Picture from Shahirah Elaiza
In saying that Jesus claims he is Yahweh: I believe Kornelius Kuku Palete Masiku is referring to John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (I am = Ego Eimi in the emphatic sense without a predicate Present timeless with no object).
There are, in fact, eight instances of this form of the verb in John, including one that is not Jesus from John 9:9 – Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am.”
In nearly every case, there is an assumed predicate, reflecting the subject (i.e. the object of the context). Hence these other “I am” statements are not taken to mean EHYEH or the “LOGOS” of John 1 (which is assumed to be YAHWEH).
If all of these ‘I am’s have an assumed predicate, what about John 8:58. To see what that predicate may be, let us look at the context. First, the preamble:
The Jews answered Him, “Are we not right to say that You are a Samaritan and You have a demon?”
“I do not have a demon,” Jesus replied, “but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. I do not seek My own glory. There is One who seeks it, and He is the Judge. Truly, truly, I tell you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.”
So, Jesus denies having a demon (to help him with his works) and denies seeking glory (Glory not Jesus, but God). As he does elsewhere, he points out that the One God glorifies him (Jesus) and it is He who is the Judge of what goes on between him and them. He then reiterates that his message (which they will not to hear) is what will see them into everlasting life.
Note, he has just said, “I am a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. I have come here from God. I have not come on my own, but He sent me. You do not understand because you are unable to accept my message.”
He also says of the Jews, “You are doing the works of your father.” Does he mean their literal father, or Abraham, the father of nations, or God the Father whom they claim as their father? No! The Father is the father of lies – the devil, of whom they say “We are not illegitimate children. Our only Father is God Himself.” – God, however, is the Father of Truth – not just its Father by means of His messengers, but Allah is Truth itself.
Now the conversation develops as the incensed Jews declare:
“Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, and so did the prophets, yet you say that anyone who keeps your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, as did the prophets. Who do you claim to be?”
Again, Jesus answers with a counter concept. He is not claiming to be anything but an agent of truth, a tool of One Greater than he.
“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing.”
Here, Jesus is saying, of himself, he is nothing. If he were pumping himself up as something himself, he would be a prideful liar, like them. No! It is God that makes him what he is – the carrier of the message that takes them into life.
The One Who glorifies me is my Father, of Whom you say ‘He is our God.’ You do not know Him, but I know Him. If I said I did not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him, and I keep His word.
What glorifies Jesus is God’s word and God’s commands.
Your father, Abraham, was overjoyed to see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
Abraham saw Jesus’s day!? When? – When he was shown it by God. But the Jews misunderstand him yet again.
Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?”
This was not what he said. He did not say he saw Abraham. He said Abraham saw him and his day. How, if he (Abraham) was not shown?
Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί
Amēn amēn legō hymin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi
“Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
At this, they picked up stones to throw at Him.
The Church, and you, probably, will say that they wanted to stone him because they knew he was claiming to be God. Why so? All the while they misunderstood him up to this point, and they did so again. That “I am” is the timeless time when he was visible to Abraham to whom Allah showed the advent of not only the Messiah, but also the seal of the Prophets. Allah did this to many prophets, and it is where the word prophet comes from. They prophesy the future truly. Jesus does the same when he prophesies Muhammed, may Allah praise him. He and other prophets before him see Muhammed, so Muhammed is before Jesus was born.
What Jesus is at the time before Abraham was born is a prophetical plan of God.
In fact, not only Jesus is before Abraham, every living human being is. Allah says in Quran,
“مَآ أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِى الاٌّرْضِ وَلاَ فِى أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلاَّ فِى كِتَـبٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَآ.”
there is nothing that touches you or happens on earth but it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees before We bring it into existence.
Of this verse, in an authentic hadiyth, Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As said,
“I heard the Messenger of Allah, may He praise him, say, “Allah ordained the measures of everything fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” [Muslim]
In another hadiyth in Tirmidhi, graded authentic by him, the Messenger, may He praise him, described the moment that Fitrah was set. Abu Huraira reported:
The Messenger of Allah, may He praise him said, “When Allah created Adam, He wiped Adam’s back and every person that He would create from him until the Day of Resurrection fell from his back. Allah placed a shining light between the eyes of each one of them. Allah showed them to Adam and he asked: O Lord, who are they? Allah said: These are your offspring; Adam saw a man among them he liked, so he asked: O Lord, who is this man? Allah said: This is a man of the latter generations from your offspring, and his name is David.”
Bukhari and Muslim record that the messenger of Allah described the Day of Resurrection, saying,
“It will be said to a man from the people of the Fire on the Day of Resurrection, `If you owned all that is on the earth, would you pay it as ransom’
He will reply, `Yes.’
Allah will say, `I ordered you with what is less than that, when you were still in Adam’s loins, that is, associate none with Me in worship. But you insisted that you associate with Me (in worship).”
Allah refers to this in verse 7:172
“وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ ۛ شَهِدْنَا ۛ أَن تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَٰذَا غَافِلِينَ.”
And when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, “Am I not your Lord?”
They said, “Yes, we have testified.”
lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.”
Furthermore, Muhammed reported seeing and speaking to the prophets and messengers who came before him during his transfer to Jerusalem and his ascent. Part of the long hadiyth describing what the Prophet reported is as follows:
“The Prophet then passed by Moses as he was praying in his grave at a place of red dunes. He was tall, with long hair and brown complexion, similar to one of the Shanu’a. He was saying with a loud voice: “You have honored him and preferred him!”
Then the Prophet greeted him and he returned his greeting. Moses said: “Who is this with you, O Gabriel?”
