jesus' response in John 8:58 “would be most naturally translated ‘I have
been in existence since before Abraham was born,’ if it were not for the obsession with the
simple words ‘I am.’” (Kenneth L. McKay, “‘I am’ in John's Gospel”, Expository Times 1996, p. 302) In
other words, more translators of the Bible would translate as McKay suggested, if it were not
for the religious “obsession” of seeking to magnify Christ to the level of God. The thing is that
Christ ‘always sought to please the Father’ and was ‘content’ to describe himself as ‘lesser’
than him. (John 8:29; 10:29; 14:28; 17:7,8,13) Why not accept the Jesus Christ he claimed to be?

Hence, it is poor scholarship to forward the idea that an entity must be God Almighty himself
by the sole fact of using a divine sounding phrase, but one that is, perhaps, the most common
pronoun-verb combination in any language. The context is the determining factor. Not only
must we take into account the context surrounding a chapter or book of the Bible, but also,
what the whole Bible teaches on a given person or subject.

In sum, academic C. K. Barrett rightly noted: “It is not however correct to infer either from the
present passage [Jn 8.24] or from the others in which ego eimi occurs that John wishes to
equate Jesus with the supreme God of the Old Testament.... He pronounces ego eimi, not to
identify himself with God in any exclusive and final sense, but to draw attention to himself as
the one in whom God is encountered and known. Ego eimi [“I am”] does not identify Jesus with
God, but it does draw attention to him in the strongest possible terms. ‘I am the one—the one
you must look at, and listen to, if you would know God.’” (C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St
John, Westminster Press, London, 1978, p. 342, 98)

12. Concluding Remarks:

What is the correct translation of John 8:58? Is it, “I am?” “I was?” “I am he?” or, “I have been?”
Some sustain that if Jesus wanted to use a past tense (“I was”) instead of the present verb used
by John the author of the Gospel, he would have done so. Others have pointed out that there
is a Greek perfect tense form available, suggesting that the author would surely have used
such if that was his intention. What these individuals fail to tell their readers is that the Greek
and English tenses are not equal in projection. The boundaries of each may differ from the
other in various places. The Greek imperfect tense usually expresses continuous or repeated
or incomplete action in the past. Emphasis is placed on the process of the action. The concept
of “remoteness” is ever-present in the imperfect. Hence, the Greek past tense may not be the
ideal verb form to convey what John intended. What about the Greek “perfect”? It should be
noted that there are no known forms of eimi for the Greek perfect. So John, in describing Jesus’
speech, could not have used a perfect form of eimi. Also, the emphasis of the Greek perfect is
on completed action whose results are still apparent, contrary to that put forth by the
Evangelist at John 8.58, which details ‘ongoing activity from past to present.’ “There is no exact
English equivalent to the Greek perfect.” (It's still Greek to me, David A. Black, p. 108) Besides, “The
English Perfect has a larger range of use than the Greek Perfect.” (Syntax of Moods and Tenses in
New Testament Greek, Ernest De Witt Burton, p. 25.)
After analyzing the Greek phrase ego eimi, the context, and the various possible ways this
expression could be translated in our language, I think it is best to render the Greek with an
English present perfect. Adding a small element such as “since” to the statement as Dr. McKay
and Dr. Nyland have done below satisfies all contextual and grammatical requirements of the
passage. Doing so does not qualify as interpolation.

A second choice, a simple English past tense, can perhaps be used here, since it is
grammatically correct, but it is generally used of activity confined to the past, so the message
may be distorted. Unless, that is, the simple past is interpreted as “imperfective” with current
relevance. How so? In support of Jesus' deity, many frequently cite John1:1. There in the text, a
simple past tense, “was,” is applied to “the Word” three times in English versions. Does that
mean “the Word” is no more, that it was permanently cut-off from existence at some point? Of
course not! The context of the whole gospel of John shows that Christ is fully pertinent in
Christian lives. He still lives!

