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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018
John 8:24 Unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins.
"εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν."
Not many of you reading will be familiar with Biblical Greek, but I quoted the passage in the original language to highlight something, and to make it easier to find I have changed the text face of the significant part to a bold faced red font in the quote.

The ESV translation of this text reads thus:
"I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."
In the ESV translation, I have highlighted the word "he" because that world doesn't exist in the original Greek. The reason this word is added to the text is because in the original language this sort of construct could represent an implied predicate nominative.

In a sentence, the predicate is that part of the sentence (including the verb) that describes what the subject of the sentence does or (in the case of a predicate nominative) is.  The nominative in a sentence is the subject noun - the noun that is doing or (in the case of a predicate nominative) is being something.

"I am Batman" is a predicate nominative because what the pronoun "I" refers to is the same thing the noun "Batman" is referring to.  It describes an "is" relationship that exists between two nouns/pronouns where one is defining itself as the other. We use predicate nominatives all the time, (e.g. "I am the author" and "You're the reader" etc.) without really needing to name it for what it is, or understand that such a language construct actually has a name to describe it.

Why the ESV (and many other translations) translate the text of John 8:24, as "I am he" instead of  "I AM", is probably due to the fact that none of his hearers were yet scrambling to put Him to death.  I say, "yet" because using the same logic and language something else happens in verse 58 of the same chapter.

I don't think they missed the language, because they asked Jesus in the very next verse, "who are you?" - to which Jesus answers, "Just what I have been telling you from the beginning".  Perhaps it is coincidental that John began this gospel with "In the beginning was God and the word was with God and the word was God" - but our Lord's answer certainly suits that theme. In verse 27 we see that, "They [i.e. the Jews] didn't understand that he had been speaking to them about God the Father."

Jesus could have been referring back his reference to himself in verse 12 as the "light of the world" - which sort of makes sense in an after-the-fact kind of way.  I mean anyone who dies denying that Jesus is the light of the world will certainly be dying in his or her sin.  But he could have been referring back to verse 23 which is closer in the context and more likely ("You are from below, I am from above").  In either case, you have Jesus either saying that unless you believe that I am "from above" or alternately "the light of the world" you will die in your sins.  The only other alternative is Jesus claiming to be God, "unless you say that I AM you will die in your sins" - which would be a blasphemous pronouncement for anyone but God Himself to make.  It must have been confusing to them also since they asked him to clarify his meaning in the next verse (as mentioned above), "who are  you?"

By the time we get to verse 58, Christ is spelling it out for them - using the same language here as He used in verse 24 - but here Jesus leaves them no room to hang the meaning of His words on anything else:
"εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί."  (ESV) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
I can understand why most translations don't translate John 8:58 the same way they translate John 8:24.  Here it is clear that Jesus was referring to Himself as "I AM" - there, His hearers were uncertain - they heard, "I am he" and were confused as to the antecedent.  But here, where Christ openly claims to be God. I think they understood that this was what he had been saying from the beginning.

Practically speaking, to unapologetically claim to be not of this world, and to have come from above - is to claim something (at the very least), supernatural.   But later in the epistle John walks us down the same road (with our Lord) again.  In John 10:30 Jesus describes Himself and the Father as being one - a claim that His hearers immediately understand as making Himself out to be God (cf. John 10:33).

I believe the hearers in John 8:24 may not have immediately comprehended the weight of our Lord words, but they likely heard the possibility of something so profound it could only be blasphemy - they had no other category for a man claiming to be God.

Looking back on John 8:24 from John 8:58 I personally believe that Jesus was speaking truth - anyone who goes down to their grave denying the divinity of Christ, has died in their sin.

Of course I don't need John 8:24 to prove that - this point is made abundantly throughout the New Testament.  But I think it is plainly stated in John 8:28 if we translate it the way it was likely intended rather than likely misunderstood at the time.
posted by Daniel @ 1:46 PM  
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