An Isaianic Spin on the “I Am” Statements in the Gospel of John

I have been thoroughly enjoying Schreiner’s New Testament Theology. At 864 pages, it’s a redwood that will fall only with consistent swings of the ax over a long period of time. Especially for a slow reader like me.

In his chapter “Son of God, I Am, and Logos,” he connects ¬†Jesus’ “I am” statements to the OT in a way I haven’t seen before, not only to Exodus, but also to Isaiah:

“Another dimension of his Christology stands out in the ‘I am’ statements that are sprinkled regularly throughout the Gospel. The words ‘I am’ (ego eimi) draw on God’s revelation of himself to Moses when he summoned him to liberate Israel from Egypt (Exod. 3:6, 14), but its closest antecedents are found in Isaiah, who regularly uses ‘I am’ in contrasting Yahweh with the idols, assuring Israel that he will free them in a second exodus (Isa. 41:4; 43:10, 25; 45:8, 18, 19, 22; 46:4, 9; 48:12, 17; 51:12; 52:6 LXX). The texts in Isaiah occur in contexts where monotheism is taught emphatically in which the creator God is contrasted with idols. ‘I am’ is reserved for Yahweh, who ordains the end from the beginning and who will accomplish his saving purposes in the world in contrast to idols, which are powerless.

As a Jew, John was well versed in OT antecedents. His use of the phrase stands as another strong piece of evidence supporting Jesus’ deity, his ‘unique divinity and sovereignty.’ The words ‘I am’ in their full sense cannot and do not appear on the lips of anyone who is merely human” (248, my italics).

What adds even more strength to Schreiner’s argument, and perhaps further explains why Isaiah picked up the theme, is that the “I am” statements of Exodus are also in direct opposition to idolatry, both Israel’s (Josh. 24:14; Ezek. 20:5-8) and Egypt’s (Exod. 12:12).