I am Statements – How Jesus is identified in the Gospels
When Jesus asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?”, the response was “Christ” (Mark 8:29), or “Christ of God” (Luke 9:20), or “Christ, the Son of living God” (Matthew 16:16). “Christ”, “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are synonymous terms. Indeed, Jesus self-identified as the “Son of God” in Luke 22:70, John 10:36, and Matthew 27:43 and the “Son of Man” in Mark 8:38, Luke 5:24, 9:26, 12:8, 22:48. Key references in John are John 4:25-26, John 8:28, John 10:24-25 and John 20:31 where Jesus identifies himself and is also identified as “the Christ,” “the Son of Man,” and “the Son of God”. The main point of the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts, from those who were chosen by Christ, is that “Christ is Jesus.” This is reiterated in Acts 2:36, Acts 5:42, Acts 9:22, Acts 17:3, and Acts 18:15.
Mark 8:29-30 (ESV), You are the Christ
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Luke 9:20-22 (ESV), The Christ of God – The Son of Man
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Matthew 16:15-20 (ESV), You are the Christ, the Son of the living God
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
John 4:25-26 (ESV), Messiah is coming – “I who speak to you am he”
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
John 8:28 (ESV), “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he”
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
John 10:24-25 (ESV), If you are the Christ, tell us – “I told you”
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.”
John 20:31 (ESV), These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Acts 2:36 (ESV), God has made him both Lord and Christ
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Acts 5:42 (ESV), They did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus
42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Acts 9:22 (ESV), that Jesus was was the Christ
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Acts 17:3 (ESV), This Jesus, is the Christ
3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
Acts 18:5 (ESV), Paul was occupied with the logos, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
Erroneous conflation with the Greek phrase for ‘I am’ (ego eimi)
Many Christians conflate the “I am” statements of Jesus, ἐγώ εἰμι (ego eimi) in Greek, to God revealing his name as the “I AM WHO I AM” in Exodus 3:14. However, a simple contextual reading of the New Testament passages containing ἐγώ εἰμι demonstrate this is clearly not the case. In fact, many passages containing the words “I am” distinguish Jesus from being one and the same as God the Father. We must be careful to not read meaning into a fragment of a sentence other than its normal use. It is evident from context of many Scriptural references that the use of ego eimi by Jesus and others is not meant to be conflated with God revealing his name in Exodus 3:14. For example, Luke 24:39 when Jesus presents himself upon being resurrected bodily he makes reference to his hands and feet saying, “it is I myself (ego eimi),” in contrast to a spirit that does not have flesh and bones. The “I am” statements of John’s gospel should not be conflated with Almighty God. It is clear from John 20:30-31, that “these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Luke 24:39 (ESV), See my hands and feet, that it is I
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself (ego eimi). Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
John 20:30-31 (ESV), these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The blind man said “I am”
ἐγώ εἰμι is just a generic phrase of self-identification in Greek. It is what the blind man says in John to identify himself.
John 9:8-11 (ESV), I am the man (the blind man)
8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am (ego eimi) the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”
What about John 8:24, ‘Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins’?
Some Christians emphasize the “I am” statement of John 8:24 which reads, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am (ἐγώ εἰμι) you will die in your sins.” However, Jesus clarifies what he means when the Jews asked, “Who are you,” and he responds, “What I have been telling you from the beginning.” (John 8:25). Jesus is identified as the “Son of Man” seven times in the previous chapters. And within the same dialogue, Jesus expounds in John 8:28 saying, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am (ἐγώ εἰμι), and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” Thus, Jesus is clearly reiterating John 8:24 what he already said about himself in prior chapters of him being the “Son of Man”. In total, Jesus is identified twelve times as the “Son of Man” in the book of John (John 1:51, 3:13-14, 5:27, 6:27, 6:53, 6:62, 8:28, 9:35, 12:23, 12:27, 13:31).
John 8:24-28 (ESV), Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins
24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “ .
