This page refutes those who believe that John's use of 'EGW EIMI' by Jesus is to identify him as Jehovah who uses similiar words to identify himself in Isaiah. It used to be 'fashionable' by Trinitarians to link Jesus's words at John 8:58 to Exodus 3:14LXX. Few scholars now do that hence the attempted link with some texts in Isaiah.Where elipses are encountered at the beginning of the text discussed, Stafford quotes them in Hebrew, Greek and then English. Numbers in brackets refer to the footnotes.
Extract from: Jehovah's Witnesses Defended-An Answer to Scholars and Critics. G.Stafford, 2nd edition, 2000. Elihu books, Hunington Beach, Ca. pp.297-303.
'ANI HU and the LXX of Isaiah
Both Brown and Harner argue that the Old Testament, particularly the book of Isaiah, is the most likely source of influence for the use of ego eimi in the Fourth Gospel. Brown asserts that "Jesus is presented as speaking in the same manner in which Yahweh speaks in Deutero-Isaiah."(117) Harner agrees, saying: "Second Isaiah supplied John with a solenm expression that was eminently suited for expressing the unity of the Son and the Father and that had at the same time a strong connotation of monotheism which also served to express the Christian belief that God continued to be one "' (118)
We will now consider the passages from Isaiah that are considered to have had the greatest influence on the Johannine use of ego eimi. ......
..... The use of 'ani hu
("I [am] he") in this verse appears simply to refer
back to the One who had just previously been mentioned, [tetragram](YHWH,
"Jehovah"), while in the LXX ego eimi refers
back to the [ego theos](theos, "God") of the same verse.
Thus, 'ani hu is used to identify the speaker as the One
who in this context is spoken of as being active against the
nations, the One who chose Israel as His servant, the covenant
God of Israel, Jehovah. The use of ego eimi in the LXX
of Isaiah 41:4, therefore, is similar to John's use of the phrase
in reference to Jesus. It is used without a predicate, but a
predicate is implied or directly expressed in the context.
This usage is also observable in Isaiah 45:18, where the Hebrew ....(ani YHWH, "I [am] Jehovah") is translated by ego eimi. Of course, in the LXX the predicate .....(kyrios, "Lord"), or possibly ho theos (both titles at times stand in place of the tetragrammaton), is understood per the context.'(119) In verse 18 the predicates kyrios and ho theos ("God") are in fact supplied by some manuscripts,(120) and in 45:19 .......(ego eimi ego eimi kyrios) translates ....('ani YHWH, "I [am] Jehovah").(121)
......In verse 10 'ani hu/ego
eimi stands without an expressed predicate, though it is
expressed in the context.(122) The archaic ....('anoki,
"I") is followed by the divine name in verse 11. In
verse 12 ...(el, "God") follows ...(ani). Israel is
reminded that Jehovah alone is God, not the idol gods of the
nations, as none of them has ever had or will ever have actual
existence. Yet He has proved to be a living God, who has effected
deliverance for His people (Isa 43:1-9).
The end of verse 12 reads, "'You are My witnesses,' says the Lord [Heb:[tetragram] "Jehovah"; LXX: "God" or "Lord," or possibly the divine name], 'and I am God' [....'ani 'el; LXX: kurios ho theos, "the Lord God" (some manuscripts add ...ego, "I," before "Lord")]." (NIV) Verse 13 begins by saying, "Also, all the time I am the same One [ani hu]." (NWT)(123) Again the predicate (or 'el, "God") is supplied by the context.
Brown, though he acknowledges that the Hebrew and LXX translation can bear the meaning reflected in the RSV translation, nonetheless believes this verse may also be understood as, "I am 'I AM' who blots out transgressions," a translation which sees the second ego eimi as a name.(124) He also notes that the same may be true of Isaiah 51:12. This would lend support to the view that the Johannine use of ego eimi, in reference to Jesus, is an implication of his divinity. But in Isaiah 45:19 this interpretation is very questionable, "as it requires that what is duplicated is not the verb but the tetragrammaton, which is rendered first by then by [ego eimi] and then by [kurios](125). Davies provides sufficient refutation of Brown's claims:
"Brown insists that the doubling of the 'I am' in the Septuagint translation of Isa. 43:25, 'I, I am he who blots out your transgressions':[ego eimi ego eimi ho exaleiphwn]... means that the second 'I am' is a declaration of the divine name. In other words, God declares, 'I am "I am" (= divine name), who blots out your transgressions.' Were there evidence that elsewhere ,I am' is the divine name, this would be a possible, but not a necessary reading of the Septuagint of Isa. 43:25 (and cf. Isa, 51:12). Without such evidence, however, Brown's suggestion is merely fanciful, an attempt to find later Catholic christological doctrine in the Fourth Gospel. The only evidence from Scripture which he cites in support of his case is the Septuagint of Isa. 52:6, 'Therefore my people should know my name, because I am he, who speaks [ego eimi autos ho lalwn]; I am here ([pareimi]).' Brown interprets 'my name' and 'I am' as parallel expressions which should be identified, but if 'I am' is a name in the second clause, it is impossible to translate, since a verb not a name is required. Lindars rightly rejects Brown's argument as unconvincing (1972: 336). He points out that if Jesus' [ego eimi] in 8:58 is to be understood as a name, the statement should read 'Before Abraham was, I am "I am."' It is better, as in the case of Isa. 52:6, to allow [ego eimi] it's verbal force."(126)
Davies goes on to argue that in
John 8:58 (which she translates, "Before Abraham was, I am
he") Jesus words go back to the start of the discourse, were
he stated, "I am the light of the world." (8:12) Thus,
as the light of the world, "Jesus fulfills God's promise to
Abraham, that 'in him all the nations of the earth would be
blessed' (Ge 12:3). He is therefore superior to Abraham. (127)
Isaiah 43:25 identifies God as the One who wipes out transgressions, 51:12 tells us that Jehovah is the One comforting the people, and 52:6 emphasizes that the people will know God's name because he is the One speaking and who will thus cause it to happen (compare Eze 20:4).
