The Meaning of John 8:58 Explained

John 8:58

KJV: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

YLT: Jesus said to them, 'Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham's coming -- I am;'

Darby: Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

ASV: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am.

What does John 8:58 Mean?

Verse Meaning

This was the third and last of Jesus" solemn pronouncements in this discourse (cf. John 8:34; John 8:51). If Jesus had only wanted to claim that He existed before Abraham, He could have said, "I was." By saying, "I Amos ," He was not just claiming preexistence but deity (cf. John 8:24; John 8:28; John 5:18; Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:13). [1]
"It is eternity of being and not simply being that has lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates." [2]
Jesus existed before Abraham came into being (Gr. genesthai).

Context Summary

John 8:48-59 - The Eternal Christ
It is absolutely true that the Christian disciple does see death as the king of terrors or as a grim monster. Jesus has robbed death of its sting; He has destroyed Him that had the power of death. The moment of death is the moment of birth into a wider and happier existence. We are set free from this body of mortality and become possessed of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The grave is the vestibule of Paradise. We know that the iron gate opens into the city of God. Absent from the body, we are present with the Lord. The moment of transition is so desirable that it is only comparable to the falling asleep of the tired laborer.
The Father glorified His Son by the attestation given at the Baptism and the Transfiguration, by the Resurrection from the grave, by the Exaltation to His right hand. Yet these are but stages in the glorification of our High Priest. The full outburst of His glory is yet future. We shall behold the glory with which the Father has rewarded His obedience unto death; nay, we are to share it with Him. See John 17:22; John 17:24. Notice the I AM of John 8:58. Compare Exodus 3:14. [source]

Chapter Summary: John 8

1  Jesus delivers the woman taken in adultery
12  He declares himself the light of the world, and justifies his doctrine;
31  promises freedom to those who believe;
33  answers the Jews who boasted of Abraham;
48  answers their reviling, by showing his authority and dignity;
59  and slips away from those who would stone him

Greek Commentary for John 8:58

Before Abraham was [πριν Αβρααμ γενεσται]
Usual idiom with πριν — prin in positive sentence with infinitive (second aorist middle of γινομαι — ginomai) and the accusative of general reference, “before coming as to Abraham,” “before Abraham came into existence or was born.” I am Undoubtedly here Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. The contrast between γενεσται — genesthai (entrance into existence of Abraham) and ειμι — eimi (timeless being) is complete. See the same contrast between εν — en in John 1:1 and εγενετο — egeneto in John 1:14. See the contrast also in Psalm 90:2 between God See the same use of ειμι — eimi in John 6:20; John 9:9; John 8:24, John 8:28; John 18:6. [source]
Was, I am [γενέσθαι, ἐγώ εἰμι]
It is important to observe the distinction between the two verbs. Abraham's life was under the conditions of time, and therefore had a temporal beginning. Hence, Abraham came into being, or was born ( γενέσθαι ). Jesus' life was from and to eternity. Hence the formula for absolute, timeless existence, I am ( ἐγώ εἰμι ). See on John 1:3; see on John 7:34. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for John 8:58