Sidney A. Hatch, A Journal from the Radical Reformation, Fall 1992, Vol. 2, No. 1, 37-48
There is no connection between Exodus 3:14 and Jesus’ claim. “The two expressions are not identical and differ in several respects. Never did Jesus say ego eimi ho on, “I am the existing one,” as the LXX (Septuagint) incorrectly renders Exodus 3:14. On the other hand, there is an abundance of compelling evidence that the term ego eimi was a wellknown claim to Messiahship.
Edwin D. Freed, “Ego Eimi in John viii. 24 in the Light of its Context and Jewish Messianic Belief,” Journal of Theological Studies, 1982, Vol. 33, 163
The term first occurs in John’s Gospel in 1:20, where John the Baptist denies that he is the Christ: ego ouk eimi ho christos (“I am not the Christ”). It appears again in 4:26 where, in response to the Samaritan woman’s statement that “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming” (4:25), Jesus responded, ego eimi, ho lalon soi (“I am, the one speaking to you”). This is the clue for understanding all other passages where the words occur. Ego eimi is in fact used in the Synoptic Gospels as a Messianic title. The phrase, ‘I am,’ when found on the lips of the Savior, means ‘I am the Messiah,’ not ‘I am God.’ The scriptural evidence is against the latter interpretation. Regarding John 8:24, The Messiah was expected to reprove sinners. “And he shall reprove sinners for the thoughts of their hearts” (Pss. Sol. xvii. 25) When Jesus thrice stated that the Jews would die in their sins unless they believed that ego eimi, he was doing only what the Messiah was expected to do—reprove sinners.
What about John 5:58 – ‘Before Abraham was, I am’?
The context of John 8:56 is, “Your father Abram rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Jesus was acknowledging that he preexisted in a prophetic sense. In the sense that Abraham foresaw his day. The key to understand the context in which Jesus is speaking is John 8:56. The pattern of John is that when Jesus speaks to the Jews, it is in an ambiguous and provocative way, and the Jews consistently misunderstand. However, in the context, John provides some clarification as to what the meaning of his words are.
John 8:56-58 (ESV), Before Abraham was, I am
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 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 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
“Before Abraham was, I am”, REV commentary
Some assert that because Jesus was “before” Abraham, Jesus must have been God. But Jesus did not literally exist before his conception in Mary, but he “existed” in the plan of God, and was foretold in prophecy. Prophecies of the coming redeemer start as early as Genesis 3:15, which was before Abraham. Jesus was “the one,” the Savior, long before Abraham. The Church did not have to literally exist as people for God to choose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), we existed in the mind of God. Similarly, Jesus did not exist as an actual physical person during the time of Abraham, but he “existed” in the mind of God as God’s plan for the redemption of man.
It is also important to notice that many people misread John 8:58 and think it says Jesus saw Abraham. We must read the Bible carefully because it says no such thing. It does not say Jesus saw Abraham, it says Abraham saw the Day of Christ. A careful reading of the context of the verse shows that Jesus was speaking of “existing” in God’s foreknowledge. John 8:56 says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.” This verse says that Abraham “saw” the day of Christ (the day of Christ is usually considered by theologians to be the day when Christ conquers the earth and sets up his kingdom—and it is still future). That would fit with what the book of Hebrews says about Abraham: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). The Bible says Abraham “saw” a city that is still future. In what sense could Abraham have seen something that was future? Abraham “saw” the day of Christ because God told him it was coming, and Abraham “saw” it by faith. Although Abraham saw the day of Christ by faith, that day existed in the mind of God long before Abraham. Thus, in the context of God’s plan existing from the beginning, Christ certainly was “before” Abraham. Christ was the plan of God for man’s redemption long before Abraham lived.
