The Temple – Why Is It at the Heart of the Trial of Jesus?

Prosecution by Caiaphas in the trial of Jesus was not going well because no two witnesses could agree on the same accusation as required by Jewish law.[1] Finally two witnesses presented the same accusation: 

MK 14:58  “”We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”” (NASB) [2]

Not quite accurate, according to the Gospel accounts of Mark and John.[3] Jesus actually said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[4] Nevertheless, it became the center point in the trial that Jesus claimed he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

Hours later, the charge persisted to the crucifixion suggesting the mockers had been at the trial. They taunted Jesus saying if he could destroy and rebuild the Temple in three days, why couldn’t he save himself from the cross?[5]

The Temple accusations had a lot to do with its divine history and what it represents. The sacred Temple was the House of God – no legitimate Jew would ever think of destroying the Temple, not to mention rebuilding it, because of its history going back to Mt. Sinai and Moses.

Atop Mt. Sinai, God not only gave Moses the Law, He also made five big promises to the Hebrews all tied to the place. Three of those promises – the permanent dwelling place for His Name; the place to observe the Feasts; and the judgment seat of Israel – all involved the future Temple:[6]

Until then, instructions were given for a temporary mobile structure, a tent called the Tabernacle.[7] God’s design for the Tabernacle served as the blueprint for the future Temple, its usage and contents.[8]

Centuries later, King David wanted to build a permanent temple to replace the Tabernacle, but God had other plans. The prophet Nathan delivered the message that David’s future son would fulfill the promise given to Moses to build the House of God.[9] 

David still chose the future location of the Temple, but the backdrop story is nothing like it would logically seem. The site was a threshing floor owned by the Jebusite Araunah (Ornan) where winds on the high location were perfectly suited for separating grain from chaff.[10]

Wanting to offer a sacrifice to God to atone for his sin that led to the deaths of thousands of Hebrews, David found Araunah’s threshing floor on high ground to be a suitable place for the sacrifice. Using his own money, the King bought the threshing floor along with all its equipment to use as the fuel of the sacrifice.[11]

Building an altar himself, the King prepared the offering, then fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice. Moved deeply, David declared “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.”[12] The place was on Mt. Moriah where a thousand years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed.[13]

Temple construction began in the fourth year of King Solomon’s reign and was completed seven years later.[14] Solomon held a public consecration for the permanent dwelling place for the Name of God and prepared a sacrifice on the altar in front of the new Temple.[15] The King proclaimed to God:

2 CH 6:2-11 “I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.”(NKJV)

Spectacularly in the presence of all the Hebrews, God again sent down fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice. It left no doubt this was the place for the Temple to serve as the dwelling place for the Name of God. [16]   

During the night, God appeared to Solomon reminding the King that while He had fulfilled His promises from Mt. Sinai, it was not carte blanche – it came with a stipulation:[17]

2 CH 7:19-20 “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (NKJV)

After centuries of ignoring warnings from many prophets for failure to follow God, it happened – the army of King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, under the decree of Persian King Cyrus with continued support from Kings Darius and Artaxerxes, the Second Temple was rebuilt.[18]

King Herod enhanced the Second Temple although primarily for his own personal ambitions. He was able to sell the idea to the Jewish leadership saying he wanted to bring the Temple back to the intended grandeur of King Solomon which had been unaffordable at the time it was rebuilt.[19]  It came to be called Herod’s Temple by many, the location of both the Temple prophecy by Jesus and his trial.[20]

Caiaphas asked Jesus to explain the accusations but received no answer. As the High Priest, he had to know the prophecy of the Hebrew prophet Zechariah foretelling  the Branch would build the Temple:

Zech 6:12-13 “…Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (NKJV)

Knowing the magnitude of the Temple accusation had divine implications as evidenced by his next direct question, Caiaphas cut straight to the heart of the trial pointedly asking Jesus:

“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (ISV, NRSV) [21]

When Jesus answered,“I AM,” that was proof enough to Caiaphas that Jesus had spoken a blasphemy. The High Priest and the Jewish leadership serving as jurors took actions to have him put to death.[22]

