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A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 5b

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our discussion of John’s testimony to the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Seeing just how fond Shabir is of liberal, critical scholars of the Holy Bible we will now cite from some of them in order to see what they have to say concerning Jesus’ use of the “I Am”.

Note what the following authority states concerning John 8:24 and 58:

24. The radical sin which leads to death is a rejection of Jesus, failure to believe that ‘I am’. For this expression cf. 6:35; here however it is without noun or adjective complement (so also at 28, 58, 13:19). The Greek words are found several times in the LXX (e.g. at Dt. 32:39; Isa. 41:4, 43:13, 46:4, 48:12; cf. also Exod. 3:14ff.). Isa. 43:10 is particularly suggestive (‘that you may know and believe and understand that I am’). ‘Am’ is to be understood as, in the strictest sense, a continuous tense, implying neither beginning nor end of existence (see especially 58); IT INDICATES THE ETERNAL BEING OF CHRIST, and thereby places him on a level with God…  (C. K. Barret, John, Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, edited by Matthew Black and H. H. Rowley [Thomas Nelson and Sons LTD, Reprinted 1980], p. 854; bold and capital emphasis ours)

“… Abraham was a man who, like all men, came into being at a particular time and lived for a limited period. The continuing and ETERNAL EXISTENCE of Christ (‘I am’– see on 24) precedes, as it also follows, all such transient phenomena.” (Ibid., p. 855; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This next NT scholar shows why the attempts of some anti-Trinitarians to explain Jesus’ words in 8:58 as nothing more than a claim to ideal preexistence, e.g., an assertion that Christ’s coming had been predetermined even before Abraham had been created, simply does not work:

“… ‘I am not only his contemporary,’ Jesus replies, ‘but I existed even before him.’ The formula, amen, amen, announces the greatness of this revelation respecting His person. By the terms genesthai, became, and eimi, I am, Jesus, as Weiss says, contrasts His eternal existence with the historical beginning of the existence of Abraham. To become is to pass from nothingness to existence; Jesus goes still further; He says, not I was, but I am. Thereby He attributes to Himself, not a simple priority as related to Abraham, which would still compatible with the Arian view of the Person of Christ, but existence in the absolute, eternal, Divine order. This expression recalls that of Ps. xc. 2: ‘Before the mountains were brought forth and thou hadst founded the earth, from eternity to eternity, THOU ART, O God!’ No doubt, eternity must not be considered as strictly anterior to time. This term prin, before, is a symbolic form, derived from the human consciousness of Jesus, to express the relation of dependence of time on eternity in the only way in which the mind of man can conceive it, that is, under the form of succession. There is no longer any thought, at the present day, of having recourse to the forced explanation which were formerly proposed by different commentators; that of Socinus and Paulus: ‘I am, as the Messiah promised, anterior to Abraham,’ or that of the Socinian catechism: Before Abraham could justify His name of Abraham (father of a multitude, by reason of the multitude of heathen who shall one day be converted) I am your Messiah, for you Jews. Scholten himself acknowledges (p. 97 f.) the insufficiency of these exegetical attempts. According to him, we must supply a predicate of eimi; this would be ho christos, the Messiah. But the antithesis of einai and ginesthai (be and become) does not allow us to give to the first of these terms another sense than that of existing. Besides, the point in hand is a reply to the question: ‘Hast thou then seen Abraham?’ The reply, if understood as Scholten would have it, would be unsuitable to this question. The Socninian Crell and de Wette understand: ‘I exist in the divine intelligence or plan.’ Beyschlag goes a little farther still. According to him, Jesus means that there is realized in Himself here below an eternal, divine but impersonal principle, the image of God. But as this impersonal image of God cannot exist except in the divine intelligence, this comes back in reality to the explanation of de Wette. This explanation of an impersonal ideal is opposed by three considerations. 1. The ego, I, which proves that this eternal being is personal; 2, the parallel with Abraham. An impersonal principle cannot be placed in parallelism with a person, especially when the question is of a relation of priority. Finally, 3. How could a Jesus conceived of as an impersonal principle have answered the objection of the Jews: Thou hast seen Abraham? And yet if this word did not satisfy the demand of the Jews, it would be nothing more than ridiculous boast. This declaration has the character of the most elevated solemnity. It is certainly one of those from which John derived the fundamental idea of the first verses of the Prologue…” (Frederick Louis Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of John [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI: Complete and unabridged reprint edition, 1969], pp. 122-123; bold and underline emphasis ours)       

