This question is found at jwlies.com
QUESTION #2 – In your Bible, you have a section of John 8:58 translated as “I have been” when it should have been translated “I am”. Why would the Jews have tried stoning him after he simply said “I have been”? Jesus had just got done saying that they were not from God and were also liars, but yet they didn’t want to stone him. Why wasn’t it until only after he said “I have been” did they want to stone him?
ANSWER: First, the questioner is very much in error in insisting that the NWT has somehow mistranslated the expression “I am.”
The fact is, most translations have worded John 8:58 in such a way as to render it grammatically incorrect. But we can be sure that Jesus didn’t speak in some sort of Greek ebonics. While the Greek expression ego eimi is usually translated as “I am,” and to be sure, Jesus frequently said “I am;” for example, ‘I am the bread of life’; ‘I am the good shepherd’; ‘I am the way,’ etc., it is not always appropriate that it be rendered in the present tense. And contrary to the absurd notion that Jesus was taking to himself a title, the context shows that Jesus was revealing to the Jews that he had a pre-human existence, that he lived before Abraham was even born.
In that instance scholars recognize that when ego eimi is used to connect a present action to the past, as Jesus obviously was, (before Abraham was born) the phrase ego eimi may properly be translated to reflect that. Hence, instead of merely transliterating ego eimi with no consideration for the nuance and meaning, a few translations besides the New World Translation have worded the verse differently.
For example, An American Translation, also called the Godspeed translation, words John 8:58 thusly: “I tell you, I existed before Abraham was born!”
The Moffat Bible words it this way: “Truly, truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “I have existed before Abraham was born.”
The Living Bible words it this way: “Jesus: ‘The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born!”’
As for why the Jews tried to stone Jesus, again, the questioner is very much in error. In the very same chapter of John Jesus outed the Jews for plotting to kill him. He said to them straight out: “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring. But you are seeking to kill me, because my word makes no progress among you. I speak the things I have seen while with my Father, but you do the things you have heard from your father.” In answer they said to him: “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.”
Contrary to the trinitarian claptrap that the Jews tried to kill Jesus because he claimed to be God, prior to their attempt to kill him Jesus revealed the reason they were plotting his murder was because his word made no progress with them —in other words, they refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. As Jesus said, he told the Jews the truth that he heard from God —not that he was claiming to be God.
Long before his encounter with the Jews in the temple, Jesus was aware of their murderous intent. This is made evident in the preceding chapter as well, which states: “After this Jesus continued traveling about in Galilee, for he did not want to do so in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him.”
Nonetheless, Jesus courageously went to Jerusalem knowing the Jews’ intent. Although the Jews were the proud descendants of Abraham they refused to believe that Jesus was the foretold seed of Abraham, through whom all the nations would receive a blessing. Had they known the Scriptures they would have known that the Messiah had a pre-human existence, even as it says in Micah 5:2: “And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to be among the thousands of Judah, from you will come out for me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from ancient times, from the days of long ago.”
When Jesus explained to them that he existed before Abraham he was claiming to be the Messiah —not equating himself with God. Surely the prophecy of Micah differentiates between God and the ruler whom he appoints “whose origin is from ancient times, from days of long ago,” before Abraham was even born.
For a fact, the occasion when Jesus said he existed before Abraham was not the first time the demon-maddened Jews tried to murder Jesus. The first occasion was when he announced in his hometown synagogue that he was the Messiah foretold in Isaiah. When he explained why he would not be performing many miracles in their midst they tried to throw him off a cliff. Surely, there is no indication that on that occasion Jesus used the expression ego eimi.
So, the trinitarians’ claim that the Jews tried to stone Jesus because he claimed to be God is simply not true. It is a lie. Watchtower reference material