Scholars choosing a past tense for eimi (i.e. “I was,” “I existed,” etc.) at John 8:58 may also have in
mind what John the Baptist said as a precursor of Jesus Christ: “A man who comes after me
has surpassed me because he was [“existed,” JB] before me.” Surely, John the Baptist did not
mean that Jesus' existence was done away with. His own words show that Jesus' life was very
much relevant, and would continue to be so. Translators have no issue whatsoever in applying
a past tense (“was,” “existed”) at John 1:1 and 1:30 in their English versions. So, why would they
at John 8:58? Perhaps because, it would mean that they would have to do away with the
premise of a divine title in their argumentation, of which is claimed, clinches Jesus' identity
with God's own. As shown above, in Revelation 21:1 a present verb, a form of eimi is rendered
by some versions with a past tense “was.” Obviously, Bible translators have no problem in
translating present tense verbs with past tenses, or with present perfects. But most object to
it at John 8:58, likely for theological reasons.

As stated before, the English “present” and the Greek “present” do not always correspond
exactly in meaning, because in Greek, “time” is a secondary factor. That being the case, the
choice of English tense does not have to match the Greek conjugation to be faithful to the
Sacred Text. Context then, plays a more important role in determining the correct translation.
When one considers the specific idiom found in John 8:58, and the semantic implications of
both the Greek and English “present,” one can see that the rendering “I am,” though popular,
does not represent the best translation possible in the English language. Overall though, it is
preferable to render the Greek expression with an English present perfect, since it conveys
clearly more current relevance than a past tense would.

That said, John 8:58 is a good example where a Greek transliteration is not the best choice to
communicate the right message effectively in our times. The rendering “I am” has its place in
English translations – it can certainly be used in many Scriptures where the context calls for it,
as when the sentence structure lacks the Greek idiom discussed throughout this writing, as is
the case with most occurrences of eimi. Even in those few cases where the idiom discussed
above demands a different contemporary translation, interlinear translations can still show the
basic literal sense of the Greek pronoun without violating Greek grammar.

Here listed, in my opinion, are the translations which come closest to the Greek thought
presented by the particular idiom found in John 8:58. Dr. Kenneth L. McKay* comes up with
the correct translation:

1. “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born” (Kenneth L. McKay 1994, p. 42)

(*Kenneth L. McKay graduated with honours in Classics (with an interest in the Greek of the NT) from
the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge. He has taught Greek in universities and theological colleges
in Nigeria, New Zealand, and England. Mr. McKay retired from the Australian National University in
1987, after teaching there for 26 years.)

2. “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born!” (Dr. A. Nyland, ©2004, ©2007)

Dr. A. Nyland served as Faculty in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of
New England, Australia. Her research field is Greek lexicography from Homeric to Hellenistic times. She
has published academic papers in the fields of both Hittite and Greek lexicography. She is the author of
The Source New Testament, with Extensive Notes on Greek Word Meaning.)

Other translations below, come close to McKay's and Nyland's rendering, and are thus favored
over the widely misunderstood traditional rendering of “I am.”

3. “I have existed before Abraham was born.” (A New Translation, by James Moffatt, D.D.; D. Litt.,
Glasgow, Oxford)
4. “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” (New World Translation)

5. “Before Abraham came into being, I have existed.” (The Documents of the New Testament, G. W. Wade,
London)
6. “From before Abraham was, I have been.” (The New Testament, by George R. Noyes, D.D., Boston)

7. “Before Abraham was born, I have already been.” (The Unvarnished New Testament, Andy Gaus,
Boston)
8. “I existed even before Abraham was born.” (The concise Gospel and the Acts. Logos International;
Christopher J. ed Christianson, Plainfield, N. J.)
9. “I was in existence before Abraham was ever born!” (The Living Bible)

10. “I already was before Abraham was born.” (Worldwide English New Testament. U. K.)

