Jehovah`s Witness/1. ego eimi


QUESTION: In the 1969 The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures it has under the actual Greek words, “ego eimi” at John 8:58, “I am”.

Now I know that you JW’s go against your own interlinear and render the “ego eimi” as “I have been” and say;

"I have been = ego eimi after the a'orist infinitive clause prin' Abraam genesthai and hence properly rendered in the perfect tense.  It is not the same as ho ohn', meaning "The Being" or "The I Am" at Exodus 3:14, LXX"

The grammatical error the above statement makes that “ego eimi” is to be rendered in “the perfect tense” is explained in “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics”, by Daniel B. Wallace, if you would care to check.

But the interesting bit is what follows in verse 59 of John 8; AFTER Jesus said “ego eimi”, His contemporaries caught on rather quickly to what He actually meant, they were filled with fury against Jesus because He, a mere man in their eyes, made Himself equal with God.

Capital punishment was only for serious sins, such as blasphemy, adultery, etc. From what I can see in the Scriptures, to say you had a preexistence isn’t blasphemy (see John 8:18, 23, etc). Claiming to have a temporal existence does not constitute blasphemy.

No, there was something more than just preexistence in Jesus’ words.

What phrase from Jesus did the Jews react to and what misunderstanding did they have about what it was Jesus said that led them to want to kill Him?

ANSWER: Greetings Cos,

Nice to hear from you.

Before I answer many  ask for some more information in regard to the "perfect tense".  There has been in the past different ideas as to what that foot note means.  Some people have misunderstood that footnote.  Can you please tell me what YOUR understanding of the footnote says to you, and as I do not have the "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics”, by Daniel B. Wallace, can you please copy or at least summarize what he he says please.

Thank you

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Brenton,

It’s been a while, I trust you are well?

Let’s note, first of all, that your own interlinear has “I am”, surely that tells you something,…surely?

Essentially your footnote is making out that “ego eimi” is not “I am” because it follows an “a'orist infinitive clause” Wallace’s work spans a number of pages, I cannot copy and paste it, and it would take some time to type it all out, but I did summarize that he says your rendering is simply wrong. Wallace goes on to say in brief that “ego eimi” is a present tense Greek phrase, and should be translated in the present tense, “I am”. The best thing to do would be for you to go to a library and borrow the book and see or just buy a copy of it.

Can you please address my question.


ANSWER: Thanks Cos but that was not of any real  extra help.  I apologies for not making myself as clear as I should have before. I am not trying to fob this of, there is so much information that I have, I want to answer exactly what you want.   Not having the works of  Daniel B. Wallace nor am I able to access a  library  in a hurry to look at work. (The public Library in my town is not well equipped that that sort of material) So I really am not in a position to argue either way on that.

Yes you are correct in that the  English rendering under the Greek in 1969 The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures does say “I AM”  That is a very literal tendering if the Greek. The  Greek word “eimi” here, is verb in the indicative mood, present tense, first person singular. In the particular form that verb appears over  80 times in the NT.  But then the NWT changes it from the usual “I AM” to “I HAVE BEEN”  The foot note that you mention says

"I have been = ego eimi after the a'orist infinitive clause prin' Abraam genesthai and hence properly rendered in the perfect tense.  It is not the same as ho ohn', meaning "The Being" or "The I Am" at Exodus 3:14, LXX"

Now, Exactly what is it that Wallace objects to?  Is he objecting to the phrase “ perfect tense” ?  You say he has several pages devoted to disproving that? Are you saying that, in his work, is, he saying that the Greek does not allow for  perfect tense here.?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: It does seem to me that you are procrastinating in addressing my actual question.

If you want to answer exactly what I want, as you claim, then go back to my original post you will see “?” at the end of a sentence that is my question, please address it.

On the matter of Wallace’s work I suggest you go out and buy a copy of his well written book for he goes into the tenses of the Greek in great detail, then, and only then will you come to understand why “ego eimi” is present tense at John 8:58, that is, if you really want to know what he says.

Please now address my question.

G' day again Cos.

I still am not sure just what it is you are wanting to know so I am going to make assumptions.

From you first question, I assumed  you were questioning the Greek Grammar of “I am” and in particular the footnote form the 1969 KIT.

A brief answer to that is many scholars MISSUNDERSTOOD that footnote.  Now I am not 100% sure if Wallace was one of those, but I have a feeling he may have been.  That is what I was trying to discover form you, just what was his objection.

In an earlier edition of the NWT (1950) the footnote uses the expression ““ego eimi … rendered in the perfect indefinite tense”  Some scholars, and from memory, I think one of the was Wallace, charged the NWT translation committee with inventing a Greek tense.  I believe Wallace may be credited as saying “"there is no rule or precedent in Greek syntax to allow a present [tense] to equal a perfect [tense].”  (I can not verify that quote)

You see, many scholars were under the impression the foot note  in the KIT was saying that the GREEK tense should be changed from the  present active indicative (In the Greek) to the  perfect tense  (in the Greek syntax) because it followed “the a'orist infinitive clause prin' Abraam genesthai“ .  Now I can only assume that is what Wallace may have argued against in his book that took several pages.  And I assumed that is  what you were asking me about, but I was not sure

The footnote (in both NWTs) DID NOTE  SAY THAT.

