Observation Of Answering Islam’s Response To “I AM WHAT I AM: A Bible Commentary”

Tera Tak Adamar & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi

The missionary Sam Shamoun under the banner of the infamous missionary website, Answering Islam, have claimed in his series of articles [1][2][3][4] that he has “refuted” our analysis of John 8:28 regarding the usage of the Greek ‘ego eimi’ (egw eimi). Unfortunately, to achieve that ambition, he had to resort to writing tons of text which is not only full of ad hominem attacks against us, but is also wholly unrelated to the issue of the Greek, thus committing the logical fallacies of strawman and red herring. We surmise that only 10% from his above presentation actually deals with the Greek and it is this portion that we shall seek to address extensively in our observation. Any other unrelated parts of his article shall either be ignored or addressed only in brief.

Evaluating The Missionary’s Writings

The missionary has made the following claim in the first part of his paper:

The main claim of the authors is, that since Exodus 3:14 refers to God and since the Greek translation there is Ho On, then John 8:58 doesn’t prove that Jesus is Yahweh because of the slightly different wording in that verse.

It is not hard to see why it is so. Throughout the various English translations of the Bible, the translators have translated ‘ego eimi’ in several ways and has not stuck to merely translating it to “I am”, as the missionary would like us to believe. This we have already shown in our original article. But our missionary seems to have a problem with the fact that ‘ego eimi’ does not neccessarily translate into “I am” and so he says that

First, the reason why different translations of John 8:58 have different renderings has nothing to do with the Septuagint’s rendering of Exodus 3:14. Rather, it has to do with the context of John 8:58. Scholars have noted that the use of ego eimi in the context of John 8:58 is to highlight past existence that continues to the present moment. This is known as PPA, or present of past action still in progress, or simply as EP, extension of past idiom.

The missionary then proceeds to cite a number of quotes from a couple of missionaries, not Greek scholars. He obviously wants to try to impress us with his knowledge of Greek grammar, but the truth is that he and his “scholars” have no idea of the Greek usage of ‘ego eimi’ in the above passage.

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The action expressed in John 8:58 started “before Abraham came into existence” and is still in progress. In such a situation, ‘eimi’ (eimi) which is the first-person singular present indicative, is properly translated by the perfect indicative. Examples of the same syntax can be found in Luke 2:28; 13:7; 15:29; John 5:6; 14:9; 15:27; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 12:19; John 3:8.

Concerning the construction, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament by G.B. Winer, 7th ed., Andover, 1897, p. 267 says:

Sometimes the Present includes also a past tense (Mdv. 108), viz. when the verb expresses a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues – a state in its duration; as Jno. xv 27 ap archrV met emou este (ap’ ar-khes met e-mou e-ste), vii. 58 prin Abraam genesai egw eimi [prin A-bra-am ge-nesthai ego eimi]

Likewise, A Grammar of New Testament Greek by J.H. Moulton, Vol III by Nigel Turner, Edinburgh, 1963, p. 62 says

The present which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking is virually the same as Perfective, the only difference being that the action is conceived as still in progress…It is frequent in the N[ew]T[estament]: Luke 2:48; 13:7…15:29….John 5:6; 8:58…

In short, one can easily get the impression that the usage of ‘ego eimi’ is certainly not uncommon throughout the Greek New Testament, and thus cannot be used as evidence for the claim that Jesus is God.

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Other Side Issues

Though this is not related wholly to the topic, we would still like to comment on this obvious tendency of the missionary. In his response to our article, the missionary had often cited the early Trinitarian Church fathers such as Origen, Hippolytus and Justin Martyr and had even cited a part of Justin Martyr’s Dialogue of Justin Philosopher and Maryr, With Trypho the Jew, in order to support his original argument that the Holy Spirit is the same with Jesus. What the missionary did not inform us, however, is that both these Church fathers have very different conceptions of not only what the Holy Spirit really is, they also had a very different idea with what the Trinity really is when compared with the definition in the mindset of the missionary! On Origen’s conception of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit, we read that:

Origen (died c250 CE) insisted that Father and Son were two separate essences, and that the son was inferior to the father…Origen became head of the Alexandria College, and was ordained priest in 230 CE, in Palestine. Bishop Demetrius deposed and exiled him, so he started a new school in Caesarea. He was condemned in 250 CE by the Council of Alexandria for rejecting the doctrine of Trinity. (The Mysteries of Jesus, p. 195)

In other words, Origen clearly believed that Jesus was a much “lesser god”. On Hippolytus, we read that

Hippolytus (died c235CE) said ‘God is One God, the first and Only One, the Maker and Lord of all […] who had nothing of equal age with Him; Who, willing it, called into being that which had no being before.’ (ibid, p. 195)

In other words, Hippolytus believed that Jesus was non-existent prior to the existence of God the Father. That certainly does not bode well for the beliefs of the missionary regarding the Trinity!

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And finally, we read the following information on Justin Martyr:

Justin, who pleaded the Christian case apparently accepted the Ebionite doctrine of Adoptionism, that the Divine Grace could fall upon a person at any moment of God’s choosing, thus elevating that person to the position of being an ‘adopted’ son of God. In Jesus’ case, he believed that this happened at his baptism. The notion of God impregnating a virgin was pagan and abhorrent to him, and quite unneccessary to his scheme…Justim maintained that John really had been Elijah, and that Jesus became the Christ at the moment of his baptism, when the ‘Godhead’ came upon him. (ibid, p. 118)

All this reveals that Justin Martyr was certainly not a Trinitarian in the definition known to us today, and therefore we find it hillarious to see the missionary appealing to someone who would be considered a ‘heretic’ today.

This concludes our observation of this missionary tendency. Any further treatment of how the early Church fathers had various (conflicting) views of the Trinity with the modern-day Trinitarians would be excellent material which would be more suitably addressed in a future paper, insha’allah.

Conclusions

It is clear that the missionary arguments are not only mostly out of topic concerning the Greek usage ‘ego eimi’ in John 8:58, he has also failed to convince us that this phrase can indeed be used, without a shadow of doubt, as evidence for the deity of Jesus. This is not surprising, as we can easily see in the gospels how Jesus actually denied that he is God, much to the chagrin of the pseudo-monotheists. Moreover, the missionary has appealed to early Trinitarian fathers who had very different conceptions of the Trinity from what the missionary himself believes about it!

And certainly, only God knows best!

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