What is the word for "I am" in John 8:58by The Author on 11/23/10
God bless you Paul, in the wonderful name of our risen lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Many theologians believe that the "I am" of John 8:58 is the "I am" of Exodus 3:14. There may even be some versions of the English Bible that capitalize the I AM in this verse. The Septuagint, or Greek Old Testament does use "Ego Emi" just as does the New Testament Greek.
A problem arises when the Hebrew Old Testament is consulted. The Hebrew verb is "to come to be." It's the Book of Genesis verb in which everything is coming to be. There is some sort of participle form that can be equated to the Greek verb "am" or "was" or "is," but that form occurs only twice (I think) in the Old Testament. Most of the state of being verbs in the Old Testament come from the Hebrew tenses of the main verbs. They are helping verbs.
Hence, other theologians, especially Hebrew scholars, Christian and Jewish, believe that the "I am" of Exodus 3:14 should be translated "I will come to be" as a short form for Jehovah's promises to Moses concerning how He would come to be with Moses and the children of Israel. The discussions have picked up steam in recent generations because of the great interest in the title of the Covenant God of Israel, Jehovah.
One of these days I hope to make a book available with an appendix set aside just for this discussion, but the discussion is a longer one. I especially like what I've seen about the possible relationship between God's explanation of His name in Exodus 3:14 to Moses and the Father's longer explanation of Himself to us in Revelation 1:8:
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
A shorter answer about John 8:58 which is a wonderful blessing is to keep this scripture in its context.
John 8:56-58: Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
How did Abraham see the day of Christ Jesus? By believing God's word. There is a little more about this in Hebrews 11:17 and 19:
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him (Issac) up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him (Christ) in a figure.
Abraham received Christ by faith even though the promise was a long way off. Abraham saw the day of Christ, both his coming and his glory. How? The same way we do... By faith. Christ was in God's heart from before time began:
1 Peter 1:18-21 8 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
Sometimes when things go wrong we wonder how God could ever put up with stuff. The answer is that He sees the end of all things. He sees you and I together with Christ forever and ever. God is very wise. It is (form His standpoint) more than worth it, and, from our human standpoint, we will, surely, one day really understand how right God is.