by Matt Slick
Yes, Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be "I AM," which is God's name (Exodus 3:14 with John 8:58). For us to understand his claim in its cultural and biblical context, we need to read something in the Old Testament and then in the New Testament. Before God freed the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, he appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Let's take a look.
- Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations," (Exodus 3:10-15).
We can see that God said his name is "I AM WHO I AM." He told Moses to say to the sons of Israel that "I AM has sent me to you." So, God's name is "I AM." Let's take a look at the Hebrew.
Exodus 3:14 in Hebrew
As you can see in the red highlights, God says he is the "I AM." Now, let's take a look at the Greek version of that text.
Exodus 3:14 in the Greek LXX, Septuagint
Around 250 before Christ was born, the Jews translated the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint, which is also known by the letters LXX. LXX means 70 and it is said that it took 70 Jewish translators to finish the work. When we examine the Septuagint at Exodus 3:14 we find the following...
So we have the Greek version being ἐγὼ εἰμί, ego eimi, where God gives his name. In the LXX it further says he is ὁ ὤν, ho own. Ego eimi is literally "I am," and ho own is "the being one." So God is saying that he is the "I AM," "The Being One." Now, let's take a look at something Jesus said.
John 8:58 in Greek
- "Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple," (John 8:58-59).
The Jews wanted to kill him for what he said. Why? Notice that he said, "Before Abraham was born, I am." That is incredibly significant. He is claiming existence before Abraham, and he does not say, "Before Abraham was, I was." He uses the present tense, "I am." In Greek, it is as follows....
Notice that ἐγὼ εἰμί, ego eimi, in John 8:58 is the same as the Greek found in the LXX of Exodus 3:14. The Jews knew what Jesus was claiming.
So, did Jesus claim to be God? Yes, he did. He used the same phrase that God said about himself in the Old Testament referring to his identity.