“Before Abraham Was Born, I Am”

Understanding John 8:58

 

John 8:1-11 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to him; and he sat down and began to teach them.  3 And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  5 "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?” 6 And they were saying this, testing him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.  7 But when they persisted in asking him, he straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.  9 And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and he was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst.  10 And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”  11 And she said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way.  From now on sin no more.”

 

·          Here’s the situation; the legalistic Pharisees had been following Jesus, trying to entrap him, particularly concerning the, “Law of Moses.”  They were jealous of Jesus, and they felt threatened by him, because Jesus was gathering a considerable following.  Look back at 8:2 and you’ll find Jesus was “teaching” people in the Temple area; that would be tantamount to sticking a firebrand into a hornet’s nest (the hornets being the Pharisees of course).  If they could catch Jesus falsely using the Law of Moses, they would have grounds for accusation. 

 

·          Notice in 8:5-6 the Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman has been caught in adultery, saying they found her, “… in the very act.”  This means these self-righteous gasbags knew exactly where to find this adulterous woman!  The question is, “HOW did they know where she was having sex with her lover?” Hmmm… suspicious isn’t it?

 

·          The Pharisees were mean-spirited, jealous, and greedy; they knew Jesus was tender, merciful and compassionate man; therefore, they appeal to the LETTER of the LAW of Moses, saying, “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?”  In John 8:6 it says they were saying this, testing him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing him. The trap was set!  If Jesus let the woman go without having her publicly stoned, the Pharisees could discredit him publicly.  However, if Jesus said the woman should be stoned to death, and the crowd was incited to hurl rocks at her until she was dead, the Roman government would imprison Jesus, because it was against Roman law to punish anyone by death without their approval.  So what does Jesus do?

 

·          The Lord stooped down, and with his finger wrote something on the ground. What did he write?  I think it was Deuteronomy 19:15, or at least the commandment concerning adultery in the Law of Moses; whatever it was, it did not seem to deter them because 8:7 says, “…they persisted in asking him.” Jesus straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  And again (a second time) Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground. This time the Pharisees reacted much differently, and they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones. 

 

·          I believe what Jesus wrote the second time was the names of three older Pharisees (witnesses) who found the naked woman in adultery, otherwise how did they know where to find this woman caught, “in the very act?”  This is important to answering your question about John 8:58, as you will later see.  By writing their names next to the commandment in the Law of Moses concerning false accusation, in effect, Jesus was accusing them of the very act of adultery themselves!  Embarrassed, the Pharisees angrily leave the scene, then they conspire against Jesus; read on:

 

John 8:12-18 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life."  13 The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You are bearing witness of yourself; your witness is not true."  14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of myself, my witness is true; for I know where I came from, and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from, or where I am going.  15 You people judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.  16 But even if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and He who sent me.  17 Even in your law it has been written, that the testimony of two men is true.  18 "I am he who bears witness of myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness of me.”

 

·          When the Pharisees return come back to Jesus, they are condemning him for accusing THEM of adultery without having a proper “witness” according to the terms of the Law of Moses!  You see, in the Law, if a man accused another without having at least two witnesses, then HE would be stoned to death for making a false accusation!  Below is the quote from the Law of Moses that Jesus refers to in 8:17 above:

 

·          Deuteronomy 19:15-21 “One witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or any wrong in connection with any sin he commits; only on the testimony of two or three witnesses shall a charge be established.  16 If a false witness rises up against any man to accuse him of wrongdoing,  17 Then both parties to the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days.  18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had intended to do to his brother. So you shall put away the evil from among you.  20 And those who remain shall hear and reverently fear, and shall henceforth commit no such evil among you.  21 Your eyes shall not pity: it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Amplified Bible

 

·          Do you see in 8:13 how the Pharisees said to Jesus, "You are bearing witness of yourself; your witness is not true."  The reason for this is because the Law of Moses required at least TWO witnesses to verify an accusation.  If what Jesus wrote in the ground was the names of the Pharisees, as I believe, then in terms of fleshly judgment, the only “witness” Jesus had was himself.  Now you will see why I took so much time to establish context.

 

·          Jesus answered the accusation of the Pharisees and gave them his second “witness” in John 8:16 & John 8:18 when he told them, “But even if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and He who sent me. Even in your law it has been written, that the testimony of two men is true.  I am he who bears witness of myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness of me.”

 

·          Who was Jesus’ witness? GOD the Father who “sent” him!  This alone proves Jesus is not purporting to be “before Abraham” as “God” in John 8:58, but let’s read on, and many more proofs will emerge.  Don’t worry, I will give you the correct meaning of verse 58; right now I am teaching you how to establish CONTEXT.

 

John 8:19 And so they were saying to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me, nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 

 

·          A few comments; Oneness folks say that Jesus is “God” the Father “manifested” in human form (i.e. – manifested in the flesh).  They use this verse, and also John 14:9, “… He who has seen me has seen the Father,” to prove that Jesus is, “God.”  Oneness pastors often describe that looking into the face of Jesus, we see “God.”  They conveniently ignore the context, which always proves that Jesus is a man; the Oneness skirt around the text because they believe if they admit Jesus is a man, somehow they are blaspheming his divine nature.  I know, I used to feel this same way.  However, you don’t find the correct answer by ignoring the clear text of scripture.  Instead, you do so by seeking the TRUTH without prejudice or bias. 