Was the claim by Jesus that he would rebuild the Temple in three days a daring prediction spoken by the Son of God foretelling of his Resurrection or was it a delusional claim of a man saying he would physically destroy and rebuild the Temple in three days?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 9a, 30a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>  Resnicoff, Steven H. “Criminal Confessions in Jewish Law.” Project Genesis. 2007. <http://www.jlaw.com/Commentary/crimconfess.html>   
[2] CR Matthew 26:60-61.
[3] Mark 14:59, John 2:19-21.
[4] John 2:19-21. NASB.
[5] Mark 15:29.
[6] Deuteronomy 12:5, 11; 16:6; 17:8-10.
[7] Exodus 25:8-9. Leviticus 9:126:11; Numbers 9:15; Deuteronomy 12:22, 16:2, 6, 26:2; 2 Chronicles 5:2-10; I Kings 8:10.
[8] 1 Kings 6. 2 Chronicles 5-6.
[9] 2 Samuel 7:12-17.
[10] “Threshing.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/agriculture-and-horticulture/agriculture-general/threshing>  “Agriculture.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14378-thrashing-floor>
[11] I Chronicles 21:18-26; 2 Samuel 24:18-25. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter XIII.3. <https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Araunah&f=false>  Dolphin, Lambert.  “Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  TempleMount.org. 1996. <http://www.templemount.org/moriah2.html
[12] I Chronicles 22:1. NKJV.
[13] 2 Chronicles 3:1. CR Genesis 22.  Josephus. Antiquates. Book I, Chapter III.
[14] 1 Kings 6:1, 37-38.  CR 2 Chronicles 3:1-2.
[15] 2 Chronicles 6:1-7.
[16] 2 Chronicles 7:1-3.
[17] 2 Chronicles 7:11-18.
[18] Ezekiel 1:2-3; 6:7,12; 7:12-13, 23, 26.  “Building the Second Temple.” My Jewish Learning. 2019.  <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/second-templer>  Cohney, Shelley. The Jewish Temples: The Second Temple.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-second-temple>
[19] “Herod the Great.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2019. <https://www.livius.org/articles/person/herod-the-great>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XV, Chapter XI.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple – Its Ministry and Services. 1826 -1889. Chapter 1. <http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/The%20Temple%20by%20Alfred%20Edersheim.pdf>  Hegg, Tim. “Separating the Most Holy from the Holy:  The ‘Veil’ in the Tabernacle and First & Second Temples” Torah Resource.  <http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Veil%20ETS%20Paper.pdf>  Spiro Ken. “History Crash Course #31: Herod the Great.” Aish.com. 2001. <https://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48942446.html>  “Rebuild Herod’s Temple? A Few Israelis Hope.” New York Times. April 9, 1989. <https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/09/world/rebuild-herod-s-temple-a-few-israelis-hope.html>
[20] Numbers 11:16-17, 24. Ariel, Yisrael. “The Chamber of the Hewn Stone.” The Temple Institute. 2019.  <https://www.templeinstitute.org/illustrated/hewn_stone_description.htm> Ariel. “Blueprints for the Holy Temple.”  <http://www.templeinstitute.org/blueprints-for-the-holy-temple.htm>
[21] Mark 14:61.
[22] Matthew 26:62-66; Mark 14:62-65; Luke 22:70-71.

Was Jesus Accursed By God When He Was Crucified?

Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the fact that serves as proof for Judaism that he is not the Messiah. Jewish belief holds that a person who is hanged is accursed by God; therefore, Jesus was accursed by God disqualifying him as the Messiah:[1]

“The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death; for “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. xxi. 23), ‘an insult to God’ (Targum, Rashi).” – JewishEnclopedia.com

Scriptural basis for this belief is found in the Law of Moses, Book of Deuteronomy. Very plainly it says that anyone who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God:

  1. DT. 21:23 “his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.(NKJV)

Connecting “tree” and “cross” is made through translations of the Deuteronomy Hebrew text word `ets meaning “a tree or wood timber.”[2] Some 300 years before Jesus was crucified, Jewish Hebrew translators of the Septuagint LXX used the Greek word xulon meaning “tree” or “wood.” Jewish and Christian Bibles alike nearly all translate `ets as “tree” or “pole.” [3]

Crucifixion involved a victim being hanged from its wood cross-timber beam on an upright pole. Therein lies the synonymous connection of the Deuteronomy Law to a cross being a “tree” or “pole.”[4]

Thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans.[5] Some were executed as judicial punishment for committing commonly recognized crimes such as murder, robbery and insurrection, a form of treason.