John 8:24 I am he [ἐγώ εἰμι]
He is inserted in the versions and is not in the text. By retaining it, we read, I am the Messiah. But the words are rather the solemn expression of His absolute divine being, as in John 8:58: “If ye believe not that I am.” See Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; and compare John 8:28, John 8:58of this chapter, and John 13:19. [source]
John 7:34 Where I am []
In absolute, eternal being and fellowship with the Father. I am ( ἐγω εἰμι ) is the formula of the divine existence (John 8:58). The phrase carries a hint of the essential nature of Jesus, and thus prepares the way for ye cannot come (see on John 7:7). The difference in character will make it essentially impossible. [source]
John 1:15 He was before me [πρῶτός μου ἦν]
Literally, first in regard of me (Rev., in margin). The reference to dignity would require ἐστίν , is (see Matthew 3:11, “is mightier”). A similar expression occurs in John 15:18: the world hated me before (it hated) you ( πρῶτον ὑμῶν ). The reference is to the pre-existence of Christ. When speaking of Christ's historic manifestation, is become before me, the Baptist says γέγονεν . When speaking of Christ's eternal being, He was before me, he uses ἦν . The meaning is, then, that Christ, in His human manifestation, appeared after John, but, as the Eternal Word, preceded him, because He existed before him. Compare John 8:58. [source]
John 1:1 In the beginning was [ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν]
With evident allusion to the first word of Genesis. But John elevates the phrase from its reference to a point of time, the beginning of creation, to the time of absolute pre-existence before any creation, which is not mentioned until John 1:3. This beginning had no beginning (compare John 1:3; John 17:5; 1 John 1:1; Ephesians 1:4; Proverbs 8:23; Psalm 90:2). This heightening of the conception, however, appears not so much in ἀρχή , beginning, which simply leaves room for it, as in the use of ἦν , was, denoting absolute existence (compare εἰμί , I am, John 8:58) instead of ἐγένετο , came into being, or began to be, which is used in John 1:3, John 1:14, of the coming into being of creation and of the Word becoming flesh. Note also the contrast between ἀρχή , in the beginning, and the expression ἀπ ' ἀρχῆς , from the beginning, which is common in John's writings (John 8:44; 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:8) and which leaves no room for the idea of eternal pre-existence. “In Genesis 1:1, the sacred historian starts from the beginning and comes downward, thus keeping us in the course of time. Here he starts from the same point, but goes upward, thus taking us into the eternity preceding time” (Milligan and Moulton). See on Colossians 1:15. This notion of “beginning” is still further heightened by the subsequent statement of the relation of the Logos to the eternal God. The ἀρχή must refer to the creation - the primal beginning of things; but if, in this beginning, the Logos already was, then he belonged to the order of eternity. “The Logos was not merely existent, however, in the beginning, but was also the efficient principle, the beginning of the beginning. The ἀρχή (beginning ), in itself and in its operation dark, chaotic, was, in its idea and its principle, comprised in one single luminous word, which was the Logos. And when it is said the Logos was in this beginning, His eternal existence is already expressed, and His eternal position in the Godhead already indicated thereby” (Lange). “Eight times in the narrative of creation (in Genesis) there occur, like the refrain of a hymn, the words, And God said. John gathers up all those sayings of God into a single saying, living and endowed with activity and intelligence, from which all divine orders emanate: he finds as the basis of all spoken words, the speaking Word ” (Godet). [source]
John 10:1 Verily, Verily [Αμην αμην]
Solemn prelude by repetition as in John 1:51. The words do not ever introduce a fresh topic (cf. John 8:34, John 8:51, John 8:58). So in John 10:7. The Pharisees had previously assumed (Vincent) they alone were the authoritative guides of the people (John 9:24, John 9:29). So Jesus has a direct word for them. So Jesus begins this allegory in a characteristic way. John does not use the word παροιμια — parabolē but εις την αυλην των προβατων — paroimia (John 10:6), and it really is an allegory of the Good Shepherd and self-explanatory like that of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He first tells it in John 10:1-5 and then explains and expands it in John 10:7-18. Into the fold of the sheep (αυλη — eis tēn aulēn tōn probatōn). Originally αω — aulē (from αναβαινων — aō to blow) in Homer‘s time was just an uncovered space around the house enclosed by a wall, then a roofless enclosure in the country where flocks were herded as here and John 10:16. It later came to mean the house itself or palace (Matthew 26:3, Matthew 26:58, etc.). In the papyri it means the court attached to the house. Climbeth up (αναβαινω — anabainōn). Present active participle of αλλαχοτεν — anabainō to go up. One who goes up, not by the door, has to climb up over the wall. Some other way (αλλοτεν — allachothen). Rare word for old εκεινος — allothen but in 4Macc 1:7 and in a papyrus. Only here in N.T. The same (κλεπτης εστιν και ληιστης — ekeinos). “That one” just described. Is a thief and a robber (κλεπτω — kleptēs estin kai lēistēs). Both old and common words (from ληιζομαι — kleptō to steal, κλεπτης — lēizomai to plunder). The distinction is preserved in the N.T. as here. Judas was a kleptēs (John 12:6), Barabbas a robber (John 18:40) like the two robbers (Matthew 27:38, Matthew 27:44) crucified with Jesus erroneously termed thieves like “the thief on the cross” by most people. See Mark 11:17. Here the man jumping over the wall comes to steal and to do it by violence like a bandit. He is both thief and robber. [source]
John 13:19 From henceforth [απ αρτι]
“From now on,” as in John 14:7; Matthew 23:39; Revelation 14:13. Before it come to pass Προ — Pro with ablative of the articular second aorist middle infinitive γινομαι — ginomai (before the coming to pass). When it is come to pass Indefinite relative clause with οταν — hotan and the second aorist middle subjunctive of γινομαι — ginomai “whenever it does come to pass.” That ye may believe Purpose clause with ινα — hina and present active subjunctive of πιστευω — pisteuō “that ye may keep on believing.” Cf. Isaiah 48:5. That I am he As Jesus has repeatedly claimed to be the Messiah (John 8:24, John 8:58, etc.). Cf. also John 14:29 (πιστευσητε — pisteusēte here); John 16:4. [source]
