Salvation 2.0: Part 4.3: God’s blood oath


God’s blood oath

I learned this lesson from Ray Vander Laan. I’ve even gotten to hear him teach it in person. And I know of no other theologian who places so much weight on this event.

But it seems that Paul makes God’s covenant with Abraham central to salvation by faith in Gal 3 and Rom 4. And if that’s so, then the ceremony by which God sealed that covenant has to be important, too.

For thousands of years, men have sealed covenants in blood. In the Middle East, they used to say that they “cut a covenant,” meaning the covenanting parties cut their arms and sucked a bit of one another’s blood. The mingling of blood was considered to bring the parties together so tightly they’d have to honor their words.

This practice gave way to the sharing of animal blood in a ceremony that surely seems strange to us today. Even today in some Middle Eastern societies, when a covenant, such as a marriage, is made, the heads of the household make a solemn pact that the wife will be faithful to her husband and that the husband will not abuse his wife. The two men take an animal, cut it in two, and then take turns walking between the two halves, stepping in and through the blood.

The ceremony has this meaning: if I do not keep my promise, you may do to me what we’ve done to this animal. The two men pledge their lives to seal the covenant. And in those societies today, when a husband beats his wife or the wife commits adultery, the head of the offender’s household is often found dead, killed by the other family in fulfillment of the oath. And the authorities do nothing about it. After all, honor requires that the head of the offending family give his life to make his word  good.

Now consider God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 –

(Gen 15:1-21 ESV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

8 But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

Notice the audacity of Abram’s question. He literally questioned whether he could take God’s word! We’d be terrified to ask such a question, but Abram did not have thousands of years of history with God. He believed in God, but God had not yet performed all the miracles of the Exodus. Abram’s faith was weak — but the point is that he had faith, not that he had great faith!

9 So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

God wanted to assure Abraham of the certainly of his promise, and so he made a solemn covenant. Abraham’s end of the bargain was to have faith in God. God promised to make a great nation of Abraham’s descendants.

Before the ceremony, Abraham suffered “a thick and dreadful darkness” (v. 12), which means he was terrified. What was there to fear in making a covenant with God Almighty?

Well, we need to understand the meaning of “faith.” We take “faith” to mean that we accept the truth of what is said. We “believe” the person speaking. But the thought is deeper.

Josephus was a First Century Jew and a soldier. He tells a story of a soldier under his command who was disloyal. He caught him and threatened his life. He then told him to repent and be loyal to Josephus and he’d spare his life, giving him a second chance. Well, the word translated “be loyal” is what we translate in the Bible as “believe.” He literally told the soldier to “believe in me.” He didn’t claim to be deity. He just wanted the man’s loyalty. You see, “faith” includes “faithfulness.”

Abraham’s end of the covenant was not just intellectual assent, accepting God’s word as true. Abraham was to be loyal to God.

(Gen 18:19 NET) 19 “I have chosen [Abraham] so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. Then the LORD will give to Abraham what he promised him.”

Indeed, the words “right” and “just” are almost always used in the Old Testament of God. God called Abraham so his descendants would be like God — indeed, in his image.

Now, imagine having God himself come to you and ask for a blood oath of loyalty. You could hardly say no! But then, would you really want to bet your life on your ability to keep your word — knowing that the penalty for a violation is death?

To firmly establish the seriousness of the covenant, God asked not for an animal, but every kind of animal used in sacrificial worship. Indeed, Abraham lined up each of the very animals that would later be used as a sacrifice under the Law of Moses centuries later!

But when night fell and it was time for God and Abraham to each walk between the animals and through the blood, an amazing thing happened. God passed through both as a torch of flame and as smoke pot. God went through twice — and Abraham didn’t pass through at all. (God is often referred to as smoke and fire. Exo 19:18; 2 Sam 22:9; Psa 18:8; Isa 4:5.)

Rather, when it was time for Abraham to walk in the blood, saying if I don’t keep my promise, you may do to me as we have done to these animals, God himself took the walk for Abraham — and only God. God promised to pay the penalty for Abraham!

Thousands of years later, God indeed paid the price for the sins of his people. This is the nature of God’s covenant with Abraham. This is atonement.

When Jesus died on the cross, it was indeed Jesus. But Jesus is God. It was God himself paying the price, just as he’d promised Abraham. This was not a Son appeasing the wrath of an unsympathetic, vengeful, hate-filled God. It was God dying for us in the only way God can die — by taking human form and surrendering heaven to walk among us as one of us. God himself suffered death to give us life. That’s how he dealt with his wrath. He gave himself for us.

