NASB: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I am’” (as in most trans.)  

NWT: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.’”

Greek: εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί (eipen autois Iēsous: amēn amēn legō humin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi).

It is no surprise that most non-Christian cults and religious groups reject that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, claimed to be God or equal to God.[1] Even though passages such as John 5:17-18; 8:58-59; 10:30-33; Rev. 22:13 show this clearly (esp. in light of the response of the Jews in John 5:59; 8:59; and 10:33.

Jesus declared in John 8:24: “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.).[2] Although most translations add either a predicated clause or the pronoun “he” after “I am”[3], the fact is there is no pronoun (i.e., no supplied predicate) contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscript of John 8:24 or after Jesus’ other affirmations of being the “I am” as in Mark 6:50; John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. [4]. An added predicate is a decision made by the translator.           

Hence, these particular occurrences in John of Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” are not the same as statements in which contain a clear and stated predicate, such as, for example, “I am the door, the shepherd, the bread,” etc. Whereas the several “I am” statements exampled in John 8, 13:19, and 18:5, 6, 8 (and Mark 6:50) have no stated predicate in the Greek, but rather the “I am” stands alone–which would be an absolute claim to deity. Thus, the burden of proof would rest on the one attempting to show otherwise.

As shown below, John 8:58 contextually and syntactically (esp. in light of the verb contrast) asserts an absolute unequivocal claim of deity made by Christ, which was clearly understood by the Jews in the next verse. However, whether or not the “I am” statements in the other passages are contextually unpredicated, that is, “I am the eternal God” claims, the deity of the Son is well established in the entire content of John’s literature (John 1:18; 5:17-18; 10:30; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 22:13 et al.).        

Hebrew, Ani Hu

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi, the OT background must first be considered. The Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was translated egō eimi in the Septuagint (LXX), was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH alone (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4 et al.)—which the Jews clearly understood (cf. John 8:59).[5] Again, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim.

Exegetical Features  

When Jesus declared He was the “I am” at John 18:5, 6, and 8, we read that the “fearless” Romans soldiers “fell to the ground.” What would cause Roman soldiers to fall to the ground? So powerful were Jesus’ divine pronouncements that it caused His enemies to shudder to the ground. Even when Jesus was being arrested at perhaps one of the lowest points of His life on earth, He still retained total sovereignty over His enemies.

So strong was Jesus’ affirmation of deity in John 8:58 that the JWs’ Bible the NWT mistranslated the present active indicative verb, eimi (“am”) turning it into a past tense: “I have been.” From this, the JW’s argue that Jesus was not claiming to be deity (“I am”), but rather He was claiming to be “older” than Abraham was (as Michael the archangel), which incited the Jews to want to kill Him. However, what immediately refutes this false notion is:

1) Simply, the Greek text contains the present indicative verb eimi (“am”) and not any kind of past tense. In 1969, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society[6] (WT) published a Greek Interlinear called, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT) and a revised ed. in 1985. The KIT is a Greek NT with English equivalents under each Greek word and the NWT on the side margins. What is interesting is that the Greek is unchanged, only the NWT is altered from the Greek.

For example, notice the photocopy of John 8:58-59 from the KIT in which you can see the unaltered Greek phrase egō eimi (“I am”) and the NWT’s altered reading “I have been,” on the side:

This clearly shows that the NWT purposely altered the Greek NT text, from the present “I am” to a past “I have been” (as if Jesus was merely saying that He is older than Abraham)[7] to fit the distinctive theology of the WT.

2) Even more, throughout the years, the WT has offered at least three reasons as to why the present tense verb eimi (“am”) should be translated as a past action (“have been”). First, in the 1950 ed. of the NWT, there is a footnote referring to the “I have been” rendering, which states: “I have been— ἐγώ εἰμι [egō eimi] . . . properly rendered in the perfect indefinite tense. . . .” (p. 312).

This sounds legitimate to one who is not familiar with Greek, however, there is no such tense as a “perfect indefinite” in biblical Greek. The WT made up a phony tense. Some have defended the WT’s explanation saying that “perfect indefinite” refers to the English, not the Greek. But we are not aware of a single official WT source that states this.

