The I am Statements of Jesus
The I am Statements of Jesus

The I am Statements of Jesus

Who Jesus is identified as 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, 8:28, 10:24-25 and 20:31 where Jesus identifies himself and is also identified as “the Christ,” “the Son of Man,” and “the Son of God”. This is the consistent testimony of Scripture of how Jesus identifies himself. 

 

Mark 8:29-30 (ESV)

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)

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)

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. 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. 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.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

John 4:25-26 (ESV)

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)

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)

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)

 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.

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. 

Luke 24:39 (ESV)

“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.”

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 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. Finally in John 18:4-8, Jesus is clearly identifying as Jesus of Nazareth when he says ἐγώ εἰμι.

We know the author of John did not intend to make such conflations. This is clear from the context provided in the sections below of all the I am statements of Jesus and by the rational provided by the author at the end of the John:

John 20:30-31 (ESV)

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 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)

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)

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)

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)

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 8:24-28 (ESV)

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he (ego eimi) you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 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.”They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he (ego eimi), and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

John 8:53-58 (ESV)

Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 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.’ 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.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am (ego eimi).”    [A detailed explanation of this verse is in the section below titled, “What about John 5:58? – ‘Before Abraham was, I am'”]

John 10:7-11 (ESV)

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 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 10:24-38 (ESV)

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. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

v31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 11:25-27 (ESV)

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 13:18-20 (ESV)

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.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he (ego eimi). Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

John 14:1-6 (ESV)

“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. 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.

John 18:4-8 (ESV)

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.”

Additional comments regarding John 8:24

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.  (Sidney A. Hatch, A Journal from the Radical Reformation, Fall 1992, Vol. 2, No. 1, 37-48)

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. (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 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)

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?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man (ego eimi). So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 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.”

Blind man I am Statement in the Greek integritysyndicate.com

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)

 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am (ego eimi).”

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.

PDF Downloads

Trinitarian Dogma from a Unitarian Perspective

Mark M Mattision

pdf download:https://focusonthekingdom.org/Trinitarian%20Dogma%20from%20a%20Unitarian%20Perspective.pdf

Who Is God?

William  C. Clark

pdf download: https://focusonthekingdom.org/Who%20Is%20God.pdf

The Unitarian Map of Meaning

The Logos is an aspect of God pertaining to God’s intentions (Wisdom). The Holy Spirit is also an aspect of God pertaining to his Controlling Influence. By God’s Intentions (Logos) and through God’s controlling influence (Holy Spirit), all things come into existence. This is how the original creation (first Adam) was made and this is how Jesus Christ (the second Adam) was made. We are made a new creation through Christ Jesus according to God’s eternal wisdom. 

Biblical Unitarian Map of Meaning Diagram, integritysyndicate.com

The Word being made flesh = God speaking Jesus into existence according to his Logos

John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Breath of God)

Luke 1:35 (ESV)

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.