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March 29, 2012 is the Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent. The reading is from Gospel of John 8:51-59

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

(So) the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.”

So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

In today’s gospel reading the verse

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (John 8:51)

has a parallel in the following verses, also in John.

  • Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voices and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24-29)
  • For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” (John 6:40)
  • Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. (John 6:47)
  • Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:53)

has a parallel in

  • Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” (John 4:12)

You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. (John 8:55)

has a parallel in

  • So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” (John 7:28-29)

The following verse,

Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)

seems to be a reference to the birth of Isaac, and the beginning of the fulfillment of promises about Abraham’s seed.

  • I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. (Genesis 17:7)
  • Abraham fell face down and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah give birth at ninety?” (Genesis 17:17)
  • Sarah then said, “God has given me cause to laugh, and all who hear of it will laugh with me. (Genesis 21:6)

This could also mean that Abraham would have rejoiced to see him (Jesus) and his work that the disciples were seeing then.

  • Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)
  • Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. (Luke 17:22)

Has the following verse interpreted diffently?

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” (John 8:57)

The evidence of the third-century Bodmer Papyrus P75 and the first hand of Codex Sinaiticus indicates that the text originally read: “How can Abraham have seen you?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” (John 8:58)

Also in John we find these verses:

  • He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ (John 1:30)
  • Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. (John 17:5)

In the time of Jesus, the Jews were very apprehensive in using the sacred name of God YHWH and refreained from uttering it publically or even privately and they used the term “LORD” instead.

So, when Jesus said “I Am” was it another way of referring to God?

Name of God in Judaism

The four-letter name for the God of Israel is YHWH (Hebrew יהוה ). It is the most important name of God in Judaism, and is used most often in the Hebrew scriptures. It is also known as the Tetragrammaton, a term from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning “[a word] having four letters”.

Français : Détail d'un vitrail représentant le...

Français : Détail d'un vitrail représentant le tétragramme YHWH, dans l'église épiscopalienne Grace, installé peu après la construction du temple en 1868, à Decorah, Iowa, Etats-Unis English: Detail of a stained glass window featuring a representation of the Tetragrammaton installed in Grace Episcopal Church soon after 1868 when the church was built in Decorah, Iowa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tetragrammaton appears 6,828 times in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia edition of the Hebrew Masoretic Text. It is first mentioned in Genesis 2:4, and is traditionally translated as ‘The LORD’ in English language bibles.

  • This is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens— (Genesis 2:4)

The numerous titles for God have been a source of debate among biblical scholars. YHWH is the only proper name of God in the Tanakh in the sense of a personal
name.

The Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ”ךְ‎) is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text that I mentioned above or as the “Miqra” (מקרא), meaning “that which is read.”

The Masoretic Text has three traditional subdivisions: The Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”).

The name Tanakh is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text – TaNaKh.

Words such as Elohim (god, or authority), El (mighty one), El Shaddai (almighty), Adonai (master), Elyon (most high), Avinu (our father), are not names of God but titles, highlighting different aspects of YHWH and the various roles of God.

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippu (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb)

Rabbinical Judaism teaches that the four-letter name of God, YHVH, is forbidden to be uttered by any Jew other than the High Priest in the Holy Temple on Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר or יום הכיפורים‎) also known as ‘Day of Atonement.’

Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. With its central themes of atonement and repentance, Yom Kippur happens to be the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews who traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer.  Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”).

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the ensuing year into a book, Sefer HaChaim (Hebrew : ספר החיים), the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im which occur in the autumn. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei.

Throughout the service of Yom Kippur, the High Priest pronounced the name YHVH “just as it is written” in each blessing he made. When the people standing in the Temple courtyard heard the name they prostrated flat on the Temple floor.

The Hebrew letters are (right to left) Yodh, He, Waw and He (יהוה). It is written as YHWH, YHVH, or JHVH in English, depending on the transliteration convention that is used.

YHWH stems from the Jewish conception of monotheism that God exists by himself for himself, and is the uncreated Creator who is independent of any concept, force, or entity “I AM that I AM”.


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