Then, the WT argued that the verb eimi was a “perfect indicative.”[8] Now, there is a perfect indicative in Greek, however, the verb eimi takes no such form. And currently, the WT asserts that eimi is a “historical present”[9] explaining that “The verb ei·mi’, at John 8:58, is evidently in the historical present, as Jesus was speaking about himself in relation to Abraham’s past” (emphasis added).[10]

Thus, the JWs see Jesus as merely claiming that He pre-existed Abraham, which, according to the JWs, enraged the Jews to the point of wanting to kill Him (cf. v. 59). This assertion, however, is flawed both grammatically and contextually.

First, a historical present tense occurs primarily in narrative literature and only in third person. In this context, Jesus was arguing with the Jews—He was not narrating. Secondly, the equative verb eimi is not used as a historical present. As the recognized Greek scholar, Daniel Wallace, points out:

If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that uses the equative verb eimi. The burden of proof, therefore, lies with the one who sees eimi as ever being used as a historical present. . . If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that is in other than third person.[11]

The weight against the historical present view is massive. The reason for these various assertions of eimi postulated by the WT throughout the years (viz. the phony perfect indefinite; perfect indicative, and historical present) is, of course, obvious. If Jesus’ divine statements of being the “I am,” stand unmodified, then, Jesus made some astonishing and unambiguous claims of being the eternal God (as with John 5:17 and 10:27-30), which clearly show the WT to be a false religion in need of salvation.


[1] Although Roman Catholicism holds to the deity of Christ, they reject His work as being sufficient, the very ground of justification (esp. seen in Rome’s view of Purgatory). Since Paul states that it is “His [God’s] doing” that we are in Christ, who became to us “righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), Rome clearly embraces a “different” Jesus than that of holy Scripture, a Jesus, that did not, alone, become the believers’ righteousness.

[2] Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn.

[3] For example, the pre-2011 NIV has a bracketed clause after “I am” that reads: “the one I claim to be.”

[4] Although the non-predicated divine declaration, “I am,” John 8:58 is accepted universally as a divine claim in biblical scholarship, not all scholars hold 8:24 in the same light as reflected in many translations. However, some translations (e.g., ISV [2008]; NAB) do see the phrase at 8:24 as unpredicted: “I am.”

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010) reads: “I said to you that you shall die in your sins, for unless you shall believe that I AM THE LIVING GOD, you shall die in your sins” (caps theirs). Also see Vincent’s Word Studies, where 8:24, 28, 58 and 13:19 are seen as a “solemn expression” of Jesus’ “absolute divine being.”

[5] Some connect Exodus 3:14 with John 8:58. However, as mentioned, the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalence: Egō eimi ho ōn (“I am the Being” or “Existing One”). Though there is a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14 (both provide same meaning: I am the Eternal one. Also note the articular participle, ὁ ὢν (ho ōn, “the one who is/being always”) in the LXX of Exodus 3:14. When contextually warranted, as in 3:14, the phrase indicates timeless existence – “who is always existing.” The phrase is applied to the Father in Revelation 1:4 and 4:8 and applied to the Son and John 1:18 denoting the Son’s eternal existence: “No one has seen God at any time; the only the unique God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Also applied to the incarnate Son in Romans 9:5 with the same sematic: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” The phrase also appears in Revelation 1:8. Although referential identity is not clear (Father or Son), verse 7 clearly refers to the Son, which seems to correlate naturally with verse 8.            

As pointed our above, the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative should be linked to the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was rendered by the LXX as egō eimi. Again, the unpredicted egō eimi was a divine title used exclusively by YHWH (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Unlike Elohim (“God”), the title egō eimi was never applied to men or angels, but to YHWH alone: “See now that I am [egō eimi], and there is no god except Me” (Deut. 32:29, LXX).

[6] The WT is the organization to which the JWs belong and submit.

[7] The Watchtower, 1 September 1974, 526-27

[8] Cf. KIT, 1985 ed. 451.

[9] “The historical present is used fairly frequently in narrative literature to describe a past event” (Wallace, GGBB, 526).

[10] Reasoning from the Scriptures, 418.

[11] Ibid., 530.


