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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 12:07 PM

John 8:58-59
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
The standard Trinitarian technique is to approach John 8:58 in stages. First we are presented with long list of references to Jesus’ other “I am” sayings. In every case, we are asked to accept that Jesus was claiming to be God in every one of these places (regardless of context!)

Finally, we are brought face to face with the Trinitarian piece de resistanceJohn 8:58 – where we are basically asked to accept the rationale of the men who attempted to stone Jesus.

Let’s examine the “I am…” sayings of John's Gospel, and see how many of them can be made to fit the Trinitarian argument from John 8:58. (All quotes are from the NIV unless otherwise stated.)
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:48 AM

#1

John 4:25-26
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."
Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He [ego eimi]."
Notice that the woman had said “When Messiah comes, he will teach us all things”, and Jesus went on to identify himself as the Messiah. (“I who speak to you am he.”) This is a perfectly innocent response. There is no claim to deity here.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:52 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:50 AM

#2

John 6:20
But He said to them, "It is I [ego eimi]; do not be afraid."
The disciples were afraid because they thought they were seeing a spirit. Jesus reassures them (“It is I, do not be afraid.”) This was no spirit – it was the living man, Jesus Christ, whom they knew intimately. There is no claim to deity here.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:53 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:51 AM

#3

John 8:24
"I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am [ego eimi], you shall die in your sins."
Most Bible translations add “he” to the end of “I am” in this verse, with the implied meaning “Unless you believe that I am the Messiah, you will die in your sins.” (The same is true of John 4:26.) You will also notice that the Jews made no attempt to stone him (a surprising show of self-restraint, if Jesus had spoken the Tetragrammaton!)

The Jews obviously did not interpret his words as a claim to deity – on the contrary, they merely ask “Who art thou?” This tells us that they knew he was claiming to be someone, but did not yet know whom he claimed to be. (And whom did he claim to be? Verse 28 will tell us shortly.)

There is no claim to deity here.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:53 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#5 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:52 AM

#4

John 8:28
Jesus therefore said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [ego eimi]."
A superb proof text for the Unitarian position! I use it frequently myself. Notice the context – “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [he.]” This ties in with John 4:26 and John 8:24 (see above.) It is another Messianic claim. The Jews do not take it as a claim to deity, nor do they see it as blasphemous. (Notice also the complete absence of stones!)

Adam Clarke’s Commentary confirms the point:John 8:28 – When ye have lifted up –
When ye have crucified me, and thus filled up the measure of your iniquities, ye shall know that I am the Christ, by the signs that shall follow; and ye shall know that what I spoke is true, by the judgments that shall follow. To be lifted up, is a common mode of expression, among the Jewish writers, for to die, or to be killed.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:55 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:53 AM

#5 (Part I)

John 8:58
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am [ego eimi]."
This the third of three Messianic claims in John 8. Let's consider it in the light of the events which have gone before.

Already, the Jews were restless. He had baffled them by his confidence and his inscrutable sayings; he had offended them by implying that he was greater than Abraham, implying that they were “under bondage”, implying that they did not know God, implying that God was his Father, implying that they were not the children of Abraham, and implying that they were not the children of God.

Their reactions were mixed. Some believed that he had a devil, and was mad. Some thought he was merely arrogant. Others believed on him. It is interesting to note that these Jews who believed on him, were the very Jews who sought to stone him at the end of the chapter. But by this stage, even they had been pushed too far.

Jesus had said that they were liars; he had claimed to be greater than Abraham. This was utterly infuriating - and their anger reaches its climax in a rash attempt to stone him. Were they trying to stone him for blasphemy? Obviously not, for they already believed on him. But now they were angered and confused by his accusations, and frustrated by his enigmatic answers.

Just as the members of his own synagogue had tried to push him off a cliff for claiming that he was the Messiah and telling them that he would preach to the Gentiles, now these Jews tried to kill him for claiming to be the Messiah. Having believed on him at the first, they now no longer believed on him. If he was the Messiah, would he truly have said such things? The Jews did not believe so.

That was their greatest mistake.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:56 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#7 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:54 AM

#5 (Part II)



Trinitarians will say that the Jews attempted to stone Jesus because he had applied the Divine Name to himself, thereby committing blasphemy (in their eyes, at least.) But I am not happy with this argument. It relies on too many assumptions – the first of which is that the Jews are acting lawfully, and the second of which is that the Jews were sufficiently discerning to distinguish a legitimate stoning offence from an unlawful judgement.

