ABOUT JOHN 8:58 – “I AM”

JOHN 8:58

NWT:   58 Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”

TNIV: 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

KJV:    58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

NASB:   58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.


Many critics are spreading their derogation to NWT about this verse. Trinitarians are very eager to discredit the NWT and the Watchtower by throwing false accusation as tampering the Word of God. Since Jesus also used the word “I am” which Jehovah also said to Moses in Exodus 3:14, then they conclude that they are the same and coequal. However, when studying the name of God as to what it means, some scholars noticed the three letter “HWH” (hawah or havah) has a basic meaning of “to be” indicating of an action word or verb. Since the Hebrew Scriptures don’t use “be verbs” which we know as is, was, are, were, am, and will, the main verb “to be” in the Hebrew language means that it had became, it is (becoming) or will become. Thus, when a word is described as it had became or it is becoming or will become, all words pertaining to an action use Hebrew verbs that indicates “to be”. Therefore when someone states “he was a doctor, he is the father, or he will become king”, the word/s used to identify the becoming of such a person or thing has one meaning which is “to be”. Thus, when Jehovah spoke to Moses as to who is he and said “I am who I am”, he basically mean that “He is the one who was, who is and who will be.” This is the basic meaning of his name as he introduced his name to Moses as Jehovah (YHWH). The Watchtower believes on the meaning of the name of God (YHWH) thus in NWT they rendered it as “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHATEVER I SHALL PROVE TO BE”. The word “prove” can mean to show but “prove” is deeper in its context. The word “prove” as used by God to identify himself indicates that he wanted to show to all his all-being with valid reasons. This includes his nature and qualities to be presented in public with proofs that can be perceived in many ways. Since God introduced himself to Moses as “Jehovah” and “I am who I am” we can say it as congruent but not equal. Not equal because the word “I am” is only the meaning of the name Jehovah. In dictionary the words may be the same in a certain use but not the same in its own definition. One word may use to substitute the other word based on how it is being used and so they are said to be congruent however, a word is not always possible to substitute to a certain word when it does not shows its concordance to the context of the sentence or statement. Words can be used alternately when it is possible to do so however, their own definition might vary for not all the definition of one word is the same as to other word and so they are not equal but can be congruent when use alternately to modify the meaning of the other word. Thus we cannot use the word “I am” as a name for God but rather it is a word that identifies him in another context. When an ordinary someone say “I am who I am”, he is basically saying that he is the one who himself really is, thus it means he is showing his real identity as to who he is before, now and then. He is admitting to himself and want to introduce to others that he prefer to show himself as to what he want for himself to be known by the others. That is the same when it comes to Jehovah. He wanted to show himself in his own way. Thus, the Watchtower believed and accepted the definition of Rotherham for the name of God. With regards to the said verse on how we will understand it by its context, we must consider the preceding words of Jesus as to what he is speaking about. When the person contradicts the words of Jesus as Jesus is not yet 50 but has seen Abraham, Jesus answered him on a figurative sense. Of course, Jesus will not say the words “I am” as his name because he is answering the question of the person as to his existence and not as to his name. The words “before Abraham was, I am” is the same as “before Abraham was born, I was born (literally created).” To make the word “I am” satisfy the answer of Jesus, we should map the possible meaning of the word “I am” to the original statement of Jesus. We will take all the meaning of the word “I am” as Jehovah (YHWH), Jesus, God and was (one of the be verbs).

1.      Before Abraham was, Jehovah.

2.      Before Abraham was, Jesus.

3.      Before Abraham was, God.

4.      Before Abraham was, I was.

The first three statements are not showing a thought. The second clause does not connect on the first statement. Only # 4 shows significance. Supposed we will attempt to show the implicit term after was. This will show as the following statements.

1.      Before Abraham was born, Jehovah.

2.      Before Abraham was born, Jesus.

3.      Before Abraham was born, God.

4.      Before Abraham was born, I was born.

It is only the last statement that shows validity and that is saying that he existed before Abraham. Since Jesus was not born literally but figuratively and since the word “born” means came into existence (brought into life) then NWT can render it as “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” The NWT shows that Jesus had been existed before Abraham came into existence which is parallel to any of the statement # 4 and which is in concordance to the implicit statement of Jesus. Actually the word “I am” in Hebrew is “ehyeh” which has a basic meaning of to be or become therefore all of these statements mention by Jesus and Jehovah means they become. “I am who I am” may be written as “I am who I become” and “Before Abraham was, I am” may be written as “Before Abraham was, I become” which shows implicit thought of had became, becoming and will become of his own identity. Please see the links below for a depth discussion about this subject. The word become (or to be) doesn’t only shows its meaning in present tense but also in past and future. Thus, I believe when someone in Hebrew is saying that someone had became, has become or will become they use the Hebrew characters that denotes “to be” even in different tenses i.e. whether past, present or future.



