I am (biblical term)
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The Koine Greek term Ego eimi (Greek Ἐγώ εἰμί, pronounced [eɣó imí]), literally I am or It is I, is an emphatic form of the copulative verb εἰμι that is recorded in the Gospels to have been spoken by Jesus on several occasions to refer to himself not with the role of a verb but playing the role of a name, in the Gospel of John occurring seven times with specific titles. These usages have been the subject of significant Christological analysis. The term I Am relating to God appears over 300 times in the Bible, first in the book of Genesis (15:1) and last in Revelation (22:16). This has led to the Biblical God sometimes being referred to as “the great ‘I am’”.
In the New Testament, the personal pronoun ἐγώ in conjunction with the present first-person singular copulative εἰμι is recorded to have been used mainly by Jesus, especially in the Gospel of John, but there are many exceptions: a centurion in Matt 8:9 and Luke 7:8, Zechariah in Luke 1:18, Gabriel in Luke 1:19, a man blind from birth in John 9:9 who is healed by Jesus and told to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, Peter in Acts 10:21 and Acts 10:26, Paul the Apostle in Acts 22:3, Acts 23:6, Acts 26:29, Rom 7:14, Rom 11:1, Rom 11:13, 1 Cor 15:9 and 1 Tim 1:15, some Corinthian believer in 1 Cor 1:12 and 1 Cor 3:4, John the Baptist in the negative (οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ / I am not) in John 3:28 and Acts 13:25 (compare with Jesus in John 8:23, 17:14,16), and Pilate in a question (Μήτι ἐγὼ Ἰουδαῖός εἰμι; / Am I [a] Jew?) in John 18:35.
Without predicate nominative
It is also used without a predicate nominative, which is not very common in Koine Greek, thus some interpret it as Jesus' own self-declaration as God. In John 8:24 Jesus states: "For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins", and later the crowd attempts to stone Jesus in response to his statement in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am.". Many other translations including the ASV have rendered John 8:24 as something like "... For unless you believe that I am [he], you will die in your sins.". Some consider the phrase in John 8:58 to be grammatically different from that in John 8:24, as the copulative verb can be used with any predicative expression and not only a predicate nominative, such as in "ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἦτε" ("where I am, you also may be") in John 14:3. "πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι" ("before Abraham was") can be taken as a predicative prepositional phrase, thus "ἐγώ εἰμὶ" ("I am") in John 8:58 does not grammatically require a predicate nominative, however it is rather unusual for a present tense verb to be used with a temporal adverb like πρὶν in a declarative statement, though there are rare exceptions outside the New Testament. Thus explanations of John 8:58 generally depend on theology and not Greek grammar.
ἐγώ εἰμι also occurs without an explicit or implicit predicate nominative in the Septuagint, but instead either with a prepositional phrase such as in "μὴ ἀντὶ θεοῦ ἐγώ εἰμι ..." ("Am I in place of God ...") Gen 30:2, or with a predicative clause such as in "πάροικος καὶ παρεπίδημος ἐγώ εἰμι μεθ' ὑμῶν" ("As a foreigner and a sojourner I am with you") in Gen 23:4, or with the idiomatic meaning It is I such as in "καὶ εἶπεν Ἰωαβ ἀκούω ἐγώ εἰμι" ("And Joab said: I hear; it is I.") in 2 Sam 20:17.
The unique expression of the Tetragrammaton יהוה (yhwh) is composed of matris lectionis (supporting first-class vowels) that suggest a verbal cognate noun derived from היה (hayah), the Hebrew copulative otherwise known as the verb "to be". Translations often render this word in compliance with the tradition of the Septuagint, "Lord". Later[when?] it has been pointed with the vowels of the word Elohim and transcribed as "Jehovah". Finally the Tetragrammaton was vocalized as Yahweh. But often found in apposition, if not in construct state (there is no way of telling) with elohim, it suggests "the being" or the "I AM" of God. Theologically this is pregnant with meaning, to be sure, but that's the not scope of this comment. To be sure, as a series letters commonly employed as first-class vowels at the end of words, any pointing is suspect. But more to the point, the root derivation of the copula directly relates to the "I am" as Jesus declared himself with such phraseology.
- I AM (book)
- I Am that I Am
- Ego eimi
- Holy Name of Jesus
- Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament
- Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN 0-86012-006-6 page 1082
- Hurtado, Larry W. (June 2003). Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-6070-2 pages 370–371
- Gullett, Kenneth (2017). A Firm Foundation. pps. 52-62. ISBN 9783961429554
- Nestle-Aland "Novum Testamentum Graece", 27th revised edition (a.k.a. "NA27"), Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, July 2006, ISBN 1598561723
- "The Greek New Testament", 4th Edition with Dictionary, United Bible Societies (a.k.a. "UBS4")
- "John 1 WHNU;SBLGNT - εν αρχη ην ο λογος και - Bible Gateway". Biblegateway.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Unbound Bible". Unbound.biola.edu. Retrieved 23 November 2014.