By way of highlighting the problems for the Trinitarian argument, I’d like you to join me in a brief mental exercise. Let’s review a number of counterpoints which were once presented to me by Ronald Fay (Teaching Fellow of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois.)
  • How many times did the Jews try to stone Jesus?
    I can think of only two occasions – John 10:30 & 8:59. But what of it?

    See here:

    Luke 20:6.
    But if we shall say, From men; all the people will stone us: for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.

    There was no blasphemy on this occasion... but the Pharisees realise that the danger of stoning is painfully real. For this reason, an attempted stoning cannot be taken as proof that blasphemy has been committed. It can only be taken as proof that a restless mob has been enraged.

  • Perhaps the Jews picked up stones because blasphemy had to be dealt with on the spot, and if it was not, then it was let go.
    But even if we grant this supposition, it merely begs the question “How do Trinitarians intend to prove that this was blasphemy?”

    In any case, according to Jewish law, the accused had to face a legitimate trial. There was no way of performing the execution unless every legal procedure had been followed to the letter. That's why the trial of Christ was a farce - because it's possible to show that the Sanhedrin broke a myriad of rules during the course of the whole affair. The attempted stoning of John 8 was a defiant breach of the Law. We can confirm this by cross-referencing it with the occasion when the Jews were about to stone the adulterous woman. Their defence is "We caught her in the very act", which shows that they had actually formed a legitimate case. The woman had been found guilty by due process of law; now she was to be stoned. It wasn't a spontaneous event.

  • But the amount of times the Jews were going to kill Him quite clearly shows that he did something to upset them, and blasphemy would make the most sense.
    Not necessarily. For if we say that the Jews had construed his words as blasphemy, then what do we do with the apostles – Stephen and Paul, for example? They were actually stoned - but had they committed blasphemy? Had they actually said anything which might be construed as blasphemy? Had they broken any laws whatsoever? (Since both men where inspired by God at the time, I believe the answer must necessarily be a resounding “No!”) Mere stoning – nor even the threat of stoning – is not sufficient to prove that blasphemy had occurred, nor is it sufficient to prove that people believed it had occurred. Moreover, a spontaneous stoning (as in the case of John 8:59 is even more questionable.
Pure logic tells us that if the Jews had any legitimate complaint against Christ - especially if they could back it up with the Law of Moses - it would have been raised at the trial. But when we arrive at the trial, we find that neither the Romans nor the Jews could find anything wrong with his ministry, and that for this very reason, it became necessary to present false witnesses (whose testimony did not agree!) You can see for yourself that they dredged up everything which might possibly be used against him - right down to his statements about "raising up the temple" (of his body), which they clearly misrepresented.

We must therefore ask ourselves why incidents such as Matthew 12:2, John 5:18, 8:58 & 10:30 were never raised at the trial - and the two simple answers that I arrive at, are these:
  • That Christ succeeded in explaining himself in Matthew 12:2, John 5:18 & 10:30 (as the text itself clearly shows.)
  • That his comments in John 8 (including verse 58), though infuriating and (at face value) did not actually constitute a breach of any law that was currently on the books.
Take note, also, of the build-up to John 8:59. During the course of their discussion with Jesus, the Jews categorically state that they believe Jesus to be:
  • A Samaritan.
  • One who is possessed by a "devil."
So even before verse 58, they had made up their minds about him - and they had concluded that he was either deranged or apostate. At this point, just about anything is going to tip them over the edge.

Remember – this incident should have been raised at the trial, if Jesus was pronouncing the Tetragrammaton and/or claiming to be God. There would have been no need of false witnesses if he had spoken the Divine Name. But John’s Gospel does not even hint that the Jews had attempted to stone Jesus for blasphemy on this occasion – indeed, there were other occasions on which they had attempted to take Jesus’ life without any such allegation whatsoever. We also find that they tried to kill the apostles (on many occasions), sometimes accusing them of blasphemy. (Though we know that the apostles did not blaspheme at all.) It is therefore unwise to treat the reaction of the Jewish mob (both here and elsewhere) as proof that “Jesus must have meant such-and-such.”

The Jews were frequently hostile without good reason - and frequently mistaken, as Jesus himself noted on several occasions.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#8 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:57 AM

#5 (Part III)



In the light of his previous Messianic claims, we can now understand that Jesus' statement in verse 58 is merely a reference to his foreordained role as Messiah – which was determined by God, even before He called Abraham out of Ur. We find an echo in the book of Revelation, where Jesus is referred to as “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (itself a non-literal reference, as even Trinitarians will agree.)