2 responses to this post.

  1. The statement “I am who I am” shows of what a person is in his time. However, “I am who I am” cannot be concluded that at past time he is as what he is in the present. In real life a very shy child or phobic child can become a violent or outrageous child in his teen age or adult age. If that person in his present time says “I am being myself or I am who I am”, could we conclude that he/she in the present is he/she is in the in the past? Certainly no. What about in the coming future, could he still become as violent and outrageous as he is in the present? What if he/she study the Bible and learn to be a good person?”I am who I am” can no longer be used if he/she changed already. God is always the same ever since, he is not changing. But why do the Watchtower used the translation “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be?” Remember, his name means “He causes to become.” Thus, in Deuteronomy 6:4, the statement, “Jehovah (YHWH) is one Jehovah (YHWH)” could possibly transliterated using the meaning of HWH as ‘to become’ as “Yah (Y) causes to become (HWH)one Yah (Y)who causes to become(HWH).” Does this violate the word “I am who I am” which shows of being the same at all time? Certainly no. I am who I am signifies the present qualities and attributes of the person itself. While “He causes to become” means of becoming of what he can be and of what he can do. Thus, from the beginning of the universe he became a Creator, then a Father and God to Jesus and to all his angels, a God to people, savior to men,a warrior to enemies,a judge to wicked and righteous people, a teacher, a healer and others. Thus, he proved to be what he is along with his will at specific time. Is this violating God’s word that God is what he is ever since? No. His qualities and attributes of his becoming is really in him from eternity when everything has not yet come. He is what he causes to become for he possess the qualities of being what he becomes. Thus, even when He is alone before and that universe and everything has not yet come, He is what he is because he is what he is from eternity possessing the qualities, nature and attributes of whatever he becomes along his will.Therefore, the statement, “I shall prove to be whatever I shall prove to be” is very acceptable and in line with the meaning of the name of God. In this context, “I am who I am” is not a name but sounds as of what the person itself means particularly his total being. Jesus words in John 8:58 could be translated as “Before Abraham become (a living person), I become (a living person).

  2. What about the word “I AM” in Exodus 3:14? — The other literal translation of Exodus 3:14 with regards to that is “I become who I become” but has a meaning of God becomes God (as what he is) which violates his ever-existing God or in more acceptable way translation as “I become whatever I become” which has a proper and more profound other translation as “I will be whatever I will be” which is in parallel also to New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT, 1984 Edition) as “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE” which in Tagalog literal translation could be “PATUTUNAYAN KO NGA NA GAYON AKO SA ANUMAN NA PATUTUNAYAN KO NGA NA GAYON AKO”. This translation suggests of his being omnipotent, omniscient, and righteous-loving God – the total being of Jah! *** “I become whatever I become” = “Ako ay nagiging gayon sa anumang ako ay nagiging gayon”. It is not the same as “I became whatever I became” which has a tagalog translation of “Ako ay naging sa anumang ako ay naging” also “I become who I become” is the same in Tagalog as “Ako ay naging sa kung sino ako ay naging”. The name of God “Ya-HWH” means Yah becomes or Yah will be or Yah will become thus logically speaking he introduced himself to Moses as someone as “I will be whatever I will be” which in deeper divine sense is equivalent as “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be” which shows that Jah will prove his being to fulfill his will. **** One thing, “I become whatever I become” is the same as “I will become whatever I will become”. The first one can be in present to future tense. Thus, in Tagalog it could have both renderings as “Ako ay naging gayon sa anumang ako ay naging gayon” or “Ako ay magiging gayon sa anumang ako ay magiging gayon”. However, the first one violates the ever-existing of God plus his full name has a literal translation of “Yah to be” or “Yah to become” (signifying future) in which it shows that Jah will be whatever he will be to prove himself. Thus he became someone at certain past times and will become someone in the future to prove himself and to fulfill his will.**** For example: “Truly, I speak whatever I think” can have both renderings. One is, “Truly, I always speak whatever I think” or “Truly, I will speak whatever I come to think”. Therefore, “I become whatever (the acceptable rendering word) I become” may be translated as “I will become whatever I will become” or “I will be whatever I will be”. “I am who I am” only shows of God being the God Almighty (ever-existing in the sense) but not as what his name reveals that is as someone who prove himself as of his everlasting becoming (being Almighty God) and will become as someone to prove always his righteousness and power. **** Thus, he becomes Creator of the universe to prove his ever-existing as Almighty God. He becomes (proven to be) the Father of all his righteous angels and people, judge of all humankind, king of all, teacher, provider, healer, shepherd, rock, life-giver, destroyer, friend, etc. All he becomes according to what he chooses to become to fulfill his will and to prove his total being as Almighty God in righteous ways! 🙂

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