________________________________

Additional Notes:

Also compare the following translations:


Nytt liv (1907, Norwegian)
A Bíblia Viva (1981, Portuguese)
O Novo Testamento Vivo (1974, Portuguese)
Le Livre , Nouveau Testament (1980, éditions Farel, French)
Η Καινή Διαθήκη των Τεσσάρων Καθηγητών (ΚΔΤΚ, Greek) (The New Testament of
the Four Teachers. The translation was made and approved (19/2/1981) by the
Holy Summit Church of Greece. The English title of the project is The New
Testament in Modern Greek. Athens, Greece).
Η Αγία Γραφή, Παλαιά και Καινή Διαθήκη, (ΝΔΜ, Greek) Ελληνική Βιβλική Εταιρία,
Αθήνα [Athens] 1997. (The Bible, Old and New Testament Greek Biblical
Company, - London 1997.)
ΚΔΛΖ; ΛΧ (Other Greek Versions expressing the same idea as translations on the list).
___________________

* “I was ”: Note on 1987 translation from Italian, main list below. l Vangelio di Giovanni (El Evangelio de
Juan [“The Gospel of John”], with imprimatur), by J. Mateos and J. Barreto noted on John 8:58 (as
translated by Teodora Tosatti, p. 387, Cittadela Editrice, 1982) that the temporal relationship expressed
by the Greek “prin... eimi [Before...I am]” can be translated into Italian “prima...ero [Before … I was].”
__________________

Comment on 1993 ΟІ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΕΣ ΓΡΑΦΕΣ Απόδοση από τη Μειάφράση Νέου ΚόσμουІ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΕΣ ΓΡΑΦΕΣ Απόδοση από τη Μειάφράση Νέου Κόσμου, which is the
modern Greek rendering of the New World Translation of the Christian Scriptures. In 2017, a Revised
Edition in modern Greek was published taking into account the English Edition of 2013. Unlike most
Bible Versions which are published in only one language or a few at most, the NWT is available in
dozens of languages based mainly on their English translation, but obviously taking into account other
factors in the process, such as the original Bible text, the peculiarities of their recipient local languages
and their targeted audiences in their respective countries.

It is obvious though, that other NWT translation editions closely follow the English text of the NWT. In
spite of that, their translation teams seem to have enough latitude to offer their own unique renderings
at times expressing in their native languages what they see in in the Inspired Text. Having said that, it is
interesting to see how they approached their translation of John 8:58 from their English translation
back into [modern] Greek.

The translation team was acutely aware of the basic sense of “ego eimi” as “I am”, and how those simple
words are misconstrued by religionists to say something else than Jesus intended. Taking into account
the syntax of John 8:58 as stated throughout this document, the translators who worked on the modern
Greek version faced a few options.

First they had the option to go back to ego eimi using the modern Greek equivalent “Εγώ ειμαι (I am)”,
like in Vamvas version, which they did not. Or, they could have expressed their NWT English choice of “I
have been” with their modern Greek equivalent of “έχο υπάρξει [I have existed]*.” Thirdly, they could
have gone with “I was,” (“εγώ ήμουν”) as some of their French and Italian Bible editions have done in
the past, or even with “[εγώ] υπήρξα [I existed]).” Or, they could have provided some other unique
rendering. It is obvious they wanted to stick closely to the Greek text, but given the common
misconceptions surrounding “ego eimai (I am)” in mainstream churches, the translation team chose to
use “εγώ υπάρχω,” (a Greek present indicative form) which means basically “I exist,” but in the presence
of an expression of past time in John 8:58, it carries the sense, “I have existed.” Thus: “Before Abraham
came into existence, I have existed.” (* The verb είμαι [“to be”] in modern Greek has no forms for the
perfect tense. It borrows the forms from the verb υπάρχω [“I exist”]. The Greek and English “perfects”
are not exact equivalents either.)

The reader is reminded here, as noted earlier, that modern Greek keeps up with the Classical and Koiné
Greek “present” idiom. A modern Greek grammar, Greek, A Comprehensive Grammar explains: “The
present tense is also used in constructions where English would use the perfect continuous, i.e. where
the verb expresses a continuous state or habitual event that has lasted since a certain point in the past
and is continuing up to (and including) the present.” The authors provide two examples where a present
verb is used with a past time indicator, and where they translate using the English present perfect as
explained. “I have been living [Μένω] in this house for three years now.” And: “I have been reading
[Διαβάζω] this newspaper since 1984.” (Greek, A Comprehensive Grammar, by David Holton, Peter
Mackridge & Irene Philippaki-Warburton. Revised by Vassilios Spyropoulos, p. 294, Second edition,
2012.)