Commenting on this phrase, John Gill (Exposition of the Entire Bible) writes:…he may be said to be "slain from the foundation of the world"; in the decree and purpose of God, by which he was set forth, or foreappointed to be the propitiation for sin, and was foreordained, before the foundation of the world, to redeem his people by his blood, and in the promise of God immediately after the fall of man, that the seed of the woman should have his heel bruised, and he himself should bruise the serpent's head, which made it as sure as if it was then done;

and in the sacrifices, which were immediately upon this offered up, and were types of the death and sacrifice of Christ; and in the faith of the saints, which brings distant things near, and considers them as if present; and also in his members, in Abel, and others, in whom he suffered, as he still does in his people;

to which may be added, that such is the efficacy of the bloodshed and death of Christ, that it reached to all the saints from the beginning of the world, for the justification of their persons, the atonement of their sins, and cleansing from them; for the remission of sins, that are past, and for the redemption of transgressions under the first testament; for Old Testament saints from the beginning are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, as New Testament ones are.
In fact, I could list any number of OT passages which show that Jesus is prefigured in a variety of ways:
  • He is prefigured by the "sacrifice" of Isaac.
  • He is prefigured by the Passover lamb.
  • He is prefigured by the brasen serpent on the pole in the wilderness.
  • He is prefigured by Joseph.
  • He is prefigured by David.
  • He is prefigured by Boaz.
  • He is prefigured by Solomon.
Jesus was also prefigured by Melchizedek, who met Abraham after his victory over the kings of Sodom - and the apostle Paul tells us plainly that Melchizedek (a king-priest) was representative of the Lord Jesus Christ: Hebrews 7:1-10
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

A secondary aspect of this passage is the allusion to "Levi also", whom Paul tells us "payed tithes in Abraham", despite being "yet in the loins of his father." This is the same language that is used of Christ's prefiguring. Does it mean that Levi also pre-existed? No, not at all! The symbolism is clear: before Abraham, Jesus was predestined for his Messianic role - but he did not pre-exist.

This is confirmed by Jewish apocryphal literature...For this is what the Lord of the world has decreed: He created the world on behalf of his people, but he did not make this purpose of creation known from the beginning of the world so that the nations might be found guilty . . . But He did design and devise me [Moses], who was prepared from the beginning of the world to be the mediator of the covenant.

Testament of Moses, 1:13, 14
...and also by standard authorities:
  • That any expression or vehicle of God’s will for the world, His saving counsel and purpose, was present in His mind, or His ‘Word,’ from the beginning is a natural way of saying that it is not fortuitous, but the due unfolding and expression of God’s own being. This attribution of pre-existence indicates religious importance of the highest order. Rabbinic theology speaks of the Law, of God’s throne of glory, of Israel and of other important objects of faith, as things which had been created by God, and were already present with Him, before the creation of the world. The same is also true of the Messiah. It is said that his name was present with God in heaven beforehand, that it was created before the world, and that it is eternal.

    But the reference here is not to genuine pre-existence in the strict and literal sense. This is clear from the fact that Israel is included among these pre-existent entities. This does not mean that either the nation Israel or its ancestor existed long ago in heaven, but that the community Israel, the people of God, had been from all eternity in the mind of God, as a factor in His purpose.

    [...]

    This is true of references to the pre-existence of the Messiah. It is his ‘name,’ not the Messiah himself, that is said to have been present with God before creation. In Pesikta Rabbati 152b is said that ‘from the beginning of the creation of the world the King Messiah was born, for he came up in the thought of God before the world was created.’ This means that from all eternity it was the will of God that the Messiah should come into existence, and should do his work in the world to fulfill God’s eternal saving purpose.

    Mowinckel, S. (1954), He Who Cometh

  • When the Jew said something was ‘predestined,’ he thought of it as already ‘existing’ in a higher sphere of life. The world’s history is thus predestined because it is already, in a sense, preexisting and consequently fixed. This typically Jewish conception of predestination may be distinguished from the Greek idea of preexistence by the predominance of the thought of ‘preexistence’ in the Divine purpose.

    Dewick, E.C. (1912), Primitive Christian Eschatology, The Hulsean Prize Essay for 1908

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 08:42 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#9 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 08:58 AM

#5 (Part IV)



Mowinckel and Dewick have confirmed a vital principle that we find all throughout Scripture - the principle of predestination (NOT pre-existence) in which things (and people) are spoken of as existing, when in fact they are merely promised, predestined, planned, or conceived in the mind. God Himself, "calleth those things which be not as though they were." (Romans 4:17.)

