Before Abraham Was, I Am (John 8:48-59)

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In this passage, Jesus engages in a heated dialogue with the Jewish leaders. The Jews accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan and possessed by a demon, to which Jesus responds that he honors his Father, while they dishonor him. He further states that anyone who keeps his word will never see death. The Jews, misunderstanding him, claim that even Abraham and the prophets died, questioning how Jesus could make such a claim. Jesus responds by emphasizing his unique relationship with the Father and declares, "Before Abraham was, I am," invoking the divine name (ἐγώ εἰμί [ego eimi]). This declaration leads the Jews to attempt to stone him for blasphemy, but Jesus slips away unharmed.

Probably the most striking term in the passage is the statement "before Abraham Was, I Am (πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί [prin Abraam genesthai ego eimi])". The use of ego eimi echoes the divine name revealed to Moses in the burning bush "אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה [ehyeh asher ehyeh])" in Exodus 3:14, asserting Jesus’ pre-existence and divinity, identifying himself with the eternal, self-existent God who spoke to Moses. This is a direct claim to divinity. Jesus is identifying himself with Yahweh, the God of Israel. This would have been understood by his Jewish audience as a claim to be God Himself. The phrase ἐγὼ εἰμί [ego eimi] appears multiple times in John’s Gospel, often in contexts where Jesus reveals his divine nature and mission (e.g., John 6:20; 8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5-6). Each usage reinforces the idea that Jesus is identifying himself with the God of Israel.

In John 8:49, Jesus responds to the accusation of being demon-possessed by saying, "I honor my Father, and you dishonor me (τιμῶ τὸν πατέρα μου, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀτιμάζετέ με [timō ton patera mou, kai hymeis atimazete me])." In the Greek culture and language, honor (τιμή [timē]) was a significant social value. It referred to the respect and esteem given to individuals based on their status, achievements, or character. The terms "honor" (τιμάω [timao]) and "dishonor" (ἀτιμάζω [atimazo]) are key to understanding the dialogue in John 8:48-59. Jesus emphasizes his commitment to honoring the Father, while the Jewish leaders’ actions are depicted as dishonoring him. This contrast highlights the spiritual and theological implications of recognizing and accepting Jesus' divine authority. Honoring Jesus is equated with honoring God, and it is central to the promise of eternal life.

In John 8:51, Jesus makes a profound statement: "whoever keeps my word will never see death (ἐάν τις τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήσῃ, θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ [ean tis ton emon logon tērēsē, thanaton ou mē theōrēsē])." This promise is central to the theological message of the passage and is rooted in the Greek term θάνατον [thanaton]. Jesus promises that those who keep his word will experience eternal life, transcending physical death. This promise is rooted in the belief that Jesus' words impart life and that through faith in him, believers overcome death. The Jewish leaders’ misunderstanding of this promise highlights the deeper spiritual truths that Jesus is revealing about life, death, and eternal relationship with God.


Word Meaning
ἀποκρίνομαι odpovedať
ὁ, ἡ, τό ten, tá, to
Ἰουδαῖος, ία, ον židovský
καί a, aj
εἶπον řekl jsem (aor. od λέγω)
αὐτός, ή, ὁ on, sám seba
οὐ, οὐκ, οὐχ nie
καλῶς krásně; dobře
λέγω povedať
ἡμεῖς, ἡμῶν my

Biblical text

8:48Ἀπεκρίθησαν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ Οὐ καλῶς λέγομεν ἡμεῖς ὅτι Σαμαρείτης εἶ σὺ καὶ δαιμόνιον ἔχεις;49ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς Ἐγὼ δαιμόνιον οὐκ ἔχω, ἀλλὰ τιμῶ τὸν Πατέρα μου, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀτιμάζετέ με.50ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ ζητῶ τὴν δόξαν μου· ἔστιν ζητῶν καὶ κρίνων.51ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐάν τις τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήσῃ, θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.52εἶπαν αὐτῷ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι Νῦν ἐγνώκαμεν ὅτι δαιμόνιον ἔχεις. Ἀβραὰμ ἀπέθανεν καὶ οἱ προφῆται, καὶ σὺ λέγεις Ἐάν τις τὸν λόγον μου τηρήσῃ, οὐ μὴ γεύσηται θανάτου εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.53μὴ σὺ μείζων εἶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ, ὅστις ἀπέθανεν; καὶ οἱ προφῆται ἀπέθανον· τίνα σεαυτὸν ποιεῖς;54ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς Ἐὰν ἐγὼ δοξάσω ἐμαυτόν, δόξα μου οὐδέν ἐστιν· ἔστιν Πατήρ μου δοξάζων με, ὃν ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι Θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐστιν,55καὶ οὐκ ἐγνώκατε αὐτόν, ἐγὼ δὲ οἶδα αὐτόν. κἂν εἴπω ὅτι οὐκ οἶδα αὐτόν, ἔσομαι ὅμοιος ὑμῖν ψεύστης· ἀλλὰ οἶδα αὐτὸν καὶ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ τηρῶ.56Ἀβραὰμ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἠγαλλιάσατο ἵνα ἴδῃ τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν ἐμήν, καὶ εἶδεν καὶ ἐχάρη.57εἶπαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι πρὸς αὐτόν Πεντήκοντα ἔτη οὔπω ἔχεις καὶ Ἀβραὰμ ἑώρακας;58εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.59ἦραν οὖν λίθους ἵνα βάλωσιν ἐπ’ αὐτόν· Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἐκρύβη καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ.