Can you please give me clarification on this scripture: John 8:58. It
is my opinion that in this scripture, Christ is claiming to be the “I AM”,
one of the old testament references to God – THE God of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob. In your scholarly opinion, is Jesus claiming to be “God” in this
Yes, He is, and you are correct in your interpretation. Read below and go on the web site and read my treatise on the “Trinity.” The question has its complexities and requires understanding the “Compound Unity of G-d” as opposed to the Doctrine of the Trinity, which is misleading and often fosters misunderstanding. Yahshua is G-d, but in the “person” of Yahshua He is assuming a different role, i.e. G-d Himself provided the only suitable substitute for the forgiveness of past sins and reconciliation (Romans 3:25), in Himself. G-d prepared a physical body to inhabit in the person of Yahshua (G-d Transcendent to G-d Immanent) and placed His Spirit fully therein, and brought about the plan of salvation. Let me start with the verse below:
John 8:28 So Yahshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am who I say I am, and that of myself I do nothing, but say only what the Father has taught me. (Jewish NT)
John 8:58 Yahshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM!” (Jewish NT)
This is Yahshua’s clearest declaration of His divinity. The term “I AM” echoes G-d’s revelation of Himself, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14) Yahshua says “I am” nine times in Yochanan’s (John’s) gospel (6:20; 8:24; 28. 58, 13:9; 18:5; 6, 8) implying a claim even greater then being the Messiah as expected and anointed human without divine properties. Also see Mark 14:61-62 where Yahshua is asked: “Are you the Mashiach, Ben-HaM’vorakh (The Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One,” i.e. the Son of G-d? He answered “I AM.” G-d’s revealed name of Himself, YHVH. Some scholars assert that Yahshua never claimed to be the Messiah in the Synoptic Gospels. This assertion denies the plain sense of the verses. Here in direct response to the Cohen Gadol, the High Priest, Yahshua does not hesitate to respond, and furthermore, He uses the word Adonai that was used to identify Himself to Moshe at the burning bush, when He said, “I AM who I AM” Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Exodus 3:14). Yahshua not only affirms that He is the Messiah, the Son of G-d, but hints that He is Adonai Himself. In Matthew 26:64 Yahshua’s answer to the Cohen Gadol is straightforward and in the literal Greek it is “You have said,” meaning in vernacular English “You said it!” a straight forward affirmation. You might also recall that G-d calls Himself the “Rock of your salvation” in the OT and Yahshua is identified by the same appellation in the NT. In Zechariah 14 in Hebrew it reads that YHVH will come to the Mount of Olives (unfortunately you can only see this in the Hebrew text~ consult a Hebrew Bible) In Zechariah 14:1-14: 4 the Hebrew Scriptures identifies who shall come in the end of days and it is YHVH. Christian Scholars by and large identify the foregoing scripture as prophetic of Yahshua returning to Jerusalem and if the Hebrew Scriptures identify the One who comes as YHVH then we see the correlation between YHVH/Yahshua clearly. NOTE that “LORD” in the English is translated from YHVH in the Hebrew Scriptures. Then in the NT, in Acts (see below) it states Yahshua will come to the Mount of Olives as in Zechariah, another clear identification of Yahshua being YHVH.
Zec 14:1Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
Zec 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Acts 1:10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (KJV)
See also Joel chapter 3.