As Paul said to the elders at Ephesus,

(Act 20:28 ESV) Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Paul declares that God obtained the church “with his own blood”! Paul declares plainly that it was God’s blood that was shed on the cross.

So was God angry? Well, yes, of course. Who wouldn’t be? But God knew from the time of Abraham — more than 2,000 years before the crucifixion — that one day he’d have to make good on his word. He’d have to pay the price of our disobedience of the covenant — in his own blood.

And yet, fully knowing the price and the future, God voluntarily entered into a one-sided covenant, binding himself to die for Abraham and his descendants. This is not really about anger. It’s the most amazing act of love found in scripture — in the history of the world.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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35 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 4.3: God’s blood oath

  1. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:


    Great article. RVL indicates that Abram was terrified because he knew that neither he nor his descendants could be faithful to the covenant. Consequently, God (Jesus?) walked through the animals on behalf of Abram and his descendants, effectively pointing to the cross. I get that.

    Can we take this theme further into the NT? In Gal 2:15-16, Paul writes:
    “15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (ESV. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001)

    Could Paul have this covenant ceremony of Gen 15 in mind with this passage? Paul makes clear that “we Jews KNOW” that a person is not justified by works of the Law. As a covenant, the Law of Moses was an extension of the Abrahamic covenant. Did Jews recall Gen 15 when they considered faithfulness to covenants? Clearly, they “knew” that they would fall short just as Abram knew he would fall short. Does Paul remind them in this passage that despite our shortcomings, we believed in Christ and are justified “by faith in Christ” (pistes Christou – perhaps better translated as “the faithfulness of the Messiah”)? Is Paul alluding to God walking through the animals in Gen 15 for Abram and his spiritual descendants because WE CAN’T BE FAITHFUL on our own? Does the “faithfulness of Jesus Christ” point directly to this passage in Genesis 15? Because we sin, we can’t be saved by works of the law; therefore, we need the blazing torch (Jesus?) to walk through for us as a perfect Israelite.

  2. Ted says:

    I have heard that preached and then carried another step. It was God who died, leaving us free to marry another. The God who is resurrected!! The Christ! And His blood is a new covenant.
    For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. 4Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.…

  3. laymond says:

    You see, “faith” includes “faithfulness.”
    (As James said faithfulness can only be judged by the work one does, not by the words one speaks.)

    “When Jesus died on the cross, it was indeed Jesus. But Jesus is God. It was God himself paying the price, just as he’d promised Abraham. This was not a Son appeasing the wrath of an unsympathetic, vengeful, hate-filled God. It was God dying for us in the only way God can die — by taking human form and surrendering heaven to walk among us as one of us. God himself suffered death to give us life. That’s how he dealt with his wrath. He gave himself for us.”

    ( In my opinion,This is one of the most rediculous statements I have ever heard made about the sacrifice of God, who gave his own son to save the world from their own failings.
    There is no doubt that the giving of a son is a greater sacrifice than giving your self, even human beings consider it so, what was the sacrifice God demanded of Abraham? A true father would run into a burning building to save their child. God so loved the world that he gave his own son. evidently in god;s eye) that alone is the ultimate sacrifice one can make )

    (When Jesus asked “why have you forsaken me” was he just being dramatic before those gathered ? No, Jesus proved his faithfulness to God, even unto death he proved himself faithful to another.)
    Mat 19:17 And he (Jesus) said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
    (I believe this one statement alone blows your theory out of the water, but if you continue to insist that “Jesus is God” It is a shame Paul didn’t know as much as you do about God and his son Jesus, because I’m sure he (Paul) would not have made all the mistakes he made in his letters, if he knew what you know.)
    1Co 8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

    ( In the following statement Paul points out just who that “one God” is.)
    1Co 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
    Gal 3:20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

    1Jo 4:12 ¶ No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
    Many men saw Jesus, but no man saw the one who indwelled Jesus at baptism, and evidently left him on the cross.

  4. laymond says:

    When we teach that “Jesus is God” we see comments tike the one Ted made.

  5. Monty says:

    Exodus 24:9 “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. vs 11: But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

  6. laymond says:

    Jhn 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
    1Jo 4:12 ¶ No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

    Well maybe Jesus didn’t trust John as much as we thought. I will let you explain why John said what he is said to have said.
    How are we to trust other things he said.

