For many trinitarians (my former self included) there were few verses that “clearly” equated Jesus to God as John 8:58 seemingly did. It reads (NASB):
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
It’s the phrase “I am” (Greek: egO eimi) that draws our attention here today. Many equate it to Exodus 3:14, and say that Jesus is expressly claiming deity here. They even claim that the very next verse (v. 59) proves this is how the Jews (v. 48) viewed his response:
Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.
But as a believer that Scripture is infallible, I cannot agree with that assessment. Sure, the Jews may have believed that was what Jesus was claiming. But that does not make it so. If a cop stops me late at night in a dark alley and asks what I’m up to, and I respond “Nothing,” that doesn’t mean he’ll believe me. But just because he believes I’m up to no good, doesn’t mean I really am.
Let’s have a look at a similar encounter in Scripture. It happens a few verses later, in John 10:31-39, which reads (NASB):
The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.
A similar encounter, the Jews believed Jesus was claiming to be God (or in their words, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (emphasis mine)
And what do we see happen? We see Jesus rebuke them sternly. He did not say “You say I am a man, but I am God!” In reality what he did is pointed back to the Father, that is, the one true God. He also corrects their belief, in reiterating “because I said, ‘I am the Son of God‘” (emphasis mine).
Son of God. Not God the Son.
If “I am” (Greek: egO eimi) of John 8:58 means Jesus was claiming divinity, what about the blind man just a few verses later? We read in John 9:9 (NASB):
Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.”
The phrase “I am the one” is in the Greek egO eimi. Again, same phrase. Is the blind man claiming to be God? Certainly not!
So what exactly was Jesus talking about? Let’s look at Genesis 3:15 for that answer:
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
This verse is commonly viewed as the proclamation that Messiah will come. Jesus was not claiming divinity as the Jews (and most modern Christians) believed, he was claiming Messiahship. He was the one promised from the beginning.
Some food for thought.