John 8:58 and the NWT.
Eric W. Francke
John 8:58: NIV: "'I tell you the truth' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am' (Gr. ego eimi)".
Many Christians regard this as a forthright claim of Jesus being Jehovah. This is based on the fact that in the Septuagint, (LXX) the Greek translation of the Old testament, Jehovah (YHWH) identifies himself in Exodus 3:14 using the same phrase "ego eimi". The Jews who heard Jesus immediately picked up stones to stone him with, so it is at least implied that they understood the import of what he said. The New World Translation, however, when they first translated this verse from John, rendered the last part of it as "I have been", which was defended as being consistent with the "perfect indefinite tense". Below is the scanned image of the footnotes of John 8:58, as found in the New World Translation, c. 1950, pg. 312, which gives their reason as to why "ego eimi" should be translated as "I have been".
The there are a few problems with this justification, however. The most glaring to Greek scholars is that there is no such thing as the "perfect indefinite tense". It apparently was invented to try to avoid the obvious. So, although the translation committe for the NWT had to maintain the "I have been" rendering for doctrinal reasons, they had to come up with another reason for their rendering. In the 1971 version of the NWT, in the footnotes they changed their Greek tense to "perfect tense indicative". Below is a scanned image from the footnotes of John 8:58, 1971 version of the NWT, found on page
The phrase in question is certainly not in the perfect tense, but at least the "perfect tense indicative" exists. They change in tenses is proof that they had really no concern what the translation of those words really was. Rather, they were only concerned with coming up with a believable defense to keeping those words "I Am" out of Jesus' mouth.
To make the obfuscation even worse, the Watchtower goes to even greater extremes to detach the significance of these words of Jesus to Exodus 3:14. The footnote in many New World Translations says of John 8:58 that "It is not the same as 'ho ohn', meaning 'The Being' or 'The I Am' at Exodus 3:14." The footnote at Exodus 3:14 essentially says the same thing, that the Lord identifies himself in the LXX as "ho hon" the "Existing One". Below is the image of Exodus 3:14 and the accompanying footnotes from the 1971 NWT, pg
However, if you look at a copy of the Septuagint, you will see that God imself as "ego eimi ho ohn" (I Am that I Am).
The Watchtower conveniently has left out of it's footnotes that "ego eimi" even appears in the text, which is misleading at best. If one were just to read the NWT footnotes, they would be led to believe that God Almighty does not utilize "ego eimi" as His proper name.
When you couple this with the fact that John employs ego eimi several other times for Jesus' claim's to identity ( 8:24, 13:19, 18:5) with the same implication in each, we can only conclude that John wrote his gospel with the understanding that Jesus was endowed with full Deity. The Watchtower has proven in this matter that their only adequate defense is to mislead. (EWF)
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