In the following verse, did Jesus in fact say the word, the name of God, that no Jew would dare to say aloud at that time?

As soon then as he had said unto them, I am [he], they went backward, and fell to the ground (John 18:6)

If yes, why was He not tried for that before the high priest (there were so many witnesses after all), if not, why then so many say that here He was quoting Exodus 3:14 (which means He DID pronounce the forbidden word).

  • The tetragrammaton is not simply "I Am"... The whole question is based on a false premise.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 18, 2015 at 23:48
  • 1
    @curiousdannii - "The whole question is based on a false premise" - If the question is something like "Since all cats are humans, then why they do not talk like humans?", you can tell then that it's based on the false premise ("cat are humans"), however, if the question is "Are cats humans?", then it's absolutely a reasonable question and there are no false premises in it.
    – brilliant
    Jan 19, 2015 at 1:32
  • I think the title confused me a little. Maybe we can edit it to clear it up.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 19, 2015 at 1:35

9 Answers 9


Jesus seems to have followed, out of courtesy, the taboo by the Rabbis on pronouncing the Lords name (יהוה‎) Yahweh as though there was something sacred about it. This was not the original practice of the Hebrews but a ban on pronouncing the name started to appear around the time of Antiochus IV (175 BC).

Simply from the fact that the New Testament never brings up any kafuffle about the name it is clear Jesus respected the superstition as a man of peace. The Jews wanted to kill him for declaring He was Jehovah, not for simply pronouncing the name. Curiously there is ‘another modern movement' based on seeming high degrees of confusion over the so called ‘sacred name’, and there is even a website dedicated to arresting its development here.

The verse itself seems to simply mean that when Jesus spoke, his breath was like his infinite power bringing his enemies to their knees. It signifies that Jesus could have destroyed them all in a ‘burp’ but it was His will to surrender as a Lamb to be slain.

Regarding the taboo itself as it is not even mentioned in the Bible anywhere it was never considered significant enough to respond to, or even record the history of.

  • +1 for "kafuffle". Also for pointing out that this was a definite declaration of divinity Jul 11, 2012 at 14:01
  • +1 for the alternate theory that there was some expression of power which coincided with saying "It's me." "The Jews wanted to kill him for declaring He was Jehovah" Why doesn't that come up in any accounts of the trial, then? Apr 24, 2022 at 21:04

Actually, Jesus broke taboos quite frequently. However, when Jesus broke a taboo, the taboo was wrong--not Jesus.

Some of the other taboos Jesus broke include the following:

  • Breaking the Sabbath

    So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. (John 5:16 NIV)

  • Claiming Equality with God

    For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18 NIV)

  • Forgiving Sins

    Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? (Mark 2:7 NIV)

  • Associating with tax collectors and sinners

    When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11 NIV)

  • Claiming the sacred name of God

    "Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV)

So, I would say that, yes, Jesus was breaking a taboo. He was the only one who had the authority to claim the sacred name of God, so no one else could break that taboo. Yet, He also broke several other taboos as well.

  • Did the beggar at John 9 also claim the sacred name of God? He said the exact same thing. Apr 24, 2022 at 21:02

When I first saw how Jesus referred to Himself as "I AM" in John 8:58, that really got me! I remembered how, in the Old Testament, when Moses asked God for his name (Exodus 3:14), He replied, "I AM THAT I AM". WOW!!

So many people, both Christians and non-Christians alike, have said that Jesus never claimed to be God - oh, yes He did, and I think there may be no clearer proof of that than in John 8:58! The Jews knew EXACTLY what He was claiming - hence their murderous outrage against Him!

It also surprises me - after seeing and hearing all the things Jesus did while on the earth, did NONE of the Pharisees (besides Nicodemus) stop and consider, "What if he really IS God? We may be damned for all eternity!" I don't know if the Jews of the day thought that The Messiah would be God or just a mortal man; I plead some ignorance as I'm not Jewish, but still...!!