......Here Jehovah highlights the fact that unlike the idols of Bel and Nebo, who have not been able to deliver their worshipers, Jehovah is the same One who has been with them "from the belly," (verse 3) and who will continue to be with them until the days of their "grey-headedness." Jehovah emphasizes His identity as the same One who provided escape for the Israelites long ago. (Isa 46:9) Thus, 'ani hu/ego eimi is again used as a means of self-identification. Harner is probably right in suggesting that the second ego eimi in 46:4 (LXX) represents a variant Hebrew reading.(128)
We have seen that the LXX translation of 'ani hu is used in a manner consistent with the use of the same phrase in the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptics: self-identification. This in no way suggests that the identity of the speaker is the same in each case. The identity of the speaker must be determined from the context in which the phrase is used. In the case of the Fourth Gospel, John uses the phrase, in reference to Jesus, in the same manner as the Old Testament does in reference to Jehovah. He also uses it in John 9:9 to identify a blind man whom Jesus healed. Thus, Davies rightly observes:
"[T]he expression functions in these Scriptural examples [that is, Isa 43: 1 0 and Joel 2:27] in exactly the way it functions in Jn 18.5, 8, 6.20 and 9.9, namely, to allow the speaker to identify himself .Of course, the 'self' identified in each instance is different. In the prophetic oracles God identifies himself as God, and in the Fourth Gospel the man bom blind identifies himself as the man bom blind." (129)
Those instances in John's Gospel
where simple self-identification is not intended (Joh 4:26; 8:24,
28, 58, and 13:19), are completed by a predicate which is either
implied or directly stated in the context. Although this is
likely also the case with John 8:58, eimi is part of an
idiom designed to highlight the fact that Jesus' existence
extends from a time before the birth of Abraham, to the present.
While the use of ego eimi in John at times signifies something special, various examples where God reveals Himself using 'ani hu "do not provide a basis for interpreting the Johannine use because in all of these instances it is clear that God is the speaker, 'I am the Lord [Jehovah], and there is no other.' " (130) The context in which the statements are made in the Fourth Gospel and in the Synoptics will not allow for an identification between Jesus and the Speaker in Isaiah, Jehovah. He is the God of the Messiah, and the One who "sent forth His Son as Savior of the world." (Mic 5:4; I Jo 4:14) By means of the phrase ego eimi, Jesus' identity as the promised Messiah is made manifest, and by accepting him as the Christ we may gain life everlasting in paradise (Isa 11:1-11).
117.Brown, The Gospel According to John(i-xii),537. For a discussion of the Witnesses view concerning the authorship of Isaiah, see "Where is Modern Catholic Scholarship Heading?" Awake 22 March 1973, 18-19; Insight on the Scriptures, vol.1(Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,1988),1221-1223; "All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial," 2nd.ed. (Brooklyn: Wtachtower Bible and Tract Society,1990),118-119.
118.Harner, The "I AM" of the Fourth Gospel,57.
119.Unless, of course, the LXX retained the divine name. We believe this to be true, based on the fact that all known fragments of the LXX and other Greek translations down to the second century CE contain the tetragrammaton or IAW.
120.See footnote apparatus in Joseph Ziegier's Isaias (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983).
121.See below discussion of Isa.43:25 for the meaning and translation of the double ego eimi.
122.See notes 123 and 124 below.
123 The LXX reads [epi ap arches} ("even from the beginning"), showing that God has always been what He now claims to be. NWT correctly translates the Hebrew, "I am the same One." H. W. F. Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, ed . E. Kautzsch, trans. A. E- Cowley, 2d Eng. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), 437 , note 1, tells us: "The separate pronouns,-apart from their employment as the subject in noun-clauses ... [are used in] the sense of the same (.... [ho autos; when used in the attributive position, the Greek third person personal pronoun is translated "same" and is, thus, an adjective.])or (one and) the same, is used in Is. 41:4, 43:10, 13; 46:4, 48:12 (always Harner (The 'I AM" of the Fourth Gospel, 7, note 5, par. 2) notes that the LXX reflects this understanding at one point, in Isa 52:6, where the LXX translates , ani hu as ego eimi autos ("I am he"). Compare Lu 24:39, where ego eimi autos is used for the same purpose (identity), though the identity is made manifest not simply because of the words ego eimi autos, but because Jesus' words are completed by a predicate ("Jesus') which is implied through the reference to the wound marks from his execution, as these would naturally have been associated with Jesus of Nazareth.
124. Brown, The Gospel According to John (i-xii), 536. But note Isa 43:11(Hebrew: ....."I, I am Jehovah"; LXX: ego ho thoes, "I am God"), where the divine name is found,not hu("He"). This suggests that the hu of verse 25 stands in the place of the divine name in verse 11. Some LXX manuscripts read [ego eimi ego eimi theos or Kurios]("I, I am God" or "Lord") similar to Isa 43:25. See the footnotes to Isa 43:11 in Ziegler's Isaias.
125. Elizabeth Harris, Prologue and Gospel: The theology of the Fourth Evangelist(JSNTSup 107; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press,1994),131.
126.Davies, Rhetoric and Reference in the Fourth Gospel, 85.
128.Harner, The "I AM" of the Fourth Gospel,7,note 5,par.1.
129.Davies,Rhetoric and Reference in the Fourth Gospel,85.
130. Painter, The Quest for the Messiah,227.