  7. Dwight says:

    I think no man has seen God in this true form, which is spirit, except Jesus who was God. Man may have seen what God wanted man to see, but man is flesh and flesh cannot connect to spirit unless through the spirit. When Dorothy say Oz, she originally saw what Oz wanted her to see or a representation. I’m not suggesting God is trying to trick us, but that we can’t see with our fleshly eyes what God is in the Spirit. The spirit may take on flesh…Jesus, so the flesh can hold the spirit, but the flesh cannot see the spirit.

  8. Monty says:


    Do you believe that to see Jesus was to see God? Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” That’s a pretty deep statement. We can ponder what it means, but this is evident, there is no difference in anything between God the Father and Jesus the Son except their personage(Father-Son) But not one iota of difference in their nature or their actions(Justice, mercy, love, righteousness) He’s the spitting image of his Father. Not in appearance, but in the fact that Jesus was God come wrapped up in human flesh doing exactly as God(the Father in heaven) would do if it was he and not the Son. If Jesus isn’t of the same essence as the father(deity) then he could not say, “to see him is to see the Father.” Jesus is God or he was just giving his best impersonation of him, which is it?

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    I believe that you are exactly correct. When seeing the physical body of Jesus we are not seeing a physical body of God. Jesus was not referring to his physical body.

  10. laymond says:

    Monty, and Larry, there are things written that are hard to understand, I see what Jesus said to the apostle more clearly in this way (if you know me, you know the father) Yes I believe Jesus used the words that were written , but without the meaning given to those words by us and others. How many people have you looked upon and thought “I know that person’s inter self” none I have looked upon fulfilled my first impression of seeing them. Jesus used the time they had been together to explain why the apostle should not be asking this question.

    That said, that still does not explain the discrepancy between what John said, and what the old testament writer said.

  11. Ted says:

    laymond, imagine what it took for Thomas, a Jewish man, not even permitted to say the name of God, when he saw the risen Christ and was invited to put his hands in the wounds, to proclaim “my Lord and my God”.

    Isaiah 45:23-24: “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And” all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame.

    Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    Many besides me believe that Jesus is somehow God.

  12. laymond says:

    Ted said; “Many besides me believe that Jesus is somehow God.”

    Ted, many worshiped a golden calf.

    I believe it when Jesus said in the new testament that he was not God, and I believe it when God is reported to say, there is no god beside me.
    When you take the words of an excited man (Thomas) and compare them to those spoken by God, giving them equal authority , I do believe you error.

  13. laymond says:

    Ted, just a few things you might want to consider.

    Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

    Mar 12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

    Isa 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
    Isa 45:6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
    Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

  14. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Ex 3:14

    -“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
    -“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58

  15. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    On John 8:58

    “Responding to ‘the Jews’ in terms of their misunderstanding, Jesus made a solemn pronouncement. Beginning with the formula I tell you the truth (amēn amēn legō hymin), Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ Jesus’ opponents ridiculed the idea that he could have seen Abraham (their statement not his), but in response Jesus gave them something far more astounding to think about. He claimed to have existed prior to Abraham’s birth (just as God existed prior to the creation of the world: Ps. 90:2). This comes as no surprise to readers of the Fourth Gospel, because in the Prologue they are informed that the Word who became flesh in the person of Jesus was with God in the beginning. But there is more involved in Jesus’ statement ‘before Abraham was born, I am’. The words ‘I am’ (egō eimi) are used in a number of different ways on the lips of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (see Additional note: Egō eimi, p. 139). Here they are clearly used in an absolute sense representing the divine name. Thus when Jesus said to ‘the Jews’, ‘before Abraham was born, I am’, he was identifying himself with God. Perhaps Jesus was also implying that Abraham, great though he was, had lived and died, but that he, Jesus, because he is one with God, remains forever as the ‘I am’.”

    Kruse, Colin G. John: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 4. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003. Print. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.

    “With the astounding claim before Abraham came to be, I am, Jesus rounds off the discussion of Abraham and, more significantly, brings to a conclusion the dispute about his identity, which had begun with the ‘I Am’ saying with a predicate in v. 12, continued with the claim of v. 18, and intensified with the absolute ‘I Am’ sayings of vv. 24, 28. This final saying clearly contains an absolute use of ‘I Am’, whose present tense contrasts with the aorist infinitive (γενέσθαι) that expresses the coming into existence of Abraham, and indicates that more than a claim to pre-existence is being made. As with the earlier absolute uses of ‘I Am’ in vv. 24, 28, a reference to Isa. 43:10 LXX with its lawsuit context again appears to be in view. Significantly, there Yahweh’s self-predication in terms of ἐγώ εἰμι is also contrasted with the temporal existence of another being, of whom the aorist tense of γίνομαι is employed—ἕμπροσθέν μου οὐχ ἐγένετο ἅλλος θεός, ‘before me no other god came into existence’. Jesus’ claim to be the self-revelation of the one true God is now unmistakable.”

