[B-Greek] John 8:58 as translation greek
mabernathy at isot.com
Thu Feb 3 10:43:22 EST 2005
I just thought I would add my two cents to this discussion of John 8:58.
It seems to me that we have only three assumptions we can make about
direct quotes as they apply to Jesus: 1. Jesus spoke Greek (I don't know
very many scholars who would take this position.), 2. The author has
fabricated the quote for reasons of his own (Some may accept this. I
don't.), 3. All quotes of Jesus represent an honest attempt to translate
His words from either Aramaic or Hebrew.
If the third option is assumed, then we have some basis for clarifying
what Jesus meant by EGO EIMI.
I see only two likely possibilities for what John translated as EGO EIMI.
1. Jesus said eyeh (I am not aware if b-greek has a standard for
This imperfect verb could be used as a reference to the Divine Name but
could also be translated as EGO EIMI.
Although, the meaning of the imperfect has been debated on b-hebrew, I
note that Rabbi Yitzchak understood that it lacks a definite time sense
and interpreted it to mean, "I am He Who has been, Who is now, and Who
will be in the future."
This suggests to me that His listeners would understand EGW EIMI as a
statement of an existence that stretched back in time to the beginning
and continuing at least to the time of the statement if not until the
end of time.
2. Jesus said ani hu.
Ani hu could be translated "I am he." In phrases like "ani hu" which
had no verb, the copulative could be assumed. This could be
interepreted "I am the Messiah." However, I believe that EGO EIMI is an
inadequate translation of "I am he."
Aramaic also used hu as a copulative which brings us back to "I am" as
This brings us back to the possibility that EGO EIMI is a reference to
the Divine Name.
Joseph Baumgarten noted the similarity between ani hu and the substitute
for the Divine Name found in Mishnah Sukk. 4:5.
Others have noted that ani hu is used in the Hebrew Bible primarly in
statements uttered by Yahweh.
I am aware that modern Hebrew uses the participle to translate the
present tense, but I don't know if there is any evidence that this
practice started prior to the time that John wrote.
In Sanhedrin 7:5 the Mishnah states that only those blasphemers who
utter the Divine Name were culpable to the point of death. While the
actions of those Jews in John 8:59 is a mob act and not a legal attempt
at execution, this makes me prone to think that Jesus said eyeh.
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