The final claim to the divinity of Christ that we will be taking a closer look at in this series comes in seven forms in the Gospel of John. Jesus Christ, the Great I AM.
Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies Himself in seven passages beginning with the phrase I AM, or in the Hebrew equivalent, ani hu. This is important to keep in mind because it provides a unique significance to the title that we wouldn’t be able to glean from the English alone. The seven I AM passages in John’s Gospel (6:35, 8:12, 10:9,11, 11:25-26, 14:6 and 15:5) obviously speak for themselves. In fact, many of these titles echo titles used by God in the Old Testament (i.e. the Bread, the Vine, the Shepherd, the Light). But what makes the title “I AM” so significant? This is where the Hebrew phrase ani hu comes into play.
Ani hu, and its Greek equivalent, ego eimi, can be found in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah. The parallels of the I AM title found in the first two books (Exodus 3 and Deuteronomy 32:39) are enough to give us an idea that the title, when used in the absolute sense (as in God as the essence of being), is intended to refer to God alone. However, Mark Ball, in his study on the I AM statements (a summary can be found in the link below), believes that it is the parallels in the book of Isaiah that carry the most weight and stand on their own in proving the divine identity of Christ. These parallels are as follows,
John 6:20 echoes Isaiah 41:10,13 (fear not)
Phil 2:6-8 echoes John 13:19 which echoes Isaiah 43:10-12 (saviour/God incarnate)
John 14:5-6 echoes Isaiah 40:3 (the way)
John 4:25-26 echoes Isaiah 52:6 (quoted by Jesus)
John 8:58 echoes Isaiah 40-55; Ex 3:14; Psalm 90:2 (eternal)
John 18 echoes Isaiah’s “I AM”
Rev 22:12-13 echoes Isaiah 44:6 (first and last)
Acts 26:15-18 echoes Isaiah 42:6-8 (calls to service)
John 1:1-5 echoes Isaiah 44:24 (only creator)
1 Cor 10:4 echoes Isaiah 44:8 (only Rock)
King of Babylon echoes Jehovah: Isa 47:8-10; 46:9 (quote)
Ball notes that,
‘Ani hu’ in Second Isaiah [Isaiah chapters 40-66] is always attributed to Yahweh. It is a solemn statement or assertion that only he can properly make. If anyone else spoke these words, it would be a sign of presumptuous pride, an attempt to claim equality with Yahweh or displace him.
Mark Ball, , ‘I Am’ in John’s Gospel, p 202
Ball further notes that it is a phrase or formula that expressed the idea that Yahweh is God alone, the sovereign Lord and ruler over all, and that there is none like Him. It is this formula and the Jewish concepts applied to it that Jesus uses to describe Himself. In conclusion, the I AM statements give an incredible picture into who this person Jesus really was. He was the embodiment and fulfilment of the roles and person of Yahweh in the Old Testament and prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Jesus thought of Himself as equal to God.
Further information can be found in this summary of Ball’s work. Jesus Echoes the “I AM” statements of Jehovah in the Gospel of John.