HOUSMAIL No HM#105 - WHO IS THIS GOD WHO CALLS HIMSELF "I AM"? 9 June 2003
said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall
say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they
shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:13-14)
However, in the next verse, (v15) we learn that the name was NOT given to the Israelites in precisely that form. The name Moses was instructed to use, is ?the LORD?. The Hebrew for this name is YHWH -- the commonly used OT name for God -- literal meaning ?the existing one?.
"God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD (YAHWEH) God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." (Exodus 3:15)
The Hebrew phonetic original for this name "I AM" in v14, is something like EHYEH ASCHER EHYEH. Newer translations, such as RSV, NEB, tell us in a marginal note, that the name is better rendered ?I WILL BE WHO (or WHAT) I WILL BE.? -- emphasising the FUTURE tense. When this name was translated into Greek in the LXX, it became ?HO ON? -- literally ?the being?.
Further, even if we bend the rules a little, to accept the validity of the present tense, EHYEH, is a form of the name of YHWH! It is never used anywhere in the OT, as the name of the prophesied MESSIAH. In the OT, God is NOT the MESSIAH, and the MESSIAH is NOT God! Psalm 110:1 is only one of many verses, which make this distinction carefully and unmistakably clear.
The surprising implication
of all this is that the name "I AM",
in the present tense, never actually existed!
And the suggestion that, in John 8:58, Jesus used the words "I AM" to claim this non-existent divine name from Exodus, for Himself, or to claim that he is actually GOD, is quite misleading . When Jesus used these words He had something quite different in mind.
(Refer to HOUSMAIL No HM#047 for a more detailed study of the repeated use of the words "I AM" in John's Gospel. Be prepared for some surprises!)
In fact in this very same Gospel, Jesus very specifically said that His Father (who is the YHWH of the OT!) is the only true God, and identified Himself separately as the Son of the only true God. (John 17:3-6) -- but NOT as God Himself.
THE GOSPEL AND THE FUTURE
The name God gave to Moses for the Children of Israel, is FUTURE tense.
The future tense of the name emphasised then and still today, that the major purpose of CREATION has to do with the FUTURE. God is working towards a time in the future, when He will complete His grand CREATION PLAN, to establish a kingdom on earth, over which the dominion will be exercised by an obedient HUMAN race -- headed by His Glorified Son!
When Jesus preached about this Kingdom, He called His message the "Gospel of the Kingdom". In His mortal life on earth, He established His identity, NOT as YAHWEH the CREATOR GOD, but as the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF THE CREATOR -- Jesus, the MESSIAH who is chosen from among men to be the future ruler of that Kingdom. It is NOT as YHWH, but as this Messiah that Jesus revealed Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:21-27)