 

·          For example, in John 14:9 the Greek word for “seen” is “heoorakoós” and heoorakoós means, “to perceive; to see with understanding; to be acquainted with.”  What Jesus says in John 14:9 therefore is this, “… he that has become acquainted with me, has become acquainted with the Father.”  The Strong’s reference number for heoorakoós is NT:3708 and if you owned Englishman’s Greek Concordance, you could take this reference number, and find all the places that heoorakoós is used in the NT.  I did this, and here’s a scripture that uses heoorakoós to say that no man has EVER seen (heoorakoós) “God” (Yahweh) before (see below).

 

·          John 1:17-18 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen (heoorakoós) God at any time; the only begotten son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained Him.  NKJV 

 

·          You see, how could John 1:18 use the same word as John 14:9 unless it meant, “to perceive?”  Do you see how important context is?  Even if you did not have Bible software, you could still determine that John 14:9 does not refer to Jesus as, “God,” because in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” 

 

John 8:20-24 These words he {Jesus} spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; and no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come. 21 He said therefore again to them, "I go away, and you shall seek me, and shall die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come."  22 Therefore the Jews were saying, "Surely he will not kill himself, will he, since he says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" 23 And he was saying to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins." 

 

·          In John 8:24 Jesus says, “… for unless you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins?”  Both Trinitarian and Oneness claim that this verse is yet another proclamation by Jesus whereby he claims to be, “God,” as the great, “I am.”  Their argument goes like this (this is what they say):

 

“Jesus said that unless you believe that ‘I AM’ {God}, you shall die in your sins.”  The Oneness claim that this is Yahweh of the OT speaking THROUGH Jesus human body of flesh the same way He did to Moses in Exodus 3:14 when He said, “I AM THAT I AM.” Trinitarian churches say it is a simple claim to “Deity” as, “God the Son,” the second person of the Trinity.  Both Trinitarian and Oneness position justify this nonsense by using John 8:23, because Jesus said, “I am from above,” and again, “I am not of this world.”

 

·          All of this nonsense could be avoided if the AOG & UPC simply read the CONTEXT.  Read on:

 

John 8:25 And so they were saying to Him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "What have I been saying to you from the beginning?  26 I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world."  27 They did not realize that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

 

A.     How could Jesus be “sent” if he was God?

 

B.     Jesus told the Jews he was not referring to himself when he mentioned the One that “sent” him, but he was speaking f the Father.  READ ON

 

John 8:28-30 Jesus therefore said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me.  29 And He who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."   30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in him.

 

A.     Jesus calls himself, “the Son of Man.”  This is a term that all Jews recognized as the title of their coming Messiah, not “God.”  Numbers 23:19 says that God is not a man, nor is He the “son of man.”

 

B.     The phrase Jesus uses, “I am he,” in John 8:28 refers to him as the son of man, and it is the exact same words in John 8:24 when Jesus said, “ For unless you believe that I am he.”

 

C.    Jesus cannot be “God” in John 8:58 or anywhere in this chapter because he said in 8:28, “…the Father taught me,” and in 8:29, “…He has not left me alone,” and in 8:30, “…I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”  If Jesus was God, who is teaching him?  If he were God would he mention being left alone?  And last, but not least, how could he be God while doing what is pleasing to his Father?  Is that God trying to please himself?

 

D.    I am being overtly ridiculous, but you see how strong the doctrinal bias of the churches is when they ignore the overwhelming evidence for a few obscure verses.  READ ON.  Remember, context is always your best friend when you study scripture.  The key to understanding verse 58 is found primarily in verses 40 & 53.

 

John 8:31-41 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. "  33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that you say, 'You shall become free'?"  34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.  35  And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.  36 If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.  37 I know that you are Abraham's offspring; yet you seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you.  38 I speak the things which I have seen with my Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father."   39 They answered and said to him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham.  40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.  41 You are doing the deeds of your father."

 

A.     Jesus tells them, if you want to know the truth I am speaking, you must abide in my word, because my word is what I hear from God.  They Jews just do not understand, because their response is, “We are Abraham’s offspring.”

 

B.     You must understand the level of importance Abraham plays in the minds of these Jews; to them, Abraham is the father of the promises God made to them as a chosen people, because Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, from whence the 12 tribes came.

 

C.    Notice Jesus calls himself, “the son,” and not the Father.

 

D.    Note verse 37; Jesus acknowledges Abraham as the Jews’ father, then rebukes them in verse 39 because they are not acting in love and faith like their father Abraham acted.

 

E.     John 8:40 is the clincher, because it proves BEYOND ALL DOUBT who Jesus is, when he scolds the Jews saying to them, “… you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God.”  How can Jesus refer to himself as God in John 8:58 if he calls himself “a man” that told the truth, which he heard, “from GOD?”