The JWs are taught that the term “Jehovah” is the *true* name of God.[1] Further, they assert that the term “Jehovah” was actually removed from the original Greek NT and thus faithfully restored by the NWT.[2] However, consider the following statements made by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e., the organization of the JWs; hereafter WT):

The WT acknowledges that “Jehovah” is not the true pronunciation of God’s name.

While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yah.weh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of people’s familiarity with it since the 14th century. Moreover, it preserves, equally with other forms, the four letters of the tetragrammaton JHVH (NWT, 1950 ed., Foreword, p. 25 [note: This admission was removed from the 1961, 1970, 1984 editions of the NWT]).


The WT acknowledges that most Hebrew scholars prefer “Yahweh” as the true pronunciation:

Yes, many Bible scholars acknowledge that “Yahweh” more nearly represents the Hebrew pronunciation of the Divine Name (WT,[3] July 15, 1964, p. 423).

Hebrew scholars generally favor “Yahweh” as the most likely pronunciation (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, 885).

“Jehovah” is the best known English pronunciation of the Divine name, although “Yahweh” is favored by most Hebrew scholars (Insight on the Scriptures, 1988, vol. 2, p. 5).

The WT acknowledges that the exact pronunciation of God’s name is unknown:

Yet no one today actually can say with certainty how Moses, for example, pronounced the Divine name (WT, May 1, 1978, p. 12).

Due to religious disuse, the original pronunciation of the Hebrew has been lost . . . there is no way of knowing what pronunciation is correct (WT, December 1, 1983, p. 5).

The WT acknowledges that the pronunciation “Jehovah” was originally a “blunder”:

As to the Old Testament name of God, certainly the spelling and pronunciation “Jehovah” were originally a blunder (The Bible in Living English, 1972, p.7).


The WT acknowledges that the pronunciation “Jehovah” originated not until the thirteenth century A.D.:

The first recorded use of this form [Jehovah] dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish [Roman Catholic] monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270 C.E. (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, p. 884-5).

But “Jehovah” did not appear until Martine’s 1381 ed. In the earlier eds. he used Yohoua.

The WT acknowledges that there is no NT Greek manuscript that contains “the divine name”:

One of the remarkable facts, not only about the extent manuscripts of the original Greek text, but of many versions, ancient and modern, is the absence of the Divine name (NWT, 1950 ed., Foreword, p. 10; the same quote is found in the Awake magazine, 1957, January 8, 25).

No ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books from Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full (The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, 1984, p. 23).


The fact is, “Jehovah” is not and has never been God’s name. As seen above, the WT acknowledges this fact.

Here’s the point: God was known by many names. In the OT, for example, God is called, “Yahweh” (YHWH, “LORD”, Deut. 6:4); “LORD God” (Gen. 1:4); “Lord” (Adonai, Isa. 6:1); “God” (Elohim, Gen. 1:1); “God of Abraham” (Gen. 26:24); “God of Daniel” (Dan. 6:26); “God of Israel” (Num. 16:9); “Glory of Israel” (1 Sam. 15:29); “God of heaven” (Dan. 2:44); “Creator” (Isa. 40:28); “Everlasting God” (Isa. 40:28); “I am” (egō eimi in the LXX;[4] Deut. 32:39; 43:10); “First and the Last” (Isa. 44:6); “mighty God” (Isa. 10:21); “God of gods,” “Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17); “Holy One” (Isa. 40:25); “Rock of Israel” (Isa. 30:29); and many other names and titles were used to refer to God in the OT.

And in the NT, God[5] is referred to as “Father” over 250 times. Jesus refers to Him as “Father” about 179 times. The apostle Paul (and other apostles) also refers to God as “Father” (Abba in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6). But not once did any NT author use the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (“YHWH”) to refer to God.

Note: the manuscript evidence indicates that the NT was written in Greek, not Hebrew nor Aramaic—thus, the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is not found in any of over 5,800 NT manuscripts. When citing passages from the OT, the NT authors used kurios (“Lord”) to translate YHWH. As well, the LXX primarily used kurios to translate the Tetragrammaton.

To recall:

1. The term “Jehovah” was the invention of a Catholic monk (Raymundus Martini) in A.D. 1202.

2. “Jehovah” is a mispronunciation and an incorrect transliteration of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHWH) to which virtually all biblical scholars concur.

