John 8:58 (Does anybody have anything NEW to say?)
David C. Hindley
dhindley at compuserve.com
Sat Dec 25 06:14:58 EST 1999
Carl & All,
Hopefully this will put a new twist on this issue. <g>
So far, the question seems to be revolving around the topic of implied
predicates. The posts that were of interest to me were Charles' suggestion
that EGW EIMI implies a claim to identity with the speaker in Exodus 3:14
(i.e., EGW EIMI implies hO WN as a predicate), and Steven's response that
there is in reality no implied predicate here but rather a common Greek
grammatical construction meaning "I am (he)" (in other words, a straight
Steven and I have already had a discussion about this some while ago (in
his CompuServe moderator days), and while neither of our positions have
changed, I thought it might be a good idea to interject another pericope
where the phrase EGW EIMI prompted a strong reaction from the hearers.
Grant already brought into the discussion Mark 14:62, which he interpreted
as a case where "the Christ the Son of the Blessed One" was the implied
predicate of Jesus' statement "EGW EIMI."
This is part of an interesting passage, Mark 14:62a, 63-64a ...
14:62a O DE IHSOUS EIPEN EGW EIMI ... 63 O DE ARCIEREUS DIARRHXAS TOUS
CITWNAS AUTOU LEGEI TI ETI CREIAN ECOMEN MARTURWN 64a HKOUSATE THS
62a And Jesus said, "I am ... 63 And the high priest tore his garments,
and said, "Why do
we still need witnesses? 64a You have heard his blasphemy.
If "the Christ the Son of the Blessed One" was the implied predicate in
this passage, it does not closely fit the definition of "blasphemy".
Neither does Mark 14:62b "... and you will see the Son of man seated at
the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." The High
Priest used a circumlocution for the divine name, "the Blessed One," and
it seems as if Jesus replied with another circumlocution, "I am". I cannot
place whether Jesus is answering the High Priest tit for tat or uttered
the divine name in some intended demonstration of power.
Luke, in the parallel passage, almost seems to have Jesus correct the High
Luke 22:70-71 ...
22:70 EIPAN DE PANTES SU OUN EI O UIOS TOU QEOU O DE PROS AUTOUS EFH UMEIS
LEGETE OTI EGW EIMI 71 OI DE EIPAN TI ETI ECOMEN MARTURIAS CREIAN AUTOI
GAR HKOUSAMEN APO TOU STOMATOS AUTOU
70 And they all said, "Are you the Son of God, then?" And he said to them,
"You say that I am." 71 And they said, "What further testimony do we need?
We have heard it ourselves from his
In other words, to the question "are you the Son of God?", Jesus implies
that "you are the one who says that "I am" (i.e., utters the divine name,
represented as a circumlocution, on the Day of Atonement), you should know
better" (or something along this line).
In our previous discussions, Steven had responded to my suggestion that
EGW EIMI is intended to be a circumlocution for the Divine Name by
suggesting that the author of Mark (and Luke, in the parallel passage) was
perhaps ignorant of actual Jewish practices, and merely thought that
claiming to be "the Christ the Son of the Blessed One," or that he would
come "seated at the right hand of Power," was grounds for the charge of
blasphemy by the High Priest.
Steven's current line of reasoning that we have no good reason to assume
that Ex 3:14 (LXX) served as the basis for such a circumlocution does not
ring true to me, because it seems that a circumlocution has to be based on
some specific reference. It should not matter whether the same
construction is used 1,000 times in other contexts if a specific incidence
(where it IS used in connection with a rendering of the divine name)
actually served as the basis for the circumlocution.
I cannot shake my impression that somewhere behind the story of the
Sanhedrin trial lays a source that had Jesus utter the Divine Name,
however transformed the present passages are due to the tendencies of the
authors of Mark or Luke. As for the relationship of this to the original
topic of this thread (John 8:58), note that vs 59 speaks of stoning, which
was the penalty for blasphemy. FWIW, the idea that Jesus uttered the
Divine Name is supported, in part, by Jewish Toledoth stories about him,
and traditions in the Talmud which link his death to stoning.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
==========Original posts ================
Grant Polle said:
>>Edgar, quoting an article, wrote:
>>> He [quoted Author of book] repeatedly demonstrates how a predicate
could be supplied each time EGW EIMI appears in the Gospel of John <<<
So are you here referring to a predicateless sentence where it was implied
according to the context?
Mark 14:61: "Are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed One?"
Mark 14:62 "I am" [the Christ the Son of the Blessed One].
Is this what you mean?? <<
Charles C. Stevens said:
<< It thus seems to me extremely likely that the implied predicate is
supplied by "common knowledge" between Jesus and the inquisitors, in
particular to the likes of LXX Exodus 3:14 "EGW EIMI hO WN" (IMHO echoed
several times in LXX Isaiah, for example 43:25, 45:18, 45:19, 46:4,
The implied predicate in this case would be "hO WN", and the audience
knowing that reference would *reasonably* respond in the manner described.
In other words, ISTM the most probable explanation for the reaction of the
scribes and pharisees to Jesus' ambiguous statement is that *they* took
implied predicate as "hO WN", and were outraged at the implications (a
claim to identity with the speaker in Exodus 3:14), whether Jesus could be
demonstrated to have meant it that way or not! >>
Steven C. Miller said:
>> IMO your suggestion here is simply impossible. First of all, you seem
assume that there is a predicate missing from the phrase EGW EIMI. That is
simply incorrect, the phrase EGW EIMI is a common Greek idiom meaning "I
he" (assuming a male speaker, or "I am she" for a female speaker). One can
find this phrase used this way without any predicate in both Classical
Greek texts as well as the NT and LXX. Second, you seem to suppose that
these two words EGW EIMI could serve as an allusion to the LXX text which
reads: EGW EIMI hO WN (Ex 3:14 LXX). But this is simply impossible for a
number of reasons. The main reason is that the phrase EGW EIMI is just too
common for it to serve as a reminder for that particular passage. Even in
the LXX the phrase EGW EIMI is common. Why should Ex 3:14 pop into their
mind any more than lets say Judges 11:27: EGW EIMI OUC hHMARTON SOI "I
not sinned against you" (2 Kgs 11:5 LXX)? I would guess that given that
Jesus was male, the phrase EGW EIMI EN GASTRI ECW "I am pregnant" would
pop to mind. But why not: EGW EIMI HDIKHSA "I am unjust" (2 Kgs 24:17
Or why shouldn't it bring to mind: EGW EIMI SUNESTRAFHN EPI TON KURION MOU
"I conspire against my lord" (4 Kgs 10:9 LXX)? These last two passage
then been seen as confessions of Jesus' guilt, and thus give ample reason
that he should be stoned. But given how common the phrase EGW EIMI is, it
is simply impossible for these two words by themselves to call to mind any
one passage in the LXX. Then there is the further problem, that if one
assumes that John 8:58 is historical, it is very likely that Jesus was
speaking in Aramaic and not Greek. It is hardly likely that Jesus'
opponents, or even Jesus, would be familiar with the LXX. <<
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