Before Abraham Was I Am: What Does John 8:58 Mean?

John 8:58 reads, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” King James Version (KJV)

TranslationJohn 8:58
ESVJesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
NASBJesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
NIV“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
NLTJesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am !”

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Before Abraham Was I Am: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

8:54-59 Christ and all that are his, depend upon God for honour. Men may be able to dispute about God, yet may not know him. Such as know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ, are put together, 2Th 1:8. All who rightly know anything of Christ, earnestly desire to know more of him.

Those who discern the dawn of the light of the Sun of Righteousness, wish to see his rising. Before Abraham was, I AM. This speaks Abraham a creature, and our Lord the Creator; well, therefore, might he make himself greater than Abraham.

I AM, is the name of God, Ex 3:14; it speaks his self-existence; he is the First and the Last, ever the same, Re 1:8. Thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds, Pr 8:23; Joh 1:1.

As Mediator, he was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Re 13:8. The Lord Jesus was made of God Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and all that lived and died by faith in him, before Abraham.

The Jews were about to stone Jesus for blasphemy, but he withdrew; by his miraculous power he passed through them unhurt.

Let us stedfastly profess what we know and believe concerning God; and if heirs of Abraham’s faith, we shall rejoice in looking forward to that day when the Saviour shall appear in glory, to the confusion of his enemies, and to complete the salvation of all who believe in him.

Also, see the meaning of Christ In You the Hope of Glory

John 8:58 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Before Abraham was, I am—The words rendered “was” and “am” are quite different. The one clause means, “Abraham was brought into being”; the other, “I exist.”

The statement therefore is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did (as Arians affirm is the meaning), but that He never came into being at all, but existed before Abraham had a being; in other words, existed before creation, or eternally (as Joh 1:1).

In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since “then took they up stones to cast at Him,” just as they had before done when they saw that He made Himself equal with God (Joh 5:18).

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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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