In Genesis 15:18, for example, God says that He has given the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed. Yet Abraham never possessed that land, and he still does not have it to this day. God referred to this gift in the past tense, but Abraham understood that He used figurative language. He knew that God meant "This land is predestined to be the land of you and your seed."

Ephesians 2:5-7 also uses the present tense in reference to a future event:Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Paul says that we have been "raised up together" and "made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" - even though this has not yet occurred.

Verse 22 of John 17 contains identical language. Here, Jesus speaks of the disciples in a curious way. He says:And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one
That same "glory" which had been "given" to the son (though of course it had not yet been literally given) is now referred to as if it had already been given to the disciples. Yet we know that this was not the case. Jesus is referring to the Second Advent and the reward of his followers. His words, therefore, must be read in this context.

Standard authorities agree:
Jesus possessed this glory before the foundation of the world in the sense that it was divinely purposed for him. He knew that his Messianic work had been fixed, and was kept in store for him.

[...]

We conclude, then, that these three passages in John [6:62; 8:58; 17:5] in which Jesus alludes to his pre-existence, do not involve the claim that his pre-existence was personal and real. They are to be classed with the other phenomena of the Messianic consciousness of Jesus, none of which have to do with metaphysical relationships with the Father.

Gilbert, G.H. (1899), The Revelation of Jesus, A Study of the Primary Sources of Christianity
But the figurative language of John 17 does not end there.
  • In verse 4, Jesus speaks of his death as if it had already been accomplished - even though it was yet to occur.

  • Verse 11 - "I am no longer in the world..." - though of course he clearly was still in the world.

  • Verse 18 - "I have sent them..." (referring to his disciples) even though he had not yet sent them.
We see this principle operating again, when God speaks to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 1:5.
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
So, even before Jeremiah was "formed in the belly", and even before he came out of the womb, God, says that He had known Jeremiah, sanctified Jeremiah, and ordained Jeremiah as a prophet. Does this mean that Jeremiah literally pre-existed? Naturally not.

The same applies, therefore, to Jesus claim that "before Abraham was, I am"; that is to say, before Abraham was, Christ had already been prefigured, sanctified and ordained as:
  • The Messiah.

  • The King of the Jews.

  • The High Priest and redeemer of his people.

  • The "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 08:44 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#10 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:01 AM

#5 (Part V)



Jesus’ words in verse 58, therefore, cannot possibly be divorced from the context which he himself has established in the previous verses:John 8:56
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Past tense; figurative language. The Jews misunderstand, taking this as a claim to literal pre-existence:John 8:57
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
But Jesus had not said that he had seen Abraham. He said that Abraham had seen his [Christ’s] day!

What does he mean by this? Let the following Trinitarian commentators be our guide...
  • B. W. Johnson – The People’s New Testament:

    John 8:56 - Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day . . . and was glad...
    Saw it in promise by prophetic vision; whether or not "Abraham was greater," he rejoiced in the hope of the revelation of Christ.

  • Matthew Henry’s Commentary, on Genesis 17:

    Verse 15-22 –
    Here is the promise made to Abraham of a son by Sarai, in whom the promise made to him should be fulfilled. The assurance of this promise was the change of Sarai's name into Sarah. Sarai signifies my princess, as if her honour were confined to one family only; Sarah signifies a princess. The more favours God confers upon us, the more low we should be in our own eyes. Abraham showed great joy; he laughed, it was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Now it was that Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day; now he saw it and was glad, John 8:56.

  • Adam Clarke’s Commentary:

    By laughing Abraham undoubtedly expressed his joy at the prospect of the fulfillment of so glorious a promise; and from this very circumstance Isaac had his name (yitschak), which we change into Isaac, signifies laughter; and it is the same word which is used in the verse before us: Abraham fell on his face, (vaiyitschak), and he laughed; and to the joy which he felt on this occasion our Lord evidently alludes, Joh_8:56 : Your father Abraham Rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was Glad. And to commemorate this joy he called his son’s name Isaac. See note on Gen_21:6.