 

 John 8:41-47 They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."  42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on my own initiative, but He sent me.  43 Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear my word. 44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. 45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me.  46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe me? 47  He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."  

 

·          Note especially John 8:42 because Jesus makes yet another clear distinction between himself and God; he tells the Jews, “If GOD were your Father, you would love ME…”  Why?  Because Jesus came from God; in other words, God sent him to the Jews.  The Trinitarian position is that Jesus left his throne in heaven, and came to earth, and God became a man.  This is impossible of course, because Jesus says, “I have not even come on my own initiative, but He sent me.” How could he leave his throne in heaven if he did not come on his own initiative?

 

·          Notice the use of the words, “I speak the truth” in verse 45, and compare it to the SAME words used by Jesus in verse 40, “…a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God.” 

 

·          READ ON and as you read, notice the Jews misinterpret what Jesus tells them.

 

John 8:48-53 The Jews answered and said to him, "Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?"  49 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.  50 But I do not seek my glory; there is One who seeks and judges.  51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death."   52 The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon.  Abraham died, and the prophets also; and you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he shall never taste of death.'  53 Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do you make yourself out to be?"

 

·          In John 8:53 the Jews said to Jesus, “Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham, who died?”  Think about it; why did they ask him this question?  The reason is they MISINTERPRETED  Jesus’ words about eternal life!  This is VERY important for you to understand to comprehend what John 8:58 means.  You see, the Jews dishonor God by dishonoring God’s SON and accusing Jesus of having a demon.

 

·          What you need to understand most however is what happens in John 8:51 & 8:53.  In 8:51 Jesus tells the Jews, “…if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death.”  What is Jesus telling them Kumar?  Isn’t he saying that if they believe in God (the Father) THROUGH his word, they will have eternal life?  Of course this is what Jesus SAYS, however, what the Jews INTERPRET Jesus to be saying is something entirely different.

 

·          So what did these stiff-necked Jews THINK Jesus was saying in John 8:51?  Read John 8:52-53 and just think about it for a few minutes.  Isn’t it true the Jews thought Jesus was promising they could live in their human bodies of flesh forever?  They knew this was impossible, so on the basis of their PERCEPTION (albeit a false perception), they mock Jesus saying to him, “Abraham died… are you GREATER than Abraham?”  In other words, they were saying, “Jesus, Abraham is the greatest of all our spiritual ancestors, and he died, just like all the other great OT prophets.  So if you are saying we can live forever by believing in you, then you are either crazy, OR you are claiming to be GREATER in stature and power than Abraham was.” 

 

·          The fact is, at this point in the conversation, the Jews thought Jesus was crazy, because if they thought he was claiming greater status than Abraham, they would have picked up stones and stoned him to death at that very moment.  You see, it is blasphemy in the minds of the Jews to claim one is greater than Abraham, because he is revered as the greatest of all Israel’s prophets.  READ ON

 

John 8:54-56 Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." 

 

A.     John 8:54 is yet ANOTHER proof Jesus is not God, nor is he claiming to be deity, because he clearly states, “…it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you {Jews} say, 'He is our God.'  Jesus says it very plainly, “MY Father…” is the One you Jews say, “He is OUR God.”  No mistake about it. 

 

B.     Jesus in effect tells the Jews, “I know God and you don’t know Him.”  For proof he uses the Jews’ own words against them, saying of Abraham, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”  Now Abraham was not alive to see Jesus’ day was he?  Abraham lived over 400 years BEFORE Moses was born!  In the Greek text of John 8:56 the word “it” is omitted; Bible translators have erroneously inserted it (no pun intended).

 

C.    What Jesus is saying is that Abraham rejoiced at the day the Messiah would come, and he “SAW” by FAITH, not literally in the flesh.  Now as you read John 8:57, notice that the Jews MISINTERPRET what Jesus said about Abraham rejoicing to see (by faith) his (Jesus) day.

 

John 8:57 The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"

 

·          Did Jesus claim to have actually SEEN Abraham physically with his two eyes?  No!  Jesus said nothing of the sort; all Jesus said was that Abraham rejoiced to see the day the Messiah would arrive.  This is a VERY important point to understand verse 58 and what Jesus says next.

 

John 8:58-59 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."  59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple. NAS

 

·          Why are they trying to stone Jesus?  We know it was not because Jesus claimed to have seen Abraham.  The answer is found to a great extent in the Greek; the words translated, “was born,” are better translated, “existence” (i.e. – meaning to exist).  Also, the word translated as, “before,” is the Greek word, “prín,” from a root word “pros” meaning “superior; first in rank or title.” 

 

Therefore, John 8:58 is more accurately translated as, “Truly, truly I say to you, I exist as superior in rank to Abraham’s existence.”  The UBS Greek text reads, “prín Abraám genésthai egoó eimí” In other words, Jesus is telling these Jews that his rank in the kingdom of God is greater than that of their father Abraham.  Once he said this, the Jews took up stones to stone him to death.

 

SELAH

 

 

 


 

Return to BAS Homepage   ·   Craig's Bible Studies   ·   E-mail Craig   ·   Write Us   ·   Writings & Links to BAS Friends   ·   Q & A   ·   Return to Top of This Page