And since Ally seems to like the highly critical Biblical scholar and skeptic Bart D. Ehrman (1; 2), we have decided to quote him at length concerning John’s portrayal of the Lord Jesus. We start by citing from his most recent book that just came out attacking the historic Christian faith:

“… Among other things, in this Gospel there are not simply allusions to Jesus’ divine power and authority. There are bald statements that equate Jesus with God and say that he was a preexistent divine being who came into the world. This view is not simply like Paul’s, in which Jesus was some kind of angel who then came to be exalted to a higher position of deity. For John, Jesus was equal with God and even shared his name and his glory in his preincarnate state. To use the older terminology (which I favored back then), this was an extremely high Christology.” (Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee [HarperOne, 2014], 7. Jesus as God on Earth: Early Incarnation Christologies, p. 270; bold emphasis ours)


“One of the most striking features of John’s Gospel is its elevated claims about Jesus. Here, Jesus is decidedly God and is in fact equal with God the Father–before coming into the world, while in the world, and after he leaves the world. Consider the following passages, which are found only in John among the four Gospels:

  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the unique one before the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:1, 14; later this Word made flesh is named as ‘Jesus Christ,’ v. 17)
  • But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I also am working.’ This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. (5:17-18)
  • [Jesus said:] ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ (8:58)
  • [Jesus said:] ‘I and the Father are one.’ (10:30)
  • Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’ (14:8-9)
  • [Jesus prayed to God:] ‘I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.’ (17:4-5)
  • [Jesus prayed:] ‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ (17:24)
  • Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (20:28) 

“I need to be clear: Jesus is not God the Father in this Gospel. He spends all of chapter 17 praying to his Father, and, as I pointed out earlier, he is not talking to himself. But he has been given glory equal to that of God the Father. And he had that glory before he came into the world. When he leaves this world, he returns to the glory that was his before. To be sure, Jesus comes to be ‘exalted’ here–he several times talks about his crucifixion as being ‘lifted up’–a play on words in reference to being ‘lifted onto the cross’ and being ‘exalted’ up to heaven as a result. But the exaltation is not to a higher state than the one he previously possessed, as in Paul. For John, he was already both ‘God’ and ‘with God’ in his preincarnate state as a divine being. Nowhere can this view be seen more clearly than in the first eighteen verses of the Gospel, frequently called the Prologue of John.” (Ibid., pp. 271-272; bold emphasis ours)


“… As we saw, the Prologue of John stressed that Jesus was the incarnation of the preexistent Word of God who was both with God and was himself God. This incarnation Christology is one of the ‘highest’ views of Christ to be found in the New Testament…” (Ibid., pp. 297-298; bold emphasis ours)

Ehrman also comments on Jesus’ use of the phrase “I Am”:

“Even though this view of Christ as the Logos made flesh is not found anywhere in the Gospel of John, its views are obviously closely aligned with the Christology of the Gospel otherwise. That is why Christ can make himself ‘equal with God’ (John 5:18); can say that he and the Father ‘are one’ (10:30); can talk about the ‘glory’ he had with the Father before coming into the world (17:4); can say that anyone who has seen him has ‘seen the Father’ (14:9); and can indicate that ‘before Abraham was, I am’ (8:58). This last verse is especially intriguing. As we have seen, in the Hebrew Bible when Moses encounters God at the burning bush in Exodus 3, he asks God what his name is. God tells him that his name is ‘I am.’ In John, Jesus appears to take the name upon himself. Here he does not receive ‘the name that is above every name’ at his exaltation after his resurrection, as in the Philippians poem (Phil. 2:9). He already has ‘the name’ while on earth. Throughout the Gospel of John, the unbelieving Jews understand full well what Jesus is saying about himself when he makes such claims. They regularly take up stones to execute him for committing blasphemy, for claiming in fact to be God.” (Ehrman, pp. 278-279; bold emphasis ours)

The next set of quotes are taken from another one of Ehrman’s assaults against God’s inspired Word:

“Things are quite different in the Gospel of John. In Mark, Jesus teaches principally about God and the coming kingdom, hardly ever talking directly about himself, except to say that he must go to Jerusalem to be executed, whereas in John, that is practically all that Jesus talks about: who he is, where he has come from, where he is going, and how he is the one who can provide eternal life.

