The translation “I Am” is verbal nonsense. First, any translation which capitalizes "I Am" as if it were a title is ridiculous. EGO EIMI is not a title in Jn.8:58 (nor is it a title in Ex.3). It is the main clause and is modified by the adverbial phrase "Before Abraham was born." It is easy to see how nonsensical these translations are by substituting a name for EGW EIMI: "Before Abraham was born, Fred."
Rendering EGO EIMI here with the present tense “I am” is also grammatically erroneous. When EIMI is not used as a copula it always describes a state and is the imperfect form, both which denote duration and not a punctiliar event.
"I am (eimi) never has a punctiliar ending".—Edward Goodrick; Hebrew and Greek
Also, when a Greek present verb occurs with a temporal clause it can throw the starting point into the past. In Jn 8:58 there is a temporal clause referring to past time "PRIN ABRAAM GENSQAI."
"The present which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment is virtually the same as Perfective, the only difference being that the action is conceived as still in progress...it is frequent in NT: Lk.2:48; 13:7; 15:29, Jn.5:6, 8:58"—Moulton; A Grammar of the NT
Present tense "I am" is not an acceptable English translation when combined with a past tense indicator. We would never say "Before last week I exist [am]," or "Since last Tues. I exist [am]."
"We use the present perfect "have been" to describe a situation which was in the past and continues into the present.
Many translations render it correctly:
"I am here-and I was before Abraham."–Klist & Lilly
"I tell you that even before Abraham was, I was, and I am."–CEV
"The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born."–The Living NT
"I tell you I existed before Abraham was born."–See: Nida’s “A Translators Handbook to John” Goodspeed's Translation; NASB's marginal note; Williams; and Moffatt's.
When correctly rendered there is no indication of an identification of Jesus with Jehovah. Jesus simply said he existed from "before Abraham," referring to his pre-human existence.
Scholar A. B. Davidson said: "The translation ‘I am' is doubly false: the tense is wrong, being present; and the idea is wrong because ‘am' is used in the sense of essential existence. All those interpretations which proceed upon the supposition that [I am] is a name of God...must be set aside...the nature of the [Hebrew] verb and the tense pre-emptorily forbid them."–The Theology of the OT, in "The International Theo. Library" p. 55.
The translation “I am” at Jn.8:58 is simply theological bias. The Trinitarian argument linking John 8:58 with Ex.3 is invalid. It is based on a falsehood; It is based on the incorrect translation of the Septuagint, not the inspired Hebrew words. Further, the noun identifying God in the Septuagint was "hO ON" not "EGO EIMI/I am" which is a verb. Jesus did not use hO ON but only used a common verb, not some "name of God." "EGO EIMI" is never used as a title for Jehovah in Scripture.
Let me illustrate: If I said "I am Ron" which word identifies me? The noun "Ron" of course. If someone uses the words "I am," does this mean they are identifying themselves as me? Of course not, totally illogical! What Jesus used was simply a very common verb, one that everyone used. For instance at Jn.9:9 when the healed man was asked who he was he said: "EGO EIMI". Was he indicating that he was God? And at 1Chron 21:17 David said (in the LXX) "EGO EIMI," or "I am." (Was David claiming to be God as well?)
The Jews were asking Jesus how long he had been around, not who he was. Grammatically, it must be translated in a way that indicates existence that started in the past and continues to the present.
Explicit scriptures show that Jesus was less than Almighty God at every point of his existence (Jn. 14:28; 20:17; Mk.13:32; 1Cor.15:27,28; Rev.3:2,12). At the highest position he will ever attain, Jesus is still "subject" to *GOD* the same way we are "subject" to him.
Therefore, to construe Jesus' use of EGO EIMI as a claim of equality with God would require us to ignore the context, including the explicit testimony of Jesus himself to the contrary!
John 8:58 - "The question of the Jews (John 8 verse 57) to which Jesus was replying had to do with age, not identity." (rs p. 405-p. 426; Watchtower Online Library)
John 8:58 - Did Jesus Really Say, "I AM"? (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)
John 8:58 "I AM"; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4 (Endnotes) (Examining the Trinity)
In Defense of the New World Translation. John 8:58 files (In Defense of the NWT)
Stafford's "'ANI HU and the LXX of Isaiah" (In Defense of the NWT)
Sahidic Coptic John 8:58 and Sahidic Coptic Exodus 3:14 (Sahidic Coptic Insight on NT Verses)
What About...John 8:58? (From God's Word)
John 8:58 (Bible Translation and Study; Scroll down to First Scriptural Heading)
Miscellaneous Questions about the New World Translation (Jn 8:58) (Bible Translation and Study; Scroll down to Fifth Heading)
How do we know that 'I Am' at Ex. 3:14 in KJV is incorrect? (Jehovah's Witnesses Questions and Answers)
Jesus' reply had to do with the length of his existence...not his identity (Jehovah's Witnesses Questions and Answers)
(To those who are not Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), please remember that if you are looking for the authoritative information about the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society's (WTBTS) Bible-based beliefs and practices, you should look to our OFFICIAL WEBSITE at http://www.jw.org/en. Numerous publications as well as the New World Translation Bible (NWT) and the very useful Watchtower Online Library can be found there.)