You hear a lot about the “I AM” statements of Jesus, particularly in John. Honestly, though, I don’t think the phenomenon is taught clearly and therefore loses it’s impact. Or maybe I look at it a little bit differently. (Surprise!) What follows is something I fiddled with in church. (I’m unrepentant — it was germane to the sermon).
I’ve attached a PDF of all the places in the NT Gospels where ἐγώ εἰμι occurs.
Some are in question formulas or are in the mouths of other people and aren’t the focus. Many of them don’t have any special significance (and here’s my trajectory) because there is a predicate noun or predicate adjective with the phrase that completes the phrase. For example, “I am the bread of life” (“bread (of life)” is the predicate nominative in the genitive phrase that completes the clause). For sure the saying is important (trace it back to the OT), but what I’m really interested are those places where it’s just ἐγώ εἰμι — where it’s sort of disconnected from other elements; that is, where it’s an assertion that, if translated literally, seems awkward — until you understand what the two words signify.
In the PDF, I’ve highlighted the places where ἐγώ εἰμι is in “isolation” as described above. ESV sort of cheats by rendering these something like “it is he” (to make ἐγώ εἰμι in isolation comprehensible — but again that’s my point — it’s supposed to stand out). Here’s the short list (where Jesus is the speaker). I’ve changed the ESV to make “I AM” stand out like it does in the Greek text (i.e., not complemented by predicate noun or adjective). The results are interesting (both for what’s left and what doesn’t appear – most of the familiar ones aren’t here). Go and look up the contexts for them and think about the implications in context (immediate and the wider context of Christology / Yahweh incarnate).
Just an interesting exercise. Sort of the “naked” I AM statements.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart. I AM. Do not be afraid.”
for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart. I AM. Do not be afraid.”
Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I AM!’ and they will lead many astray.
And Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I AM!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.
So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I AM.”
Jesus said to her, “I AM — the one speaking to you.”
But he said to them, “I AM. Do not be afraid.”
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins.”
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I AM.
They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I AM.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
When Jesus said to them, “I AM,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So, if you seek me, let these men go.