“Jesus does not preach about the future kingdom of God in John. The emphasis is on his own identity, as seen in the ‘I am’ sayings. He is the one who can bring life-giving sustenance (‘I am the bread of life’ 6:35); he is the one who brings enlightenment (‘I am the light of the world’ 9:5); he is the only way to God (‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me’ 14:6). Belief in Jesus is the way to have eternal salvation: ‘whoever believes in him may have eternal life’ (3:36). He in fact is equal with God: ‘I and the Father are one’ (10:30). His Jewish listeners appear to have known full well what he was saying: they immediately pick up stones to execute him for blasphemy.

“In one place in John, Jesus claims the name of God for himself, saying to his Jewish interlocutors, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). Abraham, who lived 1,800 years earlier, was the father of the Jews, and Jesus is claiming to have existed before him. But he is claiming more than that. He is referring to a passage in the Hebrew Scriptures where God appears to Moses at the burning bush and commissions him to go to Pharaoh and seek the release of his people. Moses asks God what God's name is, so that he can inform his fellow Israelites which divinity has sent him. God replies, ‘I Am Who I Am … say to the Israelites, “I Am has sent me to you”’ (Exodus 3:14). So when Jesus says ‘I Am,’ in John 8:58, he is claiming the divine name for himself. Here again his Jewish hearers had no trouble understanding his meaning. Once more, out come the stones.” (Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We don’t Know About Them) [HarperOne, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009], Three. A Mass Of Variant Views, pp. 79-80; bold emphasis ours)


“… John starts with a prologue that mysteriously describes the Word of God that was in the very beginning with God, that was itself God, and through which God created the universe. This Word, we are told, became a human being, and that’s who Jesus Christ is: the Word of God made flesh. There is nothing like that in the Synoptics… Jesus also preaches in this Gospel, not about the coming kingdom of God but about himself: who he is, where he has come from, where he is going, and how he can bring eternal life. Unique to John are the various ‘I am’ sayings, in which Jesus identifies himself and what he can provide for people. These ‘I am’ sayings are usually backed up by a sign, to show that what Jesus says about himself is true. And so he says, ‘I am the bread of life’ and proves it by multiplying the loaves to feed the multitudes; he says ‘I am the light of the world’ and proves it by healing the man born blind; he says ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ and proves it by raising Lazarus from the dead.” (Ibid, pp. 72-73)


“The last of our Gospels to be written, John, pushes the Son-of-God-ship of Jesus back even further, INTO ETERNITY PAST. John is our only Gospel that actually speaks of Jesus as divine [Note – In his most recent book Ehrman admits that he has now changed his position and thinks that all the Gospels portray Jesus as divine, albeit in different senses]. For John, Christ is not the Son of God because God raised him from the dead, adopted him at the baptism, or impregnated his mother: he is the Son of God because he existed with God in the very beginning, before the creation of the world, as the Word of God, before coming into this world as a human being (becoming ‘incarnate’)This is the view that became the standard Christian doctrine, that Christ was the preexistent Word of God who became flesh. He both was with God in the beginning and was God, and it was through him that the universe was created. But this was not the original view held by the followers of Jesus. The idea that Jesus was divine was a later Christian invention, one found, among our gospels, only in John… What led Christians to develop this view? The Gospel of John does not represent the view of one person, the unknown author of the Gospel, but rather a view that the author inherited through his oral tradition, just as the other Gospel writers record the traditions that they had heard, traditions in circulation in Christian circles FOR DECADES before they were written down. John’s tradition is obviously unique, however, since in none [sic] of the other Gospels do we have such an exalted view of Christ. Where did this tradition come from?” (Ibid, Seven. Who Invented Christianity?, pp. 248-249; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Ehrman has more to say concerning John’s prologue:

“John does not make any reference to Jesus' mother being a virgin, instead explaining his coming into the world as an incarnation of a preexistent divine being. The prologue to John's Gospel (1:1-18) is one of the most elevated and POWERFUL passages of the entire Bible. It is also one of the most discussed, controverted, and differently interpreted. John begins (1:1-3) with an elevated view of the ‘Word of God,’ a being that is independent of God (he was ‘with God’) but that is in some sense equal with God (he ‘was God’). This being existed in the beginning with God and is the one through whom the entire universe was created (‘all things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being’).

