John 8:58—“Before Abraham came into existence, I have been”
Gr., πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί
(prin A·bra·amʹ ge·neʹsthai e·goʹ ei·miʹ)
Fourth/Fifth “before Abraham was, Syriac—Edition:
Century I have been” A Translation of the Four
Gospels From the Syriac of
the Sinaitic Palimpsest,
by Agnes Smith Lewis,
Fifth Century “before ever Abraham Curetonian Syriac—Edition:
came to be, I was” The Curetonian Version of
the Four Gospels, by
F. Crawford Burkitt,
Vol. 1, Cambridge, England,
Fifth Century “before Abraham Syriac Peshitta—Edition:
existed, I was” The Syriac New Testament
Translated Into English
From the Peshitto Version,
by James Murdock, seventh
ed., Boston and London,
Fifth Century “before Abraham Georgian—Edition:
came to be, I was” “The Old Georgian Version
of the Gospel of John,” by
Robert P. Blake and Maurice
Brière, published in
Vol. XXVI, fascicle 4,
Sixth Century “before Abraham Ethiopic—Edition:
was born, I was” Novum Testamentum . . .
Æthiopice (The New
Testament . . . in
Ethiopic), by Thomas Pell
Platt, revised by F.
Praetorius, Leipzig, 1899.
The action expressed in John 8:58 started “before Abraham came into existence” and is still in progress. In such situation εἰμί (ei·miʹ), which is the first-person singular present indicative, is properly translated by the perfect indicative. Examples of the same syntax are found in Luke 2:48; 13:7; 15:29; John 5:6; 14:9; 15:27; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 12:19; 1 John 3:8.
Concerning this construction, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, by G. B. Winer, seventh ed., Andover, 1897, p. 267, says: “Sometimes the Present includes also a past tense (Mdv. 108), viz. when the verb expresses a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues,—a state in its duration; as, Jno. xv. 27 ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστέ [apʼ ar·khesʹ metʼ e·mouʹ e·steʹ], viii. 58 πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμι [prin A·bra·amʹ ge·neʹsthai e·goʹ ei·mi].”
Likewise, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by J. H. Moulton, Vol. III, by Nigel Turner, Edinburgh, 1963, p. 62, says: “The Present which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking is virtually the same as Perfective, the only difference being that the action is conceived as still in progress . . . It is frequent in the N[ew] T[estament]: Lk 248 137 . . . 1529 . . . Jn 56 858 Lu 2:48; 13:7; 15:29; Joh 5:6; 8:58 . . . ”
Attempting to identify Jesus with Jehovah, some say that ἐγὼ εἰμί (e·goʹ ei·miʹ) is the equivalent of the Hebrew expression ʼaniʹ huʼ, “I am he,” which is used by God. However, it is to be noted that this Hebrew expression is also used by man as in 1 Chronicles 21:17.
Further attempting to identify Jesus with Jehovah, some try to use Exodus 3:14 (LXX) which reads: ᾿Εγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (E·goʹ ei·mi ho on), which means “I am The Being,” or, “I am The Existing One.” This attempt cannot be sustained because the expression in Exodus 3:14 is different from the expression in John 8:58. Throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures Jehovah and Jesus are never identified as being the same person.—See App 2A, 2E.