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"I Am He"


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In Jeffrey Bradshaws recent Expound Symposium talk, he gave some interesting insight to the arrest of Jesus that I found fascinating. He said

4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and

said unto them, Whom seek ye?

5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he…

6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to

the ground.

"The King James translation of the Greek phrase ego eimi as “I am he” obscures an

essential detail. In reality, Jesus has not said, “I am he,” but rather “I AM,” using a divine

name that directly identifies Him as being Jehovah.98 Thus, asserts Raymond E. Brown, it

is clear that the fall of the temple guards is no mere slapstick scene that might be

“explained away or trivialized. To know or use the divine name, as Jesus does [in

replying with ‘I AM’], is an exercise of awesome power.”99

This event is nothing more nor less than a replay of the scene of the children of Israel at

Sinai discussed earlier. In effect, in the gospel of John, we are reading an eyewitness

report of a solemn revelation to the band of arresting Jewish temple guards100 that they

were standing, as it were, in a “Holy of Holies” made sacred by the presence of the

embodied Jehovah, and that they, with full comprehension of the irony of their pernicious

intent, were about to do harm to the very Master of the Lord’s House, whose precincts

they had been sworn to protect. As with the Israelites at Sinai who were unworthy and

thus unable to stand in the holy place, “those of the dark world fell back, repelled by the

presence of the Light of the world.”101

To delve further into the symbolism of the scene, note that the Jews were generally

prohibited from pronouncing the divine name, Jehovah.102 As an exception, that Name

was solemnly pronounced by the High Priest standing in the most holy place of the

temple once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Upon the hearing of that Name, according

to the Mishnah, all the people were to fall on their faces.103 Was it any coincidence, then,

that Jesus Christ, the supernal High Priest after the order of Melchizedek,104 boldly

proclaimed His identity as the great “I AM” at the very place and on the very night He

atoned for the sins of the world? Ironically, the temple guards who failed to fall on their

faces at the sound of the divine Name were instead thrown on their backs in awestruck



I had never heard this before or made the connection, and thought a discussion on this would be a great way to start the Sabbath.


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I had never heard this before or made the connection, and thought a discussion on this would be a great way to start the Sabbath.


There are 33 places where the phrase "ἐγώ εἰμι" (ego eimi) appears in the four Gospels. Even knowing that the Greek εἰμι means "I am", with no need for a pronoun (and that the pronoun's presence is extraordinary, as it would be in Spanish or Italian), one wonders if we should apply the same criterion to each instance.

In John 6:35, 48, 51, He declares Himself to be the Bread of Life. I see this as a strong candidate for such a study. The Jews, apparently, saw it, too (see 6:41~42). It is in a similar context that we see the same phrase in 8:12, where He declares Himself to be the light of the world; in 14:6 He is "the way, the truth and the life", in 15:5, the vine.

It is more than obvious in John 8:18. He says, "I am [ἐγώ εἰμι] one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me." Notice that it is "I am one who bear witness ..." (Young gives "I am one who is testifying of myself ...") in the singular. (I translate it, literally: "I am the witness of myself ...".)

It's close in John 8:24 and 28. He says if you don't believe I am (ἐγώ εἰμι), ye shall die in your sins, and when you lift me up, you shall know that I am (ἐγώ εἰμι). In John 10:11, 14, He says, "I am (ἐγώ εἰμι) the good shepherd". In 11:25, He tells Martha, "I am (ἐγώ εἰμι) the resurrection". In 13:19, talking to His Apostles, He prophesies to them so they "may believe that I am (ἐγώ εἰμι)".

In Mark 14:62, Luke 22:70. John 10:7 He uses ἐγώ εἰμι in a way that Bradshaw's thesis could apply. It is possible, but I believe unlikely, that John 4:26 has this referent.

Of the three instances in Revelation (1:17, 2:23, 22:16), the first and the last are also very intriguing on this front; the second is much less so.

On the other hand, for instance, in Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50, John 6:20 we see Jesus walking on the waters of Galilee, and telling the Apostles to fear not, that "it is I" (ἐγώ εἰμι). I do not see the divine reference in this statement. Luke 24:39 is post resurrection, and there is no possible allusion to His premortal status.

In Matt 22:32, He is merely quoting scripture, not declaring Himself to be anything in particular. It's roughly the same in Matt 24:5, Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8 where He's predicting other men's words.

The rest of the uses of ἐγώ εἰμι are other people talking, so do not merit our consideration. (Although, their use shows that the construction ἐγώ εἰμι is not restricted to Jesus proclaiming Himself to be Jehovah. As shown above, He used it even when it is not reasonable to read this meaning into it.)

This particular event (the declaration in the Garden) is different from the others in that it involved the Priesthood (as apostate as its holder at the time were). That makes it more interesting. It is, however, not unique in its potential.


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Another breathless statement from a Mormon theologian wannabe. Thanks, LeSeller, you beat me to it.

the fall of the temple guards is no mere slapstick scene

If you want to find out why they fell to the ground, read what a spiritual giant Talmadge wrote in Jesus the Christ.

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Could you paraphrase what Talmage says, for those of us who don't have the book?

This is an interesting discussion...

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