More Than Enough -- The "I Am" Statements of Jesus

John features seven “I am” sayings, in which Jesus is presented as the bread of life (6:35, 48, 51); the light of the world (8:12; 9:5); the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9); the good shepherd (10:11, 14); the resurrection and the life (11:25); the way, the truth, and the life (14:6); and the true vine (15:1). He, even more strikingly, features several important instances where the phrase “I am” is not accompanied by a descriptive phrase of who Jesus is (absolute “I am” statements). Clearly, these statements are of crucial importance in the present context, since “I am” is the Old Testament name of God (cf. Ex. 3:14–15; see also repeated references to God as “I am” in Isa. 40–66, e.g., 41:4; 43:10–13, 25; 45:18; 51:12; 52:6).

While the phrase may at places constitute a simple self-reference (“It is I,” or, in more mundane terms, “It’s me”), there are places where references to Jesus in terms of “I am” in John’s Gospel almost certainly convey the notion of deity. One such place is Jesus’ statement to the Jews in 8:58, “I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” The Jews’ reaction—they pick up stones to kill Jesus—makes clear that they took Jesus’ pronouncement as involving a claim to deity. Another likely instance is 18:5–6, where Jesus identifies himself to those who would arrest him as “I am he,” at which the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground. In this case, egō eimi may constitute a self-reference on a literal level and at the same time involve a claim to deity on a secondary, deeper level, as is suggested by the soldiers’ response, which is a customary reaction to divine revelation or theophany.51

Andreas J. Köstenberger, “The Deity of Christ in John’s Gospel,” in The Deity of Christ, ed. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, Theology in Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 105–106.










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