Before Abraham was, I am - The following is a literal translation of Calmet's note on this passage: - "I am from all eternity. I have existed before all ages. You consider in me only the person who speaks to you, and who has appeared to you within a particular time. But besides this human nature, which ye think ye know, there is in me a Divine and eternal nature. Both, united, subsist together in my person. Abraham knew how to distinguish them. He adored me as his God; and desired me as his Savior. He has seen me in my eternity, and he predicted my coming into the world." On the same verse Bishop Pearce speaks as follows: - "What Jesus here says relates (I think) to his existence antecedent to Abraham's days, and not to his having been the Christ appointed and foretold before that time; for, if Jesus had meant this, the answer I apprehend would not have been a pertinent one. He might have been appointed and foretold for the Christ; but if he had not had an existence before Abraham's days, neither could he have seen Abraham, (as, according to our English translation, the Jews suppose him to have said), nor could Abraham have seen him, as I suppose the Jews understood him to have said in the preceding verse, to which words of the Jews the words of Jesus here are intended as an answer."
Verily, verily - This is an expression used only in John. It is a strong affirmation denoting particularly the great importance of what was about to be affirmed. See the notes at John 3:5.
Before Abraham was - Before Abraham lived.
I am - The expression I am, though in the present tense, is clearly designed to refer to a past time. Thus, in Psalm 90:2, “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” Applied to God, it denotes continued existence without respect to time, so far as he is concerned. We divide time into the past, the present, and the future. The expression, applied to God, denotes that he does not measure his existence in this manner, but that the word by which we express the present denotes his continued and unchanging existence. Hence, he assumes it as his name, “I AM,” and “I AM that I AM,” Exodus 3:14. Compare Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 47:8. There is a remarkable similarity between the expression employed by Jesus in this place and that used in Exodus to denote the name of God. The manner in which Jesus used it would strikingly suggest the application of the same language to God. The question here was about his pre-existence. The objection of the Jews was that he was not 50 years old, and could not, therefore, have seen Abraham. Jesus replied to that that he existed before Abraham. As in his human nature he was not yet 50 years old, and could not, as a man, have existed before Abraham, this declaration must be referred to another nature; and the passage proves that, while he was a man, he was also endowed with another nature existing before Abraham, and to which he applied the term (familiar to the Jews as expressive of the existence of God) I AM; and this declaration corresponds to the affirmation of John John 1:1, that he was in the beginning with God, and was God. This affirmation of Jesus is one of the proofs on which John relies to prove that he was the Messiah John 20:31, to establish which was the design of writing this book.
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. John 8:58. TMK 12.1
I AM means an eternal presence; the past, present, and future are alike with God. He sees the most remote events of past history and the far distant future with as clear a vision as we do those things which are transpiring daily. We know not what is before us, and if we did, it would not contribute to our eternal welfare. God gives us an opportunity to exercise faith and trust in the great I AM.... Our Saviour says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Fifteen hundred years before Christ laid off His royal robe, His kingly crown, and left His position of honor in the heavenly courts, assumed humanity, and walked a man among the children of men, Abraham saw His day, and was glad. “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (verses 57, 58).... TMK 12.2Read in context »
To Moses, Jehovah declared, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). Christ declared, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). By this declaration He laid open the resources of His infinite nature, imparting in His words assurance of pardon for the guilty race. He is the Word, conscious of power that He can take up and lay down His life as He chooses [in order] to secure the salvation of those who have fallen under Satan's falsehoods and intrigues.... UL 144.5Read in context »