  • John Gill’s Exposition:

    Genesis 17:17 - Then Abraham fell upon his face,....
    In reverence of the divine Being, and as amazed at what was told him:

    and laughed;
    Not through distrust and diffidence of the promise, as Sarah did, for he staggered not at that through unbelief, but for joy at such good news; and so Onkelos renders it, "and he rejoiced", with the joy of faith; it may be our Lord refers to this in Joh_8:56; he saw Christ in the promise of Isaac, and rejoiced that he should spring from his seed…

  • John Wesley’s Commentary:

    Genesis 17:17 - Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed –
    It was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Now it was that Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day, now he saw it and was glad, Joh_8:56, for as he saw heaven in the promise of Canaan, so he saw Christ in the promise of Isaac, and said, Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old? - He doth not here speak of it, as at all doubtful, for we are sure he staggered not at the promise, Rom_4:20, but as wonderful, and that which could not be effected but by the almighty power of God.
So we have an undeniable connexion between John 8:56 and Genesis 17. This is perfectly consistent with the context of Jesus’ words, which refer specifically to things which have already occurred in the past, that are now being fulfilled in him.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 08:46 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#11 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:03 AM

#5 (Part VI)



Earlier in this chapter, the Jews had asked Jesus if he literally pre-existed. ("Hast thou seen Abraham?" Now he gives them an answer (of the type that he gave when he said that "Abraham saw my day"), but he does not elaborate.

Thus:John 8:58
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Trinitarians will claim that Jesus was quoting Exodus 3:14, where the name of God (according to most Bibles) is revealed as "I AM." Let us examine this Divine declaration, and see if it can be reconciled with the Trinitarian argument.

The name of God as revealed in Exodus 3:14, is actually "I WILL BE", not "I AM." Most Bibles today have "I AM", but this is largely due to the fact that they follow the lead of the LXX, which also uses "I AM." (In fact, it actually says "I AM THE BEING ONE", which is not what Jesus had said at all.)

Unfortunately, "I AM" is a wrong translation, and therefore fails to convey the true sense of God's message to Moses. This can be proved by examining the Hebrew itself, which reads as follows:EHYEH ASHER EHYEH, EHYEH
The word ehyeh normally means 'I will be' rather than 'I am', and is so translated elsewhere (usually in God's affirmation about Himself) such as in verse 12 of this same chapter:But I will be with you ...
However it also occurs in the ordinary conversation of Israelites, e.g :
  • Judges 11:9
    If you bring me home again to fight with the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head.

  • I Samuel 23:17
    ... you shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.

  • II Samuel 15:34
    I will be your servant, O king ...
Other examples will be found in I Samuel 18:18, II Samuel 16:18-19, and Isaiah 3:7; 47:7.

In every case, the word ehyeh means "I will be." That is a simple and incontrovertible fact of Hebrew grammar. It is confirmed by standard authorities, who consistently render EHYEH ASHER EHYEH in the following way:
  • The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915 Edition): I will be that I will be.

  • The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (1981 Edition): I will be that I will be.

  • The Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (1996 Edition): I shall be the one who will be.
Transliterating "I will be that I will be" from Exodus 3:14 into English without the vowels, we arrive at...'hyh 'shr 'hyh.
...which uses...the Hebrew 'hyh, in its common imperfect, first person, and singular form.

Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, note Table N; Gesenius' Grammar; The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew.
The Hebrew 'hyh (Strong's #1961) is a "to be" verb. This is the same verb as in Exodus 3:12: "I will be with you." Most English versions of the Bible (even those versions which translate Exodus 3:14 as, "I am who I am") translate Exodus 3:12 as "I will be." The fuller expression (EHYEH ASHER EHYEH) when literally translated, must therefore read "I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE." But what does this mean?

In the introduction to his Emphasised Bible, J.B. Rotherham demonstrates that the repetition of the verb either side of asher is a common Hebrew idiomatic construction. Here are some examples from his translation:
  • I Samuel 23:13
    And they went whithersoever they could go.

  • II Samuel 15:20
    Seeing I go whither I may go.

  • II Kings 8:1
    And sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn.
Thus, in Exodus 3:14, EHYEH ASHER EHYEH means "I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE." The related name (Yahweh) is the causative form of hayah ("to be").

The relevance of this is seen when we find that the same construction appears in the preface to the declaration of the divine Name in Exodus 34.

Here, Moses had asked to see God's glory - and in Exodus 33:19, God replied:I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD'; And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
In Romans 9:15 the apostle Paul quotes this verse, adding...So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills.
...which demonstrates that he understood the Name to be "I WILL BE."