John 18:6 Fell to the ground [επεσαν χαμαι]
Second aorist active indicative of πιπτω — piptō with first aorist ending (-αν — an). This recoil made them stumble. But why did they step back? Was it the former claim of Jesus (I am, εγω ειμι — egō eimi) to be on an equality with God (John 8:58; John 13:19) or mere embarrassment and confusion or supernatural power exerted by Jesus? B adds Ιησους — Iēsous which must mean simply: “I am Jesus.” [source]
John 7:6 My time is not yet come [ο καιρος ο εμος ουπω παρεστιν]
Only use with John 7:8 of καιρος — kairos in this Gospel, elsewhere χρονος — chronos (John 5:6) or more often ωρα — hōra (John 2:4) “the predestined hour” (Bernard). Here καιρος — kairos is the fitting or proper occasion for Christ‘s manifesting himself publicly to the authorities as Messiah as in John 7:8. At the feast of tabernacles Jesus did make such public claims (John 7:29, John 7:33; John 8:12, John 8:28, John 8:38, John 8:42, John 8:58). Παρεστιν — Parestin is present active indicative of παρειμι — pareimi old compound, to be by, to be present. The brothers of Jesus had the regular Jewish obligation to go up to the feast, but the precise day was a matter of indifference to them. [source]
John 8:24 For except ye believe [εαν γαρ μη πιστευσητε]
Negative condition of third class with εαν μη — ean mē and ingressive aorist active subjunctive of πιστευω — pisteuō “For unless ye come to believe.” That I am he Indirect discourse, but with no word in the predicate after the copula ειμι — eimi Jesus can mean either “that I am from above” (John 8:23), “that I am the one sent from the Father or the Messiah” (John 7:18, John 7:28), “that I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12), “that I am the Deliverer from the bondage of sin” (John 8:28, John 8:31., and John 8:36), “that I am” without supplying a predicate in the absolute sense as the Jews (Deuteronomy 32:39) used the language of Jehovah (cf. Isaiah 43:10 where the very words occur ινα πιστευσητεοτι εγω ειμι — hina pisteusēte -εγω ειμι — hoti egō eimi). The phrase egō eimi occurs three times here (John 8:24, John 8:28, John 8:58) and also in John 13:19. Jesus seems to claim absolute divine being as in John 8:58. [source]
Romans 3:4 Let God be true [γινέσθω ὁ Θεὸς ἀληθής]
Rev., better, “let God be found true;” thus giving the force of γίνομαι tobecome. See on was, I am, John 8:58. The phrase is used with reference to men's apprehension. Let God turn out to be or be found to be by His creatures. [source]
Colossians 1:17 He is [αὐτὸς ἔστιν]
Both words are emphatic. Ἔστιν is, is used as in John 8:58(see note), to express Christ's absolute existence. “He emphasizes the personality, is the preexistence ” (Lightfoot). For similar emphasis on the pronoun, see Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 4:10, Ephesians 4:11; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 19:15. [source]
Colossians 1:17 Before all things [προ παντων]
Προ — Pro with the ablative case. This phrase makes Paul‘s meaning plain. The precedence of Christ in time and the preeminence as Creator are both stated sharply. See the claim of Jesus to eternal timeless existence in John 8:58; John 17:5. See also Revelation 22:13 where Christ calls himself the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning Paul states it also in 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philemon 2:6. [source]
1 John 1:1 Was [ἦν]
Not ἐγένετο cameinto being. See on John 1:3; see on John 8:34; see on John 8:58. It was already existing when the succession of life began. [source]
Revelation 4:11 They are [εἰσὶν]
Read ἦσαν theywere. One of the great MSS., B, reads οὐκ ἦσαν theywere not; i.e., they were created out of nothing. The were is not came into being, but simply they existed. See on John 1:3; see on John 7:34; see on John 8:58. Some explain, they existed in contrast with their previous non-existence; in which case it would seem that the order of the two clauses should have been reversed; besides which it is not John's habit to apply this verb to temporary and passing objects. Professor Milligan refers it to the eternal type existing in the divine mind before anything was created, and in conformity with which it was made when the moment of creation arrived. Compare Hebrews 8:5. “Was the heaven then or the world, whether called by this or any other more acceptable name - assuming the name, I am asking a question which has to be asked at the beginning of every inquiry - was the world, I say, always in existence and without beginning, or created and having a beginning? Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things which are apprehended by opinion and sense are in a process of creation and created. Now that which is created must of necessity be created by a cause. But how can we find out the father and maker of all this universe? And when we have found him, to speak of his nature to all men is impossible. Yet one more question has to be asked about him, which of the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world? - the pattern which is unchangeable, or that which is created? If the world be indeed fair and the artificer good, then, as is plain, he must have looked to that which is eternal. But if what cannot be said without blasphemy is true, then he looked to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have looked to the eternal, for the world is the fairest of creations and he is the best of causes” (Plato, “Timaeus,” 28,29). [source]

What do the individual words in John 8:58 mean?

Said to them Jesus Truly I say to you before Abraham was I am
Εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί

Εἶπεν  Said 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
αὐτοῖς  to  them 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative Masculine 3rd Person Plural
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
Ἰησοῦς  Jesus 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰησοῦς  
Sense: Joshua was the famous captain of the Israelites, Moses’ successor.
Ἀμὴν  Truly 
Parse: Hebrew Word
Root: ἀμήν  
Sense: firm.
λέγω  I  say 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
ὑμῖν  to  you 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 2nd Person Plural
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
πρὶν  before 
Parse: Adverb
Root: πρίν  
Sense: before, formerly.
Ἀβραὰμ  Abraham 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἀβραάμ  
Sense: the son of Terah and the founder of the Jewish nation.