    Lincoln, Andrew T. The Gospel according to Saint John. London: Continuum, 2005. Print. Black’s New Testament Commentary.

    The statement “Before Abraham came into being, I am” (cf. Ps. 90:2; see commentary at 8:24, 28) contrasts an allusion to Abraham’s birth with a reference to Jesus’ eternal existence, focused on his incarnation (Ridderbos 1997: 322–23). Jesus’ language here echoes God’s self-identification to Moses in Exod. 3:14.105 Thus, Jesus does not merely claim preexistence—otherwise he could have said, “before Abraham was born, I was”—but deity (Motyer 1997: 159; note the reaction in 8:59).106 The present instance of ἐγὼ εἰμί (egō eimi, I am) startlingly culminates earlier occurrences of this expression in this chapter (e.g., 8:24, 28) (Freed 1983b).

    Köstenberger, Andreas J. John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004. Print. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

    “So we reach the climactic point in this chapter with Jesus’ magnificent affirmation, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John began his Gospel by speaking of the preexistence of the Word. This statement does not go further than that. It could not. But it brings out the meaning of preexistence in more striking fashion. Before the great patriarch, who lived centuries before, Jesus’ existence went on. His “I tell you the truth” marks this out as an important and emphatic statement (see on 1:51). Whether we translate “before Abraham was” (KJV) or “was born” (NIV, etc.) the meaning will be “came into existence,” as the aorist tense indicates.116 A mode of being that has a definite beginning is contrasted with one that is eternal. “I am” must here have the fullest significance it can bear. It is in the style of deity (see on vv. 24 and 28), “a reference to his eternal being” (Haenchen).117 It is not easy to render into Greek the Hebrew underlying passages like Exodus 3:14, but the LXX translators did so with the form we have here.118 It is an emphatic form of speech and one that would not normally be employed in ordinary speaking. Thus to use it was recognizably to adopt the divine style.119 In passages like verses 24 and 28 this is fairly plain, but in the present passage it is unmistakable. When Jesus is asserting his existence in the time of Abraham there is no other way of understanding it.120 It should also be observed that he says “I am,” not “I was.” It is eternity of being and not simply being that has lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates.”

    Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995. Print. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.

    “Ancient orators sometimes employed ambiguous language to stir (favorable) interest, but Jesus in 8:58 is far more provocative than that. Especially in its predicative form (6:35, 48, 51; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5), “I am” is a grammatically normal enough statement (8:18). Even in its absolute form, it does not necessarily imply deity when it contextually implies, “I am (the one in question)” (9:9; cf. 4:26; 6:20). When “I am” lacks even an implied predicate, however, it becomes unintelligible except as an allusion to God’s name in the Hebrew Bible or LXX. In the Fourth Gospel both forms are significant (many of the predicates prove inappropriate for merely human bearers), and the absolute form is a claim to deity (see 18:5–8). Some dispute that claim in 8:24, 28; 13:19, arguing for an implied predicate there; but most scholars recognize the claim in 8:58. Given the absolute use in 8:58 and John’s propensity for double entendres, however, the implications of deity may carry over to the other uses as well. The implied deity of such “I am” statements would recall the implied reader to the introduction (1:1–18).
    The absolute use of the expression in 8:58, contrasted explicitly with Abraham’s finite longevity, clearly refers to a Jewish name for God. The most natural way to express simple preexistence (e.g., for divine Wisdom) would have been to have claimed existence in the past tense before Abraham; the use of the present, by contrast, constitutes a deliberate citation of the divine name. As in the prologue, εἰμί is opposed to γίνομαι in such a way as to imply Jesus’ deity (1:1–3). Such a claim may function prominently in the Fourth Gospel; some connect “I am” as a divine name in Jewish and Samaritan usage to John’s references to Jesus bearing the “name.” Some find the citation in Exod 3:14; while such an allusion would probably remain in the biblically informed reader’s mind, the LXX in Isaiah is much closer. Many scholars thus find a background in Isaiah (esp. Isa 43:10) here.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary & 2. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012. Print.