The KJV (following the LXX) mistakenly translates it as "I AM", but contradicts this by accurately translating the same imperfect verb in almost every other instance. Thus, from the KJV itself, a list of those places – which is by no means exhaustive:
  • Exodus 3:12: "I will be."
  • Exodus 4:12: "I will be."
  • Exodus 4:15: "I will be."
  • Deuteronomy 31:23: "I will be."
  • Joshua 1:5: "I will be."
  • Joshua 3:7: "I will be."
  • Judges 6:16: "I will be."
  • Judges 11:9: "I will be."
  • II Samuel 7:14: "I will be."
  • II Samuel 15:34: "I will be."
  • I Chronicles 17:13: "I will be."
  • I Chronicles 28:6: "I will be."
  • Jeremiah 11:4: "I will be."
  • Jeremiah 24:7: "I will be."
  • Jeremiah 30:22: "I will be."
  • Jeremiah 31:1: "I will be."
  • Jeremiah 32:38: "I will be."
  • Ezekiel 11:20: "I will be."
  • Ezekiel 36:28: "I will be."
  • Ezekiel 37:23: "I will be."
  • Zechariah 8:8: "I will be."
If Trinitarians were consistent, they would take these verses - including the "I will be" of Exodus 3:12, which arrives just two verses before the Tetragrammaton (translated "I AM" in the KJV) - to read "I am", not "I will be."

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:56 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#12 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:04 AM

#5 (Part VII)



The rendering "I WILL BE" is far more consistent with the context of Exodus 3, which refers constantly to future events, and the part which both Moses and God Himself will play in their outworking.

Let's see how the passage comes across when we take into account the prophetic nature of God's declaration to Moses:Exodus 3:10-21
Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

And he said, Certainly I will be with thee;
and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
And God said unto Moses, I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I WILL BE hath sent me unto you.

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:

And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.
And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.

And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty.
Both logically and textually, therefore, the passage reads more clearly when we translate the Tetragrammaton as "I WILL BE."
A contemporary scholar confirms:Such a translation as "I am what I am" appears to be ruled out completely by the fact that the verbs here are imperfects. "I am" is the normal translation of the Hebrew perfect, not an imperfect.

[...]

The translation offered here relates this explanation of the name to covenants with the patriarchs. As such it was a basis of assurance concerning Yahweh's presence and support.

This thought is made explicit in the verse that follows, and the proper name Yahweh, the memorial name, is made synonymous with the description "I shall continue to be what I have always been." This makes the description a restatement of Yahweh's faithfulness an assurance that he will fulfil the covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Watts, J. Washington (1977), A Distinctive Translation of Exodus with An Interpretative Outline
(Watts was Professor of Old Testament at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1930-1968.)

See also Hertz:Most moderns follow Rashi in rendering 'I will be what I will be' i.e., no words can sum up all that He will be to His people, but His everlasting faithfulness and unchanging mercy will more and more manifest themselves in the guidance of Israel.

The answer which Moses receives in these words is thus equivalent to, 'I shall save in the way that I shall save.' It is to assure the Israelites of the fact of deliverance, but does not disclose the manner.

Hertz, J.H. (1950), The Pentateuch and Haftorahs
If we indulge the Trinitarian claim, and accept (for the sake of argument) that Jesus was quoting the LXX and claiming the Divine Name for himself, how are we to explain the fact that the Greek of John 8:58 incompatible with the Greek of Exodus 3:14 in the LXX?

Remember, the LXX rendition of the Hebrew in Exodus 3:14 is "I AM THE ONE", or "I AM THE BEING ONE" - not "I AM." Since both the LXX and the NT are written in Greek, the LXX rendition would be necessary if John wanted us to believe that Jesus had applied the words of Exodus 3:14 to himself - and yet, it does not appear in that form.

The hopeless subjectivity of the standard Trinitarian argument from the "I am..." sayings of John is highlighted by a modern authority on Biblical Greek:It has become fashionable among some preachers and writers to relate Jesus use of the words 'I am' in the Gospel according to John, in all, or most, of their contexts, to God's declaration to Moses in Exodus 3:14, and to expound the passages concerned as if the words themselves have some kind of magic in them.

Some who have no more than a smattering of Greek attribute the 'magic' to the Greek words ego eimi. I wish briefly to draw attention to the normality of the Greek in all such passages, and the unlikelihood of the words ego eimi being intended to suggest any special significance of this kind.

[…]

The verb `to be' is used differently, in what is presumably its basic meaning of `be in existence,' in John 8:58: _prin Abraam genesthai ego eimi, which 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.'

If we take the Greek words in their natural meaning, as we surely should, 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.

