Does John 8:58 teach that Jesus pre-existed?
The "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that Jesus is not God and that he had no pre-existence. However, does John 8:58 teach that he pre-existed?
When we read the verse and its surrounding context, we see that it does indeed teach that Jesus pre-existed and is God.
The Jews understood him as saying he pre-existed.
First, it is important to recognize that John 8:58 is an answer to a direct question about whether or not Jesus pre-existed Abraham.
John 8:57 (ESV) - 57 So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
Therefore, we should expect an answer to this question. How did Jesus answer it?
Jesus stated that he existed before Abraham.
John 8:58 (ESV) - 58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
The plain meaning of this passage is that Jesus existed before Abraham. It is only reasonable to understand the verse in this way, especially given that it is his response to the Jews who asked him if he pre-existed Abraham.
This cannot merely mean that Jesus was a plan. All men were planned, so if Jesus meant such a thing then he is only saying what is obvious.
John 8:59 (ESV) - 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Jesus used the divine name when referring to himself.
What most English translations do not reveal is that Jesus used the divine name "YHVH", or in Greek, "ego eimi". He said, "before Abraham was, I AM." This I AM statement demonstrates that Jesus is God.
It does not make grammatical sense for Jesus to say "I AM" instead of "I was", unless he intended to communicate something special about himself. Additionally, in the context of being asked about his pre-existence, it makes sense to understand "I AM" as part of the answer. If he is God, then it must be true that he pre-existed Abraham. Lastly, the Jews' response shows that his use of the divine name was intentional.
The Jews went to stone him because he claimed to be God.
What the INC rarely (if ever) addresses is why the Jews went to stone Jesus after he said these things.
John 8:59 (ESV) - So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
It is obvious that they understood him as claiming to have pre-existed Abraham and to be God. It would not be a significant enough offense to merely say that he is old, but it is utter blasphemy that one who is a mere man would use the divine name in such a context. The Jews went to stone him because he claimed to be God and they did not believe that he was God.
Not only did Jesus claim to pre-exist Abraham in John 8:58, he also claimed to be God. The INC uses creative interpretations to in an attempt to avoid the obvious meaning of the passage. Additionally, they cannot account for the odd grammar of John 8:58 or why the Jews went to stone him.
Jesus is YHVH, the God of the Bible. The INC should repent of putting their man-made philosophies above what the Bible teaches and believe the true gospel.