    “The climax of the entire chapter arrives at 8:58: “ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ ” The seriousness of this statement is confirmed by Jesus’ preface (lit.): “Truly, truly [Gk. amen, amen] I say to you,” a phrase Jesus uses some twenty times in the Gospel (see comment on 1:51). This is an absolute claim to preexistence anchored in the absolute “I am” (Gk. ego eimi) language we have already seen in this Gospel (cf. 4:26). “I am” possesses no predicate (as in “I am the bread of life,” 6:35) and so stands alone, no doubt echoing the Greek translation of God’s divine name given in Exodus 3:14.14 To exist before the birth of Abraham—and yet to stand here today—is the boldest claim Jesus has yet made. It recalls the affirmation of the prologue that the Word existed even at the beginning of time. His existence has been continuous since his life is completely drawn from God’s eternal life.
    That Jesus’ audience interpreted his words as a divine claim is seen in their reaction (8:59)”

    Burge, Gary M. John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000. Print. The NIV Application Commentary.

    “Once more Jesus solemnly announces, I tell you the truth (cf. notes on 1:51). If he had wanted to claim only that he existed before Abraham, it would have been simpler to say, ‘Before Abraham was, I was’. Instead, bringing forward the use of egō eimi found in vv. 24, 28, Jesus says, ‘Before Abraham was born, I am’. Whatever doubts may attach themselves to whether or not egō eimi should be taken absolutely in vv. 24, 28, here there can be none. Moreover, the strong linguistic connections with Isaiah 40–55 are supported by obvious conceptual links: cf. ‘I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he’ (Is. 41:4); ‘Yes, and from ancient days I am he’ (Is. 43:13). cf. Ps. 90:2. That the Jews take up stones to kill him presupposes that they understand these words as some kind of blasphemous claim to deity. Nevertheless, as in 1:1, so here: neither the Word nor the Son is so identified with God that there is no remainder. Cf. notes on v. 24.
    Abraham looked forward to the messianic age, the age that was, in John’s understanding, inaugurated by the incarnation of the Word who already was ‘in the beginning’ (1:1), like God, eternal. In conformity with John’s Prologue, Jesus takes to himself one of the most sacred of divine expressions of self-reference, and makes the assumption of that expression the proof of his superiority over Abraham (a point rather muddied by Bultmann, pp. 327–328; Schnackenburg, 2. 88–89, 223–224).”

    Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

    “Jesus said to them, I most solemnly assure you, before Abraham was born, I am. The Jews had committed the error of ascribing to Jesus a merely temporal existence. They saw only the historical manifestation, not the eternal Person; only the human, not the divine. Jesus, therefore, reaffirms his eternal, timeless, absolute essence. For the introductory clause (“I most solemnly assure you”) see on 1:51. The appropriate character of this clause, as being used here to introduce a very sublime truth, is immediately evident.
    Over against Abraham’s fleeting span of life (see Gen. 25:7) Jesus places his own timeless present. To emphasize this eternal present he sets over against the aorist infinitive, indicating Abraham’s birth in time, the present indicative, with reference to himself; hence, not I was, but I am. Hence, the thought here conveyed is not only that the second Person always existed (existed from all eternity; cf. 1:1, 2; cf. Col. 1:17), though this, too, is implied; but also, and very definitely, that his existence transcends time. He is therefore exalted infinitely above Abraham. See also on 1:18; and cf. 1:1, 2. The “I am” here (8:58) reminds one of the “I am” in 8:24. Basically the same thought is expressed in both passages; namely, that Jesus is God! Moreover, what he states here in 8:58 is his answer not only to the statement of the Jews recorded in 8:57 but also to that found in 8:53.

    Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

    “To this, Jesus makes the majestic reply, I tell you the truth,… before Abraham was born, I AM! (58, my emphasis). A conscious reflection of the Old Testament self-designation of God is evident. We are again at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14, and with the prophetic vision of Isaiah 41:4, ‘I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I AM HE’ (my emphasis), or Isaiah 43:13, ‘Yes, and from the ancient days, I AM HE’ (my translation).
    That Jesus’ words are a claim to deity is certainly the perception of his hearers. At this, they picked up stones to stone him (59), presumably because his words represented a supreme blasphemy of the holy name of God, and required to be dealt with in the terms of Deuteronomy. ‘If a prophet … appears among you … and he says, “Let us follow other gods”… That prophet … must be put to death … do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity … Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God’ (Dt. 13:1–10). In the light of this reaction, Brown’s comment is entirely appropriate, ‘No clearer implication of divinity is found in the gospel tradition.’102”

    Milne, Bruce. The Message of John: Here Is Your King!: With Study Guide. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print. The Bible Speaks Today.