[…]

Now the Septuagint was the translation done for the benefit of the increasing number of Greek-speaking Jews a couple of centuries earlier, so naturally it is the version of the Old Testament that is normally referred to in the New Testament, and certainly the one most likely to be known to the early readers of John's Gospel.

Its translation of Exodus 3:14 follows the sense (as understood by the Jewish translators) rather than the exact form of the Hebrew: ego eimi ho on...Ho on apestalke me, which translates into English literally as 'I am the being one', and 'the being one has sent me'.

Now the words ego eimi here are the emphatic pronoun and the copula, as in most of the passages cited above [the alleged “I AM” sayings]; and ho on represents a relative clause which in its first occurrence would be hos eimi and in its second occurrence would be hos esti, but the most natural translation into English of both would be 'the one who is (who really exists)', the verb having it's basic meaning (and being so accented), and not being a mere copula. In neither is there any possibility of inserting an emphatic ego.

So the emphatic words used by Jesus in the passages referred to above [including John 8:58] are perfectly natural in their contexts, and they do not echo the words of Exodus 3:14 in the normally quoted Greek version. Thus they are quite unlikely to have been used in the New Testament to convey that significance, however much the modern English versions of the relevant passages, following the form of the Hebrew words, may suggest it.

McKay, Kenneth L. (1996), The Expository Times, 107.10, p303.
But leaving aside the debate over whether or not "I AM" is the best interpretation of the Hebrew text, it cannot be denied that what God says in the Septuagint (LXX) translation of Exodus 3:14, is "I AM THAT I AM." He does not simply say "I AM" - he say "I am", and then supplies the name: "I AM."

This is confirmed by the following words "...say unto them, I AM hath sent me." So we know that the ]name itself (according to the Greek of the LXX) is "I AM." What God does not do, is present us with the same construction as Jesus' answer in John 8:58. He does not simply say "I AM" (ego eimi), as Jesus does in John 8:58.

Now, since we can see from the text that "I AM" is the name itself, how can anybody claim that Jesus is applying this name to himself by simply saying "I am"? In order to make such a claim, he would need to say exactly what God had said: "I am THAT I AM." (Or, in other words, "I AM is my name.") But he doesn't! What he says is "Before Abraham was, I am."

Adding the word "he" (as our Trinitarian commentators have done in the case of Jesus' other "I am" sayings), we have "Before Abraham was, I am he" - which provides us not only with a proper grammatical construction...Before Abraham was, I am he
...but also an affirmation that is perfectly consistent with Christ's other uses of ego eimi.

The phrase "Before... I am he" may sound odd, but it has an Old Testament precedent:Isaiah 43:13
Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
If the Jews had any passage of Scripture in mind when they heard Jesus' words, this verse is most likely to be it. Assuming that Jesus was attemping to apply God's own words to himself, they could be expected to respond in the way that they did.

We see, therefore, that Jesus' statement is perfectly explicable in its own context, and finds grammatical support from other passages of Scripture.

By contrast, the Trinitarian interpretation turns this single verse into a totally unique statement - and of course, it is not hard to see why. Trinitarians do this because they want to establish a link between John 8:58 and the LXX translation of Exodus 3:14. So again, I say that the argument is entirely subjective.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#13 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:05 AM

#5 (VIII)


So how are we to interpret Jesus' words in verse 58? By reference to his previous statement � a statement which referred specifically to his predetermined (or predestinated) role as Messiah; the same role which had been prophesied and symbolically revealed in the life of Abraham:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

To reach for Exodus 3:14 when the context demands Genesis 17 (which Christ himself has already recalled!) is nothing less than wilful subjectivism. The meaning of this passage is made clear when we follow Jesus' own train of thought:
  • He first establishes the context by referring to his figurative "pre-existence" (as confirmed by the Trinitarian scholars I have cited), deliberately linking it with a Messianic claim.
  • The Jews misunderstand this as a reference to literal pre-existence.
  • Finally (verse 58) he repeats his Messianic claim, deliberately linking it (once again) with his previous references to figurative pre-existence ("Before Abraham was, I am [he]", meaning "the Messiah." This matches perfectly with Jesus' previous Messianic claims where the words "I am" appear - to which, as we have already seen, Trinitarian commentators add the word "he", since it is clearly implied. Indeed, we are about to see a few more examples of this.
As with some of his other Messianic claims (Luke 4, etc.) this provoked the crowd, and they attempted to kill him unlawfully. But notice the absence of an accusation of blasphemy, the absence of any representative of the Law, and the previous accusation of "thou art a Samaritan."