  • Was the beggar in John 9 also claiming to be God, when he said the exact same thing ("I am (he)")? Strange no one was outraged when the beggar said it ... Apr 24, 2022 at 21:07

As far as I know at the time of Jesus there was no actual legal prohibition on pronouncing the name of God. The biblical prohibition is against using the name of God in vain. That was later translated into the practice of never using the name at all largely so that you could be sure of never using it unworthily.

Even if found guilty of speaking a taboo word, that wasn't going to bring the kind of punishment the priests were looking for. It certainly wasn't going to get the Romans involved.


Something to point out here is that most likely Jesus did not speak Hebrew in everyday conversation, he most likely spoke Aramaic (see this question), so saying I AM here (in Aramaic) would not have been the same Hebrew YHWH (the tetragrammaton) that was in the Torah.

  • 2
    This is an absurd notion. The phrase I am has to be a normal part of everyday speech.
    – TRiG
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:14
  • @TRIG - Which notion do you mean?
    – brilliant
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:53
  • @TRiG That's precisely my point the phrase I AM (YHWH) would have been in Hebrew in the Torah and Jesus would most likely have been speaking Aramaic therefore he would have been free to say it. I've edited the answer a bit for clarification
    – Andrew
    Jul 10, 2012 at 17:54
  • 1
    Do we know how they said YHWH in Aramaic?
    – brilliant
    Jul 10, 2012 at 20:47

Yes, Jesus frequently broke taboos, even saying that often 'the traditions of men are not of GOD.' And Yes, I'm convinced that Jesus spoke YHWH out loud, because the scripture is very clear that JESUS taught the Name YHWH to those whom He was told to. And YES when you READ Jesus Saying "I AM" in the Neew covenant JESUS knows HE is offending the religious leaders and their tradition of not pronouncing the Name.

(Now, we don't really know how YHWH is actually pronounced...today, the closest is probably Yahweh, and definitely NOT Jehovah, because there was no J in the alphabet of Greek or Hebrew, and it was not invented until (1478–1550) when it was explicitly used to distinguish I and J as representing separate sounds.

This is the one (technical law) that was cited to hang JESUS on the cross, (for blaspheme (literally this means HE spoke the sacred name), as well as considering Himself equal with YHWH (which He was). 'If you knew the Father, you would know Me..'

ELOHIM never said NOT to use HIS personal Name YHWH. IN FACT GOD/ELOHIM said to KEEP His Name YHWH Holy, as a memorial for all time Exodus 3:14,15.

This is the same clear message that Jesus taught: "Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be YOUR NAME..." JESUS KNEW the power of the Name of GOD, KNEW the tradition of the teachers of the law, and did everything HE could do reestablish the power of the Name, shining the light squarely on the Rabbis tradition which had been ongoing from about 350bc, the process to remove GOD's Name YHWH from all scriptures, and teachings, this was Man's tradition, and one that Jesus did NOT approve of, and the main one satan fights to this day.

Some of what is missing here is a basic understanding of what you are asking. This is not a simple subject and can take years of research to connect all the dots, and it is still a mystery. The subject of the Name of GOD:

YHWH has been studied by kings and priests, Rabbis and Pastors, Academics, Philosophers, for thousands of years... it's as simple as the Name of GOD, as complex as the Name of GOD, hated by Satan above all else, and received by YAH Saves = Yeshua = Jesus. The Name of YHWH is in the name of JESUS. But this is a revelation that many still fight even in the Church.

JESUS Yehshua didn't actually say: "I AM," this is the English translation from the written GREEK New Covenant, which was translated from vocalized Aramaic.... ALL of which would be referring back to the old Covenant written in ancient (Paleo) Hebrew @ Exodus 3:14. Did I lose you there? ;-) [Someday maybe we'll uncover (like the dead sea scrolls) ancient Hebrew versions of the second covenant, but for now all we have is the GREEK translation, taken from vocalized Aramaic, which was said earlier, was the common language of the Jews at the time of Jesus era.]

