Does the Messiah's Use of "I Am" Mean He is God?

In John 9:9, the miraculously healed but formerly blind man said, "I am," exactly the same two Greek words that the Messiah uses when he makes his "I am" statements (as recorded throughout the book of John). First, it's interesting to note that when the blind man says in Greek "ego eimi," it is usually and correctly translated as "I am he," referring, of course, to his attempt to clarify to everyone that, "Yes! I am he; I am the one -- the formerly blind man, but now I'm healed." Yet when the Messiah says the same thing precisely in order to identify himself as the Messiah (John 4:26), it's usually rendered as "I am" or even "I AM" (CEB, ISV, JUB, TLV). This in turn is popularly, but quite erroneously, used to support the falsehood that the Messiah was somehow claiming to be God, since in the Old Testament God/YEHOVAH said to Moses "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14, literally, "I will be what I will be").

When the Yeshua spoke to the Samaritan woman he was making the stupendous claim to be the Messiah, the Christ [anointed one] of the woman's declaration in the verse immediately preceding (4:25). Elsewhere in John, the Messiah is recorded as stating that he is the "bread of life" (6:35) and "the resurrection and the life" (11:25). But saying "ego eimi the bread of life" is nothing at all like declaring "I am what I am/I will be what I will be" as said by YEHOVAH God to Moses (Exodus 3:14).

Note that it's not the "ego eimi" of YEHOVAH's self-revelation that is the focus for those who say the Messiah is God. The real declaratory focus are the subsequent two words -- "o ohn" [1]  -- the Divine identifiers, we might say. In the NIV YEHOVAH God says to Moses: "I am [ego eimi] who I am [o ohn]." "I am the Self-Existing One." "This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am [o ohn] has sent me to you.'" But the English translations highlight the wrong two words, i.e., instead of ego eimi it should be o ohn: "o ohn [the self-existing one] has sent you." (cp. Philo, Life of Moses, vol. 1.75: "He who is").

The New Testament writers never record the Messiah using "o ohn" in reference to himself, let alone "ego eimi o ohn." Furthermore, what other words would you have the Messiah use in order to identify himself? For example, when you say "I am a teacher" or "I am Bob" or "I am the only one who has the key to that door," if you were to write them in Greek the same words would be used as self-identifiers: "ego eimi." There is no simpler and clearer way to identify you! The Messiah never said "I AM" or "I am that I am" or "I will be what I will be." He simply said, "I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the vine"; "I am the Messiah" (John 4:25-26), etc. Like the healed blind man, Yeshua was merely identifying himself for those asking or looking for him (cp. John 18:4-8).

Yeshua from the beginning claimed to be the promised Messiah. He never claimed to be YHVH, the God of Israel (who is also the God of the Messiah!). He never claimed to be "The Great I AM" of the Old Testament. He did, however, repeatedly claim to be the unique Son of YEHOVAH God, the Messiah lord (Luke 2:11, kristos kurios) and this is not the LORD God. The Messiah is related to the One LORD God [YEHOVAH] in Luke 2:26 where he is the LORD's Anointed (Messiah). Luke has brilliantly and precisely introduced the hero and principal "player" of his narrative in the two-volume (Luke and Acts) work he gives us. Luke wrote nearly a third of the New Testament.

What a blessed achievement! Luke and the Messiah never for a moment believed that there are two who are both GOD. That would shatter the great commandment, which forbids any multiplying of God (Mark 12:29; John 17:3; 5:44; Malachi 2:10). Yeshua the Messiah rejected the blasphemy of claiming to be GOD! (John 10:33-36).


[1] Our transliterations reflect a modern pronunciation of Greek, which is a living language.

by Alane Rozelle


Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.