    “Jesus’ reference to Abraham sounds to the opponents like an incredible claim to spiritual experience. His reply to their incredulity pushes his claim far beyond the idea of vision whether mystical or otherwise, whether of the past or through ascents into heaven: I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am! (v. 58).* He is not just making a statement of his age, for then he would have said something like, “Before Abraham was born, I was” (Carson 1991:358). Rather, he is now using in an unambiguous way the divine I AM (Harner 1970:26–30). The I AM was the name of God revealed to Moses, though the Greek expression (egō eimi) is not that used in the Septuagint in Exodus 3:14 (ho ōn). The phrase egō eimi is used of the divine name in Isaiah (41:4; 43:10, 25; 45:18; 46:4; 47:8, 10; 51:12; 52:6). Isaiah 43:10 is a particularly significant passage since it includes a reference to the Lord’s chosen servant (pais) who is his witness, “so that you may know and believe and understand that I am he [hoti egō eimi]. There was no other god before me nor will there be after me.” This strong statement of monotheism is the very thing the opponents think Jesus’ claim is denying.
    By using the I AM Jesus is claiming to have existed not just at the time of Abraham, but from eternity. This is not only a statement about his salvific work, though that is implied here as it was in God’s self-identification at the bush (Schnackenburg 1980b:224). Rather, he is saying that his words and deeds are not about God; they are in fact God’s own words and deeds. He speaks in language of oneness, though he has just clearly expressed distinctness also (vv. 54–55). Jesus is God, though not simply by way of identification with Yahweh, for there is also distinction. He is not simply a human being who has been taken up into the divine counsels and made an agent of God unlike any other, but neither is he simply God in a suit of flesh. Rather, as the later church counsels said, he is fully God and fully man. Such formulations are based on revelation such as found in this passage.
    Clearly this is the climax of the revelation that has been unfolding during the Feast of Tabernacles. People have been wondering if Jesus is the Prophet or the Messiah. “But messianic categories are transcended when Jesus offers Himself as the source of living water, and as the light of the world, and finally pronounces the egō eimi which affirms the mystery of His own eternal being, in unity with the Father” (Dodd 1953:351).

    Whitacre, Rodney A. John. Vol. 4. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999. Print. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series.

  16. laymond says:

    Kevin, I see you have read a lot of opinions of men but nothing from inspired men.

    “When Jesus is asserting his existence in the time of Abraham there is no other way of understanding it.120 It should also be observed that he says “I am,” not “I was.” It is eternity of being and not simply being that has lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates.”

    So I guess you believe Jesus didn’t die on the cross, eternity means forever without intermissions.

    When we learn to believe what Jesus said it is not hard to understand who Jesus was.

  17. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    -Did you not see the passages? Jesus was inspired. The scholars merely believed Him.
    -Dying doesn’t mean that one ceases to exist.
    -Last sentence = exactly. Jesus claimed to be “I AM”

  18. Monty says:

    God says in the O.T. he will not share his glory with another. “I, the LORD, am the one, and I won’t give my name and glory to another, nor my … I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols. … Isaiah 42:8

    He is God alone. He alone is to be worshiped. We all get that. But we get over into the N.T. and there are places where Jesus accepts worship, unlike the angel in Revelation that John attempts at worshipping. Thomas called Jesus “my God” clearly an expression of worship,what good Jew believing in the shema would dare say to a human being, “you are my God?” Answer: only one who spoke through the Holy Spirit as Peter did when he said of Jesus “you are the Son of the Living God.” And get this, Jesus didn’t correct him as the angel did John in Revelation. Hum.

    As a matter of fact God shares glory with Jesus in Revelation (the Lamb who was slain). … saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and
    wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” … Revelation 5:12 I guess the angels in heaven just didn’t understand that only God gets to be worshipped and to receive glory in being worshiped, or maybe God decided to make an exception for Jesus.

    As a matter of fact, it is God the Father who restores the glory to God the Son which he laid aside in order to become one of us.“Now, glorify me, my Father, in union with yourself, in that glory which I had in union with you before the universe was.” John 17:5 which of course speaks of Christ’s eternal oneness with God in eternity. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” The only way God shares his glory with Jesus is that Jesus isn’t “another.” He’s not an angel, nor a man, nor any creation of God. He is of God, He is one with the Father and the Spirit and 2nd person of the Godhead.