The footnote was saying that because “ego eimi” (I AM)  is a verb in the indicative mood, present tense  in  the GREEK GRAMMAR and, because it is followed by “ the a'orist infinitive clause” in the GREEK GRAMMAR, it should be translated (rendered is the word used in the footnotes) INTO ENGLISH in the English “perfect tense”

The older footnote that refereed to the “ perfect indefinite tense” was actually a tense taught in schools  at around the beginning if the 20th century

Now I found this quote  (which I can not verify) from Wallace's book “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Zondervan, 1996 page  519-520”  which say

TA.  Extending-from-Past Present (Present of Past Action  Still in Progress )

1. Definition

The present tense may be used to describe an action which, begun in the past, continues in the present. ....

.... It is different from the progressive present in that it reaches back in time and usually has some sort of temporal indicator, such as an adverbial phrase [such as 'before Abraham came into existence' ], to show this past-referring element. Depending on how tightly one defines this category, it is either relatively rare or fairly common.

2. Key to Identification

The key to this usage is normally to translate the present as an  English present  perfect . [And the presence of a 'temporal indicator, such as an adverbial phrase, to show this past-referring element.' ] Some examples might not fit such a gloss, however. [Wallace's examples include Luke 13:7; Luke 15:29; John 5:6; 1 Jn 3:8. ]

end quote
A note  by the author of the the above  quote says [As in all other cases, bracketed material and emphasis are added by me.]

So it seems Wallace does admit that the present tense can reach Back in time.

Now that is the point of the matter. The context of John 8:58 is NOT discussing identity but age.  

Looking at the context of what John wrote is interesting.  The conversation with  the Scribes and Pharisees started back in verse 3 after Jesus has arrived at the temple.    Using the KJV the context says

54  Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
55  Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
56  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
57  Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

First of all the verse 54 and 55 tell us a lot about Jesus and what the audience where hearing

Verse 54 tells us that Jesus Honours his Father, who is refereed to as the GOD of his  audience
Verse 55 tells us what Jesus thinks of the his audience, he is saying they do not know his Father and their  God
Jesus is making a clear distinction between him and his Father.  Therefore he is making a clear distinction between himself and the God of the people listening  to him .  

Now Verse 56 Jesus tells them that Abraham had insight and the promise given to him of the MESSIAH (see end note 1) Jesus was identifying himself as the messiah that the prophets spoke about.  

That prompts the question in verse 57 and Jesus' reply

57  Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Keeping the context in mind, of what was being asked this is what Jesus was saying

You think that I am after Abraham?
No, I tell you, I am before Abraham!

(You think that since Abraham died so long ago and I am not yet fifty, I can't have seen him. But I tell you the correct order; I do not come after Abraham but before him.)

The NWT is not alone in saying that the context is discussing age (see end note 2)

OK now to your last question that you asked in your first post here and I am  now assuming this is the main point of why you were writing

What phrase from Jesus did the Jews react to and what misunderstanding did they have about what it was Jesus said that led them to want to kill Him?
end quote

I gather you have assumed that the the scribes and  Pharisees got upset OVER the words “ego eimi”   May I ask, where in that account does it say that the scribes and the  Pharisees actually got upset  RIGHT AT THAT PARTICULAR time Jesus said "ego eimi"?  All the account says is they  then picked up stones to stone him.

Ok lets read those few texts and see what happened

58  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” (KJV)

We just have the conjunction “then ”.  In English grammar a conjunction can be “the action or an instance of two or more events or things occurring at the same point in time or space. “  

The Greek word here is “οὖν “ (Strogs Greek word number 3767)  Now according to the following web site  (which is taken from the works of Wallace)  “οὖν “ can be “emphatic, inferential or transitional”

The same site gives this definition for inferential “ [therefore ] gives a deduction, conclusion, or summary to the preceding discussion ”  (underlining mine) Now that is important as we want to determine what was the preceding discussion.  What it the word “ego eimi” or was it the whole of the discussion started back in verse 3 just after Jesus went to the temple that morning?.  The context tell us that it refers to the whole discussion that the Scribes and Pharisees had with Jesus that caused them to want to stone him and not the last “ego eimi”  Why do I say that?