Ten years after the NWT-Greek Edition was released, another modern Greek translation was published
with the following rendering at John 8:58: “Σας βεβαιώνω πως πριν να γεννηθεί ο Αβραάμ, εγώ υπάρχω,”
which in English would be: “I assure you that before Abraham was born, I exist [not “Εγώ ειμαι”].” But, if
you take into account the marker of past time in the clause the meaning becomes: “I can assure you
that I have existed since before Abraham was born.” (The Holy Bible in Today's Greek Version, 2003, Greek
Bible Society. Interestingly, the original English version of 1976 had “I Am.”) Also, a Spanish Bible
published by United Bible Society conveys a similar thought: “Yo existo desde antes que existiera
Abraham.” [Translation: “ I exist since before Abraham existed.”] (La Biblia - Versión Popular, 2nd edition,
Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 1983.) And the Worldwide English New Testament of U.K. reads: “I already was
before Abraham was born” (1996) The meaning in these versions is that Jesus Christ was already alive
by the time Abraham came into existence. They do not express a divine title.

_________________________________________________________

The Clear Word: The translators quoted in this article represent various religious faiths, some are
Catholic, some are Protestant. Others are Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jewish, Adventists, etc., and
they represent countries the world over. One of these translators is a Seventh-Day Adventist, who
worked on The Clear Word, Jack J. Blanco, Th.D. As a Seventh-Day Adventist who supports the Trinity
doctrine, Blanco translated verses to make Jesus appear “equal” to God in every way.

He renders John 1:1: “He is the Word of God and is equal with God.” He describes Jesus at Philippians
2:5-7 as being “equal with God,” and also as ‘acting the part of a servant.’ At John 14:28 he completely
omits the reference that ‘the Father is greater’ than Christ. But here, at John 8:58, in answer to the
question the priests and leaders asked concerning Abraham ‘seeing’ his day, Jesus answered according
to Dr. Blanco: “Because I existed before Abraham was even born.” Thus, Dr. Blanco makes no
connection as others do, that Christ is the “I am” of Exodus 3:14, the Yahweh of the Old Testament.
What he sees in this account is that Jesus already ‘existed before Abraham did,’ and thus Abraham was
able to ‘see’ his day. (John 8:56) To this we must add another likely element included in Jesus' response
to the Jews as well...one of simple identification, as “Son of Man,” and “the Christ [Messiah].” Why is it
then, that many who support the Trinity doctrine find it hard to understand Jesus' statement correctly
at John 8:58? Could it be that they are letting non-Scriptural influence and perhaps the weight of the
majority view dictate their understanding of this Scripture?

13. How other translators render John 8:58 (List of Alternate Readings):

c. 250: “Before Abraham existed, I am existing” (The Sahidic Coptic New Testament. Transliteration by
[empate abraHam Swpe anok TSoop*] J. W. Wells, 2008)
*Note: not “anok pe” (I am), but “anok TSoop.”
4th/5th Century: “before Abraham was, I have been” (Syriac-Edition: Agnes Smith Lewis, London, 1894)
5th Century: “before Abraham existed, I was” (Syriac Peshitta-Ed.: James Murdock, 7th ed., Boston and
London, 1896)
th
5 Century: “before ever Abraham came to be, I was” (Curetonian Syriac-Edition: F. Crawford Burkitt,
Vol. 1, Cambridge, England, 1904)
5th Century: “before Abraham came to be, I was” (Georgian-Edition: Robert P. Blake and Maurice Derrière,
Paris, 1950)
th
6 Century: “before Abraham was born, I was ” (Ethiopic-Edition: Thomas Pell Platt, rev. by
F. Praetorious, Leipzig, 1899)
c. 990: “ic wæs [i was] ærþām þe Abraham wæs” (WestSaxon Gospels)
c.1175: “Ic wæs [I was] ær þonne þe abraham wære” (WestSaxon Gospels)
1795: “before Abraham was born, I am He.” (Wakefield, Gilbert, A Translation of the New Testament)
1840: “I was before Abraham was born” (The New Testament Or Rather the New Covenant, Samuel Sharpe,
London)
1846: “I existed before Abraham was born” (The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
W. Swan, London)
1864: “before Abraham came into being, I was” (Henry T. Anderson New Testament Translated from the
Original Greek, Cincinnati, Ohio)
1864: “Before Abraham was born, I am he*” (The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson, New York and
(*that is, the Son of God, the Messiah) London)
1869: “From before Abraham was, I have been” (The New Testament, George R. Noyes, D.D., Boston, USA)