    One day “every knee will bow” in submission out of reverence for who Christ is. Philippians 2 “It will be a joyful day to some, to the saints, to those who believe and obey the gospel. In that bright and blessed day, Christ Jesus will be glorified and admired by his saints. And Christ will be glorified and admired in them. His grace and power will be shown, when it shall appear what he has purchased for, and wrought in, and bestowed upon those who believe in him. Lord, if the glory put upon thy saints shall be thus admired, how much more shalt thou be admired, as the Bestower of that glory! The glory of thy justice in the damnation of the wicked will be admired, but not as the glory of thy mercy in the salvation of believers. How will this strike the adoring angels with holy admiration, and transport thy admiring saints with eternal rapture! The meanest believer shall enjoy more than the most enlarged heart can imagine while we are here; Christ will be admired in all those that believe, the meanest believer not excepted.” Matthew Henry’s commentary 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

    God truly did purchase the church with his own blood, the blood of the God/man. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!

  19. John F says:

    Couple of quick points: John’s gospel is the only one to use the double amen (25 times). Also ’Εγώ εἰμι (I AM) is not unique to Jesus’ words, and don’t always have theological import, The man born blind in ch. 9 uses the term as does Jesus before Pilate (ch. 18) as simple personal identification.

  20. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    The Keener quote above explains the predicate vs absolute form of the phrase quite nicely.

  21. Monty says:

    I think the Jews knew what he was intimating, They picked up stones.

  22. laymond says:

    Monty, what does this mean to you. “For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.”
    I don’t know where God said no one else deserved their “own glory” just that he would not share his own. The glory of God is not a shared glory.

    Monty, if the President sends a General to rule over a war zone, does that mean he is automatically the president . Jesus was a represented of God.
    As Jesus said , he was sent.
    I really don’t see what is so hard to understand about the role of Jesus.

  23. Monty says:


    The context of God not sharing his glory in the passages I provided is in regards to being worshiped. You know that, and yet you try to change the topic. Answer this question if you would, does God think it OK for you or me or Timothy to worship a human, an angel, or an idol? Jesus clearly receives worship by Timothy, and by angels IN HEAVEN. Not congratulations you did great, but fall down, singing songs to, praise in heaven! Imagine that! “And unto the Lamb.” Revelation 5:11-13, Jesus (the Lamb slain) takes the scroll and the elders and the four beasts fell down before the Lamb who was “standing at the center of the throne”(that’s worship Laymond). Then ten thousand times ten thousand angels join in the worship. The same worship/praise that was offered to God was offered to the Lamb, “and unto the Lamb.”

    Later on in Revelation 19:10 the Apostle John fell down before the angel and was told to get up.” I fell at his feet to worship him.” And he said to me, “see thou do it not’ I am they fellow servant.” Falling down before someone or some thing is worship language, especially in Revelation. The angels do not receive worship, because it is only due God(and the Lamb) But somehow the 24 elders,the 4 living creatures, fall down before the Lamb in Rev.5:8 and it’s OK to do that! Then all the angels in heaven circle around the Lamb and sing(say) to him you are worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then they repeat the same thing to God(the one who sits on the throne) the same exact words, “and unto the Lamb.” What they said of the Lamb they said of God and of the Lamb. They worshiped both the Lamb and the One who sits on the throne and God didn’t have a problem with it. Neither do I.

    The angels know, the 4 living creatures know, and the 24 elders who are constantly there surrounding the throne of God they all know who is to be worshiped and adored and who is not. Laymond, don’t they know better than we who is deserving of worship? Only deity is to be worshiped. I believe you would agree with that. Not anything created by God, only deity himself. About Jesus: John 1:3 says without him nothing was made that has been made. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Deity(God) in the person of Jesus created everything. If not then you end up with God using a surrogate to create and that’s not scripture.

  24. laymond says:

    Monty, please read Isaiah 42, and Matthew 12. and I will pray you understand what is written there.

  25. laymond says:

    Monty, your references in revelation is something that is to happen in the future, not what happened in the past.

  26. Dwight says:

    I have been teaching in a class in the OT and one thing is clear…many of the people that were in high positions were worshipped. Joseph was worshipped by His brothers and Daniel was even worshipped by the King when he had given the dream and interpretation, even when they constantly gave the glory to God.
    Now worship in general means “bow before”, so this doesn’t mean they were accepting God’s glory, but rather the glory that God had placed upon them in their position.
    Jesus was indeed bowed down before, but this doesn’t mean that he took on God’s glory, as we know He constantly deferred to God. “Call no man Father, but He who is in heaven.” His prayer “Our Father who art in heaven…”
    Jesus might have been diety and shared that and the message and purpose with God, but He never alluded to being and having the authority of His father. And He never accepted worship on this level. Although he could have and did accept worship as the Son of God.
    Contrast this to Herod who took on the place of God and tried to make himself equal to God, when he was just a man. He was punished.