Many Jews including priests, however, were crucified for more sinister reasons such as simple hatred, spitefulness, terrorism, deterrent effect, or merely for entertainment. Jews of the Roman era could not conceivably have viewed these hapless victims of crucifixion as being accursed by God.[6] In fact, Jewish practice was to take great care in burying the crucified Jews before sunset:[7]

“Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.” – Josephus, Wars

Hanging of a victim was not intended to be the Jewish form of execution; rather, death was to be accomplished first by stoning, then the corpse was to be hanged. The hanging was not intended to humiliate, obviously because the person was already dead. The Babylonian Talmud defines the process of capital punishment: [8]

MISHNAH

“All who are stoned are [afterwards] hanged. (Soncino)

Gemara:

“The rabbis taught: It reads [Deut. xxi. 22]: “And he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree.”” (Rodkinson)

“The rabbis taught: If the verse read, “If a man committed a sin, he shall be hanged,” we would say that he should be hanged until death occurs, as the government does; but it reads, “He shall be put to death and hanged,” which means he shall be put to death and thereafter hanged.” (Rodkinson)

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified like other Jews by the Romans – hanged from a cross until dead. Following customary Jewish practice, his body was taken down from the cross and buried with care by none other than two prominent Jewish Council members.[9]

What is then different about the crucifixion circumstances of Jesus than the other crucified Jews – something that would cause Judaism to view only Jesus as being accursed by God? The answer lies in the full context of the Deuteronomy Law:

DT 21:23 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree…for he who is hanged is accursed of God. (NKJV)

The difference – a person to be hanged on a tree was to have committed an offense deserving of death by stoning for a crime so reprehensible, the individual was accursed by God. So egregious, execution was not enough – the corpse was to be hanged publicly whereby all would know the person was accursed by God. Talmud Mishnah and Gemara defined those capital offenses as being two:[10]

MISHNAH

“… the sages say:  only the blasphemer and the idolater are hanged. (Soncino)

“…but thou shalt surely bury him the same day for he is hanged [because of] a curse against God, – as if to say why was he hanged? – Because he cursed the name [of God]; and so the name of the name of Heaven [God] is profaned.(Soncino)

Gemara

“The sages, however, say: that as with a blasphemer who has denied the cardinal principle of our faith (i.e., he does not believe in God), the same is the case with an idolater who denies the might of God…” (Rodkinson)

Caiaphas and other Jewish Council members found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be I AM.[11] Execution should have been by stoning, followed by hanging. Problem was, Rome had prohibited executions by the Jewish theocracy.[12]

An exception to Jewish Law was required to justify the Roman crucifixion of Jesus – hanged on a tree – as signifying he was accursed by God for committing blasphemy. Without the exception, there is no justifiable connection. Sanhedrin 43a in the uncensored Babylonian Talmud Soncino edition references an exception in the case of Jesus of Nazareth – “Yeshu, the Nasarean”: [13]

Gemara[14]

“…On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [#34 the Nasarean] was hanged…But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!.…With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].’” (Soncino)

An exception provides the necessary loophole. After Jesus was judged to be guilty of blasphemy, it can then be said the Jewish Council handed over Jesus to be executed and hanged on a tree, albeit by Rome; therefore, Jesus was accursed by God.