He replied: “This is Ahmad.”
He said: “Welcome to the Arabian Prophet who acted perfectly with his Community!” and he made an invocation for blessing on his behalf. Then he said: “Ask ease for you Community.”
They continued travelling and the Prophet said: “O Gabriel, who was this?”
He replied: “This is Moses ben `Amram.”
The Prophet asked: “Who was he reprimanding?”
He said: “He is reprimanding his Lord.”
The Prophet said: “He reprimands his Lord and raises his voice against his Lord?!”
Gabriel said: “Allah the Exalted knows Moses’s bluntness.”
He passed by a large tree whose fruit seemed like a thornless berry (of the kind that gives shade to men and cattle). Under it an old man was resting with his dependents. There were lamps and a great light could be seen. The Prophet said: “Who is this, O Gabriel?”
He replied: “Your father Abraham.”
The Prophet greeted him and Abraham returned his greeting and said: “Who is this with you, O Gabriel?”
He replied: “This is your son Ahmad.”
He said: “Welcome to the unlettered Arabian Prophet who has conveyed the message of his Lord and acted with perfect sincerity with his Community! O my son, you are going to meet your Lord tonight, and your Community is the last and the weakest of all Communities — therefore, if you are able to have your need fulfilled concerning your Community, or most of it, be sure to do it!”
Then he invoked for goodness on his behalf.
They continued travelling until they reached the valley that is in the city — that is: The Hallowed House — when lo and behold! the Gehenna was shown to them like a carpet unfolded.
They (the Companions) said: “O Messenger of Allah, how was it?”
He replied: “Like cinders.”
He continued travelling until he reached the city of the Hallowed House and he entered it by its Southern gate. He dismounted the Buraq and tied it at the gate of the mosque, using the ring by which the Prophets tied it before him.
The Prophet entered the mosque from a gate through which the sun and the moon could be seen when they set. He prayed two cycles of prayer and did not tarry long before a large throng of people had gathered. The Prophet recognized all the Prophets, some standing in prayer, some bowing, some prostrating. Then a caller called for the prayer and the final call to prayer was made. They rose and stood in lines, waiting for the one who would lead them. Gabriel took the hand of the Prophet and brought him forward. He led them in two cycles of prayer.”
All these hadiyths and the verse are simply to show that the existence of all the prophets is timeless and not related to when they were born. Indeed, before he, himself, was born, Abraham is.
The other key verse which supports the notion of God being more than One person, at least for the Christian theologists, are the verses of incarnation. Before we examine those verses, let us look at the “I am” verse again linguistically.
“Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί”
Amēn amēn legō hymin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi
“πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι” is pronounced “prin Abraam genesthai”. “γίνομαι (genomai)” is the verb be in the sense of becoming (genesthai), just as in the sentence of incarnation (egeneto). In other words, one could say “before Abraham incarnated” or “was created” rather than “was born”. Clearly, we are talking about when Abraham was physically conceived rather than merely planned by his parents, or even planned by Allah (written in the Book of Decrees mentioned in the verse of the Quran above).
Compare this with verse 1:14 in John’s Gospel.
“Καὶ ὁ Λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν”
Kai ho Logos sarx egeneto kai eskēnōsen en hēmin
And the Word flesh became and dwelt among us
Again, the verb genomai is used, as was physically conceived in this world. What was conceived? Was it the masculine Λόγος (Logos), “The Word” that was with God in the beginning by which all things were egeneto – physically created? Or was the feminine σὰρξ (sarx) “flesh” physically created through the Word of God?
The Quran provides a clue. In several places (Quran 2:117; 3:47; 3:59; 6:73; 16:40; 19:35; 36:82 and 40:68), Allah explains that creation is a wilful act to bring about Allah’s decree in the physical world, using the Word كُن فَيَكُونُ (kun fayakoun) “BE! And it becomes.” Some of these explanations are in direct reference to the creation of Jesus, which is compared in one of these references (Quran 3:59) to the creation of Adam.
“إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَىٰ عِندَ اللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ آدَمَ ۖ خَلَقَهُ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ”
Inna mathala ‘Eissaa ‘inda Allahi kamathali Aadam. Khalaqahu min turaabin thumma qaala lahu, kun, fayakoun.
“Verily, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust; then He said to him, ‘BE’, and he became.”
In this context, we can look at the word “εἰμί” (eimí) in a new light. Let us agree that, like the imperfect tense of EHYeH, eimí is omnitemporal in mood, referring to existence and being in past, the present and the future: I was, I am and I will be. He was before Abraham’s birth. He is before Abraham’s birth. He will be before Abraham’s birth. So were all the prophets prophesied. For how could a prophet prophecy without knowing who will be. How can something that is decreed for future manifestation by God not be true before the person who prophesied it?
And will not a person be living his life per that preordained decree even while it is manifest in the world? How often does Jesus say in the Gospel of John, “I speak what God (the Father) puts in my mouth, and what I do with my limbs is directed by Him?” or words to that effect? All is known before it is done because it is written in the Book of Decrees.
But that is not where it stops. When Muhammad, may Allah praise him, met Abraham and Moses on the night journey, they recognized him. And Muhammad recognized all the prophets he met. How. Was it because they recognized Allah as their Lord together when Allah raised all of mankind from Adam’s back to make the covenant of Fitra?
“ἐγὼ εἰμί” (Ego eimí), or “I am”, then contrasts the being of Abraham manifest in the world to the timeless being of Jesus, rather than his manifest being. That is, his potential before God with “the Word” enfleshed him. The indicative ellipsis of the verb, then, is the state of NOT being Born.