Intro to I AM sayings of Jesus

Below is an introduction into series of studies I conducted on the I AM sayings of Jesus found in the Gospel of John.

 

I Am Sayings (ἐγώ εἰμί, egō eimi). Examines New Testament passages in which Jesus uses the Greek expression “I am” in relation to His divinity. This usage is especially prominent in the Gospel of John.

Since εἰμί (eimi) alone can be translated “I am,” the presence of ἐγώ (egō) serves to add emphasis—“I, yes I, am.” Jesus uses this expression in two primary ways, both of which echo the Old Testament description of Yahweh:

  1. in a simple predicate construction, such as “I am the good shepherd”;
  2. in the absolute sense, without a predicative expression, so that it is rendered simply as “I am.”

“I Am” in Exodus 3:14

The phrase “I am” reflects Exod 3:14, in which God introduces Himself to Moses with an expression usually translated “I am who I am.” The personal name of God reflected in the tetragrammaton, YHWH (יהוה, yhwh), relates to this Hebrew construction. The phrase was meant to convey the eternality, self-existence, and changelessness that belong to God alone.

The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, renders the opening of the phrase in Exod 3:14 as ἐγώ εἰμί (egō eimi), which amounts to a title for God elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa 43:10, 25; 45:18; 46:4; 51:12; 52:6).

Christological Implications

Jesus’ use of ἐγώ εἰμί (egō eimi) in the absolute sense (“I am”) draws on Exod 3:14 and other Old Testament passages where the phrase clearly refers to God. In using the expression, Jesus seems to be explicitly identifying Himself with Yahweh, asserting His eternality, self-existence, and changelessness, and claiming to bear Yahweh’s presence on Earth. Jesus employs this absolute sense of ἐγώ εἰμί (egō eimi) in the Gospels, particularly in the Gospel of John (Matt 14:27; Mark 6:50; 14:62; Luke 22:70; John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:6). The consistent use of the present-tense “I am”—rather than the past-tense “I was”—suggests that the phrase has changelessness in view. Many translations supply the word “he” (“I am he”) to avoid an awkward ending to the phrase; however, this term is not present in the Greek text.

In passages where Jesus makes an “I am” statement, the negative reaction of His opponents reinforces the view that the phrase amounts to a claim to deity. For example, John 18:6 records that those who came to arrest Jesus “drew back and fell to the ground” when He identified Himself with the words “I am.” John may be presenting this event as a theophany, since the people react as though God’s presence were manifested before them. When Jesus describes Himself as “I am” in John 8:58, the Jews attempt to stone Him because they interpret His words as a blasphemous claim to deity. According to Guthrie, “there seems little doubt, therefore, that the statement of 8:58 is intended to convey in an extraordinary way such exclusively divine qualities as changelessness and pre-existence” (Guthrie, New Testament Theology).

In addition to the Gospels, Revelation records Jesus using the phrase “I am” (in the simple predicate construction, rather than the absolute sense). In Revelation 2:23 Jesus says, “I am the one who searches the minds and the hearts”; in Rev 22:16 He says, “I am the root and the descendent of David” (Guthrie, New Testament Theology).

“I Am” Sayings in John’s Gospel

Jesus uses the phrase “I am” to describe Himself with seven metaphors in the Gospel of John. These simple predicate constructions provide insights into Jesus’ view of Himself:

  • “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 48; see also 6:41, 51);
  • “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5);
  • “I am the door” (10:7, 9);
  • “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14);
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25);
  • “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6);
  • “I am the true vine” (15:1; see also 15:5).

Jesus selectively connects some of these claims to the seven signs recorded in John’s Gospel. For example, shortly after He feeds the 5,000 (6:5–14), He claims to be the “bread of life” (6:35). Just prior to healing the man born blind (9:6–7), Jesus calls Himself the “light of the world” (9:5). Immediately before raising Lazarus from the dead (11:43–44), Jesus claimed to be “the resurrection and the life” (11:25).

Bibliography

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1998.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1981.

Manson, William. “The Ego Eimi of the Messianic Presence in the New Testament.” In Jesus and the Christian. London: James Clark, 1967.

 

Jeffrey E. Miller, “I Am Sayings,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

 

 

I would like to do a series of studies on each of these seven statements found in the Gospel of John if possible. Starting here in John 6 “I am the bread of life.”

 

­­Taking a look around we have a few things to remember, John was one of the original 12 disciples also called Apostles. This Gospel is most likely written from Ephesus anywhere from 65-95 AD. While in the Gospel differs from the synoptic Gospels it is still authoritative. It is most likely John is referring to himself when he speaks of the Beloved Disciple. The Gospel of John has often been considered as two books The book of signs (1-12) and the book of glory (13-21).

The section of Scripture we are going to look at today is John 6:22-40 which will primarily take place in the synagogue of Capernaum. While the people come to Jesus looking for a king and Jesus could rightly take that position he never refers to himself as Messiah in this section of Scripture. He uses the term the Son of Man

Verse 23 is the first time in John’s Gospel where Jesus is called Lord!

Why do we come to Jesus for miracles or because we were fed?

Does Jesus answer the crowd? Why do you think he redirects their question?

Verses 30-31 D.A. Carson says, “True, that manna spoiled with time. But what that means, for the crowd, that if Jesus is promising to provide something better, then he had better be prepared to display an even more dramatic miracle than the miracle of the manna itself.

 

6:33. The bread of God is synonymous with the ‘bread of heaven’ (cf. ‘kingdom of heaven’ in Mt., versus ‘kingdom of God’ in Mk. and Lk.). In the Old Testament ‘the bread of God’ refers on occasion to the ‘show-bread’ (niv, ‘food of God’, Lv. 21:6, 8, 17, 21, 22; 22:25); here it refers to Jesus, he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. In addition to establishing a typological reading of the Old Testament, this clause accomplishes three things: (1) it serves as a transition from the thought that Jesus provides the true bread from heaven (vv. 27ff.) to the thought that Jesus is the true bread from heaven (vv. 35ff.); (2) it expands the recipients from Jews to the world, i.e. to lost men and women without distinction, opening up the way to the proposition that the decisive factor is not whether or not one is a member of the Jewish race, an heir of the Mosaic covenant, but whether or not one is taught by God (v. 45), whether or not one believes in Jesus (v. 35) and has been given by the Father to the Son (vv. 37–40); (3) it reminds us that this bread of God is the revealer, the one who has narrated God to us (1:18), the one who alone can tell us heavenly things (3:11–13), the one whose words, because he is the obedient Son, are nothing less than the words of God (5:19ff.).

 

Andres Kostenberger points out that the phrase “that which comes down from heaven” occurs 7x in this discourse.

The Jews are not seeing Jesus for who he is but through their preconceived notions and are motivated by their physical concerns.

The first of his I AM sayings is meant to correct the Jews misunderstanding of the previous verses.

The word for Bread in the GK Is Arton and is used 103 times in the NT. It can also be translated as food, a meal, the bread of the Presence, or to provide for oneself.

When we tend to think of bread it is flour, yeast, water and possibly oil.

However, for Jews most of their food composed of flour mixed with water and baked. 1a the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter hence it was not to be cut but broken. 1b loaves were consecrated to the Lord. 1c of the bread used at the love-feasts and at the Lord’s Table.

James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

In light of the teaching of Jesus about feeding the 5k and being the Bread of Life, what do you make of Luke 4:4; where Christ speaks of man not living off of bread alone.

Also this section of Scripture goes back to the previous chapter with the woman at the well. How the analogies are being made for things that are spiritual and the physical.

In verse 35 what did Jesus mean when he said, the one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again?

 

I Would Love to Hear From You

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