Rome did not recognize the Jewish crime of blasphemy posing another problem. The Jewish Council, instead, handed Jesus over to the Roman government under the accusation of failure to pay taxes and insurrection.[15] Either crime could result in the same desired result – crucifixion.[16]

Jesus was indeed judged by the Roman government for insurrection. However, neither Tetrarch Herod nor Procurator Pilate found any guilt in Jesus despite admitting to Pilate that he is a King.[17]

Not guilty of any Roman crimes, Pilate still condemned Jesus to crucifixion at the behest of the Jewish Council. In the end, it was political influences that came to bear in Pilate’s judgment to crucify Jesus compelling him to wash his hands saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”[18]

Does the crucifixion of Jesus actually mean that he was accursed by God only because he was hanged on a wooden cross? Or does Judaism view Jesus to be accursed by God for the blasphemy of admitting he is I AM.?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth> “God Cannot die!” TorahOfMessiah.com. 2012. <https://web.archive.org/web/20140331233206/http://www.torahofmessiah.com/godcantdie.html>
[2] “H6086.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d.  http://lexiconcordance.com/search6.asp?sw=6086&sm=0&x=42&y=16> Benner, Jeff.  “Mechanical Translation of the Torah.” Deuteronomy 21:23. <http://www.mechanical-translation.org/mtt/D21.html>
[3] Net.bible.org. Deuteronomy 21:22, Hebrew text “`ets <06086>”  “Septuagint text, Greek “xulon <3586>” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=3586Bible Hub. 2017. Deuteronomy 21:22. <http://biblehub.com> Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Septuagint.”  Septuagint.Net. 2014.  <http://septuagint.net>  “Septuagint.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014.  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center.  2013.  <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/31_masorite.html> Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.”  USC West Semitic Research Project.  2012.  <https://web.archive.org/web/20170403025034/http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/biblical_manuscripts/LeningradCodex.shtmlThe Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Devarim – Deuteronomy, Chapter 21. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9985#showrashi=true> Benner, Jeff, “Mechanical Translation of the Torah.” 2017. Deuteronomy 21. <http://www.mechanical-translation.org/mtt/D21.html>
[4] The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Mishnah IV Gemara. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htmSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. Sanhedrin 46b Gemara.<https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html>
[5] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapters V, XIII, XIV; Book IV, Chapter V; Book V, Chapters VI, XI. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XX, Chapter VI.2. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[6] Josephus. Wars. Book V, Chapter XI.
[7] Josephus. Wars. Book IV, Chapter V.
[8] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 45b. Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson. Chapter VI, Mishna V.
[9] Matthew  27:57-61. Mark 15:42-47. Luke 23:50-56. John 19:38-42.
[10] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 45b – 46a. Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson. Chapter VI, Mishna V.
[11] NASB. Luke 22:67-70. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14-63-65.
[12] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XX, Chapters IX. The Complete Works of Josephus. n.d <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[13] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Epstein, Isidor. “Introduction to the Seder Nezikin.”  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Shachter & Freedman. “Introduction to Sanhedrin.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin Chapter VI, Folio 43a. Greenberg, Eric J. “Jesus’ Death Now Debated by Jews.” Jewish Journal. 2003. Reprinted from The Jewish Week.  <http://jewishjournal.com/news/world/8546>
[14] Soncino Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a; footnote #34; “Glossary” > “Baraitha” and “Tanna, Tana.”  Epstein. “Introduction to Seder Nezikin.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Visotzky, Rabbi Burton L. Sage Tales – Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud. 2011. p153. <https://books.google.com/books?id=pMJYU2DTZ4UC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=Talmud+exception+for+Jesus+of+Nazareth&source=bl&ots=ir-xCPF6a0&sig=_Nx3mW86y5dgWQWtuQmV-VidP6w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimzZi8yNvZAhXH44MKHf5AAEsQ6AEIXjAG#v=onepage&q=Talmud%20exception%20for%20Jesus%20of%20Nazareth&f=false>
[15] Luke 23:1-3.
[16] Josephus.  Antiquities. Book XX, Chapter V.  Josephus.  Wars. Book II, Chapters V, XIV. Ashby, Carol. Life in the Roman Empire. n.d. “Crime and Punishment.” <https://carolashby.com/crime-and-punishment-in-the-roman-empire>
[17] Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3, 13-15; John 18:33-38.
[18] NRSV, NASB.  Matthew 27:24; Matthew 27:24-26; Mark 15:11-15; Luke 23:20-25; John 19:4-15. Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVI. Chapters II, VI; Book XVII, Chapter XIII; Book XIX, Chapter V-VI. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Book II. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>

“I AM” – a Blasphemy or the Truth?

