Thursday, August 17, 2006

Before Abraham Was, Who Is?

In my discussions with Trinitarians, I often hear verses in the NT used as a kind of proof-text for Yeshua's ontologically deity. This is one of them:
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!”
--John 8:58
This, for some, is insurmountable proof that Yeshua claimed himself to be Yahweh. Some point to the use of the divine name "I Am" as the vital evidence, some to the mention of pre-existence, others to the reactions of those challenging him.

But I have to wonder why this should be understood that way at all. Anyone familiar with the Prophets or Psalms knows that at times the speaker will change "person". A prophet will be speaking as though he himself were speaking, and then in the middle of the prophecy or communication, suddenly speak as if it were not him, but Yahweh himself--or vice versa. Prophetic communication can change from third person to first person and even to second person at the drop of a hat. But I've never heard anyone claim that when any other prophet does so, they are claiming to be God himself.
"they will sanctify my name, they will honor the Holy One of Jacob"
--Isaiah 29:23b
Did Isaiah just claim ontological deity? Will they sanctify Isaiah's name? I've never heard anyone make such a ridiculous claim. Isaiah went from first person speaking as Yahweh (my name) to third person speaking about Yahweh (the Holy One of Jacob).

Why must Yeshua be claiming ontological divinity when he, a prophet, says "before Abraham was, I am", yet when a different prophet makes a first person, personal claim, it is not them speaking, but Yahweh? There is a drastic interpretative inconsistency which cannot be removed by appealing to the words themselves or the reactions of the hearers.

Why is Yeshua not speaking for Yahweh when this is axiomatic of a prophet, when he is a prophet, and when he specifically says moments before in John 8 that everything he has heard from the Father, he speaks, and that, therefore, those things are not his words, but the Father's?

Does it not make even more sense that if Yahweh's word is being spoken through Yeshua, that just as Yahweh many times refers to his own name in a prophet's words to clue them into this, that the use of the divine name in Yeshua's speech would serve the same purpose?

If anyone would argue that Yeshua was trying to tell people about his own ontological state of divinity instead of speaking as Yahweh like a prophet of Yahweh, they must first show why all these other things make less sense and then how and why the other makes more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good post! However it seems to me that the words of Yahweh in the prophets are distinctively separated from that of a prophet. As customarily, when it is Yahweh speaking, it is strictly identified by the following formula:” Thus says the Lord". No prophet would dare to make such claim. For the most part, the prophets who spoke on behalf of Yahweh rarely made Yahweh's words their own (as if they were the ones speaking…).On the other hand, a prophetic message reflects always divine utterance, because of the fact it is the very word of God (when it is so, it is always credited to Yahweh, himself and not of the prophet)

In the case of John 8: 58, "Before Abraham was, I am" it is undoubtedly a divine claim, for Jesus’ present hearers at the scene picked up stones to throw at him because they understood such statement to be divine , thus blasphemous (10:33). In fact, Jesus' previous statement, "Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad," presents plausible evidence for the pre-existent Messiah and was later substantiated by his famous assertion, “Before Abraham born, I am.”(John 8:58). This is a clear example of the Messiah’s preexistence, that is Jesus himself.

9:22 PM  
Blogger slaveofone said...

I'm glad you thought the post was good, but I have to wonder if you even read it. Where in the quoted portion of Isaiah above does it distinguish the prophet speaking from Yahweh speaking with “thus says the Lord”? Isaiah went from first person speaking as YHWH (my name) to third person speaking about YHWH (the Holy One of Jacob) without any indication formula or identification. And quite the opposite of what you claim, the prophetic message very often has prophets or others such as the Angel of the Lord speaking as if they are someone other than YHWH and then suddenly speaking as YHWH and there is nothing distinguishing the two other than the change in person.

You say that in the case of John 8:58, it is undoubtedly a divine claim and I'm not disputing that. What I am questioning is who is making the claim. Is Yeshua calling himself YHWH or is YHWH speaking of himself through Yeshua? Despite your attempt to explain which one this is by pointing out the fact that the people tried to kill Yeshua, this does not answer the question at all, for many of the prophets were killed by their people for making divine claims and I have never heard anyone say it was because they were claiming to be YHWH themselves. You yourself prove this inconsistency by failing to explain why you should make Yeshua claim his own personal divinity when you do not allow it of Isaiah in the quote above. Indeed, you make it even worse, because you then proceed to quote "Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" and say it was Yeshua saying this of himself but give absolutely no reason whatsoever why this is Yeshua speaking for himself and not YHWH speaking through him! If you can't see how badly you beg the question of your own argument and prove my own about how inconsistent this kind of argument is, then maybe it isn't that you didn't read my post, but that you just simply can't understand something that simple.

10:22 PM  

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