3. God was referred to by many names and titles: There is no passage in the OT or NT that commands the people of God to call Him by a specific name—and definitely not “Jehovah.” In fact, Jesus normally used “Father” and sometimes kurios (“Lord”; e.g., Luke 10:21) to refer to God (His Father).

4. When citing passages from the OT, the NT authors used kurios (“Lord”) to translate YHWH (e.g., Rom. 10:13). Note: most of the OT quotations in the NT were from the Greek LXX where kurios, not YHWH was used.

5. As seen, even the WT agrees with point 1 and 2 above.

Since the JWs believe that the “true name” of God (“Jehovah” as they assume) is essential in honoring Him, then, why would they mispronounce and mistransliterate (as the WT admits) the Tetragrammaton—YHWH?

*Witnessing Tip*

Romans 10:13 reads (Paul here quoting from Joel 2:32): “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved” (NWT). Ask the JW: “If “Jehovah” is not the true and correct name (as agreed by the WT), how can a JW be saved since he or she calls on the wrong name?[6]- See, Jesus as YHWH and the erroneous assertions of the JWs.

Contrary to the JW’s false and fixed notion regarding the term “Jehovah,” Jesus Christ instructed His followers: “After this manner therefore pray ye: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. . . .’” (Matt. 6:9; KJV).

Remember, it is not merely the mispronunciation of YHWH that condemns JWs (for many Christians use the term “Jehovah”), but rather it is their denial that Jesus IS YHWH that condemns them before God (cf. John 8:24).



[1] The term “LORD” in the English OT is translated from YHWH (viz. Tetragrammaton, lit., “word with four letters”). Original Hebrew had only consonants—no vowels, though, vowels were verbally pronounced (thus, “Yahweh” as most scholars coincide). Vowels were added to the written text by the Masoretes (cf. Masoretic Text) around the ninth century A.D.

[2] The WT’s New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is the translation that the JWs use. Prior to the NWT (1950), the WT distributed and utilized the Kings James Version. However, in order to stay coherent to WT doctrines, the NWT departed from the translational norm of the KJV. The brunt of the translational deviations reflect the theological distinctives of the WT (e.g., Matt. 25:46: “everlasting cutting-off”; John 1:1: “a god”; Col. 1:16-17: the insertion of “other” four times in order to teach that Christ was not the Creator of ALL THINGS as the original Greek [grammar/context] indicates (but in John 1:3, the NWT did not add “other”); Col. 2:9: “divine quality” and, of course, the NWT inserted “Jehovah” (in the NT)—some 237 times).

[3] I.e., The Watchtower magazine.

[4] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning “seventy,” i.e., the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Heb. into Greek). The NT authors primarily used the LXX when citing the OT. Also note, the LXX was used exclusively in the book of Hebrews.

[5] I.e., God the Father.

[6] Note on Romans 10:13:

The phrase “Jesus as Lord” (Kurion Iēsoun [Κύριον Ἰησοῦν], lit., “Lord Jesus”) in Romans 10:9 is clearly the antecedent to the occurrences of the pronoun “Him” and “Lord” following up to verse 13:

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.


12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;


“Jesus as Lord” is the object of salvation from verse 9-13. Throughout these passages, it is the same “Him” and same “Lord” beginning in verse 9. To say that the “Lord” in verse 9 is a different “Lord” than in verse 13 completely breaks the flow of the passages. The Lord that one confesses (v. 9) is the same Lord that one calls upon for salvation (v. 13). In verse 13, Paul cites Joel 2:32: “whoever calls on the name of the Lord [Heb. YHWH] will be delivered.” Just as he does in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul cites a passage referring to YHWH and applies it to Jesus. Thus, whoever confessing and calls upon Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as YHWH will be saved.

In fact, there are many places where the NT authors cite OT passages referring to YHWH and apply them to Jesus Christ. This is a great way to share the truth about Jesus to JWs. For example, compare Psalm 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13. The most productive way to use this witnessing tactic is to first take the JW to the OT passage first, then have him read the NT passage where the author cites the OT passage and applies it to Jesus.