High Priest Caiaphas asked Jesus of Nazareth a direct question, “”Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus answered ‘I Am.’”[1] To Caiaphas and other Jewish leaders, it was self-incriminating prima facie evidence – standalone proof – of blasphemy. Leviticus Law defined blasphemy to be a capital offense, death by stoning:

LV 24:16 “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (NASB)

As the backdrop, the son of an Egyptian father and Israelite mother had been apprehended for the offense of blasphemy. In the first and only documented judgement for blasphemy in the Old Testament, the Tanakh, the offensive son was judged by God Himself through Moses:

LV 24:13-15 Then the LORD said to Moses: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.

LV 24:23 “… and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses. (NIV)

What exactly constituted the act of blasphemy? It was not until centuries later that the legal question was answered in the Babylonian Talmud:

MISHNAH:  “The blasphemer is punished only if he utters the [The Divine] Name.”(Soncino)[2]

An effort to further define the Mishnah, called the Gemara, led Jewish Rabbi sages to discuss the act of blasphemy. Considered to be so sacred, the topic required extraordinary treatment by using euphemisms in the written text.[3]

During a blasphemy trial, special rules prohibited witnesses from quoting the blasphemy, instead using the substitute name of “Jose.”[4] Only one witness was allowed to quote the blasphemy and all others were to simply say if they agreed with what they heard.

Upon hearing a blasphemy, the judges were to rend their garments, a Jewish sign of displaying heart-rending anguish or mourning.[5] Exactly the reaction of Caiaphas when he heard Jesus answer his question with “I Am.”

Great Hebrew significance of “I AM” goes all the way back to Moses and the unconsumed burning bush. Curiosity drew Moses closer when a Voice called him by name. Moses asked who was speaking and the Voice responded:

EX 3:6 “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (The Complete Jewish Bible, NASB)

The Voice identified Himself as ‘elohiym, the Hebrew plural masculine word meaning “God, divine ones, rulers, judges.”[6] (Translators added the preceding “I am” only as a clarifying literary aide.) Commanded to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, Moses asked what he should say if anyone asked who sent him? Resoundingly, the booming Voice declared:

EX 3:14-15 “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”  God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. (NASB)

Translated as “I AM” from the Hebrew verb hayah, it means “to exist i.e. to be or become, come to pass (always emphatic)” – neither a noun nor a pronoun. God emphatically identified Himself with an on-going action verb, according to Rabbi Rashi – “I will be” – no beginning or end.[7]

I AM then gave Moses His name, YHVH, the unspeakable four letter Hebrew name of God or “Tetragrammaton.” Intended to be concealed, according to Rashi, because the Hebrew 4-letter Name is spelled without a “vav” (a Hebrew letter/symbol).[8] The ineffable Hebrew proper name of God derives from the root word hayah, “I AM.” Translated as “The LORD” in place of the unspeakable Devine Name, it appears in other Biblical references as Jehovah, God (‘elohiym), or Adonai.[9]

Jewish translators of the Hebrew-to-Greek Septuagint LXX completed in 247 BC translated the Exodus text of both “I AM” and “The LORD” into Greek as ego eimi.”[10]Jesus answered Caiaphas using these very same two Greek words.

Ego is a primary first person pronoun to be pronounced emphatically.[11] Eimi, also to be said emphatically, is “the first person singular present indicative meaning “exist’” with characteristics of present, imperfect and future tenses.[12]

When Jesus answered Caiaphas’ question with ego eimi, he in essence declared emphatically and authoritatively, as a statement of fact:  “[Yes], I Am [presently and into the future, the Messiah, the Son of God].”

A year earlier, Pharisees also believed they had heard Jesus commit blasphemy. While teaching at the Temple, Jesus several times referred to himself as ego eimi:

JN 8:12 “…I AM the light of the world…” (Jubliee)[13]

JN 8:24 “…unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins.”(ISV)[14]

JN 8:28 “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM…”(ISV)[15]

Sensing a smoking gun opportunity that even the surrounding crowd could not ignore, the Pharisees accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon after he said “If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.”[16] They aptly pointed out that Abraham and the prophets had surely kept God’s word yet they were dead.[17] Jesus picked up on the reference to Abraham:

JN 8:56-58 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”(NKJV)[18]