This accusation is significant because the Samaritans were known for their love of magic and mysticism. Many false prophets arose from Samaria, and some of these had claimed to be miracle-workers. Jesus is elsewhere accused of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub - which, if it had been true, would make him a false prophet. The accusation "thou art a Samaritan" is virtually equivalent.

Having dismissed the primary Trinitarian argument in this category, let us now return to our list of �I am�� sayings in the Gospel of John.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#14 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:06 AM

#6

John 13:19
"From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am [ego eimi.]”
A clear echo of John 8:28 – which, as we have already seen, was nothing more than a Messianic claim.

Thus, from A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament (1933), we have:That I am he (hoti ego eimi).
As Jesus has repeatedly claimed to be the Messiah (Joh_8:24, Joh_8:58, etc.). Cf. also Joh_14:29 (pisteusete here); Joh_16:4.
I am intrigued by the fact that in his notes on John 13:19, Robertson refers to John 8:58 as one of the occasions when Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, while in his notes on John 8:58, he declares his belief that this was one of the occasions when Jesus claimed to be God. (The two claims are mutually exclusive!)

But the point is well made - John 8:58 is a Messianic claim, and Robertson confirms it here, where he also adds "he" to the end of another "I am" statement.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:35 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#15 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:07 AM

#7

John 18:5
They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said to them, "I am [ego eimi.]" And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them.
The meaning is clear from the context. They say that they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus identifies himself as Jesus of Nazareth. (See also John 4:26.)

There is no claim to deity here.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:34 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#16 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:08 AM

#8

John 18:6
When therefore He said to them, "I am," [ego eimi] they drew back, and fell to the ground.
Robertson comments:
John 18:6 - Fell to the ground (epesan chamai).
Second aorist active indicative of pipto with first aorist ending (-an). This recoil made them stumble. But why did they step back? Was it the former claim of Jesus (I am, ego eimi) to be on an equality with God (Joh_8:58; Joh_13:19) or mere embarrassment and confusion or supernatural power exerted by Jesus? B adds Iesous which must mean simply: “I am Jesus.”
He is clearly undecided, even though he agrees with the standard Trinitarian argument from John 8:58. But at least he has the decency to point out that another ancient text has “I am Jesus”, which makes more sense in the context of John 18:6.

Either way, Christ’s meaning is clear – and verse 9 confirms it. There is no claim to deity here. The response of the soldiers is nothing more than sheer amazement and awe at the sight of a man who is willingly surrendering himself into their hands, despite what he must know will surely follow.

If the Jews had interpreted this as a claim to deity it would surely have been raised at the trial which took place shortly after these events.

And yet, it was not.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:37 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#17 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:10 AM

#9

John 18:8
Jesus answered, "I told you that I am [ego eimi]; if therefore you seek Me, let these go their way,"
Jesus repeats his original answer – “I am he [Jesus of Nazareth]”, which vindicates my exegesis of verse 6. Robertson finds no significance in the words “I told you that I am”, while John Gill’s Commentary provides an astute analysis:
John 18:8 - Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he,...
This he said, upbraiding them with their stupidity; signifying he was ready to deliver himself up into their hands; and which he did with intrepidity and calmness, only on this condition, with this proviso for his disciples;
Notice that Gill adds “he”, thus rendering the passage “I am he…” Most commentators follow suit, conceding that there is no claim to deity here.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:50 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#18 Evangelion

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 09:11 AM

The Exception Proves the Rule

John 9:9
He [the man who was born blind] kept saying, "I am [ego eimi] the one."
Here we have somebody else using the words “I am” (ego eimi) in the very same way that Jesus did. (I.e. without a supporting qualifier, such as “…the one”, which in this case has been added by the translators.)

Contrary to Trinitarian claims there is nothing mystical, spiritual, wonderful or exclusive about the words “I am.” Jesus was not claiming deity when he used them in John 8:58, and neither was the man who had been born blind. (Notice that the blind man is not accused of blasphemy by anybody!)

At the end of the day, the only option for the Trinitarian apologist is to retreat into his flawed hermeneutic: “When such-and-such is said or done by Jesus, it means that he is God; but when the same thing is said or done by other men, it doesn’t mean that they are God!”

The futility of this objection is manifestly evident.

Edited by Evangelion, 15 July 2006 - 09:51 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#19 splitpea_*

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 02:58 AM

Whew! Long, but super! Thanks! :)

#20 Evangelion

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 10:33 AM

Thanks, splitpea. That argument took an awful lot of work.

I'm so glad you liked it. :)
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




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