“Scholars have wrangled over details of this passage for centuries. My personal view is that the author is harking back to the story of creation in Genesis 1, where God spoke and creation resulted: ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.’ It was by speaking a word that God created all that there was. The author of the Fourth Gospel, LIKE SOME OTHERS IN JEWISH TRADITION, imagined that the word that God spoke was some kind of independent entity in and of itself. It was ‘with’ God, because once spoken, it was apart from God, and it ‘was’ God in the sense that what God spoke was a part of his being. His speaking only made external what was already internal, within his mind. The word of God, then, was the outward manifestation of the internal divine reality. It both was with God, and was God, and was the means by which all things came into being.

In John’s Gospel, this preexistent divine Word of God became a human being: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory’ (1:14). It comes as no surprise who this human being was: Jesus Christ. Jesus, here, is not simply a Jewish prophet who suddenly bursts onto the scene, as in Mark; and he is not a divine-human who has come into existence at the point of his conception (or birth) by a woman who was impregnated by God. He is God’s very word, who was with God in the beginning, who has temporarily come to dwell on earth, bringing the possibility of eternal life.

“John does not say how this Word came into the world. He does not have a birth narrative and says nothing about Joseph and Mary, about Bethlehem, or about a virginal conception. And he varies from Luke on this very key point: whereas Luke portrays Jesus as having come into being at some historical point (conception or birth), John portrays him as the human manifestation of a divine being who transcends human history.” (Ibid, pp. 75-76; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Also, this is what the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, an Ally favorite, has to say regarding the Prologue:

“With the introduction of a Logos Christology into the prologue of the Gospel, John presents the reader with an image of preexistence which implies the personal being of Jesus with God. John 1:18 makes the link between the Logos and Son christologies. The references to Jesus’ return to the glory he had had with the Father (17:4[sic], 24) secure the connection between the preexistent Word and the Jesus of the narrative. The Fourth Gospel rejects simple solutions to the problem of Jesus’ identity. It does not limit its affirmation about Jesus to predicates like the eschatological prophet, which might be understood of any human, albeit one whose role in God’s plan of salvation has a certain ultimate or final position. Nor does the Gospel solve the problem as the Gnostics would later do by simply making Jesus the earthly costume for a heavenly redeemer figure, who is essentially without any connection with the historical or human realities of this world. By refusing either antithesis, the Fourth Gospel sets the parameters for an incarnational christology. It may also have exhausted the possibilities of narrative to express such a christology, since storytelling depends on our ability to connect events and persons in patterns from human experience. But the Johannine Jesus does not come to clarify human experience. He comes to reveal the Father (see J. D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making [Phl. 1980] 213-68).” (Pheme Perkins, “The Gospel According to John,” p. 949; underline emphasis ours)


“… Theos, ‘God,’ used without the article is a predicate. John goes beyond the careful formulation of the Wisdom tradition, which would never suggest that Wisdom has any form of equality with God (cf. theos used of Jesus in 1:18[?]; 20:28; 1 John 5:20)… the Word became flesh: Reference to the Word becoming flesh (sarx) goes beyond OT images of divine glory and Wisdom dwelling with Israel (Exod 25:8-9; Joel 3:17; Zech 2:10; Ezek 43:7, the ‘name’ of God is to dwell with Israel forever; Sir 24:4, 8, 10). It also counters any suggestion of a docetic Christology. Monogenes reflects the Hebr yahid ‘only,’ ‘precious,’ ‘unique,’ (Gen 22:2, 12, 16; Heb 11:17; cf. EWNT 2. 1082-83). ‘Glory’ appears throughout John as God’s glory seen in Jesus; also Jesus’ preexistent ‘glory with the Father’ (17:5, 24)…” (Ibid., p. 951; underline emphasis ours)

It is rather remarkable that critics and skeptics of the Holy Bible have no problem admitting that John’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the uncreated Word of God who has eternally existed with God and as God in essence, all of which Ally denies.

It is obvious why Ally refuses to acknowledge these facts. He has an agenda to attack the Holy Bible from every possible angle, even if this means that he must misquote and mishandle sources, as well as lie and deceive people, in order to do so.

 With that said, it is time for us to conclude our discussion.