  27. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    laymond has completely hijacked the original post, and I suppose I am to blame as well for even responding. Last point I will make on the side-show…Monty, you are exactly correct in my opinion. The first chapter of John is sufficiently dense to explain the nature of Christ and his divinity:

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. He was WITH God in the beginning. ALL things were CREATED THROUGH Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. LIFE was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.

    There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

    He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

    The Word BECAME FLESH and took up residence among us. We observed His GLORY, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, FULL of grace and truth.

  28. Dwight says:

    Going back to the original concept of the covenant and blood spilled, I am not really sure that the concept of walking between two halves of an animal is what was intended. Instead it was the sacrifice of life, which was done by spilling of the blood or life. The blood was a symbol of life and when you lost it you lost life. Covenants in the OT were not sealed in blood, but by blood or sacrifice. IT was vested in the giving up of something valuable. But the sacrifice was done after the covenant was made or agreed to. Sealing means closure or securing. An interesting thing is that in the sacrifices the animals were consumed either by God, the priest or by the people in the feast of remembrance, i.e. Passover. In the case of Jesus, it is us in the Lord’s Supper.

  29. laymond says:

    Kevin, you shouldn’t feel to guilty here. this is the statement that go me all fired up in defense of one god.

    “When Jesus died on the cross, it was indeed Jesus. But Jesus is God. It was God himself paying the price, just as he’d promised Abraham. This was not a Son appeasing the wrath of an unsympathetic, vengeful, hate-filled God. It was God dying for us in the only way God can die — by taking human form and surrendering heaven to walk among us as one of us. God himself suffered death to give us life. That’s how he dealt with his wrath. He gave himself for us.”

    since I do believe in the bible as the true word of God, as best man could convey it and John 3:16
    tells us who was given and why.

  30. Dwight says:

    I think God giving is the point, but God, the Father, did not die on the cross, but God (deity) in human form did, that is the fleshly part that held the divine, in the form of Jesus, who was the Son of God.
    After all God, the Father, raised Jesus, the Son, from the grave. Now on some level God, in the flesh, died, but this was His earthly form. But God, that is Jesus, also divested himself of His glory to come down as man, but this wasn’t God the Father. In fact Jesus lived so He could be a mediator between God and man in that He lived and was tempted and suffered as a man. God, the Father, did not do these things. God, the Father, did give up His son, though, in many ways. That which was a part of Him, Jesus, he had to let go and separate from Himself so that He could come to man and even at His death, since Jesus carried the sins of the world, God turned His back on His son for a brief moment.

  31. Monty says:


    You referenced Isaiah, and so will I, CH.44:6 “This is what the Lord says-Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord almighty: I am the first and the last. or how about Isaiah 48:12-13 “Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and last. 13) My own hand laid the foundation of the earth… now consider Revelation 1:11 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God,” who is, and was, and is to come, the Almighty. Chapter 22:13 “look I am coming soon! My reward is with me and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. vs16) I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you. Jesus claims to be the First and the Last in chapter 1 and in chapter 22.

    In Isaiah 48, God says he(with his own hand) not through an angel or a servant, but with his own hand he created the heavens and the earth- John 1 and In Colossians says,” Nothing was made without Jesus making it.” Jesus is God. He is deity and he can rightfully claim to be the First and the Last, without it being a complete lie and contradiction.

  32. laymond says:

    Monty ; If you believe “Jesus” spoke the words you referred to in Isa. 44 , go down to 8 and tell me he also said that.

    Isa. 44-8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

    Monty, did Jesus just say he was the one and only God ? Do you actually believe Jesus denied his Father ?
    Monty, if God, and the son claims the title of “Alpha and Omega” they have that right, because there is no other like either of them. Each of them is the first and the last.

  33. Monty says:

    So, you accept that God is 3 in a one? And that Jesus is not less than God the Father in nature?

  34. laymond says:

    Monty, if you see what I said is “god is three” I understand why you might misinterpret what John said.
    1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

    You see Monty the word “only” has the same meaning as the phrase “alpha and omega”
    The first and the last. God is the only god, and Jesus is the only begotten son, so they could both truthfully say they were the “alpha and Omega”. without meaning they were the same person.

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