1896: “Before Abraham came to be, I was” (Neuen Testament übersetzt in die Sprache der Gegenwart,
[Ehe Abraham geworden ist, war ich] by Curt Stage, Leipzig)
1898: “Before Abraham was, I was” (La Sainte Bible, version d´Ostervald. (French)
[Avant qu'Abraham fût, j'étais]
1903: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (Det ny Testament” by Dr. T. Skat Rørdam.
[Førend Abraham blev til, har jeg været] Danish)
1904: “From before Abraham existed, I was” (Twentieth Century New Testament. New York: Fleming H.
Revell Co., 1902. Rev. 1904)
1911: “Before Abraham became, I, I am being” (George W. Horner, The Coptic Version of the New Testament
in the Southern Dialect, Vol 3, Oxford, The Clarendon Press)
1912: “Before Abraham was born, I was” (Leidse Vertaling, Amsterdam and Zaltbommel, Dutch)
[Eer Abraham werd geboren was ik]
1925: “Before Abraham was brought up, I exist ” (Sagrada Biblia, Félix Torres Amat, Madrid)
[Antes que Abraham fuera criado, yo existo]
1933: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (Dette er Biblen pÃ¥ dansk, Danish)
[førend Abraham blev til, har jeg været ]
1934: “Before Abraham came into being, I have existed” (The Documents of the New Testament, G. W.
Wade, London)
1935: “I have existed before Abraham was born” (A New Translation, James Moffatt, D.D.; D.Litt.,
Glasgow, Oxford)
1935: “I existed before Abraham was born!” (The Bible - An American Translation, by J.M.P. Smith,
and E. J. Goodspeed)
1937: “I am older than Abraham” (The New Testament, A New Translation, Johannes Greber)
(“Translated from the German into English by a Professional and corrected by a
committee of American clergymen….” – The English Bible in America, Hills, p. 383)
1937: “Before Abraham was, I have been” (Translated from the Hebrew of Dr. Franz Delitzsch)
[aní hayíthi, not Ehyéh]
1937: “I existed before Abraham was born” (Williams New Testament, Charles B. Williams)
1941: “I have been when there had as yet been no Abraham” (Translated from the Hebrew of Isaac
[aní hayíthi, not Ehyéh] Salkinson and David Ginsburg)
1945: “Before Abraham came into existence, I was” (Det nye testamente i ny oversettelse, Lyder
[Før Abraham ble til, var jeg ] Brun, Professor of NT Theology, Oslo)
1950: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures)
1956: “I am here – and I was before Abraham!” (The New Testament, by J. A. Kleist and J. L. Lilly,
Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company)
1957: “Before Abraham was born, I was” (The Holy Bible From Ancient Eastern Manuscripts, George M. Lamsa)