So here's the answer as simply as I can make it. YES. Jesus was in fact stating a shortened version of the Name of GOD "HWH".. He would have been referencing Exodus: Ehyah Asher Ehyah, (without vowels it was written as HYH or ancient version: HWH SHR HWH.) YES, this is YHWH saying first Person: "I AM," which is a very Hebrew way of saying I EXIST, or I BREATHE. FISRT PERSON MEANS THAT WHEN JESUS SAID HWH HE WAS CLAIMING TO BE GOD, MOST NEVER CATCH THIS POINT, AND IT IS HUGE. THIS IS WHY THE TEACHERS WERE SO UPSET AT HIM FOR CLAIMING TO BE GOD. HE CLAIMED TO BE GOD BY USING THE NAME OF GOD IN THE FIRST PERSON. JESUS WAS NOT MEARLY REFERRING TO THE SACRED NAME IN THE THIRD PERSON. It's what HE SAID TO MOSES... this is why the teachers were furious enough to throw stones at Jesus or hang Him.

Extremely INTERESTING that the New Covenant JESUS uses this as you point out: HE BREATHED ON THEM.... YET another key clue to the BREATH of GOD and the Name of GOD intertwined. BUT JESUS DID NOT USE THE FULL YHWH Tetragrammaton with the YOD at the beginning YHWH. Jesus uses I AM "HWH" a LOT by the way throughout scripture, (now you'll begin to notice this over and over)...THESE are all clues to WHO JESUS is, and He clearly did this to show His Power in wielding the Name of GOD, because it was HIS name, and HE wanted everyone to Know His Name and begin calling worshiping HIS NAME again. Erasing GOD or making YHWH vain was a violation of the 3rd commandment or statement.

"Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that JESUS is YHWH."

I hope this truly helps us all desire to know GOD, by first knowing HIS Name: HWH SHR HWH, YH, and YHWH. To grasp the concept of Erasing GOD.


Taboo? He is meant to break them. That is the law. He is an example for us as written in

Romans 8: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

He is the one that condemns. No one can condemn him. As Romans said, no one can lay any charge against the elect of God.

As for the accussation, I think they were only concerned about his political crimes, something that could motivate the rulers against him. They wanted to pitch him against the rulers [Herod, Pilate, Ceasar] as opponents/opposition/competitor so they could bring him down

They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.” (Luke 23:5)

Him saying "I AM" might not have impressed Pilate.


Yeshusa is in the Father and the Father is in Yeshua. He was both man and divine. When they approached Him, He asked, "Whom do you seek?" They responded, "Yeshua of Nazareth." Meaning YH SAVES, they didn't understand they were calling on the name of God Himself. Yeshua was very accurate in His responses even when those questioning didn't know what they were asking. Remember Luke 18:19, "And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Again, Yeshua always answers very accurately, even when the one questioning doesn't know what they're asking. Yeshua knew when the man called Him good teacher, he meant a man who is a rabbi [teacher]. Therefore the man was effectively referring to Yeshua in His human form (Mary's side, not God's side). So Yeshua answered the man from the position of His human side, and from the perspective, the man Yeshua must respond by directing all glory to God, Who alone is good. If the man had approached Yeshua and asked good God or good Messiah, I believe Yeshua would have simply gave the man the commands to keep and never have mentioned why He was being called good.

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  • On this site, answers should be able to stand on their own. This appears to be mostly an extended comment to Seeking First's answer. I'm not exactly sure if this is an answer to the post or a repetition of Seeking First's answer.
    – user3961
    Jan 18, 2015 at 21:14

One cannot say that Jesus broke a Taboo here. There are several instances in Bible where Jesus gave a clear indication about His divinity. At John 1:18 "No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known" Again in John 10:30 Jesus says "The Father and I are one.” Again in John 10:38 it Says "But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. ...John 14:7 "If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”... John 14:9 "Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? ...John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves.. So we see that Jesus gave these indications many time while He preaching to his desciple.

  • Did you read my question? He didn't pronounce the word "Jehovah" (tetragrammaton) in any of the cases that you have quoted. Pronouncing that word was almost like a crime, I guess, at that time. Plus, in all your cases He spoke only to His disciples, while in the verse that I have quoted He said that in front of many witnesses who were not His disciples.
    – brilliant
    Jul 10, 2012 at 9:48
  • John 1:18 has a major textual variant which doesn't say Jesus is God. Apr 24, 2022 at 23:04

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