There are scriptures that we today know are prophecies of the Messiah that the Jews in the time of Christ did not apply to the Messiah. However, we also know that the ancient Jews had a lot of expectations about their Messiah that were based on Scripture. The Messiah the Jews were expecting was to be a descendant of Eve (Gen. 3:15), and descendant of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10); a descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:12, 13; Isa. 11:1), that he would be a “lord” under Yahweh (Ps. 110:1), that he would be the servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 42:1-7), he will be “one of their own” and will be able to draw near to Yahweh (Jer. 30:21), and he will come out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
This expectation perfectly fit John’s teaching his disciples that Jesus was the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29; i.e., the Lamb sent from God) and John’s statement that Jesus was “the Son of God” (John 1:34). If John had told his disciples that Jesus literally existed before he did, they would not have understood what he was saying, which would have engendered a big discussion and explanation of the doctrine of the pre-existence of the Messiah. There is no such discussion or explanation for the simple fact that John was not saying Jesus literally existed before him. John was not teaching, nor did he mention, the Trinity in this context.
Of course it is possible, that Jesus had in his mind all the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament, and that Jesus had been in the mind of God for millennia. The existence of Christ in the mind of God is so clear that it need not be disputed. Before the foundation of the world he was foreknown (1 Pet. 1:20); from the foundation of the world he was slain (Rev. 13:8); and before the foundation of the world we, the Church, were chosen in him (Eph. 1:4). The certainty about the Messiah that is expressed in the prophecies about him definitively reveal that all aspects of his life and death were clearly in the mind of God before any of them occurred.
(Revised English Version (REV) Bible Commentary, https://www.revisedenglishversion.com/John/chapter8/58, used with permission, Spirit and Truth Fellowship)
What about John 13:19, ‘When it does take place you may believe that I am’?
John 13:19 contains an additional ἐγώ εἰμι statement when Jesus says “when it does take place you may believe that I am.” This follows after John 13:17 where Jesus is stating that “the Scripture will be fulfilled”. In this context Jesus is asserting that his disciples will believe that he is the one spoken about in the Scripture when what it says is fulfilled. Thus, Jesus in John 13:19 is simply affirming that he is the one prophesied in the Scriptures.
John 13:17-19 (ESV), That when it dose take place you may believe that I am he
17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
What about John 18:4-8, ‘When Jesus said, “I am he”, they drew back and fell to the ground’?
In John 18:4-8, Jesus is responding to guards seeking “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus is simply identifying himself as Jesus of Nazareth which is asked twice. The guards drawing back and falling to the ground does not imply that Jesus is Almighty God. The identity of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth is clear from the context.
John 18:4-8 (ESV), Jesus of Nazareth – I am he
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he (ego eimi) .” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he (ego eimi)” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he (ego eimi). So, if you seek me, let these men go.”
Other “I am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John
Below are passages with I am (ego eimi) statements of Christ in the book of John. The full context of these passages indicates a distinct identification and differentiation with respect the one God and Father.
John 4:25-26 (ESV), Messiah is coming – I am he (ego eimi)
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he (ego eimi).”
John 6:35-38 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the bread of life
Jesus said to them, “I am (ego eimi) the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 6:41-58 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the bread of life
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am (ego eimi) the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am (ego eimi) the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am (ego eimi) the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
v52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
John 8:12-18 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the light of the world
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am (ego eimi) the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony 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. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am (ego eimi) the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”
John 10:7-11 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the door of the sheep
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am (ego eimi) the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am (ego eimi) the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am (ego eimi) the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:14-17 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the good shepherd
“I am (ego eimi) the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
John 11:25-27 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the resurrection and the life
Jesus said to her, “I am (ego eimi) the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
John 14:1-6 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the way, and the truth, and the life
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? I am (ego eimi) the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 15:1-10 (ESV), I am (ego eimi) the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser
“I am (ego eimi) the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am (ego eimi) the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Trinitarian Dogma from a Unitarian Perspective
Mark M Mattision
Who Is God?
William C. Clark
pdf download: https://focusonthekingdom.org/Who%20Is%20God.pdf