1960: “Before Abraham existed, I existed” (Bíblia Sagrada, by Catholic Bible Center, 2nd ed., São Paulo)
[Antes que Abraão existisse, eu existia ]
1961: “I existed before Abraham was born” (The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Fan S. Noli,
Boston, MA, USA)
1963: “I was before Abraham” (William F. Beck, The New Testament in the Language of Today St. Louis: Concordia
Publishing House)
1965: “Before there was an Abraham, I was already there!” (Das Neue Testament, Friedrich Pfäfflin,
[Ehe es einen Abraham gab, war ich schon da!] Heilbronn, Germany)
1965: “Before Abraham was born, I was already the one that I am” (Das Neue Test. Jörg Zink, German)
[Ehe Abraham geboren wurde, war ich schon der, der ich bin]
1967: “Before could be born the Abraham, I exist*” (Η ΚΑΙΝΗ ΔΙΑΘΗΚΗ, Modern Revised NT, Vella's Version,
[πρίν γεννηθñ˛ ό Aβραάμ 'Εγώ ύπάρχω*] Athens, Greece)
*(Lit. “I exist,” but “I have existed” with adverbial adjunct. Not “Εγώ ειμαι [I am]”, as in Vamvas Version)
1968: “Before Abraham was born, I was” (Sagrada Biblia, Nácar-Colunga, Madrid)
[Antes que Abraham naciese, era yo]
1969: “Before Abraham was, I was” (Det nye testamente, “Ungdomsoversettelsen.” Norwegian)
[Før Abraham ble til, var jeg]
1969: “I already was before Abraham was born” (Good News for the World)
1971: “Before Abraham was born, I have been” (New American Standard Bible, margin)
1971: “I was in existence before Abraham was ever born!” (The Living Bible)
1973: “I existed even before Abraham was born.” (The concise Gospel and the Acts, Logos International;
Christopher J. ed Christianson, Plainfield, NJ)
1973: “before Abraham was born, [I have been]” (La Biblia de las Américas, margin. Lockman Foundation)
[antes que Abraham naciera, Yo he sido]
1976: “I am already from before the birth of Abraham” (Het Levende Woord, Dutch)
[Ik ben er al van voor de geboorte van Abraham]

