Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chasing phantom “I am”s

I have recently been reading the Gospel of John and finding the phrase “I am” all over the place, as one should when reading John. Now I like the phrase “I am” that Jesus uses, because among other things it lets me go off on a riff/set piece about the Divine Name when preaching. So I look for this phrase.
Now in Greek the phrase is “Ego Imi.” The versions of this phrase that stick in my mind the most is Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” and his threefold use of this phrase at his betrayal in chapter 18.
As I was reading the passion account I noticed firstly Peter’s direct parallel to Jesus’ threefold use of this phrase at his betrayal, as he said, “Ouk Imi.” Then I noticed Jesus’ response to Pilate “Basileus imi”--you say “I am a king.”
Then I saw the phrase “I am thirsty.”
“Of course, even at Christ’s death he is proclaiming his divinity/lordship in the Gospel of John!” I said to myself. But when I looked up the phrase in Greek.
Jesus in fact says, “Dipso.”
All this to simply say its important to not get overly carried away with English translations of things. I remember a professor of mine telling me a story about going to a service where a pastor preached a whole sermon on a word that wasn't there in the Greek.
Sometimes our own theological/cultural lenses get in the way of the actual text. And sometimes we just want to be able to go off on one more “I am” riff in a sermon sometimes around Easter.

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