Possibly the most astonishing statement in all the Gospels, Jesus not only said he actually knew Abraham, he had observed in real time Abraham rejoicing when he saw that the day of Jesus had arrived. Even more incredibly, Jesus explicitly said, “Before Abraham was, I Am” – ego eimi. Believing they had no doubt heard a blasphemy, the Pharisees picked up stones to kill Jesus, but according to John, it was not yet his time, and Jesus escaped unharmed.[19]

Facts of the case are undisputed – Jesus identified himself as I AM, the Son of God. What remains is the open question: did Jesus speak a blasphemy or the truth? If Jesus spoke blasphemy, his death sentence was truly justified according to God’s own Law.

If Jesus is the Son of God, he could not have spoken a blasphemy and as a result he was unjustly judged in his Father’s own chosen judgment seat of Israel pursuant to his Father’s own Law of blasphemy. Perhaps the greatest paradox of all time – at the Passover on the sacred Mount  Moriah  in the holy city of Jerusalem, Jesus declared himself to be the Son of God to the Priests and Scribes of the Temple, the House of God – coincidence?

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REFERENCES:

NASB = New American Standard Bible translation
ISV = International Standard Version translation
NIV = New International Version tranlation
NKJV = New King James Version translationn

[1] NASB. Luke 22:67-71. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14-63-65;
[2] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 55b, footnote #20. <http://come-and-hear.com/tcontents.html>   
[3] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 56a, 66a.  The Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson translation. Book 8, Tract Sanhedrin, Chapter VII, Mishna VI. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm>
[4] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 56a, 66a.
[5] Lamm, Maurice. “Keriah – The Rending of Garments.” Chabad.org. 2018. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/281558/jewish/Keriah-The-Rending-of-Garments.htm>
[6] “<H0430>”Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com>
[7] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. Strong, James. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 1990.“hayah <1961>.”  The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2018. Shemot – Exodus 3:14 translation & commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9864#showrashi=true>  “exist;” “be/” “become,” “transitive.” Merriam-Webster. 2018. <http://www.merriam-webster.com>
[8] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Shemot – Exodus 3:15 commentary. Benner, Jeff, The Ancient Hebrew Alphabet. 2017. “vav.” <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/alphabet_letters_vav.html>
[9] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 55b & footnote #20, 56a.   Martincic, Tom. “The Meaning of the Tetragrammaton.”  Eliyah.com.  n.d.  <http://www.eliyah.com/tetragrm.html>  “Tetragrammaton.” Dictionary.com.  <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tetragrammaton?s=t>  Marlowe, Michael. The Translation of the Tetragrammaton.”  Bible Research. 2011. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/tetragrammaton.html>     “Tetragrammation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14346-tetragrammaton>  Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Volume 9. 1912. “The Seven Names.” p 163.   <https://books.google.com/books?id=lfoOtGOcIBYC&lpg=PA594&ots=6qoCfVVUz7&dq=wave+sheaf+encyclopedia&pg=PA594&hl=en#v=onepage&q=seven&f=false>
[10] NetBible.com. Exodus 3:6 – Septuagint text; Hebrew text Myhlah <403>, ‘elohiym, the plural form of  ‘elowahh <0433>.   Biblehub.com. Exodus 3:6 Hebrew ’ĕ-lō-hê <403>, plural form of eloah. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II.1-6, 13-1. Trans. William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[11] Net.bible.org. Luke 22:70, Greek text.  Strong. “ego <1473> The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
[12] Net.bible.org. Luke 22:70, Greek text.  Strong. “eimi <1510>” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.       
[13] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. John 8:12. BibleHub.com.  <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/john/8.htm>
[14] Gill’s Exposition. John 8:24. BibleHub.com. <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/john/8.htm> Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. John 8:24. BibleHub.com. <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/john/8.htm> Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. John 8:24. BibleHub.com. <http://biblehub.com/commentaries/wes/john/8.htm>
[15] Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. John 8:28. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. John 8:28.
[16] NASB. John 8:52.
[17] John 8:52-55.
[18] Gill’s Exposition. John 8:58. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. John 8:58. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. John 8:58. Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. John 8:58.
[19] John 8:59.