1978: “Before Abraham was born, I was already the one that I am” (O Novo Testamento Interconfessional,
[Antes de Abraão nascer, já eu era aquele que sou] Sociedad Bíblica, Lisbon, Portugal)
1978: “Before Abraham was born, I already existed” (Nuevo Testamento, R. P. Felipe de Fuenterrabía,
[Antes que Abraham naciese, ya existía yo] Capuchin, Professor of Sacred Scripture at Theology
College, Pamplona, Navarra, Spain)
1979: “I already existed since way before Abraham was born” (La Biblia al Día, Editorial Unilit, Miami)
[¡Ya existía desde mucho antes que Abraham naciera!]
1979: “I am from before Abraham was born” (The Four Gospels and the Revelation, Richmond Lattimore,
New York, N. Y.)
1980: “Before Abraham existed, I exist” (Sagrada Biblia, Pedro Franquesa, C.M.F. and José M. Solé,
[Antes que Abraham existiera, yo existo] C.M.F., Barcelona)
1981: “I was alive before Abraham was born!'” (The Simple English Bible, New York)
1981: “Before Abraham existed, I already existed” (Sagrada Biblia, Agustín Magaña Méndez,
[Antes que Abraham existiera, ya existía Yo ] ex-Seminary Professor of Zamora, Mich., México;
Notre Dame Univ., USA., & others.
1982: “I was in existence before Abraham was ever born.” (The Living Scriptures, Messianic Version,
David Bronstein)
1982: “Before Abraham was born, I was already there” (Bibel in heutigem Deutsch, Stuttgart)
[Bevor Abraham geboren wurde, war ich schon da]
1983: “I exist since before Abraham existed” (La Biblia - Versión Popular, 2nd edit., SBU)
[Yo existo desde antes que existiera Abraham]
1983: Before Abraham was born, I am He*” (The Gospel of John, F.F. Bruce, 1983)
(*Bruce links this text to Isa. 41:4)
1985: “I existed before Abraham was born” (The Original New Testament, Hugh J. Schonfield, Aberdeen,
Scotland)
1985: “Before Abraham was, I have been” (N. T., The Bible Society in Israel. Translated from the Hebrew
[bete'rem heyiot' Abraham', aní hayíthi, (not Ehyéh)] of Norman Henry Snaith)
1985: “Abraham was not yet born, when I was already there” (Common Language Version. Haitian Creole
[Abraram pa t' ankò fèt, mwen menm, mwen te la deja] Version, Port-au-Prince, UBS)
1987: “Before Abraham came into existence, I was” (Les Saintes Écritures-Traduction du monde nouveau,
[Avant qu'Abraham soit venu à l'existence, j´ étais*] French)
(* “j'ai été,” ©1995 Edition)
1987: “Before Abraham came into existence, I was” (Traduzione del Nuovo Mondo delle Sacre Scritture,
[Prima che Abraamo venisse all'esistenza, io ero*] Rome)
[*“io sono stato”, 1967 edition; “io c’ero” (2017). Also, see “Comments”]
1988: “I already was before Abraham was born” (Hek Boek, Published by Biblica, Dutch)
[ Ik was er al voor Abraham werd geboren]
1991: “Before Abraham was born, I have already been” (The Unvarnished New Testament, Andy Gaus)
1993: “Before the Abraham came into existence, I have existed” (Lit.: “I exist”)
Πριν o Aβραάμ έρθει σε ύπαρξη, εγώ υπάρχω*1 ] (Greek)
*ΟІ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΕΣ ΓΡΑΦΕΣ Απόδοση από τη Μειάφράση Νέου ΚόσμουІ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΕΣ ΓΡΑΦΕΣ Απόδοση από τη Μειάφράση Νέου Κόσμου
(New World Translation of the Christian Scriptures, Modern Greek)
(1Εγώ ύπάρχω, not Εγώ ειμαι, [“I am”], as in Vamvas Version. See “Comments”)
1994: “I existed” - The Complete Gospels: Annotaded Scholars Version, R.J.Miller, editor.
1994: “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born” (Kenneth L. McKay)
1995: “Even before Abraham was, I was, and I am” (Contemporary English Version, N.Y.)
1996: “I am from before Abraham was born” (The New Testament, Richmond Lattimore)
1996: “I already was before Abraham was born” (Worldwide English New Testament, U.K.)
1996: “I existed before Abraham was even born” (New Living Translation, Wheaton, IL.)
1998: “I came into being before Abraham” (21st Century New Testament, Bristol, England)
1999: “that before Abraham was born, I exist” (Sagrada Biblia del Pueblo Católico, Bogotá)
[que antes que Abrahán naciera, yo existo]
2000: “before Abraham was born, I already existed” (Traducción en lenguage actual, UBS, Miami)
[antes de que naciera Abraham ya existía yo]
2000: “I existed before Abraham was even born!” (Levande Bibeln, Biblica, Swedish)
[att jag fanns till innan Abraham ens var född!]
2000: “¡before Abraham was born, I already was who I am!” (O Livro, Portuguese – European. Biblica)
[antes de Abraão nascer eu já era quem sou!]
2001: “I existed before Abraham came into existence” (21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures,
Mark Heber Miller)
2001: “I existed before Abraham was” (2001 Translation - An American English Bible)
2002: “Long before Abraham was even born, I was there” (Hoffnung für Alle - Hope for all, International
[Lange bevor Abraham überhaupt geboren wurde, war ich da] Bible Society, Giessen)
2003: “I existed before Abraham was born!” (New Simplified Bible, James R. Madsen)
2003: “I was alive before Abraham was born!” (The New Testament in Plain English, Shippensburg, PA.)
2003: “I assure you that before Abraham was born, I exist” [Read: I have existed.*
[ Σας βεβαιώνω πως πριν να γεννηθεί ο Αβραάμ, εγώ υπάρχω]
The Holy Bible in Today's Greek Version, 2003, Greek Bible Society.
(*See Comment on 1993 ΟІ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΕΣ ΓΡΑΦΕΣ Απόδοση από τη Μειάφράση Νέου ΚόσμουІ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΕΣ ΓΡΑΦΕΣ Απόδοση από τη Μειάφράση Νέου Κόσμου)
2004: “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born!” (The Source New Testament,
Dr. A. Nyland, Australia)
2005: “I existed before Abraham was even born” (The Clear Word, Jack J. Blanco, Th.D.)
2008: “before Abraham was born, I exist ” (Nueva Biblia al Día, Sociedad Bíblica Internacional, Miami, FL.
[antes que Abraham naciera, yo existo] Published by Grupo Nelson, Nashville)
2008: “I was in existence before Abraham was ever born” (The Book: New Testament, Illuminated
World, Dag Söderberg)
2009: “before Abraham existed, I exist” (LA BIBLIA de NUESTRO PUEBLO, Biblia del Peregrino, América
[antes de que existiera Abrahán, existo yo] Latina, Luis Alonso Schökel. XII Edición, with Imprimatur,
Bilbao, Spain)
2010: “before Abraham was born, I exist” (La Palabra, Hispanoamérica, Bible Society of Spain)
[antes de que Abraham naciera, existo yo]
2014: “before Abraham was born I exist ” (Interlinear Greek Bible, Scripture Direct, Prof. Johannes Louw
& Dr. Bennie Wolvaardt)
2014: “I existed before Abraham was born!” (Translation for translators)
2015: “Before Abraham came into existence, I already existed“ (Tradução do Novo Mundo, São Paulo)
[ Antes de Abraão vir à existência, eu já existia”]
____________________________________________________

