God’s name is “I Am”

Kenneth Leong
5 min readDec 2, 2019

John’s Gospel is a Gnostic gospel. As such, it is very different from the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The synoptic gospels share many of the same stories, arranged in a similar sequence. The Gospel of John is distinctly different. The Gnostics and the Christian orthodoxy also have vastly different theologies. For this reason, we must be very careful in interpreting the teachings in this Gnostic gospel.

One of the most beloved expressions in the Bible can be found in the Gospel of John : “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Bible scholar, Elaine Pagels, said in her book, The Gnostic Gospels, that John’s Gospel was included in the Christian canon even though the Christian orthodoxy generally reject Gnosticism precisely because this verse seems to suggest that one can find God only through Jesus and that one finds Jesus only through the church. Thus, the saying helps to create the impression that Christianity has a monopoly on Truth. During the early days of the Church, this lends an air of legitimacy and exclusivity.

But that would be a misinterpretation. In Gnosticism, Jesus is not considered as a cosmic savior who has a special divinity which is different from yours and mine. Thus, in a Gnostic interpretation, Jesus was not declaring that he is God or has a monopoly on Truth. Do you seriously believe that an enlightened master would be so vain?! Gnostics prize self-knowledge. Thus, in this statement, Jesus was redirecting our attention away from his historical person back to ourselves. More specifically, Jesus was pointing not to his ego, but to the inner divinity in each person. Here, it also helps to know that “I am” is the name God gave Moses during Moses’s encounter with God at the burning bush. Here is the relevant passage from Exodus:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3: 13–14)

“I am who I am” is a mystical statement that makes little or no sense. Throughout the ages, theologians have struggled to interpret it. God gave Moses a nonsensical name. The…

Kenneth Leong

Author, Zen teacher, scientific mystic, professor, photographer, philosopher, social commentator, socially engaged human