8:56 Your father Abraham was overjoyed 1 to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” 2
8:57 Then the Judeans 3 replied, 4 “You are not yet fifty years old! 5 Have 6 you seen Abraham?” 8:58 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, 7 before Abraham came into existence, 8 I am!” 9
1 tn Or “rejoiced greatly.”
2 tn What is the meaning of Jesus’ statement that the patriarch Abraham “saw” his day and rejoiced? The use of past tenses would seem to refer to something that occurred during the patriarch’s lifetime. Genesis Rabbah 44:25ff, (cf. 59:6) states that Rabbi Akiba, in a debate with Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, held that Abraham had been shown not this world only but the world to come (this would include the days of the Messiah). More realistically, it is likely that Gen 22:13-15 lies behind Jesus’ words. This passage, known to rabbis as the Akedah (“Binding”), tells of Abraham finding the ram which will replace his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice – an occasion of certain rejoicing.
3 tn Grk “Then the Jews.” See the note on this term in v. 31. Here, as in vv. 31, 48, and 52, the phrase refers to the Jewish people in Jerusalem (“Judeans”; cf. BDAG 479 s.v. ᾿Ιουδαῖος 2.e) who had been listening to Jesus’ teaching in the temple courts (8:20) and had initially believed his claim to be the Messiah (cf. 8:31). They have now become completely hostile, as John 8:59 clearly shows.
4 tn Grk “said to him.”
5 tn Grk ‘You do not yet have fifty years” (an idiom).
6 tn Grk “And have.”
7 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
8 tn Grk “before Abraham was.”
9 sn I am! is an explicit claim to deity. Although each occurrence of the phrase “I am” in the Fourth Gospel needs to be examined individually in context to see if an association with Exod 3:14 is present, it seems clear that this is the case here (as the response of the Jewish authorities in the following verse shows).