Other subjects by the same author (For Spanish, see below):


Exodus 2:25: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38676458/Exodus-2-25-And-God-took-notice-Does-God-care-about-us
Matthew 5:3, ‘the poor in spirit’: https://www.scribd.com/document/35085619/Matthew-5-3-Blessed-are-the-poor-in-spirit
John 1:1, http://www.scribd.com/doc/34916458/The-correct-translation-of-John-1-1
John 1:1, Briefer text, with additional samples: http://www.scribd.com/doc/50330864/John-1-1-List-of-Alternate-Readings
John 1:14 (“grace”): http://www.scribd.com/doc/35002730/John-1-14-Jesus-full-of-grace
John 8:58: http://www.scribd.com/doc/35318309/The-correct-translation-of-John-8-58-List-of-alternate-readings-to-I-am
John 17:3: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57772552/John-17-3-%E2%80%98Taking-in-knowledge-of-%E2%80%99-God-and-Jesus
Acts 20:28, https://www.scribd.com/doc/231244155/Acts-20-28-Whose-blood-God-s-Or-Christ-s
Colossians 1:16, “all other things”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/209607822/Colossians-1-16-Is-the-translation-all-other-things-appropriate
1 Timothy 3:16, http://www.scribd.com/doc/76927834/Was-God-manifested-in-the-flesh-1-Timothy-3-16
Hebrews 1:6,8, https://www.scribd.com/doc/252268649/Does-Hebrews-1-6-8-prove-Jesus-is-God
Do the NW translators know Greek? http://www.scribd.com/doc/48234022/Did-the-New-World-Translation-Committee-Know-Greek
Translation Differences in selected verses: http://www.scribd.com/doc/59484457/Translation-Differences-Questions-and-Answers
The Trinity: http://www.scribd.com/doc/160286056/Does-the-Trinity-ever-make-sense
Was Jesus Created First? https://www.scribd.com/document/378080373/Was-Jesus-Created-First
Otros temas – en español – por el mismo autor:
Juan 1:1, ¿“un dios”?: http://www.scribd.com/doc/35899788/Traduccion-correcta-de-Juan-1-1-Lista-de-lecturas-alternativas
Juan 1:1, Listado de lecturas suplentes: https://www.scribd.com/document/358556923/Lista-de-lecturas-suplentes-a-la-tradicional-de-Juan-1-1
Juan 8:58, “yo soy”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/36126649/La-traduccion-correcta-de-Juan-8-58-Lista-de-lecturas-alternas-a-yo-
soy Juan 17:3, ‘adquirir conocimiento’: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74629981/Juan-17-3-%E2%80%98Adquiriendo-conocimiento%E2%80%99-de-Dios-y-
Jesucristo Colosenses 1:16, “todas las otras cosas”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/209601066/Colosenses-1-16-%C2%BFEs-la-
traduccion-%E2%80%9Ctodas-las-otras-cosas%E2%80%9D-apropiada
1 Timoteo 3:16: http://www.scribd.com/doc/77336247/%C2%BFFue-Dios-manifestado-en-carne-1-Timoteo-3-16
¿Enseña Hebreos 1:6,8 que Jesús es Dios?: https://www.scribd.com/doc/255738165/Ensena-Hebreos-1-6-8-que-Jesucristo-es-Dios
¿Acaso tiene sentido la Trinidad? http://www.scribd.com/doc/173779117/%C2%BFAcaso-tiene-sentido-la-Trinidad
¿Conocen los traductores de la TNM griego? http://www.scribd.com/doc/51623596/%C2%BFSabia-griego-el-Comite-de-la-Traduccion-del-Nuevo-
Mundo

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