- Various Expository Comments By Anglican Theologian Richard Bauckham:
-"To let his readers into the secret of who Jesus really is, John thinks it is necessary to begin at the earliest possible beginning, when God the Creator was on the brink of bringing the whole cosmos into being…Here, in the beginning, before creation, there is no room for any beings other than the one God.
In the Jewish definition of the one God's exclusive divinity, as well as being sole creator of all things (as in the prologue of John), God was also understood as the sole sovereign ruler of all things. A key aspect of this was his sovereignty over life and death (Deut 32:39). God is the only living one, that is, the only one to whom life belongs eternally and intrinsically. All other life derives from him, is given by him and taken back by him. Another key aspect was his prerogative of judgment, the implementation of justice [cf. Jn 5:17-23].
…while understanding those ["I am" statements] in which an ordinary meaning is possible as instances of double entendre (a frequent literary device in John)…in the seventh of these absolute "I am" sayings, which forms an emphatic climax to the set by means of threefold repetition (18:5-6,8). Here the ordinary meaning, a reply to the soldier's question, fails to account for the soldiers' reaction. They fall prostrate on the ground, suggesting, as in 8:58-59, that Jesus has made some kind of divine claim.
A more adequate explanation of these sayings in John is that they reflect the divine self-declaration "I am he". The LXX Greek uses the phrase ego eimi in Deut 32:39 and on several occasions in Isaiah 40-55 (41:4; 43:10; 46:4) to translate the Hebrew phrase ani hu, which is usually translated in English as "I am he". In the two cases (43:25; 51:2) where the Hebrew has the more emphatic form of the same phrase, anoki anoki hu, the LXX has the double expression ego emi ego emi. This phrase "I am he" is an extraordinarily significant one. It is a divine self-declaration, encapsulating Yahweh's claim to unique and exclusive divinity. In the Hebrew Bible it occurs first in what are almost the last words God himself speaks in the Torah, where it is an emphatically monotheistic assertion: "Behold, I, even I am he; there is no God besides me" (Deut 32:39). In the prophecies of Isaiah 40-55 this form of divine self-declaration (in Hebrew: Isa 41:4;43:10,13,25; 46:4; 48:12; 51:12; 52:6) expresses emphatically the absolute uniqueness of the name of Israel, who in these chapters constantly asserts his unique deity in contrast with the idols of the nations, and defines his uniqueness as that of the eternal creator of all things and the unique sovereign ruler of all history. His great act of eschatological salvation will demonstrate him to be the one and only God…
The "I am he" declarations are among the most emphatically monotheistic assertions in the Hebrew Bible, and if Jesus in John's Gospel repeats them he is unambiguously identifying himself with the one and only God, Yahweh, the God of Israel. Richard Bauckham, “The Trinity and the Gospel of John,” in The Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance, ed. by Brandon D. Crowe and Carl R. Trueman (London: IVP [Apollos] 2016), chap 4.