During the years that Jesus of Nazareth taught around Judea and Galilee, He often made profound statements about His Divine status which many in the religious community of Judaism considered blasphemy. To those observers with even a minimal knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, the most shocking statement that Jesus made was “I am,” and He did this on several occasions. In the Koine Greek of the Gospel texts, these statements appear as ego eimi, which uses both the pronoun “I” and the verb meaning “I am” connected by an implied being verb, translating literally as “I am I am.” This may sound redundant or like poor grammar, but when understood in the context of the Bible and as an Aramaic or Hebrew phrase, the meaning is astonishing. The ancient Hebrew name for the one true God is YHWH, often pronounced Yahweh, coming from the verb “to be” with the sense of one who causes things to be, and probably meaning “eternally existent one,” “I am who I am,” or in simple form “I am” (Exodus 3:14-15; Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan; de Vaux, Early History of Israel; Brown, Driver, & Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 224-228; Philo, Life of Moses). In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible which was widely used at the time of Jesus, if the name Yahweh was translated, it used the phrase ego eimi, while in other instances the scribes wrote YHWH with Hebrew characters, transliterated the name, or rendered it comparable to Hebrew YHWH with the use of visually similar Greek letters. Occurring almost 7,000 times in the Hebrew Bible, in comparison to less than 3,000 uses of God (elohim and el in Hebrew) the name Yahweh was obviously important and meant to be known.
Although it was shocking to hear someone claim identification as Yahweh, it was the claim and not the speaking of the name Yahweh that was the issue. In the 1st century AD, there is no evidence that the writing or speaking of the name Yahweh had been totally restricted, although this practice had begun to develop in the Hellenistic period, as evidence by the changing of Yahweh to “Lord” or “God” in certain Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts or the rendering of Yahweh as Lord in certain Septuagint Greek manuscripts (e.g. 1QIsa a). The Gospel of Matthew identified Jesus as Yahweh by quoting Isaiah 40:3 in Greek, which used Yahweh in Hebrew but was translated into Greek as “Lord” (Matthew 3:3).
The Gospel of John includes more of these “I am” statements than the Synoptic Gospels combined (John 6:35-51, 8:12, 8:58, 9:5, 10:7-9, 10:11-14, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1-5, 18:6). However, though the “I am” statements are best known from the Gospel of John, a few of these are also recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 22:32, 24:5; Mark 13:6, 14:62; Luke 21:8, 22:70). In certain instances, after Jesus makes these “I am” statements, the drastic reaction of the listeners confirms that He is equating Himself with God and claiming to be Yahweh (Matthew 22:32-33; Luke 22:70; Mark 14:62-64; John 18:6 etc.).
Jesus was declaring Himself to be the one, true, eternal God. If Jesus were not telling the truth about His identity, what He said would certainly be blasphemy. Because the High Priest and other elders fully realized that what He said, but did not believe that Jesus was God, their accusations and reactions were consistent with their ideas and laws. The rejection of Jesus as God, Redeemer, and Messiah by the religious authorities of Judaism led them to proceed in trying to punish this alleged blasphemy by death (Mark 14:61-64).