You mentioned a very important point when you said

QUOTE ( bold mine)

It is possible from the context that they were upset at him for elevating himself above Abraham

Capital punishment was only for serious sins, such as blasphemy , adultery, etc. From what I can see in the Scriptures, to say you had a preexistence isn’t blasphemy (see John 8:18, 23, etc). Claiming to have a temporal existence does not constitute blasphemy

End Quote

IF the Scribes and Pharisees were REALLY upset by Jesus using the words ”ego eimi” and, IF they actually did think that he was calling himself by the divine name that the KJV rendered as “I AM” at Exodus 3:14 , and IF they honestly believed that was blasphemy and deserving of capital punishment, then they would have acted earlier.  

Looking at a “ summary to the preceding discussion ” we learn that Jesus used the words “ego eimi”   on four other occasions

12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am (ego eimi)  the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

18  I am  (ego eimi)  one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

24  I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am (ego eimi) he , ye shall die in your sins.

28  Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am (ego eimi) he , and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

(Just as a side note here it is interesting to notice the the KJV adds the word “ he ” in the last two quotes in order to complete the meaning and make sense in English)

Well any way the point here is the Scribes and Pharisees had opportunity before verse 58 to assert that Jesus was blaspheming, but they did not because they understood that what Jesus was NOT identifying himself with what is recorded at Exodus 3:14. IF they really though that, they would have hunted in down for so publicly, in the temple, having blasphemed.  Then why did they want to stone him? Because they were angry.  Why were they anger? Again a “ summary to the preceding discussion

Looking at the account  here is a “summary” of verses in that “ preceding discussion”

Jesus says they will die (v.21) 
Jesus says they are killers (v.37,40) 
Jesus says their Father is not God (v.41) 
Jesus says their Father is Satan (v.44) 
Jesus says he is above Abraham (vss. 53-58) 

So the evidence of the grammar and the context shows that Jesus was not identifying himself with Exodus 3:14, The Scribes and the Pharisees did not think that and that is not the reason why thy wanted to stone him.

I hope I have addresses your question(s)

end note 1
Matthew 13:17 For I truly say to YOU, Many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things YOU are beholding and did not see them, and to hear the things YOU are hearing and did not hear them.
Hebrews 11:13 In faith all these died, although they did not get the [fulfillment of the] promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.
1 Peter 1:11 They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of [season] the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these.

end note 2

I sourced these from various places.

“I HAVE BEEN” - alternate reading in 1960 thru 1973 reference editions of NASB
“I HAVE BEEN” - The New Testament, G. R. Noyes
“I HAVE BEEN” - “The Four Gospels” According to the Sinaitic Palimpsest, A. S. Lewis
“I HAVE ALREADY BEEN” - The Unvarnished New Testament
“I HAVE EXISTED” - The Bible, A New Translation, Dr. James Moffatt
“I EXISTED” - The New Testament in the Language of Today, 1964 ed., Beck
“I EXISTED” - An American Translation, Goodspeed
“I EXISTED” - The New Testament in the Language of the People, Williams
“I EXISTED” - New Simplified Bible
“I WAS IN EXISTENCE” - Living Bible
“I WAS ALIVE” - The Simple English Bible
“I WAS” - Holy Bible – From the Ancient Eastern Text, Lamsa
“I WAS” - Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, 1st ed. (Also see Young’s Concise Critical Commentary, p. 61 of “The New Covenant.”).
“I WAS” - The Syriac New Testament, Jas. Murdock
“I WAS” - H. T. Anderson
“I WAS” - Twentieth Century New Testament
"The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born." - The Living New Testament:
"before Abraham existed I was."  -The 20th Century New Testament
“Jesus answered, before Abraham existed, I existed." - Parker, P.G. Clarified N.T.:
“To this Jesus replied, I existed before Abraham was born. “ - Cotton Patch Version (1970)
Jesus answer, I tell you the truth. I already was before Abraham was born." - Good News for the World (1969)
"I existed before Abraham was even born." - New Believers Bible, New Living Translation:
"I am here-and I was before Abraham."  - The New Testament, Kleist & Lilly:
Jesus said unto them: Verily verily I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I am He." - Wakefield,G. N.T. (1795)
"Before Abraham came to be, I was."  -The Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels, Burkitt & The Old Georgian Version of the Gospel of John, Blake & Briere:
"I was before Abraham was born." - The New Testament Or Rather the New Covenant, Sharpe
"Before Abraham came to be, I was."  - The New Testament, Stage:
"Before Abraham came into being, I have existed." - The Documents of the New Testament, Wade:
Jesus answered them: Well, well, I tell you, I existed before Abraham was born. - Noli, M.F.S. N.T. (1961)
"I existed even before Abraham was born." : The Concise Gospel and The Acts, Christianson
"I tell you for a positive fact, I existed before Abraham was born." - The Original New Testament, Schonfield:
"I existed before there was an Abraham." n-The Complete Gospels Annotated Scholars Version,  Miller:
Jesus said to them, verily, verily I say unto you, I existed before Abraham was born" – Swann, G. N.T. (1947)
"I was alive before Abraham was born" - International English Version (2001)  

Jehovah`s Witness

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Brenton Hepburn


I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .


I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

©2017 All rights reserved.